Thursday, November 18, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things: a note from Colten

I met Jordan in July of 2001. I had only known Tristan for about 5 months and she invited me to NYC for a visit. On that visit I met her two dogs, Jordan was almost 5 and Reggie Love was 7. I moved in with Tristan, Reggie and Jordan the very next summer. Since then so much of my life has been about our dogs... Jordan and I have shared some amazing memories and she has taught me a lot. Here are some of my favorite Jordan memories:

Early Morning Runs in the Park. Sunrise trips to Prospect Park to run among the vast pack Brooklyn of dogs. Jordan would take off immediately and run at least 100 yards away from us in pure joy. Reggie would stay closer to us, but was very good at fetching Jordan when we asked her too. Jordan was amazingly fast, always found a stick to carry around, and would only come back to us when she was ready to.
Pictured: Jordan ready to take off!

Road trips! Jordan and I have driven across the country 5 times together. Her favorite place to ride was lying across my lap between me and the steering wheel. She is an excellent car companion and loves to pee in new places, so driving someplace new was a win-win. She even drove with me and TT in a Penske moving van when I moved to Brooklyn.
Pictured: Jordan and I driving west to CA for the summer of 2003.

Hotel Room Living. Jordan traveled with us so often that she thought of hotel rooms as her other home. She was known to do a perimeter search as soon as we got into a room - searching for food and any signs of cats, always checking under the bed which she could often crawl under. This search was reliable and adorable and she wasn't satisfied with a room until she had fully “secured” it. Did not matter to her if it was a Motel 6 or 5-star luxury accommodations, she was just happy to be part of the adventure. When her vision began to go her familiarity with a standard hotel layout served her well.
Pictured: Jordan at the St. Regis in 2008.

Photo Modeling. Jordan was a poser. She loved the camera, loved the attention, and encouraged me to take more photos. She was a charmer in that department, which made up for the fact that Reggie would bark if you even pointed a camera towards her. Jordan had endless patience for the camera, and I credit her with getting me so into taking dog photos.
Pictured: A classic favorite Jordan pic around here, this was taken on our Brooklyn window bench in 2004.

Cat Stalking. Jordan loved cats. Not in a bad way, but in a really super obsessed way. She *needed* to meet the cats, always. If a cat was behind a closed door she would wait, and lick the door, cry and wait some more. Really, she has spent hours waiting outside doors. We called this door waiting routine "cat worshiping," as she would eventually lay down with her head on the floor between her two front paws.
Pictured: Jordan waiting patiently outside the door, hoping for a chance to meet Prince.

Super Fetch. Jordan loved to play fetch. Preferably with really large toys, a deflated soccer ball or football was ideal - but anything she could get her mouth on would do. She was also an incessant barker during these fetch rounds - she'd bring you the ball, drop it and immediately start barking until you threw the ball for her. And she played fetch when she was blind too - it just took some tricky and careful tossing on my part. The only bad part was when I had thrown the ball but she was still barking at me as if I hadn't.
Pictured: Jordan playing fetch in a park - this was a break on a cross country trip driving east.

The Snoring and the Sleeping. Oh, Jordan was adorable in bed. She was fond of sleeping under the covers, which she would do each night until it got too hot then she would stand up and try to find her way to fresh air. And the snoring, she would sleep on her back and snore the night away. Cute unless she was sharing your pillow.
Pictured: Jordan asleep in Ventura on my sister's couch. Waiting for a baby human to arrive is exhausting.

Swimming. This dog loved the water. Lakes, rivers, oceans and kiddie pools. Bring it. Some of my favorite Jordan memories were on the beaches of Santa Barbara and San Diego. Countless rounds of Jordan diving into the ocean after soccer balls. Rubbing in the sand, diving back into the water, shaking it out of her ears. She loved it all.
Pictured: Jordan in the San Diego bay - swimming back with the soccer ball in her mouth.

