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            I’ve been fascinated by the term “Self-Storage” for a long time. I would see the signs on the side of the highway as we drove to visit my brother’s family, and I’d wonder, why not just call it “storage?” “Self-storage” sounds so ominous, as if you are being asked to store your soul in a box.


So, of course, I’ve been trying for years to plan out a science fiction story about a society where it’s possible to store your “self,” or parts of yourself, for varying periods of time. Maybe if you wanted to do a task that was disgusting to you, or that seemed immoral, you could store the moral part of yourself temporarily. Or if you were grieving and the pain was preventing you from moving forward with your life, you could store your emotional self for a few years, until you could get your life back on track.

            I picture self-storage as something that would be available mostly to people with money. For a smaller fee, maybe, you could remove single strands of thought, like the strands of memory Dumbledore kept in vials and revisited in his pensieve in the Harry Potter books. But those single thoughts would degrade more quickly and be lost more easily.

            And then there would be the danger of putting too much of yourself in storage at one time, and becoming someone so completely different that you couldn’t figure out how to return to yourself, or wouldn’t want to.

            And what would happen if you couldn’t pay your storage fees? Would your parts be sold to the highest bidder? Or destroyed?

“Don’t try it.”

            I think people might want to use self-storage to get through something grueling, like medical school or a prison term. Or after experiencing a traumatic event, like rape, or a natural disaster, like a flood or a bad presidency.


            Some self-storage places might offer therapy for the reintegration process, but of course that would only be affordable for the premium customers, and there would be a range of prices and qualities of storage available, depending on how much money you could spend. Maybe the cheaper places would use less effective drugs for the processes of removal and reinsertion of the self, or harsher chemicals for the storage of the self, which would make the self degrade more quickly. Some places would have expert self-removers who could do it safely and cleanly and without excess pain, and others would just use a rusty nail, or the equivalent, and leave you to manage the pain on your own.

“A rusty nail?!!!”

            The dangers would be many, of course, and you’d have to buy self-removal insurance, in case the technology went wrong or a clerical worker lost your “self” or confused it with someone else’s. There could also be side effects, though I don’t know what they would be.

“That doesn’t sound good.”

            The self-storage story would, of course, be an allegory for the damage we do to our personalities when we try to deny our memories, or our feelings, and do things that we don’t really want to do. Whether we use alcohol or drugs, or dissociation, or workaholism, or denial, or all of these things at once, our often well-meant attempts to separate ourselves from pain have unwanted side effects that can become life altering. But we are still, endlessly, drawn to these behaviors, because without them our pain often makes life unlivable.

            I think of the self-storage idea around the Holocaust, both because of the human experimentation the Nazis did on their victims, and because of the ways regular Germans, and so many others, were able to ignore the horror of the concentration camps, and all of the events that led up to the final solution, because they were told to think of Jews, gay people, Gypsies, and the disabled as not truly human. I also think about how the Holocaust survivors had to make it through life after the camps, forced to compartmentalize in order to function in the “normal” world. So many people had to squash their memories, of the horror, and of their lives before the horror, just to survive.

            I think of Butterfly, my rescue dog who survived eight years as a puppy mill mama and lived with the resulting medical and psychological wounds for her 4 ¾ years with us until she died. She blossomed and found joy and learned how to live as a real dog, but some parts of her were forever in hiding, unable to heal.

My Butterfly

Humans have a hard time accepting the reality of wounds that deep, and are forever looking for ways to remove the memories, and deny the pain, and to pretend life is universally good. But that need for easy answers takes a toll on us, and on society at large. If you put yourself, or your soul, in storage for too long, can you ever get it back?

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

A Butterfly Bush


The other day, when I was looking through pet blogs, as I always do, I came across a wonderful idea for how to honor Miss Butterfly: plant something beautiful with her ashes. Mom loved the idea, because she’s a gardener, and she immediately envisioned a pink Butterfly Bush as the appropriate tribute, and found the perfect spot for it, with enough sun, and drainage, and space to grow.

pix from eos 051

My Butterfly

I had to research Butterfly Bushes, of course, and at first I was overwhelmed with articles about the negatives: how Butterfly Bushes are non-native plants, and invasive, and kill off native plants, and kill off insects, and on and on. But I persisted in my reading and found other views, and Mom was adamant that the positives outweigh the negatives.

