Thursday, December 31, 2015

I Really Wanna Be Your Best Friend: My Rebel Girl

Rebel girl, rebel girl,
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world.


I was 16 years old and I lived in a boring suburb. It was boring, and my boyfriend was boring, and *I* was boring. But with no Internet and no drivers license, I didn't know where to find anything that wasn't just as boring as my own boring life.

Then Madge came to town.


Madge held her head high. She wore glitter on her eyes. She laughed louder than anyone I'd ever met. She could write, she could play guitar, she was sure of herself, and she said and wore whatever she wanted. She was brash but tender. Sarcastic yet sweet. She wasn't like anyone else.

Madge was exciting, and I loved her, instantly.

To my shy amazement, Madge loved me back. She immediately became the big sister and best friend I'd always dreamed of.

I still remember the first time she ever called me. I was sitting on my parents' living room floor, petting our dog. The phone rang -- we had house phones in 1996 -- and my mom answered it.

My mom came into the living room and, knowing just how huge this moment was, whispered, "It's ... Madge!" My heart leaped into my throat -- more than it ever had for some dopey boy.

Madge had called me on the phone! And it wouldn't be the last time, either.

I didn't have much to offer to Madge, except my wide-eyed and puppyish devotion. Neither of us had cars, but we went wherever we wanted. We took the bus to the Mount Oliver Bathhouse and pretended to be mermaids when we swam in the pool. We caught a Greyhound to New York City (and figured out, on the way,  how to simultaneously use each other as a pillow). That's where she sneaked me into a 21+ concert, and I was too afraid to talk to anyone the whole night for fear I'd sound underage.

Madge gave me books, and mix tapes, and stacks of poems she'd written. She took me thrift shopping, and helped me pick out a white vintage lace slip, which I liked to wear with my army jacket.

We lounged around her apartment, painting our nails and daydreaming while we cranked Bikini Kill, Liz Phair, and PJ Harvey on her record player.

We went to the beach, and we traveled to see Pearl Jam. She was  the only person I'd ever met who loved Eddie Vedder as much as I did -- and understood him like I did -- with all his aching, beautiful, corny sincerity. We talked about Eddie endlessly, as though he was someone we knew, because it felt like he was.

Madge went to live in London for a while, and I followed her there.

This is us in Amsterdam, where we went to see The Tragically Hip.

Madge cracked open new music, our city -- and the whole world -- and showed it to me.  

I copied her endlessly, but could never keep up with her latest thing. Madge was always starting a new business, working on a new art form, hosting Open Mic nights, fronting a band, or publishing a book.

Madge was constantly taking care of me, even paying my way so I could do cool things with her. But she also challenged me. She laughed at my awkwardness and poked fun at my shyness. And I felt more confident with her by my side.

I'll never forget the day she came to meet me while I was working on my high school newspaper. Madge, tall, sparkling, and long since graduated, strolled in to the school computer lab like she owned the place. My classmates stopped talking and stared at her with open mouths. And I gathered my things and left with her, feeling more proud than I'd ever felt in my life.

Madge was my rock star. She still is.

Looking back, I'm so glad our love never lost its luster, not even temporarily. Madge has always been around, even when she moved away, and even now, as she and her husband meander around the country. We still Facetime, and email, and I know that next time she comes to town, we'll catch coffee or a cat circus or just lay in bed, playing with each other's hair.

Madge, on my wedding day, teaching me how to curl my eye lashes.

Too busy singing

For all the times I cried in your arms,
for all the times you had to pretend to like my crummy boyfriends just because I thought I did,
for all the times you faithfully responded to my meltdowns, never once brushing me off or saying the wrong thing,

thank you.

I love you, Madge!

Happy birthday.


That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood
I got news for you -- she is!

Monday, November 30, 2015

How Are You Supposed to Know When You've Found "The One?"

How are you supposed to know when you've found the person you're meant to marry?

It's a question I asked myself a lot when I was single. I would scroll through pages and pages of profiles, feeling skeptical. I'd sit in my car before a first date and wonder if the next few hours were supposed to change my life forever. I wanted to believe that my person was out there, but it was exhausting wondering if each bozo who sent me a message on OkCupid was him.

I was worried that I wouldn't know if it happened to me. I heard stories about love that kindled slowly, over time, and I worried that I'd get bored with my date before discovering that I actually loved him.

I didn't know, then, that love would hit me fantastically hard. When I did meet the man I was supposed to marry, it would be obvious.

Now I only wish that I'd trusted that it would be. I wouldn't have wasted so much time.

Here's how it happened.

How I Knew I'd Found The Man I Was Going to Marry

  • He took me on dates.
    Dates have become something rare and special. This is because so many men now expect women to hang out. This is often boring, and always sends a mixed message. ("Does he like me? Or are we just friends? And if we're not going anywhere, can I change into my yoga pants?")
    But not my Billy. He took me out. He made fun plans. He paid for me, he held doors open for me, and he bought me flowers. All of these things made it clear that he liked me and was working hard to win my affection.
    He won it.
  • There were no games.
    I recently learned that some people are so calculated about dating, they'll even time their responses to their text messages in order to gain the upper hand. For example, if it takes their date five minutes to reply to a text, they will then wait ten minutes before replying to them.
    WHAT? Why do you need the upper hand if you (supposedly) like each other?
    Billy did not do this. There was no upper hand. In fact, he put all his cards on the table. He never kept me waiting. He texted me all day long. He confessed everything. He blurted out "I love you." He showed me a picture of himself at his chubbiest, and also his fittest, and asked me if I could be okay with either of his two extremes. I was so charmed, I gave him an emphatic yes. 
  • He dazzles me.
    This is important, since I just told you that he texted me all day long. Billy is not the first man to ever come on strong. He's just the first man that I couldn't get enough of. He's funny, sharp, talented, a little crazy, and I never know what's going to come out of his mouth next. I love being around to witness what he's going to do next.
  • He is generous.
    There are rich men, poor men, and the best, rarest men all: generous men. Billy is the most generous man I have ever met.
    I first saw this when Billy and I went to Kennywood on an early date. We shared their legendary French fries. Billy had never had them before and I wanted to make sure he enjoyed them, so I made sure I ate all the burnt, shriveled fries and left the crispy, golden brown ones for him. Soon, we were both done eating, and only the most perfect, pristine fries remained. It turns out that he was also eating the ugly fries -- to save the best ones for me.
    Billy is not a rich man. But he'd always go without to give me the best of everything he has.
  • He is attentive.
    This one was the clincher.
    One day, before Billy and I lived together, I decided to Facetime him. He answered. Even though he was in the middle of checking out at the post office. Even though he was sublimely embarrassed when my enthused, "HEY BABY!" was heard by everyone in line. He always answers me.
    Billy lavishes me with all the attention I need, which is a lot. He checks on me. He lets me know when he misses me. I always know where he is. And he makes me feel loved, every single day.

