I Rang Your Bells Today…

I Rang Your Bells Today…



It seems like yesterday we were celebrating your 6 month birthday

Today you would have been 11 years old, a calm yet a dignified senior. I know your eyes would still be clear and brown, following me silently as I moved about. I also know you would still have your “fetish”  about being clean, something that used to crack your doggy daycare owner up. I took out the bells I hung on the door to housebreak you and allowed myself to wander back to April 2005 when you first entered my life. It was such a long drive, nearly 4 hours one way along a stretch of the turnpike that was completely barren; no stores or gas stations, just trees as far ahead as one could see. When we arrived at the PAWS Shelter in Calais I could literally see Canada as it was just a few minutes walk from where I stood. We bonded immediately ~ so much so that it was uncanny. I remember when out-of-state relatives came to visit in May. They asked if they could take you outside for a potty trip only to return 15 minutes later saying you wouldn’t go. I took the leash from them and walked you out. Once I said the word, you immediately went. They didn’t realize all your commands were in German and acted a bit indignant. But what fun we had! I took you to puppy class that summer and remember how the black flies attacked us. Many of the other humans weren’t bothered but not being a native Mainer black flies were new for me. I researched and found that fabric softener sheets acted as a deterrent so the next week you had them tied onto your collar and I had them stuck everywhere.


I think it was during that class that I first realized that many people from this area resent outsiders or as they refer to us, flatlanders. I was so tempted to ask the extremely rude and condescending class instructor if I needed special dispensation to cross the Maine border but figured it wouldn’t go over too well. I let it bother me for all of one night and after that, I got a secret chuckle out of it. The irony of being called a flatlander is I learned to drive in a mountainous region very similar to Maine sans the rude people. It wasn’t until the last day of class during the graduation ceremony that I wanted to punch her lights out. When handing out the diplomas she referred to you as a “primadonna” and in a snarky tone of voice asked where your Downy dryer sheets were; that you’d have to toughen up if you were going to be a Mainer. Instead, I sweetly told her that although she seems to find the dryer sheets amusing, at least your eyelids weren’t swollen like many of the other puppies in the room that night. She quickly shut up. I also never took her up on her Intermediate Training Course because she was an idiot.

That night when you hopped into my still new Volkswagen Jetta (oh those heated seats), I realized you had quickly become too tall for it. A few weeks later we went car shopping for a mid size SUV. I don’t really think it was because you were a black dog but when salesmen would show us SUVs you hopped into the back of the black ones every time which was a hoot. Unfortunately, because Mom only drives a standard we wound up with a greyish green Honda. I still smile when I think of the dealership’s reaction to me wanting to trade in a 6-month-old car with less than 3k miles on it. They were great though and even installed a barrier gate I bought for the back (not that you ever used it). We had a lot of fun that year taking road trips in Maine to learn about our new state. We also visited other New England states and my home state of NJ. We even spent a few vacations either in NJ or some other state. You were so well-behaved, never chewing or barking unnecessarily in the hotels and never failed to get a compliment from housekeeping.


I took a job as the jail nurse that fall and even though you were only 6 months old knew from the outside of the building exactly where my office was. A few times I brought you into the sally port and had you walk up the stairs and across the catwalk as I called it.

It was important to me that you become accustomed to different surfaces as well as surroundings. That was one of the reasons I walked you on sidewalks in a busy town, dirt roads, and dense woods. I crossed busy city streets with you while traveling so you wouldn’t grow up fearful of traffic. People often asked why I spoke your commands in German since you weren’t a GSD but I told them it was a habit.

Your first autumn you decided to pull the chinking out from between the logs of the house. As I painstakingly hammered it back in I told you if we froze to death that winter it would be your fault so you better knock it off; didn’t faze you. Looking back I wonder if you rather enjoyed it as true chinking is made with hemp. Other than your chinking fixation you were a great puppy, never chewing shoes or door jambs. Although we did suffer a bit of pain when you were teething. Such alligator teeth! Yet at the same time, you were kind for I remember picking Molly, the terrified beagle up from a transport in MA. You snuggled next to her for the long drive home which eased her trembling.picture-4029

The next spring when you turned one you began digging holes in the ground, usually in the same area. You dug so deep that I told you I was going to rent you out as a gravedigger. Once you FINALLY got out of that phase I turned the area into Callie’s Place. A Vietnam veteran down the road made picnic tables, chairs, and wishing wells,  I asked if he could put “Callie’s Place” on a well and he did. Over the summer with your help, of course, I laid weed paper then covered it with cedar chips. We encircled it with rocks we brought down from the mountain and added a small child size bench. Over the years I added a few decorative glass items but for the most part, it remains the same today. Funny how your last summer you and The Germs teamed up and dug a huge hole in the backyard.


I remember when we added Inga to our family and how leery you were of her at first. As tall as you were you were scared of a tiny puppy. Eventually, you became best buddies. The two of you even destroyed the mattress when I boarded you for a few days at doggy daycare, earning your picture on the Wall of Fame.




The years seem to have passed much too quickly. It wasn’t because I worked but rather that it was such a long commute each way that my 12-hour shifts 3x a week turned into 15 or 16 hour days. But at least it gave me four days off in a row so we could do “dog things’. For a dog that was part labrador, you never cared for the water. When we went to the river so you and Inga (and later Sasha) could swim and cool off, you only dipped your feet in the water, preferring to explore the woods behind us. That’s why it was so ironic that your last summer you not only ventured into the river but actually swam. I’ll never forget that summer because at the end of it I kept saying it had been the best summer of your life. Little did I know it would be your last.

