Fiona Apple Cancels Tour To Be With Her Dying Dog
November 20, 2012 9:21 PM   Subscribe

It’s 6pm on Friday,and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet. I am writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later. Here’s the thing. I have a dog Janet, and she’s been ill for almost two years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now.I got her when she was 4 months old. Fiona Apple postpones her South American tour in order to stay with her companion dog during her final days. posted by hippybear (67 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I just went and hugged my cat so hard.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:35 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you really want to know someone's true character, watch carefully how they treat children, the elderly, the helpless, and animals too. Good on Fiona.
posted by mochapickle at 9:42 PM on November 20, 2012 [44 favorites]

I remember, years ago, when she wrote out a very strongly-worded note on behalf of PETA, I believe, at this time of year. Telling people that our traditions surrounding Thanksgiving w/r/t animals were savage.

I am not now, nor was I then, a vegetarian, but I have respected her since then as a woman of fearless conviction, and this cements that.

I'm hugging my cats now. Rock on, Fiona.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:47 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Now that is a woman with good priorities.
posted by AtalantaPendragonne at 9:47 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the people I admire the most is Jane Goodall, who says animals can teach kids compassion. I've no idea who Miss Apple is, but she's also sending out a message about the value of compassion. She's doing the right thing.
posted by quarsan at 9:51 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

My little dog had a tumor in his lung. He endured major surgery and chemotherapy this summer, and he's still full of energy and love. We raise a paw for Fiona and Janet.
posted by moonmilk at 9:52 PM on November 20, 2012 [14 favorites]

Happy trails and a gentle passing, Janet. Good on Ms Apple for repeating the love they've shared.
posted by arcticseal at 9:53 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I sent this to my niece today, who is 21, and who also has a dog who has been her dearest friend, since she was 7 years old. They've been through a lot together, including a stretch in foster care. And now her dog has kidney disease, and will be gone soon, and it's going to be very hard for her. I'm worried it might upset her, but the kind of love Apple describes-- that's what they have too.

And now I have a cat I need to cuddle with, if you'll excuse me.
posted by jokeefe at 10:06 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

This made me cry.

I have an aging dog and an aging cat and a young child. And I cried because in a few years my young child will be crying, and I still don't know what the words are supposed to be.
posted by vverse23 at 10:08 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have found respect for Fiona Apple.
I assume there are whining fans... but I hope the cease when they read this.

Animals are like family, and often better than people, and I am glad Fiona Apple's puppy has a good two-foot chum.
posted by Mezentian at 10:14 PM on November 20, 2012

When I was in college, I wrote for our student newspaper, mostly doing music reviews, and when Apple was touring her first album and due to come do a show at our school, I was the only music reviewer on staff who was into her music, so I got assigned to do the interview with her that would promote the show. I had a really long, but charming and fun back-and-forth set of emails (tangent - we used VM for emails - to this day I still miss that client - it was command line, an extension of emacs, but hands-down the best email software I ever used) with her PR person. The day before the phone interview came, and I was getting really excited - I was gonna interview Fiona fucking Apple! I got into the paper office & there was an email waiting for me (because very few people had the Internet at home back then) from the PR lady saying Fiona had had a family emergency and could we postpone the interview til later in the day? I said that was fine and asked what time, and then got another email back saying sorry again but it looked like the emergency had turned into a death in the family and there would be no interview. So I sent a message back saying no problem, I understood, please let Fiona know she was in my prayers, etc. (Which, I'm still surprised at my own compassion in that moment - I was a narrow, self-centered jerk in college.)

Next day, in our little college town's local newspaper (not the student-run school paper I worked for but the actual local paper) there was a scathing editorial blasting Fiona Apple for canceling the show, implying it was because she was a flaky hippie-type artist, and didn't she know how much money a university like this one had to pour into promoting and putting on a show? I was pissed - not because they'd criticized Apple so much as that I knew they'd not even bothered to get the facts right and were just pandering to the local donors to the college. So I went back to the paper offices and sent the PR lady another email - hey, look, the local paper here is saying some mean things about Fiona, and I know you weren't really on the record about the death in her family, but would you mind saying something on the record I could use in an article?

PR lady replied with not only something on the record, but a short, heartfelt quote from Fiona - (I'm paraphrasing here - and kinda bummed that all this happened before everything was online so I can't link to any of it) her uncle had passed, she was really floored by it, and she was bummed to let her fans down. So I wrote up a quick little article, making sure to mention the local paper's take on it and contrast it with the quote and it ran, resulting in the local paper issuing a retraction and offering an apology the following day. That article was my only really good, adult, moment working for that paper (well, that and the editorial I wrote when the university replaced VM with the first web version of Outlook - most of my criticism of Outlook still applies today, but on the whole, I wrote a lot of dumb, regrettable editorials) - after that I went back to writing music reviews and eventually decided journalism wasn't for me.

But I always remembered how humane and sane Fiona Apple had seemed in that moment - and impressed at how willing she was to attend to her own emotional needs even if it cost her money and reputation. This reminds me of that in so many ways, and it's heartening and inspiring to know she hasn't let the music industry kill that lovely part of her character, and my heart goes out to her in her time of loss.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [72 favorites]

Yeah... now watch that dog live another year, just to spite her.
posted by markkraft at 10:22 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah... now watch that dog live another year, just to spite her.