But I’m still reluctant. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to say goodbye to Butterfly, or when. I don’t want to scatter her ashes too soon, because then I could never get them back. As if I still have her with me, because I still have her ashes. And scattering Miss Butterfly’s ashes here means that she can’t go with me if I ever choose to leave. And if the Butterfly Bush doesn’t survive well, then I won’t have the chance to replant her ashes somewhere else.

I didn’t feel this way when Dina, my black lab mix, died, at sixteen years and two months old. I’d had her for her whole life, minus the first eight weeks, and I saw her through every complicated stage of her development. I had Butterfly for less than five years, and it just wasn’t enough, even though she herself was ready to go.

I think the Butterfly Bush may be the right answer for us, because Miss B loved the backyard here. She loved running up the hill, through mounds of rotting leaves, and then racing back to our front door with her tongue hanging out and her eyes shining. This was her safe place. And she knew it from the first day, when two white butterflies greeted her with their fluttering wings.


I know that I need to have some kind of marker, and ceremony, to say goodbye to Miss B. I know I need to make peace with the loss of my girl. But I still don’t want to say goodbye.

Butterfly's bush

The Butterfly Bush resting at home


If you want to see the post that inspired me:


Chasing the Light


Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, started on Tuesday night, and it feels like it’s coming along at just the right time. Chanukah is a holiday for celebrating miracles and light (and a few other things that I choose to ignore, because violence and gore are not my thing). The miracles are about the survival of the Jewish people, and a light that shines longer than it ever should have. Of course, in celebrating that light we have to take it too far: if one candle is nice, eight or nine are nicer, if one Menorah is nice, twenty or thirty, or one twenty-foot tall Menorah, is nicer.

menorah21 brooklyn

In Brooklyn (not my picture)

I have been impatiently waiting for some light, especially since Miss Butterfly died, because she radiated light. I’ve tried so hard to generate enough light to fill the void she left behind, but what she did effortlessly I struggle to match.

pix from eos 020

Butterfly, radiating internal light

In a strange coincidence, or not, on Tuesday afternoon we received an envelope in the mail form Butterfly’s clinic, with her collar and tags. They’d lost track of them for five months, but on the first day of Chanukah, they were found (or at least received). Mom took it as a sign that Butterfly wants us to find a new sibling for Cricket. I want to see it that way too, but looking at her little pink Butterfly charm just made me sob.


I want to believe that bringing a new dog home will add light back into our lives. There is a new puppy across the hall, a little black ball of fluff who hops and cries and looks into your eyes until you melt. He makes me think that maybe I could manage a puppy again (I can’t); then there’s his sort-of-sister, Hazel, the mini-Goldendoodle, with her evanescent joy and uncontrollable peeing; and Teddy, our sometime boarder, who went home to find a new sister in his house, a Shih-Poo named Rosie who is doing her best to catch his eye. The light is everywhere, but I can’t quite catch it and hold onto it; I just keep seeing it run past me.

This past weekend, the first snow of the season brought out Cricket’s joy and light. She loves to run through the snow and catch snow balls with her mouth, and dig for hidden snow balls in the snow. I gladly reached down (with my gloves on) for handfuls of snow to keep her entertained. Her capacity for joy is extraordinary, and extraordinary to watch, even in the freezing cold.


“Look at the snowy light dropping from the sky!”


“Throw the ball, Mommy!”

I’ve been trying to look at, but the pages and pages of dogs in nearby rescues and shelters overwhelm me. How do you choose? I want a puppy, but I don’t have the energy. I want a senior dog, like Butterfly, but I can’t go through the trauma of loss again so soon. I want a Great Dane, but I don’t have the room, or the strength. Whenever I see a cute dog who is the right size (no bigger than Cricket), and age (three or four), and doesn’t look too much like Butterfly, I get excited, and then terrified, and then I start crying.

