Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ya Thrill Me When Ya Drill Me

I am off to the dentist in just a little bit. I am about to complete a series of visits starting out with the aforementioned deep, under the gum tooth scraping, followed by the single filling I ended up needing and now culminating in the final procedure where I finally submit to the dreaded root canal. Considering I used to be absolutely terrified of the dentist and indeed avoided going for upwards of 10 years at a clip, this is all pretty amazing. Not only have I conquered my general fear of dental visits, but I actually almost nodded off during one of the tooth scraping sessions.

Still, I'm a little twitchy about this root canal. I have looked up the procedure online and while the description is a little off-putting, I have decided to go with my dentist, who swears it can be done painlessly, and my dad, who claims it sounds really bad but "is no big deal". Mostly, I've decided that since the procedure is covered by ADAP (another wonderful side-benefit to being HIV+, I swear, had I known all the fabulous prizes you get I would have done this years ago!) I'll just stop being such a pussy and get my root canal-ed *snicker* and be done with it.

UPDATE: Part one of the root canal is finished. It didn't hurt at all.

Friday, July 25, 2008


One of the reasons that I bonded with Jet so deeply was that I saw myself reflected back in him. Jet was never the dog that people ooohd and ahhhd over in the park. Little children didn't squeal and run towards him. With his floppy ear, snaggle tooth and stubby tail, Jet was funny looking. He was, as my brother fondly called him "a dented can" dog. Like the dented can, one you pick up in the discount aisle, the corn inside is perfectly good, it's the outer package that isn't all that attractive.

To me, he was beautiful. His imperfections made him more so. It's how I see myself. And as I've long since established, I don't love anyone nearly as much as I love me. Like me, Jet had been dinged up by his previous life. And as happy as we made each other, I could always spot a little bit of fear, and a little bit of sadness in his big brown eyes. And so I would sit down on the ground next to him whenever I saw that reflection in his eyes and I would pull him close and scratch his ears and give his whole body a squeeze. I would tell him I loved him. Not so surprisingly, it made me feel instantly better.

I plan on going to Buffalo at the end of August for an overdue visit with the family. One of the reasons I brought Jet to the vet in the first place was because I was trying to get his vaccinations and medical records up to date so I could take him with me. Sadly, I just couldn't get him ready to travel. My mom would have loved my funny looking friend about as much as her funny looking kid.

I want to thank everyone who commented and sent their comfort and condolences, both here on this blog and in private e-mail. I spent quite a few mornings this week tearing up as I read the kind words people took the time to send. And lousy circumstances aside, I was quite surprised and happy to hear from a dear friend from the left coast that I haven't spoken or written to in far too long. Thanks for writing Beth, I miss you.

Come September, assuming I feel better (and I more than likely will), and when the weather cools off here in NYSweaty, I believe I'll find another dog to share my house, and with any luck, the foot of my bed. It will be bittersweet at first, I'm sure. Knowing me, I'll probably not be able to resist searching the dented can aisle first.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Truth Is

You don't get to be a card carrying alcoholic without being really good at living in a state of denial. Deluding oneself that things haven't gotten that bad or the truth is what you believe it to be is a skill set every alcoholic develops over the years. And so it was with Jet and me and how ill he actually was. I didn't admit how serious his illness was because at first I just didn't see the obvious (in retrospect) signs. When he started getting suddenly and progressively more sick I simply refused to acknowledge what I was seeing, and like a well-trained alcoholic, I eventually managed to make myself believe it. That, and I so desperately wanted Jet to get better, and the thought that I might loose him twisted me up so much that I somehow thought that I could make him better through sheer force of will alone.

But sometime last week my house of cards started to crumble. I vividly remember taking him out to the dog run. He went along well enough, although the usual life was missing from his walk. By nature not the most social dog, now he absolutely avoided all the other dogs as well as people. He didn't sniff, he didn't bark, he just slowly walked along behind me, humoring me really, until a few minutes in when he just stopped. And I looked across the dog run as he stood all by himself looking back at me. His head was low and his ears were down. He looked at me from 20 feet away with the saddest expression I had ever seen on his face, all alone in the middle of the run. I called his name and he didn't come. His nub-tail didn't budge. He just looked at me. And I knew.

