The last 18 months living with our eldest dog Phoebe have not been easy. Watching a dog you love suffer. And yet not being able to really do anything about it. Not being able to just ask her how she feels. The last two months harder still. But today was the hardest of all.
She came to us in April 2002. Just four weeks old she had been dropped off at the local animal hospital. She had been abused. We met her and though we had two other large dogs at the time, Casey and Kilgore, we thought about it, and decided we would give her a home. But before we could pick her up, another family said they wanted her. We stepped back thinking she’d found a perfect home. But then a week later she was returned to the hospital, again abused. We picked her up that day.
It was April 1st, 2002. And though we didn’t really know know what her birthday was, we decided it would be Valentine’s Day.
Kris came up with her name. I actually wanted to call her Winona Ryder. (No joke.)
My favorite memory of Phoebe was of course when she misbehaved. I had been in LA shooting a film and was home for a few days. All I wanted was some amazing New Haven brick oven apizza. We sat down to dinner. Because we eat so late, we almost always do so sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table and TV. I had my first four slices on my plate. I ran back to the fridge for a beer, but when I returned only three places sat on my plate. Casey and Kilgore looked mortified. Despite the food being right at their level, they knew better. But there was Phoebe munching down that piece of pie. She was young. She hadn’t learned the rules yet.
She’d always been our difficult dog. Moody, often times bitchy, and certainly neurotic, she was also loving, loyal, and, well, our 75 pound lap dog. She was the best blanket in the world on a cold New England night. And damn if she didn’t love having those floppy ears scratched.
Casey certainly loved her as if she were her own pup. They would have epic races in the yard as to which of them could get to the tennis ball or frisbee in our back yard first. Casey would usually win, sometimes I think towards the end it was because Phoebe let her. Kilgore would rarely partake. If he did if was usually to snatch the toy away, go lie under a tree, and chew it to pieces.
I will always remember the night Casey died in March of 2006. Kilgore was barking his head off at 3 in the morning. I came downstairs to find Phoebe cowering under the table, and Kilgore running to me, then running into the living room, and back again. He brought me to Casey, who had passed without warning.
I know they both missed Casey in their own way, but Phoebe especially turned into a loner dog. Kilgore didn’t have much patience, and by this time he was a grumpy old man. And when his turn came in October 2008, I honestly think Phoebe truly enjoyed her life most for a few months there as an only dog.
Then we brought Springsteen home, and the epic races for the tennis ball started up again, and once again the younger dog would let the older dog win.
Phoebe was definitely a people dog. Not all that fond of other animals, she just wanted attention. She just wanted a treat. She just wanted to play ball. She was a lab/hound mix, gangly and beautiful.
In recent months, though she could barely walk, she’d still bring you a tennis ball out in the yard and drop it right at your feet. I would always toss it lightly. And despite her trouble in retrieving it, she’d bring it right back and wait for me to toss it again. The joy she received from playing ball outweighed any pain she might have been feeling.
I even played ball with her out in the rain this morning. One last time. Though after bringing the ball back to me twice, she gave up. The pain was finally winning out.
I hope she can chase balls for eternity on the other side. With Casey once again running by her side. And hopefully Kilgore will wait a bit, enjoying the reunion, until he snatches away the ball and chews it to bits.
I hope we came through for her and gave her the life she deserved.
This is the two year anniversary of one of my saddest days. The day my dog Kilgore Trout died. I don’t think a day has passed since in which I haven’t missed the way he always made me laugh. I even had him tattooed to my forearm, so on dark days his face would peek out over my sleeve and crack me up. What follows (below the photo of my tattoo, and the shot of Kilgore which inspired it) is one of the best thing I feel I’ve ever written…certainly the most heartfelt. I present it again as originally written. Hug your pet, grab a box of tissues and read on…
A tumor the size of a grapefruit. I saw it on the x-ray, filling the space between his liver, his spleen, and his stomach. Perhaps encroaching on his lungs as well. Suffocating Kilgore Trout from the inside out.