There were a lot of “Labrador” traits you didn’t share; playing ball and water sports. I remember when the canine DNA tests first came out and I did one on you. The results were  55% GSD, 34% Labrador and the remainder a bit of this and that. Perhaps the GSD component played a factor in your amazing tracking ability. I often wondered if the “this and that” included Great Dane as you were so tall, much taller than The Germs. You weighed 100# but were lean and muscular. That takes me to the summer of the “boneyard”. You would go outside every day and bring me an animal bone and then sun yourself on the deck. After the third “gift” I followed to see where they were coming from only to discover a boneyard. A quick visit from the Dept of Fish & Game answered my questions. He said they knew coyotes were using my mountain as a crossing to the river because they track activity when possible and if a pack of the coyote encounters a deer they “take it down”. It all clicked then because I often heard coyotes howling in the mountain and every once in a while I’d hear a God awful noise, almost like a woman screaming. The warden explained that was the noise a deer made when being attacked. I kept a loaded gun and when I’d hear then howl I’d shoot off a few rounds hoping it would disperse the pack thus saving a deer.


You were the first dog that was truly mine.  Yes, I had one when I emancipated but you were different. Whereas that was happenstance I searched Petfinder diligently for you. Once I decided you were the one I had to wait for you to turn 8 weeks old. I still remember how excited I was when I brought you home. Our friend Tom tried to talk me into giving you to him because you were so adorable. Little did I know that the fluffy black baby I’d picked out on a computer would turn into a dog that gave me more love, attention, and concern than my own parents.You had such an uncanny ability to hone into my every emotion, often before I knew they were there. I think with the proper training you would have made a wonderful PTSD dog.


I also looked at your ThunderShirt today, the first time since you left me. For such a big fearless dog thunderstorms reduced you to a quivering mass of jelly. When Maine approved fireworks in 2012 it became even worse for you because people were either shooting guns, fireworks or both. I’d read such good reviews of the ThunderShirt and must say it helped you tremendously although initially, I thought you looked funny wearing it.

I’ve thought about you a lot this week because your birthday was approaching. I wanted so much to make a tribute video but simply couldn’t get the hang of it. Plus I recently received some news about the veterinarian whom I blame for your death. One of the vets who fought to save your life that night sent a letter of complaint to the Board of Veterinary Medicine. She knew your vet was grossly negligent to keep you in her office all day with a slow dripping IV and a temperature escalating to a dangerous level. The Board issued her a reprimand ~ that’s it. She caused your death by allowing your temperature to reach over 106 degrees then told me it was time to leave as she was closing early. By the time I got you to the emergency clinic 2 hours away your temperature was over 107 degrees. They worked all night and got it down but the damage to your organs had already occurred and you were in acute renal failure. I did what I thought was best for you that day ~ taking you to your lifelong local vet because of the temp and nausea. I thought it would be easier for you to take a 20-minute car ride than a 2 hour one. I was wrong, a mistake that will never happen again. Not only was she your veterinarian but she was my friend;  we both hail from the city. We shared the same values, opinions and we had the same accent. I didn’t mention her for a long time and when the Board sent me forms to fill out I kept procrastinating. Now, however, I call it as it was; she caused your death. I know it, the doctors in Portland know it and most of all, she knows it. She apparently zeroed out my bill as I never received one (I wouldn’t have paid it anyway). She also purged all of your dog and cat siblings records because when I started going to a new veterinarian they called to get records and were told they didn’t have any plus never heard of my name. I saw her this summer at the Farmer’s Market while there with Sasha. She was heading over when she spotted me and did a fast about-face. Too bad because even though Sasha has a bum leg and lost her vision, once a Schutzhund IPO 3 (masters level) it’s ingrained. I would have told her to sitz  (sit) and gib laut (bark) just to watch the vet scamper as GSDs always made her nervous especially if they were working dogs. Oh well, there’s always next time.


I miss you Callie Ann my angel, just as much as ever. I find myself remembering the abundance of joy and laughter you brought to my life more now than I did after you first left and I jumped on the Crazy Train of Grief. I still cry every once in a while when I see your picture appear on the digital frame and sometimes I daydream, remembering the many happy times we shared, how you enriched my life in ways that you can’t possibly know. There’s a black girl named Maddie who left her Mom one month after you left me. I like to think that you have found each other and are spending your days playing, free of the stress and pain of illness. And most of all, I KNOW we’ll be together again. You’ll run up with your favorite toy, Pinky, and look at me with those beautiful brown eyes and nudge me as if to say “Where’ve you been”? And I’ll tell you I had things to do but I’m here now and will never leave again.


Jeanne B


**I tried to get this up for her birthday but have literally been snowblowing and hand shoveling snow for over 6 days.

Luke Stribling Beat His Shiba Inu Puppy To Death.

Luke Stribling Beat His Shiba Inu Puppy To Death.

I really thought I did a post on this because of my outrage but apparently I didn’t. Since I wrote and launched a petition today I thought I’d share. Maybe after reading one of you might have some insight as to what would cause college students to commit these egregious acts (there are (2) more cases within the post)…

Luke Stribling, 20, of Orange County, Florida is a student majoring in Jazz at the University of Central Florida. He also willingly and maliciously beat, punched, kicked and tortured  his 17- week- old Shiba Inu puppy named Julian  to death. He was arrested on September 30, 2016 by the Orlando County Sheriff’s Dept for “tormenting, mutilating and ultimately killing his 17-week-old Shiba Inu puppy, Julian“. Deputies arrested Stribling on (2) charges of animal cruelty under Florida Animal Cruelty law: 828.12. Cruelty to animals and booked into Orange County Jail on both felony counts of cruelty to animals. Although the extended period of abuse took place last summer, authorities had to wait for the necropsy results to become available before they could charge. Incidently, a necropsy (same as an autopsy but usually refers to animals) takes at best (3) days but at least he was charged.

Media Video of Luke Stribling Upon Release From Orange County Jail

For those of you not familiar with the Shiba Inu breed I’ve hyperlinked. The abuse started long before little Julian’s death on June 26, 2016. At the time of death Julian was 17-weeks-old and would have weighed approximately 8-10 pounds.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Photo of Luke Stribling

Luke Stribling originally brought Julian to the  East Orlando Animal Hospital on June 12, 2016, where he told the veterinarians that Julian had fallen down a flight of stairs and had trouble walking for two days. According to a statement by the examining vet, during the examination Julian literally shook because of severe pain which prompted the veterinarian to ask Stribling why he let his dog suffer for two days with a broken leg; Stribling did not respond to the question. Suspicious of Stribling’s behavior, the vet staff performed a full body MRI scan and found several other fractures all over Julian’s tiny body. Julian was also nervous in Stribling’s presence which indicated signs of abuse. Based on Julian’s pain and fear, the medical findings, and Stribling’s evasive answers, the clinic staff notified Animal Services.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence to seize Julian and he was released back into Stribling’s custody.

