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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Ramona stops eating forever
Friday, October 13 2023
This morning I carried Ramona down the stairs and got her to go out into the yard to piss. She eventually settled into the dog bed in the living room while I made myself some coffee. The mass on the side of her throat had continued to grow overnight, making the whole right side of her head look like that of a very different dog. Gretchen tried to get her to eat more of that "stew" she'd made last night, but Ramona didn't want any, not even with peanut butter. Somehow, though, she did want to eat the small treat containing her medication, which this morning included the other half of a Clavimox antibiotic tablet. Later, the Hurley vet called to say Ramona's blood work had come in. It wasn't all that helpful, just that it contained lots of proteins consistent with inflammation. There was nothing in the results that seemed to indicate cancer, but that couldn't be ruled out either. We asked what it meant that the mass on Ramona's throat was continuing to grow, and the vet made noises that sounded to us like she didn't think it was a very good sign. Gretchen later called our friend Justin (of Erica and Justin), who is himself a veterinarian, to get more answers about when to expect the antibiotics to start working if they were going to work at all. He was very helpful, and even suggested we drive down to New York City (where he was) so he could put Ramona on the ultrasound machine. But we didn't want to pur Ramona through all that. As it was, she was listless and occasionally moaned as if in pain, though not as much as she had in the past. Sometimes she even became alert and focused, such as when I mentioned her name when talking about her to another human.
Since Ramona wasn't eating and the mass wasn't shrinking, it was becoming more and more clear that the best course of action was to euthanize her. Ideally, we'd have a vet come to the house to do that (which was how we euthanized Sally and Eleanor). But the Hurley vet is so understaffed these days that they can't make house calls any more, not even for euthanasia. Gretchen tried calling up a batty old visiting vet we'd used a few times in the past, and she did get back to us eventually (indicating she hasn't yet died!), but by then we'd made other arrangements. The Hurley vet said they could perform euthanasia procedures out in the parking lot, which was almost as good as a euthanasia house call, given how much Ramona enjoys being in a car. That would be happening at 3:30pm. In the mean time, Gretchen sent word to Ray and Nancy in case they wanted to come by and see Ramona one last time. They arrived at noon bringing delicious vegan treats for us from Sweet Maresas's, the vegan bakery in Uptown Kingston. They also brought Jack, who bounded around the house with all his devil-may-care enthusiasm and youthful vigor, making Neville (who is decidedly younger) look like an old man in comparison. Ramona perked up briefly at the arrival of guests, but soon returned to her torpor. I made more coffee for Nancy and we had a good final social gathering for Ramona.
After they left, I made a quick run into Uptown to get some mold-resistant paint for the ceiling I'd scrubbed on Tuesday as well as some concrete-compatible primer for the foundation wall up at the cabin. Also, since I expected to be sad and nostaligic this evening, I bought a half gallon of gin and a litre of scotch at JK's Liquor. Our household liquor supply had recently become so depleted that I'd nearly exhausted even our topshelf liquor cabinet (the one in the living room with all the various liqueurs we never drink).
At 3:30pm, we arrived in the Hurley vet's parking lot, though were told to drive on the loop driveway around to the other side of the building so the euthanasia wouldn't be happening amid other customers coming and going with their critters. Dr. F, our favorite vet, has a really good energy about her and she genuinely seems to love our critters. She gave Ramona a sedative while I was sitting next to her in the backseat, and it acted on her very quickly. I could feel her suddenly relax, perhaps because the pain and her worried thoughts had suddenly vanished. Soon thereafter, Ramona fell into a sleep so deep that her tongue lolled out and she didn't care when Gretchen handled it. This made it possible for a tech to come out and put a fat catheter into her arm. As all this was going on, I did what I always do during a euthanasia procedure I am party to: I kept thinking that I could always stop the procedure and Ramona would wake up and we'd go on as before. I never say this of course, but I think it. It gives me some comfort, at least for most of the procedure. But at some point the vet comes out and injects a large syringe of pink fluid into your dog's vein. (This is what Gretchen calls "the pink sleep," though that term seems to have originated with Dr. F.) Then it really is too late to abort. Fortunately for me I quickly purge most such doubts from my head.
This afternoon, just as as Dr. F was injecting the irreversible pink fluid, a mid-sized falcon landed on a branch of a tree nearby. I thought it might be a merlin, though it's possible it wasn't even a falcon. (It was certainly not one of the more familiar raptors such as a cooper's hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk.)
