DEAR GILES

I cut off my facial hair yesterday evening. You remember that I was growing out the patch of hair on my chin for the last few years, and it was getting close to a foot long. It was scraggly and full of gray. Today, I find myself stroking my beard, but it’s not there. And I’ll go to rest my chin on my hand in a way that accommodated the beard, but again, the beard was not there as expected. It’s like how we kept reaching for ways of being in the everyday world in those first weeks after you left and discovering that you’re no longer there with us, Giles.

sleeping
Picture from March 4, 2015.

DEAR GILES

Time flies. I’m not quite sure what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. Here we are in May already, though.

The May Day Parade that goes through Powderhorn Park was this past Sunday. It brings in a huge crowd, and we saw streams of cars, bicycles, people, and dogs go by even though we’re a few blocks away from the park. Otis, we think, was a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff, and he seemed a bit anxious for a couple of days after, reverting back to some of his scared-of-everything behavior that he showed the first week he lived with us.

It’s been so refreshing working in Ramsey County Library again. People have been so nice to me, and I’ve felt such a deep sense of collegiality from staff.

split rock
Picture from August 21, 2013.

DEAR GILES

I missed you pretty fiercely last night all of a sudden when I was working at the library.

We think you would’ve really loved Otis, our new dog. He’s a bigger dog, and you generally didn’t take to big dogs but rather wanted to fight them. However, he’s very laid back and loves dogs, so we think you would’ve gotten used to him pretty quickly and enjoyed his company.

Otis has started to perk up quite a bit and isn’t scared of everything. He seems to love squirrels and rabbits as much as you did and is pulling mightily on his leash when he spots them. He also loves cats–at least for now since he hasn’t actually interacted with one like you did (to semi-disastrous results).

belly
Picture from August 18, 2015.

DEAR GILES

Still under the weather. I ended up taking sick days on both Monday and Tuesday, although I still had to do a couple hours of work each day (more effort to reschedule/cancel those things than to slog through them in my sickness daze).

I’m feeling a bit better now but still greatly fatigued. And now instead of a sore/pained throat, I am totally congested and phlegmy. I have to go expel some sputum regularly at the sink. It’s quite disgusting, and I want to do still is just lie around.

mashing potatoes
Picture from November 28, 2013.

DEAR GILES

Urgh. It was busy last week, and apparently my immune system couldn’t handle all that was going on. I was dragging Friday through the weekend, and Sunday night, I finally understood I was fighting off a cold or the onset of severe seasonal allergies or something because my throat started hurting. I have some important meetings and webinars today and tomorrow, but I’ll be taking a sick day anyways and just attending those things that would be a pain to reschedule.

Last week, I attended an introductory course on JavaScript, and it was helpful, but I will need to sit down with the language and practice it a lot before I am comfortable doing things with it. I also went to an in-service day at the library where I’m back as a sub. It was wonderful to hear what the system is doing, and everyone was so welcoming in letting me know how happy they were to see me back.

side eye
Picture from December 6, 2015.

DEAR GILES

I wonder if you remember how scared you were of everything when you first came to live with us. You also weren’t feeling that well because of an infection. Mr. Frog says that you were so terrified of different floor surfaces that you didn’t leave the little floor rug we placed you on for a whole day. We could pick you up, though, and carry you places when you were terrified because you were only 16 pounds or so. Otis is about 70 pounds, so it’s not possible just to scoop him up when he gets terrified. Maybe when he’s more comfortable with us, we can pick him up, but at this point, we can’t even give it a try when he freezes up and tries to hide.

food hound
Picture from December 27, 2013.

DEAR GILES

Today was our first full day with Otis/Oats. In this picture from yesterday evening when we first got home with him and were hanging out in the yard to help him feel more comfortable before going inside, he looks quite a lot like you.

Otis from behind

The picture is kind of surprising since you two look nothing alike from the front. Still, I like to think that you are passing on the torch to Otis as our four-legged companion. He’ll need a lot of encouragement to build his confidence. He was doing really well for the first couple of walks. And then this afternoon, we inadvertently took him over a metal grate that startled him so intensely that he slipped his collar and ran off to the edge of the pier at the park’s pond. He was terrified after that and has been unresponsive to us when before he had paid attention to us even if he didn’t know what we wanted him to do. Still, we played fetch in the yard after we returned from that scary walk. And this evening, we went to the park again, and though he was still less responsive than he was before, we made it around the pond past the pier. He was definitely very unhappy about that area, but we coaxed him along.

We miss you a lot, and I’ll be telling Otis all about you and the adventures we had together.

naps
Picture from May 12, 2013.