That is why it didn't take me long to nail this thing down. It took me 33 long years to find him, and now, I promise to appreciate him every single day.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Curry, Boiling the Bathwater, and Roasted Mice: Ode to My Shitty Apartment

It was kind of charming, even though it smelled like curry.

My first apartment was smaller than many dorm rooms, but somehow, I loved it. I rented the attic of a three-story house in Squirrel Hill. 

It didn’t bother me that the ceilings sloped with the shape of the roof, meaning that you couldn’t stand up unless you were in the middle of the apartment. If you ventured too far left or right, you had to stoop or take a seat. It also meant I couldn’t have any tall furniture—like a refrigerator. I kept a mini fridge under the kitchen counter.

But the ceilings reminded me of a dollhouse, which seemed fun, so I hunkered down and enjoyed it.

I was also charmed by the antique details, like the big claw-foot bathtub. There was no shower, which worked out, since there was never any hot water. Every night, I would place my four biggest pots on the stove and boil water. If I hurried, potholders in hand, I could dump enough boiling water into my tub to take the chill off my lukewarm bath. I got used to this, even though the process took half my night.

I was, however, bothered by the heat in the summer. If you’ve ever stepped into an attic in August, you've felt how the oppressive, sauna-like heat rises. Great, nauseating waves of heat would wake me up in the middle of the night.

I worried about my cat, left to roast in her fur while I was at work, so I ran an AC unit in one of the two small windows during the day. The unit worked so hard all day that by the time I got home, it could barely cough out a stale breath. I’d turn it off so it would be ready to cool again by the time I left for work the next day. 

So it was hot. It was cramped. And then, along came a colicky baby. 

The family on the second floor had a baby that wailed every night from about 1am till dawn. This would have been bad enough in an apartment building, but we lived in a house together. This angry baby was basically my roommate.

You might have sympathy for this baby and his parents. Here is why I did not.

Any time — every time! — I tried to vacuum, those same neighbors would bang on my door and angrily inform me that I had to stop, because their baby was napping. The only time they permitted me to run the vacuum was the rare occasions when they were not home. 

They would also throw their things into the washing machine while I was doing my laundry. The shock of finding their hallway rug in with my delicates left me too speechless to ever confront them about it.

I decided that this baby, and his parents, were jerks. 

But the last straw came when I heard a strange scurry in the middle of the night. The next day, I found a mouse, brazenly out in the open and watching me from my curtain rod.

I shrieked. Then I called my mom. She came over, cornered him, caught him in a boot, and took him outside. 

But, it turned out, he’d left his entire family behind.

I found this out when I baked cookies in my oven and smelled something strange. Something very dry was burning.

I had cooked a mouse nest.

And finally, finally, but just like that -- I didn’t love my apartment anymore.

Mercifully, another apartment had just opened up a few blocks away. It was close enough for me to carry my meager belongings and tiny furniture down the street. My cat and I broke the lease and left the attic, mouse nest and all, behind. 

Today my co-worker described her first apartment, which was in a complex with cafes, a pool, and a gym. I opened my mouth to describe my first home away from home and realized I didn't even know where to start. 

Instead, I told her that it sounded really, 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weekend and Worries

We did a lot of chores this weekend. 

When you are married to a gorgeous long-haired musician, you spend part of your weekend going to his gigs, and the rest of your weekend sweeping his hairs off your floors.

I'm kidding! To be fair, I shed an awful lot too. Between the two of us, the dog, and the cat, we can make a real mess, and a big chunk of our weekends are devoted to chores. But I am grateful to have this family to clean up after.

And I had a wonderful weekend. I'm glad, because I've been working so diligently to create happiness. I have a happy life, but it's a shame how sadness can take such a sinister hold anyway. You can do so many things, like yoga, or a keep gratitude journal, only to have your own mind and memories sabotage you anyway.

I really hoped our move would help me get over Porter, and the awful way we found him But the past month has actually been one of the hardest, and now I am experiencing flashbacks.

I used to think a flashback was like a memory. But now I know that it can be much worse. You can get trapped, reliving a horrific memory that's so vivid and real, it's as though it's really happening to you. You're there. It's so real that you find yourself desperately hoping it turns out differently this time -- and believing it actually might. And when it doesn't, you get to suffer the trauma all over again.

So what can I do? Just keep trying to let happiness in, I guess. This weekend I did that by loving Billy, and going to see him sing anf play guitar, and by working on our house. I hung artwork and cleaned and organized and focused on filling our home with comfort and love.

And I will keep doing that, for all of us.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blog for My Cat on the Eve of Her Surgery

My 16-year-old cat is having surgery tomorrow. I'm so nauseous and nervous about it, you would think that I'm the one having the operation.

So tonight, I'm typing this with one hand while the other one strokes Firefly's silky calico fur. I hope she can tell how much I love her, and that I want her to do well.


Firefly showed up as a stray kitten when I was a sophomore in college. It seemed like she picked me. I lived in a dorm and didn't have anywhere to keep her, so I stashed her at my then-boyfriend's house.

I didn't even drive yet. I rode a bus to the grocery store and picked out her first dishes, kitten kibble, little balls with jingle bells in them, and other cat stuff. The cashier had to explain to me that my new kitten wouldn't want to walk on the dog leash I'd picked out.

