Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Zoology 101

This little guy leaped onto the lawn chair next to mine and didn't seem to be in any hurry to get away.

Who was observing whom, do you think?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mother Nature's loving hand

The title of this post may seem an odd choice in light of recent earthquakes and tsunamis, but the tender side of Mother Nature has blessed me all week long as I've begun to heal from the loss of my beloved Kadi. I've been warmed by the sun, kissed by gentle breezes, and lulled into peacefulness by the splendid songs of birds. In the face of so much life, I'm compelled to notice it and be thankful for it.

Spring is a short season in South Louisiana. The time between cold winter temperatures and blazing hot summers is measured in weeks, not months, and I'm determined to enjoy these rare, perfect days while they last. I bought a cap with a bill on it to shield my eyes from the bright morning light, and I put it on and sit outside while Butch and Levi roam the yard and pace the fence line, making sure nothing has changed since the night before. I can hear traffic sounds in the distance, but the beauty of the birds' songs overpowers the noise and  captures my attention. One bird calls over and over for "Ricky, Ricky, Ricky," and another calls, "Hear me! Hear me!" They flit through the air, darting in and out of trees, and their hustle-bustle energizes me.


Late at night I stand outside with the dogs for the last time of the day and listen to the cooing of a lone dove and the hoot of an owl. The dove's call is a sound I remember from childhood, from late summer evenings spent playing outside with my sister and friends from the neighborhood until darkness descended and our parents called us back inside for baths and bedtime. All these years later I still associate it with bedtime.

The dogs return to the back door without being called and we come inside. While I give  Levi a treat and put him in his crate, Butch makes his way to the bedroom, where he waits in the doorway until I get there with his biscuit. In a few short minutes both dogs are settled down and ready to sleep. I climb into bed, pull up the covers, turn out the lamp, and lie there in the darkness just thinking for a moment. I think about the fact that another day has passed, a beautiful day. I take stock of my emotions at that moment and find mostly love and gratitude. I roll over, pull Kadi's collar out from under my pillow and hold it in my hand, close to my heart, as I drift off to a peaceful sleep.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The end of the girl with the golden heart

This post was hard for me to write and may be hard for you to read, not just because of the subject. It's long, it's somewhat graphic, and if you're one of the first to read it, it may be full of typos. I picked out the images earlier today, but I've written the text "stream-of-consciousness" style, and it went so far in a direction I didn't intend it to go that I had to change the original title. I can't make myself go back over it right now to check for errors, but I promise to edit it properly tomorrow. The point of this first paragraph is to let you know that I'll understand if you don't want to read all this, but please, please scroll through it and look at the pictures of my best girl, Kadi. She was so very beautiful, inside and out.


Calendar note on August 22, 1997: "Troy gave Kelli a 10-wk-old yellow lab." That's right. Kadi was not my dog in the beginning.

Kelli is my daughter and Troy was later to become her husband.

Kelli and I had bought this property together earlier that year. She and her kids lived in the house in front of the carport, and I lived in the one behind it, where I still live today. We had talked about getting a dog, but the fence needed work first.

I wasn't working when Troy gave Kadi to Kelli, so it seemed logical that I would babysit her while her mom worked, just for a few days until the fence work was completed. Those few days were all it took for me to fall in love with her.

When the fence was finished around the backyard Kelli and I shared, Kelli wanted Kadi to be an outside dog. Kadi had other ideas. As soon as Kelli let her out in the morning, Kadi headed to my back door. As hard as I resisted it, I usually caved in and let her spend most of the day in my house. She wanted to be there, and I loved having her. I missed her when she went home in the afternoon.

Kadi at six months old - December 1997

In 1998 Kelli called from work and asked how I'd feel about her bringing another dog home. A friend of hers had found a plump, young puppy (too young to have been away from his mother) that had probably been dumped near her home. Calendar note on April 30, 1998:  "Janice M. gave Kelli a new puppy -- 6 wks old male -- we named him Jack. Kadi is so excited, thinks it's her dog." Three days later Jack's name was changed to Butch, who, as you now know, also wasn't my dog in the beginning. But he was Kadi's. (After Butch, Kadi showed the ropes to Kim's dogs, Frankie, Winston, Lucy, and Oliver. She was working hard on Levi.)

