“Trash Talk” is a monthly column about life, the lessons learned along the way and some goofy connections between that and fantasy football. Now in her second season of fantasy football writing, Trash Sandwiches discusses the special relationship we share with our pets and provides some post-NFL Draft analysis.
Our Best Friends
As the saying goes, dogs are man’s best friend. But I’d take it a bit further: Pets are people’s best friends.
They are unfailingly loyal, sweet when you need extra love, silly when you could use a laugh and everything you could hope for in a companion.
Which is why it’s so hard when we’re faced with their mortality.
I recently said goodbye to my sister’s cat. It was heartbreaking to see Samurai, or “Big Sammy” for short, reduced to a mere shadow of his former self.
He was old and sick, but it didn’t make the moment any easier. Sammy was a massive gray fluff of a cat who had loved climbing and knocking stuff over. During my last visit, he spent the entire time in his bed, unmoving outside of his head and a few small tail flicks.
But this goodbye was not the only recent event that made me contemplate the mortality of our pets.
Checkups & Lumps
It started a week before that with a routine vet visit for my dog, Stella. Or rather, the vet visit began routinely.
They poked and prodded her for the various checks and vaccines. She happily accepted her body weight in treats as they did so, and when the time came to ask if I had any concerns, I showed them her lump.
This small lump appeared on Stella’s chest a few months ago. It started growing fairly quickly but then didn’t grow again for the months that followed. She’s getting to the age when dogs often grow benign fatty lumps. It wasn’t hurting her, so I showed them more out of opportunity than any real concern.
But the vets were concerned. Rather than a normal lumpy lipoma, the preliminary biopsy showed that Stella’s lump was actually spindle cell sarcoma. Cancer.
And even with surgery scheduled for next month and optimism from her vets that it will be a successful, it doesn’t alleviate my concerns. Just like how knowing that Sammy’s time had come didn’t make the final moments any easier.
Maybe it’ll be alright in the long run, when time heals all wounds, but the present is still scary and sad.
Stella, My Everything
To say Stella is my best friend is a massive understatement. She’s more than just my dog or my furry roommate; she’s my everything.
My knowledge of Stella’s history begins with her as a South Dakota cemetery stray. She was finally lured into the care of a shelter by cheeseburgers. A few weeks later, I got her for the $50 “we’re-not-sure-if-she’s-spayed” special (spoiler: she was not).
From the second my then-partner and I met her, we knew that she was “the one.” Stella quickly went from a stray trash dog (fun fact: that’s where I got the “trash” in my name!) to the deservedly spoiled life she has known since. When we split up years later, we had to make the hard decision of who got the dog. Since my living situation was more stable, she stayed with me.
As Stella and I celebrated her six-year “gotcha day” anniversary a couple of weeks ago, it hit me that we’ve spent more time with just the two of us than we did with my former partner. Through it all, this lady has been by my side.
Stella has cuddled up next to me when I’ve cried over loss and love. She’s herded me out the door when I’m not tying my shoes fast enough for our walk. She “protects” me from the mailman and gives me peace of mind when it’s late at night, and shadows abound. She’s helped me find my way when I’ve gotten lost, both literally and metaphorically.
But despite everything I do to give her the best life possible, I still always feel like I’m failing. Stella has given me everything, and I worry I’ll never do enough to return the favor.
Remembering Our Pets
By happenstance, amidst all the hard pet news in my life, I recently found myself at Dog Mountain. Located in St. Johnsbury, Vt., this special place was created by local folk artist Stephen Huneck and his wife, Gwen.
It began with the Dog Chapel, which looks like a quintessential New England church. It’s white with a steeple and stained glass windows.
Inside, however, the walls are covered in notes and photos left in remembrance of people’s dogs and other pets. Some are simple, with just names and dates or a short “I miss you” message. Others have little bios about the dogs’ favorite activities or silly antics.
The ones that hit me the hardest were the long, heartfelt notes. In particular, I found myself weeping at two, both from the same author but addressed to different dogs. And both began with the same sentiment, one that resonated deeply:
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you.”
The Lives They Deserve
The relationship we share with a pet is so special. They provide us with endless love and joy; in return, we strive to do the same.
