And then there was the one in the back. She was The Mamma.
Nakota pushed her way through the pack and, with me now seated on the floor with my back to the wall, sniffed me up and down. She then gave me a look as if to say that I was now allowed to scratch her ears. When I had done that, she walked over to where Jenn was getting some stuff together and laid down beside her… Leaving me to the slobbering tongue and the “Love Us We’re Cute” brigade.
I was later, much later, told that this inspection by Nakota was one of the reasons Jenn knew she could trust me. It turned out that Nakota had a habit of vetting Jenn’s boyfriends. Sometimes the vetting was rather painful it seems. Nakota apparently knew what male genitalia was for. It was for target practice if she didn’t feel that you were an acceptable suitor for her person. Family legend has it that she even sent one poor dope to the hospital.
Despite what that line may suggest, Nakota was actually a very gentile dog. When she had her litter of puppies (three of whom were in the attack pack I mentioned above) she adopted Jenn’s new kitten Nio into the litter. Years later when I got Jenn a kitten for her birthday, Nakota adopted Rikki like he was her own puppy.
It was endearing and hilarious on several levels. It was cute seeing Nakota as excited as she was. Her tail would wag ferociously and she would get a happy “I’m a Mommy Again!” look in her eyes. She treated Rikki like a puppy that needed protecting whenever anyone came into the house. She also tried to pick Rikki up and move him to safer locations with… mixed… results.
Jenn had told me once that Nakota was a good mother to her puppies, but that she was also a bit unsure of herself in some regards. One of these areas of uncertainty was in picking her pups up to move them when they went where they weren’t supposed to go. She would act like she was afraid of biting down on them too hard and would basically just keep gumming them. Well, that’s what she did with Rikki. She would walk over to Rikki, reach down and place her jaws gently around the loose skin at the nape of Rikki’s neck and gently lift. And Rikki would stay exactly where he was on the floor. She would then try again and Rikki would again stay were he was at. This bit of comedy would repeat itself several times over the next minute until Nakota would give up and simply plop down next to Rikki and Rikki, now covered in dog slobber, would look up at Jenn or I and let out a quiet, pleading mew.
She was that way (minus the picking up attempts) with children as well. Jenn had Nakota when she worked at a day care center and Nakota grew up around small children. She was happy to play “pony ride” whenever she could or to simply play tag with children. Amongst Jenn’s nephews, nieces and nieces by osmosis; Nakota was one of the favorite attractions of any visit. Everybody loved her.
Nakota also had a tic that I loved to tease her with. Nakota loved to have her belly scratched. Scratch her belly and she was a happy puppy. And it didn’t matter what positions she was laying in. If you reached over and scratched her belly she was going to shift over and lift one leg to expose that belly. She even did it in her sleep. If you just brushed against her belly when she was sleeping she would lift her leg in her sleep. So, of course, when Jenn first moved in and I discovered this I would reach over and touch Nakota on the belly, saying the word belly in a silly, child like voice, about a hundred times a night. The leg would go up and stay there as she waited for the scratching to start and would only slowly begin to fall back into place after ten or so seconds. I would then wait about five seconds and do it again. After five or six times of this Nakota would shoot me a look like I should sleep with one eye open and I would make it up to her by scratching her belly and her chest. Long before Jenn was even pregnant I was jokingly threatening to teach any and all kids we had how to do that.
Good to my word I started trying to get Ian to learn how to say belly while poking Nakota’s belly in the week before we left for Dragon*Con. Ian never got to learn how to do that trick.
Two days ago Nakota starting walking funny. She didn’t want to move her rear legs and when she did she walked slowly and swung her legs in an unusual gate. Jenn was worried about the possibility of hip dysplasia coming on but hoping it was just bad arthritis combined with the weather fronts shifting as violently as they were. It’s unfortunately an all too common problem for an older Husky and Nakota was approaching ten years of age. My mom came over and watched Ian for us while I went out and got some over the counter stuff from Pet-Smart. We gave her some hip chews and senior vitamins, kept her comfortable and she actually seemed to be doing better by bed time.
Yesterday morning she didn’t want to get up at all. She wouldn’t move her rear legs and just wanted to lay in the floor. We took her down the street to the local vet and came back home while they examined her. Shortly after we got back home the vet called and said that Nakota was bleeding into her stomach from unknown reasons. They knew there was a problem, but they didn’t have the equipment to really tell us what. We got my mom to come by and watch Ian and take care of Jenn (who could barely move around with the knee pain she was experiencing) while I went back to the vets to get her and take her to the emergency vet in town. The vet had pumped her full of vitamin K since she believed that the bleeding was caused by the ingestion of rat or groundhog that had been dosed with high amounts of rat poison. Good news since that meant the problem could be cured in a day or so.