I have no problem with this, as long as the dog enjoys a suitable quality of life.
posted by Mezentian at 10:26 PM on November 20, 2012 [10 favorites]

Good for her. I have lived in parts of the world where pets are disposable, and where people leave them by the sides of the road, or take them in to be put down, because they are moving, or because they have had a baby, or because they can't take the responsibility for an aging or ill pet. And it is hard for me to be sympathetic, because when you take a pet, you take in something that is entirely dependent on you, and cannot survive without your care, and this is a commitment, and a commitment that is about life and death, and that is a commitment that must be treated as serious and paramount, rather than secondary.

I try to understand. Some people are in a financial bind, not caused by them, and circumstances are such that they cannot live up to that commitment. I try to have sympathy for when people are honestly faced with a choice they did not expect and cannot resolve. And so maybe I understand why people will sometimes find starving dogs left behind in abandoned homes. I don't think it the right decision. I think it unspeakably cruel. But this is a world in which people make all sorts of bad decisions, and it is useful, at least, to try to understand why those decisions even arise.

Ms. Apple is doing a humane thing. I don't know what it will mean for her that she is postponing a tour. One imagines it's tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be lost in changing the plans. She may not be in the circumstance where she must choose between her dog or a meal, but I don't expect this is an easy or consequence-free choice. And, years from now, it will just be a memory. But there will be an instant, when that dog is at his last moment, and the dog has only one person that must be there, and she will be. And it may be a small moment, and it may be a moment that is only really meaningful for Ms. Apple and her dog. But there is so little comfort in this world, even if it is just comforting one old animal at one instant in an already brief life, that I am glad these things are done. I would like to think we humans are at our best when we are loving and compassionate to those who depend on us.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:31 PM on November 20, 2012 [27 favorites]

So lovely and loving. Falafel, the pomeranian sleeping next to me, salutes her, as do I.
posted by Isadorady at 10:34 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

So lovely and loving. Falafel, the pomeranian sleeping next to me, salutes her, as do I.

...O'Reilly? Is that you?
posted by jaduncan at 10:56 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was very moved by this (yes, to tears). I barely even know who Apple is, aside from that she's popular. Maybe I should seek her stuff out. But I do know that every time I think about the fact that I will likely outlive my beloved fox terrier who is asleep at my feet now, my buddy, I have no idea how I will even deal.

Good on her.
posted by trip and a half at 11:47 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seeing this reminds me of our cat, Phred. He had a really bad case of diabetes (basically taking twice the amount of insulin per pound than that of a human). He had been hiding in odd places ready to die and throwing up a lot, so I decided that I would stay up all night with him. It was painful to watch him walk. It was if his back legs were drunk. He fell over when he tried to poop in the litter box (he ended up going on the carpet pad that was next to it). I held him in my lap, and later had him lay next to me on the couch. It was that morning that I made the hard decision to put him to sleep. The insulin wasn't working, and he was eating less and less each day. However, I still wonder if I made the right decision.

That very night, after we put him to sleep in the morning, I heard the sound of him running in the hallway past my bedroom. It had been/still was raining, but it was not thunder. He would usually run back and forth at night, so I know that sound pretty damn well. I'll take it as a good sign since he hadn't been running since the diabetes hit him hard. (BTW, I'm an atheist, and nothing in my house makes that running sound, nor was it thunder. Thunder is not that cyclical/repetitive/consistent. I have yet to hear that sound since.)

Rest in peace, Phred. You were a great buddy. I really miss your begging for meat and potato peels in the kitchen, too. And playing fetch (He loved to initiate "fetch").

Your pet is there for you when you need it, you can be there for them.
posted by Melee Loaf at 12:36 AM on November 21, 2012 [26 favorites]

I've loved and lost a very few things in my life that I loved and miss as much as the cat who was my older sister growing up. She was ornery, snippy, and yet at the same time I loved her as a constant in my life when few things were. I still blame myself that she died at our house, alone, when my parents had come with me to my first middle school Open House / PTA / Parent Teacher meeting night.

When working on my masters, I asked my adviser at one point why she had specialized in Kant, when being a Kantian wasn't a very employable specialty. She said it was when she had read in Kant's work the one passage she thought was both the most out of place and the most telling of the man behind the words. He cannot, using his system, find a reason why cruelty to animals is wrong, but at the same time goes far out of his way to explain that it is, and that in doing so he exposed his theories to some very serious critiques. He claims they are not moral agents, thus cannot be judges of pain, but yet creates an indirect moral duty to not harm them. His argument is - and I agree with her still on this point - very obviously flawed, since it ignores potential and partial rationality in animals. That common quote of judging a man by how he treats animals is from that passage, of where he claims that a man who is cruel to animals will be cruel to men as well.

How was this telling of Kant? She says she could see, from this, his struggle to include something that was important to him, but which didn't fit in with the ideas of the age. He did similar such things in other works, on other points, but in this, she said she could feel him struggling to tell people something important to him as a man.

I have no idea if she was right, but it is still to me one of the things I remember when I think of this. Yes, judge a person by how he treats an animal - but more importantly, judge him on the reason why he gives you for his treatment.
posted by strixus at 1:14 AM on November 21, 2012 [15 favorites]

I told myself there was nothing I was going to read that was going to make me cry, and completely believed it.

Fuck, I was wrong.

My dogs are turning six and are starting to have gray muzzles. My pitbull, while still all muscle, has lost a bit of it and his skin is a little saggier than it used to be. No one would be able to notice these things if they hadn't been around them since they were puppies. I've had my pit since he was about three months old and my Finnish Spitz since she was six weeks.

