All posts tagged: Linus

My Buddy.

Back in March, Linus went through a rough patch that landed us, late one night, at the emergency vet’s office. The situation didn’t look promising. In discussing treatment with the doctor, there were a lot of qualifiers—“if he even makes it through the night” or “if we can administer his medication”—that kind of thing. Before departing, the vet warned me of the “difficult decision” I would likely be faced with in the morning, if nature hadn’t run its course. It was devastating. I was a disaster.

For me, grief tends to take one of two forms. There’s the more typical version: a lot of crying, wallowing in general despair, foggily moving through the motions of everyday life when loss is all you can really think about. And then there’s the arguably more productive kind, wherein I distract myself with some large but detailed task in order to fleetingly create the illusion that something in this terrible fucking situation is within my control and that things may, eventually, return to normal. On this night I gravitated toward the latter. I’d recently read the majority of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo—a 200+ page self-help volume that could (ironically, perhaps) easily be condensed to a set of bullet points in a pamphlet. Kondo’s book promises a better life if you can train yourself to abide by the simple principle of keeping only that which “sparks joy” and disposing of, literally, anything else. This is a person who threw her hammer into the trash but found that a cast iron skillet worked just as effectively for driving nails into the wall if she felt compelled to hang up a picture—so maybe take it with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, with Crisis Zone emotions coursing through me, I started in on my entire wardrobe. That’s how I found myself months later getting dressed for a wedding, only for a vague recollection of donating my joyless suit pants to surface. Grief messes you up.

He did make it through the night. In Brooklyn there were emergency vet offices that remained open 24 hours a day, but no such option exists here—meaning that for real round-the-clock care, you have to transfer back and forth between the vet that’s open during the day and the vet that’s open at night. We did this for a few days. Having dealt with my clothing, I moved onto my books.

His situation hadn’t improved, medical options beyond his normal regimen of pills had been exhausted, and the doctors felt that there was nothing left to be done. And that if I wasn’t ready to make that Tough Decision, I should consider taking him home for one last night—where, they warned, he was likely to pass on his own accord. So that’s what I did. I wasn’t ready, not remotely. And in spite of his condition—unable to stand or walk and exhibiting no appetite—something inside me felt that he wasn’t, either. Maybe he’d turn a corner. And so I bundled my roughly 15 year old dog in my sweatshirt, hoping for just a little more time.

Within 24 hours, Linus stood up. He walked around a little, and started to accept food in the form of boiled chicken breast and rice. He wasn’t keen on returning to his regular food, so in the ensuing days and weeks and—to the shock and awe of the staff at the animal hospital—months, he gained back the weight he’d lost on an increasingly elaborate diet of chicken and rice and raw beef tripe and human baby food and the occasional can of sardines. Long ago, I’d made a simple pact with this dog: as long as he wanted to stick around, I would do whatever it took to take care of him. Which, honestly, is a helpful thing to remind yourself of when handling raw beef trip first thing in the morning.

We needed more time, and we got it. Remember how I said this was back in March? That’s March 2016. A year and a half ago.

Linus stumbled into my life at the ripe age of around 10 (I’m taking for granted that you’ve read everything I’ve ever written, which is maybe unrealistic, so here’s that whole story) back in 2012.  The gist of the story is this: a tiny dog in horrible condition was mid-capture by Brooklyn police; a woman interrupted the encounter because she believed the dog lived on my block; I happened to pass this woman while she was trying to return the dog home; the dog didn’t live there after all; she couldn’t keep the dog; I volunteered to take care of the situation; I did so by eventually deciding to keep the dog. That night, I sat with him on the bathroom floor in my Brooklyn apartment and, for seven hours, worked to free his little body from what looked like years of matted fur and filth. Looking back later, this struck me as a bad idea on a number of levels. Imagine it: being taken off the streets by a strange person, brought to a strange place, and being subjected to hours of what was surely uncomfortable and painful grooming and bathing at the hands of that strange person. He should have bit me, and I couldn’t have blamed him. He should have cowered in fear and confusion. He could have given me rabies, or infested the apartment with fleas or bedbugs. But he didn’t do any of those things—instead I remember his patience and seeming understanding of what I was trying to accomplish. I remember him starting to lick me with this determined fervor, like he was trying to return the favor. When I nicked his paper-thin skin, he yelped once and licked my face, as though he knew it was an accident and forgave me immediately. After it was over and time for bed, we tried to confine him to the kitchen for the night but instead he stood by the door and barked until I let him into the bedroom. All he wanted was to be close.