I’m going to need all of the light I can get in order to help me see clearly in the next leg of this journey, and I’m hoping that Chanukah will start me off well, bringing light, and some joy, and maybe even a little bit of hope.


Butterfly leads the way.



Cricket’s Anxiety Disorder


Cricket’s anxiety has increased tenfold since Miss Butterfly died this summer. It’s been five years since we’ve seen Cricket quite this clingy and over the top; not that she was calm and pleasant during Butterfly’s tenure, but she was at least demonstrably better. She’s at a level ten now (or an eleven, really), but for a few years she managed to get down to a seven, or even a six on occasion, with Miss B’s help. Now, Cricket is bullying her Grandma more than ever: physically pushing Grandma around, instead of just moping, and leaning on her, and making puppy dog eyes. If Grandma dares to eat something, Cricket will sit in front of her and yell – “Where’s mine!” – endlessly, until she gets her share. She doesn’t do this with me, partly because she knows I’m a harder nut to crack, but also because I know how to deploy “the look,” persistently, until she loses hope and hides under her couch in frustration. But giving that look wears me out, and the effect is only temporary.





Cricket has her own version of “the look.”


The fact is, Miss Butterfly was the best medicine for all of us. She brought happiness and peace with her everywhere she went. Cricket was pretty sure Butterfly radiated calm from her butt, and therefore sniffed it regularly. Butterfly could even get in Cricket’s face, in a non-threatening way, and interrupt a tantrum.

butterfly front feet on floor copy

It seems obvious that my only option, for the sake of Cricket’s sanity, and Mom’s, is to go out and look for another dog, someone mature and generous and compassionate, to act as Cricket’s therapy dog when needed, and her friend the rest of the time. But I’m not ready. When I try to think about finding a replacement for Miss B, I fall apart. I know I‘m being selfish. I feel cruel leaving Cricket in her current state, just because I’m not ready to let go of Butterfly, and the illusion that she could come back, somehow.

butterfly hair askew

In the near future, we will be pet sitting for an old friend of Cricket’s, a nice old gentleman who used to be my therapy dog, and will now make an effort to bark Cricket into shape, if he can. And then we’ll see. Hopefully having Teddy around will also help me become ready for a new dog, but his Mom made me promise that I won’t try to keep him.


We’ll see.

The Waves of Kindness and Grief


I want to thank all of you for your wonderful words of kindness and support since Butterfly’s death. It feels like you came to virtually sit Shiva with me this week, to mourn for the loss of Butterfly, and to celebrate her life. My rabbi even dedicated a poem to Butterfly at Friday night services, two days after she died, about the sacred nature of animals and our great good fortune at having them in our lives.

I wasn’t sure, when we first adopted Butterfly, as an eight year old rescue with heart problems, if I would be able to bond with her, or if I was just going to take care of her in her old age and learn generosity of spirit. But she became my baby, my heart and soul, my inspiration to become a better person, and a person more capable of joy.


I still have an essay about Butterfly’s last illness, and the roller coaster of doctor visits and hospital stays, but I haven’t been up to editing it yet. The first draft was written before she died, when I expected her to recover, and figuring out how it needs to change, now, has been too hard.

Cricket has shifted in some essential way, internally, as if she needed to make room for part of her sister’s soul. She snuggles with me more than ever before. She eats enough kibble to rival her sister’s moniker of the super pooper. Just this morning, Cricket left two pieces of kibble of the rug again, right where Butterfly would have put them. She’s even giving licks, on occasion. And a brown and yellow tortoise shell butterfly has taken up residence in our bathroom, one of Butterfly’s favorite places to hang out, do her bathmat art, and find peace. Mom set out a cap full of water and a piece of kibble, just in case.




I don’t usually, or ever, advertise products or companies on my blog, and that’s not my intention now, but I have to tell you a story. The day after Butterfly died, a bag of her diabetic dog food arrived from We had a regular order with them, every few months, and it was already on its way when Butterfly died. Mom wrote to them right away to cancel future orders, and explained why, and they immediately sent us a condolence note and refunded the cost of the last bag of food, telling us to donate it to a local animal shelter.

