Category Archives: Poetry

Why Didn’t I Leave Brooklyn Sooner?

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Why didn’t I leave the City sooner? This is a question I often ask myself. I’ve been living in the Hudson Valley for two years after living in Brooklyn for fifteen. My last few years in Brooklyn were like being in a bad relationship, it held so much promise but really couldn’t deliver. Like somehow if I stayed there maybe my dreams of being a writer-musician-wunderkind would come true, but in reality I was working so much I had nothing left at the end of the day to pursue my creativity.

I stayed because of my business. I just didn’t know how I would make money somewhere else. I stayed because of my ego. There’s some kind of identity of being a New Yorker that I wanted to hang onto. I had worked so hard to carve out my little niche that I was reluctant to give it up.

But I was so stressed out from the noise, crowds, constant stimulation, and work that my adrenals were shot, my system was inflamed and I became depressed. Everything looked great on paper- I had the business, husband, apartment but then I couldn’t get out of bed. The suicidal thoughts came and wouldn’t stop which led to shrinks, more and more meds, hospitalizations, and eventually ECT (electroshock therapy), which affected my memory and left me a shell of my former self.

We couldn’t keep going in the city. I somehow sold my business during all this, and while I was on my psych hospital tour of 2015, my husband moved all our stuff into storage upstate. We moved into the tiny weekend cottage in Catskill that we had been renting for a few years. No jobs and no guarantees that we were going to be ok. Nothing.

I wouldn’t have ever left if I hadn’t gotten so sick, that I am certain of. I would’ve worked myself literally to death. But now what would become of us?

The same day my husband moved our stuff into storage he got a job interview in his field up in Albany and he actually got the job. It was a 45-minute commute, but some people do that or more in the City crushed in a subway car with half of humanity. A typical NYC kid he’d only gotten his license in the past year after a lot of prodding from me. Now he had to buy a car and drive to Albany every day. Thankfully, the thruway between Catskill & Albany traffic really isn’t all that bad. His commute would be air conditioning, music, and mountains on either side, not riding in a subway car with a pair of discarded shit filled underwear across the aisle like he did his last few weeks in NYC.

I, on the other hand, was a mess. The depression was better, but I wasn’t totally out of the woods. I struggled with the trauma of the past year in hospitals and losing my life in the city, my business, etc. I worried the only job I could get would be working a Target at the depressed Hudson Valley Mall. But at least I’d have a nice view of the mountains. If I had to work at Lowes the same was true. And if I worked at Stewarts at least I’d probably get free ice cream.

One thing we held onto in this transition was the fact that none of our friends who had left the City and moved upstate said they regretted it and wished they could go back. They had vibrant lives and families and time to enjoy them.

For work I boarded and trained dogs and I opened a small gift and pet related shop in Saugerties called Dogerties. I had always wanted to have a little shop and the rent was so reasonable. I couldn’t have afforded to do it in the City. I started sewing and making dog coats, pillows, and bandanas. I had always wanted to learn to sew but never had time. While I was sitting in the slow shop I wrote and played music a little, but mainly I just recovered from the past year or years it had taken to get me to this place.

We were able to buy a house, a simple ranch on 7 acres, with a creek and mountain views. Our mortgage is less than a studio apartment in the City. We could sit out on the back deck and watch the pink and orange sunset over the mountains.

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I took my dog for walks on the different trails nearby, the Comeau in Woodstock, the Lighthouse & Falling waters in Saugerties, some of the easy hikes in the mountains near Tannersville. I read. I listened to music. I slept. I ate and gained weight from the psych meds and not walking everywhere in the City. I went to the gym.

Sometimes, I got frustrated about my weight and tried to go down on my meds or switch and wound up feeling like shit again and going back up. Some days I cried and was scared I was falling back down the hole again, but usually the next day would be a little better. I just had to be patient, which has never been my strong suit.

I met other writers, artists, musicians, and instead of them being competitive as they were in the City, they were oddly nice and supportive. They weren’t worried about who your agent was or how many books or records you’ve sold. There are a lot of sharp elbows in the City. Upstate people are just excited to meet and experience another creative.

Dogerties was losing money despite my best efforts and I knew I would close when my lease was up at the end of the year. I’m glad I got to try having a shop, but honestly, sitting around waiting for someone to come in is not for me. But I value the experience as something I wouldn’t have had in the City. I made friends with the other shop owners in town and met a lot of nice people.