I didn’t know how much I would grow to love him. I’d always had big goofy dogs, but after getting cleaned up Linus looked like he might have fallen out of some rich lady’s Prada on the Upper East Side. He didn’t chew or fetch or tug or really play at all. At the dog park he just sort of trotted around on his own. And despite what people will argue, teaching a dog that old new tricks is…well, he wasn’t interested, so I didn’t push it.

His joys were simple and small. Occasionally if he was feeling particularly active, he might start humping a throw pillow. He liked shredding (but not really eating) leafy greens like kale and lettuce. Sometimes he could really get going on gnawing a pizza crust—a rawhide for the dentally disadvantaged. But mostly, he just wanted to be close to me—really close—at all times. Even as his faculties dissipated, he somehow maintained the ability to detect my absence and track my whereabouts as soon as I would leave him alone in a room, even if he seemed to be sleeping soundly.  Evidently, this is a common trait with small dogs—to bond really strongly to one person, even in a family setting—but I couldn’t help but feel like he was abnormally fanatical about me. Maybe because the feeling was mutual.

Without question, he was the most good-natured animal I’ve ever known. One thing that always stuck in my mind about the account of his rescue was that allegedly officers were afraid to approach him because they didn’t want to get bit. Because he was showing his teeth and snarling. “He looked mean.” I literally cannot imagine this, because Linus greeted everyone—man, woman, child, dog, cat, rabbit, etc.—the same way: eyes bright, head upright on his stocky little shoulders, ears alert, scraggly little tail wagging in this circular helicopter motion that pretty much defines that phrase “I can’t even.” Exquisite cuteness aside, I think this is what I most love and cherish about Linus. That thing, right there—that approach to the world—that even now I have a hard time articulating.

I never got to know what the first decade of Linus’s life looked like, and I highly doubt I ever will. All I know is what I can surmise from the condition he was in when he found me, which remains hard to think about. That somehow my little man ended up that way. That someone allowed him to. It’s the kind of shit that can fuck someone up—human or animal. That can make the world seem scary, or threatening. That can make people seem bad and untrustworthy. That can make the task of survival feel like an extended exercise in fear and reclusion and anger. It seems to me that it takes a certain rare and resilient kind of character to bounce back from that. To move on from it all with love and kindness and the ability to trust when experience has taught you the opposite. I think that’s called grace. I think that’s strength. And bravery. I think that’s being a total badass. I never thought a 12 pound dog could show me that.

As anyone who’s reached this point with a pet can likely attest, caring for a geriatric dog can be challenging, particularly when the health issues begin accumulating. Due to his background, we’ve always had our share of medical challenges—starting with probably never having seen a vet, been vaccinated, neutered, trained to live in a house or eat dog food; the list goes on. His teeth were so badly rotted that nearly half of them came out during his first cleaning. His first night off the street, Max and I quickly noticed a muffled, huffy kind of cough that we feared might be contagious to Mekko, but learned was actually symptomatic of a collapsing trachea—a condition evidently common among small dogs. “Imagine your throat is like a camping tent,” I remember the doctor telling me, “and then all of a sudden the poles collapse. That’s more or less what’s happening.” Great.

