A Year Without Luna

Today Luna has been gone for a year. I can’t say it or think it without a little catch in my throat, still. A year without getting to pet — ever so gently — her bony little back, feeling the knobby rises of her spine and the strange, hairless plane of her hips. Seeing her increasingly bare, almost scaly tail and feeling both immensely protective and just a little repulsed. Hearing her coughs and hacks and those surprising rare sharp barks. Cleaning her mukes, even. Staring into her unblinking, too-large eyes and feeling such a rush of tenderness.

Luna

I can look at photos of her just fine, usually. Yes, they fill me with a bittersweet sharp longing, but seeing her face is better than the alternative. I can even watch the videos, watch her perform her bizarre roll on the rug to scratch that bony back. I can engage in a staring contest with past-Luna that I know ends when she gulps and looks away. Remembering her spirit, the idiosyncrasies of her movements, is better than the alternative.

But what I can’t handle is thinking about the day she died. I watched a documentary recently and suddenly, without warning, there was a euthanasia scene. All of it, down to the dog’s tongue lolling on the table when it was over. It hit me so hard.

Because what haunts me now, one big reason my throat catches when I think of her, is the fear that we made the wrong decision. That we could have saved her. It all happened so fast — she was swaying on her feet, we took her to the emergency vet, the vet delivered the news, we had to make a decision. Her kidneys were failing and they didn’t know why. She was septic and wasn’t responding to fluids. They could have admitted her and put her on an aggressive treatment plan for the sepsis, but even if she had come through that (which was unlikely), there were still her failing kidneys to deal with. Given that fact, given her other ailments, I asked the vet, “Are you saying we should euthanize her?” Not unkindly, the vet told us that was probably the best thing we could do for her.

But of course now I wonder, could they have treated the sepsis? Could she have gotten more time out of those kidneys? Did we do wrong by her? She was so tough. She fought through everything else; why not this? We could afford it. It wasn’t about the monetary cost.

Luna

One of my last photos of Tunie.

In the moment, though, here is what we pictured. We imagined her getting admitted for sepsis treatment and being confined to a crate. We imagined her hooked up to IVs and monitors, getting blood draws and injections. We imagined her not making it through the sepsis. We imagined her in unrelieved pain, dying alone in a cold crate at the emergency vet. Without comfort. Without us.

And that, I know, would have been unbearable. For her and for us. More unbearable than this continued worry that I still have, that maybe we didn’t make the “right” choice. I didn’t want her to die alone, in pain, without her people.

So instead she died with us, literally in our arms, swaddled in a blanket and placed on a pillow like the princess she was. My little baby. She was out of it, but she recognized us. I want to imagine that seeing us was a comfort, that she slipped away feeling a measure of relief. That she felt our love, not our worry or our guilt or our pain.

It was about the incalculable, unmeasurable, indefinable cost of her comfort. We all throw around the term “quality of life” in discussions like this but I don’t know how to define it. Maybe she had kidney disease. Maybe kidney disease wouldn’t have been so bad. Or would it? My childhood chihuahua died from it, a long, slow, drawn-out disengagement with the world that ended with her slipping away in my sister’s bed. Was that our alternative? Fighting the sepsis, stabilizing her, bringing her home, giving her comfort until her organs, finally, gave out? Would a death at home have been “better” for her than one at the emergency vet, wrapped up and bathed in our tears?

Of course there is no “right” answer here. Of course I say this with a secret and shameful desire for absolution, for compassionate people to tell me that we made the best decision for our girl so that she wouldn’t suffer. It’s what I would tell anyone, any friend, any person I cared about, anyone who told a similar story to me. And of course that doesn’t matter; we judge ourselves far more harshly than any loving friend or family member would.

