A sad farewell to Rudy, an exceptional dog

My extended family suffered a very tough and painful loss on the very first day of 2011. Rudy, my dog-in-law golden retriever and one of the most special animals I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with, suddenly passed away.

Rudy and Sebastian

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows how much animals mean to me. I have always been a dog person, despite living with three cats. There are times when the company of animals is far preferable to the company of humans. Pets are family members, and saying goodbye to them is much tougher than anyone who is not a pet person can ever comprehend.

Now, not even one year after saying goodbye to Bidie, a dog I knew for about 13 years and lived with for one year, losing Rudy is a tough blow, and I haven’t spent anywhere near as much time around this magnificent beast as I did around Bidie.

Words or photographs can’t do justice to what made Rudy so special, but I’ll try. This dog’s eyes were more human than canine, and they displayed a level of intelligence far beyond what one would expect from a dog — even from a breed known for its intelligence. The family has another golden, Rudy’s niece, Molly, who is a fantastic dog in her own right. But when I first looked into Molly’s eyes, I saw, “Pet me! Pet me! Pet me! Pet me! Pet me!” And when I first looked into Rudy’s eyes, I saw wisdom, and I felt like his gaze was saying, “I can tell you love dogs, and I can tell the family accepts you, so I accept you.”

Am I giving Rudy too much credit? Perhaps, but as I said, his effect on people is very hard to put into words. “You had to be there,” to steal the old cliché. He was one of the most brilliant, most graceful dogs I’ve ever been around, and he looked majestic even when stealing a loaf of bread off the table, or devouring one of my nephew’s toys, or wreaking some other type of havoc.

Rudy was a truly great dog, and anyone who experienced the pleasure of his company is a little worse off without it. Molly is a sweetheart, and having her around, as well as Sebastian, the wild kitten in the picture with Rudy, will ease the pain a little. But Rudy was a rare creature, and he will be sorely missed.

Rudy

The best part about 2009 (well … besides getting engaged)? It wasn’t 2008!

Everyone else is doing year-end blog posts, so what the hell? And what better way to do so than actually waiting until the last day of the year, sitting in the recliner, on the laptop, sipping an Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like, stout brewed with oysters) from Flying Fish Brewing, with a cat assisting me by resting on the back of the recliner (Hi, Trouble!)?

So, here goes nothing. I didn’t think 2009 was an overly good year or an overly bad year. It was pretty mixed for me, with more good than bad, but not enough good to call it wonderful. This is in direct contrast to 2008, which can pretty much go to hell. I managed to lose my job, my favorite bar and my ballpark in 2008, while 2009 brought some sadness, but nowhere near on the level of 2008.

In Newport, R.I., just before getting engaged

The highlight of 2009, by far, was getting engaged. It was a remarkable day, spent in Newport, R.I., and a remarkable experience that I will never forget. I have yet to experience one second of doubt about this and likely never will.

The precursor to getting engaged was fun, as well: Welcoming my fiancée and her cat, Skittles, to the apartment my two cats, Trouble and 8-Ball, graciously allow me to occupy. Trouble and 8-Ball still hate Skittles, but their skirmishes have become more amusing than alarming. As for the humans, we’re getting along just fine, thank you!

Anyone who knows me and has gotten to this point is saying, “Um, what about the World Series, jackass?” About fucking time! The entire season for the Yankees was a great run, starting way back when I first saw the new Yankee Stadium, before the start of the regular season. Yes, I would move back across the street in a heartbeat, and I miss the old ballpark like a lost family member. But it was great to have the Yankees rise back to the top again, and I really liked the makeup of this team, as opposed to some of the underachieving squads of the mid-2000s.

Skittles

I went to two weddings that I was very happy about, within weeks of each other. Both brides are longtime friends of mine, one much longer than the other, and both finally found perfect matches and soul mates, which was quite heart-warming. It’s funny to think of how much I used to hate weddings, and how quickly my opinion of them reversed when the prospect of actually being a groom inched closer to reality.

My then-girlfriend, now-fiancée and I went on a great trip to Cancun and, even though it was more than nine months ago, I still find myself dealing with insatiable cravings for Mojitos at 11 a.m. on occasion. We also went to Cape May and loved it and, of course, there was Newport, where I finally popped the question (without actually popping the question, as I am constantly reminded of … sigh!).

