The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

First day, last day

I woke up this morning, showered, had breakfast, and left my house. I didn't walk a dog before showering, or feed a dog before having coffee. At every step I had to catch myself from acting on habit. And every step presented something weird: where's the dog bed? Where's the can of food in the fridge? Where's the bowl stand?

The next few weeks will suck. I know I'll feel better in time, and I know I'll adopt another dog someday—probably in the spring. It still sucks.

Here's a re-edited photo of Parker's first day with me:

And here's one from yesterday, right as we set off on his final walk:

I'm so glad for the time in between those two photos. He had a great life.

Parker Braverman, 2006-2020

Parker never told me his exact birthdate. The shelter said the six Pomona Puppies—Parker, Polly, Pepper, Petey, Penny, and Poppy—were 11 weeks old when I met them on 1 September 2006, so I just counted back to June 16th. The shelter also said Parker’s dad was a 40-kilo German shepherd dog and his mom was a 7-kilo beagle/rat terrier mix. My vet said a DNA test “would likely say he’s a dog,” so I never got him one. When people asked what kind of dog he was, I would say "black."


Parker's Petfinder mugshot, taken at 8 weeks

At the adoption event, while all his siblings climbed over each other and barked like they had just invented lungs, Parker sat in the middle of the pen, ears alert, checking out the room. He looked at me, I looked at him, and I was his human from then on.

When Parker and I adopted each other, George W. Bush was in his 6th year in office; Facebook was still four weeks away from public access; Fergie’s “London Bridge” was the #1 song; and we still had no idea how Lost would end. Parker weighed just under 8 kilos. He then grew half a kilo a week for six months and ate more than any creature his size has a right to. 


Parker explores the back yard the day after I adopted him, 2 September 2006

He spent the first few months destroying my couch and chewing on just about everything else he could get his needle-sharp teeth around. He spent the first year getting into trouble that never seemed to stick, because just look at him. He traveled with me, he hiked with me, he came to work with me, and he gave me plenty of opportunities to spray Nature’s Miracle on some patch of floor he'd christened.


Parker takes a nap on his 3rd day with me, 3 September 2006

And the walks. Oh, the walks. He stuck with me for a 9-kilometer hike around Devil’s Lake, Wis., when he was just a year old. Nine years later he led the way for most of a 16-kilometer walk across Chicago. In between, he walked to the grocery with me almost every week (2½ km each way), waiting patiently outside like the good great dog he was. I regret never getting him a FitBark. He probably got more steps than I did most of the time.


Parker surveys Devil's Lake, Wis., 22 June 2007

He and I spent about 5,000 of his 5,192 days together. The longest we ever spent apart was in 2009 when I went to London for 3½ weeks. He also spent more time in North Carolina than I did, thanks to a new job that required a lot of travel, but I came back most weekends. The friend he stayed with loved having him around so much that she got a dog of her own shortly after Parker returned to Chicago.

But Parker got old, as the luckiest dogs do.

A couple of months before his 12th birthday, he tore his CCL, the ligament that holds a quadruped’s knee together. He recovered quickly, but not completely, so our walks got a bit shorter, a bit slower.


Parker after TPLO surgery, 4 April 2018

With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, dogs die two ways: gradually, then suddenly. I can look back on the summer of 2018 and notice, in retrospect, that he lost something after the injury. A walk around the block around his 11th birthday took 13 minutes; on his 12th, it took 14 minutes; by his 13th, 15 minutes. This morning it took 16, and it’s a smaller block than before we moved.

There are so many “lasts” I don’t remember. I think he last barked in July. I think he last napped on the dining room rug in the spring. I think he last rolled onto his back for a belly rub over a year ago. I think he last played with a toy a year before that.

But I know he last went to day camp on March 2nd. He last stayed there overnight on January 18th. He last had a bath on August 19th. He last went to the vet on October 29th. He last rode in a car on the 31st.

He took his last walk at 3:40pm. 

He fell asleep for the last time at 5:34pm.

Over the summer, he started telling me he was done. I didn’t hear him—couldn’t, perhaps—until a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve stayed home every day, never gone for more than an hour or two. Parker slept almost the whole time, sometimes so soundly that he didn’t hear me coming over to him. He got extra walks when they didn’t hurt too much, extra treats when we returned to the house, and extra pats just because. And many of the humans he met over the years came by to see him, socially distant from me but all pats and kisses for him. I think he had a good final month.

For his whole life, Parker knew that whenever I went somewhere, I would always come back. And I always knew he would be there when I did.

Goodbye, old friend.