Kadi in fine form in 1998

By the time Kelli and Troy married in 2000 and were getting ready to move into the new home they'd built to accommodate their combined five children, I think Kelli knew how attached I'd become to Kadi and Butch. Or maybe she didn't like the idea of leaving me alone. Or possibly she was just tired of trying to convince me not to let her dogs spend so much time in my house. Whatever the reason, she told me she was giving them to me. That made me feel guilty about all the times I'd sneaked them inside, but I decided I could live with the guilt and accepted her offer gratefully. That's how Kadi and Butch became my dogs. Inside dogs.

Kadi - June 10, 2006

There are stories about Kadi all through this blog, so I won't repeat them here. I'll just add  that Kadi became more special to me with each passing year. Some people think of their dogs as children, which is sort of the way I've always thought about Butch, but when Kadi grew out of puppyhood, she no longer seemed like a child to me.

Kadi - April 3, 2008 - a beautiful, happy, mature lady

Kadi was a grown-up through and through, with her own set of standards for behavior -- hers and everybody else's -- and the facial expressions to tell you what she thought about anything that was happening at a given moment. She was more than a wonderful friend to me. If she could have talked in words (she did talk with her eyes), she probably would have told you that she and I were partners in the running of the house. She behaved like a loyal administrative assistant, alerting me to anything she had identified as a problem, then fully expecting me to take care of the matter post haste.

Kadi had a heart of gold. She loved her people, her canine friends, and life itself. The Sister-Mary-Katherine part of her might let us know if we'd somehow fallen short of her expectations, but she didn't hold a grudge. More than once she would head-butt a naughty puppy, then turn right around and look us in the eyes and smile, as if to let us know she wasn't really angry, she was just doing her job.

Kadi - July 3, 2009 - In charge of the house

In September of 2009 I took Kadi to the vet for her annual physical exam and shots. She was given a clean bill of health. She weighed a hair under 62 pounds.

In January of 2010 I took her back to the vet. She had begun to have trouble with her back legs slipping out from under her, and she was falling a lot. She also seemed to be choking on her food once or twice a day. The vet examined her thoroughly. He pressed on her backbone just above her tail, and her hind legs crumpled. He said he believed that her leg problem was caused by a degenerative condition of her spine. His recommendation was to give her Rimadyl (an NSAID pain reliever) and see if that might help, though he acknowledged that it might not. As for the choking, he said sometimes a dog's trachea will flatten out with age and that I should begin moistening Kadi's kibble and/or giving her soft food. That January checkup also turned up something I hadn't noticed: Kadi had lost almost eight pounds in four months.

The softer food stopped the choking problem almost immediately. The Rimadyl (50 mg daily) didn't seem to make much of a difference in Kadi's mobility, so I stopped it after a few weeks. The falling got quite a bit better because Kadi gradually began to walk with her hind legs stiffened into an upside-down V-shape, which gave her a more solid footing. When she had trouble getting up from a lying-down position, she'd scoot to the nearest rug or carpet to get some traction.

In August of 2010 it was time to renew her prescription for thyroid medication, and she needed to have her thyroid levels checked to see if that prescription was still appropriate. Back we went to the vet. She got the full senior dog exam, which included a number of blood tests that later proved to be in normal ranges (except for the thyroid, which hadn't changed). The alarming news was that she had lost another six pounds.

The vet told me that day that he believed Kadi's weight loss was "her body's way of preparing for the end of her life." She had turned 13 two months earlier. The vet said (I'm paraphrasing here), "Dogs' bodies, like people's, lose mass as they get older. That's why you never see really fat people in nursing homes; most of the patients are small and thin." That day was the first time I'd had to face the fact that there was a limit to the time I had left to spend with Kadi.

Kadi - October 16, 2010 - Her dramatic weight
 loss didn't affect her doggy smile.

We rocked along for the next five months without any new problems. I had started spoon feeding Kadi and Butch, bite for bite, after Kadi's last visit to the vet, just to make sure she was eating an adequate amount. She continued to lose weight on the same amount of food that made Butch gain a few pounds, but she didn't seem to feel sick or to be in a lot of pain. Her skin was beginning to hang on her bony frame, and her fur looked like moths had been in it. I think now that her sweet nature and her joy and interest in life masked her discomfort, but maybe I was just in denial.

In December of 2010 Butch developed another in his lifelong series of ear infections, and I took him to a new vet -- at least new to this area. She and another veterinarian had relocated to this area after Hurricane Katrina forced them out of New Orleans, and in the early fall of 2010 they opened a brand new animal hospital about five minutes from my home. In addition to his ears, Butch seemed to have been experiencing some pain from the fissures on his behind and the arthritis in his knees. I told the vet that I'd been giving Butch Kadi's leftover 50 mg Rimadyl tablets for the last week to try to alleviate some of his pain but that it didn't seem to be helping. In that context, I told her about Kadi's back and leg problems, and she told me she thought both dogs might benefit from a stronger dose of Rimadyl. I took some 100 mg Rimadyl home and started them on it.