I didn’t know what I would do next, but I got more and more interested in real estate since I had been looking at Hudson Valley & Catskill Real Estate for so many years in the City. The real estate agent who had sold us our house became a friend and encouraged me to study for my real estate license. I passed and got a job at her company. I really enjoy it, but it is a lot of work and you’re never sure if you’ll actually make money. I’ve done pretty well so far selling a few houses in my first year and I hope with the hustle I learned in NYC I’ll be able to make my business grow to sustain me.

I went back to Brooklyn recently for the first time in two years. A lot of friends have moved away and the few we have left there are anxiously hanging on or planning their exit. Brooklyn has become a caricature of itself. Everything is “Brooklyn” loft or “Brooklyn” coffee or “Brooklyn” mayonnaise. I don’t even think Brooklyn is in Brooklyn anymore.

When I moved there in 2000 Brooklyn was creative, rough around the edges, rife with possibility. I see all that more in Catskill and Kingston than in Brooklyn these days. It’s exciting to be a part of a community again where regular not wealthy people are starting out shops, galleries, restaurants, doing their art, and finding their way.

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I think it’s possible upstate because it’s more affordable and there is more down time, which is what Brooklyn used to be. Now Brooklyn is more expensive—the art space that used to be around the corner from me is now a gym, the tattoo shop an insurance firm, the record shop a bank.

I’ll never be grateful for the sickness that drove me out of the city, but I am grateful for the life I have today. It’s quiet, but not boring, there’s actually so much going on in the Hudson Valley & Catskills that I can’t do everything. From music shows, to literary readings, to gallery openings, to hiking, swimming, and farming. I thought I would feel isolated, but I’m always running into someone in town that I know, always meeting yet another City expat or weekender that wishes they could be here full time.

I think the best gift that this move has given me is that now I know I can hustle anywhere. NYC gave me the gift of making me tough, creative, and resourceful and now I get to do that in a beautiful place where I actually have time to enjoy it.

If I could’ve told myself anything a few years ago it would’ve been just to leave. Leave before it gets so bad you have to leave. Life is too short to be miserably hanging onto what you think you are and where you think you need to be. Just fucking leap, you will land and it may be even better than you’d thought it would be.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Catskills, depression, Dogs, Hudson Valley, Moving, Music, NY, Poetry, Spirituality, Upstate, weight loss, Writing

A Simple Heart- My Struggles with Insanity

No one ever really sets out to lose their mind. The hardest part is trying to piece it back together, particularly after ECT. Yeah shock therapy, yeah they still do that. It helps a lot of people but it didn’t really help me. It just made me confused and depressed instead of just depressed. I had 14 of those motherfuckers, so you can imagine it left me pretty confused afterwards. It makes you lose your memory which you’re supposed to get back over time or at least that’s what everyone tells you. I’m still waiting.

I’m not really sure what happened. I’d lived in Brooklyn fifteen years running a successful dog walking, training, and pet sitting service, which I loved. But managing people as it grew was a constant source of stress. As you can imagine the turnover rate is pretty high and people drawn to the profession aren’t always the most responsible. I had one guy lose a whole set of keys twice and then quit and then try to claim unemployment so I’m getting audited by the department of labor which is a nightmare of paperwork.

I was (am) happily married, we had an apartment in a nice neighborhood, Park Slope, until they built the fucking Barclay Center which totally ruined things. They started throwing up high rises left and right and every rich douche from Manhattan started moving in. It became crowded, expensive, and unbearable. I started wearing earplugs just to leave the apartment, sometimes in the apartment along with the fucking white noise machine so you can attempt to sleep through neighbors and sirens and the like.

So we moved to Clinton Hill, a little quieter neighborhood which it turned out was kind of a transportation nightmare with the old neighborhood and work. The G train isn’t the best line to be on. And when you work from home and your business is based in another neighborhood, and parking subway are pretty much ridiculous what do you do? If you are me you have a nervous breakdown apparently.

It wasn’t just that, it was like life was this giant game of Jenga and the pieces kept getting pulled out until the whole thing just fucking toppled. You’ll have to excuse my use of the F-word, I’m hoping at some point this whole thing becomes a spiritual experience but right now it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and there is no other word to adequately express myself.