I tried anything I could think of to get him to eat. I even brought real chicken breast home from work and cut it up into his food. He ate it, and I took every half-eaten meal as a hopeful sign. Until the next day when I would roll up some medicine in a ball of cheese, normally absolutely irresistible to Jet. Now he would just turn his head away. I know enough about dogs to know that one of the worst signals they can send you is when they refuse food. They are either terrified or desperately ill. And yet I wouldn't see it for what it was. Until I felt his ribs. He had lost almost 10 pounds, seemingly in a matter of weeks. I took to petting him around the ears and neck, so I wouldn't feel those damn ribs.

And then Saturday morning I woke up and felt a wet spot in the bed. Jet had started leaking urine again, only this time when I could get the medication into him, it did nothing to stop it. There were several large wet spots in the bed, and one sickeningly green spot as well. I have no idea where it came from. I doubt he coughed it up as I sleep too lightly for that now. More then likely it just leaked from his mouth. I had no idea what it actually was, but I knew if he had just laid in bed and let it happen he was in big trouble. So I immediately called the vet next door and brought him down. After an examination that Jet simply tolerated, as there was no fight in him at all, the vet recommended I bring him right to the hospital. He was severely anemic and needed immediate treatment. I brought him right in.

They triaged Jet immediately after I explained that our vet had sent us over. We were sent back to the waiting area. After about 10 minutes we were called back in. Jet was examined again and the vet at the hospital immediately recommended Jet get a catheter with some fluids and more quick blood tests. She assured me she would speak to me in around 15 minutes. And 15 minutes later she was explaining that Jet had advanced kidney disease, that the test results from a month ago that the vet had sent along with us showed that his kidneys were barely functioning, and that the treatment would be largely ineffectual, expensive, and doomed to fail. I would probably get him home for a matter of days.

I always said that if the time ever came, I wouldn't put my dog through expensive and hopeless treatments, as that's something that the owner does for himself and not the dog. I wouldn't make him suffer just to keep him here, his quality of life was just as precious, if not more, than my own. I just didn't imagine I would have to prove I stand by my convictions for another decade at least.

I take comfort in the fact that after discussions with the hospital vet, it appears that Jet's kidney disease was chronic and destined to be fatal. It also appears he may have been older than the four years I was led to believe. I take comfort in the fact that his last two years were without a doubt his very best. I take comfort in the fact that I saved him, not only from the streets of Howard Beach eating garbage, not only from a certain death at the shelter he surely would have ended up in and not only from the dingy basement he was consigned to by his first foster family, but also quite possibly from his first "owners", who may have discovered they had a dog with a life shortening kidney disorder, and abandoned him out to the street rather than care for him. I take comfort in the fact that I loved him so very much.

Soon after we found each other, Jet would wake me up licking my face when the sun would rise and slivers of light would start to filter through the shade. The sound of the traffic on 2nd Avenue would gradually increase until he couldn't bear it anymore and lifted the shade with his head, eager to get started on another day. And every time he did it made me that much happier to start another day too. After all, how bad could a day become that started out in bed with doggie kisses?

I would have spent all the money I could find if I thought I could have saved him one more time. Once I finally faced the truth, the inevitability of it, I had no choice but to prove how much I loved him once last time. Jet died with his head cradled in my lap. The only way it could be. The only way I could thank him. The only way to say one last goodbye.

I miss Jet terribly. I am heartbroken.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

Letter To My Roommate

I just got back from a long walk with Jet. Unfortunately once again I found that your dog had shit in the spare room. Immediately after I returned home, Tails then proceeded to squat in the kitchen and shit again. Not only did it smell (obviously) but it didn’t clean up easily and mashed into the floor, meaning they will need to be mopped again. I don’t think it’s fair that I make time to walk my dog, only to have to come home and clean up dog shit anyway. Especially unfair because he’s not mine to clean up after. This without taking in to account how many times Tails urinates all over the living room and/or the kitchen before I get up in the morning.

I have seen no evidence of late that you are even attempting to walk Tails on any kind of regular basis. I frequently hear you up and around while your dog runs around the house, and have seen that he very often goes to the bathroom everywhere while you are getting ready to leave. Many times it seems that you come and go without taking care of his bathroom needs at all. In addition, twice this week alone Tails was left without any food or water in his bowls. And he could use a bath. All of this is unacceptable.

