When I was thirteen, I had a parakeet. His name was Pudgie, and he was blue. He spent most of his time singing to himself and looking at his reflection in a mirror that hung in his cage, telling himself that he was a “pretty, pretty, pretty bird.”
One day, after school, I came home to find him on the bottom of his cage, feathers puffed out. When I called his name, he climbed up the bars of the cage to get as close to me as he could, but he was too weak to hold himself there for long. I called the vet immediately, sobbing. “My bird is sick,” I remember saying. My mother helped me pack him into the car and take him in for a checkup. He never came home.
But this post is not about Pudgie the budgie. This post is about David.
I met David in 1990. I was five years old. My mother was a firm believer in the benefits of enrolling her children in music lessons at an early age. By five, I had already taken violin lessons for a year and recorder lessons for a year after that. The recorder was my segue to the flute. It was a condition given to me by my mother before she would agree to invest in purchasing another expensive instrument - play the recorder for a year and, if I still wanted to play the flute after that, she would sign me up for lessons. So I served my mandatory sentence with the recorder. And then I met David.
He would have been twenty-eight at the time, the day of our first lesson. He didn't just teach me how to play the flute; David taught me how to be a good person. He taught me about compassion and patience. He taught me about love and respect. He taught me how the smallest acts can make the biggest difference to someone else... And that one of the greatest gifts you can give another person is simply being there for them when they need you. And, looking back at his notes on all of my music books, David was also frequently trying to teach me to slow down and breathe - advice that is applicable in both flute playing and in life.
My bird had died on a Thursday - flute lesson day. As soon as David saw my face, he knew something was wrong. Instead of going over Minuet or Humoresque or whatever piece we were working on that week, David rubbed my back while I sobbed in heart break. David was there, again, when I had to put my dog to sleep. My parents were treating me to takeout from the restaurant of my choice. It just so happened that I wanted burgers from a place that was located just across the street from where David was living at the time. My father saw him out on his balcony, called over to him and explained the situation. That day, David hugged me, as I tried not to cry in the passenger's seat of my dad's black pick-up truck.
When my mother told me David had called, I didn’t need to ask why. I knew he had been undergoing a few tests in the hospital. There is only one reason why people call me when they are sick or when their loved one is sick. They want to know about hospice.
I didn’t want to return his call and acknowledge the reality of the situation. I didn’t want David to die. I don’t want anyone to die, but I especially didn’t want David to die. How could David die?
Why didn’t I stop to say hi to him when I saw him walking on campus back in October? Why hadn’t I made more effort to catch up with him? Had I ever told him what a significant role he’d played in my life?
David was thrilled the day he moved to hospice. He'd been in the hospital for a month, sharing a room with three other people. "I had a shower this morning," he beamed at me when I saw him the next day. But, even in death, David was nothing but gracious. "I've lived a good life," he said. "I earned a PhD. I travelled around the world. I helped make good people," as he said this, he glanced at a friend, standing in the corner of the room. "See. Didn't I tell you I helped make good people?" he asked her.
David died on a Monday in December. I cried when they told me. It was a week and two days after he arrived at hospice. Two and a half days after the last time I saw him.
Instead of a funeral, they held a memorial concert. And, as I sat there, in the last pew of the church that day, I swear I could feel him in the music - smiling and looking around at all the people... Nudging me, saying, "not bad, huh?"
No, not bad at all. 


Starting off 2018 on the right foot...

"What the hell, you cunt bandit!" I exclaimed (to the cat). 


My grandpa died tonight, although we'd been slowly losing him for years.

I'd received a text message from my mother in the early afternoon letting me know of his failing health. "The doctor says it could be any time now," she'd written.

I volunteer at a hospice every Sunday. I was in the middle of making cookies when I got my mom's text. Earlier, I'd brought out a tray of snacks and coffee for a family who'd just lost a loved one. Later, as I sat next to my grandfather's bed, holding his hand and stroking his forehead, one of the nurses came in with a tray of snacks. I smiled at her, and laughed quietly to myself at the reversal of roles.

"Do you want a few minutes alone with your grandfather?" my mother asked me. "Is there anything you want to say?"

"No," I told her. "He knows. I've already told him." A few years ago, back before he had gotten sick. When he was more himself. It was his birthday. I wrote him a card and sat with him as he read it.