DEAR GILES

We brought home Otis yesterday. He’s a scaredy dog, much like you were when you first came to live with us. He was happy getting in the car from his foster home, but once we got to our house, he didn’t want to get out of the car. And then he was afraid to go inside the house from the yard, so we hung out with him for a half hour to get him a bit more comfortable first. Everything new is scary for him.

Otis in my spot

This morning, he’s a little more comfortable in some ways. He already made himself at home in my spot on the couch, much like you liked to do.

spot stealer
Picture from December 6, 2015.

DEAR GILES

The door buzzer just went off and stayed buzzing. I checked at the door, but no one was there. I fiddled with the buzzer button, and the buzzing stopped. Creepy.

Yesterday, we met a dog at his foster home. We met another dog shortly after that across town as well. And then Mr. Frog requested to adopt that first dog we saw. There’ll be a home visit this afternoon (while I’m at work at the library), and if the foster person okays our residence for the dog, he’ll come to live with us–perhaps as soon as this evening! It’s happening really quickly all of a sudden. Mr. Frog had been sending out inquiries to meet with dogs for a couple of weeks and not gotten much response. As I mentioned about last weekend, we stopped by a few adoption events where foster people bring the dogs in their care to a central location (usually a pet store) for people to meet. The dog we’re thinking about adopting wasn’t at one of those events, but after last weekend’s visits, when I was looking up one of the dogs we did see, I saw the dog’s picture and thought he would be a lovely companion. As a dog, he reminds me of you in some ways, of course, but Mr. Frog and I were also clear with each other that we would not adopt a beaglish dog because he or she would remind us too much of you. This dog is much bigger but also had come from a shelter where he lived for 8 months previously (!). That’s a very long time to be in a shelter, and he wasn’t put down because the staff loved him so much, but he did not show well to prospective adopters because he is a very nervous dog. That part reminds me of you, and it’s something that makes my heart melt. I want to help him become more confident and feel safe in the world the way we did with you.

sleeping
Picture from January 14, 2014.

DEAR GILES

It’s your birthday today, Mr. Giles. You would’ve turned 12. Mr. Frog and I will do something special together in your memory. Maybe I’ll pick up some cupcakes to share on your altar tonight. And we can take a long walk together–it’s sunny out today although rather chilly.

sleep u
Picture from January 24, 2016.

DEAR GILES

Yesterday, I was thinking about how my therapist a few years backed asked, sort of out of the blue one session, whether I thought the world was a safe place. The way he asked it, I realized for the first time that there are people who function in this world with a belief that things are good and that good will come to those who are good people. I understood that people, let’s call them well-adjusted, see the world as a place where things make sense, and even when bad things happen, there’s a reason and the potential for justice. I also understood, though, that my therapist could tell that I didn’t believe these things and at the root of everything, I was perhaps a pessimist and a nihilist.

I didn’t really know what to do with that realization, and I still don’t. I think this core belief is especially troubling because it battles mightily with my expressed belief in hope and in social justice–the ability to make things better in the world for everyone, especially those who are oppressed. And I’m struggling with this idea still because I find myself burning out in institutions that I see as not valuing this idea of justice and equality, whose modus operandi is to maintain the status quo at all costs and to ignore or outright dismiss any concerns.

***

Yesterday, we stopped by a few meet-and-greet adoption events for dogs around town. We’re not going to adopt another beaglish dog because the reminders of you would be too much. We’re not looking to replace you but to bring another joyful canine presence or two into our lives. Mr. Frog had two other dogs in his life before you/us, but you were my first dog companion.

why hello

DEAR GILES

Today is going well. I woke up, dropped off some books at the library, got bagel sandwiches, and had breakfast in bed with Mr. Frog. I spent the rest of the morning in bed doing some website work and responding to e-mail. Then we took a brief walk to the mailbox a couple blocks away. It’s sunny out. We passed a few dogs in their yards, all doing a good job of barking at us as we passed.

Now that I’m only working one full time job instead of two (and the one I have is a work-from-home situation), I’m getting to spend a lot more time with Mr. Frog. It’s really nice. Just the little conversations we have throughout the day when we’re both home–those are wonderful, even if we don’t talk about anything big… just the little things… like what the doctor said to me when I got a check up last week. Mr. Frog started walking me yesterday and today, too, because I wasn’t doing a very good job of implementing the doctor’s orders to exercise at least 30 minutes a day 3 days a week.

close up sleeping
Picture from January 12, 2015.

DEAR GILES

Tuesday was unexpectedly tough, and I cried some more over missing you. I think it might’ve been because a friend posted about the loss of his partner’s dog. It sneaks up on me, still, that visceral sense of loss that was so overpowering the first few days after you left.

I’m still in catch up mode at work, having gone to a capstone intensive last week, which basically kept me from doing my other work for a full six days what with preparations, travel, and time at the four-day intensive. And I’ll be spending the next couple of days also doing follow up for the intensive, reading students’ prospectus and proposal drafts.

motel room
Picture from August 6, 2014.

