Goodbye, My Friend

Today, Llewy was euthanized. It’s already weird being in our house without him. Always, his presence warmed my heart. To suddenly be without him…. well I guess that’s why I’m writing this goodbye to him now. So I don’t have to lose the idea of him yet, even if he is gone.

Llewy balanced me, when I didn’t know that I needed to be balanced. His unconditional love, spirit, and stubbornness, often reminded me of how to be the person that I wanted to be. Every dog is an emotional support dog, and Llewy was mine. Brenna would often say that he was my spirit animal, and that’s true. Having him in our family for these years made me a better person.

My spirit is dampened due to his loss, but what I learned from Llewy will live beyond the sorrow. When I had no one else, Llewy was there. When I needed someone to hold, Llewy was there. When I just needed to be with someone else, Llewy was there. I’ll never know if he knew when I needed him or not, but he was always there. Just his being there, and his irrepressible attitude while he was there, eased so much pain in my life. Llewy made it easier to process all the things I have gone through in the last 10+ years. He made it easier to make the choices in my life that I needed to make.

He made it easier when I got laid off. He made it easier when Brenna and I weren’t seeing eye to eye. He made it easier to raise two daughters. He made it easier to buy a house, and move to a (relatively) new region. Llewy made it easier to quell the demons that have always been in my mind.

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The first weekend we had him, we took him on a walk from our apartment in Campbell to downtown. Traffic literally stopped in the middle of the road when people saw him – I think shortly after we took the picture above. He was the cutest puppy ever. I’m slightly biased. When we got to downtown, where there was a farmer’s market that day, a crowd of about 30 people gathered around to see him.

I’ll never forget the day we got him. He was sad to leave his family, but after he had been with us for a few hours, his personality came through. I think it was at least a year before I was sure that he wanted to be with us.

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He always found comfort in my feet, from the first day we had him to the last day of his life.

Llewy was great with babies. He was always patient, always protective. He put up with so much from Ember when she was a baby, and was always sweet with Ash. With kids, Llew wasn’t so great. Thankfully he didn’t nip at their heels, but he didn’t appreciate them running around or any roughhousing of any kind.

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Here is one of the few photos of Llewy and Ash. She obviously won’t remember him.

Llew once ate half a pound of Starburst. We came home (I thought I had left the Starburst out of reach) and found him, on the floor next to a chewed through bag, so bloated. No matter how many times I took him out to walk and get things moving, he only barfed in the house. Reddish, sticky, watery goo came out of him – with Starburst wrappers. It was truly awful. I don’t think that carpet ever recovered.

There was the time he and Nacho got kennel cough from eating horse poop and dead crabs on a beach in SF. There was the time he got stung by a bee and his nose got all swollen – that happened when he got his vaccines as well. There were the many times he knocked over someone’s drink at a party so he could drink it himself. There was the time he ran through downtown Boulder Creek, and we found him eating garbage out of the dumpster by the old brewery. Or when we pulled him out of herding lessons because he lost interest in herding the sheep, preferring to just eat their poop. Before it became clear that the degenerative myelopathy was going to take him, Brenna and I really thought that he would manage to eat himself to death.

I love that picture above of Ash and Llewy. It really captures the dignity with which he finished his life.

He had no feat. The only thing I remember Llewy ever being afraid of was power outages (of all things). Bigger dogs, people, cars, nothing else I ever saw him back down from. Such a great lesson for life. Here he is, I managed to get a selfie of him when the power went out in our house:

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Llewy was a great pack dog, even if he wasn’t totally happy with additions to the pack. He watched out for all of us, and helped us train our new puppy in the last year of his life.

Llewy helped me to be whole. I had no idea a dog could do that before him. I feel like I could go on forever, but being that he has only been dead an hour and a half or so as I’m writing this, I think I’m going to stop writing for now. I may very well write more about him in the future as I’m processing his departure.

One more thing. Here are the photos from his last trip to the beach, the day before he died. I’ve never been able to take selfies with him, and yesterday was no different. He did get to dig in the sand one last time, something he loved to do. There were also a few dogs there, and I got to see how social he wanted to be as he dragged his back end across the beach to see them.

More photos:

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Goodbye, Llewy. You were my rock. I will miss you dearly, and I will always carry you in my soul. What you did for me and our family is immeasurable. In my heart, you will always be by my side.

It’s Me

Here this is, for you to read

If there’s ever a day
When you’ve found you’ve
lost your way
and you’re looking for
someone to reach out to

And you don’t know
who’ll be there and
who won’t
who’ll listen and give you
something to hold on to

I’m not so far
just a message away
if you’ve got something
to say
or need someone
to walk with

Who’s gonna be there when
you’re in your worst moment?
Who will watch you as
you cry and you scream?
Who will put out their hand
when you need someone to hold?
Who will rock you back to sanity?