At first we thought it was a reaction to Previcox. A drug given to him just about four weeks ago to help with his hips. He was having the worst time walking, this glorious pup who would jump, would bounce, like on a trampoline whenever he saw me.
(watch the clip that now opens my website as proof…it’s 45 seconds that will make you smile.)
At first the drug did wonders, until he stopped eating, starting vomiting. Side effects all, so many serious side effects. How could this fucking killer pill be on the market?
I am angry. I am seething. I know Previcox did not kill my dog, but it certainly didn’t help there in the end. A shot of Pepcid did for a while. But still the appetite nowhere near the vacuum cleaner-like enthusiasm with which he used to eat. Less and less every day. And the vomiting returned. Bile, from his mostly empty stomach.
More Pepcid. But it didn’t seem to help this time. Finally a trip to the vet. You could see it in her face as she checked him stomach. Perhaps we should get him x-rayed…now. The normally busy hospital would take us NOW.
So I dropped my wife at home so she could tend to our other dog, and drove Kilgore down to Central Hospital in New Haven. It was quick. He sat by my feet afterwards as I waited on word. The receptionist said the vet wanted to speak with me. She gave me the news. None of it good.
How long does he have? I asked. A few days, was the response. Or perhaps to the beginning of next week. (This was a Thursday.) The x-ray technician showed me the tumor. It was massive. All encompassing. There was nothing to do but make him comfortable during his last few days.
But a small meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken pulled from a breast was all he could manage. A few strips of it really. And a little water to follow. That would be his last meal. My dog who could eat anything and everything, from a full edition of the Sunday New York Times to financial magazines (he especially loved to “tear into” MONEY and KIPLINGER’S) to, well…anything he could find in the yard., gross or not.
Whenever I put a 12-pack of beer away, he’d wait patiently, then snatch the empty box as I pulled out the last beer and put it into the fridge. Then he’d play keep-away with it, or tug-of war. Or he’d lie right down and start ripping it to confetti. He especially loved Rolling Rock boxes.
But he could eat anything and everything, always without repercussion. Now, nothing…
He walked around on his own on Friday. Venturing out into the yard, up on the couch with a little help. He wagged his tail, but mostly slept a lot.
That night, Friday, what would be his last night (october 24), I slept on the couch with Mr. Trout. Well, he slept on the couch. I was mostly on the coffee table, but that was ok. He rested his chin on my leg, I scratched him behind his ear.
My wife and I kept asking anyone we knew…how would we know when it was time to put him to rest? Well, he told us.
Kilgore got up twice that night, went out into the yard, slowly, but surely. But then came the morning. Almost two days now without food or water. And when it came time for him to go outside, he made it through the door, but had to lie down after only a few steps. He couldn’t get up. We knew…
We had already made an appointment at the vet for Saturday morning. Originally for a check up to see if there was anything else we could do. But now I needed to call them, and change the appointment until late in the day. The last appointment of the day.
He couldn’t really walk, so I carried my friend out to my Jeep and laid him down in the back. And, the three of us took his final ride. My wife sat in the back with him, as I went into the vet office to make sure everything was ready. Then I carried him in and laid him on the table.
After a while the vet came in an asked if we were ready. No, how could anyone ever be ready? But I knew he was in pain, I knew he was so tired, and I certainly didn’t want that thing inside of him to burst.
He lay, as he always did at night, two paws straight out in front, his chin resting perfectly centered between them. I squatted down so that I was nose-to-nose with my friend. He never took his eyes off me as the doctor administered the drug that would put him to sleep.
When his eyes finally closed, I kissed his head. Something he so hated until a few weeks ago. I’d always do it at night, and he rub at the top of his head with his paws as if I’d given him cooties, or something. It was a ritual. But he was wagging tail. And in my heart I always believed he was perhaps embarrassed in front of the other dogs, like why was I kissing his head in public?
But this would be the last time I’d get to kiss the top of Kilgore’s head.
Goodnight, my sweet prince, perhaps one day we’ll meet up on the other side.