"Thank you," it said. "Thank you for teaching me how to drive a car. Thank you for teaching me how to make my own rope. Thank you for showing me how to cast a fishing line. Thank you for letting me shoot a pellet gun. Thank you for teaching me the names of all the trees in the forest. Thank you for making my childhood exciting. Thank you for being my grandfather. I love you."

I've not yet cried over my grandfather's death, but not because it doesn't sadden me. I will miss my grandfather. I will mourn his loss for the rest of my life, but we can't keep the things we love with us simply because we don't want to be without them.

My eyes teared up as I said goodbye to him for what turned out to be the last time. I kissed his forehead and rubbed his hands. He looked so small laying there in his bed. His breathing was laboured, but he looked peaceful.

I don't know where we go when we die. I don't know what happens. But I'd like to think that my grandfather is out there, somewhere, free from the tethers of the frail body he left behind. I hope that my dog is there with him too.  


So Ambitious

"Oh, are you looking to do assisted pull-ups?" the sales representative at the fitness store asked me.
"Yes," I told him. "Right now I can do zero pull-ups, and I would really like to be able to do one pull-up," I explained.
I've had the goal of being able to do one pull-up for half a year now. I figure it is time that I finally do something about it. Well, something other than just buying a pull-up/dip station that is now primarily used to hang bras to dry. 



"I don't want to do this," I sobbed, more to myself than to anyone else, as I stood in the small room. There was a blanket on the floor and an exam table to my right. My mom sat in a chair in the corner and my dog sat at my feet, more than likely wondering what all the fuss was about.
The time had come.
It was clear he wasn't getting any better. He was losing weight and moving around less and less. He was just as loving as always, but he had lost the energy and sense of excitement about life that he'd once had.
He used to roll around on the floor and kick his legs in the air. I hadn't seen him do that in over a week, and he would no longer come when I called for him.
The vet said many things to me while I sat on the floor, stroking my dog's side, but I don't remember most of them. "I am not sure," I remember replying many times, without really hearing the question. All I could think about was how much my heart hurt and that I would soon be without my best friend of more than ten years.
His heart stopped within seconds once the vet began to administer the drug. "He's gone now. He was very weak," I heard them say. I sat there, beside his body, stroking his side for several more minutes before I felt another wave of grief.
I loved that dog with all of my heart and a few hearts to spare. As I patted his head for the last time and gave him one last hug, I did not feel regret. Sure, I wished with everything inside of me that things had ended differently, but I knew with a certainty I could not put into words that I had finally proven myself worthy of my dog's adoration.
The first moment I held him, I knew that I would be with him until he took his dying breath... just as surely as I knew he was bound to break my heart. I wasn't wrong. 


My hands on the steering wheel, at ten and two, as I make my way down the highway, going a few clicks faster than I probably should be.
Watching the road ahead of me, I feel a slight pressure on the sleeve of my shirt. Looking down to my right, I see a paw gently resting on my forearm. I glance up at its owner to see him staring at me in what can only be described as hopeful adoration.
"You're such a dweeb," I tell him, taking my right hand from the wheel and rubbing his head affectionately.
I spend the rest of the four hour trip holding his paw in my hand.
It became a ritual, of sorts, on any car ride - his paw in my hand. 


The waiting game

It's a last ditch effort; bombarding his body with pills to see if something will work.
"This would be so much easier if you could just talk, Dog," I tell him while stroking his head.
"It is weird," the vet said. "His symptoms are so vague, and his test results aren't really telling us anything other than that there is fluid around his lungs." I nodded as his voice echoed through the phone.
"I can't afford to take him to the specialist," I told him and tried to keep my voice from shaking. The test the vet had recommended to confirm a diagnosis required a referral to another vet and $1,500 to start.
"If the specialist is not an option," I continued, "is there anything else we can do?"
"Well, if the fluid is caused by an infection, antibiotics would be able to treat it, or if it is congestive heart failure, water pills would help," he replied. He'd told me earlier that, if the fluid was not a result of infection or heart failure, there could be a few other possible causes that only the specialist would be able to diagnose. Two were very rare and would involve surgery resulting in a bill of upwards of $5,000, and the other was a tumour on the heart.
"If I chose to give him antibiotics and water pills, would we be doing it for him or would it really be just for me?" I asked.
"What is frustrating with this case," the vet said, "is that we just don't know what the cause is. There is a chance that the pills could work, but we just don't know."
"Okay," I said, and took a deep breath. "And if I give him these pills, how long would we wait to see results before it is no longer fair to the dog?" I asked.
"I wouldn't let it go more than a week. But if he starts eating again, more than just tiny little pieces, we'd extend that to two weeks and take things from there."
"Okay," I said, "let's do that then."
I've spent a lot of time crying. While the idea of my dog dying was looming on the horizon, it wasn't something that I'd seriously given much thought. I'd assumed I'd have more time. More time to be a better owner. More time to spoil him. More time to take him on long, slow walks. More time pet his fur and tell him that he would have to start pulling his weight around the apartment and get a job. But I've come to realize that, no matter what happens, I have already been lucky to have had this much time with him. I've had nearly eleven years of his love and loyalty, and, since he started showing signs of illness, I've already gotten an extra week I didn't think I would have. If our journey together has reached its end it will hurt, but I have no right to complain. But I don't think I can be blamed either... for being greedy for more.



