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We’ve been a one-pet home ever since Mr. Fabulous died in December, and Heisenberg has loved every single second of it. But since she’s a bit of a shit we decided to add not one, but two new pets to the Shady family!

Please meet our two new kittens, Bad Guy (who, of course, is a girl)…

Bad Guy!

…and Robot!

Robot!

Some backstory on their names: KB and I chose them as a nod to Grey and West’s favorite music video: “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys.

The video is an homage to Japanese Kaiju films, and in it a robot battles an octopus-headed creature.

Intergalactic...

...planetary!

The kids have dubbed these two characters Robot and Bad Guy, and they often take on their personas when they play together: “I’ll be Robot. You be Bad Guy.”

We thought that was cute, and believed naming our new furry family members after them would make the kids even more excited for their arrival.

We were wrong.

The kids had other thoughts about what their names should be. Grey wanted to name her cat Balloony (“Because she will like to pop balloons!”), and as time went on she tacked on a couple of middle names (she’s obviously our daughter) including Coconuty and Treetop. West just wanted to call his cat Papery (“Because he will like to write on paper!”).

I told West that if his kitten was able to write on a piece of paper they could name them whatever they wanted. So far, he has yet to do so.

We assumed their love for these names would be fleeting, but their pushback was fierce. Every time we’d mention the kittens’ names it would turn into a battle of wills: “Her name is not Bad Guy! It’s Balloony!”

And so to keep the peace we decided to meet in the middle. The full name of Grey’s cat is Bad Guy Balloony Coconuty Treetop Shady, and West’s is Robot Papery Shady. They even have tags with their full names engraved on them. They’re very large tags.

It’s safe to say our vet will have an easy time remembering these cats.

Bad Guy & Robot!

We’ve yet to fully introduce them to Heisenberg but we’ll keep you posted on the transition as it plays out. At this point we’re just hoping Heisenberg doesn’t immediately murder/eat them… because they are pretty damn cute.

Balloony & Papery!

And coming soon… another dog,

-Shady

Now hanging in our hallway.

…for this Chicago magazine article, as shot by photographer Jason Little.

The best kind of memorial,

-Shady

…which makes writing this post one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Honestly, I’ve been dreading writing this ever since she passed away last Friday. But if any dog deserves this, she does, and so I’m just gonna push through and do my best to give her a proper send off.

Where do I even start? I guess, just like anything else, at the beginning.

I never had pets growing up. Save for the random suicidal goldfish (our goldfish almost always jumped out of their bowl and onto the floor during the middle of the night, which I’m convinced was their way of escaping the grim reality of, you know, life in a fish bowl) real pets weren’t allowed in our apartment. And so, all throughout my childhood, I never had the opportunity to care for an animal. Because of this, I also never learned to love one.

To be honest, the whole idea that a pet could become an important part of your family, almost an equal, was lost on me. I understood how people might care about a pet, but to love a cat or a dog… nah, not really.

But then… Mr. Fabulous.

If you know me personally you’ll know I’m not a big planner. I don’t travel with an agenda, I don’t have a ten-year or five-year or even one-year plan, and I’m pretty impulsive when it comes to purchasing things.

That includes Mr. Fabulous, who came into my life quite unexpectedly one Saturday morning in March 2006, when I woke up and, completely out of the blue, simply thought to myself: “Maybe I’ll go adopt a dog today.”

I headed to the Humane Society in Milwaukee and walked up and down the row of cages, looking over a wide variety of numerous different types of dogs. As a volunteer explained the adoption process to me, my eyes locked on the dog I decided would be mine. As I pointed to a small, brown, pug-like dog, I said, “I’ll take that one.”

The volunteer explained to me that dog had just been adopted, and that they were already working on the paperwork with its new owners.

“Oh, okay,” I replied. “Then I’ll take that one.”

“That one” was a dog in the cage next to the pug, and she was a very different kind of dog. Not only was she much bigger, but her energy level was off the charts. She was bouncing around her cage, whereas the previous dog had just been lying there on the floor like a turd with a face. This other dog was a four-month-old black Lab puppy named Lacy.

My second choice.

A family of four had just surrendered her to the rescue. They had adopted her a month earlier, when Lacy was just three months old, but they had two small children at home, and the puppy’s energy level proved to be too much for the kids.

“I don’t have kids,” I thought to myself. “Who knows if I’ll ever have kids, so let’s do it.”

In hindsight, it’s strange to know that Mr. Fabulous was my second choice. Similarly, it’s interesting to think about what life might’ve been like if that first dog had been available, or if Fab’s first adoptive family had decided to stick it out with her for even just one more day. If either of those things had occurred our paths never would’ve crossed.

But that’s not how it happened. We found each other, and we had either fate or chaos to thank for it. Knowing what life was like after I brought her home, I’m gonna go with chaos.

When we met, I was 29, and the newly-named Mr. Fabulous was just four months old. I was learning what it was like to be a pet owner for the first time in my life, and she was learning, you know, life. The chaos that came out of it caused a bit of a disconnect between owner and pet, and I often caught myself thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Such a destructive cutie!

