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Omen

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Abby

Sherry and I used to take our dogs to be groomed by a woman named Nancy Green. She was highly skilled and turned our dogs into dolls—which was OK, because they are shih-tzus, and Sherry fusses over her little divas.

Nancy had a shih-tzu named Abby who stayed in a cage right near the grooming table when Nancy was working. Nancy had adopted Abby from a truck driver who decided life on the road wasn't good for a dog.

Abby had a real throaty, gravelly bark. Sherry called her "Gravel Gertie." She was a cute little dog, and we grew to know the Greens well enough so that when Nancy and her husband, Kenneth, would travel out of town for ballroom dancing competitions, Abby would stay with us. In fact, she stayed with us one whole winter while Nancy and Kenneth visited their son in Florida.

A few years ago, Kenneth had a stroke. And it seemed that no sooner had he recovered than Nancy had a stroke, one much more severe than Kenneth's had been. They needed to find a new home for Abby. Of course, we took her.

Abby was 13 when we adopted her. She was blind and deaf, but by barking insistently, she got what she wanted because her barks had a limited number of meanings: I want to eat, I'm thirsty, I want to go out, I want someone to come sit with me, I want to go to bed. We would figure it out by process of elimination. This summer, she would lie on her belly in the grass, head up, bright faced, looking like she owned the world.

Over the past couple of weeks, Abby's health ebbed and flowed. She'd be fine for a few days, then she wouldn't eat, no matter what we made for her. This week, she ate on Monday, but that was it. I attributed it to a change we had made in our dogs' food.

The Greens have another son who lives in town. He owns a restaurant on the city's main street called Green Acres. On Tuesday, the top of the building was struck by lightning.

It was an ill omen.

We euthanized Abby last night. The vet said her heart was failing, which meant her kidneys were failing, which was stressing other organs—an unstoppable domino effect.

When we drove her to the vet, I knew she wouldn't be coming home.

That doesn't mean I cried any less.

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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