After Dr. F declared Ramona "gone," we thanked her and drove back home. Neville usually defers to Ramona about everything, even about such mundane things as climbing out of the car. This afternoon, though, he seemed a little confused by Ramona's insistence on remaining spread out on the backseat. Eventually he jumped down and wandered into the house.
By this point, I already had YouTube video playing on my computer, broadcasting its audio on an FM frequency for me to listen to as I dug Ramona's grave. (It ended up being a series of videos about foolish women falling for Nigerian romance scammers.) Gretchen and I tried to figure out a good place to dig the grave, but surface rocks thwarted us in all the locations near the other graves we've dug (which are in a cluster just west of the rickety old dog house and a massive outdoor barbecue grill made of cemented bluestone). Eventually, though, I found a suitable spot about 20 feet east of Sally's grave (now covered by a massive pile of pinecones). As with the other graves, this one was south of the well-established trail through our yard connecting our front door to the Farm Road, thus keeping it from intruding on the small part of our yard that we actually keep mowed. The state of having an unburied (or un-otherwise-disposed-of) corpse in or around our house is one I do not like, so I aways work fast when digging a grave. The ground where I was digging was, as with the rest of our yard, very rocky. But it wasn't quite as rocky (or as full of big pine roots) as the other graves I'd dug in the past, so I was able to produce a nice deep hole in about an hour. It wasn't six feet deep but in places it might've been as much as three feet deep and big enough across for Ramona to lie in curled up in a comfortable-looking ball. When I went to grab her corpse out of the back of the car, I worried a little that perhaps the hole wasn't big enough, but when I had her down in it (on a comfy layer of pine needles) it looked perfect. Then I fetched Gretchen so she could help me say goodbye and fill in the hole atop our precious dog, someone I'd long referred to (not entirely seriously) as "the best dog ever"). It all suddenly seemed more real looking down at her relaxed body, and we both were convulsed with sobs. The thing Gretchen seemed to best recall in this moment when she later mentioned it to others was that her tears fell into Ramona's grave and joined her there.
It never seems appropriate to throw clay onto someone you've genuinely loved for over a decade, so what I do is to first cover the dead with a layer of pine needles. Gretchen helped with that and then handed me numerous flat rocks (which I'd segregated out of the soil when digging the hole) that I used to basically tile over the pine needles. This provides a barrier against critters digging down to her corpse, something I said Ramona would do to her own corpse given the opportunity. Once all the rocks were in the hole, I added soil. I'd The hole had passed through three separate layers of soil: ground up rock dust from the drilling of the nearby well, dark topsoil, and light orange subsoil. As I put the soil back in on top of Ramona, I did my best to make sure the topsoil ended up on top. And then I added the two plugs of sod I'd initially removed to form a hump, though that will likely flatten over time. Finally, I ringed the small grave with fresh pine cones, all flecked white with pitch.
Back in the house, Gretchen baked a frozen pizza, which we ate while watching Jeopardy!. I'd been sad, but now I was feeling almost giddy. This had something to do with the enormous relief that Ramona was no longer suffering. It also felt like a huge relief that we no longer had to worry about her continuing loss of mobility. Weeks ago, we'd discussed the possibility of sleeping on the first floor so Ramona would no longer have to go up and down the stairs. But now that was no longer a concern.
Then our tenants from the Brewster Street rental messaged Gretchen to tell her that our traps had killed another rat in the basement. I decided to go over there immediately and remove the body, if only to keep any other rats in that basement from taking the loss of a comrade as actionable intelligence. Interestingly, when I got to the Brewster Street basement, I found the dead rat had almost avoided the killing bar; it had snapped down on what appeared to be the tip of the rat's nose, producing a blood spot no bigger than a quarter. But this was apparently far enough into the rat's head to kill it immediately, since it hadn't crawled in any direction. I brought the corpse home and flung it into the bushes east of our driveway while listening to a This American Life story being broadcasted on a local public radio station. (It was the one about the father who has his wife and one of his kids act as a lookout while he drives a modified trailer stuffed with marijuana up through California from the Mexican border.)
Back in the house, I drank booze and went through the monthly directories in which I organize my life to compile an album of photos from Ramona's life. As I did so, occasionally I'd shed a few tears. Eventually I posted nearly 80 photographs to Facebook, the first general announcement from our family of Ramona's death. Those photographs (and others I found subsequently) are organized chronologically below.