Butch and Kadi both seemed to feel better on the larger dose of Rimadyl. Kadi seemed more confident and sure-footed, and I was encouraged. A month later, in the last week of January 2011, Kadi got sick with a case of diarrhea so severe that it weakened her in every way possible. She weighed only 42 pounds when the new vet checked her out, but despite her thinness, we still had to withhold all food for 24 hours. In the meantime I was to give her medication to slow down the diarrhea, and after that 24-hour-period I could begin giving her very small amounts of chicken and rice at regular intervals.

The diarrhea lasted six days, and poor Kadi lay on the cold floor (her choice) like a thick shag rug for most of that time. When she finally felt better, the spark returned to her eyes. Her disposition told me she was my sweet, happy girl again, but her body sagged, and I could see that she was worse for the wear.

Kadi - January 31, 2011 - I was happy that she finally
 felt like rolling in the yard, but not particularly 
pleased about the muddy spot where she chose to do it.

In the first week of March 2011, Kadi was back at the vet again. The diarrhea had returned. This time we saw the other new vet, who stated that diarrhea was a possible side effect of Rimadyl and said to stop giving her that immediately. We would wait a week or so and start her on prednisone, a steroid, to address her wobbly leg issues. He warned, sympathetically, "When the prednisone stops working, I'm afraid that's it." 

The vet noted that Kadi had dropped another two pounds in just over a month. When I explained her history of weight loss over the past year, he said his best guess would be that she had some type of gastrointestinal cancer. It might show up on an ultrasound test, but it might not. I declined the test because I didn't think a firm diagnosis would give us a different outcome. Kadi was three months shy of her 14th birthday. Chemotherapy couldn't possibly extend her life by more than a few short months, and I wouldn't put her through that kind of trauma for such a limited amount of time. The vet put Kadi on a diet of a special gastroenteric food and said to give her Pepcid AC twice a day to ease her stomach pain.

I remember telling the vet on that visit, "Kadi still has some good days." Near the end of the visit, he told me, "I want you to do something." He suggested that I go home and find two jars, label one jar "good days" and the other one "bad days" and put a penny in one or the other each night at bedtime. "When the 'bad-day' jar starts filling up a lot faster than the 'good-day' jar, you'll know it's time."

I didn't make those jars. When I thought about it, I realized that I'd exaggerated when I said Kadi still had good days. She didn't have any good days; she just had occasional  really good moments.

Kadi - February 18, 2011
Another sunbath, this time on dry ground.
Isn't she beautiful?

Kadi's second bout of diarrhea lasted about as long as the first one had, and the prednisone never really seemed to kick in to help her legs. She began falling more frequently and often needed human assistance to stand up. We had to pick up her back end, wait while she got her front feet positioned properly, then slowly lower her back feet to the floor and physically place each one in a position that would grant her stability. Once she got her bearings, she could hobble around the house or out into the yard, though her trips were shorter and much less frequent than usual.

At one point Kadi did stay in the yard long enough for me to grab my camera and take what I didn't know then would be the final pictures of her. Here is one of them:

Kadi - March 18, 2011
Still beautiful, but her eyes are sad.

I don't think she looks ill in that photo, but another one, taken moments later, presents a truer picture of her condition. I think seeing this might help you understand why I couldn't write about this in any detail while it was happening. My sweet girl was wasting away right in front of my eyes, and it was breaking my heart.

Kadi - March 18, 2011
Skin and bones and ragged fur, but her beautiful spirit shines through those sad eyes.

In the middle of the night after these pictures were taken, Kadi got sick again.  More diarrhea. I treated her all day Saturday and Sunday the same way I had done the other two times, the same medicine and the same small feedings. I knew if she wasn't better by Monday we'd go back to the vet for help. The diarrhea didn't go away over the weekend, but it didn't get any worse. Her little body, though, seemed to get weaker and weaker. By Monday morning she was pooping, then falling in it, and her distress made me cry. I cleaned her up and offered her food, but she wasn't interested. She lay on her side on the living room floor, her eyes staring straight in front of her, not lifting her head. For the first time in nearly 14 years, Kadi didn't seem to care what was going on around her.