Gandhi's longest hunger strikes lasted 21 days. So far dog is on day 23, although he seems willing to cheat every so often.

Both blood and urine collected and analyzed, the only thing we can say for certain is that dog is probably not fasting to end violence or anything quite so noble. 

It is hard to say if he is in his final days. Other than having no interest in food, he largely still seems to be enjoying life, but there are times when he is so still that I have to place my ear to his chest to make sure he is breathing. 

I spend hours just staring at him and stroking his head. I feel anxious when I have to be anywhere that requires me to stray from his side. Hard as it may be, I can accept that this may be the end of our journey together, but it breaks my heart to think he might take his final breath when I can't be right next to him. 

Without any sort of definitive answers from the vet, I am not sure if the idea of euthanasia is jumping the gun. "If only you could talk," I say to him, as we stare at one another. "I don't know what you want me to do, and I don't want to make the wrong choice." 

So, for the time being, I keep him next to me in my bed at night, listening to him snore as he breathes in and out, hoping that maybe tomorrow he will decide he has proven his point and eat the bacon I have cooked for him. 


My best friend

As I jogged at a leisurely pace on the treadmill, I looked over to my dog on the couch and squinted my eyes in an attempt to see if I could tell he was still breathing.

The dog is old now, eleven to be precise, and he hasn't been feeling the greatest over the last few days. Feeling overly sympathetic, I have been spoiling him by letting him sleep on my bed and on top of other comfortable surfaces. I can't tell if his apparent lethargy is due to illness or simply because he's always been this lazy but never had something comfortable enough to lay on.

As I stared at him, determining that he was in fact still very much alive, I tried to think back to some of the more memorable moments we've shared over the last decade. He is my best friend, and he is the only friend I have that has shit on my floor and faced absolutely zero consequences afterwards.

I am not sure what I will do when he dies. Sure, dog number two will still be kicking it, and the cat (always the cat), but it won't be the same.

When I finished my run, I decided to take him for a walk in the snow. He sniffed around and hopped in the air as I threw snowballs at his head (trust me, he likes it). "I think you're faking," I told him. "You're feeling much better than you've been letting on." He ignored my accusations and rolled onto his back, kicking his legs up in the air.

We stayed outside until he got back onto his feet and led me back in towards the door.

I hope my dog knows how much I love him. Even when he passes so much gas within the confines of my bedroom that the smell causes me to wake from a dead sleep. He has been much better to me than I deserve, and I can't imagine being anything but completely lost without him. 


Growing Up

At some point in time it is going to happen to you. You're going to reach that age where very nearly everyone you know is a "responsible adult." Your entire circle of friends will consider it a big score when one of you can come up with enough pot to roll a single joint.
You'll huddle around it, reminiscing over the last time you'd partaken in this particular past time. "I haven't done this since before I had kids," someone will surely say.
You'll say nothing though. It has only been a few months since you smoked a bowl. The only reason it hadn't been more recently was because your dogs broke both of your bongs and you'd been a little careless with the glass components of your vaporizer. The tinfoil-wrapped straw device you'd rigged up as a replacement just wasn't cutting it anymore. Before that though, you'd gone through two solid months of getting stoned every day after work. You'd ended up getting to know the local Taco Bell staff on a first-name basis.
"Shit, if I get this thing in Switzerland, where will I buy my pot?" you ask yourself briefly. 