Shortly thereafter, a heart murmur was detected, and then congestive heart failure entered the picture with an attending handful of prescription medications designed to keep his ventricles pumping and fluid from building up in his lungs. His liver and kidneys began to struggle—difficult to treat because those medications would interact poorly with the ones for his heart. At some point, any advances we’d managed to make with potty training went out the window, and the composition of my trash can became about 50% used diapers (or, more specifically, an unbelievably absorbent female incontinence product called Poise Pads that I bought by the hundreds, which happen to be the perfect size to line a “tinkle belt” made for dogs). Gradually he lost the great majority of his hearing, reacting only to very loud sounds. His sight, too: the left eye was declared worthless, while the right seemed able to detect changes in light and the movement of large shapes. He began to have a difficult time with his right front paw—arthritis, perhaps. He lost a few more teeth. The doctor thought he might have emphysema. At home, I wondered if he was afflicted by canine dementia, since he seemed unable to recall why—other than sunbathing—we spent time outside at various points in the day.

I realize to some people this all might sound crazy. Like I’m a Crazy McCrazy dog person who couldn’t accept what was plainly obvious. And at various times, I struggled with this—because I don’t see myself as a Crazy McCrazy dog person who would prioritize my own selfishness over the suffering of an animal. Quality of life is a hard thing to evaluate, particularly when the one living that life can’t speak for themselves. But he really did still seem like a happy dog, content to live out his golden years with his ten pills a day and his diapers and his collection of plush beds scattered around the house.

There are people who adopt elderly dogs on purpose, which I find exceedingly admirable. At 22, I know I wasn’t one of those people, and at 28, I’m still not sure that I am, though I wouldn’t dismiss the idea out of hand. If you’re a dog person, I probably don’t have to tell you what terrific companions old dogs can make. But the inconvenient and surprisingly taboo fundamental truth about adopting an older dog almost goes without saying : the more time that’s behind them, the less they’re likely to have ahead. So in taking responsibility for that life, you’re also sort of immediately confronted with the inevitability of death. Which, of course, could apply to all living things, but I think is much easier to ignore when you take home a puppy instead. I realize this probably sounds miserable—to live constantly with this sort of unpredictable specter of death, looming ahead at a distance that feels impossible to gauge. But I think in some ways it’s the opposite. You’re forced to face the thought of it, and as a result it becomes less scary. Less threatening. Another part of being alive. Time is precious and beautiful because of its limited quantity. Because it runs out.

Blunt as it might sound, I sort of hoped but also fully expected Linus would someday die in his sleep. It just seemed to fit with the order of things: this dog that slyly worked his way into my life, who followed his own rules and never seemed interested in observing mine. Who could bark endlessly—never, not once, out of fear or aggression, but because he wanted something and “no” did not register as an acceptable answer. Linus’s way or the highway. I always had this idea that I didn’t really own him, that he wasn’t really my dog. He had this whole past that belonged only to him. He might live in my home and accept my care and affections, but he’d still never really be mine. The idea of choosing to end his life for him seemed, for a long time, like an impossibility. It just didn’t fit.

After that scare in March 2016, it seemed apparent that our time left together might be very short.  He’d go through a few difficult days, and then he’d bounce back, and part of me began to believe that maybe he really would outlive us all. But the other part of me—the part more acquainted with reality—recognized that the time we had left, at this point, was borrowed, and I had to accept that it would soon come to a close. That he’d no longer be here. I think he fought for so long to make sure I was ready to handle that. That I’d be OK.

About a month ago, Linus’s slow decline seemed to speed up rapidly. It started out essentially the same as episodes we’d weathered before, but this time just felt different. I can’t really explain it. We went to the vet, who calmly and quietly confirmed what I already knew. It still hits you hard, to hear it. It’s still shocking to be presented the option of either doing it right there and then or waiting. I realized I’d spent more time trying to ready myself for the time after this—going home to one dog, filling one food bowl, being alone on the sofa while I wrote or watched TV—than the moment that precipitates it. The one where you have to say goodbye, the one that I hadn’t anticipated because I still expected to find him one bright morning, lifeless in his bed, gone on his own time. And again, I found myself unprepared.