It’s me

It doesn’t bother me
if it’s been a year, or two, or three
a decade, or more
since you spoke to me

You are my friend
I mean that to the end
As long as I draw breath
you are part of me

If you don’t have
a roof over your head
if you’ve got track marks instead
If self harm seems like
the best solution for you

If you’ve lost your last sense
of direction

It’s me

I will be there
when the darkness closes in
when there’s nothing left
but the feet your standing in

I will walk a mile
or a thousand more
to get to your door
or take you to a new one

You’re never alone
in this world
when it’s cold as stone
As long as I draw breath
you’ve got me

Who’s gonna be there
when you’re in your worst moment?
Who will watch you as you
cry and you scream?
Who will put out their hand
when you need someone to hold?
Who will rock you back to sanity?

It’s me

I was listening to “It Ain’t Me” by Kygo and Selena Gomez yesterday – which I think is a beautiful song – and was experiencing a sense of cognitive dissonance deep in my soul. It’s essentially a breakup song, the way it’s performed it comes across as a lady saying that she isn’t going to support a guy anymore in the moments where he can’t take care of himself. Which, is a sentiment I can appreciate. As the song went along, I realized that it is me. That I want to be there in those moments. That, though I may not be in the habit of communicating this to the people I care about, it is exactly my intention to be there for my friends in their hardest times and any time. That when I become friends with a person, I am making a lifetime commitment to them. That, though I’ve struggled with the logistics of that commitment, as I’m sure we all have – it has been my commitment my entire life.

So, even though I haven’t written poetry for years, this poem just sort of spilled out of me. I wrote it roughly to the tune of “It Ain’t Me.” Apparently I’m much more of a lyricist than a tune-writer. I didn’t go and re-write the song word for word though, I just wrote what came to mind. Since the words of this poem are what I am feeling deeply on a daily basis these days, I thought I’d share it with you.

The Santa Cruz Free Guide (a re-Introduction)

Some of you may know that, for months now, I and a handful of other people have been working on building a truly comprehensive resource guide for people without housing who live in Santa Cruz County. Today we launched the new guide, as well as one of our new services: real time schedules of all the services in Santa Cruz County.

It has truly been serendipitous that this project has come together the way it has, and I am grateful for all the folks who have worked on it.

Also, this truly is just Phase 1 of this website and project. There will be more features and improvements coming in future months.

Here is the announcement email that went out today to service providers throughout the county:

Hello Everyone,
Attached please find easy-print, double-sided, county-wide resource guides to free services serving people experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz. Please feel free to utilize and print these guides for yourself, your organization, your clients, friends, or neighbors in need.
We are pleased to announce the formation of The Free Guide, a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to maintaining a permanent local hub space for hosting this information. We know resources in our county are limited, but information need not be.
We are dedicated to keeping information free and accurate, up-to-date, local, and easily accessible. Feel free to take a look at  www.santacruzfreeguide.org
Check our  More Resources page for downloadable fliers. We’ve got a leaflet on the new Santa Cruz Winter Shelter program, Watsonville Winter Shelter program, Smart Path access points, the Warming Center’s Storage program and more.
Check the new Calendar Resource page for carefully maintained google calendars listing service times and locations. Feel free to upload these to your smart phone or mobile device.
Is your organization, resource, or service listed correctly in the web and/or print versions of the guides? Is there something we’ve left off that you think should be included? Space is limited in the print guides, but we can copy-fit or we may be able to include additional info on the web pages. Do let us know at santacruzfreeguide@gmail.com
And of course if you wish to be removed from our list to receive updates, simply respond with “Remove me” in the subject line.
Thank you,
The Free Guide Team
Evan Morrison
Alec McLeod
Maile McGrew-Fredé
(I’m not actually attaching the files here, so you can go to the website and see what it’s all about)

Why I Endorse Kalen Gallagher for San Jose City Council

And you should encourage anyone who lives in San Jose’s District 9 to vote for him

If the next generation of leadership in America is like Kalen, then we are going to be okay. Sorry if that’s not super enthusiastic – but as someone who is deeply disturbed by current political events – being okay would be a huge win. If Kalen is elected, I’ll literally be able to sleep better at night knowing that, finally, a portion of our country is in good hands. Even if it is just a district in San Jose.

Alright, that may be slightly melodramatic. But it’s also real, so let me get into why I feel that way. I’m not looking at platforms when I evaluate candidates, I’m looking at character. When it comes to character, Kalen is the sort of person I wish would hold office throughout our nation.

Also, I took that photo from his website. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Kalen is fair: If you approach him with a concern, and you mean well, he is going to hear you out. He’s not going to shut you down because of your political views or affiliations. Listening is probably the rarest and most essential skill for our political leaders, and he does it better than most. But, do your homework. Because he has done his. If you are quoting an article, or a piece of research, make sure the research is real and the sources exist. Kalen is sharp, and he will suss out flim-flam pretty quick.