I'm just happy that, health willing, they may have another ten years in them, but it's hard when you raised them from babies and start seeing the age in their faces and bodies.

posted by Malice at 1:59 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Could we please put a tag on this, warning people against reading this on a crowded commuter train on the way home? I'm already a freak because I'm a gaijin, and now in trying really hard not to be the weird gaijin crying on the train.

Baby White and Gazpacho are getting some massive cuddling time when I get home. Not at the same time, of course, because Baby hates Gazpacho.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:19 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Good for Fiona Apple, I hope her fans understand this decision, I suspect they will.

I'm sitting here with one bitchy little Siamese on my lap, and the Husky curled up at my feet. It's still dark out and I don't have to go to work, we evidently just got up because everyone needed a little "Bob Time" before the day started, ah well, it's peaceful, and the coffee was ready.

Through the course of my life, I've always loved dogs and cats, although I've lived in houses which were shared with four-footers, I never really had a dog of my own (for a variety of stupid reasons that would bore you to death), nor a cat.

I remarried 6 years ago, and moved into a house with 5 cats, I woke up the first night and felt something on my hip, and looked up to see 15 year old Whitty standing on my, staring at my face. It was clear that he was vetting me to determine if I would be allowed to stay. After about ten minutes he stepped down onto the bed, found a crook of an arm, curled into a bony little ball of old cat and went to sleep, I had been adopted.

A couple of years later I was evidently drugged and manipulated and somehow agreed to the better half taking me to see a Husky puppy that a friend of her's had rescued from a puppy mill.

Little Huskies look a lot like stuffed toys, especially the fluffy ones. I said yes, after all, if she wanted a dog she could have a dog. We packed up the 8 week old pups stuff and we took her home to meet the rest of the pack.

That was on Saturday, on Sunday I asked the spouse, "what are you doing with the dog on Monday when you have to go to work?", the answer was simple, "Oh, you're taking the puppy to work with YOU." It had evidently been decided in a meeting I didn't attend.

Monday morning I packed up the 8 lb Husky puppy, a bag of puppy food, bowels and a couple of toys and stuck puppy in the car for the commute to the alternative school I worked at, puppy had a job.

That pretty much cemented the deal, over the past 5 years I've spent very little time when the bad Husky wasn't within a few feet of me. Whittie found the pup to be an annoyance, but tolerated it. With no front claws, Whittie was pretty harmless, he took much delight in sitting on a table and smacking the dog on the head when she walked by. The other cats would sit and stare at the pup, attempting to determine just what was wrong with the odd new kitten.

We lost Whittie a couple of years ago, my first experience in missing a good friend, it was long time before I stopped glancing at that spot on the couch where he could always be found, curled up in the sunshine that came through the window.

Now, during those few times that the Husky isn't with me, I catch myself looking down at the floor expecting to see her sleeping under my desk, or, in the car, checking the rear view mirror anticipating that she will be staring back at me with her two different colored eyes, there's always a moment of panic when she isn't there.

I've connected to Lara in a manner that I've never connected to anyone else, no friend, spouse, or child has elicited this feeling. It's not that I love the dog more than my wife, or my son, it's a different relationship. These particular nuances of loyalty, dependence, unqualified trust and acceptance don't happen in our relationships with people.

The Husky came into my life when I was 60 years old, I sincerely hope that she outlives me, the dog shaped hole in my life, should she go first, would create a vacuum that would suck all the joy out of anything that was left.
As an aside, a good friend and fishing partner recently published a book celebrating the life and loss of his Golden Retriever, Drake. I apologize for the blatant plug here, but, if you're a dog lover, you'll find "Drake" to be a good read.
posted by HuronBob at 4:04 AM on November 21, 2012 [29 favorites]

I've been trying for the past 5 years to get myself out to a dark enough spot early enough to watch some of the Perseid meteor showers. And something always goes wrong to scuttle my plans - either it rains all weekend, or my car breaks down, or there's a full moon. And I'm bummed.

But one year, it was because Zach was dying, and that year it was no bother - I think I wrote in my journal at some point during that week that the entire Perseids streaking through my living room couldn't have been anywhere near as important as helping a dying cat climb up onto the sofa for one more nap curled up behind my crooked legs. He actually died about a week after I wrote that, and I consoled myself with the thought that he'd gone off to chase them, and he returns with them every year for a visit.

Miss that little putz.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:17 AM on November 21, 2012 [18 favorites]

Ah, my old friend has just been shushed back onto his bed. He's all revved up from the pain killers and is looking for some kind of shit to disturb. Shush. He wants to go outside and have it out with the local raccoon pack. Little shits been messing with HIS garbage and just existing. Makes a dog's blood boil.

My mom's husband Ron never cared too much for him. Reminded him of the lippy juvenile delinquents that hung out in the smoke pit behind the school he VPed. Last week Ron tried to force a petting on the old dog and got gummed for it. Fuck the man!

We've done some stupid things together. We'd hike steep, rocky hills behind Cypress, get lost in the woods, then find our way home, hungry. I'm aware that these were my choices, but he never seemed to like traveling in packs unless he took point.

Shit! I'm sitting right here! NOT dead yet!

We've slowed down now, our adventures consist of wandering away from the West End now and then. The consistency is good. Many nights coming home from some serious drinking, I've been the human pendulum at the far end of the leash as he led the way.

Hey! Asshole! I feel fine. Just need another cookie. Or maybe you could let me outside?...No reason.

The first time I walked him, he puked on my boots. I named him Anthony Quinn. The name had become recently vacated. Better than "Cotton". I saved him from that fate. How do you properly curse out someone named Cotton? "Quinn you dirty little fucker! Leave that cat alone"!