I’m having an issue for lack of a better word with the absence of intervention reported in the media because nearly every mainstream outlet has a slightly different spin. For example, if Animal Services did not have enough evidence to intervene, what does Click Orlando mean in their article dated September 30:

Records show Stribling took a four-hour course on responsible pet ownership at Orange County Animal Services earlier this month. He also paid a $256 fine.

On June 26, Luke Stribling brought the deceased Julian to a different animal facility, Waterford Lakes Animal Clinic, still wearing the cast on his tiny leg. X-rays found Julian had a fractured rib, sternum and abdomen and had been beaten to death. Waterford Lakes Animal Clinic contacted Animal Control. Upon questioning by investigators, Stribling admitted that he “hit and kicked the dog multiple times because he was frustrated” with Julian for urinating in his student house.

A necropsy indicated the puppy suffered severe internal injuries, traumatic lesions including a hemorrhaging eye, liver and brain and head injuries.

Stribling’s friends  told investigators he punched and kicked Julian for urinating inside his University of Central Florida-area apartment. So a tiny, defenseless puppy suffered  prolonged abuse and trauma because this pathetic waste of oxygen failed as a responsible pet owner? He was negligent and incompetent in housebreaking Julian and for that reason alone the puppy endured endless abuse.

This is the third college male in the US that has recently been in the news for abusing an animal. A football player at Baylor University in Texas abused his own dog to the point of making it scream in pain and the video of the abuse went on Snapchat! His punishment to date? He had to sit out (3) football games. Yep, next Michael Vick right there.


The other football player abused his neighbor’s dog, Luca,  who he was supposed to be watching. The 42 pound dog was bleeding and the student just opened the door and let him run off. The owner located her dog because of an urgent plea on social media. Luca had to have emergency surgery because his jaw wasn’t broken ~ it was shattered. He lost (6) teeth and had numerous stitches. At least his college has suspended him from playing football.


Both of the football players are over 6’ tall and over 220 pounds. Luke Stribling appears to be of slight to regular build. Oh yes! In his LinkedIn profile he lists that he cares about “Animal Welfare”.

One doesnt have to be an animal lover, a vegan, vegetarian or even an animal activist to reaize that the death of an innocent puppy at the very hands of the person who was supposed to love and take care of him is inherintly wrong. Any  person with an ounce of humanity will surely agree that it takes a dark and evil mind to inflict such torment, pain and death upon an innocent puppy.

My words to Stribling if given the opportunity?

Malevolent as you are to the world, I am surprised you actually have friends.

If you feel that Julian the puppy deserves justice, please sign and share my petiton.


✦Links to the other (2) petitions are included with my pictures with text that I tweeted but I’ll add then below just in case.

BaylorUniversity TX  Ishmael Zamora    💙Justice4Rottie💙

Missouri State  Breck Ruddick    💙Justice4Luca💙

Let’s see the weasel one more time!

What Is It With These Psycho Cops???

What Is It With These Psycho Cops???

In OK, former Stephens County Sheriff’s  Deputy Matthew Peck murdered his LEO partner K9 Bak, just as if he’d shot him. To leave a dog trapped in a hot car, without food, without water, and without air for 38 hours when the outside temperature hovered near 100 degrees is both sadistic and the sign of an underlying mental health issue. Most of all, it is criminal! Peck FAILED to go to the squad car one time; what kind of person does that?

K9 Bak

K9 Bak was an integral and vital member of the Stephens County Sheriffs Dept. for (6) years, since he was 2 years old. There were plans for his retirement at some point as he was now 8. This begs the question, why would a human LEO treat his K9 partner of (4) years in such a callous, inhumane and sadistic manner? How can a man who took an oath to protect and serve fail to keep his partner who was a living, sentient being, safe? He failed his partner, he failed a living animal, he failed the people of OK. A charge of “animal cruelty” is insufficient for a crime this heinous, with absolutely no respect for life. When a dog is subjected to increased body temperature for an extended period of time, they suffer greatly. Dogs feel heat differently than humans do. They sweat differently too. Dogs sweat by panting and by sweating from their paws. However, a dog trapped in a hot car can’t effectively rid its body of enough of the heat by panting and sweating ~ simply because there’s not enough cool, fresh air to replace the heated, stale air. Therefore, a dog breathing in warm/hot air for too long will suffer heat stroke …and will surely die.
In simple terms, heat stroke occurs when a dog loses its natural ability to regulate its body temperature. Dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies the way humans do. Canine body temperature is primarily regulated through respiration (i.e., panting). If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, heat stroke can occur. The dog’s internal organs begin to fail as does brain cellular activity. They suffer terrible and death is slow and agonizing. The only bright spot in this atrocity is that Sheriff Wayne McKinney did the right thing by terminating Matthew Peck, unlike many police departments who “circle the wagons” around handlers who cause the death of their K9s because of negligence.

Fortunately, the majority of K9 handlers are kind, compassionate officers who treat their K9 partners with respect and kindness; always monitoring their needs. I’m not sure where  I saw this but think  it’s appropriate.

The first to sense the hostility of a suspect,
The first to react to protect his master.
The first to enter where danger lurks.
The first to detect the hidden intruder.
The first to take action against violence.
The first to sense his master’s joy.
The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear.
The first to give his life in defense of his master.
The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him.
They know him as a “Partner,” not just an animal.

Finally, K9 Bak’s EOW is listed as Friday August 5, 2016 however since he was trapped  in the car since Wednesday August 3, no one REALLY knows when this loyal K9 died.