Parker's last walk, earlier today

Baby Parker photo

I lied; I'm doing one more thing of value before heading back to my couch and book. A few days ago I re-edited one of my favorite photos of Parker from his first few weeks with me:

Other than a slight adjustment to the crop, some exposure and color correction, and a tiny bit of dodging around his eyes, I didn't do a lot. I think it's a better photo now though:

I expect you'll see quite a few Parker photos in the days and weeks to come.

We won, stop hyperventilating

Eight days after the country resoundingly turfed out the president, it seems people still have overactive endocrine systems. I understand; coming down from a stressful experience can take some time. But seriously, we have to take a collective chill.

The president will leave office at noon Eastern time on January 20th whether he believes he lost the election or not. Mike Pompeo, Bill Barr, Betsy DeVos, and every other Cabinet-level officer will go as well. I expect, in fact, that Biden will have an executive order prepared for his signature, and minutes after he takes the Oath, every political appointee in the current administration will be fired.

None of the crap coming from the president, Pompeo, Barr, et alli, has anything to do with the election. If you look at their behavior from the perspective of a medium- or low-information voter on the other side, from the perspective as someone just as wound up about things as you are but with less ability than you have to tell truth from fiction, it makes a lot of sense. Because all of these lawsuits, personnel shifts, harping about a stolen election—it's all a big fundraising effort.

These people are grifters. They're thieves. They're the most corrupt batch of public officials the country has ever known, and I'm including the Harding, Jackson, and Andrew Johnson administrations. And the president will leave office with $400m in debts that he has to pay back personally within a few months. I will bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that when his re-election committee files its disclosures later in the year, somehow a lot of the money the Republicans have raised post-election will go to pay some of those debts.

Maybe my feelings about Parker have depressed my ability to feel strong emotions about anything else. If so, it's one last gift he's giving me: an inoculation against the crazy that we will have to roll our eyes and live through for the next 70 days, 1 hour, and 11 minutes.

Quick Parker update

Parker has taken carprofen for about a year, 50 mg with each meal, to help with his arthritis and back pain. Starting yesterday I upped it to 100 mg at breakfast.

More carprofen meant less pain almost immediately. His walking pace improved about 10% today and he has seemed more active and more confident of his footing. He seems like the dog he was a year ago.

But at his body weight, 100 mg per day is the maximum safe dose. Carprofen, like NSAIDs in general, puts a lot of stress on the body, particularly in the kidneys and liver. At 150 mg a day, he would likely have noticeable and perhaps irreversible kidney and liver damage within a couple of months. Half a year at that dose could kill him.

So it's a bittersweet choice. It will make the time he has left more comfortable for him, but maybe a bit harder for me.

Update: Here's more information about carprofen, in particular that the recommended dose is 4.4 mg/Kg per day. Parker weighs about 25 kg, giving him a recommended daily dose of 110 mg.

Back to his puppyhood park

My ex and I got Parker in part because every morning we could see a doggy play group right outside our bedroom window. Here's Parker, 14 years ago today, having a great time there:

Today we went back to the same park. Parker initially wanted to go into the building where we lived back then, so I had to explain that someone else lives there now. Once in the park, though, he forgot all that and just strolled around with a happy look on his face:

Today was a good day for him, except for the parts where he pooped in his bed around 2am and in the bathroom around 9am. He seemed to have a great time sniffing all the old places he used to play. I suspect that he remembered the terroir of the park, but he might have remembered its appearance as well. And as I said, he definitely remembered the building. (Here's another post about the dog park, when Parker met the sweet Rottweiller who wanted to play a bit rougher than my puppy did.)

He's sound asleep now, despite the Roomba whirring around the place, and he's likely to stay that way for the rest of the afternoon unless the Roomba bumps into him. As good as today was, it's likely tomorrow won't be, as he really exhausted himself this afternoon. But we'll see. He's happy, which is all that matters at this point.

Geriatric wellness checkup

Parker had his semi-annual vet visit this afternoon. We decided, based on the doctor's observations, that Parker didn't need to have a flu shot this year. Nor did he need a blood test, or to have the suspected fatty cyst in his side biopsied.

I mentioned Sunday that he's going into the home stretch. Today's visit pretty much confirmed it. His heart and lungs are fine, and the doctor found no worrying problems anywhere else in his body, except for his spine. His German shepherd genes have slowly broken down his spinal cord for the last two years or so, to the point where he can no longer control his anus at all, and he's having intermittent problems standing and walking. Intermittent, however, is becoming regular. And regular will become permanent in due course. Right now he has more good days than bad, but the rate of degeneration has slowly increased and will keep on increasing.

I'm going to concentrate on the election for the next few days. After that, I might take some time off from posting regularly.

Parker on his 9th Gotcha day, 2015