I was at the EV with Nakota for less than 40 minutes when the vet brought me in to a side office and told me that there was a lump of some sort in Nakota’s stomach and that they needed to perform $4,500 to $6,000 surgery, but that the surgery might only give Nakota another 60 days of life in discomfort. Jenn told me over the phone to let Nakota go. I asked the vet if Nakota was in pain at that moment and he said that there were no signs of pain. I told him to wait while I went to get Jenn and bring her to Nakota. He said he would but asked that I sign off on one piece of the treatment schedule. He wanted to run the full scans of Nakota to get a better idea of what was wrong with Nakota before Jenn got there. Maybe he would find good news.
When I got Jenn back to the vets they moved us into a back room. The scan showed a number of growths in Nakota’s stomach, liver, spleen and surrounding tissues. The largest was the one in her stomach and it was causing the bleeding. Nakota had widespread cancer and there was nothing that could be done at this point. They brought her in to us so that we could hold her one last time. When Jenn was ready she gave the vet permission to inject the sedatives into Nakota’s IV. A few seconds later she had quietly slipped into unconsciousness. A few seconds after that she was gone.
That was freakin’ awesome. This year’s Dragon*Con was the largest yet and it had more to offer than ever before. It unfortunately offered a few lows as well though.
Day -1:We got our badges for the convention that afternoon and headed out for dinner. The five of us (Jenn’s mom and dad were with us for the convention this year) sat down and looked at the materials that we had picked up in the registration hall. I opened up this years large convention book and my heart sank immediately. I hadn’t really been checking up on the guest lists as closely as I normally do. Somehow I completely missed the fact that Robert Asprin, author of numerous novels and, from the one time I met him, an apparently very nice person, passed away unexpectedly earlier this year.
Great talent. He will be missed.
Day 1: The plan for the day was to have no plan save for the 7PM Atlanta Radio Theater Company show. After getting packed and driving overnight for nine hours, I was pretty much not in the mood to do the hectic run around schedule. I just drifted from place to place and checked things out.
I went to a panel by The Ghost Hunters. If you ever have a chance to see them speaking; do it. They are funny as hell. They were mostly talking about the show and where it’s going to go from here. Basically more of the same but with less slick editing tricks by the producers. Both they and the fans have gotten on the production company about some of the silly stuff and we’re thankfully seeing less and less of it each year.
I bounced around between Artists Ally and the dealer rooms for a bit. I got to chat with Joe Jusko about ERB and spoke with Kathleen David (Peter was at a panel) about Peter David’s upcoming book. Sounds funny. I won’t go into detail about it here since it’s his book and I’m sure he’ll have something on his website (www.peterdavid.net) when he’s ready.
I met one of the head members of The Midnight Syndicate (www.midnightsyndicate.com) in one of the dealer rooms. We struck up a nice little conversation thanks to the shirt I was wearing. I had on a 10th anniversary shirt for Count Gor De Vol’s (http://countgore.com/gore/) webcast of his Creature Feature show. It seems that the good Count has a small role in their upcoming film. We talked a short while about The Dead Matter before pining over to complaining about the fact that American Scary is still without a DVD deal. Look the film up if you’re a horror fan who used to love the local and national horror hosts who made even the bad films watchable. Fun little documentary from what little I’ve seen of it.
I went on a book hunt for Jenn. She and her mom were watching a panel hosted by Todd and Anne McCaffrey and wanted a copy of her favorite novel, The Rowan, for Anne to autograph at a later signing. She couldn’t find hers before we left the house and I was lucky enough to find one at a Barnes & Noble table. Pretty much just went around doing the people watching (and photographing) thing for a while after that.
The ARTC show was, as always, a blast. They actually opened the show with a fun little non-ARTC bit where three wrestlers from TNA, Christy Hemme, Gail Kim & Traci Brooks, played a variation of Who is The Real… They each answered questions as though they were all Anita Blake. At the end of the Q&A, one of the panel of questioners stood up as the “real” Anita Blake. None other than Laurell K. Hamilton herself.
Once the show got going it was great though. They always do fantastic audio drama, comedy, horror and sci-fi. As good as their CDs are, they’re even better live. They are definitely one of those unknown groups that deserve some support in the form of buying some of their stuff. (http://www.artc.org/) I recommend anything of theirs based on H.P. Lovecraft. Oh, and Jenn is now going to be doing volunteer editing work for them.
After that it was pretty much just a slow slink back to the hotel and dinner. Everybody had a ball and Jenn’s dad, lost to us for over twelve hours, was going on at great lengths about what he had learned about Manga (his granddaughter is a huge mange fan) and talked about laughing until it hurt at a panel where Jerry Doyle and Walter Koenig started basically doing a comedy stand up on the political events of our times. Apparently no one was safe from their wrath and the entire room was convinced that these guys need their own CD and DVD deal.
Day 2: My plan was a bit like day one while Jenn and her mom were doing a lot of the McCaffrey panels and her dad was looking to sit in on some tech panels. I chatted with the Ghost Hunters International guys for a bit at their table before embarking on The Great Waste of Money. I decided to raid the dealer rooms for whatever struck my fancy that I couldn’t get in the average local store.