DEAR GILES

I’m not sure why I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night (or really early in the morning) a lot in the past few months. While I was still in my library job, I would wake up and stress out about work. Now, I just wake up–either startled by a weird dream or not–and just be awake for a bit. I don’t have a huge problem falling back asleep usually, so if it’s 1, 2, or 3 in the morning, I just go back to sleep. If I wake up at 5 like this morning, though, I sometimes go back to sleep for another hour or so and other times just stay up. I wish I had you to cuddle with when I wake up in the middle of the night. You were always so reassuring a presence, so soft and so comforting. I could pull you close without worrying about disturbing you because although of course I would wake you up, you never seemed to mind and could go back to sleep immediately unlike if I try to spoon Mr. Frog sometimes.

This morning, I woke up from a very strange dream about a smart house and the occult. My dreams often seem to focus on places and people I’ve never met, as this one did, almost as if they’re movies about other people. Sometimes I’m the first-person point of view camera-perspective protagonist, but sometimes my perspective is just like a movie camera in third-person point of view watching other characters and places. My experience of dreams is usually governed by an overarching feeling that may or may not match the manifest content of the dream (and too often that overarching feeling is one of anxiety or uneasiness). And my dreams are often very architectural in quality, focusing on buildings and other spaces in a very deep way (emotionally and otherwise).

This particular dream from which I woke in a bit of a startled mood was about a house that my dream self owned, a large mansion-type house connected directly to a museum type space. The museum didn’t seem to be quite an art museum or a science museum but possibly something in between, like a design and technology one. In any case, it was night time, and I wanted to get into the house, but the power was out (and it was raining outside as well–pathetic fallacy all around!). The museum was open, though, and fully powered. I went through the lower level entrance of the house into a dark hallway. You would think a smart house would have back up generators or something. And here’s where the creepy occult stuff comes in…. The previous owner apparently had been into the occult and had a room in the lower level that was all white with skulls everywhere. I walked by it in the dream and deliberately tried to avoid looking in (of course all the lights worked in that room).

After awhile fiddling around in the dark hallway trying to get in through the security keypad (I didn’t know the pass code), I went into the museum and up a staircase to another entrance into the house. I had the same issue there, of course, because it was dark in the hallway, and I still did not know the pass code for the keypad. During these scenes, at some point I’m also inside the house in some very solidly realized rooms, and there is a creepy feeling throughout. There wasn’t anything particular smart about the rooms I experienced, but that was just one thing I knew about the house in the dram–that it was wired up with all sorts of technology and gadgets and had its own personality. I ended the dream back in the museum, where there are plenty of people still looking at exhibits.

It may be unsurprising that I thought about studying dreams as a researchers when I was in college–in a brief semester when I considered majoring in psychology.

sleeps
Picture from December 12, 2013.

DEAR GILES

It’s weird to be out in the world talking to people and not making you pretty much my only topic of conversation. What else am I supposed to talk about? Is anything else worth talking about?

I walked out to the not-too-close restaurant plaza again today (the same one I went to Wednesday night). On the way there, I saw a few dogs out for walks. I love seeing dogs out for walks. It reminds me of you, of course, and how I got to walk with you every day to see the world through your perspective where everything always seemed so exciting even when we did the same walks all the time.

According to my watch, I walked roughly 8.7 miles today. Aside from the round trip to the restaurant, which should be about 3 miles according to online maps, I don’t know how else I managed to rack up almost 6 miles. I did go up and down the stairs on five trips (I’m on the sixth floor)…. I guess that adds up. In any case, since you passed, my activity monitor on my watch has indicated dismally low activity since I no longer walk at least 2 or 3 miles a day with you.

close up
Picture from June 30, 2014.

DEAR GILES

Today has been going much better because I didn’t have to talk for the whole day and my sinus headaches is gone. Rather than chance the reoccurrence of pain, I went ahead and bought cold/sinus/allergy medicine first thing this morning, and I’ve taken it regularly throughout the day. I’ll probably grab dinner with the other Writing Center staff member this evening and otherwise try to get a lot of reading done. I still need to finish reading this book manuscript to write up a review. And I have a set of six essays to read and score for an award. And I want to get started with Alexander Chee’s Queen of the Night before the end of the week.

I’m missing the experience of reading with you curled up next to me. It was always so wonderful to feel your soft, warm fur next to me while I was already doing something that is one of my favorite things. Your presence and contact just made it that much better. Sometimes I read aloud to you, but you never really seemed to appreciate that so much. I think you were unsure if I was asking you to do something as I droned on. So you would go back to sleep, but you would still try to pay attention a bit in case I mentioned something wonderful like dinner or squirrel.

reading together