So one of the biggest Jenga pieces happened that February. We had been renting a cottage upstate a few hours to get away near Saugerties and Woodstock. We paid for it by bringing dogs up for a country get away. We’d sometimes throw 5 dogs in the car and take them up. It was ridiculous. Some of my happiest memories (that I can remember) were there. The dogs loved it and we did too, the simplicity, the nature, the small town.

One time we went to the movies in Saugerties and we got their 30 minutes early to make sure we could get seats like you do in the city. The theater wasn’t even open yet. Turns out they don’t open until like ten minutes before the movie starts because unlike the city doing a normal activity isn’t a shit show you have to plan for as if you’re going to battle. After the movies we’d go get pie at the local diner or visit our friend Rae who runs a kick as chocolate shop/ café that she lets us bring our dog into. We’d take the dogs on nature hikes and send pictures to their owners who were ecstatic because their dogs seemed so joyful in nature.

The cottage we rented from a really great artistic couple of NYC ex-pats who lived in a bigger house on the property. The cottage was small but the land was big, we had a few fenced in areas but were also surrounded but a hill, woods, and a creek. We tested the dogs on a long line always to make sure they would stay close and listed if we let them off leash. They’d swim in the creek chase each other around and basically have a blast. The cottage this place was our safe place our sanctuary from the cares of NYC until February 2015.

norms rock

Norman king of the creek

Norman running free Norman creek

We took my dog, Phoebe, and another terrier mix Norman upstate for the weekend. Norman had been up several times and listened really well so we had no reason to not let him off leash. Phoebe is a smart somewhat mischievous dog who kept testing the boundaries of how far she could go from us. She particularly liked going up the hill on one side of the property to try to find deer poop to roll in which was it’s own joy to deal with. She took off that day up the hill and Norman followed her. We followed them immediately not liking any of the dogs to be out of eyesight. We kept calling for Norman. Phoebe finally came back without him and I knew then something was wrong. I heard a hawk screech above us. I got in my car and started driving up the road to look for him to see if he’d just gotten lost or something. Dennis kept searching the woods. I rounded the corner and there he was dead on the side of the road. Some motherfucker had hit him and didn’t even stop. I screamed and burst into tears. I put him into the car and drove back to the house honking the horn and yelling for Dennis.

Harry and Catherine our landlords came out to see what all the commotion was I was sobbing so hard there was snot running down my face. I could barely speak. I love animals more than people because they have a simple heart unlike people who always have their hearts covered and cloaked by the things they’ve had to live through. There’s none of that with dogs. They just love you. I called Norman’s owners hysterical they couldn’t have been more understanding of the accident. I asked if they wanted me to bring him back to the city or bury him up there. They told me to bury him up there. Harry got a shovel and helped us dig a hole. I wrapped Norman in my favorite Walt Whitman T Shirt and said some prayers. I can’t stop blaming myself.

I was in shock, this couldn’t have happened in our one safe place to one of the dogs I had loved and cared for for years. But it did happen. I haven’t been the same since. If you told me I would lose my mind over a dog dying I would’ve told you to fuck off. I’m from Brooklyn I can handle that. But like dogs I have a gentle heart as much as I try to act tough.

The depression started soon after. First I didn’t want to go up to the cottage, then I didn’t want to be in the city. I started having trouble getting out of bed, leaving the house, basically functioning and showing up for life. Then the suicidal thoughts started coming. I’ve been on meds and in therapy most of my adult life for depression but it had never been like this, it had always been manageable. The hospitalizations started and endless series of doctors in the city and upstate. The darkness came and went but was always there. My mom came up and stayed with me for a while upstate since Dennis was working in the city. I put one of my trusted employees in charge of things for the most part and attended about a month long partial hospitalization program. That helped and the people of Kingston/ Benedictine hospital are very kind.

I decided I couldn’t go back to the city. And even got a receptionist job at the local SPCA. I decided to sell my business. I worked out a deal with another dog walking company I knew. But then after a few weeks I started to feel better and I also started to get scared. How could I let go of the business I had worked so hard to build for a part time job in a city my husband wasn’t even in yet. I went back to Brooklyn and that’s when it got really bad. I asked for the business back and the buyer obliged but I couldn’t run in I could barely function yet again. So I wound up selling it to her again for a smaller percentage. I didn’t feel like I had a choice I was painted into a corner and didn’t exactly have the time or energy or sanity to go looking for another buyer who would keep my employees and customers in tact and happy.