First off, after two weeks I can say that Springsteen is doing quite well adjusting to his new home. Likewise Phoebe has become a great big sister to the pup. I’ll post more pix soon. We’re also closing up all the work on the Connecticut State Film Commission Tax Credit we’re receiving for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) and I will be posting a long blog explaining how everything went down, a good how-to for other indie filmmakers in the state.
But for now, yet another Top Ten CD list. This time from old friend Rob DeRosa. For the best of CT-based music you can hear Rob’s radio show on Thursdays on WESU FM, which is 88.1FM. It’s called HOMEGROWN. You can also listen to archived shows at: www.myspace.com/thinmanmusiclabel
Here now is his top ten:
The Hold Steady- Stay Positive. How could an ex Springstee fan not like these guys? Way too many words sometimes and chock full arrangements- that’s what drew me to early Bruce and it’s what enthralls me about The Hold Steady. I just hope there is no Nebraska in them to screw it all up.
The Mountain Movers- Why Don’t We open the Chest. This band is a pleasure. While I loved the horns on the first CD, the less is more approach here works even better. If Ric promises to bring extra strings, I’ll hire them for Daffodil Fest so I can hear this stuff live in my own backyard, so to speak.
The Manchurians 5×4, The Minster EP. I know, my label. But if this and my next picks were not worthy, we wouldn’t max out credit putting them out. This one rocks in a different way than the last one- probably due to Dean’s layering of sounds and his co-writing energizing Roger to write more songs than he ever did. Short- liethey like their live sets- but it kicks ass.
Frank Critelli- Watlzing Through Quicksand. Frank’s songs always had room for a full band and this disc shows why. His songs here are expansive and moving- and the tight band behind him propells him to rock star staus instead of simply the best folkie out there.
The Sawtelles- Dime Museum. Previously a either love ’em or leave ’em style- this CD shows incredible growth and cohesion of their rather unothadox style. Shany Lawson produced them the way it should have always been. Peter’s words are intiguing and Julie sings better than ever before.
MGMT- Oracular Spectacular suffice to say that this incredibly popular band was for all intense and purposes, my discovery. Well. not entirely- but the Wesleyan duo got their first off campus gig from me- as well as their first club date at Cafe 9 and their first airplay on my radio show. Then they went on to play every festival in the world this year( Cochella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading, SXSW, Austin City one, two in australia and a few in Japan.) and get on most big music magazines best of lists. They deserve it. It’s a psychedelic dance fest with pithy, ironic and cheeky lyrics. AND the drummer is nailing Kirstin Dunst. Every young rockers dream story.
I turn now to friend Vinnie Penn, who has supplied a top ten cd list all his own. Hw swears he read neither mine nor Matt Bialer’s before putting together his list. What’s most surprising his worst cd of the year. And this is just a theory, and I’m accusing no one of anything, but…perhaps no one actually likes Vampire Weekend except for those who were paid off to like them. It’s the only explanation that makes sense really. The old payola machine still turning. Nothing having changed much since the 1950s. Like I said, just a theory of mine. But it sure would explain things…
Anyway, here’s Vinnie’s list, and proof positive that he is a comic after all:
Vinnie Penn’s Top Ten CD’s of 2008:
Counting Crows—-Sat. Nights/Sun. Mornings: A damn good reason I don’t mind not doing radio on a daily basis every day anymore; why weren’t at least 3 songs from this record in heavy rotation? Lyrically, Duritz is in top form.
Gaslight Anthem 59 Sound—Outrageous, how good this is. Plus they open for Jesse Malin. ‘Nuff said.
Malin Mercury Retrograde—Nobody out there is doing it better, and nobody can argue.
AC/DC Black Ice—-It’s ACDC. There wouldn’t be strippers without them. Be serious.
Shinedown–The Sound of Madness: Proof that there is hope for rock ‘n roll on radio.
Extreme—Saudades de Rock: Proof that there is hope for rock ‘n roll with record labels.
The Morning Of: Great piano, great harmonies. Makes me want to walk around NYC.