There’s a Yiddish phrase that translates to “the way it begins is the way it ends,” and maybe the reason I deluded myself into expecting a different ending to this story originates from my misreading of the beginning. We decided to go home. The doctor could come to the house the next day. I held him all night and into the next morning, which turned into one of those perfectly crisp but sunny fall days where you’re warm as long as you stay out of the shade. We bundled up and sat in the sun for a while, and he seemed content. It’s weird, trying to fill that time when there’s an actual countdown. It feels really fast and really slow at the same time.

The doctor arrived. Mekko settled into a chair across the room. I held him close to me, and it ended the way it began—with him in my arms, safe, and granting me all the trust in the world that whatever I was doing was the right thing.

Choosing this conclusion wasn’t a punishment, I realize now. It was a privilege—one that he extended my way the night he walked into my life and chose to trust me. Chose to love me. Chose to be my dog.

Being your person was one of the great honors of my life, my handsome little man. I miss you more than words, and I’ll love you forever.

Life
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Here’s What the Living Room Looks Like Nowadays.

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Oh hi, Linus! What a little muppet. Can you believe that guy has been camping out with me for almost three years now? He’s the best thing in the world. FYI.

When I first posted about the renovated living room, I kind of mentioned that I didn’t feel like the room was looking all that great, as the extent of my decorating had been spending an hour or so the day before throwing a bunch of stuff into the room that I already owned. When you live in a perpetual renovation zone, just the novelty of being able to use a room is excitement enough…caring too much about what it looks like is kind of beside the point. And because my house still needs so much work, and the budget for it is always slimmer than it needs to be, it’s not like I have a bunch of cash lying around to buy beautiful things and make even the “finished” spaces look…well, finished.

Anyway. I’ve been doing some heavy-duty nesting and reorganizing and changing things around lately, as I’m now often alone in the house and allowed to do whatever the hell I want. Moment of awkward silence. Point is, I was looking around my living room the other day and realized it looks way more like a real room than last time I posted about it, so maybe it’s high time for a little update!

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First thing’s first…CHAIR. Newsflash: I have a womb chair now and it is officially the nicest thing in my house. And by thing, I mean glorified dog bed. Here, Mekko demonstrates how to use it. Thanks, Mekko!

So the story of this chair is one of bratty persuasion. At some point when I was in high school, my mother became fixated on buying a set of lounge chairs for her bedroom, and somehow I convinced her that a set of grey womb chairs were everything that she wanted. It probably goes without saying that in fact they were everything wanted, but she bought them all the same and then…DIDN’T LIKE THEM. I don’t get it either. She doesn’t find them comfortable.

I’ll say two things about that. The first is that I personally find this chair incredibly comfortable, and the second is that I have lots and lots of chairs in my life and admittedly very few of them are all that comfortable. What can I say? I love me a good-looking chair and like any good blogger, I will sacrifice comfort for beauty every time.

So the chairs sat in my parents’ bedroom until they moved, and then one went to the condo where it continues to be hated and the other one went to fester in a storage facility. This is what my family does as a way to avoid dealing with getting rid of stuff, which is one of their finer qualities IMO. In any case, it seemed like an awful shame to let this chair sit piled atop other stuff and wrapped in cellophane, so when I was home for Passover recently I did the selfless thing and brought it home with me.

Sorry, Mom! This is what you get for having a gay son. Endless decorating advice about expensive items that said son will later convince you to bequeath to him. I’m not proud.

OK, I’m kind of proud.

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Working our way around in no particular order: LAMP. I love this lamp. It’s the IKEA 365 BRASA floor lamp, which I hate to tell you is discontinued! Ugh. I think it retailed for $120 which was always too spendy for me, but the whole thing is super nice powder-coated steel and just so, so well made. I’ve loved it for years! This was a floor model and I found it in the as-is section, and it took me about 0.0 seconds to snatch it up before the opportunity would never present again. I think it was marked down something like 40%.