Jordan on Tour. Jordan was part of the official TT entourage. She traveled to many of Tristan's tour appearances, and that included several college campus stops. It was my job to negotiate Tristan's contract and it always included a rider about Jordan. Slightly awkward to explain at times, Jordan was no teacup-sized purse accessory, but she was very much part of the official package.
Pictured: Jordan waiting for the action to start during a visit to Smith College in Northampton.

Rub outs and Rollover. Those of you who have spent time with Jordan know the adorable noises and actions that add up to her back rubbing squirms and rollover antics. While it started as a technique to apply filth, Jordan adapted it to other tasks like trying to remove her harness or any other clothing like item she didn't want on her - and in 2006 Jordan agreed to let it be put on cue, rolling over and over again for treats.
Pictured: Jordan enjoying getting closer to the ground while on a walk in the park in Greenville.

The Flying Dog. Jordan flew with us on almost all of our big trips. She was just small enough to fit into a carry-on dog bag. This means she flew tucked under the seat by our feet. She never barked, never cried. She was perfect, no one ever knew she was there - not even when she farted... nope, they just thought that was us. And when we would stack our luggage up on a luggage cart she would sit on top of the bags and just balance and waive to all the people - "yes, I am the queen of this stack of bags, thank you." Such a good flying dog she was.
Pictured: Jordan and I nap in ORD waiting on a flight delay.

Jordan the Scrappy Fighter. Yes, she was a fight picker. She always went after dogs bigger than her - including her sister. She played dirty and never seemed to need a reason. This all came about when she was about 7 years old, later we figured it might have been from chronic back pain, or maybe even early brain tumor signs. I will say that she lived the last 4 years of her life in total peace. The scar on my upper lip is a Jordan bite, received while separating Jordan and Reggie in the middle of the night. It was dark and I grabbed her out of the fight, but pulled her up near my face - where I became a casualty...
Pictured: With her vision on the decline Jordan tried to pick a fight through the window with this nice J Crew dog mannequin.

Kissing. When Jordan wasn't fighting she was certainly kissing. She loved licking people’s faces and she would slip you the tongue before you even knew what hit you. Nothing like being coated in Jordan saliva, and this face washing was not reserved for any elite crew, all people and canines alike were subjected to her tongue if they got within reach.
Pictured: Jordan can kiss and drive at the same time. Super talented.

Heat Seeking Missile. One thing Jordan and I both have in common is a love for heat. She would spend hours in the sun in the spring and summer. We called this sun routine "baking." She also liked other sources of heat: heating pads, heating blankets, the hair dryer, towels fresh from the dryer, space heaters and caves of blankets formed around the forced hot air heating system. Jordan joined me on many cold mornings bundled up in a blanket directing heat into our own special cave for two.
Pictured: Jordan baking in the CA sun.

The Dirtiest Dog on the Block. Jordan liked it dirty, no really. I should make a slide show just of her dirtiest pics. She rubbed in dead things, coated herself in mud, or dirt, or sand - really she would used whatever filth was available. Oh, and she loved horse shit, and cow shit. Yes, if it smelled bad she wanted to be coated in it. This also meant Jordan got a LOT of baths, fortunately she didn't mind as long as someone gave her a blowout, did I mention that she really loved the hairdryer?
Pictured: Jordan coated in a mud suit during a visit to a dog park in Colorado.

Jordan filled my life with more adventures than I ever expected a 15lbs black & white package to do. She was a feisty attitude filled bundle of snoring love. And she was a great companion and inspiration for travel. I miss her, but promise to keep up the dog adventuring at home with Reggie and Harley.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jordan’s Passing

We let Jordan pick our wakeup call time, and she got up at around 6 am. We took all three dogs outside, and I could feel how cold it was. Toni slept on the couch, so he woke up when we came downstairs. At a previous session with Laura, we asked Jordan what she wanted to eat. Dogs communicate in images, and Laura said, “It looks like, well, what you’d put in a taco, like taco meat.” Those of you who know us well may be smiling right about now. We’re very fond of tacos, and when we have them for dinner, sometimes Colten will put a little taco meat in with the dogs’ food. We thought for sure she’d choose filet mignon, which we suggested, but she said it was too hard to chew (makes sense—she is missing two of her canines and several other teeth) and to let Harley and Reggie Love have it. So, we made taco meat for Jordan and steak and sweet potatoes for the other two. Cooked fresh at 6am.

mmmm.... tasty meat!

