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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An ode to Kate

I love my black lab Kate.  She is an amazing dog I love with all my heart and soul. She has never hurt me. She has not broken my heart. She is dedicated. She is loyal in the extreme. She makes me laugh daily.  She has proven to be remarkably adaptive. In fact she experienced her first foray into Midtown Manhattan and she not only survived but thrived. However, our relationship did not get off to the best start. Let me explain because it was all my fault.

I got Kate from a great breeder in New York.  I was all on board for a labrador. My big yellow lab Burt that grew up with my son was getting old. I guessed Burt was a year or two away from death. I had spoken to the vet and many other dog owners and all stated raising a puppy was easier with another dog in the house. They were correct. Kate was a gentle and loving puppy in contrast to Burt who was a nightmare puppy from hell. He did not cry when left alone. He howled. Looking back he experienced acute separation anxiety. Burt though turned out to be the most loyal animal that ever existed. He was not very smart but he had loyalty embedded in his DNA. My son and I joke if we asked Burt to jump off a cliff he would do so without hesitation. If we asked Kate to do the same she would look at us like we were nuts. Both labs but very different personalities and approach to life.

The problem with Kate is that I dislike raising puppies. In other words Kate was fine. The so called problem rested with me. In raising Kate I learned I like other people's puppies. I get to laugh and coo over how cute they are and leave the work to the owner. Kate was cute in the extreme and I do love her puppy pictures. She came to me at eight weeks and weighed under 10 pounds. She melted my heart. She is 11 years old now and a slender 62 pounds. She has not slowed down one iota as she has aged. She has been described by a friend as a pepper pot. Another person I once knew called her jingle dog.

My one and only fond memory of her puppyhood was watching her interact with Burt. Burt loved to play catch but as he approached the end of life he could not run any more. When I would throw a ball as Burt aged the distances got shorter and shorter. This made Burt sad. Enter Kate. I would throw the ball as far as I could and down a sharp hill. Burt would amble away from me to the edge of my driveway and watch Kate speed by at warp speed. She would retrieve the ball and rather than give it to me she would drop the ball next to Burt. Burt's tail would go crazy as he brought he ball back to me. He and Kate loved this game. I did too. We played it every day. To me this game was adpatation at its finest. It made me proud too. In fact when I tell this story I get teary eyed. I have thought a lot about Kate, Burt, friendships, love, and loneliness. I have tried to find some comfort in who I am as I age. And aging I am. My son told me his roommate saw a picture of me online and thought I looked distinguished. Shit, I replied that is another word for old. Way old.

My stay in New York City obviously stoked a flood of forgotten memories and prompted much self reflection. I lived in the city as a young married man. My son was born in New York City. My 20s and early 30s were filled with many milestones. Life was ahead of me. Fast forward to today.  Life has not gone according to plan. I doubt life ever goes as one expects but I seem to struggle more than others. Yet I also know and will always acknowledge I am exceptionally lucky. I have had rock solid family support. I have forged deep and meaningful friendships. I enjoy speaking at various universities. I love to teach college students. I enjoy my work immensely. I have had a good life. A good atypical life. And frankly the atypical part of my life makes me angry. The issues I encounter are needless: specifically travel, mass transportation, and housing nightmares. All are fraught with bias, bigotry, and a gross lack of access. The mere fact I have not let this troika kill my spirit is satisfying by itself. The lack of access, culturally and physically, remains deeply embedded in American society. Worse, very few people care and I often find myself stating no one gives a shit. I state this without rancor. It is just a fact. Bottom line: I live in a hostile world in which my presence alone  is a problem. Want a hotel room in New York City? Be ready to make many phone calls and hope what is said and promised are reality. Want to rent a car? Be prepared to make many phone calls and know despite the energy and time expended the odds are 50/50 a car will be present. Want to move to Syracuse? Know that 99% of places for rent are not accessible. Ask a real estate agent for assistance or approach a building and inquire about an accessible apartment? Expect sorry I cannot help or there is a three to five year waiting list for an accessible apartment. Effort expended on the part of others? Zero. Interest in why no accessible housing exists--zero.  So yes I am mad. I am a bad cripple for good reason. In comparison to the bipedal people the social and physical environment is designed for Kate is looking pretty good. She cares and loves me.


Lisa Michelle said...

Kate is wonderful. Loved her in class visit.

Alex Schadenberg said...

She sounds like an amazing dog. She was good at the euthanasia symposium.

william Peace said...

It appears Boston and Baltimore are cities she struggles in. Toronto was great. Look forward to biking along the lake this summer.