I went back upstate, my mom came back. They put me in the hospital again. They changed my meds again. Nothing but darkness, an empty hole where I used to be able to feel things. I kept asking my mom to kill me. We didn’t know what to do so I drove back to Florida with her. We were scared if she left me alone up there I’d try to kill myself.

A day after we got to Florida they put me back in hospital. Psyche wards are just not a place you ever want to be more on that later. I can’t remember much about that hospitalization because that’s where they gave me ECT. They would put me under 3 times a week and shock me. I’d wake up confused, but I guess they thought I was getting better because they kept doing it. Then they released me on like six different medicines I needed a chart to keep track of. They enrolled me in a Partial Hospitalization Program. On the third day I told them I was having suicidal thought and they kicked me out. They said I had to go back to the emergency room. Fuck that the first time I waited 28 hours to get help there and so far I was still fucked up. They referred me to a shrink who referred me to Wakiva another behavioral treatment hospital.

At this point I had what I know now is called Akathisia which is an inability to stop moving. I was pacing, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still. Apparently, this was a side effect from all the medicines I was on. They admitted me at Wachiva to a ward where a woman wouldn’t stop screaming cuss words all day and night which I can tell you doesn’t do a whole lot for your depression. They took me off all the meds then called me bipolar (which no one ever had before) and put me on lithium. I thought it was working cause the shaking and pacing stopped so they discharged me. But then seven nights went by without me being able to sleep. I stayed up all night pacing. (Add More about hospital homeless and starting an AA meeting)

This time they put me in the hospital at River Point (which is nowhere near a river I can assure you). There they took me off lithium and put me on prozac. They eventually, discharged me to their Partial Hospitalization program even though I kept asking if they thought I was ready because I was still crying and having suicidal thoughts. They told me to let the meds kick in. They didn’t so the new doctor I started seeing put me on Brintellex. Which mad me nauseous and gave me diarrhea. I’ve been on it 3 weeks, with lamictal, and kolonopin. I had a good week when I was going down on the prozac and up on the Brintellex but then he tool me off the Prozac. Suicidal thoughts again.

Meanwhile my husband Dennis up in NY and I guess I (don’t remember) decided to sell our apartment and move upstate. He got a job and moved everything. Himself with the help of some of our friends. I want to go back but I have to get stable enough. I had a dream the other night that I hung myself at the cottage which was enough to scare the shit out of me. I don’t know what to do at this point. I’m sleeping on my parents couch and going to partial. I’m scared sometimes to leave the house or drive but I’m making myself.

I’m in AA for 18 years so I go to meetings and call people. I do step work. I’m trying to change my belief in God to something more positive working the second step “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” but I’m so fucking mad at God right now. All I’ve done for the past 18 years of my sobriety is try to help other people get sober, do service work, even in my job I just wanted to help people and when I really, really need and am begging God for help it feels like he’s nowhere to be found. I suppose he’s in the people who have helped keep me alive until now. But I just keep begging for this depression to lift. I want what’s left of my life back. I miss my husband. I’ve been in Florida for four months trying to get well. My poor fucking parents. They are saints of patience. I just keeping praying for God to heal me. There are days I feel like I can’t go on but I can’t just kill myself. It would hurt too many people, and I know this is just my diseased mind.

NYC pissed me off a lot but I don’t know if I was ready to leave my business, apartment, and friends. Not in this way. It didn’t feel like much of a choice. It seemed like survival. Sometimes, I wish I could’ve stayed there and gotten the help I needed and gotten through it. Maybe I could have but that isn’t what happened. When I get well I don’t know what I’m going to do in rural NY. I suppose I can do some pet sitting, I want to learn dog grooming, and I can still train dogs. That part of my memory seems to be coming back. I don’t know when this will lift. I’m hanging on by a thread, hopefully someday I’ll be able to help someone else with this experience. If I make it through. I’m a goddamn warrior though, I’m not going down with out a fight.

normanface

Here’s a poem I wrote for Norman and his folks

Pay Attention!
for Norman

You had so much to say when I met you barking, Look a dog!
A pigeon!
Look a lady smiling!