For dessert, we brought out the Frosty Paws ice cream, and this time made ice cream cones for everyone. We have fond memories of going out for soft-serve ice cream with Jordan, where she always shared a vanilla cone or got her own child-sized one. Barbara came into the kitchen just before the ice cream indulgence began and snapped a few shots. We let them all eat together on an old comforter so they could be as messy as they wanted. Jordan licked hers slowly and intently. Reggie Love was determined to pick hers up and run away with it. Harley ate half of his in one bite, then finished Jordan’s when she was done.

I put down some of her favorite blankets on the chaise lounge in the front room with a heating pad underneath, and laid Jordan down. Sun was streaming in the large picture window. She settled for a little while, but then began to get fussy. Colten suggested that I take her upstairs to our bedroom; a trick we’ve developed to cope with her fussy periods was to simply change locations—it often worked. I settled her on one of her favorite blankets in the bed and laid down with her. Colten joined us after a few minutes and she calmed down and fell asleep. I’m not sure what came over me—the earlier-than-usual wake up call, general exhaustion—but I fell asleep with her.

Resting on the chaise lounge while I wrote out a card to Jordan.

The next thing I remember, Barbara was walking toward the bed. I didn’t feel startled at all, just opened my eyes and saw her. She said, “The vet is here.” (For the record, our vets wouldn’t do this house call, so we had to find someone for this specific thing. Jordan, Colten, and I all met her just once at her office. Even though she doesn’t work on Sundays, and it was Halloween, she agreed to come. It was a forty-five minute drive for her one way. We felt blessed she agreed to do it—and we feel lucky that she brought so much compassion and competence with her.)

I scooped Jordan up in my arms and carried her downstairs into the front room. She was still in a sleepy-dreamy state. I laid her back down on the blankets, which were still warm from the heating pad, and she continued to be pretty sleepy. Barbara tied a long piece of black yarn around her neck. At one end, there were two beads: a black and white granite bead and an obsidian bead from a prayer bracelet Toni brought with him. On the other end, which was loose, was another black and white granite bead and five more obsidian beads. Toni also brought a guardian angel with him for Jordan.

The vet explained that she was going to sedate her. Jordan jumped a little at the prick of the needle, pretty uncommon for her since she has an incredibly high pain tolerance. She jumped again and snapped her teeth together. Then she settled back down began to get groggy. The vet stepped out of the room. Jordan got up, turned around and laid back down. I read a card I had written to Jordan out loud. Then Colten sent her a message silently. Barbara and Toni each took a turn doing the same. She looked incredibly peaceful, the sun shining on her black fur, her in a familiar pose with her face between her paws. Reggie wanted to talk to the vet who was waiting courteously in another room and went and visited her a few times during this period. Harley stayed close. When Reggie came back Colten went to tell the vet we were ready. As the vet administered the final shot, I took the scissors and cut the black yarn in half. Barbara reminded us all minutes before that this would cut the cord of our physical connection, but that a golden thread would always remain and we would always be connected. Jordan continued to look so, so peaceful. So beautiful. Like she was having a wonderful sleep. Colten slipped off the loop of yarn from her neck. The vet had disappeared again, I didn’t even see her leave. We were all crying but it didn’t feel dark. When we were ready, she came back in, Colten scooped up Jordan, wrapped her up gently in a blanket and everyone had a final goodbye and head pat. He then passed her on to the vet and they left. As I write this, I am weeping. There is a heaviness in my chest where my heart is. I miss her terribly.

Colten made one of my favorite breakfasts, lemon sour cream pancakes, and my pancake was in the shape of a Boston Terrier face.

