Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Goodbye, Barbaro

Eight months of trying. Eight months of fighting. Never a question in anyone’s mind that the odds were long. Was the fight worth it?


From the beginning, Barbaro’s owners were clear: They would continue only as long as Barbaro was comfortable. “We just reached a point where it was going to be difficult for him to go on without pain,” owner Roy Jackson said. “It was the right decision, it was the right thing to do. We said all along if there was a situation where it would become more difficult for him then it would be time.”

This is one of the most difficult decisions: how far to go. Not just for a champion thoroughbred, but for any beloved animal. Over and over, I hear people say: This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. We talk together about quality of life. We discuss signs to watch for: of pain, of joylessness, of the animal giving up. More often than not, when the owner makes the decision, they tell me: I knew it was time. He told me. I could see it in his face.

“He was just a different horse,” said Barbaro’s chief surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson. “You could see he was upset. That was the difference. And it was more than we wanted him put through.”

They came close. So close that last month, Barbaro’s doctors were beginning to talk about releasing him from the hospital this spring. But in veterinary medicine, the tide turns with quality of life. Acute pain that can be managed, where there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, yes. Pain that is ongoing and can’t be controlled—no. You can’t explain to an animal, Well, we’re just going to keep pushing ahead, see if we can turn this thing around. Hang in there.

As long as Barbaro was comfortable and fighting, then it was a good fight. The moment that changed, the fight was over. Barbaro was fortunate to have had owners and doctors who understood that, and who were willing to let him go.

“Grief,” said his owner, Gretchen Jackson, “is the price we all pay for love.”

Godspeed, Barbaro.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snowing! Snowing!

I may be grown-up, but when it snows, I still clap my hands in pure happiness.

I didn’t listen to the weather forecast, so it was a beautiful surprise to get up at 6 AM and find flakes drifting down. It doesn’t snow much here in Portland—once every year or two—and often not more than a dusting. Right now, though, we have about 4” at our house. Which I know isn’t a hill of beans compared to what some of you have endured recently (hello, Denver!) but I’m thrilled nonetheless. Especially since today is a writing day. I’ve been snuggled up for hours with four furry animals, a mug of coffee, a fleece robe, and my laptop, while the snow fell and everything outside gradually disappeared.

Unfortunately, not everything in my fair city was so peaceful. Seems Portland’s drivers have made the national news. Don’t laugh! We just don’t get enough real winter weather to cope well. Like in ’93, when a freak storm dumped 18” of snow in less than 24 hours over Knoxville, TN. At that time we lived about 20 miles outside the city. It seemed like EVERYONE took out their 4-wheel-drive SUVs and promptly got them stuck in ditches. (The best part was how cheerful everyone still was, even when they had to walk home. Snow in unexpected places does that for people.)

Two thousand words written today (that’s about 8 manuscript pages.) The snow has stopped and it’ll be dark soon, so time to take a break and take the dogs for a walk. I hope wherever you are, winter’s treating you well.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Listen Up!

A little while ago, I was interviewed by senior NPR correspondent Ketzel Levine for a story on outerwear for urban dogs. If you've had enough of grim war and politics -- and especially if you're a dog lover -- tune in for Ketzel's delightfully charming take on canine winter fashions. I'm supposedly the "expert," but I had far too much fun being interviewed to be taken all that seriously. The story is airing today on NPR's Morning Edition (or click here to listen via the Web.)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy Ruby New Year!

Yes, I've been neglecting you. I never write...I never call. In the spirit of starting the New Year right, I'm going to come clean:

I've been spending time with a girl. Her name is Ruby Jacinski. She's 15 years old, and she lives in Chicago...in 1941.

Yeah, you guessed it. Ruby's the leading lady of my new book, and the reason I've been neglecting this space. Not to mention the household chores, balancing the checkbook, spending time with my sweetie, and sleeping. Ruby's the sassiest hepkitten this side of the Savoy -- she wants her story told, and she wants it told right. Last night, 2006 clicked over to 2007, fireworks sparkled outside my office window -- and on the page, Ruby was sparking some major fireworks of her own.

Deadline is March 15, 2007. So, if it's a little while between posts, you know where I'll be. I haven't forgotten you, I've just been in high gear -- and kicking higher, now that we're in the final stretch.

Happy New Year, everyone! Now, where did I leave off last night? Oh, yes...

At first I kept my mouth shut, for Ma’s sake. Maybe if I hadn’t had Paulie on my mind every second, worrying about where he was and who with, I might’ve held out longer. Or maybe not.

I never was good at taking guff from anyone.

Say on, Ruby.