Ramona through the years

The day of her arrival after a brief stint as a street dog down in Brooklyn. March 3, 2012. Click to enlarge.

That outlet is upside down! March 12, 2012. Click to enlarge.

With Marie ("the Baby"). March 14, 2012. Click to enlarge.

In the living room in Hurley, probably in March, 2012

In the living room in Hurley, probably in March, 2012.

With Marie ("the Baby") March 14, 2012. Click to enlarge.

Tug of war with her new doggie friends, March 14, 2012. Click to enlarge.

Eleanor and Ramona playing back when Eleanor still enjoyed doing that, March 23, 2012. Click to enlarge.

Me carrying Ramona into the living room in Hurley, April 8, 2012(?) Click to enlarge.

The time Jessika and Aaron came to visit from Charlottesville with their dog who was also named Ramona. They had another dog too named Edgar at the time. The dog you see on the left is Eleanor but that looks like the other Ramona just barely in the frame on the right. This was before our Ramona started hating all other new dogs by default. June 11, 2012. Click to enlarge.

This was a couple months before our old dog Sally died and Ramona became her replacement. July 15, 2012. Click to enlarge.

Ramona sure loved a lake, and she got to visit one every summer until we bought her a cabin on a lake. August 14, 2012. Click to enlarge.

I don't know what supernova is going off in this photo, but Ramona is about as unfazed as a dog can get. Lake Edward, Bleecker, Adirondacks, NY, August 16, 2012. Click to enlarge.

This was at Lake Edward in Bleecker, NY (about a mile from our present cabin on Woodworth Lake) back on August 17, 2012. Click to enlarge.

October 20, 2012 in Hurley. Click to enlarge.

October 20, 2012 in Hurley. Click to enlarge.

Ramona with a deer leg she found in the forest. November 22, 2012. Click to enlarge.

Eleanor and Ramona at their grandparents' old house in Silver Spring, Maryland. December 24, 2012. Click to enlarge.

December 9, 2012. Click to enlarge.

A painting I painted, December 26, 2012.

Another chunk of deer found in the forest, February 3, 2013.

Ramona with Clarence in the greenhouse upstairs. February 10, 2013.

March 11, 2013. Click to enlarge.

Near the north end of the Stick Trail, March 13, 2013. Click to enlarge.

With uncle Ray, April 10, 2013. Click to enlarge.

In our bed with Clarence the Cat and Gretchen, May 14, 2013. Click to enlarge.

Quilled by a porcupine, though not too badly, May 18, 2013.

With Clarence the Cat in the driveway, May 20, 2013. Click to enlarge.

Clarence always really loved Ramona. May 29th, 2013. Click to enlarge.

This was Sally's old blue chair, which Ramona kind of inherited. June 2, 2013. Click to enlarge.

Rolling around in the front yard a few feet from her eventual gravesite. June 23, 2013. Click to enlarge.

This time we managed to get both Ramona and Eleanor in the canoe, though Eleanor was reluctant at best. Lake Edward, August 14, 2013. Click to enlarge.

The time a mother bear bit her haunch. September 24, 2013. Click to enlarge.