Luna burrito

Luna burrito

I don’t want to be haunted by these regrets. I don’t want them to color my memories of Luna, which are plentiful and sad and painful and happy and every other adjective. They are rich. She was so special. It’s difficult to articulate why, but if you met her, you felt it. Like many small dogs, her personality outstripped her size. But she had none of the swagger, the bluster, many small dogs seem to adopt. She was serene and accepting. Put her in a front pouch and carry her around that way for 30 minutes after she ate? No problem. She didn’t struggle. Wrap her up in a blanket burrito after a meal? No problem. (Though she did, occasionally, bust loose after a while.) Yet she was so strong. She didn’t bark or bare her teeth or growl often, but when she did, you had to back off. You knew she meant it. She didn’t show affection often, but when she did, you cherished it.

Her influence lingers. I know I am more patient because of her, because of the constant mukes we cleaned up, because of the recurring health problems we had to diagnose and treat. I know my patience isn’t perfect; the weekend before she died she was extra gurgly and I was so, so annoyed that I had to keep cleaning mukes off the sofa. I hope she knew my irritation was transient, that affection and love and a fierce protectiveness could overpower any negative emotions I felt toward her. I like to think she did.

A year later and I feel like I haven’t properly memorialized her, like I need to ink her into my skin to keep her with me. Instead, this. A reflection, a few words.

~~~

Luna

 

And a photo. It was uncanny how many people commented, upon meeting Luna, that she reminded them of an AT-AT. Even folks who weren’t Star Wars super fans would do a double-take then say, “She reminds me of something…” Inevitably, that something was an AT-AT. Especially when she started losing fur and all her angles came through. But it wasn’t just her looks. It was also the way she carried herself and the way she walked, sometimes.

So, for Christmas a few years back, I commissioned this amazing Etsy artist to make her into one for real. I had a couple prints made and gave one to Steven, framed, for Christmas. It’s too good not to share.

Luna

I did mention the painting, briefly, last year. But it deserves to be shared again. The print is up in our living room now, in a little memorial area with Luna’s tiny collar. (We used a cat collar on her, a little pink one with a bell.) I smile when I look at it.

Vegan Treats for Furry Friends | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Twenty-Five

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Four: Entertaining
Cook for your best friend. Tell us about your best friend and their favourite dish, and make them a vegan version of it.

My best friend is a grey-furred, four-legged little beast with an under-bite and an uncanny ability to throw some serious side-eye shade.

Moria

Oh. A human best friend, you say? How boring. My best two-legged friend is Steven, but I cook for that dude just about every day! (He does all the clean-up; it’s a mostly fair trade.) He’s also a plant-eater like me, so all his favorite dishes are already vegan. That’s why I’m going to show you what we feed our best furry friends instead! It’s also the perfect chance to introduce our new dog: Rosie!

RosieWe adopted Rosie from a local rescue this weekend. We don’t know too much about her past; she was brought to Maryland from a high-kill shelter in the south and was with the rescue for about three months without getting much interest from potential adopters. Dummies! She is the sweetest. This lady is probably 5-7 years old, and she has the best ugly-cute face. Her left eye is smaller than the right, probably due to a genetic deformity. She has the serious case of snaggleteeth, and she occasionally limps (luxating patella?). Since we just love broken dogs nobody else wants, she was the perfect fit.

She’s been with us for three days and has settled in beautifully. Her former foster family said she didn’t really like sleeping in bed with them, but guess who spent both the past two nights snuggling us? Yep, this girl.

She and Moria seem to be mostly ignoring one another, which doesn’t surprise me — Moria and Luna had a similar arrangement. Honestly, I don’t think Moria particularly likes having a second dog around, but we make sure to share the love (and the treats) equally.

Which brings me to the prompt! If Moria could talk, she’d probably say that her favorite food is “everything,” followed by “treats.” The good news for Moria? There are tons of vegan doggie treats out there! Moria particularly enjoys Whimzees, a brand of chews, breath bones, and other delicacies derived from plant sources. They’re the perfect substitute for those nasty animal-based chews you’ll find at pet stores. They even make one that looks like a pig’s ear…. which is both disturbing and probably unnecessary. Pretty sure Moria doesn’t care what her treats look like, as long as they taste good! And apparently Whimzees do.