His soft spot (aside from ears and lip tugs) has to do with middle aged women. Being where I am these days, this suits me.

My roommate found a lump under his ruff a couple of weeks ago. This led to tests, then a phone call, then me wanting to hug someone. Being a loner, I just stared at my dog, but Quinn don't roll that way. If he tried it, I'd figure that he'd sniffed something fatal on me.

Last week he picked a scrap with some mutt a third his age and twice his size. After getting lightly rag-dolled he pranced back wearing his I-just-bitch-slapped-Cujo grin. He spent the rest of playtime eye-fucking said mutt.

I've stopped telling anyone after a couple gruff dudes in the park got a touch weepy. Ron too.

My local pharmo guy says the chemo might work.

I have no plans, but I know that a decision is coming sooner than I want and the timing is opaque.

I will have to tell Jenean, the woman at Tuuties the Melriches crew and the ladies that give treats to that the blonde, brown eyed narcissist who only loves them is dying. Good grief. Bad extended grief. I'll have to figure this out.

We'll go for a walk tomorrow.

If I can figure out how to post some pics on this internet thing, I will.


Fuck you and give me a cookie. zzzzz....
posted by qinn at 4:20 AM on November 21, 2012 [12 favorites]

I sincerely hope that she outlives me

HuronBob, you saying that reminded me of when my dad lost his cat, and at the time he said he wouldn't get another cat because he didn't want to put it through the stress of him dying. At the time, he wasn't in good health, and pretty depressed, and his offhanded comment really upset me. He was essentially announcing he planned on dying soon. A couple years later, he told me he'd been adopted by a rescue cat, and it cheered me up like I hadn't been in a long time. Him telling me he had a cat again was him telling me that he planned on sticking around a while longer.

I don't mean anything by it, it's just that what you said resonated with me. I hope you both live a good long while yet.

Also, cats give people the will to live.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I always appreciate hearing a heartwarming story about a celebrity, rather than the often negative gossip.
posted by orme at 4:30 AM on November 21, 2012

Good for Fiona! Pets are a lifeline. She is doing the right thing by staying with her old dog and will never regret it. Bless them both.
posted by mermayd at 4:37 AM on November 21, 2012

Just hugged my two monster kitties. They were unimpressed.

A friend of mine got two cats in the 80s, just as the AIDS crisis was beginning to hit LA. He would often say that they were his two best friends because they were the ones that lived.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:38 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is a hard thread to read at work.
posted by Optamystic at 4:40 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

My cat is curled up on my napping husband, purring, with a paw curled around his shoulder.

I can't think of anything that would keep me from being there for her if she needed it.
posted by third word on a random page at 4:47 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have never been a fan of Apple, but honestly, my opinion of her as a person changed today.

My best friend rescues pitties. Gentle dorky beasts the whole bleeping lot of them. Does volunteer work to rehab dogs from fighting rings. So I sent this to her.

Now we're both crying at work.
posted by librarianamy at 4:53 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friend Adam, upon seeing the four page, handwritten note: "Is that her new album title?"
posted by Optamystic at 5:10 AM on November 21, 2012 [16 favorites]

I just glanced at this, and now I'm just popping in to say if you missed him the first time, moonmilk appears to have a totally awesome dog.
posted by marxchivist at 6:21 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My family got a Welsh corgi named Archie when I was three years old. Archie had a sheepdog's instincts: he loved running circles around just about any set of two people outdoors at the same time, trying to keep them properly herded. He was adorable, sometimes bitey, pretty much perpetually hungry. He lived to be sixteen years old.

The last few years for him was rough. Impaired hearing, definitely some weariness... and a LOT, a LOT, of pooping and peeing indoors. Before I left for college, it was typical for us to wake up to shit on the tiles, pee on the rug. It was frustrating. We loved him, none of us wanted to see him go, but every time he got angry or scared or just a little confused... plop! psssssh! He'd pee every time we fed him a little bit late or left him along a little too long, and even if we didn't, he'd probably pee and poop anyway.

Anyway, the result of this was that we began to feel a little callous about Archie's being an old and dying dog. Verbally callous, I mean; we'd never have actually been mean to him. We loved him. But cleaning up his poop for the second time in a day, my mother would say, wearily, "Why don't you just die already?" It became a joke: "This is our dog, Archie. He's old and poops a lot and he's going to die soon." And Archie would look up, eyes confused and sorrowful, and it felt kind of a mix of poignant and kinda funny.

The summer after my sophomore year in college, I came home for just a week or so, then spent the rest of the season in my new apartment in Philadelphia. It was my first-ever apartment and I was excited to be able to live my life away from my family properly. But I came up, and poop-and-piss Archie was still pooping and pissing along, same as ever. One afternoon, I remember, I got down on the floor with him and hugged him tightly, letting him lick my face all over in that way dogs like to do. We just lay there for five, ten, fifteen minutes, a boy and his dog, both feeling a little old. One impatient and ready to leave, the other one scared and small but leaving anyway.

A day after I returned to Philly, I got a call from my mother. "Archie's disappeared." She and my father and my brother and one or two people from the neighborhood spent a day looking for him, in the woods behind our house, in the streets, but nothing. Mom said she thought Archie went into the woods to die. And he left the day after I left my family's house for my first real home of my own.

I hadn't expected to miss him, or to feel sorry about his passing. But I found myself crying, not just because Archie was gone, but because he'd waited for me. He waited until I came back for one last week, one last roll on the floor with my old dog like I'd done when I was three, on the same carpet where he'd lived my whole life. He waited for one last time, and when I was gone he left too.