Hold Steady—Stay Positive: Could’ve had one or two more strong tracks but the ones that are are just window-down anthems. Love this band.
Candlebox—Into the Sun: The last song on the CD alone makes it worth getting.
Rick Springfield—Venus in Overdrive: My boy is still an underrated guitarist, and this record is earning him long overdue critical cred. Laugh all you want. It’s the soap thing.
And what was up with Vampire Weekend? Talk about hype. Further proof that the “machine” can make hits, be it in music, publishing, on-screen, etc.
A top ten list of sorts.Not from either field which I call home (films, novels) but from my truest passion, music.The best albums of 2008, in unequivocal order.Don’t argue, you know my tastes, you know where I stand, just open your Amazon account and order those not in your collection.It’ll be the best hundred bucks you’ve spent in a long while.
#1 – Delta Spirit – “Ode to Sunshine” – Hands down the one masterpiece of 2008, the best cd by the best new band.Eleven tracks that evoke all things good in rock n roll from the Replacements to the Beatles, yet manage to sound original at the same time. Start with “People C’mon” or “Children,” but really there isn’t a weak or false beat on this cd.Fucking amazing!
#2 – Paul Westerberg – “49” – a glorious mess, one never ending 43-plus minute track comprised of PW’s best work since “Stereo/Mono.”Songs, clips, covers, noise, it’s a stream of unconsciousness from the greatest songwriter of our time.Not for everyone, because most people won’t get it or have the patience, but if you do the rewards are never ending.
#3 – The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Hometowns” – I gave this album a shot because of a review that simply read “In the aeroplane over Alberta.”And while not in the same league of the most perfect piece of art ever created (yes, you read that right), “Hometowns” is an instant indie noise-pop classic, loose strumming, twangs, all off-kilter and remarkably catchy.Download “Edmonton” and you’ll be sold.
#4 – Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago” – Nine hauntingly beautiful tracks that bring to mind Nick Drake or perhaps very early Elliott Smith.As fragile as a teenager’s heart, Justin Vernon (who essentially IS Bon Iver) has a voice that you will never forget.Listen to the album’s final track “Re: Stacks,” a better song has not been released this year.
#5 – Langhorne Slim – “Langhorne Slim” – Another voice unlike no other, Langhorne Slim yelps and croons as if he were having way too much fun playing these songs. He picks his guitar like the 80-year-old blind man who invented the blues.There’s a lot to like here, especially “Hummingbird,” one of the greatest songs ever written about having no choice but to move on from a relationship that just couldn’t work no matter how hard either partner tried. It’s heartbreakingly real and so sadly beautiful. You’ll want to give Langhorne a hug.
#6 – Santogold – “Santogold” – This year’s M.I.A., poppy, bordering on the danceable, and usually nothing I would ever listen to if it weren’t so damn infectious.Download “Lights Out” and see if it doesn’t remind you of the greatest 80s pop cd you never heard,
#7 – The Gaslight Anthem – “The 59 Sound” – if Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg had a kid, this Jersey band would be it. Great, anthem-like rock n roll.Start with the title track and you won’t let go.And don’t let the crap emo bands they tour with turn you off.These guys are the real thing.(They should be touring with Wilco.)
#8 – Coldplay – “Viva La Vida” – This is not your grandfather’s Coldplay.First off they suddenly discovered guitars, and then they discovered how to rock.None of the wimpy ballad crap, the last four songs (starting with the title track) are as strong as any you’ll hear on almost any cd this year (except for perhaps the first three on this list).If you’ve never liked Coldplay (I detest their other cds), now is the time to give them a shot.
And that’s my list.Only 8 cds…there are certainly a few worthy of honorable mentions: Matthew Ryan’s “Matthew Ryan vs. Silver State,” Nada Surf’s “Lucky,’’ Crooked Fingers’ “Forfeit/Fortune,” and Mudcrutch’s self-titled cd.But overall it was a ridiculously disappointing year, when even the usual culprits (Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst, The Hold Steady) bored me to tears.