So sad. It’s such a great lamp.

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You might have noticed in the first shot that I moved my stupid little DIY bench into here and called it a coffee table! It functions well as both and I like it a surprising amount, especially because it saves me from feeling like I have to buy a coffee table. Coffee tables are maybe the hardest thing to find, am I right? It’s like they’re all ugly or the wrong height or the wrong length or the wrong everything. Or a billion dollars.

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Underneath the coffee table is a rug! A rug that I bought! I got a little overly excited at an auction recently and snagged this rug for $150! TOTALLY worth it in my book. Antique rugs like this are so hard to find at an affordable price. The pictures don’t really show how damaged this rug is in spots, which I’m sure is why the price didn’t go higher, but I don’t really care about that. The majority of the damage is in the middle region and that’s mainly under the coffee table, so I just ignore it. I do have to invest in a pad for underneath but that’s more of a “note to self” than something you need to be concerned about.

I love it a whole lot. It’s still kind of under-sized for this room, but not as under-sized as the one in the old pictures, so at least I’m moving in the right direction. This room can handle an 8×10 so I’ll probably be on the prowl for one for the rest of my life.

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Also found at the same auction: PIANO BENCH. I’m still feeling pretty smug about this one. The piano came with the house and is from the 1920s or so, but whatever bench it had was gone, unfortunately, and the piano looks kind of strange sitting without a bench. I think this bench cost me 30 bucks and I feel like you’d NEVER think I just bought it! That’s all I really wanted…I didn’t want to make some kind of feature out of the piano bench—just find something that fit with the piano. The piano is Kroeger and the bench is Steinway so I know they aren’t really a match, but the mahogany finish is almost an exact match and even the shape of the legs is similar, so I feel like I did pretty good.

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On top of the piano I plopped a Stag Head Fern, which I love and am trying not to kill. This room needed some plant life so I’m glad it has some now.

Please don’t die, fern. I can’t take that level of emotional turmoil right now.

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I keep futzing with the mantel (why is mantel styling so impossible for me?), but I LOVE this ridiculous/scary/amazing lady portrait. She’s HUGE and I found her in the trash a while ago in Brooklyn! The TRASH! Max always hated her so she was never allowed outside of my hoarding room, but one of the upsides to this whole break-up thingy is that now I can display all of my creepy art without consequences. Nothing says “single and sane” like this display, am I right?

SOMEBODY LOVE ME

I think she was a student art piece and the back of the canvas indicates that a boy named Brett painted her. Are you out there, Brett? Thank you for throwing your art away so that it could come live in my home. She brings me so much pleasure and joy on a daily/hourly/minutely basis.

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Controversial art aside, it’s come a long way from this, right? I love hanging out in this room.

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Oh, Mekko. You gorgeous pink moody thing. Keep living the life of endless lounging and leisure. I’ll try to finish more rooms for you.

Dog Food! Dwell!

So that thing I said on Friday about a kitchen reveal today?

Um. Not happening. Sorry. Even though we could probably artfully photograph it to not include the bits that aren’t quite done, I don’t want to do that! The reality is, reaching the end of a renovation project means tying up a bunch of little tiny loose-end types of projects (this thing needs one more coat of paint, I should really polish the floor, etc. etc.), and it’s SUPER EASY to loose motivation and just move on to the next thing. The kitchen is totally functional and I’m super happy with it, but I know I’ll definitely be happier when there aren’t little details like that looming over my head. I want to shut the door on that space and move on to the next one with a clean conscience!

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SO. ANYWAY. Linus got groomed over the weekend, and he looks so cute. We usually take him to get groomed about every 2 months (sometimes a little bit longer), and it’s always totally amazing and shocking to see him come out afterward looking like a different dog. Linus fully believes that to feel fresh, you have to look fresh, and he never looks fresher than walking out of the salon with his hair all back-combed and his nails freshly ground down.

