Category Archives: Dexter

Dexter the Cat


For those of you who might not know, Dexter was my dog, and he died three years ago. He was my second dog, the second one I’d lost to a treatable but ultimately incurable cancer. And if Sam is sweet, Dexter was pure sugar. I wrote a lot on this blog about losing Dexter, so maybe you’ve been here long enough to have already known that.

Obi and Dexter, my first two dogs (notice the stuffed toy)

Obi and Dexter, my first two dogs (notice the stuffed toy — Dexter was almost never without one)

As you might remember, I recently was Christmas shopping and saw the cutest stuffed kitty. Dexter would have loved it so much. It was perfect, floppy and soft, legs filled with beans. He loved stuffed animals. I could buy him any kind, even ones not meant for dogs, and he was so careful with them. He had a monkey, a cat, and a ram that he really liked. His favorite was a miniature Cattle Dog just like him, (he was a Cattle Dog mix, we think). Little D had beans in his legs, and Dexter would chew on them, loved the way they’d flop around when he held Little D in his mouth and shook his head. If he was ever tugging with it and a stitch ripped, he’d stop immediately and lick it. One of Dexter’s favorite games was to stand at the end of our hallway and lure me back into our bedroom, hop on the bed, and start to throw his toy around. After a bit, he’d toss it to me, expecting me to do the same and toss the toy back. We’d take turns like this for about 20 minutes. It was his favorite thing, and he did it almost right up until the end.


Dexter and Little D, resting after a play session on our bed

So when I saw the stuffed cat the other day, I totally wanted to buy it, even though the dogs we have now can’t have those kinds of toys, (Sam doesn’t really care and Ringo is a murderer). For a brief second, I considered buying it for myself, but even my broken little heart knew how dumb that was. Then I saw a Giving Tuesday link for one of my favorite animal shelters, Richmond Animal League (RAL). Problem solved! If I give them $25 dollars, they don’t just give a dog a new toy, they give him new humans and a new home, and that’s so much better. (I regularly give the same amount monthly to my local shelter too, also in honor of Dexter).

My favorite RAL shirt, and Sam taking a nap

My favorite RAL shirt

A few days ago, I got an email from Elizabeth, Director of Development at RAL. I was crying before I finished it, and had to put my head down on my desk and cry some more when I was done reading. She said,

You mentioned finding a stuffed cat toy in a note with a donation to Richmond Animal League. Well, we turned the stuffed kitty toy into a real one and named him Dexter. This sweet cat came to RAL last week and was adopted this past weekend. Thank you for your gift to help the dogs, and cats. Losing a pet can be so tough. Thank you for loving Dexter and sharing his story. I don’t know if Dexter would have enjoyed a real cat, but his memory is still alive. Thank you.

Dexter the cat

Dexter the cat

RAL is an amazing shelter. The people who work there are everything that is good in the world. A story about one of their dogs, Wiffle Ball, recently went viral. The reason I wanted to share this with you is that it is an example of something I think is really important: converting your hurt to help.

Bad stuff happens, and none of us are immune. No matter how much privilege we have, none of us can escape the reality that we all get sick, maybe get old, and eventually die. Every relationship ends badly, because no matter how much we want to, we don’t get to stay together forever. And how much we love is exactly how much it’s going to hurt when we lose the one we love.

The only thing I know of that makes bearing the hurt easier is to use it as fuel to help someone else. In this case, I could have been selfish and bought the cat for myself, or I could have let the experience sink me into grief, closed up and felt bad, but neither one would have really made me feel any better. What I did instead was to convert that hurt into helping RAL. And Elizabeth was kind enough to let me know just exactly how I helped, and I can’t tell you how happy/sad it makes me to know that there’s a cat out there named Dexter that I helped find his way home.

When we feel hurt, it’s good to figure out how we might help. It supports someone else who is struggling or suffering, and it has the added bonus of making us feel better too.

