Monday, September 12, 2011

This Blog Is On Hiatus

Part of the stipulation of my fellowship is a requirement that I stop working and focus on my academics, my long-term projects and my life among the other fellows. I know others don't understand that, but there really is no way to be truly in this extraordinary experience and keep one hand in my "normal" life. That's why the podcast has ended, and that's why this blog must cease to be updated.

I have no doubt I'll return to blogging, either here or in another form, after this is over. Trust me, you'll know what that time comes. Or check back here around May 2012.

In the meantime, we conclude with this Flickr slideshow below. It shows our new home in Ann Arbor followed by some images of the quaint houses in the handsome neighborhoods behind us as well as images from the first Michigan football game we attended and shots of campus life. This slideshow was created before Aces died, but I've opted not to edit it because she will always be a part of our first weeks here. The only change I've made is to remove the photo of the street where she died. I couldn't handle that, I'm sorry.

See you sometime next year.

R.I.P. Aces Smith-Friess

Two nights ago, the littlest, newest and spunkiest member of our gang, Aces, slipped out of the backyard through a gap in the fence and was hit by a car. Even as I write this, it doesn't seem quite real that any of this has happened.

The house we are renting in Michigan fronts to a very busy street -- think Desert Inn or Eastern in Las Vegas -- and Aces was the sort of fearless puppy who bolted after whatever got her excited. It was dusk, I was running around the yard playing with the dogs and didn't realize she had run off. We knew there were some gaps in the fence, but it had rained nonstop for days, so we hadn't gotten to filling it.

When I noticed she was missing, I raced out front to call for her, expecting her foxy little face to turn up grinning at me. It did not.

Instead, I spotted an unrecognizable lump in the first lane of the street. I won't describe her; I just can't except to say that she seemed to have come unraveled. I thought she might still be breathing, so we raced to the animal ER about three miles away. It was futile. We left in sobs, her little pink collar and tags in my blood-soaked hands.

Needless to say, this has put a traumatic damper on our first weeks of this new life. Grief for a pet is very complicated because the pain is real and present and yet there's a fear the world will find it trivial. I've seen it referred to it as the ultimate "first-world problem." But even if you can't relate to the impact an animal can have in your life, you must be able to comprehend the dizzying, nauseating experience of encountering such a sudden, violent death to something so sweet, defenseless and dependent. That I did not realize she was gone for those few minutes -- the entire awful thing took place in the span of less than 10 minutes -- will haunt me for as long as I have other animals. That she is so instantaneously gone is disorienting, confusing and painful for everyone in this household.

We know there are many friends, family, readers and listeners who have enjoyed hearing about our life with Aces. She's a dog that had been abandoned by someone in dire economic straits who dumped her in our neighbor's arms at a supermarket a couple days before Christmas. The neighbor brought her to us, and we took her in.

Since then, she was the centerpiece of countless photos and Tweets. She was brought into the household to bond with Miles because the other two, Black and Jack, had taken to me in a way that left him alienated. It worked; Miles and Aces drove 2,000 miles together from Las Vegas a few weeks ago while I took the other dogs on a more scenic route. That photo above was taken by Miles in a hotel room in Nebraska during their drive.

Unlike the other dogs, Aces was an equal-opportunity lover. In doing so, she seemed to teach her brothers to be kinder and more open to people other than me, and Black and Jack have been unusually doting and cuddly towards Miles in the past two days. May that be her legacy.

We know many of you will feel compelled to do something or write to us. All we'd really like is for you, if you feel so moved, to toss a few dollars to the Humane Society of the United States in Aces' name to honor her memory. Had our neighbor not accepted Aces from her desperate prior owner, she would have surely ended up in a shelter. She was a rescue animal, minus the paperwork.

This blog will stop being updated as of tonight, so I urge you to "friend" us on Facebook if you'd like to keep up with us. We just felt strongly that we wanted people to know what had happened, how wonderful an animal we've lost and how heartbroken we are.