Walking, Weeping, and Wine: Grilled Reubens and Steamed Artichokes for One

Lucky The Dog, 2/14/1999 - 9/27/2010

Lucky The Dog, 2/14/1999 – 9/27/2010

I have been partaking quite a bit lately in the three ‘Ws’: Walking, weeping, and wine. Not someone who I would normally categorize as a crier (my cousin actually confessed to me the other day that while she’s of course saddened by what I’m going through right now, it has made me less of an “ice queen”), these past few weeks I have wept. The kind of tears that you try to hold back that seem to break down the walls and come out your teeth. I have wept for many reasons (the first year of marriage is so much harder than anyone tells you, the economy sucks, I recently discovered that I think I’ve grown a pair of love handles) but most palpably, most defensibly, I have wept for my dog.

[Caveat: To those new readers of Shut Up And Cook…first of all, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Secondly, I promise I’m not usually this mopey, sappy, and long-winded. But for now…I am, so bear with me.]

To those who knew him, Lucky The Dog was a hell of a guy. I know that everyone thinks their dogs (and kids for that matter) are special and unlike any before them, but in the case of Lucky he really was. Won in a card game in Roxbury in 1999, he soon became the fixture of my husband’s life, and then mine. We lived in NY together, we traveled all over, and then in 2005 we moved to Seattle. A most dapper fellow, he could woo the biggest dog critic, with his quiet, self-assured, and utterly loving ways. When people saw a scary Pitbull walking down the street they would pick up their little dogs and scowl at us. What they didn’t know was that later that night our friend’s two year-old would be feeding him goldfish one by one, out of her tiny little palm. There was not a mean bone in Lucky’s body, but more than that, was his ability to intuit that around him. And, he was a damn champion snuggler.

These past few weeks we have watched in disbelief as his body failed him. His mind, still present, but increasingly fatigued, was still there, which was why the decision to put him to sleep was so excruciating. We agonized over whether we were doing the right thing, or not, and just when we were convinced we were, he would look at you in his entirely Lucky Dog way, as if to say, “what the hell is all this crying about??”.

I’ve always been a huge proponent of the miracle of endorphins, so as things got worse at home, as Lucky struggled more and more to climb to the stairs, or go for a ride, I found myself out walking. Walking in the rain, walking in the dark, walking with friends and family, and walking alone. I would walk, I would weep, and I would come home and open a bottle of wine. (Incidentally, I’ve always wished I could be one of those people who magically loses 5 or 10 lbs when grieving, but apparently, my genes don’t work like that. Curses.)

This past Thursday, at 3a in the morning, Lucky tried to climb the 1 foot into our bed and crashed over. An unbelievably stoic dog who could hardly stand any sort of embarrassment (think plaid fleece jackets for NY winters), he now was relegated to being carried around. After we lifted him into bed, my husband and I lay there next to each other not talking. Though no one said it, I think we both knew that the upcoming weekend would be Lucky’s last.

We made the decision that the vet should come Tuesday, and then spent the rest of the weekend in a sort of “dead man walking” induced fog; trying to be positive around Lucky, delivering Egg McMuffins to him in bed, walking, weeping, drinking wine, and trying to prepare ourselves for the unpreparable. In sitting down and trying to do a meal plan, I found that I was literally unable because I could only think of Sunday as two days before Tuesday, Wednesday as the day after…

Monday morning came and my husband emailed me at work to say that he thought it was time. Lucky wasn’t getting any better, and we owed him too much to let him suffer unnecessarily. I somehow managed to keep it together at work until 2p when I left, put on my big sunglasses, burst into tears, and began the drive home cursing every light and every bad driver that delayed me from spending one more minute with my Lucky.

I will spare you the agonizing details of our goodbye, the vet’s arrival, Lucky’s departure, and Onca’s confusion, but suffice it to say that it was peaceful. And kind. And loving. And truly awful. When it was over we loaded up into the Landcruiser, and we drove up into the mountains, to a spot that Lucky had enjoyed and loved for years. Digging a hole and bidding our sweet friend goodbye, we wished for him to come back, and made vows to get a 110 year tortoise next time as pet. We came out of the mountains as the stars were appearing, and returned home to our seemingly empty, off-balance house. Tumbling into bed with tired hearts and tired bodies, we slept.

Awaking this morning to a king size bed seemingly too large and too empty, Matt and I lay there next to each other, again silent, as though trying to summon the urge to get up and put one foot in front of the other. Just when I wondered if it would be possible, I heard that tell-tale sound…of Onca throwing up. Leaping out of bed, stubbing my tow, and dashing downstairs scantily clad I found Onca heaving up the rawhide bone (which she is not allowed to have because they make her throw up) that we had gotten for Lucky on his last day and he had uncharacteristically refused. And in that moment, because it was the only thing left I felt I could do, I laughed. And then I thanked Onca for reminding me just how much there still is in this little world of mine.