#augustbreak2015: Two

twoTwo. We’ve had just one dog at various times — the long year and a half when our first dog Obi was just a puppy and before we got Dexter, the four months after Obi died before we were ready to get Sam, the six months it took to decide if we would even EVER get another dog after we lost Dexter and Sam was sick but we didn’t know why. Even though we’ve had just one at times — and it’s so easy, so much less work — just one never seems quite right. Maybe it has something to do with Obi having such bad separation anxiety. We did everything we could for him and finally realized the only thing left to try was to get him his own dog, and it was so perfect, exactly what he needed. He was so much happier that we wished we hadn’t waited so long, although I suppose we had to wait for Dexter to be born, the dog that was the perfect fit for him. That set in my mind that dogs automatically are happier if they live with another dog, is where I got the idea that two is always the right number.

That’s not to say two is necessarily easier. It’s way harder to train two dogs, feed two dogs, groom two dogs, bathe two dogs, transport two dogs, calm two dogs, walk two dogs. Sometimes it simply doubles the effort, but there are times when two dogs are three dogs worth of work because you attend to each dog individually but there’s also a third dog, the shadow dog they form together as a team.

One time having two dogs is easier is when you lose one. In your grief, that well of sadness and loneliness, nothing can soothe you like another dog. Some days it’s the only reason to get out of bed, the only thing that keeps you going.

My experience with two dogs has had a strange twist. As much as Sam and Ringo are distinct, they are echos of Obi and Dexter. Sam’s sensitive, sweet nature is so much like Obi’s, and they are similar in shape and color. Obi broke one of his canine teeth in the months before he died, and Sam had a broken canine puppy tooth when we got him, so weird because that’s not a common injury. They are both afraid of loud noises, although Obi was more afraid of storms and Sam thinks it’s the washing machine that’s out to get him. Ringo has the same goofy high energy, the same happy good nature as Dexter did, the same athleticism, and the same body type, which someone once described as a “brick shit house.” Ringo has almost the exact same coloring as Dexter’s favorite toy, a small stuffed cattle dog we called Little D. Sam is content to be lazy, just hang out like Obi was, where Ringo and Dexter were always up for doing something, were either playing or asleep, only have two speeds. Our two dogs now are echos of the first pair, and it makes me think if I keep getting two, they will always be echos of those originals.

#augustbreak2015: Smooth

augustbreaktomotoesSmooth. Sweet 100s. Perfect little bites. The skin is tight so when you put one in your mouth you have to pop them open to release the sweet, careful to keep your mouth closed so it doesn’t spray everywhere. Sometimes when you pick them, if they are ripe and warm, they’ll split open as they come off the stem.

When Dexter was still here, he loved them so much he tried to pick his own but couldn’t tell if they were ripe and would leave a trail of squished green ones behind him. He was so happy when I would grab a container and say, “let’s go pick some tomatoes” because he knew he’d get some, and every one of them would be ripe. This is a picture of him his last summer, when we put in a tomato plant just for him. I told him he could have all the tomatoes off that plant all to himself, even though I knew he’d probably be gone before it got fruit, before they were ready to eat — and he was. Letting him go, missing him has been anything but smooth.

Gratitude Friday

springleemartinez1. Spring. Bird song, green, blooms, blue skies.

2. Hard boiled eggs, crackers, and Sprite. I had a touch of food poisoning and this was all I could eat yesterday.

3. A month in Waldport. We are all paid up, making plans, and dreaming of the beach. I am setting an intention to pack less, do less once we get there, and get Ringo ready to ride in the way back with Sam like a big boy.

We are also taking some of Dexter's ashes to scatter at one of his favorite places.

We are also taking some of Dexter’s ashes to scatter at one of his favorite places.

4. Ringo. He’s continuing to grow up and get easier. He got his staples removed, the gash over his eye all healed up, and then went back to daycare and spent the day playing. I was looking at him the other day and realized his spots, his specs look just like the night sky, like the Milky way or something.

sleepypink5. Sam. He’s still doing well, getting weaned off his pain medication. That plus all the playing he does with Ringo brings him back to the young, vibrant dog he should be at four years old. He’s such a sweet, sensitive boy too, tries to intervene when Ringo’s getting in trouble or he thinks we are playing too hard or when we are having an animated conversation that might be fighting.

"Make me dinner, Mom."

“Make me dinner, Mom.”