**Matthew Peck has been charged with “Animal Cruelty” which to thousands of people is not an appropriate charge for the wanton murder of a K9. If anyone is interested in ensuring that the killer of  LEO K9 Bak is charged appropriately, please consider both signing and sharing this petition.




RIP K9 Officer Totti ~ End of Watch…

RIP K9 Officer Totti ~ End of Watch…

Ranting is becoming a nightly ritual it seems but I feel so passionately about this that I must speak. I’ve already initiated a firestorm on Twitter complete with the information for people to Tweet, email or call both the PA Department of Corrections as well as the administrator. I don’t read the news much and rarely watch television so was unaware until a short time ago that yet another irresponsible law enforcement officer left his K9 partner to die in a hot patrol car. K9 Officer Totti, a 2-year-old drug detection dog from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections was left inside the squad car for TWO HOURS while his handler, Sgt.  Chad Holland attended a training session INSIDE the prison. In July. In the heat. How stupid! How abusive! How utterly cruel!

12:15 p.m.- Dog handler stored training items in his vehicle at the end of a training session.
2:44 p.m.- Dog handler realized Totti was locked in the car. Dog handler and other Drug Interdiction Union staff cooled Totti down with water and carefully placed him in ice to reduce body temperature.
2:58 p.m.- Totti was  placed in truck and driven to vet clinic.
4:15 p.m.- Totti’s body temperature was back to normal, but creatine levels were high; blood sugar was low but being treated; heart rate remained elevated
7:30 p.m.- Totti passed away

K9 Totti in all probability died of acute kidney failure.

I am so tired of reading about K9’s being left in a closed patrol car and dying from the heat. How can we as a society trust an officer who is sworn to protect and serve us when he FAILS to protect the life of his K9 partner? Because he forgot? Sgt. Holland wasn’t on a 3-hour foot pursuit; he was inside an air-conditioned correctional facility while Totti died an agonizing death.

Dogs feel heat differently than humans do. They sweat differently too. Dogs sweat by panting and by sweating from their paws. However, a dog trapped in a hot car can’t effectively rid its body of enough of the heat by panting and sweating ~ simply because there’s not enough cool, fresh air to replace the heated, stale air. Therefore, a dog breathing in the warm/hot air for too long will suffer heatstroke …and will die.
In simple terms, heatstroke occurs when a dog loses its natural ability to regulate its body temperature. Dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies the way humans do. Canine body temperature is primarily regulated through respiration (i.e., panting). If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, heatstroke can occur.
The Animal Protection Institute (API) conducted their own study that showed that deadly temperatures can quickly build inside a closed vehicle, even with moderately warm temperatures outside. The study found that even at 9 a.m. with an outside temperature of 82 degrees, the closed automobile registered 109 degrees inside! The API’s study also measured vehicles with cracked windows. With 4 windows cracked, an 88-degree day outside turned into a 103-degree sauna inside the vehicle at 10 a.m. In essence, a death sentence for the dog. This is blatant animal abuse ~ by cop. In 2015 alone there were (12) K9 officer deaths from hot cars. Halfway through 2016 and it appears the US might have even more.
What amazes me, even more, is how the media outlets in PA have circled the wagons around the handler and are not identifying him. I finally got his name from an NY paper

This is beyond sickening. Pets, K9 partners, children ~ all left to die in a hot car. I simply cannot fathom nor wrap my head around it.

Justice for K9 Totti

Holding Onto Anger Is Like Drinking Poison…

Holding Onto Anger Is Like Drinking Poison…

Happy Birthday Daddy

My mind is scattered of late, trying to stay atop a myriad of appointments, medical needs and life in general. I didn’t realize until late last night that today is July 13th ~ your birthday. I’m amazed that you were born 106 years ago. I’m even more amazed that I don’t hate you and in all honesty, probably never have. As I became old enough to understand, I marveled how you, as a young boy, travelled alone to the United States from Poland on a ship. Then that you returned to Europe a year later only to make the trip back to the US once again. All before the age of 15! At the time I remember thinking how brave you were. When I asked why you only had two fingers on one hand, you told me about the accident in the silk mill where you worked; how the machine malfunctioned and grabbed your hand. I remember being horrified and sitting on my own hands as you talked. You said the company paid the medical bills and saved the job for you. You said they were “Good to do that”. As a child I thought that you were lucky. What did I know? You were in your 20’s when you lost your fingers, long before employers took responsibility for accidents and definitely before OSHA. I would listen at the door as you and friends who’d also immigrated talked of life back in your homeland. I remember being fascinated by the stories of war-torn Poland, trying to picture it in my mind. Always marveling at your strength for traveling four times on a ship alone, your intelligence for being able to find a job at the silk mill while still very young and your strength for what you’d endured. You never knew I listened in but it gave me a glimpse into your life. You were normally very quiet at home, sitting at the kitchen table for hours playing solitaire – a habit I not only picked up from you but passed on to one of my daughters. I yearned to feel as if I was a part of your life but you weren’t demonstrative or talkative unless you were drinking. When you first began drinking with your friends you seemed happy because you laughed, something you rarely did. You would talk and play polka music. But the more you drank the different you became. It was if you were consumed by an intense anger and despite lashing out, couldn’t slay the invisible enemy. I feared you when you were “drunk” because all it took were a few words from Mommy and you would beat me. I can remember you dragging me by the hair along the floor so that you could beat me in front of her as she insisted on witnessing it. I thought pulling me by the hair would “scalp” me much like the Indians scalped people in the television you sometimes watched. I always tried to speak of my innocence but you were so enraged I doubt you heard me. Like the time she told you I had stolen your razor from the medicine cabinet. I kept crying and pleading with you to listen to me ~ that I was too short to ever get to that cabinet and besides “Mommy keeps that door locked”. Yet you never once listened to me did you? Whatever that paranoid schizophrenic said you did. If you were sober you obeyed her meekly. If intoxicated you obeyed in rage. Looking back, the one time I thought you would beat me because I deserved it you shocked me by being kind. We had returned from the grocery store and I asked if I could carry the watermelon into the house; you said yes. I was almost to the kitchen table when I lost my grip and dropped it causing it to break. I ran into the living room and hid behind a chair for I was sure I would be beaten. Instead you found me and told me it was ok because it was an accident. I realize now that I was probably only spared because you hadn’t been drinking but nonetheless I cherish that day. I screwed up and wasn’t punished; an event forever etched in my mind.
I could go on and on but somehow it doesn’t seem right to excoriate your name on your birthday. Instead I need to tell you that I forgive you and have no hate in my heart for you. For many years I was conflicted about how I felt about you. Then came the day in 1998 when that idiotic surgeon gave me a wrong diagnosis and the first thought to enter my head? “Well I’ll see Daddy again.” My conflict was suddenly resolved and I had the answer.