I called Kim and said through sobs, "I think today may be the day." She came over immediately and agreed that Kadi appeared to be giving up. I asked her to call the veterinarian and make an appointment, and she did that for me. Kim called Kelli at work, and Kelli came, too. Kadi did look up and acknowledge each of the girls as they came in. We could tell she was glad they were there. She didn't wag her tail, but she lifted her head up a few inches and looked directly at each of them. When she lifted her head, she didn't lay it back down; it fell to the floor under its own weight.

We sat with Kadi and stroked her, telling her over and over what a good girl she was and how much we loved her. Around noon she tried to get up, so we helped her to her feet and she actually headed to the back door and went outside for a minute. She ate a few bites after that, then drank some water and lay back down. I don't know whether the food upset her stomach or the walking hurt her, but she seemed to be in a great deal of pain. Butch was with us, walking around excitedly, and we made sure he didn't accidentally step on her. We let Levi in the room for just a moment, but his fast, klutzy movements seemed to make Kadi anxious, so we kept him on the other side of the gate. Kelli had to go back to work, so Kim and I continued to stroke Kadi and soothe her while we waited until the appointed hour. When either of us couldn't hold back the tears, we tried not to let Kadi see us.

In light of what would happen soon, I no longer cared about Kadi's diet, other than not wanting to give her anything that would upset her fragile stomach and intestines. We talked about what might make her happy and settled on a spoonful of peanut butter. We took turns holding it, while Kadi, the side of her face still flat on the floor, slowly but eventually licked it clean.

It was time to take Kadi to the vet. Kim and I picked up our purses, and I picked up a leash. When Kadi saw the leash, she rallied and tried to get up. We helped her up and let her stand for a minute, then she took some wobbly steps to the front door, demonstrating  more enthusiasm than I'd seen in her for days. Five minutes later her last ride was over.

At the animal hospital I talked to the vet at length about my concern that I was "jumping the gun" in making this decision. He said his personal opinion was that I was not, that he believed Kadi was ready to go. He said that his medical opinion was that we could do the ultrasound to be sure what we were dealing with and then make a decision but that the main question to be considered was whether I was ready. Kadi was standing and shivering while we talked. I didn't think I could take her home, watch her suffer a few days more, then go through this all over again. I said I was ready.

They weighed Kadi while they put the catheter in her front leg. She had lost another three pounds in less than three weeks, down to 37 pounds from the 62 that had been her normal weight for the last few years. They brought her back to us then, and after we petted her and talked to her for a few more minutes, I gave the okay, and the doctor injected a sedative through the catheter. Kadi went out almost instantly. We held her to keep her from falling and laid her gently on soft blankets. She was still breathing, but the vet assured us she was totally unconscious. I wasn't convinced. Her eyes were open, not moving at all, but if my hand came too close to them, she blinked. 

The next injection, which the vet had explained was an overdose of a seizure medication, ended Kadi's life in a split second. I don't believe it caused her any pain. The procedure seemed so simple that I wanted to scream in the quiet of that room. How can a life be ended so easily and swiftly? How could such a beloved creature pass on without any kind of fanfare? In that moment I wanted angels for Kadi, lots of angels, some of them welcoming her with arms wide open and some of them playing trumpets. I wanted to be able to see Kadi running among frolicking puppies and fluffy kittens in green fields under brilliant blue skies.

Instead, her death was quiet and easy, and her little body just lay there on the blankets. It was too much for me, and it was not enough.

I've cried plenty of tears in the last couple of days, but the truth is the greater part of my grieving has been done in the last few months, because I've known I would lose Kadi soon. Every morning, ever since the first vet told me Kadi's body was shedding weight to prepare for the end of her life, I have opened my eyes and looked first for Kadi, to see if she was breathing. I was afraid she might die in the night and even more afraid that I'd have to choose the time of her death.

Through all of her illnesses, through all of her pain, Kadi stayed sweet and loving and interested in others, up until that last day. I made the decision for euthanasia based on what I thought was right for Kadi, but I will never know if I did the right thing. 


I am so grateful to my daughters for the love and support they gave to Kadi and me both during this stressful event, grateful to the compassionate doctors and staff at the animal hospital, and grateful, also, to those of you who have left comments here and on Facebook and sent emails offering support and understanding. I am stronger because of all of you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The toughest decision I've never had to make...

...until yesterday.

My beloved Kadi is gone, and a piece of my heart has gone with her. If dogs have a heaven (I believe they do), then it's a richer, happier place with Kadi in it.

I am sadder than any words I can write, but more than that, I'm thankful beyond measure for the years I was allowed to spend with that sweet soul wrapped in yellow fur.

