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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, April 20, 2014

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For the love of a dog.
For the love of a dog.

Affected by Briggs

I don't have any pets. I used to always have a house full: dogs, cats, fish, hamsters. But for the past few years, I have tended only to humans and plants.

Today, I documented the story of Briggs, a Boston Terrier who was stolen from his East Side yard, but thanks to the relentless efforts of his caregivers, Josh and Tricia O'Malley, and many other volunteers and media outlets, he was returned, unharmed, after 17 days.

I am blown away by the O'Malleys' love for Briggs. Hearing and writing about this story reminds me of the tremendous impact pets, particularly dogs, have on our lives. They are more than "pets;" they are family members.

But when they leave us, there's a big paw-shaped hole that can never really be filled again in quite the same way.

This is why, in part, I do not have any pets. After my dog of 13 years Clay died three years ago, I decided I was not going to put myself through that kind of emotional pain anymore.

The end was the worst. I carried him up and down the stairs to let him outside when he was too weak to walk. At 75 pounds, he was almost too heavy for me, and he knew it. He looked at me with eyes so grateful, I would close myself in my office, away from the kids and weep. After one such occasion, I decided I would not get another pet.

And I haven't.

But I know avoiding the loss also means I'm avoiding the bond. It always goes back to Shakespeare, "It's better to have loved and lost ..." I believe this to be true, and yet, I am not ready to open my heart to another four-legged fur ball that's gonna up and die on me in a decade.

Maybe someday I'll feel differently.

Is cup stacking a Milwaukee tradition?
Is cup stacking a Milwaukee tradition?

Countdown to cup stacking

This is how my brain works:

As soon as June rolls around, I start to think about summer. Once I'm thinking June and summer, Summerfest immediately pops into my head. Daydreaming about the Big Gig leads me to memories of standing on bleachers on warm nights, fireworks, fried eggplant strips, late-night review writing, the SkyGlider, red wine coolers and ... cup stacking.

Cup stacking isn't a Summerfest-exclusive phenomenon, but for me, it may as well be. The vision of party people dancing around with a stack of 4 or 5 or 16 empty beer cups with a full one on top is amusing to me. I believe it serves as a visual brag of how much they've had to drink that night. If not, I don't get it at all and have a lot to learn about this festive art form. (Educate me).

I have never been a cup stacker myself, but I would miss the people who are if, for some reason, they collectively decided against the stacking of empty cups. One year, I looked for the fest-goer with the tallest stack of the evening. The "winner" was wearing light-up Mardi Gras-esque beads and had a stack of seven.

We can do better than that, Milwaukee. As long as we're not driving home, of course.