With Clarence the Cat and (behind her) Sylvia the Cat, September 26, 2013. Click to enlarge. [REDACTED]

Gnawing on a delicious deer skull, December 31, 2013. Click to enlarge. [REDACTED]

Simulating roadkill, May 12, 2014. Click to enlarge.

I see some columbine flowers in the background there. May 13, 2014. Click to enlarge.

This is at Kyser "Lake," which is actually a reservoir and slightly southwest of the actual Adirondacks. September 15, 2014. Click to enlarge.

Kyser "Lake," just outside the Adirondacks, September 19, 2014. Click to enlarge.

With me and Clarence the Cat. January 7, 2015.

Ramona with Oscar the Cat, January 15, 2015. Click to enlarge.

May 2, 2015. Click to enlarge.

May 13, 2015 on the freshly-plowed Esopus Valley bottom. Click to enlarge.

With Clarence the Cat, May 24, 2015. Click to enlarge.

Our first summer at Twenty Ninth Pond near Minerva, NY in the Adirondacks, July 29, 2015. Ramona riding in a boat! Later I learned she could ride with me in a smaller kayak (though not as small as our kayaks). Click to enlarge.

Ramona with her cousin Sadie. August 22, 2015. Click to enlarge.

There's that butterfly with an eagle's head pattern she had on her chest. August 24, 2015. Click to enlarge.

Ramona, November 14, 2015.

January 25, 2016. Click to enlarge. [REDACTED]

On Twenty Ninth Pond in the Adirondacks, August 8, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Ramona playing with Neville on Twenty Ninth Pond, August 8, 2016. Click to enlarge.

On the laboratory ottoman (where there wasn't much room), December 18, 2016. Click to enlarge.

They found a deer carcass at the West Hurley park and it was nearly impossible to pry them away in April 16, 2017. Click to enlarge.

Ramona painting, October 14, 2017.

The time Neville needed to be penned up so his titanium-enhanced knees could heal. December 28, 2017.

Another picture of Neville's recuperation pen. December 2017 Click to enlarge.

A happy Ramona in party mode! May 20, 2018.

July 24, 2018 in "the beyad" in Hurley. Click to enlarge.

In the laboratory in a state of normal chaos, July 25, 2018. Click to enlarge.

Several days after Ramona got lost in the unbounded wildnerness of the central Adirondacks but then was found by some nice lady near Minerva, August 10, 2018. Click to enlarge.

Back when I had a job and worked in an office, Ramona would sometimes come to work with me. October 10, 2018. Click to enlarge.

Depending on your screen, you may only see one of Ramona's eyes. This is at one of Gretchen's poetry readings in Woodstock, April 13, 2019. Click to enlarge.

On Twenty Ninth Pond in the Adirondacks, August 25, 2019. You can see how Ramona was up for anything. Click to enlarge.

October 23, 2019 in Red Hook, NY. Click to enlarge.

At the old Chocolate Factory in Red Hook, where I actually used to commute to a job, November 27, 2019. Click to enlarge.

At my old Red Hook office, November 27, 2019. Click to enlarge.

Ramona stole this from one of Crazy Dave's dogs (who foolishly left it on the trail), February 23, 2020. Click to enlarge.

At an ancient stone wall about a half mile from our house, March 5, 2020. Click to enlarge.

Near the Chocolate Factory in Red Hook, NY. March 19, 2020. Click to enlarge.

Some critter decided to hide in the stone wall I conveniently built. April 4, 2020. Click to enlarge.

Ramona stole this from one of Crazy Dave's dogs. April 6, 2020. Click to enlarge.

What we refer to as being "seepies!" April 21, 2020. Click to enlarge.

Early in the pandemic, we got some vegan burgers to go and ate them on the banks of the Walkill River in New Paltz, April 25, 2020. Click to enlarge.

Ramona on the Wallkill floodplain. April 25, 2020. Click to enlarge.

On Twenty Ninth Pond near Minerva, NY, August 9, 2020. Click to enlarge.