Would you look?!
Do you see?!
Barreling breathlessly along with an occasional hop Your short legs struggling to keep up
With your riotous exuberance for every creature Under the wide open sky. Shiny under-bite smile Electric shock of white hair and brown eyes beg Pay attention!
Do you see that hawk over the hill?!
River rock juts up and out, a perfect perch
for you to survey all of God’s creation.
Pay attention!
Don’t worry, just run through green fields
Chase me or I’ll chase you!
Pay Attention!
Remember to play, and jump, and tease despite The cold November freeze and chest aching.
Cold has come and grey has settled into winter.
I will always remember what you taught me
to delight in the trees and wonder at the flowers, insects buzzing. The Spring must come again
with new life blooming, and we will pay attention.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, God, NY, Poetry, Spirituality, Upstate

When One Door Closes, Break a F*ing Window! The Future of Music…

Recently, after 6 months of collaborating with another female musician, she informed me that she no longer wanted to collaborate and wanted to do her own project. I was totally bummed–band break ups suck. You spend all this time and energy on a project and put your faith in someone just to have it all disappear. I moped around for a few days then I had this idea to create a new “band” structure:

NEON GRLZ is an experiment in collaboration with other musicians, writers, filmmakers, and video artists. As opposed to a traditional set band, Susie DeFord collaborates with multiple artists of varying backgrounds in order to empower creation regardless of time, life constraints, and responsibilities that seem to always work against the creative process particularly as artists age. The idea is that while some artists and musicians may not be able to commit to one “band” for a variety of reasons, they can still exercise the creative impulse and unite with other artists by contributing to a song. NEON GRLZ celebrates technology that allows artists to swap tracks in a collaborative process regardless of location. Contributing artists will be invited to perform live at NEON GRLZ shows should they desire. For more info contact neongrlz<at>gmail.com

I am currently working on some basic tracks using drum machines, loops, vocals, guitar, etc. and will be soliciting contributions in the New Year. Until then you can check out some of the songs created so far here:

https://soundcloud.com/neongrlz

Ain't no joke

Ain’t no joke

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Filed under Art, Brooklyn, Music, NY, Poetry, Writing

Finding Maggie- NEVER underestimate a terrier!

On Friday 4/27, I got a frantic call from one of my coworkers.

“We have a problem! Maggie just squirmed out of her collar, some guy tried to grab her to help, and she ran!”

I quickly switched to handling crisis mode. I called all our dog walkers and other walkers I knew in the area and put out an APB as I dropped off the dogs and headed to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie. I also called her owner and explained the situation. In my 12 years running a dog walking business, I’ve never had a dog get lost and it wasn’t going to happen now. I scanned the blocks of Brooklyn for the tenacious, wirey, terrier and tried not to lose my shit. I stopped people on the streets with dogs and gave them my card in case they saw her. I went into all of the local shops and did the same.

Despite all of us looking for an hour in the area she got loose, none of us spotted her. The owner came home got in her car and joined the search. We all had to walk the rest of our dogs and were over an hour behind at this point. I told everyone to go back to walking and look for her with the other dogs. I prayed she was hiding or a kind neighbor had taken her in and just didn’t know where she belonged since she’d run without her collar. I tried not to worry that she’d been hit by a car or gotten trapped somewhere.

I tried to call 311 and the local shelters and police precincts from my phone. I asked my husband to notify the local dog group FIDO Brooklyn from his computer at work. I blubbered a bit on the phone to him tears streaming down my face, but there was no time for that, the dogs had to get walked.

Maggie

The owner made flyers we all met at her house after work and worked long into the night flyering and looking. After dark the wind started blowing hard as I checked Prospect Park. I was freezing and hoped Maggie was inside somewhere warm.

I ran home for a coat and to take my dog, Phoebe, out.  She could be a wirey cousin of Maggie. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if a walker lost Phoebe. Getting angry at anyone was pointless, it was an accident and we were all trying to fix it. Phoebe, Dennis, and I walked back over to Prospect Heights to look for Maggie and headed home exhausted and depressed around 10 p.m.

I could barely sleep that night. In the morning I got up and sent a million emails with her photo and info to local dog walkers, shelters, day cares. I posted her picture on blogs. I printed up more flyers and flyered Park Slope asking friends to help. A friend took me all the way out to the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control. After a long wait they took me for a walk through to see if she was in there. I looked through the bars at all the shivering desperate dogs but she wasn’t there. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work at shelters so I think I handle it better than most people but I still got nauseous from the fumes and wanted to take everyone home.

I spent the rest of the day walking around with Phoebe and Dennis flyering and periodically checking in with the owners to see if there was any news. Nothing. Where could she be? This is every dog walker’s worst nightmare and I was living it. Not only was I worried about Maggie, but I also worried about the reputation of the business I’d been built over the past 12 years. Would people think we were irresponsible? Would we lose clients? It really didn’t matter anymore, all that mattered, was that we find Maggie. Surprisingly though, everyone was really supportive.