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Linus’s hair isn’t the only thing that’s changed in his life recently, though! My new friend Carla (the co-owner of one of my favorite stores, Dry Goods) and I were talking about our dogs a few weeks ago, and I mentioned that neither of my dogs have ever been particularly voracious eaters. Mekko has always been really so-so about her food, and Linus would only really eat Mekko’s food. Since he is dentally challenged, he was basically dry-swallowing big hard kibbles formulated for large-breed adult dogs…for about a year. We tried to switch him to a few different types of food made for a dog his size/age, but he’d always ignore it and just eat out of Mekko’s bowl. And since Mekko didn’t particularly care about her food, she was OK with that. Our vet told us that at his age, as long as he was eating and seemed happy doing it, we should just let him eat pretty much whatever kind of dog food he seemed to want, so we gave up and let him do what he wanted.

Carla had only amazing things to say, though, about her dog’s raw diet from Nature’s Variety——she’d noticed that he was much more energetic and alert and seemed happier eating. We tried to put Linus on a dehydrated raw diet way back when we first got him (Honest Kitchen——which is fabulous food, by the way), but he refused to eat it after a while, so I was skeptical of how another brand would appeal to him. Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw is frozen, not dehydrated, though, so I figured we’d give it a shot.

WELL. Not only does he completely love this food (he dances before I give it to him, scarfs is entire meal in about 30 seconds flat, then licks the bowl for a few minutes for good measure), I’ve noticed a huge change in him. He’s been eating it for about 2-3 weeks, and he has so much more energy, he’s more alert, and just seems happier. Linus is about 11 years old, so seeing him do a little reverse-aging is so exciting. He’s still my little old man, but he’s an old man who runs up stairs, and explores the yard, and sometimes drags his bed around with his mouth and tries to hump it. It’s really spectacular.

I worried that the food would be a huge hassle, but it’s really simple. For small dogs, it’s portioned in “medallions,” which are 1-oz little patties. Linus eats two at every meal, so after each meal, we just take the next two out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to defrost. At meal time, we mash them up a little with a fork and serve. That’s it! Each bag costs somewhere around $20 (it goes up or down a little depending on the type of protein——there’s beef, chicken, rabbit, venison, duck, and lamb) and lasts about 12 days, so while it’s a little spendy, I feel OK about paying less than $2 a day to keep Linus happy and healthy and eating food that he loves and is so good for him.

Of course, Mekko quickly noticed that Linus was eating better food than she was, so she went on a hunger strike and refused to eat her old kibble. It would be really expensive to switch her to the same frozen raw diet, but I bought a bag of the Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Kibble. I was surprised that the 25-pound bag was about $10 cheaper than her old kibble, and even more surprised to find out that because Nature’s Variety has such high nutritional density, she has to eat half as much as her old kibble (2 cups a day instead of 4!), so the bag lasts twice as long! And she LOVES it. It’s so weird seeing both of the dogs gobble up all of their food so quickly as soon as we set it down. It feels really good.

I’m not affiliated with Nature’s Variety in any way, by the way. I’m just so happy to have found such a great food, finally!

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Good boy, Linus.

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Also, I keep forgetting to mention, but me and 17 other bloggers from around the world are included in the September issue of Dwell! Subscribers should have gotten it by now, but it should also be on newsstands! As a long-time reader of Dwell, it was so exciting being asked to participate in the piece, and really fun to see how everything turned out. The whole issue is really great, by the way (Orla Keily’s house! Morten Bo Jensen and Kristina May Olsen’s Copenhagen apartment!), and it’s so crazy to be included in it in any small way. Big thanks so Jaime Gillin, Kelsey Keith, and the rest of the Dwell crew for making it happen, and to Agata Marszalek for the portrait!

Life
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Happy Birthday, Linus.