(Never fear. Years later, Firefly and I would hike Frick Park with the aid of a papoose. But more on that later.)

Firefly and I turned into grownups together. After college, she moved home to my parents' house with me. Our dog wanted to eat her, so I kept Firefly locked in my bedroom. She did okay in there, but she was a little starved for attention. When I got home from work at night -- my very first office job -- she'd start howling as soon as she heard me come through the front door.

I'd never had a cat before her, so I raised her like a puppy. We'd wrestle, or play fetch for hours.

She moved into my first -- terrible -- apartment with me. The one that smelled like curry and had mice living in the oven. She came with me every time I upgraded to a bigger, less disgusting place, and she also accompanied me on several beach vacations. She always took the 10-hour car ride to the Outer Banks in stride.

Firefly has been a constant presence. There were boyfriends, most of whom claimed to be allergic to her. Firefly always got first dibs on my bed anyway, and she outlasted all of them. And when I decided to embrace my spinsterhood, she was my most loyal companion -- even going for walks around the neighborhood with me, safely strapped into a papoose.

But when I found my husband, even Firefly knew it was right. She accepted him like a dad.

She was always a part of everything I did. Whether I was cleaning my apartment, lounging in front of the TV, hula hooping in my living room, or curling my hair in the bathroom, Firefly was curiously involved.  

But recently, a couple things seem to have aged poor Firefly.

She hates ... absolutely hates ... our new dog. And, she didn't adapt to our most recent move as well as all the others. We moved into a house last month. I took the bedroom that used to belong to a teenage girl and turned it into a haven for my teenage girl cat. Firefly settled in to her room and doesn't really like to come out of it. It makes me so happy when I see her take tentative steps into the rest of our house.

She also got really feisty. She hisses. A lot.

It's taken almost half my life, but I've watched her change from a kitten to a little old lady.

It's sad that we grew up together, but suddenly, she's aging so much faster than me. It doesn't seem fair.

I know a day will come when we have to say goodbye, and it makes me cry just typing it.

But I can tell that she still loves me.

Firefly, 10 minutes ago, proving that she's still got it.

This is my little prayer for you, Firefly. Please do well during your surgery tomorrow. Please come home to me.

I love you.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Best Kind of Female Friendships

My friends are the kind of women who will send you flowers when your dog dies. Or they'll invite you over, wrap you in a blanket and hand you a cup of tea. They'll celebrate your birthday, listen to your stories, request to hear the funniest ones over again, and tend to you with Pepto Bismol when your happy hour goes terribly wrong. My friends and I love and encourage each other, 100% of the time.

I'm vaguely aware of an alternate reality in which women are mean to each other. When I met my husband, he'd had all too many experiences with this kind of woman and seemed to believe that female friends were prone to jealousy and fights.

Say, for example, one of my friends had to bail on a birthday celebration we'd been planning for weeks. He might have asked, in a tone mixed with suspicion and concern, "What happened to So-and-So?"

"Ahh, her kid has pinkeye!" I'd explain, or whatever it was. Our friendships remain solid even when one of us has to duck out for a while. There's nothing to fight about.

I know there's plenty of Mean Girls in the world and in the workforce. But I've been fortunate enough to remain blissfully immune to them, in part because I'm not interested in their friendship.

I'm friends with women who stick up for each other. Who help. Who call each other out when needed, but in the nicest possible way. I'm friends with smart, funny women who have bigger ambitions than cutting other people down.

I love them.

This blog is dedicated to Madge and to the Wolfpack: Jessica, Christy, Megan, Krista, and Kim. Thank you for being mine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

He Left Me Uninspired: A Dating Missadventure Circa 2012 or So ...

I dusted this one off for my friend's blog, Not Your Girlfriend. Check it out!


Reach for the moon. If you miss, at least you'll be among the stars."
 Um. What?

This was the text message I found after my phone wrenched me out of sleep. After I untangled myself from my sheets, and stumbled, confused, across my bedroom.

As I'd fumbled for my phone, I wondered what was wrong. Surely, if someone was texting me before 6:30 am, something must be gravely wrong.

But no. It was just an inspirational text. From a man I'd gone on a brief coffee date with the day before. I threw the phone down, disgusted, and went back to bed. 

The next morning, he did it again.

My phone chirped into the semi-darkness:

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery and today is a gift. That's why we call it the present."

Oh no. No no no no.

Later that day, the man texted me: "Did you get my morning texts?"

I texted back. "I did."

He cheerily replied, "I only send the most special people my happy wake-up texts! :) "

I wrote back to explain that I didn't wake up until 8, and that the wake-up texts were hard for a night owl like me. I was trying to put an end to them. But he asked me of he should start texting me at 8 instead.

"That's still a little early," I told him.

What I meant was, "Please don't send me inspirational wake-up texts."

So the next day, he waited till 8:15.

"It's not the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away."

Oh dear God.

The problem was, the next day was SATURDAY. He did it on Saturday too?! Like most people, Saturday was my day off. I hadn't planned to open my eyes till at least 10.
Needless to say, the Early Morning Inspirational Texter and I did not end up together. But hey, there's plenty of fish in the sea, so dance like no one is watching, and if at first you don't succeed...

Well, he probably knows the rest.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Introducing Abigail

New Beagle snuggles while Angel Beagle watches from above
Meet Abigail ... a dainty Beagle with a huge weight on her shoulders.

Abigail must have loved someone once. Someone trained her and took care of her for a long time. But somehow, she ended up stray -- lost and loose in West Virginia. Someone found her and took her to a shelter, where she waited in a cage until her time was up. Luckily for her (and us), the shelter thought she was special enough to save. They contacted Animal Friends, who agreed to give her another chance.

Meanwhile, back in Pittsburgh, my husband and I were grieving. We still are. We'd had the most perfect dog: Porter, a loving Beagle who rescued me from a period of deep despair. Porter was my angel and constant companion. But we lost him in a tragic accident.

The despair returned. It crushed me.