Even after I'd stopped really caring about Archie, he still cared about me. Shit. I'm crying again thinking about him. I loved him. I still do. He was a better dog than I was a boy, I think.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:28 AM on November 21, 2012 [31 favorites]

I'm going to listen to some Fiona Apple music today as I make my grandma's recipe for coke cake for the holiday of thanks tomorrow. I'm going to think about her dog Janet (my mom's name) and my pit mix Rae Rae who waits patiently on the kitchen floor for me to drop things that taste good.

And all the wonderful mefites who posted pictures and stories of their pets here! The love you feel is absolutely lovely! Thank you so much for that.

When my first dog Hannah died from complications of a tumor on her heart I was in nursing school 7 years ago. Nursing school is weirdly hard sometimes for non reasons. The staff was horribly cruel about students who had relatives die. I knew they would be completely unsympathetic to a dog. But I couldn't leave her that day. I would miss a clinical day, an offense that could get you kicked out of the program. Looking back as an actual RN this seems even more ridiculous. So much of my job as a REAL NURSE is about empathy.

But this dog that introduced me to my husband at a dog park, that stood with me through all the upheaval of my 20's and some of my 30's was dying. I couldn't go to that clinical. I had to lie to so many professors and staff about it. That was so hard. I was so confused and destroyed by grief! Her death was sudden and I was not remotely ready. I tried to be vague with the lying. They really wanted details to justify my absence. It was so odd. I was visibly an emotional mess. That should have been enough.

Ms. Apple's public act is a gift to us. She is broadening the acceptance of pet death as an imperative time to grieve. My heart goes out to her at this time and to all of you that have experienced or are experiencing the loss of a dear friend and relative in a pet.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:32 AM on November 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

This got featured on Letters of Note today, and there's a picture of Fiona and Janet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's the same photo that's in the first link of the post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:54 AM on November 21, 2012

Count me among those with new-found respect for Ms. Apple after reading her letter. The detail that struck me most is that Janet is a rescued pit bull:
She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face.

She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.

She's almost 14 and I've never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She's a pacifist.
For some better pit bull-related news, some of the rehabilitated dogs rescued from Michael Vick's deplorable Bad Newz Kennels fighting ring had a happy reunion earlier this month.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:08 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

My own pit (pictured here, being "helpful") just turned 8 last month. He's still as spry and rambunctious as the overgrown puppy I rescued more than 7 years ago, but I know he's getting older and that we'll eventually have to face the same thing Fiona is facing now. OK, crying now.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:19 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

The pets that were with you from childhood into early adulthood always leave a mark.

Chico was a sweet-tempered collie-shepherd mix, our outside dog from when I was seven or so. She was terrified of thunder, and one memorable night went through a screen door to get inside during one. We always had a rotating population of barn cats, and if anyone said "get the cat!" at her, she'd take off after the nearest one in a merry chase, and here I have to stress that on the rare occasions she caught up to one, she'd just sort of nose at them, tail wagging, and wondering when they would run again. Later the same cats would happily twine through her legs purring away. If you told her "speak!" she wouldn't bark, but would utter a hilarious series of groans and deep whines and not-growl vocalizations, and once she got going you could have 'conversations' with her. "Chico, speak! What's on your mind today?" "Ooorrnnghooo." "Really?! Then what happened?" "Rrrrroorrrrrhhhrr." "Wow!" and so on as long as you cared to. My friends rightly thought it was hilarious and were appropriately happily jealous.

She'd bark up a storm at visitors, and would certainly look threatening at strange ones, which was hilarious given her temperament. I remember one time I was home alone when a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses or the like rolled up the drive, and stayed right in their car when asking me to call off my dog, and I couldn't help but laugh. I took their pamphlet to be polite and sent them on their way, and she made that latter part very much easier.

We lived by a wooded ridge, that a common walking route would take us through, and like all dogs she adored patrolling with the pack. There were some fences here and there mainly to keep horses somewhat contained if they got stupid and got up into the forest, and the nearest one she'd always charge and leap over, which was joy in motion. Most of these walks she was rarely in sight, charging off through underbrush after squirrels and other sounds (and I imagine if she ever caught up to one, she'd nose at it, tail wagging, hoping it'd run again).

College-away for the usual periods came, by which time she was all silver muzzled, a little less energetic but still solid and healthy. Until one break I came home again, and she limped over to say hello instead of charging over and flopping onto her back and hopping up again. But now she was moving in slow motion, shakey just standing there being petted.

I'm primarily a materialist outside of the occasions when my brain very mildly seizes and decides to see immanence in all things (or, I suppose, the scales part just enough, depending on which way your default belief cookie crumbles), so this is mostly metaphor. Mostly. But there are times when you can see the soul in a body is in the final stages of just packing its things up and getting ready to leave. Everything's already in boxes and most of them are in the moving trucks outside or already in storage pods, and there's just a few last things in the house that it's pacing around in bittersweet for last looks and saying goodbye. Petting her the last time, I could see she wasn't now just old, she was done. This was literally last words, I knew it with total certainty. "Good girl," I told her. "Good girl." She was even wagging in slow motion. "You're a good dog. Go. Rest."

Then I went back inside. She was missing the next morning, and it was a day or so before we found the corner of the upstairs level of the barn she had gone to, laid down, and died. To go and at last rest.

I doubt there'll ever come a day when sitting and recalling that doesn't make me cry, but I'm grateful it happened that way and I wasn't simply away.