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Of the many strengths of the human mind, gauging the passage of time just isn’t one of them. Sure, we do well enough sometimes with minutes and hours, but things seem to get progressively sketchier when we scale up to weeks, then months, then years. It isn’t a coincidence that every time New Year’s rolls around, we experience a collective sense of wonder——my god, another one, already? I’ve come to think we’re just wired with this deficiency, an adaptation of sorts, because if we realized how swiftly everything truly goes by, we’d feel so hopeless.

So, I know people always preface with this kind of thing, but I can’t believe it’s been a year since we went out for a walk with one dog and, long story short, came home with two. I mean, when I really think back——about the weeks of trying to figure out where he’d live, of finding him a foster home, of eventually deciding he could just stay with us, and then of the subsequent weeks of potty training and trying to get him to eat decent food, and now the months of forgetting what it was like not to have him around——I guess I can believe it’s been a year. But it still sounds like such an awfully long time.

When we first found Linus, the vet thought he was between 9 and 11, so we went with 10. So I guess now he’s between 10 and 12? So we’ll go with 11? Happy birthday, Linus. You’re old. Or as the vet put it recently when discussing an upcoming blood test, “geriatric.”

I don’t say “old” as a derogatory term. I love old things. I love old houses, and old furniture, and I especially love old people. And as it turns out, I love old dogs, too. Linus’s past is full of mystery and intrigue, a whole universe of stories we’ll never get to the bottom of. In a way, that’s frustrating——the not knowing——but it’s also kind of romantic. While I know he’d been horribly, inhumanely neglected when he came to us, I don’t like to think that his whole life was spent that way. I prefer to believe that was just some weird pit-stop he made in the land of Bad Luck, that maybe fortunes changed and he fell on some hard times and decided to pack up his knapsack and hit the road in search of greener pastures. And when he finally found them, he was all perfectly weathered, world-weary and ready to settle down.

I think it takes a certain type of person to decide to adopt an old dog, and I won’t pretend I’m one of those people. It means knowingly missing out on stinky puppy breath (which is my favorite smell in the whole world), and silly doggy adolescence. It means never seeing a full set of teeth, or watching your energetic puppy calm down into some version of itself that’s calmer, more dignified, and wiser, somehow. And, the unpleasant truth of the matter, is that it means you just might not have your dog for very long, which is a particular point that nobody seems altogether comfortable talking or thinking about.  But I’m not really one of those sunny people who walks around ignoring stuff like that. And despite my deepest admiration and respect for people who make the choice to adopt old dogs, I can’t really imagine signing up for it. The way we saw it was that we didn’t really have a choice——he fumbled his way into our lives, and we either had to accept that graciously or risk that nobody else would decide to love him, ever. And that just wouldn’t do.

Who knows how long Linus will live——maybe he’ll be one of those wonder dogs who lives until he’s 25, or maybe he’ll be a normal dog who lives until he’s 13 or 14. Either way is OK. That’s always been one of those unspoken understandings between Mister Linus and I. I’ll take care of you as long as you stick around, little guy, and all you have to do is love me. That’s your only job. I won’t try to put you through the mental hurdles of sit or stay or learning your name. You’ll have everything you need, and you just have to hold up your end of the bargain.

Max’s mom, Sue, once commented offhandedly that all Linus really wants is a warm body to cuddle up to. In some senses, I think that’s basically true. Linus likes everybody and everything, and nearly anyone who sits still for more than a few minutes on our sofa will find a dog sprawling peacefully across their lap. But I think Linus and I have a special thing between us—a type of love that I can’t really convey to most people, or even expect other dog owners to understand. When I was little, I read Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass because I liked the cover when I saw it at Borders. I don’t recall enjoying the book, but one of the ideas in it really appealed to me——that everybody got a little spirit animal called a dæmon, a dedicated creature metaphysically attached to them through, like, magic n’ stuff. And that’s how I feel about Linus. Mekko is my beautiful, perfect baby——my lovable problem child——but Linus? He’s my dæmon.