Sunday Dennis and I went to Manhattan’s branch of Animal Care and Control. If Maggie was picked up in the middle of the night, when the Brooklyn center was closed, they would have taken her up there. Another wait—I did see a touching scene of some owners finding their dog there—but no one was moving fast enough for me. Didn’t they see I had to find this dog now? She wasn’t there, so we walked down from Spanish Harlem to the ASPCA and checked there. Nothing.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s owners headed back to Brooklyn AC&C and did another walk through with a woman named D-Light (Of course). Nothing. Dennis and I headed back to Brooklyn to feed some cats and continue the search. Around 4 p.m. I got a call from a woman who’d seen our flyers in Park Slope. “I think I saw your dog running on Pacific and 3rd Avenue in Boreum Hill on Friday afternoon.” I couldn’t believe it was her. She would’ve had to have run over a mile and crossed the busy thoroughfares of Flathbush and 4th Avenues without getting hit. But she was a terrier—never underestimate a terrier.

I called the owners and we all headed to Boreum Hill to flyer. We started writing “reward” on all of the flyers, after hearing that sometimes people only call if money is involved. That night around 9 p.m. Maggie’s owners called me. “Someone called and said they have Maggie. They wanted some ‘compensation.’ They’re headed over,” she said.

“Ok Dennis and I are headed over,” I said. We debated calling the cops but didn’t want to spook the people who may have Maggie.  We hopped in a car service and headed over in case shit was going to go down. I called a dog walker I knew in Prospect Heights and told him to go over to their house in case we couldn’t make it there in time. I figured the more people we had there the less likely someone would try to pull something.

By the time our car had pulled up Maggie was sitting on the stoop with her owners in a happy reunion. The people that had her had accepted their $500 and left with their son in his boy scout uniform. I pulled some cheese out of my bag for Maggie and hugged the owners. I offered to reimburse them the money and buy her a GPS collar.

“We need a straight jacket for that dog,” I said.

Maggie jumped up and licked my face like nothing had happened. I wished I could’ve had a video camera to witness her big adventure. I was so thankful she made it home. “What a troublemaker you are!” I said to Maggie scratching her ears. Dennis and I headed home and finally got some sleep.

The next few days we spent recovering at work, tearing down flyers, and thanking everyone for helping us to find Maggie, the tenacious terrier.

On a side note—I will be reading more tales from DOGS OF BROOKLYN this Wed May 2 at 7 p.m. at Pianos on the Lower East Side at Freerange reading series. Come on down and say hello—never a dull moment!

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, Poetry

Love and Loss of Two Great Friends

Yesterday, April 17 2012, we finally had to let go of our 17 year old cat Itty Pity. She took care of me for 13 years–practically my whole adult life. She moved up to NYC from Florida with me back in 2000 and has been the one consistent thing through years of trying to “figure it out” in Brooklyn. I will greatly miss being poked in the face in the middle of the night, meowed at from the top of the refrigerator in the morning, and having to share my popsicle’s with her (she had odd tastes). Though she’s mentioned a lot in Dogs of Brooklyn her poem was edited out. Sometimes its hardest to write well about those closest to us.

Itty

The Ballad of Itty Pity

You found me splayed out on top of the garage waiting

for Debbie-gut punched by first love’s fist. My scorecard

read “World-1, Susie-0.” You sniffed then paw poked me,

claws scraping my sweaty Florida arm waking.

You’d had enough of your 5 cats, 3 dogs, and 2 lovebirds

predicament at the old Tallahassee house on the hill—Precious,

who they thought was a she soon they discovered a he under

all that white fluff fur, now he’s going by Mr. P.

Harley’s biker cat matted mange, Merlin’s 17-year-old

tongue hanging out, Phoebe’s cantankerous mews

of the news of the day. Enough of dodging the dogs

out back’s barks and bounds—Busho, Kota Bear,

and Honey the red (not hot) dog. Your green eyes plead

as you nuzzled my shoulder rattling my sobs with your purr.

The 2 lovebirds, Debbie and Dan, walked up laughing,

told me to take you. Itty Pity goes to the City

in my final escape from the liquid air of Southern states.

You howled the whole way up in the U-Haul as I changed

radio stations every few minutes much to my Dad’s dismay.

