Archive for January, 2012

Yesterday after breakfast (and before the day’s NFL Conference Championship games yielded the two teams I least wanted to see in the Super Bowl; but still: Go Giants, beat that Brady Bunch!), Susan and I went for a morning hike with Ranger in Bronson Canyon Park, a place I’ve been visiting since I was 12 years old. It was our first time back since 2005 with Shadow, in part because we’d been struck with a bit of the curiosité morbide following this week’s news of the discovery of the severed hands, feet and head of what turned out to be a local resident.

Ranger enjoyed the outing (though she wasn’t so thrilled when we walked through the made-famous-by-the-movies “cave” that is the park’s marquee attraction), which thankfully produced no additional body parts, but was tempered with the discovery afterward of several teeny tiny ticks trying (unsuccessfully thanks to our efforts) to turn Ranger into their host.

I’m doing much better. I still have moments where I’ll be watching TV or talking on the phone or washing dishes or whatever and my breath will catch in my throat and/or I’ll get a little verklempt when my thoughts suddenly turn to Shadow. But all in all, I’m not near the wet rag I was in the days leading up to and after I decided to have her laid to rest.

I even managed to mostly keep my cool while scrolling through the past week’s timelapse file from my front steps cam and coming upon the following image.

On the surface it’s me carrying an extra-large file archives box down to the street on January 16, 2012 at 12:03:53 p.m. But instead of papers inside the container was Shadow’s body and I was bearing it to the vehicle of the veterinarian who had just euthanized her for him to transport for cremation.

After she passed at twelve o’clock high, the vet said he had a stretcher that he could go get to transfer her to his car, but I told him I had a box that would hold her and asked if it was OK if I spent a couple minutes alone with her and brought her down myself. He said sure and excused himself, leaving the two of us alone.

I stroked her forehead and her flank and I told her how much I would miss her and how much she was so very loved by everyone who knew her. Of course, I was a wreck during this farewell, but was also struck with a relief that seemed to come out of nowhere. Relief that it was done. Relief that her suffering was over. Relief that she looked so peaceful. Relief that I had been by her side at the end.

Then I gave her a kiss on the head and sucked in the emotions, wiping my face as I stood. Exhaling hard a few times, I retrieved the box from the study where Ranger dutifully and quietly waited in the club chair for permission to come out. I told her what a good girl she was and that we were almost done and I closed the door behind me.

Coming back to Shadow in the foyer I lifted her into my arms. She was so light — veritably (forgive the pun) a shadow of her living self. As if death took with it a burdensome weight. Laying her down into the box gently I took moments to arrange her head and her legs. I repositioned her tail from beneath her hip. Then I closed the box and stood up with it and walked her out of our house for the last time.

Couple of rainfall firsts with this storm that started sometime last night: It’s the first of 2012 and the first in more than five unusually dry weeks — 37 days to be exact — since a freak cell rolled over our house on December 15 and caught me by surprise in dropping 0.3125 inches.

At the 10 a.m. time of this photo today, there might still be some residual water to fall from the gray and cloudy skies, but after consulting the backyard precipitometer at this preliminary juncture I do hereby calculate that this current storm has already deposited a much-needed 2.292 inches, or more roughly a pinch above 2 1/4″ (as shown at right), bringing our season-to-date total to 15.656 inches.

Literally the moment I got home from yesterday’s bike ride, I found a thirsty squirrel scoping out the birdbath from the adjacent fence, and managed to get my cam out and capture the squirrel figuring out how to alleviate its dehydration, brought on no doubt by the extended lack of rain around these here parts. I’m not sure how the setting got switched to black-and-white mode, but the exceptionally bad vid’s viewable here along with my goofy narration.


To make a trip to the Echo Park post office, visit my mom in Burbank and just generally get the hell out of the house to clear my head, I wiped off the two weeks of dust that had accumulated on El Naranja since I last rode it and pedaled to Burbank and back. It proved very successful. The several hours involved marked the longest I’d gone without blubbering about Shadow.

19.67-mile route

Shadow’s deterioration into total immobility during her last months made it tough to remember when she was so full of life and personality. And that’s what makes finding this forgotten (albeit ultra low-res) video mostly of her during a 2005 hike with me and Susan in Bronson Canyon Park that much more of a pleasant surprise in that it shows Shadow how she should and will be remembered: in all her rambunctious creek-hopping, keep-up-with-me glory. I love you, Shadow. Rest in peace.

I’ll be saying goodbye to Shadow later this morning (I last wrote about why on December 23). A veterinarian who makes house calls will be arriving around 11 a.m. to administer to her with a respect and a dignity that is hard to find on the cold and sterile metal surfaces of an animal hospital.

Shadow came into my life on the afternoon of September 5, 1994. I want to say it was accidental, but it was anything but. I was two months into the task of recovering from my near-fatal motorcycle collision (and doing a pretty suckass job of it) when our lives intersected on a patch of grass beside Lake Balboa in Van Nuys.

In the whole mess of negativity I was mired she brought a much-needed positive, one that’s lasted 17 years, 4 months, and 11 days.

Right about now, it feels like it’ll take about that long to get over her being gone.

I love you Shadow and I was blessed to have you in my life. I don’t want you to go. But it’s time for me to put my selfishness aside and set you free.

UPDATE (12:18 p.m.): With one final breath Shadow passed peacefully at high noon with me by her side. Amidst the tears now and those to come, I am surprised to find my grief tempered with relief that her ordeal is over.

UPDATE (12:58 p.m.): Shadow’s spiral to complete immobility her last months made it hard to remember how much she liked to romp and stomp. Which is what makes finding this clip of her charging up our front steps in 2005 a complete treasure that simultaneously made me laugh and cry.