I don't know what kind of creatures people would be if our history wasn't intertwined with pets. I don't think humans are a very good one already, but I think if there weren't dogs and cats in the mix, we'd be far worse for it.
posted by Drastic at 7:43 AM on November 21, 2012 [20 favorites]


posted by elizardbits at 7:47 AM on November 21, 2012

My little dog passed away earlier this year. I had her for almost 15 years, and she was a full grown dog when I brought her home from the shelter so I have no idea how old she was. She was by my side for almost every minute of those fifteen years. As Dan Bern put it: "The best friend I ever had was a dog, that sound like a cliche unless it's happened to you." We traveled all over, she hung out in studios, campgrounds concert and beaches, and loved every minute of it.

But she got old, as I suppose we all hope to do. She had Doggie Alzheimer's and was constantly getting lost. She'd howl from behind doors, and whimper under chairs wondering how she had ended up in this strange world that smelled so familiar. The last few months were brutal. I had decided three years previously I wasn't taking her to the vet to extend her life, but I found myself doing a million other things: vitamins for joints, soft foods for aging teeth, 3am walks, memory foam beds... All this felt okay since she was still happy and active. Finally one night she had a seizure and fell out of her favorite chair on her neck. She didn't move at all the next day, and I had to carry her outside to pee. I made the call. We went to the vet, and she didn't come back home.

All this is just to say: once, my best friend was a dog, and this is all too familiar to anyone who's been there too. To quote Richard Adams: "My heart has joined the thousand, for my best friend stopped running today."


This ends well however, I rescued another dog from the pound recently, and he's the best thing since jelly in a doughnut and he's now my new best friend. And Ilsa's ashes currently reside in my pottery studio and pinches have been added to my clay and glazes so she's with me every time I work.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:11 AM on November 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

Kitty Michaels (not his real name) and his best friend Grey Cat (not her real name) are gone, he 17 weeks now and she 9. Kitty has a long, slow decline due to intestinal lymphoma. He was given a month but he stay for 13. He would have stayed longer if he could - he loved us so much.

Kitty was my special boy. Slept on my feet, followed me from room to room like a dog, sat by me, climbed on my chest to headbutt my chin, and woke me up without fail in time for work. We danced to "You're My Best Friend" by Queen, though I confess I did most of the dancing.

We knew it was time when he could no longer stand in the litter box. I have never cried so much in my life as when I lost him. I am crying now.

Grey Cat was fine for weeks and then between a Thursday and a Wednesday she went from active to gone due to a sudden, aggresive growth in her intestines. She was drugged up that last day. In the vet's office, during her final moments, she sat in a way that she only ever sat when Kitty was cleaning her ears. I am not a believer in an afterlife, but I find comfort in the thought that somehow he was there to make her feel better during the end.

I have a picture of the two of them in that pose, her smiling and lying down, he sitting over her cleaning her ears. Its my phone's wallpaper and I can't bring myself to change it.

"The Rainbow Bridge" is sort of a lousy piece of writing, but it has brought me comfort, too. I hope I am wrong about the afterlife because I long to see the both of them bounding over to me one more time, meowing for dinner and rubbing against my legs.

I totally understand Ms. Apple's instinct here. She is doing the right thing. I went to a grief a few months after Kitty died and learned that feeling like this after losing somebody you love is not only normal, but healthy. Anyhow, yeah, this was lovely.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:16 AM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

In future, all AskMeFi's about
I'm an American in love with someone from a culture that hates dogs, what do I do?
should be pointed to this thread before being told to DTMFA and send them back to whatever wretched, culturally impoverished hole they they dragged themselves out of.

Dogfighters should be bullwhipped in the public square will the skin flies off their backs in strips. And I grew up owning pitbulls. I'd rather see the breed disappear than one more dog be put into the pit to maul another for the gamblers.

Sympathies & much respect, Ms. Apple.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:16 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Panjandrum - by helpful, do you mean he saved you from a deadly down comforter?
posted by librarianamy at 8:22 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Was anybody else expecting the dog's name to be a paragraph long? (I kid because I love.)
posted by whuppy at 8:28 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

No offense Panjandrum but some dogs have very strong interior design ideas and whatever that was may have been horrible for flow of that room. Their methods may seem extreme but are for your own good.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:29 AM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Bunny Ultramod: "Good for her. I have lived in parts of the world where pets are disposable, and where people leave them by the sides of the road, or take them in to be put down, because they are moving, or because they have had a baby, or because they can't take the responsibility for an aging or ill pet. "

So, you've lived in the U.S. then?

Props to Ms. Apple. Also, "Janet" is a rockin' name for a dog.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2012

by helpful, do you mean he saved you from a deadly down comforter?

A single feather pillow, actually. Those things hold more than you'd think.

some dogs have very strong interior design ideas

No doubt! He often improves the qi flow by alternately attempting to sit on my face and licking random parts of the floor.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I just tracked this down: The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill. This was apparently something Eugene O'Neill wrote to console himself and his family after the death of one of their own dogs.

I once worked on a show that was a series of short O'Neill plays all strung together, and this was the last bit - someone performing this whole piece as a sort of one-man show. Frequently the actor was choked up as he said the last words -- and also frequently, when I finally pressed the button to bring out that final spotlight when he was done, so was I.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

I have an aging dog and an aging cat and a young child. And I cried because in a few years my young child will be crying, and I still don't know what the words are supposed to be.

I strongly suggest you get either a puppy or a kitten - or perhaps both - ASAP.