We knew it would take a long time to mend our broken hearts. But in the mean time, we knew that another dog needed us. We had room in our hearts and our home, so we knew we had to save another homeless pet ... as soon as the time was right.

Eight long weeks later, I decided to put a little prayer out there: 

Please let our next dog find us. 

Before too long, an answer came. Eve at Animal Friends sent me a message to let me know that she'd found our dog. Billy and I went to Animal Friends to meet her -- Abigail. As soon as Billy knelt down in front of her, he knew he wanted to give her a home.

So now Abigail, a sweet, shrimpy little thing, has the huge task of helping a heartbroken family heal.

She's doing a pretty good job.

Abigail is loving. She wants to be held or cuddled 100% of the time. She found the right family, as we like to dote on our dogs (and each other).

She makes us laugh. She often seems concerned or confused, but she's learning to relax and take great pleasure in our daily routine. She loves going for walks, but she also loves coming home. She'll press her head into me until I give in and fold her into my arms for a snuggle. When Billy gets home, she whimpers until he scoops her up and holds her like a baby.

And, like her predecessor Porter, she likes to be my constant companion. She'll follow me anywhere, up and down stairs and back or into the darkest corner of our basement. Right now, we're fixing up our new house, and Abigail follows me from room to room, then dozes at my feet while I work. She just wants to be together.

Mostly, she is just herself ... innocent and hopeful and bursting with love.

Thanks, Abigail. You have a tough job to do, but you're doing fine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Men Should Drink Coffee

Coffee is delicious treat. And, it's a thing that you do.

I love making coffee, drinking coffee, and going out for coffee. When we were house-hunting, my husband looked for things like brick construction and whole-house air. I looked for a nearby coffee shop. For me, a coffee shop = civilization.

Sometimes, I get excited about going to bed, because I know that when I wake up, I get to have coffee.

I'm so glad that my husband Billy loves coffee. I remember my dating days, and how bitterly disappointed I'd be when a new boyfriend told me that he didn't drink coffee. I'd suggest "getting coffee" as a fun activity, and the guy would say something awful like, "I'll have a hot chocolate."

At which point, I'd picture the barista handing my date something like this:

So embarrassing.

I love that Billy loves coffee. When we wake up on a road trip out of town, we know our first priority: finding good coffee. When we have a long drive ahead of us, we stop for coffee. We know that Sunday mornings are made for coffee. And we don't have to worry about offending each other with coffee breath. We just drink more coffee.

Men should drink coffee.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

When Love Turns into Grief (and Back Again)

It's been six weeks since I lost my tiny soul mate.


I miss him every day. I miss him so much, I've resorted to magical thinking -- desperately wishing for a way to time travel back to the accident and save him. I've carefully thought through every magical scenario. Would I tell my husband I'd come from a terrible future? Would he believe me? Or would I secretly watch the next six weeks unfold all over again, only happier, because this time, I'd have my little guy by my side?

Sound crazy? I know. This is why I've  grown impatient with myself. No one wants to feel crazy.

But a friend lifted a great burden when she put it this way: Love and grief are completely entwined. When the heart can no longer love -- at least, not the way it's used to -- the feeling turns to grief. But the feeling never dulls.

That made sense to me. Love turns into grief.

Anyone who loves will eventually grieve. 

But recently, I learned that there is another ending to that sad sentence.

It happened because I celebrated my birthday. I love my birthday. I love everyone's birthday, and I like to make a big fuss. But this year, I couldn't imagine how I could possibly have a happy birthday. I knew my only wish (to have Porter back) could never come true, so I wanted to let the day pass by with as little disappointment as possible.

But my loved ones didn't let that happen. Even though I didn't make a big deal out of my birthday, they did. For three days straight, I was showered with love and surprises. My friends took me out, bought me drinks, and pulled me onto the dance floor. My husband presented a cake onstage at a concert, and got the entire audience to sing to me. His band went along with the party and even dedicated my favorite song to me. The next night, I got to be the guest of honor at a decadent birthday dinner party. I even got Facetimed from afar.

Love helps heal a broken heart, and I got so much love.

Love turns to grief. Sad but true.  

But love (and time) turns grief back to love again.

It's such a relief to realize that. That you really can dance and laugh again without loving any less. 

Thank you Billy, Mom, Dad, Madge, Jessica, Christy, Krista, Megan, The Ten Band, Marcy, Chris, Alex, Dale, Line, my co-workers, Winnie, Firefly, and everyone who sent me a present or sweet message for my birthday this year. You made me so happy. I love you.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Little Dog's Legacy of Love

Porter, right, with his friend Winnie

After our dog was killed, Billy and I were stunned by the outpouring of love that we received. Our apartment was filled with cards, letters, and flowers. Friends delivered cookies and lasagna and made donations in his name.

Some of the tokens came from people I didn't even know. Porter's dog walkers were crushed by the news and sent beautiful flowers and heartfelt texts.

Then one night, Billy and I came home to a sympathy card with unfamiliar handwriting. It was signed by Jimbo the maintenance man, who told us how much he would miss Porter.

Billy and I were surprised, and, to be honest, pretty suspicious. We didn't know Jimbo or how he knew that we'd lost our dog. We worked through strange scenarios and questioned our neighbors ... how did Jimbo know about Porter's sad passing? Had he witnessed it? Was there something sinister going on?

I barely slept that night as stories ran through my mind. The next morning, I walked down to our basement and found another maintenance man. I asked for Jimbo.

Jimbo came out. He seemed gentle and kind, and when I told him who I was, his eyes softened with sadness.

He said that neighbors in another building told him about Porter, and that he had delivered their flowers to our door. He told me that he loved making repairs in our apartment because Porter would always come sit with him and watch him work. He said that Porter was his little buddy. And, he said, Porter is waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.

I drove to work in tears, feeling sorry that I had been suspicious of Jimbo. It turned out, Jimbo was yet another person who was touched by Porter's sweet and loving heart. Porter made so many people happy.

How many people lose their dog and learn that he had friends they didn't even know about?

Porter leaves a true legacy of love.