Because during those first few months, that adorable little mutt wearing one of my old t-shirts was destructive as all hell. Shit, who am I kidding? She was pretty goddamn destructive for the first five years of her life. She ate and/or destroyed anything and everything she could get her teeth on. Literally.

A quick (incomplete) list of items she tore through:

  • remote control
  • the floor of her crate
  • prescription sunglasses
  • an entire pan of used cooking oil
  • an entire tray of Polish sausage
  • an entire chocolate cake
  • three loaves of bread that were supposed to become Thanksgiving stuffing
  • a bag of shredded coconut
  • a stick of butter… and the dish holding it
  • a Doc Martens boot (right)
  • numerous bars of soap
  • caffeinated coffee shots

I could easily add another two dozen items to that list, but her most famous/infamous incident was, of course, The Aleve Situation.

All of this is to say that, for a very long time, Mr. Fabulous kept me on my toes. And though I didn’t know it at the time, this was making me a better owner and person in the process. And, in all seriousness, many years later, I feel that chaos made me more prepared for fatherhood.

I became a father on the day Grey was born, but Mr. Fabulous was my first child.

And like any child, you take them with you everywhere. During her fourteen years at my side, Fab saw more of the world than some human beings. She lived in three states — Wisconsin, California, and Illinois — and set her paws in at least ten. She rode cross-country with me twice — once from Milwaukee to L.A., and again from L.A. to Chicago — and tagged along on frequent road trips to numerous cities around the country including San Francisco, Des Moines, and Columbus.

Here’s a photo of us in Utah in November 2008 as we made our move to Los Angeles.

Mr. Fabulous' first cross-country road trip, Utah, November 2008.

And here’s a photo of us again in Utah (sans KB), but now seven years later, in October 2015, as we made our way to Chicago.

Mr. Fabulous' second cross-country road trip, Utah, October 2015.

The fact is, if we were there, Fab was there.

She was lying by our feet on a restaurant patio while we did some weekend day drinking. She was wandering around a friend’s house during a random party. She was walking just ahead of us as we wound our way down Lombard Street.

Fab was our constant. But even more so for me.

I’ve worked from home for almost 20 years now, and so I was with her all day, every day for the entirety of her life. It’s no stretch to say that, save for the childhood years I shared with my parents and my sister, I’ve never spent more waking hours with any other living thing.

That’s hard to say goodbye to. Of course, it’s hard to say goodbye to something, to someone you love. But it’s also so hard to say goodbye to that constant. To that structure. To that reliability.

As she got older, Fab slowed down. In the end, our bodies will fail us all. Walks became less frequent, but she was always still quick to greet visitors, of which we admittedly have a lot. She loved it when anyone would pet her, and she’d lean her massive, 90-pound frame against their legs as they did so. Because we were extremely social people, she was an extremely social dog, and in the process became everyone’s pet. We may have been her owners, but she belonged to everyone.

Fourteen years wasn’t enough. But what is enough? We’re human, and humans are always, and understandably, greedy for more. Of course I wanted more time with her, but after cheating death three times — once with the overdose, a second time with a cancer that literally kills almost 100% of even treated dogs within 18 months, and a third time with a ruptured spleen — I know this all could’ve ended so much sooner. And so instead, while this is all shocking and depressing and awful, I feel so incredibly fortunate for every single second that I had her by my side.

Fab’s end came suddenly. In the early hours of Wednesday morning she first showed signs of being sick. Thursday brought an unremarkable trip to the vet. Still, for whatever reason, she passed away, on her own and with KB holding her, early Friday morning (Friday the 13th, oddly enough) while I was off taking Grey and West to school and daycare. KB thinks she waited until I was out of the house to pass.

It’s funny, KB almost didn’t date me because of Fab. Not only was she always more of a cat person, but she also didn’t like the responsibility that came with dogs. Dogs are just so much more needy than cats, and that was a negative for KB when weighing her Justin Shady pros and cons. Ironic how a woman who almost didn’t date me because of Mr. Fabulous ended up being the last person to be with her. And so, while KB thinks that Fab waited to pass until I was gone, I like to think she just waited until they were alone together. Because there’s something truly beautiful about leaving this world while being held and comforted by your first skeptic.

Sigh… this is already so long, and I feel like I could go on forever. It’s hard to cram 14 years into one post.

But then again, I guess most of you already know the things I want to either say or reiterate, because you’ve witnessed Fab grow over the years here on The Blarg. You know she was an easy-going soul who was up for anything. You know we loved dressing her up in ridiculous costumes, and balancing food on her face, and that she even made appearances in a few magazines. Most of all, you know we loved her so much. So goddamn much.

And if you didn’t know that, well, you only need to scroll through the nearly 150 posts focused on her to make it clear.