In addition, I’ve been meaning to speak with you about the number of days you don’t return to the apartment at all. I have not been forced to feed and walk Tails, but I couldn’t realistically provide food and relief for one dog, only to completely ignore the other. That would be worse for me than taking care of them both. Again, I don’t think it’s fair that you put me in that position at all. Besides all of this, Jet still isn’t feeling well, and I need to spend the limited amount of time I am home to see that he gets his medicine, food etc. as well as whatever special attention I have time for.

I’m not going to insist that you lock Tails up when you are gone, as leaving him inside a small room without even an open window in the summer, and without me knowing if he even has food or water, would be horribly cruel. I would suggest that you find a way to work regular walking into his schedule, particularly in the morning. If you are going to leave the house for the day and leave Tails loose, I don’t understand how you can’t find 15 minutes to take him once around the block.

I love Tails and I don’t mind taking him for a walk on occasion and I love sharing treats with the dogs and it’s a pleasure to have them sit with me when I’m home. I also know accidents happen and since Tails is obviously not the least bit housebroken, I don’t plan on wigging out every time there’s a mess. However, I feel that you are taking advantage of my patience and not taking in to consideration my free time. In addition, I would prefer not to come home after a long day at work and have the house reek of dog piss and have to clean up shit. That’s not how I want to live, and if we can’t find a compromise I will be forced to reconsider our living arrangement.

Sorry to write a note, as I hate writing them between roommates, but I had to replace my phone and lost your number or I would have called.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

HIV Travel Ban Lifted!

Although it hasn't officially passed The House and become law, it appears that, upon clearing approval in The Senate, one of the most ridiculous and mean-spirited laws to grow out of HIV fear in this country is going to be repealed. The Senate passed a bill authorizing increased funding for PEPFAR, and attached to that bill was a measure to eliminate the travel ban for HIV+ visitors.

Senate changes will have to be worked out with the House. Those include a measure added to the Senate bill by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., that would reverse a policy that has made it difficult for HIV-positive foreigners to visit or seek residency in the United States.

"For 20 years the United States has barred HIV-positive travelers from entering the country even for one day," said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. "Today the Senate said loud and clear that AIDS exceptionalism must come to an end."

And while activists and bloggers are falling all over themselves congratulating our lawmakers about a job well done, all I will grudgingly say is:

"About fuckin' time!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kitchen Fixin'

Last week when I had a few hours free I broke out a can of Hunter Green paint I had picked up on sale and repainted all the baseboards and trim in the kitchen, as well as the window sill and all the interior wood. The kitchen is now white with various shades of green and black. And with that, I have eradicated almost the last bit of evidence that They Who Will Not Be Named ever lived here. One of them, in a rare burst of actually lifting a finger around here, decided to "help out" and paint the kitchen. Which actually resulted in great gobs of paint being slapped up and dripped all over the tile floor, the stove, the bar and various appliances. When all was said and done, my kitchen was a horrid shade of beige with baby-shit yellow baseboards and wood trim.

Over the course of the last year I've been replacing all the store bought photo prints in the kitchen with my own, repainting the walls and taking down pot racks and spice shelves. I made the gayest new spice rack out of a metal NYC Subway sign and some magnetic spice holders. I KNOW! Now that I've re-painted the wood trim, all I have left to do is re-surface the bar top (maybe copper) and paint the wood a darker shade. Oh, and get the other dog to stop peeing in there.

While I was at it, I used the link that Will and someone else clued me in on for finding replacements for your kitchen china, and finally ordered up a replacement for the coffee cup that was so carelessly broken and never mentioned (or apologized for), as well as a plate that was subsequently broken. I once again have a complete service of matching dinnerware for six, which I will probably never use, as the odds of me liking six people enough to invite them for dinner all at the same time are almost incalculable. But that's not the point. The point is that I own grown up dinnerware should I need it, and my kitchen has not a trace of baby-shit color anywhere. Just dog pee.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jet Is Better

By the time I was headed for home that night it was around 2:40 am and I had worked myself into a horrible state. I'm not given to melodrama as a rule, but I was really afraid I had made a mistake and I would arrive to find Jet sick and suffering under the bed or even worse. I ran up all five flights of stairs and pushed open the door. To my relief, there at the far end of the hallway stood my boy, up on his feet and wagging the nub where his tail used to be. I almost burst into tears. I sat down in the kitchen and pulled his face up to mine and hugged him.

