08 February 2011
R.I.P. Greta VanWinkle
Katja and I adopted Greta back in 2005 after seeing her picture posted by a dachshund rescue organization. At the time, we were living in a super tiny one bedroom apartment in Buffalo where pets were strictly prohibited, so we moved in order to adopt her. When we first touched base with the rescue organization, we were certain she'd be unavailable as someone, somewhere must have fallen in love with her like we did! But as it turned out, not a single person expressed interest in the many months she had been listed. According to her file, she was found near a rest stop somewhere in the middle of Ohio, and given her scars and tumors she was most certainly used as a breeding dog at a neighboring puppy mill. We adopted her at the age of 12 (or thereabouts), hoping for at least five good years together. Having spent almost every day with her over the past 5 and a half years, this goal now seems terribly and tragically short-sighted.
In 2007, after two years of blissful cohabitation, Greta slipped a disc in her spine and lost mobility in her back legs. It took us awhile to adjust to becoming caretakers of a paralyzed dog, but we worked together (the three of us) and learned how to balance the different demands and pressures. Caring for her became part of our daily routine: in fact, I think it's fair to say she was with either Katja or myself nearly 24 hours a day.
We adopted her right as I was starting my orals examinations at SUNY Buffalo, and she was literally right next to me (often in my lap!) as I spent years writing a dissertation. She watched me read and write and she listened to every record I listened to, often intently (she particularly loved ambient and minimalist music, especially the Pop Ambient collection on Kompakt which put her to sleep almost immediately!). In some ways, I feel like she earned her graduate degree as well, if only through a combination of raw hours spent and osmosis.
While it was often challenging to care for her, especially as she grew older and lost her eyesight, Katja and I commited to keeping her comfortable until the bitter end. She passed Saturday morning on one of those beautiful and surreal California afternoons when the weather is almost preternaturally perfect and the light makes everything look way more alive and vibrant than they actually are. Many of you met Greta over the years, and I hope you'll join us in sending positive energy her way as she starts her new journey without us.
My heart is completely and utterly broken. She will be sorely, sorely missed by those who loved her. Without having known her, I would be much less of a lot of things: less compassionate, less patient, less understanding, less intuitive, less loved. Which is to say she made me feel much more human.