Bonus Joy: I’m a little nervous about this one, but excited — Jamie Ridler is interviewing me for her Creative Living podcast. I’m not nervous to talk to Jamie about creativity, until I look at the other people she’s interviewed, so many of my favorite creatives. How did I end up on that list?!

Gratitude Friday

image by eric

image by eric

1. Dexter. Last night, Ringo was dreaming, growling and barking in his sleep, and he sounded just like Dexter. I had such a strong memory of Dexter, like he was right there, and it made me cry, but I was grateful for it, grateful for Dexter.

sleepyd032. My piece in Fort Collins Magazine. It’s not many words, but they are mine and in print and I got paid for them. Even so, I’d rather be someone who knew nothing about this particular topic.

fortcollinsmagazine3. Ringo’s cold is getting better, never got very bad. In fact, I’d guess that from his perspective there was never anything wrong.

cookieball4. Soft Molasses cookies.

5. The first official sign of spring, yellow crocuses.

Bonus Joy: Sweet Sam. There’s still a chance he might have caught Ringo’s cold, but he seems okay for now. We we laughing last night about how we’d like to trade places with him sometimes. When he gets annoyed with Ringo, tired of him, he goes into the living room where Ringo can’t get to him and takes a nap on the couch. Wish we could do that sometimes, just ignore Ringo, let him be someone else’s problem and take a nap.


Three Truths and One Wish

bigboyharness1. Sometimes having a puppy is boring. You have to watch them constantly when they are awake and loose, and even though they sleep a lot it’s in short bursts so you can’t really get a lot done. You are cautioned by your vet to not take them anywhere until they are 16 weeks and have had all their shots, so even if you cheat on that so you can socialize them, you are more isolated than usual. You get cabin fever, go stir crazy, and this particular puppy came in the middle of winter, so there was even more of that. After weeks and weeks of this, you kinda wish they’d grow up already. They are impossibly cute and loveable and sometimes hilarious when they are small and you know you’ll miss it when they get big, but at the same time they are making you crazy and boring you to tears.

Spend as much as you want on toys, an empty plastic jug wins every time

Spend as much as you want on toys, an empty plastic jug wins every time

Danielle LaPorte posted last week about being so sick she’d had to cancel lots of important things, stuff she’d really wanted to do. She said about it, “Sometimes life will bind you so you can feel how free and loved you are.” I feel the same about this moment in my life, this brief moment that I keep wishing away even as I work so hard to be here, to stay present.

Ringo's first bath

Ringo’s first bath

2. “The days are long, but the years are short.” I’m not sure who to attribute that to, as I’ve seen it assigned various authors. Whoever said it, it’s so true. These puppy days feel like they’ve gone on forever and might never end, but the almost eight years we had with Obi and the barely ten we had with Dexter felt impossibly short. I still have trouble believing they are really gone, struggle to understand how that could even be possible.

theboysbig3. You have to be a particular kind of crazy to raise a dog. It’s so much work and your time with them is so short. And the love sneaks up on you. One day you are fantasizing about running away from home or giving them back, and the next you are hopelessly and irrevocably bonded to them. There’s nothing else in my life I put so much effort toward only to have my heart broken in the end, knowing that’s the only possible outcome.

brothersparttwoOne wish (okay, more like many wishes): To keep my heart open and stay present no matter what arises. To not give up, no matter how hard it gets. To lean into love and joy as an antidote to suffering. To be gentle and forgive myself when I make a mistake. To know I am doing the best I can. To relax and stop trying so hard.

I am wishing the same for you, kind and gentle reader, in whatever way you need that in your life.

#smallstone: As Is

adoptioncontractsGoing through old files, I find your adoption contracts. I smile when I read the part that says, “By adopting the above-described for ownership, adopter is accepting the dog ‘as is,’ with all defects, known or unknown and assumes all risk for this dog. Adopter assumes full responsibility to properly provide for the dog’s care, maintenance, training and companionship.”

I didn’t fully understand the promise, the vow I was making, the full measure of that commitment. And yet even now, knowing how hard those “defects, known or unknown” would land, how much the risk would end up costing me, how loving you would eventually break my heart, I would do it again.

Obi and Dexter