A week later, we received a bouquet of red and white roses from, and Butterfly’s ashes from the clinic, on the same day, at the same time. I had forgotten about the ashes. Mom couldn’t even open the shipping box through her tears, so I put on my bravado and opened the box, removed the paperwork, and then the paper bag with the order form stapled to the front. The process became harder with each step. There was a white box inside of the paper bag, and then gold tissue paper wrapped around a decorative tin with flowers painted on all four sides. This was the end, inside of the tin were the ashes. The decorated tin reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle I once had, stored in a similarly decorated metal tin.

I was overcome by the reality of Butterfly’s ashes, devastated by it, really. We’d never asked for ashes of a pet, or a person, before. It seemed right on the day she died, when the clinic offered us that option, but seeing that tin made me feel sick, and overwhelmed. I didn’t want to scatter her ashes in the backyard, the way we’d originally planned. The idea of it turned bitter in my mind as soon as I saw the tin, as if we would be throwing Butterfly away.

The only comforting thought I could muster at the time was to bring her to my grandfather’s grave, and let her rest there with him. Because they would have loved each other.

We still need to put the bag of dog food in the car and schlep it over to the shelter – which will be hard. And then make the journey to my grandfather’s grave as well, which, for now, feels impossible. The ashes sit behind Butterfly’s picture, which is surrounded by condolence cards, and those red and white roses. And this is where they belong, for now.





A Butterfly Companion


Butterfly flits around like a ladybug. I always think she should be wearing ballet slippers and a tutu, the way she twirls and flies. She is gossamer. Her wings are so ethereal that they are almost invisible. Almost.

My Butterfly

My Butterfly

She doesn’t seem to be like any other dog I’ve known. I’m used to moody dogs, dogs with personality problems, dogs who use guilt to push me around, dogs who could be diagnosed using the DSM V. But Butterfly is a different. She poops and barks and begs for treats, yes, but she’s also untouchable in a way, so sweet as to be unreal.

"Gimme some sugar!"

“Gimme some sugar!”

In a way her butterfly-ness is upsetting, because she is always a bit out of reach. Cricket will jump on me and curl up on my chest, or my hip, while I’m sleeping. She scratches me and shrieks in my ear. She is solid and real and in vivid color. Butterfly is something other than that, an enigma at times, in deep thought about something I can’t know.

When Butterfly’s sugar is very low, she seems as light and airy as a butterfly; within moments she seems to lose most of her body weight; this is the most frightening thing, both for her and for me. Her eyes bulge and she alternates between staring into space and looking at me and shaking. She doesn’t know what to do. Even she thinks this is too much lightness to bear.

I feel so much safer when she is solid in my arms, or galloping down the hill. Then she is real and alive and none of her paws are reaching towards another world. But there is always this tendency to unreality with her. She drifts away, either because her physical health is shaky, or, more often, because she is lost in another state of mind, thinking of some other place, or thinking of nothing at all.

I wonder what she's thinking.

I wonder what she’s thinking.

My mom was kind of like this when I was growing up. When she was present, her love was obvious and full of joy, but then she would disappear, either leaving the house or just leaving her body, and there was no way to reach her. I always wanted to hug her, or yell at her, to bring her back to life, and to me. Mom also has the same sweetness and generosity of spirit as Butterfly, where you can’t quite believe how lucky you are to be loved so much.

I know that Butterfly loves me. When we go outside and she runs off for a minute and turns back, the joy in her face at seeing me, and the flying run she takes to return to me, is extraordinarily good for my self-esteem.

But she can be very independent. If she doesn’t want to be crowded, she’ll just walk away and find a place to be alone. When Cricket does this, she chooses a place nearby, where she can stare at me, and let me know that I have disappointed and annoyed her. But when Butterfly wants to be alone, it’s not about me; she’s not angry at me, or jealous of Cricket, or pouting, she just wants to be alone: on the mat by the front door, on the rug in my room when I’m not there, on the bathmat in the bathroom.

When Cricket is grumpy, she wants me to know about it.