Editor’s note: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something from one of my links, it costs nothing extra to you, but I get a few pennies to cover hosting costs.

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Loving Luna

Steven and I said goodbye to our sweet Luna dog yesterday and our world is shattered. It happened so unexpectedly and quickly that we barely had time to digest the fact that we had to let her go before we were with her in the emergency vet’s comfort room, cradling her tiny, blanket-wrapped self, kissing her head, and telling her we loved her.

Today, right now, I’m lying on the couch with Moria snuggled against me, but the house feels wrong. Luna should be behind me, lying on her towel-covered perch on the couch arm, her head resting on her favorite poop emoji pillow or the neck hug pillow I made her a few years ago. We should hear her frequent noises: her lip smacks, her little clicks and swallows, her coughs, the odd goose-like honking sound that sometimes (but not always) came before she muked. It’s odd how you can take away those quiet little infrequent noises and the entire soundscape changes. It feels wrong. These sounds have been a part of our lives for the past three years; we have become accustomed to them.

We adopted Luna in August 2014 from our wonderful local shelter. We’d been visiting on and off for weeks, hoping to add a second dog to our family. When I spotted Luna, it was all over. She looked just like a skinnier, shaved, more pitiful version of our big healthy Moria, and I wanted to take her home immediately and fatten her up and make her healthy.

Luna a few days after we brought her home.

Things didn’t shake out exactly like that. The suspected case of kennel cough she brought home was actually something more serious, and the mucus-pukes (“mukes”) she dropped all day, every day, were actually regurgitations caused by what we finally decided must be megaesophagus. Luna went through a battery of tests, but it was never officially diagnosed — we couldn’t put her through any of the more invasive procedures to definitively diagnose it. It wouldn’t have solved anything, anyway; there is no cure.

So we managed it. We elevated her food and water bowls. After she ate, we held her upright (either in a front pouch or wrapped like a burrito and nestled into the couch) to encourage gravity to pull her food down. We ensured that she had pillows available to elevate her head when she rested — eventually, she would raise her head to accept a pillow as we brought it closer.  We kept spray bottles of cleaner and boxes of rags around the house to quickly wipe up her messes. We had a separate laundry basket, just for her rags. It became second nature.

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Ready for action #lunabug #megaesophagus

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Despite trying to tempt Luna with the most calorie-laden, filling foods we could find, she never could keep on weight. She had a brief period when her fur came in (after being shaved at the shelter) and she was just the fuzziest little monster with the longest legs, but underneath she was still so thin. (We named her Luna because she reminded us of the thestrals from Harry Potter, and Luna Lovegood has an affinity for them.)

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Road trip Tunie! #lunabug

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And then she began losing her fur. Even after she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease last year and started treatment for that, she lost more and more fur. The doctor thought it was unrelated to the Cushing’s, more of a genetic issue. Her knobbly knees began poking us when we cuddled and her little hip bones jutted out almost scarily. But she was eating OK and she was happy, so we expanded her doggie sweater wardrobe and tried to ignore how pitiful she looked.

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Tiny Tune, big world.

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My brave girl. We never knew how old she was; the shelter guessed 5 years, but her teeth were so broken and in such bad shape that it was just an estimate. (We once caught her chewing on a Christmas light. No wonder her teeth were wrecked.) She was brought to the shelter as a stray after roaming one of the DC suburbs by herself.  A little five-pound dog with broken teeth and a broken digestive system against the world. She was so matted that they had to shave her all the way down. We have no idea how long she was stray or how she got there. Did her previous family get fed up with her muking and let her loose? Did she escape? Was the long matted fur all from her time on the streets, or was she neglected when (if) she did have a home?

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Courtesy of @philipsanerd