"You feel OK?"

He seemed much better. I opened up the bottle of Pedialyte I bought him. I had heard that it was good for dogs if they were dehydrated. I poured about half the bottle in his bowl. Even though it looks like water and this particular brand was packaged as "flavorless" Jet knew immediately I hadn't given him water. He sniffed it and rejected it immediately. I put several ice cubes in the bowl to get him interested, which worked enough that he drank about half. More to make me happy it seemed.

Then he made for the door as if he was ready for a walk. That made me feel much better. He was by no means his peppy self, but he was at least up and interested. I noticed he was no longer gagging either. Although he did manage to cough up something green and nasty on my bed sheet while I was at work. Why he insists on bringing up the grossest things in my bed .... Maybe because it's the only interesting thing that happens there these days. In any case, we went for a nice walk around two blocks and he got up the stairs all on his own. Slowly, but he did fine. I think he was just worn out from being sick.

Once I got him upstairs and smothered in more kisses, I grabbed a snack for myself and settled on to the couch, at which point he surprised me again by nudging my hand with his nose, using the sign language we worked out meaning "Hungry". I dropped my own food and made for the kitchen to fix him a bowl. He ate it all at once. No gagging. No retching.

And then he slept on the bed curled up right next to me all night long. In the morning he "asked" for some more food.

I'll finish out his antibiotics and make sure he gets more Pedialyte when it gets particularly humid out. And once he runs out of medication I'll bring him in for more lab work. But for now I think he, we, are going to be fine.

And thanks for asking guys.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Jet Is Sick

I'm worried. His last visit to the vet brought some bad news, and the fear is that there is something wrong with his kidneys. On top of that he came up as anemic (me too!), and he had some sort of bacterial infection. Me and the dog are a walking bug factory. So he went back on the antibiotics for the last couple of weeks. The vet wasn't too alarmed because he was eating all right, going to the bathroom and he wasn't really symptomatic.

Unfortunately right after his visit, he started getting finicky about eating and began throwing up every day or so. He still seemed pretty energetic, eager to go outside etc. Then over the 4th of July weekend he stopped going to the bathroom and refused to eat more than occasionally. He also started retching every few hours or every time he drank from his water. I continued to give him his medication, and he certainly didn't seem worse.

Last night and today he started to scare me. He refused any kind of food, biscuit cheese, anything. He even turned away at the cooked beef liver I made for him the other day, and that he absolutely devoured the day before. Last night after his walk he seemed OK, but then he suddenly threw up on the bed again. He's been gagging all morning and didn't even want to go out this morning for a walk, despite being in all night.

I "forced" him to go outside, which he went along with. It's been ridiculously hot and humid, and he's never liked the heat, but he seemed disinterested in even being outside. After we walked around the park he came back in the building but started walking up the stairs like he was a hundred. After the second set of stairs he just stopped and looked at me like he couldn't make it. I had to scoop him up and carry him the rest of the way. Once he got in the house he kept curling up under chairs and tables, like he was trying to hide. He periodically retched and coughed.

At this point, I'm pretty sure this can't just be the heat. He always gets funky during really humid days but not this bad. I almost called in sick to work to run him in to the vet again, but I decided to leave him in the air conditioning and see how he is when I get home. Of course, now it's all I'm thinking about, and if anything happens to him while I'm at work I'll die myself.

He kind of helped save my life.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

NYC Gay Pride 2008 - The Rest Of The Pix

It seems "Green" themes could go in radically different directions this year.

Twinks On A Box

Hello, Kitty.

American Foundation for Ass Research

DNA goes down under. YUM.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

NYC Gay Pride 2008

So Sunday morning found me sleep-deprived and heading back up to midtown, determined not to arrive at the designated meeting spot late. I made it right on time and found that everyone was gathering just as I arrived. It was a big social scene in general, as all the other groups were also gathering members, making adjustments to costumes and vehicles and finishing preparations for the march. I watched a group of hot men that were marching with AMFAR as they received their T-Shirts. Scissors appeared as if by magic as sleeves were disdainfully removed and cast aside and shirts were cut to playfully peek-a-boo belly length. The whole operation took about 30 seconds. Gays.