Kalen is honest: He and I met when we were 10 years old (I think. Maybe we were 11? One of the two). We made it through the rocky middle school years, through high school when we were all trying different things, and into adulthood. On many occasions as a kid, I witnessed Kalen stand up for the truth even when a lie would have been more expedient. As an adult, he has learned the wonderful art of addressing what is real without alienating people. If only more people in politics today could do such a thing…

Kalen knows when not to take sides: Partisanship is literally killing our country today. I think that it fills a great need within all of us to not feed into the hyper-partisanship that rules our discourse nationally, and instead work to bridge the gaps between all of us Americans. That Kalen is doing the work to bridge the divides locally is exemplified in this excerpt from this article, that notes that he isn’t conforming to the normal business-labor divide that has defined the San Jose city council in the past:

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Kalen is prepared to hear your feedback: Full disclosure here, I volunteered a bit on his 2012 campaign for the school board of the Campbell Union High School District. I may have donated to that campaign as well (I don’t remember, sorry). What impressed me then, and continues to impress me, is the technical apparatus he has set up to make sure that he is able to hear feedback from his constituents. I don’t know how he’s done it exactly, but Kalen consistently reads and cites the emails and messages he receives through his work as an elected official. As someone who goes through life with 16,000+ unread emails, I find that nearly astounding.

Kalen is not beholden to special interests: And someone is scared about that. I don’t have to tell you how corrupt politics in America have become. This is a well worn truth at this point. Kalen can prove that he is more interested in serving his constituents than any special interests. He has a track record of doing so. As someone who has known him for about 25 years now, since we were both kids, I can tell you that this is a deeply held principle for Kalen. This is nowhere near some sort of political stunt. That being the reality, someone is using special interest funds to smear Kalen. He breaks it down best here. The blatant lies and misrepresentations that are being shared throughout San Jose just for a city council position are both sad and embarrassing.

Kalen is effective: I think Kalen best summarizes how he did as a member of the school board for our old high school here, from his website:

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I included that last sentence on purpose. I truly think that Kalen is finding the path forward in American politics beyond the divisiveness of today. I think we should encourage that, and embark on that path ourselves.

Please folks, if you know anyone who lives in western San Jose – share this with them or tell them about Kalen’s campaign. We need to be putting more good people in office.

Quoted in this article about homelessness in Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay

Providing a taste of what it can be like to be homeless

The full quote is “Think about what it might take for you to become homeless. The money you’d have to lose, the job you’d have to lose, the relationships that would have to break down. There are thousands of people in this county who have gone through that trauma.”

Here’s the article

Mourning 9/11, And Everything After

Now that I work with veterans, today was not an easy day

As I drove up to the 9/11 memorial this morning, I saw veterans outside greeting each other. I had to flee. I had to keep going. I couldn’t be in that space. I couldn’t be with men and women who had signed up to sacrifice it all – when I hadn’t. It felt… disrespectful. I felt as if I would be violating a sacred space.

All of my conflicted thoughts about 9/11 came to the surface at once. I found myself parked down the road, with tears in my eyes.

A vet asked me recently, why I didn’t serve. I told him that, being 18 on 9/11, I didn’t want to fight an insurgency…

He didn’t know what an insurgency was.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog how I had studied foreign affairs for years, and that I knew jihad was coming to the US – I also knew that our military and our society hadn’t learned the lessons from Vietnam. That we hadn’t come up with effective strategies for dealing with an enemy who could blend into the populace.

The mess that followed justified my decision. The expanded war in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq. ISIS… Dying via an IED on some street in Iraq would have been far from an acceptable death for me.

I also see 9/11 as a catalyst, a catalyst that exposed the fissures in American society. Besides the death and misery of millions in the Middle East; 9/11 brought us Obama, and 9/11 brought us Trump. The deep divide in our culture, the big oscillations between extremes – I see as responses to 9/11.

What there is for me is to mourn all of it. Not just the events of 9/11, but the seventeen years that have followed. The swift death of the America of my childhood (the 90’s)…

Yet, even though I feel as though I made the right choices for me, I have guilt. Guilt for not taking direct action in the face of a trying time. Guilt for seeing the options in front of me, saying “not the military,” and then not finding another way to take action. Guilt that I only feel on days like today.

So instead? I’ll do what I’m paid to do. I’ll go out into Santa Cruz county to look for homeless veterans. Just for the game of it, I’ll look for someone specific. I’ll see if I can find a young guy who was on the streets of Fallujah. Maybe in the back country of Afghanistan. I’ll go put the light at the end of somebody’s tunnel.

That’s how I can serve my country today. That’s what’s in front of me.

And the tears in my eyes as I finish this post are tears for 9/11, and everything after.

 

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