I'm still struggling to process how something so bad and so random could happen to such a good dog. Did the universe think we had more happiness than we deserved? Or are we truly at the mercy of such random, cruel accidents, every single day? Both possibilities are terrifying.

But my friend Kim told me,

"I believe that God needed Porter. He has bigger plans for him. Porter was here when you needed him and now he is needed by someone else." 

Normally, I believe that we're all on our own out here, grasping whatever we can in a detached and random universe. But I so hope this is true. Porter did arrive like an angel -- a little miracle -- when I desperately needed him. I adopted him, I watched him become healthy and happy, I got married, and my heart filled with love.

And then he left.

Porter, I hope your little soul is still spreading love. You were made of love .. and I believe you still are.

But I miss you with all my heart.

Friday, July 3, 2015

In Loving Memory of Porter

I am devastated to report that my sweet Beagle Porter lost his life in a bizarre and tragic accident. My beautiful dog was strangled to death by his Martingale collar while we were at work.

My heart is broken.

Porter was rescued in 2013 when his owner beat his other dog to death with a shovel. You can see footage of police taking Porter out of the home at the 1:05 mark in this news story. When I got him, Porter was sick with heartworm and wore the scars of abuse. You could see how the man had cut both of Porter's silky ears with a pair of scissors.

Here is the full story about how Porter and I met.

In an effort to drown out my last horrific memory of Porter, I've compiled a list of happy memories.

I love you and miss you, little Porter. I will love and miss you every day.

Why Porter the Beagle Was an Angel on Earth  (A Partial List in Progress)

1.     When I walked him down the stairs of our apartment building, he’d pause on each landing, look up at me, and wait for me to caress his face. After we touched, he’d continue happily down the stairs.

This is Porter waiting for a caress.

2.     Any time I put my hand out, he’d rest his chin in it. Every time. It was as though he was saying, “Here. Hold my head.”

3.     He didn’t trust my husband Billy when he first met him, and refused to go on walks with him. In time, Porter grew to love and trust Billy like a dad. I loved seeing them play together. He loved when Billy got home. Here are pictures of Porter spotting Billy on the street. He was so happy to see him.

A Beagle happy to see his dad.

4.     When Porter was happy, he wiggled around on his back with his head stretched back and his paws in the air. We called it “Beagling.”

5.     On weekdays, I’d have to go into his bedroom to wake him up. He would cover his eyes with his paws to block out the daylight. I would rub him while he “Beagled” around, sometimes biting his bed. Then he’d happily jump out of bed for his breakfast. I never liked waking up, but I loved going into his room to wake him. It got every day off to a wonderful start.

6.     On weekends, Porter likes to sleep in. He'd sleep in as long as I let him, unless he had to go out, in which case, he'd tap-dance outside our bedroom door. I would hear his little toenails click against the hardwood floor.

Just two weeks before we lost him, I bought him a bed called a cuddle cup. He loved it so much that when I pulled it out of the shopping bag, he grabbed it with his mouth and ran away with it! Here is a video.

8.     He would sink inside and sleep in his cuddle cup. Then when I passed him, I’d see his little head pop up from his cuddle cup.

9.     He would convince me to take him to the park on weekends. He always knew when it was Saturday or Sunday and would plant his feet, refusing to go anywhere but the park. It was uncanny how well he knew what day it was.

Porter is sad because he wants to go to the park.

Porter is happy because we're going to the park.

10.    One day this Spring, I took him for a long walk before he was ready. He wasn’t in shape yet from being cooped up all winter! After a while he got tired, and he let me carry him the entire way home. I loved it.

11.    In the wintertime, his feet would get too cold, so he’d get me to carry him home from our walks. I loved the feeling of his warm little body against my chest.

12.    He always wore a little coat or sweater in the winter. His dog walker would dress him before their walks.

13.   One day, I took him to my friend Dale’s house. I left him in the car (with the air conditioner running). Then I went inside to use the bathroom. Porter got anxious and honked the car horn —  really laid on the car horn! — until I came out to see what the fuss was about. When I went back inside, he laid on the car horn again. It’s like he was saying, “Mom, I hope you can hear this! I’m still out here!”

14.     When you scratched him on his rear, he always stuck one of his back legs straight out behind him, It looked like a yoga pose. I called it his “yoga leg.”

15.    Sometimes I would go to Station Street Hot Dog by myself and take a seat by the window. Porter would sit in my driver’s seat in my car and we’d watch each other while I ate my dinner.

16.    He had the best head tilt. Any time you showed him something or made a noise, he tilted his head in deep concentration.

17.  He had the happiest, most joyful Beagle smile. He often looked like he was laughing.

18.  He could drink a whole bowl of water in a sitting, Every time I looked at his bowl, it was empty!

19.  He really knew his name. If you even said a word that rhymed with it, like “reporter,” he’d jump to attention.

20. He knew that “Beagle” referred to him too. If I said “Beagle,” he’d stop what he was doing and look at me.

Little Beagle in my office at work, smiling at me.
21. When he spent the night at my mom and dad's house, they liked tucking him in at night. Porter would fluff the bed over and over and bite his covers.

22. He loved me most of all. He hated when I wasn’t around and always waited at the back door for me to get back.

He would stare longingly at our back door until I got home.

Staring at the back door, waiting for me ...

24. If I surprised him and got home early, he’d scramble off his bed, out of his bedroom, and around the corner to jump all over me.

He smelled so cute.

26. But he needed a lot of baths. He was such a good boy when I took him to the do-it-yourself dog wash. He didn’t like the washing part, but he loved to be toweled dry and he’d run around the room so happily when he was done. He loved choosing a pig ear to eat while I paid the cashier.

27. He didn’t really like to give kisses, but he’d lick me when he was happy and sleepy.

28. One woman always tried to get him to kiss her, but he flat-out refused. I never liked her and neither did he! He was a good judge of character.

29. He suddenly learned to cuddle one day when Billy had the flu. Billy spent the night on the couch, and Porter spent his night sleeping between Billy’s legs. After that day, Porter always wanted to be draped across us while we sat on the couch.