We were a rag-tag group to be sure, wedged in a section with the better attended AMFAR and GMHC (And yes, more than one person noticed they seem to have an "AIDS section" for the march). But what we lacked in numbers we would surely, as I found out later, make up in energy and enthusiasm. For most of the morning we were within earshot of a Caribbean Pride group, and once we had the rickshaws decked out and the signs and banners distributed, we waited patiently for the parade to begin and danced in the hot noon sun to some killer Caribbean beats.

Once the parade actually began, it took about 1/2 hour before we rounded the corner and stepped on to 5th Avenue. Let me tell you, if you've never experienced it, the energy you get from the city and the tens of thousands of people lining the Avenue waiting is hard to describe. It's a palpable rush, and it was the first of many times I got a lump in my throat.

One of the highlights of the march came at the 2 pm mark. This is traditionally the Moment of Silence observed along the parade route for all the men, women and children that lost the battle and were taken away in the fight against HIV/AIDS. As a parade observer of many years, it was always a powerful moment. As a parade participant, alongside the members of SIN who still fight that fight every day in every way, it was almost overwhelming. We happened to be standing in the middle of 34th/5th avenue when the Moment of Silence was observed. And it truly seemed as if the entire city fell silent as everyone simply stopped, bowed our heads and reflected on our grief and resolve. I spent the next city block wiping away the tears that I couldn't stop. Afterward, the music returned, as it always does, the cheering resumed and if anything, the demeanor of the collective members of SIN seemed to be that we are alive, we are happy and we've come to party and take our place at the table. And that we did.

As big red rickshaws made ever more perilous circles around the group, and David L., Hector, and Anne Chilada ran screaming from side to side working an already enthusiastic crowd into a frenzy and showering them in candy, we were met with cheers and whistles and shouts of encouragement along the entire route.

We continued making our way down 5th Avenue, until around 19th street when we all started to notice the sky begin to visibly darken. Luckily for Miss Girl (below), she was already prepared in her bathing suit.

After a fantastic lightning bolt tore through the sky the rain finally began to pour down, and while some of the crowds on the street retreated under nearby awnings and scaffolding, many remained out in the storm. Like the good Gay Girl Scout I am, I remembered to check the weather the night before and tucked a 99 Cent Store rain poncho in one of my pockets. Great idea, but it did nothing to keep my socks and sneaks from being completely soaked through. Amazingly, in a phenomenon that seemed to emanate from within our group, every peal of lightning and crack of thunder was met by an equally aggressive roar of approval and howl of defiance. Seemingly, after all we have each been through in our struggle, a little violent rainstorm was simply another obstacle to shout down.

If there was a bright spot to the rain, many of the marchers (including some quite yummy SIN men) simply opted to strip down and enjoy the soaking. As everyone was now completely drenched and (not surprisingly) a little chilled, more than a few people (myself obviously included) noticed how downright nipple-y it had become.

By the time we headed towards the West Village, the rain finally stopped and the warming rays of sun returned. If people had left the parade route, you couldn't tell from here, as the narrow streets of the West Village let us all get up-close and personal with parade watchers and well-wishers. As I found all along the parade route, frequently all you needed do was point a camera to get a smile, a wave or a bulging ...err tricep.

We finally finished our march around 3:30 that afternoon and gathered again about a block away. Signs were discarded and banners were rolled up. Well-deserved rounds of applause went to David L., Anne Chilada (someone get her some new boots!) and the men who pulled those handy red rickshaws all the way down from 56th street (and one who carried his busted rickshaw, like a fallen soldier, back to the pedicab infirmary on the far west side). People started to head their separate ways, and I was in absolutely desperate need of some food, having skipped eating to get to the parade in the morning. Right before we broke up, David got everyone to pull up a rickshaw and pile on in for one last group photo. And there they are, a little tired and a lot happy. As was I. I headed off to the Pride Fest in search of something, at this point anything, to eat. I was pretty beat myself, but inside, I knew this was a NYC Gay Pride I will more than likely never forget.

(If you click on this particular image, you'll get an embiggened version of the group photo.)

And I thank you all for being there. It was truly special.