An avid proponent of the merit of comfort food, I just didn’t have it in me tonight. I did however, have a Costco size bag of artichokes (they’re surprisingly delicious and affordable there) and the fixings for the ultimate sandwich, The Reuben. Popping open a bottle of red wine, I quickly started the artichokes (which take FOREVER in my impatient opinion), assembled the reubens, and sat down alone to an appropriately sorrow filled dinner. As my mama says, “trust the process”.

Lucky's Final Resting Place
Lucky’s Final Resting Place


Grilled Reubens and Steamed Artichokes for One

Serve when you need to feel pampered a bit, but don’t have the energy for lots of dishes or fussy prep work.

Artichokes:

  1. Rinse the artichokes well to remove any lingering dirt.
  2. Trim the stem to about 2 inches.
  3. Trim the top of the artichoke to remove any particularly prickly leaves. N.B – I’d never actually done this because I thought it seemed silly and unnecessary, but I did tonight and it actually does make eating it more pleasant.
  4. Fill a medium sized pot with about 1/3 water and set in a steamer so about 1 inch of water is just covering it.
  5. Add the prepared artichoke, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender. These artichokes took about 45, although larger ones can take up to an hour. Make sure you have enough water in the pot so that it doesn’t boil off.

Grilled Reubens:

2 slices dark rye bread of good, hearty quality

2 TB butter

1/4 lb corned beef (I prefer to make my own, but you can get it sliced at the butcher…go for Boars Head, it’s worth it)

2 slices cheese, flavor of your choosing (Swiss is traditional, but I prefer Fontina…or if you’re lactose intolerant, that weird soy crap)

1/4 cup sauerkraut, slightly drained, I like Bubbies

1-2 TB Russian or Thousands Island Dressing

1 TB mayonnaise (because yes, everything IS better with mayo)

  1. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Put one slice, butter side down, in a cast iron skillet, and add the corned beef, cheese, and Russian Dressing. Top with second slice of bread.
  2. One a medium to low flame, cook until golden brown, and cheese melted.
  3. Remove from heat, remove the top slice of bread, add the mayo and saurerkraut, return top slice, flip over (so it doesn’t get soggy, a huge reuben pet peeve) and serve.

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23 Comments

Filed under 15-Minute-Meals, Comfort Foods, Lactose Free, Uncategorized

23 responses to “Walking, Weeping, and Wine: Grilled Reubens and Steamed Artichokes for One

  1. Ian

    Hey Erina-

    Just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for sharing this story. Somehow, knowing that he spent a nice weekend with you guys and then went peacefully at home makes the news of his passing a bit more bearable. I know we hadn’t seen Lucky since 2004 but I’m not gonna lie. When I heard, I found it very, very hard not to cry. And then, later last night when I posted a tribute to him on my Tumblr, I found myself welling up again.

    We have a dog now, a cavalier named Charlie, whom I love dearly. But, without question, Lucky is, and will mostly likely always be, the greatest dog I have ever known. Stay strong. Our thoughts are with you.

    Love,
    Ian and Julianna

    • Erina

      Ian – Matt and I were talking about you last night and feeling buoyed up by the fact that Lucky even had fans in Chicago. Thank you.

      I’m glad that you got to know him, particularly in all those years of awesomeness he had.

      Where is the Tumblr tribute? I’d love to see it.

      Thinking of you both and sending love.

  2. Mike

    My heart goes out to you in your time of loss. The love of a good dog is a thing of incomparable beauty and satisfaction and you certainly had that with Lucky.

    I commend you to make what was a sacrifice for yourself and to end his pain and frustration. You did what was right for him, even though it meant advancing the onset of your loss.

    Last year we said goodbye to our dear friend Boots, a honey of a hound if there ever was one. As I looked into those loyal, loving, accepting and beautiful brown eyes for the last time, I thought of these words:

    Amazing grace has set me free
    To touch, to taste, to feel
    The wonders of accepting love
    Have made me whole and real

    Again, my heart goes out over your loss. But do try to take comfort in the fact he had a great life and he loved and was loved.

    • Erina

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your understanding. I think it’s hard for people who haven’t had dogs to fully understand what this is like.

      Sympathies that you had to do this just a year ago. There is no preparing or shortcuts in the healing process.

      Good thing for food and wine.

      -E

      • Mike

        I understand the food and wine.

