Saturday, December 25, 2010

Farewell, Old Friend

Spider came home from the pound with me on March 28, 1997. They told me they thought she was about 6 months old then, so I decided that September 28th would be her birthday. She had been brought to the pound with her mama, who was put down while at the pound, and though she was very sweet, she was also nervous & scared. I don't know what her life was like before she got to the pound, but I suspected that she and her mama were neglected and not treated very nice. Long after she left her old life behind, she still spent her whole life terrified of fireworks and loud noises. The day I took her home with me, I promised her that I would always do my best to protect her and be her friend, and honestly, it is she who has been the best friend to me ever since that day.

I didn't know much about raising a dog when I brought her home with me, and my learning process was trial by fire. It's hard to believe that the same little rascal who destroyed my apartment - speaker cables, window ledges, chairs, shoes, table legs, blinds, and anything else she could get her teeth on - grew into such a regal, mature, and dignified old soul.

Even though I adopted her, Lucio was her dear friend and trusted caretaker practically from day one, and she was also lucky to have many other human and dog friends throughout her long life. She grew up surrounded by live music, and would frequently just lay right down in front of the drum kit during our various rehearsals. She was happy as long as she could be right by our side, and it always troubled her greatly when the pack was separated. She loved to chase the ball and swim, and boy did she ever love to eat.

She did a lot of traveling with us over the years, and lived in many different places around Berkeley and Oakland, and even did a brief stint in Phoenix. When I look back on all the turns my life has taken over the last 14 years, it was always she who was the constant, she who held me up with her gentle loving presence no matter what kind of chaos was happening in my life.

When John and Bloom came into her life, John became yet another trusted caretaker & friend to Spider, and although it took her a little while to adjust to having a 150-pound "little" brother, Bloom idolized her and was always happy to be right by her side... which she didn't mind too much, as long has he didn't get too close. As she reached the end of her life, she tended to like to have more space to herself. but she was plenty happy to share the couch with Bloom. And in fact, the young dog taught the old dog a new trick. When she discovered that he got treats for rolling over, it didn't take her long at all to roll over herself!

Spider moved on from this world on December 22, 2010. Words can't express how heartbreaking it was to watch her become uncomfortable and pained in her old body, and to accept that it was time to let her go. In fact I had spent so much time dwelling on my fear of this, that I never stopped to consider that it could be a beautiful and moving experience, and it really was. I feel incredibly fortunate that when it was time, she was able to be surrounded by her closest loved ones - Lucio, John, Bloom and me. As heartbreaking as it was, we couldn't have asked for a better send off for her, and we knew without a doubt that this tired old soul was ready to go. In some small way, that made it easier. That, and knowing that she was loved by so many, every single moment of her life. She will always be loved, and we miss her very much.

If you click on the link at the beginning of this post, you'll be taken to a photo gallery of some pics of her throughout her life. I took some of the pics, and many of them were taken by Lucio, including the most awesome one at the beginning of this page. We love you, Spider!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tokyo Turnips

My, oh my. I'm so digging my new love affair with Tokyo turnips! In case there was any doubt, an old dog *can* learn new tricks. I don't know how I managed to go forty-something years without these root vegetables in my life, but I'll tell you - now that I've found them, they are here to stay!

First, I bought some to include in a vegetable stew I was making. I'd had them once before at a catering job I was working at, where they were pickled Japanese style and I remembered loving them. I suspected that these turnips, so small and delicate, looked like they'd be good in my stew, instead of the larger ones that have a purple tinge.

After cleaning them and dicing them, I ate a cube raw. And then I ate another, and another, and another, until there were hardly any left to go into the stew! They have such a delicate flavor, so wintery and crunchy, sweet and juicy and a little bit spicy. They remind me of a cross between a radish and a turnip, and I find them totally addictive. And I love that you can eat them raw, or cook them. When you cook them, they become even more delicate and almost buttery. And you can, and should, cook the greens, and even the stems. There's nothing not to love about these babies!

So I put them into my stew, and they melded beautifully. And the next night, I put them into an Indian-style stew with black-eyed peas, kabocha squash and coconut milk, and they were the star of the show. At least, the ones that made it into the pot and weren't eaten raw while I was cooking.

I would post a recipe for how to use them, but really, I think the best way to eat them is to enjoy them raw, or lightly steam them, greens, stems & all, and sprinkle with a little salt.

Since they grow well in colder weather, I'm thinking I'd like to try to grow them in my garden, if I could ever find a way to keep the dang squirrels from destroying everything that is planted out there!

For now, I'm just happy to be enjoying something new to me, something delightful that thrives when the weather is cold and the sunlight is scarce.

Until next time, I'll just be over here inhaling my Tokyo turnips with a big, dumb grin on my face!