Can you find Porter's little face?

30.  He loved when Billy had that flu. When Porter and I came back from a dog walk, Porter gallopped through the apartment to dive onto Billy on the couch. He didn’t want to get up until Billy felt better.

Porter tucked between Billy's legs.

31. He loved to be comfortable.

32.  He was so cute and small. He was the perfect petite size.

33.  He had brown freckles on his legs.

34.  He had one little ear that was shorter because his previous owner sliced the end off with scissors. Both of his ears were so soft and adorable.

Little ear, flipped up.

35.  He let me clean out his ears with a cotton ball with no trouble. He never fought me on anything. (Although he really didn't like to have his nails trimmed.)

36.  We would spoon on the couch. I loved sleeping against his little furry back.

37.  Billy knew just how to pick Porter up, drape him across me, and relax him so he’d fall asleep on me.

38.  Porter’s nose was perfectly black.

39.  And he had an adorable white stripe down his nose.

Porter had an enormous personality.

40.  His cute little feet smelled like Fritos.

41. Porter hated to see me upset. One day, Billy and I got into a heated discussion and I started to cry. I was so consumed by the discussion that I didn't even notice that Porter had crept into the room and sat at my feet. I looked down to find him worriedly pressed against my leg and staring at me. He was so upset that I was crying.

42.  He looked so cute in a sweater or hoodie. Or sunglasses. Or bow tie. Or feather boa. He would wear anything you put on him.  

This was not Photoshopped.

43.  He would eat anything, even a stalk of asparagus.

44.  He looked and sounded extra cute chewing a baby carrot.

45.  Riding in the car made him serious and sleepy. He never fussed in the car; he rode like a little sleepy person.

 When I first brought him home, he was afraid of his bird-shaped toy and hid it under the futon. I thought he was playing a game, but soon I realized that he was terrified and didn’t like to see it.

47.  He liked going to my mom and dad’s house. He knew that he had to pee twice before he was allowed inside.

48.  He was a perfect tri-color Beagle. He could have been a model for Beagles. 

49.  He was good at going to restaurants with outdoor seating. He would sit beside my table with no fuss.

50.  He always let me pick him up and carry him.

51. If he had to go outside, he didn’t fuss. He just silently invaded your personal space until you got the message.

52.  When I first brought him home, he would howl when I left the apartment. One time, I drove past his bedroom window. I saw him in there, staring out the window, and he wasn’t howling. But when he saw me, he threw back his head and started howling again! I sped quickly away. 

53.  Porter loved to chase his toys back and forth when he got excited (usually because someone he loved got home). He’d run back and forth through the apartment like a madman. Sometimes, he'd forget to "fetch" his toy and just run laps. Our downstairs neighbors said they were surprised to discover how small he really was, since he sounded like a horse.

54.  When Porter played with other dogs, he liked other Beagles best. He had a Beagle best friend when he went to the Small Dog Socials at Animal Friends. One day, Porter spotted his best friend at the park! It took the dog's owner and I a moment to recognize each other, though our dogs already had.

55.  He wouldn’t make eye contact with our cat. But when she was near, he would look everywhere else awkwardly.

56.  …But if he had the opportunity, he would try to sniff her butt.

57.  He liked to take different walks, not the same walk every day. He always tried to drag me down a new path.

58.  Sometimes Porter would sleep in the closet. No one knew why.

59.  He was so, so, so sad when I met him. He was too frightened to even make eye contact with me. But slowly, over time, he started to like me. Here he is the first time I ever saw him:

60. When the backseat of our car was filled with Billy’s guitars, Porter would have to sit on Billy’s lap in the front seat. He always did so perfectly calmly. He never seemed to mind being held.

61. When I put my shoes and socks on, he’d pretend to bite at my socks.

62. When he wanted to convince me to take him somewhere, he would hit me with both arms like Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. I imagined he was saying, “Get out!”

63.  But he was never, ever obnoxious. He was always obedient and eager to please.

Beautiful Beagle smile

64.  For a wonderful month, I brought him to work with me every day, On his last day in my office, he realized he could sit in the chairs. They were just his size. He would sit across from my desk and watch me.

65.  One night, we walked him down Braddock Avenue and he noticed someone had food at a sidewalk table, so he quickly sat down and sat up in “beg” position.

66.  When it was cold in the winter, Porter and I would drive Billy to the bus stop. I’d walk Porter around in the snow while Billy waited for the bus. Porter would try to hold out as long as he could, but eventually he’d get too cold so he’d hurry up and do his business. Then he’d run back to the car as fast as he could! He’d try to get UNDER the protective seat cover, which I didn't like since he had muddy paws! So I put a dog bed in the car for him. He liked diving into his car bed and snuggling.

67.  One time, when Billy and Porter came back from a walk, Porter brought me a tulip in his collar.

68.  He was honestly just the happiest dog. He thought every day was the best day of his life.

69.  On my 33rd birthday, he wore a balloon all day long.

70.  He wore a headset for a parody video to look like a telemarketer. He was so good about it.

71.  He’d never, ever, go in our bedroom, because he wasn’t allowed. but he would tap dance outside of it. 

72.  On his last full day with us, he got bored while Billy and I slept in. When we woke up, we found that he'd dragged his toy basket into the middle of the living room. This was when we discovered it.

73. He had a real prance to his step. It was so cute.

74. When Billy got out of the car to open the garage door, Porter always looked at him like, “Well, goodbye, sorry you don’t get to stay with mom and me.”

75. He was a GOOD dog, who mostly slept and cuddled and just wanted to be near us.

Sweet Beagle gaze

76.  While I pumped gasoline while he was in the car, he would frantically wave at me the whole time, like he was saying, “I’m still in here!”

77.  He would do whatever you told him to do. On this day, I wanted to photograph our new living room rug, so I told Porter to go sit in the middle of the room and look at me. So he did. 

78.  When I was watching the movie Taken, he jumped out of his bed, ran from his bedroom, and stood in front of the TV, tilting his head, because he heard a dog bark.

79.  When I sorted my laundry, he liked to roll around in my clothes and let me cover him up with them. He would bite them.