After breakfast, we took Reggie and Harley out for a walk to the pond across the street. This was another one of Jordan’s ideas from our talk with Laura on Saturday. There were lots of good things to smell and it was good to breath in the fresh air.

Barbara took the beads from our side of the yarn cord. She sewed a bead on both Reggie Love and Harley’s collars (during our last communication session, when we explained the ritual to Jordan, Reggie Love piped in with “Well can’t I have a bead? I need a bead bad Mom,” so we added beads for both dogs).

Reggie's bead is sewed right onto a star on her collar.

She hung my bead on a necklace chain and set another one using some wire for Colten to wear around his neck.

Jordan’s half of the yarn cord with her beads will stay with her remains. We are planning to make a small altar for her ashes. I’ve taken all your emails, blog comments, and Facebook posts and turned them into little cards that will be part of it.

Here is what I wrote in my card to Jordan and read to her before she passed:

You are one of the most amazing creatures I have ever known. No matter what I have done or what I will do in my life, finding you and taking care of you is one of my greatest achievements. You have taught me so much—about courage, resilience, moving forward, unconditional love, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and happiness. You have grounded me, inspired me, soothed me, and always been by my side. You have lived your life on your own terms and taught me to do the same. You’re one of a kind. You are a gift. I will love you forever.

Earlier that morning, Colten made this piece of art by placing both our hands and Jordan's four paws on the glass of the photocopy machine. I think it's beautiful. (click to see it full size)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Memorial Jordan-o'-lantern

Colten carved a special Jordan memorial pumpkin today. We lit it and placed it in the front yard. A gorgeous glowing reminder of our sweet baby dog.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Peacefully Flying

Jordan Love
September 8, 1996 - October 31, 2010

Jordan passed this morning just before 11am EST. It was beautiful, peaceful, and full of love. We sent her off with visions of gratitude, courage, love, adventures and flying.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


As I posted in the previous blog, here is a picture of Jordan and I dressed in our Halloween costumes at the airport to pick up Uncle Toni. Yes, he was surprised to see us!

This morning our day started in a very unexpected way. I was asleep upstairs with Jordan. Colten was in the backyard. I heard a blood-curdling scream, jumped out of bed, flew down the stairs and found Toni, flat on his back on our deck. He had slipped and fallen. He was in excruciating pain, his knee was swollen, and he couldn’t move. We called 911. The EMTs arrived, assessed him, and off to the hospital they went, suspecting he had a dislocated knee or possibly a break. Yikes. Not how I thought our day would go. Colten followed the ambulance, and I stayed back to watch the dogs. I had a long phone call with Kate, my best friend and Jordan’s godmother. It was wonderful, I cried a lot, but it felt good. I tried to do some chores as I received 30 minute text updates from the hospital. Our dear friend Barbara Carrellas arrived from New York City. I felt grateful to see her and just have someone acknowledge how crazy everything was. Then the FedEx man and the postal carrier arrived with two packages—a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers from our friend Davis and a box of treats from Amelie. Two wonderful surprises! About an hour later, Colten returned with Toni in a knee brace and on crutches. Nothing is broken, luckily. A follow up with an orthopedic surgeon and an MRI will give us more information. We installed Toni on the couch and ate a late lunch. Jordan got to have ice cream (Frosty Paws ice cream for dogs) for dessert after dinner.

We had a call with Laura the animal communicator, and all four of us—me, Colten, Toni, and Barbara—were on the line. Jordan said she felt lighter, and she felt like she was sometimes not in her body. We wanted Laura to explain to Jordan what is going to happen tomorrow. Barbara has prepared a ritual for us to help Jordan cross over, and we’ve made an appointment with our vet to come to the house to assist Barbara. Tomorrow is a day with a lot of meaning. It’s Halloween. It is the Pagan holiday of Samhain (the Pagan New Year), which celebrates the end of the lighter half of the year and the beginning of the darker half of the year. Pagans believe that on Samhain the border between this world and the other world is the most thin, allowing spirits to easily pass through. It is my late father’s birthday (I know, I am the daughter of a man born on Halloween, go figure). It is also my Daddy’s birthday.