I believe you were the product of a different culture and generation, where parents used beatings to enforce rules or punish those who dared break them. I don’t think you were ever “really happy” but rather, you existed. You were submissive with Mommy despite the role she projected as helpless victim. Whatever she said, no matter how implausible or insane (strangers coming into the house and substituting identical but inferior quality clothing for her expensive things comes to mind) you agreed with her. It was as if you wanted to be left alone but when she insisted you acquiesced to avoid conflict. Hence you drank, to escape whatever demons haunted you. Like most drunks, you became different. For you it was being bolder, meaner and violent. Because we both know how capable of inflicting REAL harm you were. I am often tormented by what happened in the parking lot of the bar the summer before I began kindergarten. Nope ~ I’m not going there. Instead I’m going to think of you today as the happier, kinder person you became following her death. I will always cherish the time we spent together and the impact you had on my family. I was truly happy that my children were able to experience having a grandfather because its important that we have a sense of family, a sense of identity. It was something I longed for my entire life but never felt until the birth of my first child. Yet strangely enough immediately after your death I felt like an orphan. I walked around saying “No one will ever call me Bunny again”. My husband thought he could help me so started calling me Bunny. Gotta tell you Daddy it didn’t work and I nipped it in the bud. Bunny was the child, she was a long time ago. You were the last link to that child, the last person who knew her before she became an adult, graduated college, married and started a family. And now you were gone. I’m just terribly sorry that my young daughter was the one to discover you sitting lifeless on the sofa. No child should have to be in that situation. I take comfort however in knowing that your death was swift as your nebulizer was still running. I’m also comforted in knowing that you really enjoyed what was to be your final outing, your grandsons wedding. I’m happy that my father was there to see my son get married. I love you and always will.

Until we meet again…6 7/8

3 cute2

The World Makes No Sense

The World Makes No Sense

Much has been posted on social media today about gun rights following the horrific tragedy in Orlando. Let me make my position clear. I am not anti-gun. I pulled a trigger for the first time when I was 7. I spent many days target shooting in a boggy area by my home in NJ, sometimes most of the day because it kept me out of my mother’s way. I am not nor ever was a hunter so my gun activity was limited to a line of cans than bullseye then skeet. I’m extremely proficient with rifles, pistols and shotguns. It used to irritate both my father and later my husband that I was a better marksman than either of them. My first gun is mounted high on my living room wall and I have a CWP (which I don’t even use). Having said that, I do not nor ever will believe that assault rifles should be legally sold to John Q. Public. No civilian has need of such a powerful weapon – period. And to the gun enthusiasts who believe in owning/carrying a weapon for the purpose of protection I say this. If you are in a mall with friends or family one day and a deranged person begins randomly shooting with an assault rifle, do you really think you can stop them with your gun? Are you that confident in your ability that you believe you can fire upon and neutralize the shooter? In a crowded place full of running, panic-stricken people? Without harming an innocent person? I consider myself an excellent shot but I would never attempt a neutralization unless I was miraculously standing near the shooter. Even then, a handgun is no match for an assault rifle. They have detachable mags and they fire in powerful bursts which travel well over 300 yards. I just pulled up a recent update on the Orlando massacre and sadly was not surprised to see that the shooter used an AR-15, the same weapon used in San Bernardino, Aurora and Sandy Hook. It’s a military grade weapon yet somehow it’s become the most popular assault rifle in America. The AR-15 can fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute depending on the skill of the operator.
So I ask one more time, why do civilians need these weapons?

And finally, hours after this senseless and savage act, a blood-donation foundation in Orlando, OneBlood, posted on Facebook and Twitter, “There is an urgent need for O Negative, O Positive and AB Plasma blood donors.” The irony struck me. It’s legal to buy an AR-15 assault rifle but pushing aside all the technical jargon, it’s illegal for a gay man to donate blood to victims of this massacre. The world makes no sense.

Goodbye Dear Friend ~ My Incomprehensible Loss

Goodbye Dear Friend ~ My Incomprehensible Loss

Suicide ~ such a final word. It sends shivers through me. While I have battled intermittent depression at times I never had suicidal thoughts.  I suffered unspeakable abuse as a young child but to take my own life would give my abusers power over me and I refused to do that. They had often broken me physically and mentally but I would never let them rob me of growing up,  becoming a woman, a wife, a mother ~ or something in that order.

Now I am struggling in the wake of our dear friends death; brought on by his own hand.  Death is never easy but when it’s involves suicide a stark reality hits and makes us painfully aware of the black grip of depression that encircles a person with clinging tentacles. Some are able to escape, some hang on to the edge of the dark abysses by their fingertips. Tragically, many lose their hold and depression claims another life; another statistic . My dear friend is now one of those statistics.