Even when you’ve experienced the loss of a beloved pet before or when you know it’s coming, it’s hard. It’s hard to accept that they won’t always be around to greet you when you get home or sit by your side after a bad day. It’s hard to think that this small creature who plays such an oversized role in your life will someday be gone. And it’s even harder when that day comes.
Their lives are so much shorter than ours, and their worlds are often so much smaller. It’s easy to feel like you aren’t doing enough or present enough. But all we can do is try our best to give them the lives they deserve.
So let your dog choose your walking route. Snuggle up to your cat and take a nap together. Give your bearded dragon extra treats. Hug your animal friends close and cherish every moment you get with them.
(Vibalytics-Based) Post-NFL Draft Analysis
OK, confession time: While it seemed like the rest of the fantasy football world was glued to their screens watching the NFL Draft, I spent the weekend basically offline at a conference. Although waiting until the 11th hour to write an article is not my usual style, it was necessary. Any and all football takes I could have written pre-Draft would have become obsolete (But I would like the record to reflect that I finished the first part a week ago)!
Even if I wanted to, I’m nowhere near an expert on rookies or scouting. But what I can offer is some analytics-based post-NFL Draft analysis.
Don’t Panic About the Seattle Seahawks RBs
While I wasn’t on social media much during Draft weekend, I did see several posts from people panicking about the Seattle Seahawks drafting Zach Charbonnet with the 52nd pick in round two. And much like the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” I’m here to tell you: Don’t panic. But do capitalize on any panic from your leaguemates and look into buying low on Kenneth Walker!
Some people seem to be big mad over the added competition that theoretically dashes the high pre-Draft hopes for Walker, but NFL teams need more than one running back (gasp!). The Seahawks’ depth chart at the position is extremely shallow. Their complementary skill sets should make this a decent situation for both Charbonnet and Walker.
During his rookie campaign, Walker racked up 1,050 rushing yards on 228 attempts, which was the 11th-most attempts in the league. He had more than half of the team’s carries. Even if Charbonnet eats into some of that, there should still be plenty of rushing work for Walker.
However, I expect that Charbonnet will reduce some of Walker’s pass-catching work. Charbonnet rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons in college (1,137 in 2021 and 1,359 in 2022). He played a role in the passing game both years but took a leap forward, going from 197 receiving yards on 24 receptions to 321 yards on 37 receptions in 2022.
Despite some experts sounding the alarm in their post-NFL Draft analysis, my gut says it will be fine and to take advantage of any panic by buying low. I think Walker will still be the primary back, and Charbonnet will provide some sneaky value at the position in Points Per Reception (PPR) leagues.
Steer Clear of the Carolina Panthers WRs
The fire sale is coming back to Carolina, but it’s on the other side this time. Sell this wide receiver room and steer clear for your fantasy teams!
The Carolina Panthers drafted quarterback Bryce Young with their No. 1 overall pick. Although some have concerns about his smaller size, the scouts in Carolina disagreed. He is a mobile-enough pocket passer that should be an improvement after the past few years of bad QB play on the team. As with any rookie, it will likely take Young a little time to develop, but I think he’ll be a good fit in the long run.
But unless Young starts the season red-hot and immediately lives up to the high ceiling that many see, I’m not convinced he’ll be a needle-mover for the Panthers’ wide receiver room as it stands. They traded away their top WR, D.J. Moore, to get the No. 1 pick. Their biggest acquisitions during free agency to fill that gap were 32-year-old Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, who barely topped 500 yards last season. Of course, Chark still had more receiving yards than either of his new teammates Terrace Marshall or Laviska Shenault.
Maybe all of these are reasons to be more optimistic about WR Jonathan Mingo, the 39th overall draft pick, who is touted as big, fast and explosive. Although many people had him projected to go in the third round or later, a good portion of post-NFL Draft analysis is now calling this a great pick. And while the higher draft capital doesn’t hurt, I’m still not sold on Mingo or anyone else in Carolina’s receiver room. The Panthers have a history of drafting wide receivers that don’t live up to expectations, and I am not ready to get hurt again.
Thanks for reading my post-NFL Draft analysis! If you like my kind of trash, you can read more here and follow me on Twitter @trashsandwiches.