When Cricket is grumpy, she wants me to know about it.

Butterfly prefers to keep her thoughts to herself.

Butterfly prefers to keep her thoughts to herself.

It would almost be better if she was reacting to something I’d done, because at least then I’d feel like I mattered.

It’s possible that a lot of things in my life have had this fleeting, ethereal quality to them, and I write it all down to capture it and remind myself that it was real and not just my imagination. I worry about that, about losing wisps of my life into the air as if they never happened, losing people and memories and emotions because I wasn’t quick enough to tie them down and secure them before the rains came.

I love Butterfly all the time, whether she is close and present, or dreamy and far away. But the pull of grief when she’s flitting away can be incredibly painful. There’s a reason why most people don’t have butterflies as pets.

White butterflies.

Butterfly’s white butterflies.

Chasing A Butterfly


Butterfly is diabetic, and she has created a ritual for her morning blood test. She sees that I am going to the shelf where her testing kit lives, and with great excitement she runs to the hallway. She makes sure that I can see her, and then runs a few feet away, and then she turns back to check on me, to make sure I’m following her. She makes a dance of it, turning back three or four times down the fifteen foot hallway, bouncing on her toes in between twirls.

"Is it time yet?!

“Is it time yet?!

"Aren't you coming to the bus stop, Mommy?"

“Aren’t you coming to the bus stop, Mommy?”

Then she lands at her bus stop in Grandma’s room. And I mean lands. She flattens herself into a down position and waits for me to pick her up. Then I carry her back to the living room, sit her on my lap, and start the testing procedure.

"You can pick me up now!"

“You can pick me up now!”

At first, when it came time to pick up Butterfly for her blood tests, Cricket would escape to her apartment under the couch. She was very concerned that this blood testing idea would spread, like a virus, like a bath-giving, haircutting virus. But over time she started to notice that not only was Butterfly the only target for the needles, there was also a very reliable treat give-away after the test. So Cricket began to sit by my feet as Butterfly’s blood was tested. I even caught her sniffing the testing kit once, as if she could smell the chicken treats by association.

"We want treats! We want treats!"

“We want treats! We want treats!”

We take blood twice a day from Butterfly’s tail. We tried the veins in her ears, and her paw pads, and the callus on her elbow, but none of them worked, and then I saw a YouTube video of a dog getting her blood tested from her small cropped tail. Butterfly’s tail is long and skinny, so I wasn’t sure if it would work the same way, but there’s blood available every time and it doesn’t seem to bother her, much.

Her insulin shot goes into the scruff of her neck and usually doesn’t bother her either, but sometimes I hit the wrong spot, or maybe the cold temperature of the refrigerated insulin bothers her, and she flinches. But it’s over in a second and then she’s ready for treats. She never runs away or growls or tries to bite me. Thank God all of this isn’t going on with Cricket. I’d have no fingers left.

If Butterfly’s blood sugar is low, which it often is in the morning, she gets a special bone treat, made with whole wheat flour to raise her blood sugar just enough. Mom got this Bake-A-Bone toy for Mother’s day or her birthday this year from my brother’s family, along with books of recipes for special foods for dogs. I think Butterfly has been talking to their dog, Lilah, and trying to influence the gift choices over there.

The magical bone making toy.

The magical bone making toy.

Bones in process

Bones in process



But if the blood sugar is normal-ish, or high, the girls share a chicken treat. They know where the bag is. They go straight over to the book case and stare up at it. Cricket has even tried to climb the shelves, unsuccessfully. They pull out all of their circus dog tricks if the treats fail to come as quickly as desired. Even Butterfly has learned how to stand on her back legs with her front paws in prayer pose, though she can’t maintain the pose as long as Cricket can. Then Butterfly takes her share and runs to the hall to eat alone. And Cricket inhales her treat whole, coughs a bit, and then stares at me expectantly as if I never gave her a treat at all.

Cricket is starving!

Cricket is starving!