It was common for a week to go by without hearing from him but as it entered the second week and both calls and email unanswered I began to worry. My German Shepherd  had been undergoing serious medical issues and treatment which required me to spend a lot of time several hours from home. Still, his emails should have appeared on my iPhone. I had my husband and daughter go to his house and check on him the morning of April 29, something we had done several times over the years when we didn’t hear from him. He suffered from depression and lived alone by choice in a cabin in the woods and except for rare peripheral contact with family in the next state, we were his family. We were his means of transportation, we shared holidays together at my house, I did his laundry, we exchanged canning jars and books and he helped with anything and everything as he was truly a jack of all trades. I loved him like the brother I’d always longed for. When I heard my daughter’s voice on the other end of the phone, I knew by the way she said “Mom”  that he was dead. I never dreamed however of the nightmare that would follow. When my family arrived on April 29 to check on him, they discovered his landlady of 20+ years present with a neighbor and another person, throwing my friends “life possessions” out of windows and doors. The landlady owned several cabins in a rural, heavily wooded area with my friend living at the end of the road. The neighbor was actually another long-term tenant whom the landlady had designated as “caretaker” for her empire of sticks. In reality, he is a foul-mouthed little man who would enter my friend’s home while he was out shopping. I know this because I watched as my friend set a string type trap on the door and sure as  bugs come out in May, when we returned from shopping the string would be broken. During the winter months the caretaker refused to plow the end of the road where my friend’s cabin was but never one to advocate or fight for himself, my friend chose to use his snowblower to clear the road. As my husband and daughter stood shocked while this trio of bandits reduced my dear friends life to piles on the grass, my daughter continued to talk to me on the cellphone. I told her to enter the house and if still there, take his computer, modem, family pictures, wallet, checkbook and anything that his family might want. My daughter watched as the landlady exited the cabin with a gun in her hand, walk to her car and place it in her trunk. She and the “caretaker” were discussing what they could sell for money and what needed to be trashed. My family went inside but were only able to salvage a few things: his computer and modem, military and other family pictures, and a few treasured books. They couldn’t find his wallet, checkbook or keys. This is how I learned that someone I loved dearly, who was part of our little self-made family, was no more.  My husband found his Purple Heart  lying on the ground under a pile of rain-soaked books, clothing and empty dresser drawers that the third person was heaving from the upstairs window. The landlady got on the phone with me and asked if I knew who the next of kin was. At this point I was crying hysterically but something in the back of my mind told me not to give her the information even though I knew who his family was. I told her I would have to look it up as it was on my laptop. She said the State Police didn’t know so she gave me her address and asked that when I found the name on my computer, pleased send it to her so she could inform them.  She handed the phone back to my daughter and she and her cohorts resumed their conversation of what to sell, what to toss, how to access his bank account etc. The caretaker and landlady began putting items in her car they deemed sellable and at this point my family, horrified, left.  From home I immediately contacted the State Police dispatch center and was told that the officer who was present the night my friend took his life and subsequently handling the case was due on at 4 PM that day and dispatch would have him contact me.  It was 1:15 PM. Within minutes my phone rang; the investigating officer was on the other end. He said they had not been able to notify family as they couldn’t find next of kin. I told him the same thing I told the landlady, that I needed to get it off my laptop when in reality it was right in front of me. I couldn’t think. I simply could not think. He asked me how long it would take for me to get the information and I said “one hour”. He said he’d call back and on the dot he did. I gave him the names of my friends two brothers but made a point of telling him that the brother who lived locally had been estranged from his entire family for over 30 years so to please notify the other brother who only lived a few hours away in the next state. I asked for details surrounding my friend’s suicide but since I wasn’t family he couldn’t share them with me. I kept at it because I wanted to know what happened, how our friend died. Through a game of verbal cat & mouse it was soon established that my friend had used a gun. Therein is the problem as my friend didn’t own a gun ~ at least I never knew he did. Only a crossbow. He was not a hunter and I always believed he only had the crossbow in case of an errant bear. He was a nature and animal lover so hunting wasn’t part of his world.
In hindsight if I had not been crying hysterically my thought processes would have kicked in and I would not have mentioned the estranged brother because all it did was muddy the already dirty waters.  When I called the out-of-state brother  two days later to offer our condolences, I actually wound up telling him of his brother’s  death. When I hung up the phone I was speechless as I couldn’t fathom why the State Police hadn’t made notification. Especially since my friend was still in the morgue nine days later.  I tossed and turned that night, waffling between sobbing, pangs of guilt, and anger. Guilt for letting almost two weeks pass before checking on him, anger at my friend for cutting his life short, anger at the unscrupulous  landlady and her “gang” and even anger at the State Trooper I had spoken to because of his careless, “easy come, easy go” attitude. As I struggled to sleep I suddenly had a gut feeling; I believed with all my heart that the trooper had indeed notified the brother – but the one who lived locally and was estranged from everyone for over a quarter of a century. I felt so strongly that I shared my theory with my family in the morning but they thought I was wrong.
On Sunday May 1,  I received a phone call from my friend’s adult niece. As soon as she said her name I recognized it from conversations I’d had with him. My mind recalled that she was one of his favorite nieces, that they both loved cats and that she frequently sent him cute cat greeting cards or cat stories from the paper. She told me that she and her cousin (the daughter of the out-of-state brother I had spoken to) would be driving up in the morning. I asked if they had heard from the State Police and she said no, something which was now concerning all of us. I agreed to accompany her to my friend’s house but warned her it was in shambles from the landlady and gang. My husband asked if it was a good idea for me to go to the house as I hadn’t been there since learning of the suicide but I said I would be fine. Little did I know. He wanted to accompany me but I insisted he stay home to take care of our medically needy German Shepherd.
As I waited at a local coffee shop for the nieces to arrive, I decided to act on my gut feeling. I called the local brother, identified myself as the “lover” of the deceased brother, and asked if he had been “contacted by the State Police”. He seemed to think it was funny for he chuckled and said yes, he’d been notified on Thursday. I continued with the charade, saying that I knew there were family dynamics that occurred long before I came into the picture and that I didn’t want to be involved. I told him I simply wanted to know where his brother’s wallet and checkbook were. He continued to laugh, saying he had no idea as he’d never set foot on the property where his brother lived for over 20 years. I asked if he had contacted the Medical Examiner’s Office only to be met with another laugh and a firm “no”.  I hung up without the slightest presence of manners for he was a revolting excuse for a human. The niece I had spoken to called me from the road saying they were about an hour out. She said she had called the State Police asking them to meet us at the house but they were reluctant to get involved in what they viewed as a civil matter  i.e. landlord/tenant rights. I had another gut feeling that this was going to get worse before better. The niece asked me about the wallet and keys. I told her my family couldn’t find them but that her uncle always had his wallet in his pocket and a key ring attached to his belt which held among other keys, the one to his post office box.  I  told her that her uncle had alternative investments in precious metals, more specifically, silver coins. He was “silver savvy”  with an impressive collection, a longtime member of ANA (American Numismatic Association). He would carefully show me his latest acquisition which in my coin ignorance I never fully grasped. He had mint sets, proof sets and slabs. He had a vast array of equipment such as gooseneck lamps, various microscopes, scales and coin holders. I can remember several times when he carefully handed me his extremely  heavy collection because the “caretaker” had been out and about with more frequency. I urged him to get a safe deposit box but he refused. The coin collection was one of the fist things I mentioned when I spoke to his out-of-state brother as my family had searched for it, knowing how much it meant to him. I was extremely relieved to learn that he had given it to his brother and sister-in-law towards the end of 2015. I also told his niece that in all the years I had known her uncle, he always wore a thick gold wedding band on his middle finger that was his late father’s.What I didn’t tell her was that I had called the Medical Examiner’s Office that morning, used another ruse, and learned that the gold ring was not on his hand nor in his possessions. While I waited for them to arrive Monday  I walked to his bank and asked to speak to a supervisor or manager. A woman met with me and I explained the situation. Again I was told “I can only speak to family and only when they have the appropriate court documents and death certificate”. I told her I understood but perhaps she could simply unofficially flag his account because his wallet, debit card and checkbook were missing. She said she couldn’t so I thanked her then stopped to ask for her card. I smiled and said I wanted a name to give the family when this went to court as I’m sure it would when his funds came up missing.. She flagged the account – unofficially. About 15 minutes later the two nieces arrived and followed my daughter and me to our friend’s cabin (it was the first time either of them had been there). When we pulled into