80.  When I took him to the laundry room in my apartment building, he would immediately leap onto the couch and sit there like a person. He liked to be comfortable.

81.  When I did laundry at my mom’s house, he would look for somewhere comfortable to lay … maybe the corner of a rug or blanket … so he could watch me. He never took his eyes off me.

82.  I don’t think he had ever seen a window before he lived with me. He was fascinated by windows, and I even found him sitting on a table to look out his bedroom window!

83. When you asked him to "give paw," he reached out and tapped your hand twice -- "tap tap!"

84. When Porter was still my foster dog, my car was struck in an awful car accident. Porter went flying across back seat, but he was okay. A tow truck came and Porter sweetly sat between me and the tow truck driver as we drove away. Then he lay politely beside me in the me in the mechanic's office until a rental car came.

Foster Beagle in a tow truck

85. Once he settled into our routine, he never made another sound. He was a rare, silent Beagle.

86. For some reason, he preferred to eat his meals in the dining room. We always fed him in the kitchen, but he would carry his meals into the dining room.

87. He was always underfoot. He just liked hanging out.

On this day, he missed me so much, he was using a corner of my sweater sleeve as a pillow.

88. When he got really excited about a bone or toy, he wanted to take it with him on his walk.

89. When it was cold, he loved to be rolled up in a toasty warm Beagle burrito.

90. He was a quiet dog, but he'd bark in his dreams. They were cute little muffled barks.

91. When I took Porter to the Volunteer Banquet at Animal Friends, he just laid on the bed I brought for him. He was such a polite guest.

92. He wore a party hat for my birthday.

93. Sometimes he’d keep squatting out for what felt like 5 minutes after he pooped. It was like he needed a magazine to read or something.

94. When I fed Porter and the cat treats, Porter was so gentle and never rushed the cat, even though it took her 10 times longer to finish chewing a single treat. He would just wait, watch, and drool. As soon as she walked away, he'd look at me, and I'd give him permission to scarf up the crumbs she'd left behind.

95. He loved his toy hedgehog. Twice, the neighbor dog broke into our apartment by bursting through our unlocked door. The neighbor dog always went straight for Porter's hedgehog and would begin to destroy it. That was one of the only times I ever saw Porter cry. He whined mournfully as he watched his hedgehog get killed. Thankfully and to everyone's great relief, our neighbor rescued the  hedgehog, re-stuffed it, and sewed it back together.

Beagle and hedgehog reunited.

96. He was terrified of hair dryers and riding through the car wash.

97. One day, he decided to chew a bone on the stairs at my mom's house. He fit perfectly because he was exactly as wide and almost as long as one step.

98. He was so expressive.

He was very proud to have this dried fish stick.
He wore his heart on his little sleeve.

99.  He had fun at Billy’s mom’s fenced yard … but he still tried to escape. 

100. Sometimes his little tongue poked out for no reason.

Tiny Beagle tongue

101. He loved my mom's dog, Winnie. 

Beagle and Great Dane mix

102. He really seemed to like Christmas.

Christmas Beagle

103. One time when Billy was walking Porter, Porter ran to Billy's car and seemed to think they were going for a ride. Billy put Porter in the car and drove him around the block for no reason at all. Porter had a blast.

104. One time, I decided to take Porter for his morning walk while Billy was walking to catch his bus to work. When Billy parted ways with us, Porter couldn't stand it. He was beside himself. He only wanted to chase after Billy. He could hardly concentrate on completing his walk.

105. When I wasn't home, Porter liked to pull my coats off of their hangers and cuddle with them. I didn't mind this too much, except that he bit the buttons off! I guess they were uncomfortable.

106. Whenever I shopped for his clothes, I always accidentally thought Porter was much smaller than he really was. I always came home with clothes that were way too tiny for him. I guess I really thought he was my baby.

This Beagle's coat is way too small.

107. When he was still my foster dog, he didn't have much reason to trust people. But I had an inkling that he loved me the first night I had to leave him overnight with the vet. They said he howled the whole time, until he saw me again! He didn't sleep at all that night because he just howled. He finally relaxed when I took him back.

108. I have a pair of jeans that are studded with little rhinestones. For some reason, Porter like to bite the rhinestones off with his little front teeth! He always tried to be discreet about it. It felt so cute when he did that.

109. Early on, I told Porter he wasn't allowed in my bedroom because that is where the cat sleeps. So, he never entered my bedroom again. Sometimes he would stand at the very edge of the room and peer in (and I would always rush out to see him!). But one day, we both forgot. He followed me into my bedroom and started looking at purses with me. Suddenly, I said, "Wait! You're in the bedroom!" And he ran out! I can't believe this is a totally true story, but it is.

110. He never stood when he could sit. He loved to snuggle down.

Beagle with a toothy smile.

111. Every night before bed, Billy would take Porter outside for one last potty break. I would wait for them at the top of the steps and when I saw them, I'd open my arms. Porter would run to greet me as though he'd been gone a long time.

112. One day at my old job, I had to give a presentation at a board meeting. My boss invited Porter to join the meeting. Porter sat politely behind my chair the entire time. When it was my turn to go to the front of the room and present, Porter trotted up and sat down beside me, facing our audience.

113. When my mother in law bought her new car, Porter went into the dealership with us. It was a blustery winter day and he had his little coat on. He was such a good boy. He got bored and sleepy.

Porter yawning at North Hills Toyota.

114. When he was a new dog, he didn't understand pillows. He would push them off the couch onto the floor as though they were in his way. Then one day, he realized that pillows are comfortable. After that, he loved resting his little head on a pillow.

115. He liked helping his dad grill.

116. His little bottom teeth would show when he smiled.

117. He used to follow me everywhere, even into the bathroom. Billy took a video of how Porter would dutifully trot along at my heels even if I was just circling the coffee table or pacing around the apartment. He was such a loyal little guy.

118.  He was an easy dog. Mostly, he wanted to nap.

119. I never trained him to "sit pretty," but somehow he knew to sit and throw his paws in the air when he was really desperate for something.