The other day, in the middle of the afternoon, Butterfly had a partial seizure. Her eyes started twitching, her legs wobbled, she walked in circles and couldn’t see clearly, and her body shook. When I calmed down, I tested her sugar and it was very low, the lowest it had ever been. We gave her maple syrup – applied to her gums the way the doctor told us to do, so she’d have no choice but to take it in – and within thirty seconds, she was herself again.         Her doctor warned us about listlessness and even coma, but he never mentioned partial seizures, so thank god for doctor Google.

And Now Butterfly is back to normal. I can be sitting on the couch, or at the computer, or trying to sleep, and she’ll come over as if something very exciting is about to happen. She’ll dip her head and smile at me, and then she’ll run. If I’m too slow, she waits for me, every step of the way, because she wants me to catch her. She wants to flatten out on the floor and get scooped up like a rag doll. It’s her favorite thing, chicken treats or not.


A Butterfly Moment

A Butterfly moment

A Butterfly moment


Sometimes, especially at night, Butterfly likes to do a walking meditation. She’s not overly energetic by then, or full of poop, and she’s sniffed as much as she’s interested in for the day, so while Cricket drags one of the humans up the sidewalk to sniff the world, Butterfly gently but firmly leads the other human to a quieter place in the yard. She walks slowly and with intention. She listens for the wind and the shaking of the leaves. She sniffs the smells that come to her on the air. She takes this time to unwind and let go of whatever didn’t work out from her day so that she can sleep well and wake up refreshed and ready for a new adventure.

Walking meditations are full of joy

Walking meditations are full of joy

Meanwhile, Cricket is practically flattened to the ground to get better traction as she pulls mightily on the leash. She always wants to go towards the street and the cars and the noise. She wants to make every pee trip into a three mile walk, uphill, into traffic.

Cricket is so strong she pulled me back to the Fall

Cricket is so strong she pulled me back to the Fall

When Cricket returns, Butterfly tries to share her calm with her sister. It’s like a Reiki master who warms her hands to build energy before sending energy to someone else, but Butterfly uses her nose. She breathes in the fresh air, paces herself, rests her mind, and then when she sees that her sister is overwrought, she offers a nose to nose check in, and inevitably, Cricket calms down, somewhat (we can’t work miracles here.)

nose to ear, close enough

nose to ear, close enough

Whereas butt sniffing is about curiosity and checking in, nose to nose sniffing is about sharing breath and offering peace. It’s like when you take the hand of a friend who is grieving or in pain and you offer your energy and warmth and life to the other person, as a bridge.

Butterfly really listens to the birds when we go outside. The birds I recognize (with help from my nature loving mom) are the red breasted Robin, the Cardinal, the Baltimore Oriole, and the cowbird. Mom is not a fan of the cowbird. There were also starlings at some point, and a bird whose feathers were left in a pile, like a quickly discarded coat, white with black polka dots.

Butterfly's indoor birdie friend

Butterfly’s indoor birdie friend

I’m not sure if Butterfly knows the differences between the birds, or gets a sense of what they are singing about, but she listens carefully to all of them, and to the sound of the airplanes overhead, or a bus passing by, or the train stopping at the train station. She’s a connoisseur of different sounds and songs, but she doesn’t sing them herself, She just likes to listen.

I wonder if the extra birds hanging out in the yard this summer have been drawn here by Miss Butterfly. She has such a Zen feeling about her that we now have Robins and starlings sitting on the lawn, having their own Butterfly moments, as if two fluffy dogs are not inches away from them.

Even the white cat with brown patches who used to run up the retaining wall at the sight of a dog, has become more relaxed, watching us walk in her direction, even coming up to our front door, and only running away when the dogs make eye contact with her.

Maybe there’s an ad in a newspaper only animals can read, inviting everyone to our backyard for meditation class, and that’s why Butterfly has been barking more often, impatient to get outside to her students.

Butterfly has the ability to dissociate from her body too. She spent eight years in a puppy mill perfecting this skill, so that nothing happening to her or around her had to penetrate her heart and soul. She does this less now, but it’s been a process. When Cricket tears around the room like a pinball, Butterfly will freeze and her face will go blank, for a moment or two, and then she will come back. When my youngest nephew (or his father) decide to drag Butterfly around by the neck, she lets go of herself for a moment, until it’s over, or until she hears me screaming.