The call was wonderful. Jordan told Laura that Barbara brought magic with her. Barbara got to ask for her input in the ritual. Jordan reiterated that she was ready to go and felt a combination of deep sadness that she was leaving us and intense happiness at the life she has lived and the love that she feels around her. She said, “Mom, I am not going to leave you. It feels like it, but I am not going to. I promise mom. I feel happy I have a little bit of time left. I’m going to really enjoy it. I love you mom and dad. I love you.”

We all sat on the living room couch and Colten hooked up his laptop to the television. We watched a slide show Colten put together of hundreds of photos of Jordan. We told stories about the pictures and reminisced about all the amazing things we’ve done with her. We plan to put the slide show up on the blog this coming week. It’s really amazing. Not sure if we will blog tomorrow, but please check back for the slide show this coming week. Thank you all so much for your love and support. Your emails and comments are such a comfort to us and we are grateful for each one. If you’re awake tomorrow morning (East Coast time), please keep us all in your prayers and wish Jordan a smooth, positive transition.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jordan’s Halloween Costume Revealed!

It has gotten much colder today, and Jordan does not like the cold weather at all. Last winter was very difficult for her. It was one of the worst winters we’ve had up here. Jordan would go outside to pee and start to shiver because she was so cold. It was really hard for her to go because she was too cold. Once it started snowing, Colten used the snowblower to make a path in the yard for all the dogs, but especially Jordan who would be swallowed by the snow. Without snow, the yard is open and it’s pretty rare for Jordan to run into anything. As soon as it snowed, and the snow accumulated, she would start on the carved-out path, then end up running into a wall of snow over and over. One of us had to go outside with her and watch her like a hawk. She was so miserable. Today, after the sun went down, it went down to 44 degrees, and I immediately thought about what this winter would be like. I think it would be intolerable for her.

Jordan had a really good morning today. It didn’t take her long to settle down after breakfast. She spent the morning lounging on the couch in my study with Reggie Love. Then, I decided to use the rest of the apples we picked, so I made an apple pie!

It’s a recipe for apple pie with a crumb topping that my mother has been making since before I was born.
Once the pie was out of the oven, Jordan and I got into our Halloween costumes. And now it can be revealed…We are Bumble Bees!

Colten took photos of us after we dressed up. We wanted to take them outside, but it began raining as soon as we were ready.

Question of the day: who is the Queen Bee? It’s difficult to say since we both have very strong personalities.

Reggie Love and Harley wanted to know what was going on, and eventually, with lots of coaxing, Colten got a shot of me and all three dogs.

We can’t find our small camera, which has a timer, so in order to get a shot of Colten, Jordan, and I together, we experimented with the tripod. Colten decided that he would dress up as the Beekeeper.

We abandoned trying to get all three of us in the shot, so I took some of the Beekeeper and the Boston Terrier Bumble Bee.

Jordan and I have decided to wear our costumes to the airport tonight when we pick up Uncle Toni (my big brother, Jordan’s uncle), who’s coming from Boston to spend the weekend with us. We are all looking forward to his visit so much!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jordan Goes to Therapy (and the Beach)

Today, we went to therapy, and our wonderful therapist told us we could bring Jordan with us. She was fussy at first, but after about 15 minutes, she fell asleep. So here she is with her green blanket on the "therapy couch."

Interestingly, our therapist noted that Jordan did not look ill or fragile. It's true: if you see her and she's feeling okay, she seems fine. Her coat is super shiny since we've been cooking for her. She's alert. She walks and pants and smells stuff around her. Most people don't see what we do as her caretakers. She gets very agitated in the morning and at night—the times are pretty predictable. When she's in that state, she cries, she won't settle down, she is anxious and utterly inconsolable. We can take her outside, feed her, cuddle her, but nothing makes her feel better. We simply have to wait it out and eventually she settles down. It can take two or more hours. Before we changed her food and weaned her off her thyroid medication, it could go on for four hours. Twice a day. When she goes in the yard, about 90% of the time, she begins obsessively circling; the circles get smaller and smaller until she gets really dizzy and stops. Then she starts again. We have to carry her everywhere—a combination of her blindness and disorientation means she cannot navigate without running in to stuff—up and down stairs, from room to room, outside and back inside.