120. The day I officially adopted him, I didn't quite know what to do with him, so I drove him to my mom's house for a visit. On the way there, The Beatles' "Let It Be" came on the radio. I sang it to him with gusto, changing the words to "Let it Beagle, let it Beagle! Let it BEAGLE, let it Beag!" He stared at me and tilted his head at me, as though the whole thing was very curious. It was sweet.

121. One night, Billy said he was too tired to take Porter outside. So Porter and I both made this face at him. It worked. I would give anything to hold that little bundle of Beagle again.

123. I took this photo of Porter on the the first night he ever slept over at my apartment. He was sick and still a little scared at the time, and wasn't really housebroken yet. I wasn't quite sure what to do with him besides look at him and talk to him. But I already adored him. He was so good because he would lay wherever I put a blanket down. He just wanted to do the right thing.

124. A friend wanted to meet him after only seeing Porter's pictures on Facebook. My friend was surprised to find that Porter was an adult Beagle, not a puppy. His little face and stocky arms looked so babyish in photos.

125. One summer day, my family and I took our dogs to a coffee shop. The front of the building was completely open to let the summer breeze inside. My mom and I sat inside while our dogs sat outside, just inches away from us on the other side of a little brick wall. Even though he was still connected to me by his leash, Porter decided that he wanted to be inside with me. He could have just jumped over the wall. Instead, he decided to climb over it like a little monkey. He threw his arms over the wall and scrambled up it, using his little back toenails to scale the wall. He arrived and landed happily in my lap, while I giggled like crazy.

126. All I ever did was treat Porter like a baby. But when Billy came along, he taught Porter how to wrestle and play. Porter would sometimes act like he was going to get us ... but when he used his teeth, he was the most gentle little guy in the world. He would lightly touch his teeth to our skin as though he was biting us ... but wouldn't dare.

127. He was klutzy. Our back stairs were steep for his little legs, and he fell up the steps at least once a day. He would smack his little chin off the step and pick himself right back up again!

128. He would do one final pee on the bushes every night, and he would pee for such a long time that the neighbors would have to laugh. They would let their dogs run around the yard while Porter just stood there, peeing one long pee. Porter looked so serious while he did it, too.

129. Porter taught me the best way to wake someone up--with a brisk rub! When he didn't want to get out of bed, I'd briskly rub him on both sides. He'd roll around and finally hop out of bed. I learned that this works when Billy does it to me, too! A good rub down can really get you going. :)

130. I used to take him everywhere that I possibly could. He was my sidekick, my shadow, my friend. I never felt lonely with him by my side.

131. Billy determined that Porter had a British accent. We always spoke for Porter, with an accent. He also had a funny habit of mispronouncing things. At least, that was our joke. It never failed to make me laugh.

132. He liked to help me cook, or clean, or anything, really. He especially appreciated if I dragged a bed into the room for him. On this day, he watched me make lentil soup (until he got sleepy!).

133. He had a little brown swirl on his back leg. It looked like a creamy curl on top of a Dairy Queen ice cream.

134. He loved, loved, loved to chase bunnies. It was funny when he tried to tiptoe and sneak up on them.

135. I loved how when he laid on the floor, his back legs splayed out behind him like frog legs.  

136. He was ridiculously talented at opening the car windows.

137. It made him so happy if you gave him an ice cube. He thought it was fun because it was slippery and he got to chase it around before he ate it.

138. My mom reminded me of how serious he was about fixing his bed. Sometimes, he got so into it, he would fall off the bed and have to start over:

139. He loved to chew things.

140. Sometimes, his silly little ears would turn inside out. He didn't care.

141. Porter gave me a sense of purpose. When I met him, I was coping with sadness. He was sick and needed care, and it gave me something to do and something to focus on. As he got stronger, I was able to take him places, whether on walks or to socialize with friends. I never felt lonely with him around, and he made me feel stronger, too.

142. Sometimes, Porter was too sleepy to take his last potty break of the night. Billy would strap Porter's leash to his collar and Porter would pretend he was still sleeping in his dog bed, unaware of the leash. We'd have to plead with him to get up. Then he'd stumble downstairs and pee on the first bush outside, barely opening his eyes.

143. When Porter was excited to go for a walk, he would accidentally slam the door shut while I was trying to open it.

144. One icy day when I was walking Porter, I slipped and fell on my building's parking lot. The parking lot is a steep slope, so I slid all the way down it on my hands and knees. Porter ran along beside me, extremely concerned and sniffing me.

145. When he sat in the backseat of my car. he liked to sit behind the passenger seat. I think it was so he could see me while I drove.

146. He loved my mom and dad's yard and never wanted to come inside. So my mom would scoop him up his her arms to carry him inside. He would go limp, like a defeated little rag doll. But as soon as he got inside, he'd happily scamper off to his next adventure.

147. He had white eye lashes.

148. There was this:

149. We lived on the second floor of our apartment building. Every single time Porter and I walked up the back stairs, he would stop at our neighbors' door on the first floor, as though it was our door. Every single day, I'd tell him to keep walking. It's as though he didn't understand why we couldn't just use the first door, which looked just like ours!

150. He never barked when he was awake, but he barked all the time in his sleep.

151. Sometimes Billy would speak for Porter--in a British accent. He always made Porter say inappropriate things. I would go along with the joke and exclaim "Porter!" At which point Porter would jump and look around, like, "What? What did I do?!"

152. One time, Billy and I were standing in the kitchen, talking. Billy paused thoughtfully with a cracker in his hand. I watched Porter sail off the floor, carefully nab Billy's cracker with his front teeth, and land. By the time his little paws hit the floor again, that cracker was long gone!

153. I even miss using the bathroom. He'd come in and rub his little head on my legs in the morning.

154. Anytime I returned home, Porter would run and greet me as though I'd been gone for weeks. I'd greet him, then hold him back a little while I greeted my cat. Those couple seconds that I petted the cat were almost more than Porter could bear. He'd dance and jump and get so crazily impatient for my attention.  Then I'd turn around and give him lots of love. 

More to come....