        After Boots was diagnosed, I told my wife that I was going to be eating a lot for a while.

        It doesn’t take away the pain, but it is a comfort and distraction.

  3. Maman

    Erina and Matt, parents of Lucky the Dog,
    one of the most inspirational creatures ever.

    You are, indeed, loving, brave and kind. I
    know that Lucky would cock his dapper head
    in agreement and lovingly beckon you
    to new paths with an old compass.

  4. jason

    Thanks for sharing. Great post. And, yes, I do read your blog. (:

    jason

    • Erina

      Hmmm…I had no idea you read Shut Up and Cook. But I’m glad you do…and I’m glad that Matt and Lucky had you in their lives. Thank you.

  5. This post almost made me cry and I don’t even know you or Lucky (well, beyond the blog posts). It’s always hard to lose a loved one, even furry ones. Wishing you peace in the days, weeks & months ahead.

    • Erina

      Be glad you didn’t know Lucky or then you’d REALLY be crying.

      Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting. I appreciate it. I’m going to have to pop on over to your blog and see what the Pioneer Valley’s been cooking up.

  6. Margs

    Ok so reading this at work and definitely crying. I can vouch for what a gentleman and a sweetie that pup was. I am so sorry for the burden of having to say goodbye. I’ll be keeping you and Matt and Onca in my heart. Much, much love to you cousin!!

  7. I just stumbled across your site and started reading this post about your dog. I am so sorry. I myself have a dog and i don’t know what i would do when this day comes. I think probably go and get another puppy, that would be the only way to cope for me. Great blog, i also live in Seattle.

    • Erina

      Hi Delishhh,

      Thanks for reading and for your support. It means a lot.

      Also, always nice to meet fellow Seattle food bloggers. Any fave restaurants of the moment I just have to check out?

  8. Erina,

    I’m an avid reader of Shut Up And Cook, but when I saw your post I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish reading it after the first two sentences.

    I knew I would cry, but I found myself reading every last word despite my inner voice telling me to “stop”!!! Now, I’m in a puddle of tears!

    I’m so sorry for your loss! I understand what it’s like to lose a special animal like your Lucky and my heart aches for you and Matt. The joy and companionship that a fellow like Lucky brings into your life is unmatched.

    Many animals have come and gone from my life, each leaving a special place in my heart but there is one that stands out from the rest…my Chow Chow, Ben Ben!

    It’s been almost 12 years since he passed and I still miss his presence in my life. He was so much like your Lucky! Known for being an aggressive bread, Ben Ben was a dog without one angry or aggressive bone in his body! He was a lover not a fighter and a companion I will never forget. Ben Ben was by my side for 18 years.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and allowing yourself to grieve in the presence of others!

    My best to you both♥
    Rebecka

    • Erina

      Hi Rebecka,

      These “bully breeds” are so often the very best!

      We’re considering doing some fostering for rescue dogs to give Onca a bit of company. I’ll let you know how it works out.

      Thanks for your ongoing support of Shut Up And Cook. I love knowing there are such wonderful readers out there!

  9. My most sincere condolences to you, your husband and to Onca; our little old man (Westie) is close and I can only imagine how you must feel. You may be familiar with this poem already, but I fid it gives me comfort:

    The Rainbow Bridge

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

    Author unknown…

    • Erina

      Hi Carin,

      Thanks for sharing this poem…I hadn’t seen it yet.

      Best of luck with your Westie. I wish there was some good advice I could share on how to make it easier, but I’m afraid it’s just plain old heartbreaking.

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and for your thoughts and support. They truly all have made a difference.

  10. carly

    hey there…
    i found your post on CL about your depressed corso 😦 while i again have 2 corsi of my own now — i had to make the choice to put one of my babies to sleep just a few months ago. feel free to email if you want to talk, vent, or get together for a corso walk…….i know you don’t want another dog at this time, but it may help onca to have new friends. we’re just north of seattle, and we come to the city often to walk around greenlake. best wishes that time and love will heal your hearts.

  11. Abbie

    Dear Erina,
    I just heard the news about Lucky. I knew he was ailing, but had not heard about your hard decision. Though I never met him, the slideshow on youtube provided a peek into how he affected your life together with Matt and Onca. What a rascal of a doggie! He must have been a lot of fun to have near all of those years (I hope Matt is okay!). I had a hard time not crying at my desk just taking in all of the ways Lucky’s personality flowed through your lives.

    So….thanks for sharing the cooking blog with me, EM! I look forward to reading more, and please know that time will make it easier with Lucky’s passing–likely it will be a long while though–so you may have to go for some longer runs to offset all of the comfort food.

    Abbie

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  13. Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow.

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