Boxing Day traditions

For a few years now, I have made it a habit to spend Boxing Day in my pyjamas, drinking and cleaning. It's sort of my thing.

Drinking makes cleaning far more enjoyable, but it also yields questionable results.

As this Boxing Day comes to a close, I am already finding that I can't quite remember how much I actually accomplished over the course of the day. I do have a vague recollection of sitting in the bathtub, shower turned on and spray raining down on me from above, chanting, "Please, don't throw up. Please, don't throw up," for about ten minutes or so. I did not throw up. 


Dear Bobbie,

It is nearly 4 a.m. and I am drunk. Do you not realize how badly I need poutine at this very second? I do. So bad. And yet you do not answer my texts requesting that you bring it to me. For over 15 years we have been friends, and yet you refuse me this one request. I feel like you owe me this much. I mean... do you remember that time I took you to the mall to buy a DVD players (back when DVD players were still something new) and you had terrible gas? You would wait until someone else was standing close to us, and then you would fart and casually walk away. It smelled like something had crawled inside your body, Bobbie, and died.. and that the thing that had died had been dead for weeks... months even. And, naturally, because you'd fled the scene, that stranger, the one standing right next to me, would look up... directly at me and give me the dirtiest look. And you did that so many times that day.

Surely that warrants poutine. I don't like you anymore. 


Because that is the least I can do

I sat there, watching as my mother spoon fed him strawberry ice cream, wondering how aware of his surroundings he actually was.

My grandfather had fallen a little over a week earlier and sustained a nasty black eye, a cut to his forehead and a broken right hip. He'd spoken very little since the accident, and, even before that, he'd been displaying signs of confusion.

With "swallowing issues" to take into consideration, even my grandfather's water required a thickening agent. I looked over to the tray, where a cup of gelatinous water sat, and couldn't really blame him for not wanting to eat or drink.

I'd suggested bringing ice cream a few days earlier when I'd noticed his nurses had unsuccessfully attempt to sneak his pills into his vanilla pudding. "If we get a chocolate based ice cream, he may not notice the bitterness of the pills as much," I told my mom. A trip to the grocery store found Hagen Daz on sale. Two dollars off - surely an omen.

As my grandfather began to doze, we decided it was time to take leave. I bent down, kissed his forehead and told him I would be back again soon. "Try to stay out of trouble, Old Man," I said. He smiled at me in return. "I am serious," I warned, "I won't bring you any more ice cream if I hear you've been bad."

As I turned to leave, one of the other men sharing the room called me over. "Today is the happiest he's been since he came here," he told me. "I think it's because of you."

"Well," I paused, "I told him not to make a scene. I am now trusting you to ensure he doesn't get into any mischief. If he gets up to no good, I am holding you responsible." And I winked, because I am always looking for an opportunity to wink at someone.

It is hard watching someone you love die. I wasn't sure, at first, if I'd be a strong enough person to do it. I have seen it before. I used to work at a hospice. I was surrounded by death every day, or at least, statistically speaking, once every 14 days. But it is different when it is your family. It is different when you are the one sitting at their bedside.

I am not sure how much longer my grandfather has. I am not sure if his heart will suddenly stop in the middle of the night or if we will have a little bit of warning before the time comes. What I do know is that, if he needs me, I will be there to hold his hand as he takes his final breath; to stroke his head and tell him that everything will be alright. 


At least when it comes to meat

"I'm going to eat that," I said. And I did. I ate all of it. Making up for more than fifteen years of vegetarianism all in one shot.

"Wow, you're really taking this whole 'eating meat' again thing to heart, aren't you?" my aunt asked. It wasn't the first time someone had said this to me.

"Go big or go home," I replied.

Part of me is starting to think that I need to re-think my "Go big or go home" philosophy. 



Late, in the quiet of the night, it haunts me.

Show me that smile again. Don't waste another minute on your crying. 

I can't escape it. Try as I might, the second my eyes close it starts.

We're nowhere near the end. 

I toss and turn, hoping it will just go away.

The best is waiting to begin. 

But it doesn't. I find no refuge in the darkness of my bedroom.

As long as we've got each other, we've got the world spinning right in our hands. 

The Growing Pains theme song.

Baby, you and me.... We gotta be....

Of all the theme songs...

The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreaming.

Why does my subconscious always choose this one?