Now, on to the not-so-good: The obvious lowlight is pretty simple. If anyone had told me that I would go an entire calendar year and not spend one second working on a full-time job, I’d have asked them when I won the lottery or was named in the will of a rich old aunt I had never met. This economy sucks, this recession sucks, and this job market sucks. I’d have completely lost what little mind I have left if it wasn’t for the one part-time job I still have.

Bidie, R.I.P.

One of my favorite pooches went on to doggy heaven. I still miss Bidie. I lived with the little bug-eyed, hot-tempered, 200-decibel-snoring rascal of a Boston Terrier for a year, but I knew her for most of her long, happy life, and there was a strong bond between us. As I said in my tribute post to her: If there’s a dog run in Heaven, I hope all of the other dogs up there are quick, or they might be in for a rude awakening.

For the first time since 2001, I was not part of a beach house on LBI, mostly for financial reasons. It turned out to be a good summer to skip, as it seemed like it rained almost every weekend, but there’s a certain calm and peacefulness about being near water, and I truly missed that all summer.

My Aunt Rose gave me a huge scare, as she suffered a minor heart attack and minor stroke in October. It was very unsettling for a while, as she was having a great deal of trouble expressing things like names, numbers and dates, but she’s improved to the point where she’s very, very close to 100%. I knew things were on the upside when she started nagging again.

So as I said earlier, overall, 2009 was pretty mixed, and it doesn’t draw the same “two middle fingers up” response that 2008 would. There was a lot of good and lot of bad, but the good outweighed the bad. Whatever else happens in 2010 (a job would be nice), our wedding April 25 and the honeymoon in Hawaii directly afterward will be the highlights, and I’m ecstatic about both.

The Flying Fish Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout is now history, and I am currently enjoying a Defiant Christmas Ale as I post this. Happy New Year to all who read this, and I hope 2010 is better for everyone. Cheers!

My fiancée and I on the beach at Key West

Unemployment Nine: I love a parade

I took a much-needed break from the drudgery and futility of this job hunt yesterday and went to the St. Patrick’s Day parade for the first time in many years. I had a blast and I’m very glad I went.

Blarney

Blarney

Between getting into a restricted viewing area thanks to a good friend, meeting Blarney the Irish Terrier and just enjoying all the colors and sights, it was a great afternoon. And we naturally topped it off with Guinness, corned beef and even a little Jameson.

I seriously needed the time away from this apartment and this PC. Aside from the obvious frustration of being unemployed for more than five months, I got some more bad news Monday night.

First, I found out that another good friend of mine was laid off. Then, literally minutes later, my old roommate called to tell me about huge cuts at her former place of employment (she’s fine — she hadn’t worked there for a while).

Seriously, does it ever end?

The job listings are starting to pick up a little bit, which is good, but when you consider the 70+ résumés I sent out in January and February without a single response, it’s hard to get excited.

But at least for one day, I got to enjoy life, relax and have some fun. And there’s more of that on the way.

2009 St. Patricks Day parade

2009 St. Patrick's Day parade

Farewell, Bidie

A great and truly unique dog moved on to her next life this afternoon.

Bidie wasn’t my dog — she belonged to one of my best friends — but I was, indeed, one of Bidie’s humans and, I’d like to think, pretty high on her list of favorites.

Bidie

Bidie

When I first met Bidie, she lived in a studio apartment in Brooklyn Heights and was almost two years old, yet still had the energy of a crazed puppy. In fact, all I knew about her was that she was black-and-white with a red tongue. The entire time I was in the apartment, she ran around full speed, launching herself off the top of furniture and occasionally licking my face while speeding by in a blur. She was like a miniature Tasmanian Devil.

Bidie “grew up” to become a Bull Mastiff in a Boston Terrier’s body — 12 pounds soaking wet, without fear of any other being, man or beast. And Bidie and I ended up being roommates for one memorable year in Hoboken. During that year, I rarely called her Bidie, opting instead for various nicknames including Scrappy-Doo, Half-a-Doggie and Bitch Ass (the last one was courtesy of her owner).

Bidie ready for her walk

Bidie ready for her walk

When Bidie’s owner was away, the dog and I would “share” my bed. However, we used Bidie’s definition of “share.” No matter where I started out, somehow, by the middle of the night, a 12-pound terrier would be spread out across 90% of a queen-sized bed, while a 250-pound human was left with barely enough of the edge to not end up on the floor. I still don’t understand how she did that. It defied the laws of physics.

Bidie also defied the laws of acoustics with her snoring. The noises that came out of this tiny critter were louder than the snores of most human beings, cattle or other large mammals.

Any thoughts I had of Bidie possibly having some fear were washed away by my one — and only — trip with her to the dog run in Hoboken.