We moved into our first apartment alone, an illegal

underground bunker in the middle of Park Slope. We prayed

there’d be no fires, and you didn’t see the sun for two years

like some prisoner. At 22 it was the best I could do, you forgave

me for your own bowl of kibble and a warm bed.

Then we moved on up into that sunshine St. Marks apartment

above the dogs across from the lumberyard sawing drunks.

You stared out the window at the trees and birds for hours

while I broke my heart over and over. Debbie called,

said the 2 lovebirds broke up and started drinking again.

You just sat by me cajoling cuddles, snuggling sickness out—

it took years. Finally after ten years you molded me into less

of a mess, though the latest apartment has sporadic heat

and I come home smelling of other animals. This city—a bunch

of boxes and bodies stacked up on top of each other all waiting

for their turn in the spotlight, at love, at peace in all the noise

and distraction. You just want me to come home.

_____________________________________________

Yesterday also marked the loss of one of my oldest clients. Ginger who I took care of for about 12 years. She taught me it was ok to not want to be lonely, with her sad pleading eyes every time I had to leave her. She was one of the fastest dogs at Prospect Park in her day and would run circles around everyone. Here’s her poem from Dogs of Brooklyn.

CASTLE QUEEN
Olive sleeps squished up in a fruit bowl on the kitchen
counter, her striped and spotted tail swishing over its
ceramic side, taunting. After hours, she wakes to case

the clank of the front fence gate. No hurry, she stretches
long and yawns, slowly making her way. Ginger’s ears
perk at the stir and thunk of kitten kitchen table pranks.

Ten years castle queen then along this coy cat came,
sauntering around like she owns the place. Ginger’s
toenails click on the wooden floor as she investigates.

From nowhere a white paw socks her muzzle gray.
She jumps back barking and looks up to find Olive’s
tiny frame towering over her dog, mocking. Quick,

to the window chase! Distracted, retaliation will have
to wait while they contemplate all of the people out on
the sidewalk marching in time trying to keep pace.

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Free Dogs of Brooklyn giveaway!

Hey all! Enter by Wednesday 4/11 to win a free copy of Dogs of Brooklyn on Life With Dogs!  And don’t forget this Saturday April 14 I’m hosting Fido’s Coffee Bark! 18th Century Phoebe and I thank you!

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FIDO Brooklyn Coffee Bark April 14 & A Thousand Sparrows!

FIDO Brooklyn Coffee Bark!

There are times when I think morning off-leash hours in Prospect Park  might just be keeping my dog Phoebe and I sane living in New York City. Prospect Park is a yard and nature playground for those of us without yards. Fido Brooklyn is largely responsible for maintaining our off leash privileges in one of NYC’s most beautiful parks, which is why Susie’s Pet Care and Dogs of Brooklyn will be sponsoring their monthly Coffee Bark get together from 7-9am near the picnic house on April 14th 2012. Hope to see you there!

For more Dog Friendly hot spots in Brooklyn now that Spring is upon us please check out my Ultimate Dog Guide on Brooklyn Exposed! 

I leave you with a spring poem from Dogs of Brooklyn (Pardon the line breaks WordPress is jackin’ my formatting!)

A THOUSAND SPARROWS

The snow has been replaced with white petals falling

from the apple blossom trees. Hard green buds

breaking out of thawing limbs extending to the sun.

A thousand sparrows scream, hatched and hungry,

soon to be kicked out of the nest. Some of them

won’t make it, the dogs sniff out their featherless,

naked pink bodies scattered on the sidewalk to eat.

I won’t allow it, make mulched tree stumps instant

cemeteries. The kids from Little League parade down

7th Avenue, hoodlums wielding bats in their matching

yellow caps while in the distance ritual drums beat.

In Prospect Park people start shedding coats and clothes,

lounging in lumps in the big field, pale skin blinding

everyone. While the apartment buildings peer down

from above at their shaded flowers fighting to bloom.

We all try to suck in the sun like oxygen after months

of cold gray hibernating. I claw at my eyes and sneeze,

my body fighting even the seasons changing. Rain relief,

pollen drowning, the dogs and I trudge through fat drops

falling. Sally shakes and sulks while Eva stink-eyes me

for making them walk wet. We’d all rather stay cozy

in our tiny apartments instead of be slicked shower sick.

We dance a duck and dodge beneath splintered old building

awnings and stare at the sky waiting for the rain to run out.

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