This will have two very positive effects. First, it'll probably help keep your aging dog and cat alive for quite a bit longer - I'm not sure why this is so but it seems to be well-known in pet circles, I assume it's something simple like "more exercise" - and when time takes its inevitable toll, it'll give something young and furry for your mourning young child to cuddle with, and a future to look forward to.

I'm "lucky" inasmuch as I haven't had to deal with a pet dying. I had two cats that I loved, but had to give to a good home when I became itinerant. I got a message on Facebook over a decade later that one of them had died (the other was still going!) but by then it was abstract to me.

We've been foster parents to a lot of dogs in the last year, and it's a bit sad to see them go, but they usually show up depressed and scruffy and leave with their tails up and happy, so it's overall a good thing. We did however adopt one, a puppy, and I'm not looking forward to the eventual parting - but he isn't even a year old, and I'm 50, for all I know he'll outlive me...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:43 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by mintcake! at 9:56 AM on November 21, 2012

My sister isn't coming home for Christmas this year, for the first time in years, because she was a beloved elderly cat who goes into declines if she leaves him with a pet sitter. My sister was worried the family would be crabby about her decision, but we all understand.

I sent her this link to let her know she's not alone.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:17 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

It must be a bad time of year for old dogs or something - 2 of my friends have both lost elder furry members of their families this week, and my grandma's old farm dog is in his last days. Very, very sad.

Good on Ms Apple for her devotion and conviction. I'm sending over happy, comforting, peaceful thoughts to her and Janet.
posted by Fig at 10:22 AM on November 21, 2012

I guess this is the Thanksgiving thread, eh?

My appreciation to all of you for sharing these stories...
posted by HuronBob at 10:29 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Goddammit I read this whole thread and now I'm crying and I need to talk to a client and I'm a guy who never cries and has no idea how to sound like I'm not crying when I'm on the phone.

RIP Jezebel and Star and Elskin and all of the wonderful animals I've known. Props to Fiona for knowing what's important.
posted by Blue Meanie at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Jesus, EC, I really shouldn't have read that at work. But thanks anyway, that was magnificent. If anyone who has known a dog could read these words without tearing up, their heart must surely be made of sterner stuff than my own:

Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved." No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2012

It was late 2003 and Sandra and I had just moved in together and she wanted a cat. She had rotten luck with pets the last couple of years; her golden retriever had been stolen from her several years before I'd met her and she had to say goodbye to her cat Maxwell when she had been kicked out of her appartement. Now she wanted a cat again and she knew which one she wanted: the elderly grey stray that had come wandering into my parents' garden a few weeks earlier. That one had clearly been somebody's pet once, but had been abandoned or ran away and was clearly in no position to stay on the streets.

I personally wasn't too fond of the idea, getting goodness knows what in house, some dirty 'orrible stinking fleabag. But she insisted I'd take a look at him the next time we were over and when I picked him up he put his paws around my neck.

And that was that. He was going to be our cat, but in the event turned out to be mostly my cat. He loved nothing as much as to lie on top of me, either on my stomach or on my arse, he wasn't particular. He also liked to gallop up and down the hallway of our first flat, thundering hooves we called it.

He cleaned up nicely as well, our Monty, could pass for a Russian Blue from a distance.

But when we got him to the vet, he was in a bad state; several teeth had to be pulled frex as they'd been broken off in fights. Had he stayed another winter on the streets he wouldn't have made it. He was too old, at least twelve years old.

With us he managed to live another five, almost six years. He had a good life, but in the end age and kidney trouble did him in. He lost control of his bowels and the last few months we were always cleaning up after him.

One night when Sand had had to get out of bed to see to her own health problems, she came and sat by him on the couch for a while, smoking a fag and drinking tea, stroking him and telling what a good puss he was. The next morning he wasn't there.

That afternoon I took him from the wilderness that was a neighbour's garden and over to ours, his limbs stiff, his fur cold. Sandra dug a grave and buried him at the foot of the tree he liked to climb up in.

He's there still.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:38 AM on November 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

1f2f, when I was working on the show where I learned that O'Neill piece, I lost my grandfather during rehearsals. I had to skip our final dress rehearsal to go attend the funeral and opening night for the show was the next day. So I was pretty freakin' raw.

But that still ties in - during Zach's final few days, I set up a picture of my grandfather next to the spot where Zach was keeping to himself under my desk, telling Zach to keep an eye out for Grandpa and track him down if he needed company.

Jeez, I don't know why I keep doing this to myself at work today...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I lost my Best Dog In The World, Riley, this summer, to what turned out to be a spinal cord tumor. When her foot started to drag and she got a bit unsteady -- though I didn't know what the hell was wrong until the very end -- I cleared my conveniently mostly-empty agenda and did nothing but take care of that dog. 24 hours a day. For two months. The only times I was not home with her I was seeing to essentials: grocery runs, endless pharmacy trips for her medication. I do not regret a moment of that. I would have regretted if I had done any less.

I wrote about it, a few days later, and even now I can't go back to look at that post without completely losing it. I'm only losing it a little now, writing about this.

When it was time for her to go, I told her, you find my next dog, I don't trust anybody else to do it. And then a series of blinding-neon-light coincidences that even my dim self couldn't miss led me to Logan. Did I make it all up? Did I manufacture reasons to get this guy? Who cares? He's a damn good dog, or will be once I've got him trained up a bit.