I took care of a Welsh Terrier in Manhattan and found that when he was one-on-one with another dog, he wanted to kill it, but when he was surrounded by a bunch of dogs, he was civil, so I thought Bidie would react the same, but, in the words of her owner, “Not so much a lot.”

The second I let Bidie off the leash, she was hell-bent on a mission to eat every other dog in the dog run — not scare them, not fight them, eat them. After scooping her up and apologizing profusely to several people, I decided that the great dog-run experiment had come to an unsuccessful end. I seriously doubt we would have been welcomed back. In fact, the next few times I walked through the park, I expected to see posters of Bidie in a circle with a line through it. I can’t say I would have blamed them.

Even though I only lived with her for one year, it took me a full six months to get used to not having her around once we gave up our apartment. I would turn the key in the door of my new apartment every day expecting to hear the pitter-patter of little Bidie paws.

Bidie in her later years

Bidie in her later years

Fortunately, a couple of years down the road, we ended up living on the same block, so I still got to spend a lot of quality time with the little scrapper. Even after Bidie and her human moved about an hour away and I didn’t get to see her as much as I’d have liked, I always got an extra-special greeting, with eyes wide open, bat ears straight up in the air and tongue hanging out.

Unfortunately, part of being around pets is dealing with their shorter life spans. Bidie’s time had come. She was 16 years old. It wasn’t one of those unexpected things, like a perfectly healthy, younger pet getting hit by a car or suddenly being diagnosed with a disease. Bidie hung in there gamely for quite some time, but old age is a bastard and it had really begun to take its toll.

The 16-year-old Bidie isn’t the dog I’ll remember, though. I’ll remember the younger, scrappier little beast who terrorized every other dog she saw, monopolized beds and furniture and stole hearts.

If there’s a dog run in Heaven, I hope all of the other dogs up there are quick, or they might be in for a rude awakening.

Marley & Me

If you love animals, especially dogs, stop what you’re doing instantly and get your hands on a copy of Marley & Me, by John Grogan.

The unforeseen glut of free time I’ve encountered lately has left me with a lot of time to read, and my girlfriend was kind enough to supplement my library stash, as I’d reached the point of rereading some of my Stephen King favorites and my currently tight budget doesn’t exactly feature room for books.

Marley & Me

Marley & Me

Despite the two rather portly examples of the feline species who share my apartment, I’ve always been a dog person. I’ve never had my own dog, largely because I just don’t feel like my schedules and living situations over the years would have been fair. But I’ve spent quite a lot of time with them and around them, and I definitely intend to be the proud owner of a canine furball at some point in my life.

For those who don’t like pets, or who don’t understand pet owners and how they feel about their animals, read Marley & Me. If, after reading this book, you don’t grasp the emotional connection between pets and their humans, you might be beyond help.

Marley & Me is the story of a newlywed couple and the yellow Lab puppy they adopted, following Marley the dog through his adulthood and old age and introducing his three human brothers and sisters into the mix.

Anyone who has ever owned a pet will relate to the stories told in this book. Animals have a unique and humorous way of getting themselves into trouble, and every pet I’ve ever been around has a little bit of Marley in him or her.

So stop reading this stupid blog and get your ass to the bookstore. Now. Git.

Pet peeve on pet names

While working from home and listening to the snores and yawns of my two cats, Trouble and 8-Ball, I had to laugh at one of my pet peeves: people who use boring, unoriginal, “human names” for their pets.

There are exceptions, naturally. If the pet bears an uncanny resemblance to a person, I can live with it. I wanted to name 8-Ball either Jemima or Oprah, but I got screamed at too much. I hate politically correct people.

Or if you’re honoring someone by naming the pet after them, I can accept that.

Sometimes an animal just looks like a certain name. I know a dog that just looks like a George, so I have no problem with his name being George.

Show dogs crack me up, though. I mean, can someone explain how they came up with Charles Winston Fox Kramer IV for a Bassett Hound?

I don’t know her personally — hell, I don’t even know her name — but a fellow Hoboken resident and the writer of a blog I enjoy reading, Across the Hudson, follows the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) theory to its most optimum. Her dog’s name? Mutt. I love it. The dog is just plain adorable, too.

It’s not that hard to come up with a fun name. Why is Trouble named Trouble? Because every time I turned around, she was causing it. Why is 8-Ball named 8-Ball? Because she’s round and black. I could have named them Constance and Felicity, but why?

They’re pets, people. Have some fun!