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We had so few clues about her past. One day a few months ago, while Luna was in our bedroom, I accidentally slammed a door down the hall. Luna jumped a bit and crawled under the bed. Did she come from a home where fighting happened regularly? Was she the object of those yells?

Our sweet enigmatic girl took a good year and a half to truly warm up to us. For a while, she slept on top of my pillow, jammed in between my head and the headboard or another pillow I’d prop up. And then, suddenly, she started cuddling. At night she’d push her increasingly bony body up against us, her elbows and knees poking into our sides. If we moved or turned over, she’d jam herself in closer. On the couch, she’d come sit on my lap, resting her head on my laptop or my book. She began to greet us with enthusiastic jumps onto our legs when we returned, with a forceful push of her head into our hands for a pet and with enthusiastic wagging of her fur-less, rat-like tail. She followed it up with one of her lusty rolls all over the carpet, getting her back good and scratched. She must be part cat, we thought.

Nearly everyone who met Luna fell in love with her. Most people assumed she and Moria were sisters; they looked so alike, especially when Luna had her curly fur. I had to tell them that, no, they were adopted years apart, and 1,000+ miles apart. They only became sisters once we added them both to our family.

But there was something about Luna’s big bug-like eyes, her diminutive size, and her resigned fearlessness that captured people’s hearts. (Or maybe it was the way she looked just like an AT-AT. So many people, separately, commented on that. It was uncanny.)

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Ready for battle! @geekypet

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She was a star when we brought her in to work. Everyone wanted to pet her. As she got older, she became more selective — she began nipping occasionally, to tell you she wasn’t into you reaching down and grabbing her. In the past few months she’d started getting crotchety if we tried to pick her up off the couch or the bed while she was curled in a ball. You’d reach over to her and her little lip would start to curl. Pull your hand away, and the curl subsided. Reach further, and it would turn into a tiny, chihuahua-like snarl. Go too far and you might get a snap and a tiny warning yelp. (But without all her teeth, she was pretty harmless.)

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Ah, shit, I put her back together wrong.

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Luna had the most unexpected give-no-fucks approach to life. She would walk all over your chest and shoulders to get up to the couch arm. She regularly climbed on top of Moria in search of a resting spot. And she did everything on her own time. After we moved into our house last summer, we began letting her hang out in the backyard. But she was so tiny that she would get “lost.” We would be out there, calling her name, getting more and more frantic by the second, sure she’d been snatched up by a bird of prey or had run off for a second stint on the streets, when we’d spot her tiny head emerging from a bed of ivy or between two bushes. She’d heard us calling, but didn’t deign to show herself. But she loved the outdoors, just lounging in the sun. I’m glad she had the chance to do that.

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Spring chicken legs.

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It’s been just 24 hours and I miss her so much already. She was so sick so suddenly. Yesterday morning we woke up and Steven noticed that something was wrong. He put her down on the hall carpet and I watched her stand there, head bowed, before she tried to take a few steps and swayed from side to side before stopping. She had been through so much in the three years we had with her — the chronic megaesophagus, an abscess behind her eye, the Cushing’s disease — but I could tell this was something different and more serious.

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Sister's butt is the best pillow. 🐶🐶💤

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We brought her to the emergency vet. They took her back for tests and we sat in a cold exam room and waited in silence. The vet came in and told us her blood sugar and blood pressure were both very low, and they were trying to stabilize her, but she wasn’t responding. She was going into sepsis, they thought. More blood tests showed that her kidneys were barely functioning. Even if they could bring her around from the sepsis (unlikely, and involving days of incredibly invasive treatment), they’d still need to figure out what was causing the kidney failure. Her poor little kidneys were so far gone already.

As an ethical vegan, I struggle with the concept of euthanasia, with the fact that I am literally deciding between life and death for another sentient being. But that is the terrible, awful, wonderful burden you carry when you adopt an animal. You must make the decisions for them. Luna had suffered through so much. We couldn’t keep her in pain for longer, when she wasn’t responding to the most basic treatments, and her kidneys were going. We loved her so much. We couldn’t bring her home to die slowly and painfully over the course of a day or two. So we held her and we cried but we tried to stay calm as we told her we loved her, that she was our sweet Tune, that she was a good girl.