I will give Ryan Adams kudos for the tune “Magick,” which proved the boy knows how to rock, I just wish he’d stop whining and stop writing the same song over and over again (really the new cd sounds like bad outtakes from last year’s far superior “Easy Tiger”).Ryan it’s okay to sound like the Replacements, it’s what you do best.
As for the worst cd of the year.Wow, this is so easy; I don’t even have to think about it.It’s a cd that epitomizes all that is bad about rock music and the self-proclaimed messiah critics on the web.Gutless, sounding like a group of 8-year-olds with child-sized instruments trying to play rock n roll, the album in question is the self-titled debut from Vampire Weekend.Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.Really, if you like Vampire Weekend put out an A.P.B. on your balls, because they have seriously gone missing.
That’s it for me.I can only hope for a better 2009, though I’m ending on a Springsteen high.Not the Boss, but my new pup.(See photo below).He was one of the wild packs of hounds menacing the streets of Tennessee.We got him through Paws4Rescue.org.Everything about this organization is top notch and professional. (And if you’ve been reading this blog you know the issues I’ve had with other so-called rescue groups.)Well, these guys are the real thing.Donate, get your next pup from them, and/or recommend them to a friend: www.Paws4Rescue.org.
In the mean time, and while you’re surfing the web, check out the updated site for our new movie FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS): www.FWBmovie.com
Now I close with another top ten list, written by one of my closest friends, Matt Bialer.I finished my list without seeing his, and visa-versa.I present his now, unedited, and knowing there’ll be plenty to argue about:
Top 10 CD from Matthew Bialer
No order: titus andronicus: the Airing of Grievances. I’ll say. One big drunken, sloppy Jersey fuck you to all. If you like beer and more beer, great songs, the Clash, Pogues, Bruce, Mekons….
The Gaslight Anthem: the ’59 Sound. Great anthemic rock that is like Bruce meets the Clash. It is what rock n roll is all about. Has balls and evokes a lot of rock n roll iconic shit.
Land of Talk: Some are Lakes. I love Liz Powell’s voice and songs. Just great stuff. Kind of evokes girl grunge, I suppose.
Delta Spirit: Great record. And no Gorman, it’s not Replacements derived. It’s like Arcade Fire meets the Zombies.
Frightened Rabbit: the Midnight Organ Fight. Great Scot Pop. If you like Orange Juice, teenage Fanclub, the Twilight Sad.
Tapes ‘n Tapes: Walk it Off. Fuck everyone who dissed this sophmore effort. Fuck you all. I like it and I still play it. And it’s better than most of Pitchfork’s top ten including Fleet Foxes, No Age and Deerhunter (some great songs but a little filler there, ey?)
Guns n Roses: Chinese Democracy. Because I like bands with “n” in the middle and because Axl Rose on a bad day (day? Bad 15 years, I guess) can still kick a lot of bands asses that critics swoon over.
A.A. Bondy: American Hearts. Kind of in the same spirit of Deertick. Mellow. Acoustic. But tough. The singer was the main dude from Verbena. Really good.
Birdmonster: From the Mountain to the Sea. Another great record that Pitchfork really shit on. Well I think this record is superb. For fans of Wilco, Dylan, great roots rock. I love this record.
Overpraised records: Vampire Weekend. I admit to tapping my foot a bit but not a great band. Also, they are like the second coming of Haircut One Hundred down to the preppy sweaters. And where are Haircut One Hundred now?? Exactly. And Haircut were better and even had more balls (gumball sized, as opposed to none).
Fleet Foxes: something fey and pretty here but I don’t get the critics going nuts over them. A few good songs but not terribly exciting to me.
No Age: I like some of this but anyone who plays this over and over and over again has to be suspected of brain damage. I wish they had more “songs” here but there is talent.
TV On the Radio: don’t get them. And what is this horseshit that they “speak for the times”. Yeah, for the times bumming around in a cafe in Williamsburg.
I wanted to like the new Hold Steady because I like them but this new one is weak to me, despite a few good songs.
The Walkmen. The guy is like Englebert Humperdink fronting a wedding band on only its “rock out” numbers.