People often think it’s weird that we have Linus and Mekko, a high-spirited Pit Bull, in the same house. I do, too. Mekko is the dog I always wanted——beyond intelligent, sharply focused, energetic, overly friendly, and as neurotic as her dads (which is to say, extraordinarily neurotic). Mekko is the sort of dog who could probably learn all sorts of exceptional things if we put her up to them, like sign language and math and how to rescue babies from burning buildings. She’s the type who wants to get where she’s going, who’s always looking ahead for the next challenge or exciting thing. People say dogs live in the present and don’t think consciously about the past or future, but I don’t think that’s really true. Mekko probably doesn’t think about what her life will look like when she’s 30, but I know she’s always thinking about somewhere just a little ahead of the present, just beyond it enough that we don’t know what it looks like yet.

But Linus lives thoroughly in the moment. He moves quickly when he feels excited, but most of the time he moves at a pace not much faster than a crawl. Fresh flowers, discarded food scraps on the sidewalk, the fragrant aroma of someone else’s pee——these are all things Linus feels obligated to stop and appreciate fully, with every ounce of his attention. He greets each discovery anew, as if it’s the most fascinating and enticing thing he’s ever encountered. Absent any schedule to keep or goals to fulfill, Linus is left only with what’s in front of him, here and now. He’s the one that literally makes us slow down, take long pauses, and remember that maybe everything doesn’t have to happen so fast. Maybe time will just wait for us a little longer than we thought it could. Maybe we have all the time we need.

Life
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Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Linus!

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Linus is the sort of dog I generally associate with the elderly: sleepy, cuddly, a little vacant, with a hairstyle that must be maintained. I’ve only ever owned big dogs and figured I always would, yet here we are. People are always confused when they find out that Mekko the Pit Bull is the dog that we willingly, intentionally adopted, whereas Linus—the fancy white toy breed—was a stray who we just sort of took in by accident. But that’s how it happened. Even though he’s the sweetest, most gentle, good-natured little animal I’ve ever known, the fact remains: we did not ask for him. Sometimes, I’ll just find myself marveling at how very tiny he is (12 pounds!) and pondering how it is that he’s even real and not just, say, an animatronic stuffed animal with a funky-smelling face. It’s sometimes truly puzzling that this creature looks to me as his caretaker.

Roundabout 6 times a year, I get to have the best day ever because Linus goes to get groomed! I like Linus to look a little bit scrappy (it just matches his personality better), but I live for the shocking reveal when he’s unveiled at the end of his session. It’s disorienting having a dog who can transform so much in the course of an hour or two, to the point that I’m positive I wouldn’t recognize him on the street. It’s like a perpetually thrilling magic act and I look forward to it immensely.

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Here was Linus this morning, right before grooming. I had to take the picture on my iPhone because I was too lazy to go grab my camera.

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And here he is this afternoon! Hilarious, right? I could laugh and laugh for days. I asked for a shorter ‘do this time for summer, and I can tell Linus is totally digging it. He’s a very subdued dog at home, but out on the street is where he lets his true colors shine through. And trust, the strut on this dog after grooming today was that of an animal who feels free and sexy and invigorated by style.

I know it’s hard to believe, what with the perfectly-coiffed snout and the blunt-cut ears and the pipe cleaner tail, but he’ll go back to being a scrappy mess within a few days. I promise! But for now, I’ll just be admiring the magic of it all. So fresh, so fancy.

No, we have no idea what kind of dog Linus is! I think maltese-miniature poodle cross, but we’ve literally heard everything! Poodle, Maltese, Bichon, Havanese, Coton de Tulear, maybe with a little terrier, the list goes on. They all look the same to me.  

Linus gets groomed by Jenny at the Petsmart on Atlantic Avenue, and we all LOVE her. She’s so great.

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