Ramona wasn't playing frisbee; she'd been eating Chinese food, August 10, 2020. Click to enlarge.

At Jeff & Alana's house. August 21, 2020. Click to enlarge.

At the north edge of the Lowes parking lot. September 1, 2020. Click to enlarge.

On the Farm Road, September 13, 2020. Click to enlarge.

At the Golden Notebook in Woodstock, January 18, 2021. Click to enlarge.

In Hurley, surprisingly with no snow. The human is our erstwhile friend Carrie. January 22, 2021. Click to enlarge.

On the eastdeck in Hurley, March 23, 2021. Click to enlarge.

A balmy day in Albany, April 10 2021. We were eating pizza in the graveyard because the pandemic meant we couldn't eat in a restaurant. Click to enlarge.

April 23 2021 with a hipster (and a mural of a hipster!) outside Rough Draft in Kingston, NY. Click to enlarge.

April 30, 2021. Click to enlarge.

May 7, 2021. Click to enlarge.

May 20, 2021. At a then-mostly-unknown wilderness park on the bluffs above the Hudson near the mouth of Rondout Creek in Kingston. Click to enlarge.

August 13, 2021 at Woodworth Lake in the Adirondacks (before I'd built the dock). Click to enlarge.

August 22, 2021 near Woodworth Lake. Click to enlarge.

A canoe ride with Neville too! September 26, 2021. Click to enlarge.

Ramona at the "tree dock" (a fallen tree modified for use as a dock, mostly by adding shallow cuts to prevent slipping) October 2, 2021. Click to enlarge.

Neville on another canoe ride with Ramona, this time hauling dock-related freight. October 9, 2021. Click to enlarge.

Ramona with a huge fern-covered boulder near Woodworth Lake, October 23 2021. That species of fern is a kind only found atop large boulders. Click to enlarge.

Ramona with a zonked-out Powerful, February 6, 2022. Click to enlarge.

March 20, 2022 in the Adirondacks. Click to enlarge.

Neville went for more canoe rides than I remember. May 15, 2022. Click to enlarge.

Ramona with our nascent dock, May 22, 2022. Click to enlarge.

June 12, 2022 on the partially-built dock. Click to enlarge.

June 26, 2022 in Bearsville, NY outside the Bearsville Theatre. Ramona preferred the kind of bears you can chase up a tree. Click to enlarge.

July 29, 2022. Click to enlarge.

August 14, 2022. This is in the Adirondacks, where this kind of rock does not normally exist. We'd brought it up over the course of many drives from our house in Hurley (in the Catskills). Click to enlarge.

August 14, 2022. Click to enlarge.

Ramona being upset with Crazy Dave's dogs near out property boundary in Hurley. Dave's dogs are as crazy as Dave is but otherwise perfectly nice and we don't have a problem with them. But Ramona wasn't going to tolerate any incursions. August 24, 2022. Click to enlarge.

August 28, 2022 at our dock on Woodworth Lake. Click to enlarge.

September 3, 2022. Click to enlarge.

September 14, 2022 in my laboratory in Hurley Click to enlarge.

September 17, 2022 at the cabin in the Adirondacks.

October 7, 2022 in the Adirondacks.

At the commie coffee shop on the Rondout in Kingston, March 19, 2023. Click to enlarge.

Licking Lester's nasty ear after a weekend of it festering, June 18, 2023. Click to enlarge.

A foggy day at the cabin, August 8, 2023. Click to enlarge.

in the laboratory with Oscar, August 30, 2023. Click to enlarge.

Wading in the shallows near the public dock at Woodworth Lake, September 3, 2023. Click to enlarge.

Ramona in a canoe with a very large rock, September 11, 2023. Click to enlarge.

October 2, 2023 on our dock at Woodworth Lake, Bleecker NY. Click to enlarge.

This was the last picture I took of her, on October 6th 2023 at the cabin on Woodworth Lake in Bleecker, NY. Click to enlarge.

Gretchen took this photo today. Note the swelling on the right side of Ramona's face. Click to enlarge.

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