I grabbed some nice CDs from The Midnight Syndicate table. I noticed the music playing the other day and it wouldn’t get out of my head. Very basic, but very strong in invoking that horror vibe. Grabbed a shirt of theirs for myself and a really nice one for Jenn as well.
I stuck my head into a couple of ok panels, but nothing really noteworthy. I met up withJenn and we headed over to Artists Ally. I got my hardcover special edition of Fallen Angel signed by Peter David and Jenn discussed puppet making tips with Kathleen David. Kathleen mentioned having a class that day and we decided to throw it on the agenda.
We met up with Jenn’s mom and headed back to the hotel for a spot of a late lunch. That actually ended our day as Ian went into information overload and reintroduced the entire contents of his bottle to the world while sleeping. We kept him at the hotel for the rest of the day and let him relax a bit. As strong as an ox as he’s become, he still has a few stomach problems that are sometimes associated with premature babies.
Day 3: Jenn, Jenn’s mom and I went to another Ghost Hunters panel were members from both shows were talking. Again, very funny guys and enjoyable as hell to watch. Some guy tried to throw them by asking a plumbing question. Never try and catch Grant off guard with things like that. That’s all I’ll say.
Jenn and her mom went to the McCaffrey signing and I headed for Voice Acting 101. I wished I hadn’t. The guy giving the “interactive” course was basically referencing someone else’s “how to” tape cassette the whole time and didn’t really seem that good at the job he does.
I found a booth buried in the back of the dealer area that had a lot H.P. Lovecraft related merchandise. I saw a couple of items that I thought would be awesome for Ian, but the beatings that I would get from my wife and mother-in-law saved me a few bucks. Yes, I’m whipped in some areas. My wife has an unrealistic view of when Ian should or should not be exposed to horror films and whatnot. It’s my burden, but it’s a burden I asked for.
I hooked up with Jenn and her mom after they got out of the signing. We needed to kill some time so we ended up checking on some stuff in the dealer areas. We came by the H.P Lovecraft table. Ian is now the proud owner of a Cthulhu children’s booked called Where the Deep Ones Are. It’s sort of a riff on Where the Wild Things Are with a Lovecraft twist. We also got him a fanny pack that’s a little plush Cthulhu. He saw it and hugged it like it was his favorite kitty cat from second one.
I really enjoyed walking around after Ian got that thing. It was actually surprising more than anything else. I no longer assume that horror and sci-fi fans know anything about Lovecraft since I’ve met so many who have never heard of him. We got stopped every five feet by people finding it adorable that Ian was clutching a plush Cthulhu. It was a “special day” for him since he was getting his “first Cthulhu” and so happy about it.
We did a few more small shops and panels and met up with Jenn’s sister and her family before we headed in for the ARTC’sshow that day. We walked away from that one with several new CDs of their work and a job for the next convention. They want someone to dress up as Rory Rammer for next years Dragon*Con. I spoke with a couple of the guys about what Rory would looklike and came away with very few details. Hey, I’m almost the same age as Rory and I know what the basic idea is so maybe I can be the definitive image for the character by this time next year. I know, you’re all just green with envy now.
We left after that to find Jenn’s dad and all go out for dinner. There are some good restaurants in Atlanta. I wish we had found one.
Day 4:I left everyone else to go to a panel about the state of women’s pro wrestling today. The panel guests were the above mentioned Christy Hemme, Gail Kim & Traci Brooks. Wild panel discussion and the ladies were all great. Traci Brooks and I started to get side tracked on some of the older legends of the game before things got pulled back into the panel parameters.
After the panel, I met up with Jenn and we went over to the Walk of Fame. I got to chat with Robert Llewellyn about Junkyard Wars and Red Dwarf, Jerry Doyle about going from sci-fi TV to talk radio and Lance Henriksen about vampires and aliens. I also got to finish chatting with Traci Brooks about Penny Banner and other legends of the old days of women’s pro wrestling. Nice lady that Traci Brooks. By the end of it she’d made a new fan out of my wife. That’s PR, folks.
We blew a little more money and then had a nice lunch before heading off to The Mighty Rassilon Art Players doing a stage spoof of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Battlestar, James Bond and everything in between in one go. It was a hilarious show. Jenn was going to video tape (it’s allowed) it but we decided not to since we needed the disc for a later panel. We wished we had taped it after the show. Besides being side splittingly funny it was announced at the close of the show that Dragon*Con has decided that they don’t have the room to bring them back next year. We unknowingly watch what may well be their last ever Dragon*Con appearance.
And all of the above was just the highlights. There’s a ton of stuff I left out and a ton of photos that need to be scaled down before I can post them. If any of you out there ever wanted to see a really large convention but never went to one; start planning now for Dragon*Con 2009. (www.dragoncon.org/) You’ll love it.