the driveway I realized I should have listened to my husband. I’m usually a rational person but as I exited my daughter’s truck and walked into the back yard I began to scream. The entire scene was so surreal that it took a moment to register that the screams were coming from me. All I could do was walk around in horror, looking at the rain-soaked remnants of his life scattered about and piled up. I kept screaming “His life mattered” over and over. I was bending over, clutching my thighs. The next day I noticed that I’d clutched my thighs so hard that I’d left bruised “fingerprints” on the skin. We entered the house and immediately my daughter (who had been in law enforcement for 12 years until sidelined by an  assault) noticed that items that were there four days ago were now gone. His chain saws, toolbox, television, garden tools and collector type steins. The niece called the State Trooper who handled the case. He told her that there was only “junk” there that night. That the wallet was on the desk and after going through it and not finding an  “In Case of Emergency” card, he left it on the desk. He said there were a lot of DVD’s on the desk as well and the only thing of any value was a snowblower. Then she asked where the gun was that her uncle used to commit suicide. He told her he put it inside the house that night before he left. The light went off at the same time in both my daughter and my head. We motioned for the niece to ask the type of gun and when he told her, we had our answer. The gun the landlady walked out with was the suicide weapon which the family believes belonged to my friend’s late father, similar to the gun I have mounted on the wall that belonged to my late father. Relics of the past but still capable of wreaking disaster.  The niece called the trooper back and told him the snowblower, DVD’s, wallet and gun were all missing along with many other items. She began to tell him about everything that was missing, of how my family witnessed the landlady and “caretaker” removing items, that the landlady put the gun in her car along with items she said she could sell.  At my urging the niece asked why the house was left unlocked/unsecured the night of April 21 to which he replied there were no valuables, not even money in his wallet. Value, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. I treasure a book while others treasure an e-reader. It’s all selective. A young trooper who was on duty that day reluctantly came to the house at our request and as I repeatedly ticked off the missing items, he kept mentioning landlord rights. Finally one of the nieces told him that she had quickly researched the laws in our state and that a landlord has to give the family (14) days to go though the deceased’s belongings yet this landlady was seen removing items before the family was even told. The young trooper brought up that the police did not know who the next of kin was. I didn’t respond to his comment but in my opinion it was all excuses. We live in a small, rural community where nothing is sacred. All it would have taken is a quick glance inside the local phone book where the estranged brother (who had the same last name) was listed. A simple carefully worded phone inquiry by the police to determine if he was related to my friend. I guess they didn’t think of that.The young trooper and my daughter eventually went down the lane to the “caretakers” house. I was not surprised to learn that this “caretaker” had several expensive items that belonged to my friend in his truck and on his property including the snowblower. The police helped my daughter load them into her vehicle and as she prepared to leave, something on the man’s truck seat caught  her eye – it was my friends key ring that was always  attached to his belt and included his PO box key. She took it and gave to his niece when she and the young trooper returned. The trooper said it was “ok” that the neighbor had my friends possessions because he might have been “protecting” them. When I protested and then brought up the gun removed by the landlady, he started telling me about “landlord rights”. I asked if that included selling a deceased tenants personal effects before the family had been notified? Or do landlord rights mean they can take ownership of a gun used in a suicide? I was then told ” You need to stop talking and be quiet”. I asked why? Was it because I was pointing out how poorly the scene was left by the police? That the police had a well documented record of the many, many times my friend had called them to complain that this “caretaker” had entered his cabin while he was out shopping.  That I had been present when my friend set his little string traps and present when we returned and found them torn away. That just because he lived alone at the end of a dirt road on heavily wooded land his life mattered so why were they acting as if it didn’t? He never answered any of my questions. Before departing he told the niece that he had instructed the caretaker that he was not allowed on the property or allowed to remove anything for one week. That was on May 2, eleven days after my friend committed suicide. eight days after the wrong relative was notified, and three days after the correct relative was notified – by me. Perhaps I need a refresher course in math but somehow none of this adds up to a family being given two weeks to go through the deceased’s belongings.  Before he left the niece asked that the gun be returned and he said he would “pass it along”.  Because my friends key ring with his PO box key was found in the caretakers truck, I called the post office where my friend received his mail. I was told that it had been full “for a while but looks like he must have picked everything up”.   I told the postal worker that he was deceased as of April 21 and no pick ups should be made until the family arrived with legal documents. My dear friend purchased DVD’s online and in March was excited because he’d just received the final DVD in the Star Wars saga. I remember it distinctly because my husband took him to the post office then they both came to my church’s Warming Center where they played checkers and chess and volunteered in the clean up process every week. My friend was so happy that day and I remember thinking how good it was to see him smile. I am not a Star Wars fan but believe it is an extensive collection yet not a single DVD of any type nor electronic device was found in the cabin. He had purchased a state of the art printer  this spring – that too was missing.
A few days later I went to a local appointment. The person I had the appointment with asked why I looked so glum. I tried to hold back tears and said that a dear friend had committed suicide. Remember I mentioned in the last paragraph that we live in a small community? The person I had an appointment with not only knew of my friend’s suicide within days, but intimate details that could only have come from someone who had been present in an official capacity. Perhaps along with my math refresher course I need to brush up on confidentiality. To me, maintaining confidentiality,  both casual and legal, is of paramount importance for varied reasons but then perhaps when it involves a suicide it ceases to exist.
Today is May 11. I called this afternoon and our friend is still in the morgue. His next of kin (brother) previously told me he can’t do anything because their computer is “on the fritz”. I cannot comprehend this on any level. Our friend, on several occasions,  said that he wanted to be cremated to both me and then again to my husband. I informed his out-of-state brother of my friends end of life wishes. I also gave him the name and number of two local crematorium that I see used frequently. My friend did not want his  ashes, interred. He did not want the VA involved in his end of life wishes, despite being in the USN with an honorable discharge. I never said he didn’t have quirks  ~ who doesn’t? I gave all of this information to the next of kin, his out-of-state brother and his sister-in-law. They are somewhat “well off”, my dear friend wanted a very simple no fills cremation. In this state the average no frills cremation is $1,000.  So again, why does my friends earthly body remain in a cold metal drawer nearly three weeks after his death? He had a notebook on his person which contained a generic suicide note. There is also a small sealed envelope that appears to have a paper inside. The envelope has my full legal name on the front but I am not allowed to have it as I am not family.  I have the legal rights of a turnip. He was my friend. He was a good friend to my husband and a good friend to my daughter. He adored my animals as I did his. He was a kind but tortured soul, a gentle and loving man who had been misjudged and mistreated by society so he withdrew. Coming from the ashes of  horrific childhood abuse, my primary coping mechanism is withdrawal. I take a step back from life for a few days, read a book or two,  put my thoughts in perspective and rejoin the living. My friend did not come from an abusive childhood but had suffered in a way similar to me so we shared a common denominator. We were also both very passionate people who loved animals more than we did many people we met. We shared a voracious love of reading. He was never boring as he could carry a conversation in just about any subject. His intelligence never ceased to amaze me. He loved the outdoors, the beauty of a bird in flight or bee pollination. He treasured Mother Earth and all her splendors. He had a sarcastic wit that was as sharp as an ice forged German-made knife yet not a devious or dishonest bone in his body. I’m not sure if I can define the single event that started our friendship, but I will be forevermore changed because of it. My biggest regret is that I had not met him 20 years ago because he brought so much kindness, joy and compassion to my life.  His chair at my dining room table will always be his. I will miss him until the day I die. I think of him constantly. The hauntingly beautiful wind chimes he gave me for my birthday last year have taken on a new meaning. I wish that I could talk to him again, to laugh at his emails about the government, listen to him speak softly in a misty voice about losing one of his precious girls. I’d give anything to wash his clothes one more time, or have him hand me some fresh produce he grew in his beautiful garden. And if I were to see him tomorrow, I wouldn’t ask him “why” but instead tell him how very loved he was and still is. To many it now appears he was just the odd man in the cabin at the end of the road but to my family he was so much more. I could write pages and more pages yet never capture the essence of this dear soul. He was a much-loved friend. His life had value and merit yet at this moment, I feel as if I am the only one who recognizes that. Tomorrow will be three weeks since his death and still no arrangements. The last I heard a nephew was reaching out to the VA to see if they would help contribute towards the cremation fee, even knowing that he expressed no involvement by the VA.

