When my 5 pound Yorkie Kiko first got sick I took him to the ASPCA and the doctor asked if I wanted to put him down. I said yes and placed him on the examining table.
"No, down. DOWN."
I thought, "Make up your mind buddy; I haven't got all day" and took the dog off the table and put him on the floor.
"Do you want to put him to sleep?" he finally said in the tone of voice reserved for imbeciles.
"He has diabetes."
"Did anyone put Mary Tyler Moore to sleep when SHE got diabetes?"
It was in New York, 1990 and I was booked for road gigs in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Princeton, Pittsburgh and a thousand other towns so small the only thing I remember about them is my bar tab.
Mildred was an older woman who worked in the dog grooming shop on our block. She said she would babysit Kiko while I traveled. She knew how to give insulin shots and each time I returned home there were detailed, loving notes about what Kiko had done or not done while I was away.
DONE: Peed on everything
NOT DONE: Refrained from peeing on everything
I had very little money in those days. The most I could pay Mildred was $11 a day. For months this exchange worked out until one day she stopped returning my calls. I think the eleven dollars a day plus the traveling from her home on the upper west side to mine on the upper east side did her in. She was 51 but smoking two packs of cigarettes a day had aged her. She looked 52.
So because I had no choice I started taking the dog, the wee wee pads, the insulin, the hypodermics and ketone strips with me on gigs. I only got kicked off one Greyhound Bus. But once off the bus, the driver took a close look at my little dog, who was by now blind, and let me back on. And yes I was wearing a low cut blouse. And didn't the Ketones used to sing backup for Marvin Gaye?
Eventually the dog died, I moved to Los Angeles and never thought about Mildred again. Ten years later I inherited money when my Dad died. The first person I thought of was Mildred.
I bought a card, wrote that I wanted to send her a check to make up for the pittance I had paid her back in New York and was hoping she was at this same address.
Three weeks later I received the card back in the mail, unopened, with the word "Deceased" written across it. I burst into tears. I could never repay this wonderful woman for all she had done for me. I removed the card and stuck the envelope in that year's journal. I packed it away with all the other journals and never looked at it until this year.
I found the envelope and unfolded it. There it was, "Deceased", written across the top. But this time something caught my eye. Something I hadn't noticed when it was first returned to me. The word looked very familiar. And then it hit me, IT WAS MILDRED'S HANDWRITING.
End of chat.