And she was. She was such a good girl. We loved her so much.

Thank you for reading this, if you were able. And thank you to all my friends and family who reached out with words of comfort. It is such an honor to know how much she meant to so many of you.

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Fusion Challenge: Pumpkin Biscuits for Humans and Dogs

VeganMoFo 2015 banner

Day 30: Fusion Challenge!

Oh boy, I am taking some LIBERTIES with this prompt.

Typically, “fusion” food combines elements of two (or more) culinary traditions — like curry burritos or Thai pineapple pizza (!). I’m all for merging the best of the best to create super-delicious meals with bold flavors. I even recipe tested for Joni Marie Newman’s fusion-inspired cookbook, Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen. But I’m looking at fusion food from a different lens today… the lens of “combining human and dog food.”

HEAR ME OUT.

Backstory first. Working at The Humane Society of the United States means that I get to bring my dogs to work. We have a strong Pets in the Workplace policy, along with a committee that governs it. It’s a win for humans and dogs alike, in so many ways. But a few weeks ago, we learned that at least one office dog had bordatella, a highly contagious bacterial infection. On the advice of our staff veterinarians, the committee temporarily suspended the PIW policy. For two weeks, our canine companions stayed home, and we humans remembered what it’s like to work somewhere that doesn’t allow dogs. I missed the frequent excuses to get outside, the sound of the occasional bark from somewhere in the building, and the morning rituals when my coworkers (dogs and humans!) greet each other. Of course we all appreciated the caution that prompted the suspension, but it was no fun. And I wished I could explain to Moria and Luna that we weren’t abandoning them at home; they’d be able to return eventually.

Pups

My babies!

Tomorrow, though, the dogs are back! And I couldn’t be more excited. I knew I wanted to bake some dog treats to give out to any pup I see tomorrow, and then I thought… why not make some people treats, too? The ultimate fusion food!

(Am I stretching it? Eh. Too bad.)

Dog and People Biscuits

My strategy was to create a base dough that’s then separated in half and flavored for each species. The human variety has sugar and spices, while the dog variety has oats and extra molasses. Note that although you can definitely eat your canine companion’s biscuits, she shouldn’t eat yours — at least not if you include the nutmeg, which isn’t good for pups. And no, these aren’t the most exciting human biscuits, but I have a secret love for chewy, doughy, mildly flavored things I can snack on!

Ed. note: Okay, this is embarrassing. The human biscuits are… not great… the day after baking, so I can’t really recommend them. Instead, you can double the dog-biscuit ingredients and make a LOT of dog treats, or halve the first set of ingredients. I’m sorry!

Pumpkin Biscuits Two Ways
Makes many tiny biscuits

  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 T blackstrap molasses
  • 1 T cinnamon

For the human biscuits (not recommended)

  • 1 cup + 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves

For the dog biscuits

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats

Combine the first set of ingredients in a large bowl, then split the dough and move one half into a new bowl. Preheat the oven to 350˚ and oil two cookie pans.

This second bowl will be your human-biscuit bowl. Add all the human-biscuit (HB) ingredients and mix until well-combined; it will take a few minutes to come together. Refrigerate this dough while you prepare the dog-biscuit (DB) dough. To do that, mix in all the DB ingredients. Refrigerate that dough while you roll out the HB dough.

Roll out he HB dough on a well-floured surface with a rolling pin. Using your favorite cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes. Repeat the process with the DB dough. If your cookie cutters are vastly different sizes, try to group the small biscuits on a single sheet and the large biscuits on another sheet.

Bake small biscuits for about 15 minutes and larger ones for about 18. They’ll harden as they cool, so don’t worry if they’re soft when they come out of the oven.

~~~

And with that, I say goodbye to Mofo 2015! I’ve been a little burned out this past week, so honestly I’m not sorry it’s over! But I do like the prompts — Steven and I are already musing about ways to incorporate fun/surprise prompts into my blogging practice, and I have some good ideas. Stay tuned!

…and now I’m gonna go eat some roasted potatoes and Gardein tenders. Night, y’all!