I’ve done the religious processing but it has not helped as I continue to flounder. I’m supposed to accept that his essence has departed this world and his earthly body is just a mere vessel. Why must we, as civilized people then, show no respect for these “earthly’ bodies?

This is tearing me apart and I am unable to process my grief in a constructive, healing way because I feel as if my friend’s life is being invalidated. He was a kind gentle person with a true love of animals. He was extremely intelligent and well read. He was a war hero. He was a son, a brother, an uncle and a beloved friend. Does none of that matter?

The aftermath of my friends suicide on April 21 has been marked by what I consider a complete lack of respect, compassion and authority. I’m at a pivotal point in life as a legal matter that started in 2012 is finally coming to trial in June yet at this moment, on this night, I can say without a doubt that I do not have the emotional stamina to endure it. Yet once again, we cannot get a continuance because he was not “family”. Even though his family in the legal sense had only seen him very briefly over the years with some never setting foot in his house. His out-of-state brother and sister-in-law told me they did not have his correct phone number. It was listed in the phone book! He spent holidays with us, movies, summer swimming and gardening, fall hikes, rescue trips out-of-state to pick up dogs transported up from southern kill shelters, He trusted me with his coins, his passwords, his mail. Yet I remain odd man out and I cannot seem to move forward. Even when my own parents died, a stark reminder of y early abuses, I handled the details with dignity because at the end of the day, I have to live with the consequence of my actions. Now, I cannot act, I have no legal say, the authorities won’t talk to me, so I suffer inside each day. I reached out to someone who specializes in grief support but the earliest appointment is the middle of June. The only thing I know for sure is that my friends tragic death on April 21 has been marked by what I consider a complete lack of respect, compassion and authority by nearly everyone involved and it’s killing me.

His life truly mattered…