When she had her seizures back in 2008, they lasted for less than a minute each. She made this horrible screeching sound, her body went stiff, then she snapped out of it. When she had her seizure 2 weeks ago, it was entirely different. We were asleep, and her body began spasming. I woke up immediately. I knew. She lost consciousness and her body was jerking uncontrollably. Her mouth was open, then she started foaming at the mouth. I just stayed with her in bed, told her it was okay, and let it play out. It lasted for 7 minutes. When she came out of it, she was beside herself. She was freaked out. She started circling while standing in the bed, panting, crying. She did that for another 3 hours while I sat up with her. She finally fell asleep. It was really traumatic for all of us, and nothing like her other seizures. This was a grand mal seizure. The next morning, we immediately increased her phenobarbitol dosage, but we realized that even if the higher dose stopped the seizures, it would only be a temporary fix. Thankfully, she has not had an seizures since then. I pray every day that she doesn't have another one. I don't want to wait until she can't or won't eat, until she has another seizure, until she is in pain. That is what is on the horizon, and I don't want that for her.

Colten and I have talked before in therapy about Jordan's illness and the last stage of her life. Our therapist was really present today for us and didn't try to rationalize with us or calm us down or anything. I really appreciated it. I feel like Colten and I are on the same page about caring for Jordan until the end, and that is a blessing. We both feel good about what we are doing this week. Your comments on this blog and tweets and emails are AMAZING. Each one of them is a gift. I heard from one of my closest friends from high school (who I have not been in touch with in a million years) on Facebook today. It was so thoughtful and sweet. Because Jordan has travelled so much with us, she's met nearly everyone in our lives, and even people who don't like dogs (I'm looking at you, Ira) fall in love with her.

Of all three dogs, Jordan likes the water and swimming the most. It's so odd: she's a short-nosed breed that was never built for swimming, and yet, she loves it. Here's a video of her and Harley playing fetch at a beach in San Diego in 2005 - amazingly just a month after she lost her right eye. Her favorite toy is a slightly deflated soccer ball. Harley beats her to the first toss, which is shallow - but notice who dives in after the ball when it gets thrown out past where Harley's feet can touch, it's pretty amusing.

Jordan has always liked the beach, and one of my best memories is of the three of us at a beach in Santa Barbara. She wanted to play fetch with a bunch of big dogs (this is when she could still see). She dove into the water—the Pacific Ocean, people!—over and over. But one time the ball went really far. The golden retrievers and labs started swimming out for it, and Jordan just followed them. She got so far out, and suddenly a big wave came and crashed over her head. Colten and I panicked. Colten took off his shoes and socks and dove in the water after her, but there she was, dog paddling back to the shore. We haven't been to the beach since her last visit to CA a year ago, and we thought the weather this week was going to make it impossible. Our therapist told us about a nearby lake with a sandy beach, so we decided to go for it.

We had never been to this beach, which is part of a state park, so we admit we got a little lost! Finally, we arrived at Thompsons Lake in East Berne, and we were the only ones there. Jordan and I walked on the beach for a while. She eventually discovered the water and dipped her toes in. We walked around some more, then she headed back into the water. Soon, she was in deeper than she expected and couldn't figure out which way to get out. But she didn't panic, she just seemed confused. Jordan has always been fearless. It's inspiring. She's blind, she's in the water, and yet she still keeps going, still tries to figure it out. She's been like that her whole life—always unafraid, always looking forward, always optimistic. Well, we didn't want her to get too far out, so Colten rolled up his jeans, took off his shoes and socks and in he went to "rescue" her.

He swooped her up and we went back to the car where we rolled her up in a big towel to dry her off. we got in the car and turned the heat on, and she fell asleep on my lap.