Dissociated Butterfly, waiting fro Cricket to stop barking.

Dissociated Butterfly, waiting for Cricket to stop barking.

This is different from meditation. Dissociation is absence, from the mind or body or self, a way to survive, but meditation is something else, it’s sparkly and kind and full bodied and it lets in noise, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. And Butterfly is mastering meditation in our backyard, and, little by little, teaching it to me.

Butterfly's favorite form of meditation - on food.

Butterfly’s favorite form of meditation – on food.

The Broken Butterfly

There’s a special value in rescuing a dog, beyond knowing that you’ve saved someone’s life, or feeling like a good person: a rescue dog is a reminder of the broken things in the world, and of how sacred they are. My rabbi told us that the broken pieces of the first set of tablets of the ten commandments – the ones Moses smashed when he saw his people building the golden calf – were kept in the ark along with the pristine final set of tablets, as a necessary part of the whole.

           Butterfly, with her missing teeth and adorable protruding tongue, her heart murmur and lumps and bumps, is an important part of the whole story. Not all dogs are born to happy families, or adopted by happy families, and taken to the vet each time they have the sniffles. Happiness is only part of the story.

Beautiful Butterfly

Beautiful Butterfly

          Butterfly was recently diagnosed with diabetes. She had a urinary tract infection back in the fall, but with antibiotics it went away. We were curious about why she’d gotten it, but assumed it had something to do with how low to the ground she was when she peed, compared to long-legged Cricket, who practically hovers in the air.

Cricket  hovering, with help.

Cricket hovering, with help.

          As soon as she started to pee in the house again in February, we took her straight to the doctor. The vet on duty did some tests, took an x-ray to rule out kidney stones, and gave us antibiotics for another suspected UTI. We wrapped the pills in chicken and peanut butter and hot dogs and all of her other standbys; we crushed the pills and mixed them with water and then with her food and parmesan cheese. We did everything we could think of just to get the antibiotics into her system, against her will. But not only wasn’t she improving, she looked sicker and sicker every day. She was noticeably lighter when I picked her up, she didn’t do her usual poopie dance, and she stopped waking me up in the morning, waiting instead for me to wake her up and convince her to go outside.

Butterfly, not eating? Cricket is unconcerned.

Butterfly, not eating? Cricket is unconcerned.

          My concern has always been her heart, because she has a prolapsed mitral valve and is at risk for heart failure. I knew this when I adopted her. But it’s a hard thing to remember when she is running and jumping and smiling at me. I was afraid that after a year of watching her flourish, I was going to lose her.

          We collected some of her voluminous pee and brought it to the clinic to be tested, and made an appointment with a different vet. As soon as we met the new doctor he took a blood glucose test, to confirm the results of the urine test, which, he told us, showed very high sugar. In the office that day her sugar was over five hundred. It’s supposed to be under a hundred.

           I was relieved. I’d been so scared that this was heart failure, and she was dying, but diabetes is treatable. The doctor showed me how to give her a shot of insulin in the scruff of her neck. He also gave us a liquid antibiotic to try on her, instead of the dreaded pills, because the UTI was clearly being maintained by the diabetes and needed another round of antibiotics to wipe it out.

          Every morning, and evening, I give her a dose of the antibiotics which she hates, making angry toddler faces and sticking out her tongue, and I give her a shot of insulin, which she doesn’t seem to mind. Some days I do a better job than others. It still feels strange to stick a needle into her skin, and I can be too tentative, but mostly it gets done, and she’s improving.

          The rest of the day, I follow her around with pee test strips to see how the insulin is working.

          The first time I saw her run again after her diagnosis and treatment began, I thought my body would crack open from all of that joy.

Hopefully this is what she'll look like again soon.

Hopefully this is what she’ll look like again soon.

          There is a sort of halo of white light around Butterfly, that could just be the highlights in her hair, but the light could also be coming through her broken pieces. And I want to keep that light going for as long as I can.