It's been a month and a half with Logan and we're still settling in. Been a bit rocky. It may be that I got him too soon for me, but I couldn't handle being in a dog-less house after twenty years of at least one at all times. But we have days like today, when I realize that it doesn't break the meter to sing about how Brave Sir Logan Ran Away, and he snuggles up next to me in my bed, shoving a tennis ball into my ear. It doesn't make one loss hurt less, but it means things keep going, and my world will be okay as long as I have a dog in it.

Ugh. Tissues. And I am going to go hug Brave Sir Logan who runs away from everything and turns off computers with his forehead and power strips with his butt.
posted by cmyk at 2:17 PM on November 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

I went to the vet today and was told that, as if the lymphoma wasn't enough, my cat Tapeworm is having the life crushed out of her by a large and very fast growing tumor in her belly. The vet, the sweetest person in the world, said a catastrophic seizure could hit at any time and that it was time to let her go. I couldn't do it then. We'll spend our nineteenth Thanksgiving together tomorrow and I'll take her in on Friday. She sleeps on my lap as I type this.
posted by williampratt at 4:10 PM on November 21, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yet another reason why I love Fiona.
posted by Devils Slide at 4:47 PM on November 21, 2012

And I wish more people loved their pets like this. When I was a child in Tehran, I lived in a neighborhood with many Western families. One day one of those families moved back to Europe or America or wherever, and they left their poor dog behind. He was a big mutt and all the neighborhood kids were afraid of him, but I saw how heartbroken and lonely he was, just laying out by his owner's door, waiting for them to let him in and not knowing that they were gone forever and the bastards had left him behind. I gradually approached him over the course of more than an hour, talking to him softly and eventually sitting down by his side, stroking him. The neighborhood kids were amazed that the big, scary, grumpy dog was letting me get close to him. He looked so heartbroken that I began crying as I stroked and petted him. I asked my mother if we could have him, but we lived in an apartment and she just wouldn't let me. For the next few weeks I'd take him scraps and water, and sometimes buy him cans of tuna etc. when I had the money. At first he wouldn't move away from his old home's door, but he eventually began following me around. One time he was running alongside my bike, and a laborer ran by us, which the dog took as a threat, and barked at him and charged him. He only stopped when I pleaded with him to let it go.

One day I went looking for him and couldn't find him anywhere. I kept looking for weeks but I had no luck, and he was gone forever. I'm now 46 years old and this all happened more than 35 years ago, but I still think about him while I'm laying in bed and shed tears, thinking how lonely and abandoned he felt, and then I can't go to sleep for hours. Dogs and cats are so much better than most humans can ever hope to be.
posted by Devils Slide at 5:09 PM on November 21, 2012 [13 favorites]

She's giving that dog a fine slice of life sausage.
posted by mikurski at 5:31 PM on November 21, 2012

It was a fairly quiet evening at work in April 2010 when my email went off. It was from my wife, and the subject line was, "This will break your heart." It was a link to a Petfinder listing. I clicked on it and was immediately greeted by an emaciated bulldog, less than half the size a bulldog should be. The camera had made her flinch and her eye was shut. Her name was Midge.

Midge had been rescued from the pound. Apparently the lady that ran the rescue that got her had a standing instruction to all shelters to let her know if any bulldogs came in. She ended up finding one, but the word was still out, and she went and got her. Midge was in rough shape. She only had one eye. Her left side didn't work so hot. She didn't have great control of her back legs and would often leak when she slept. The teeth on the left side of her mouth were ground down to nubs. She exhibited symptoms of neurological problems. She weighed in at 18 pounds. So naturally, my response to my wife was, "Doesn't that make you want to go get her?"

Of course, this would be a bit of an undertaking. Midge was 100 miles north of Salt Lake City, which put her at nearly 1000 miles away from us. But I had some vacation days, and so did my wife... hmmm. So she sent an email to the rescue. The emails started going back and forth and a couple of weeks later, we loaded up our other two bulldogs and headed north. We had never been to Utah, and we were just stunned at how gorgeous it was. We spent some time with friends up there, and a couple of days later, we picked up Midge. The lady running the rescue was surprised when we handed her a donation; they didn't think anyone would take Midge and there was no adoption fee. We brought her home, us and now three bulldogs on an adventure.

My wife took Midge to the vet clinic where she worked, and got her checked out and some meds. We discovered that she had a hole in the roof of her mouth and sometimes had seizures. But in spite of all that, she was the go-gettin'-est little fireball you'd ever meet. She would go to the front door and look at us and bounce, just wanting to get out and go. She'd approach strangers and wag her little nub of a tail - it took effort, but she did it. She put on weight as time went on and we got her up to 25 pounds, which for her frame was perfect, and she grew out the most luxurious coat of fur.

We took her with us wherever we could, and she loved to try to steal a bite of banana from one of us or catch a cheerio. The little girl just didn't want to be cheated out of a minute. We did our best not to disappoint.

It was a year later that the bloodwork came back bad, really bad. My wife's boss did his damnedest to save her. It just wasn't working. The last three days she was being carried or held by one of us, and we tried to do all the things we had been doing. But we had to make the unthinkable decision. Even if it's the only option, you always wonder if you did the right thing.

So the email subject line was right. It did break my heart. But even knowing how painful it would turn out, I'd do it all over again. Dammit, I miss her.
posted by azpenguin at 5:42 PM on November 21, 2012 [17 favorites]

azpenguin, I'd kiss both you and your wife on the mouth if I saw you. So you should feel lucky that you're not within kissing distance.
posted by Devils Slide at 5:49 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

azpenguin, you better believe Midge knew damn well how lucky she was to find the two of you. That's beautiful.
posted by cmyk at 6:20 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

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