Now, just four days after she left us, the images of her final moments aren’t what’s most jarring. Instead, the most noticeable things are those that aren’t there. At the end of the day, there’s no one here to greet us when we come home from picking up the kids. Around the house, there’s now only empty hardwood floors in the spaces where her numerous beds (though a mister, Fabulous was still a princess) once rested. When we empty our Roomba there’s no longer an incomprehensible amount of dog hair in its bin.

The voids are what’s most striking. And depressing.

But it was all worth it, and I’d do it over again in a heartbeat. Because fourteen years of memories will always be greater than the pain that comes when new memories stop being made.

I was in my twenties when I adopted Mr. Fabulous. She was by my side throughout the entirety of my thirties, and well into my forties. She was there when I became a husband, and a father twice over. She was there when I was a photographer, and a magazine editor, and a published author, and a screenwriter. She was there for every party (birthday, holiday, drag, et al.), every Food Night, and every random get-together to purposefully watch shitty movies with friends.

Mr. Fabulous was my constant. And I miss her so goddamn much.

But sometime in the future, once the shock has worn off and the pain has dulled a bit, there will be another Shady dog. Hell, we’ve literally had the name of our next dog picked out for years now. But that next dog will be different because it will be our family’s dog. More specifically, he/she will end up being Grey and West’s first family pet, because as much as I’d love to believe they’ll remember Fab, they probably won’t.

But that’s okay because she was my dog. No, that’s not right. She was everyone’s dog. I was just the person fortunate enough to adopt her amongst all the chaos. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I love and miss you so much, Fab. Thanks for finding me.

I want to end this with our last photos with Mr. Fabulous. Last Wednesday, when the reality of how the week would end was still murky, I had the kids lie with Fab.

Mr. Fabulous and Grey, December 11th, 2019.

Mr. Fabulous and West, December 11th, 2019.

Later that night, I took a few pics of KB lying with her.

Mr. Fabulous and KB, December 11th, 2019.

And on Thursday night, just twelve hours before she left us, I took what would be the last two photos of her.

Mr. Fabulous and me, December 12th, 2019.

The end of an era. And what a great run it was.

She was always such a trooper.

Long live the Fabulous one,

-Shady

More later.

Numb,

-Shady

The best birthday girl!

We’re so grateful for every single day that we get to spend with you… and are admittedly kind of shocked that you’re still around.

You’re the best, Mr. Fab, and we love you so much!

Where her thirteen started,

-Shady

Lucky number thirteen!

You’re the best, and I’m so grateful for every single day that you’re lying, sleeping, and farting at my feet. You’ve reached a fabulous thirteen, buddy!

That photo of Fab sitting in fresh snow is from this morning, but here’s a photo of her doing the same thing in 2007. She had just turned two.

The. Best.

Where twelve started,

-Shady

…towel.

We're gonna try and teach her how to dry dishes.

Thanks to Mirek and John for the gift,

-Shady

Come on now.

…and the bleeding tumor (and spleen) they removed last week was benign.

Thank god.

What that means is, barring any complications that may arise during her recovery, she’s good to go. As always, we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Thanks to everyone for their continued love and support.

A light at the end of a long, dark, depressing tunnel,

-Shady

I mean, seriously.

If you know anything about Mr. Fabulous, you know she’s already cheated death a couple times. First, with an overdose that resulted in a stomach pumping and three-day hospitalization. Then, with a melanoma that gave her less than a 5% chance of living past nine months, even with surgery and treatment.

Well, last Thursday, she did it again.

After acting sluggish and odd all day Wednesday, I took her to the vet Thursday morning. She seemed in better spirits than she had been the day before, but everything changed when they ran a blood panel on her. Fab’s red blood cell count was plummeting, and they needed to find out why quickly.

The blood test turned into an X-ray, which revealed a mass in her belly. The X-ray turned into an ultrasound, which revealed that the mass was connected to her spleen and bleeding out. The ultrasound turned into emergency surgery, a splenectomy to be exact, which would hopefully save her life.

Before she went into surgery we all said goodbye to her, just in case. We went down this same exact road last November with Meatshake, and we were terrified that we would soon be reliving the same end result. If they opened Fab up and found that the disease was more widespread we gave them permission to put Fab out of her misery. However, if the tumor was concentrated only on the spleen, they would just remove the whole organ.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened. Mr. Fabulous came home—weary, shaved, doped up on pain meds, and spleen-less—late Friday night.

Oh, thank god.

She’ll be healing for the next two weeks, at which point she’ll get her staples removed. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on her progress.

At nearly twelve and a half years old, Fab is definitely a senior dog at this point, and we know the inevitable lies ahead. But for now, we’re just so thankful that we get to spend more time with her, no matter the length.

This dog, you guys. She’s got nine lives. Or at least four.

So happy to be able to write a post with a positive outcome,

-Shady

KB & Grey Danger: Tag-Team Champions!

Yeah, brother. Seriously, a brother.

Pre-sex tape.

Fabulous mullet.

Hell yeah, brother,

-Shady

Old Poop!