Butterfly , spreading the light

Butterfly , spreading the light

Butterfly’s Step Training


For Butterfly’s Gotcha day, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to celebrate. She has been with us for a year now and the difference in her is extraordinary. She barks, and begs for snacks, and runs like the wind, and disobeys me, like a real dog. She almost never goes blank anymore the way she used to do. She loves her sister, she follows me everywhere, and she looks forward to her goodnight kiss from Grandma.

My first thought was to buy her a new pink leash, to replace the one she had drenched in pee and mud, but that was more of a present for me. Then I wanted to get her a special ID tag, one that doesn’t just announce her inoculation status. Her most recent tag from the doctor is actually blue, which is not her color.

            I like to be thorough and waste printer paper and toner when I do research, so I printed out ten or fifteen options for Mom to look at from her seat on the couch. There were tags in the vague shape of a butterfly. There were brass and plastic and steel tags. There were flowers and dogs and fire hydrants and bones, and quite a lot of tags devoted to sports teams. But the one I liked best was round and pink, with a colorful butterfly painted on the front, and her info etched into the back. I found a red one with a silver heart for Cricket, so she wouldn’t feel left out.

Cricket, my red girl

Cricket, my red girl

Butterfly's butterfly

Butterfly’s butterfly

            But I still didn’t feel like her present was a real present for HER. I always want birthday presents that will change my life and I wanted the same for Butterfly. And I thought about the doggy steps I’d seen all year in catalogs and at the pet store. For a year now, I’d been air lifting Butterfly onto the bed whenever she barked for uppies, and air lifting her down when she demanded to see her sister. But she’s become very insistent that this air lift be available every few minutes, and in the middle of the night. There’s a pain in my upper back that I blame entirely on her.

            I’d been putting off the doggy steps for most of the year, because Mom, whose father was a consumer advocate, on the board of Consumer Reports, believes that shopping takes time, months, really, of comparing, contrasting, forgetting, and starting over again. No more of that. I did my printing-out-options routine, wasting a very satisfactory amount of multi-purpose paper, and decided on a set of steps and ordered them right away, before the comparing, contrasting and forgetting could set in.

            It turned out that Mom was more excited than I was when the doggy steps finally arrived. I carried the box up to the apartment and went to bed, at one o’clock in the afternoon, as I often do. I could hear a lot of banging and crashing noises, par for the course with some of Mom’s do-it-yourself projects, so, nothing to worry about. And then the steps appeared, all snapped together, and hollow, and ready to place at the side of the bed. We tried a few different positions for the steps, to see where they’d be most stable, and least likely to trip me in the middle of the night.

            But the girls were not excited about their new furniture. When I picked up Cricket and tried to put her on the top step, she scrambled out of my arms and jumped to the floor and squeezed herself under my bed.

Can you see Cricket under there?

Can you see Cricket under there?

            Butterfly was less frightened, especially when I spread pieces of chicken treat across the steps. I placed her on the top step, and gave her a treat. We did that ten times. Then I placed her on the middle step and she climbed onto the bed and got a treat. We did that another ten times. We did sessions like this twice a day, until Butterfly could climb up all of the steps to the bed herself. She still refused to put her paws on the first step by herself, though. She sat and trembled on the floor and tried to run away.

Froggy tried the steps first

Froggy tried the steps first

Butterfly can fly!

Butterfly can fly!

Cricket refused to be seen even touching the steps. She came over, when she thought no one was looking, and twisted herself into knots to get at the leftover treats, without putting two paws at a time on any given step. She developed some quite beautiful ballet moves this way, and seemed to be teaching herself how to get whiplash from a standstill.

Cricket is cleaning up

Cricket is cleaning up

Cricket's dance moves

Cricket’s dance moves

            Butterfly took to hoovering up a row of chicken treats in one gulp, to prevent Cricket from getting to them. I worried this would lead to choking, but so far she has managed to keep herself alive.

            Butterfly has gotten to the point where she will run into my room, and flatten herself on the floor so that I can pick her up and place her on the steps, but she won’t put a paw up on the steps by herself. I may have to find more valuable treats for the next step of this adventure.