God bless all of you who have ever loved an animal.

Kadi Marie
June 14, 1997 to March 21, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Everything new is old again

Photoshop Elements has so many fun features that I don't think I'll ever learn to use them all, but this morning I spent a while experimenting. I started with this picture that I took in November of 1997 when my grandson and I went to a Civil War Reenactment at Magnolia Mound Plantation in Baton Rouge:

An hour or so later, after cropping, applying a sepia tint, creating a ragged border, and  painting an entire fake hat, here's the final result:

The hat obviously needed a better artist than I am, but it was a fun project anyway.

UPDATE 3/19/11:

In the comments on this post Janet asked if I thought I could add suspenders to my grandson. Who could resist a challenge like that? Thanks for the idea, Janet. (While I was working on suspenders, I also took the tops of Koby's ears out from under his hatband.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I wish these photos were scratch and sniff

My next-door neighbor has a pear tree, and the subtle scent of its blossoms has been wafting into my yard for a few weeks now. I've never particularly enjoyed the taste of pears, but these blossoms smell sweet enough to eat.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Trinkets and Treasures - No. 2

The last item I showed you was a trinket, but this one is a real treasure, at least to me. I'm pretty sure the genealogy enthusiasts among you will appreciate it, too. It's the oldest thing I own--an original letter written in 1858 to my great-great-great-grandfather, Abraham H. Hetherington, by his brother, Isaac.

The letter came to me when my grandmother died in 1988. It was stuffed in an envelope with other family history documents. It was sealed in plastic then and remains in the same plastic today. Unfortunately, even in that protective environment,  a portion of the letter has separated from the rest along a fold line.

Here it is, front and back:

In this letter Isaac addressed the problem of moving his and Abraham's parents from where they lived then to a better place, and declined without much of an explanation to do the job himself. Here's a typed transcript of the text (blank lines denote illegible words):

          Brandonville, VA. May 17th, 1858 

Dear Brother, 

Yours of 30th Ult. came duly here. 
We are well. I was glad to hear you all enjoy 
good health. You write concerning Father & 
Mother. You think the matter of attending 
to their removal devolves on me. You will 
understand me, that I feel as you on this 
subject, but how under the present cir- 
cumstances I can go, I cannot see. I com- 
ply with your wish in informing you 
thus. If I could at all do it, I surely 
would attend to this duty without delay. 
I hope you or your son will proceed 
to attend to getting them out & that they 
may reach there in safety and that 
the Almighty may spare them long. 
It is heartrending to hear of their suffering and we 
well blame ourselves. I remember of sending the old 
folks some years ago five dollars. I believe this was 
when I lived in Selbysport. Since then he was 
here with us but a good many years ago. 
When he left here, I presented him with such 
articles as he could carry with him for their 
comfort. He was surely welcome and would 
have been to more, but he declined taking 
what I had in fact to force upon him. 
Since that time my circumstances have chan- 
ged so that I have not means to assist 
him at my command, otherwise Brother 
Abraham, they should not suffer. And if I 
could go and attend to them now I would 
go without delay. Well may you say this is 
a serious matter. We owe to Parents debts of gratitude 
we cannot repay. With regard to course of travel 
to their place, I can give you little or 
no information. You are surely aware of the two 
routes by rail, that of Balt. & Ohio and that 
of Pittsburg & Connellsville, or better perhaps by 
water from Pittsburg to Brownsville & then by 
coach to Cumberland. Or you could stop this 
side of Cumberland. Should you or your 
son come in after the old Parents & travel 
by the Balt. & Ohio Rail Rail, you could 
stop at Cranberry Summit 18 miles from 
this place & come here, Or if Boat from 
Pitt. to Brownsville you could stop at _____- 
__________ 12 miles from here & call here. 
I hope you will do so. You say you can 
not well send a constitution (the last) of 
Iowa. I am well aware you would if you 
could accomodate. I inquired of you 
concerning Bro. C. in my last letter. You 
must have forgotten to say something on 
this. Write me very shortly & inform me 
what you are going to do concerning 
the old Parents & when you intend to 
go or send for them and when we ex- 
pect you or your son here to see us 
on your or his way there, inform me al- 
so all you can about Christmas, in each 
particular, and ________ here & intended 
removing to one or the other of the two 
states, which you prefer, yours or Iowa. 
With the best wishes for your prosperity 
and that of your family, 
                           Your Brother 
A.H. Hetherington          I. Hetherington 

Henry and Margaret, the "old parents," were 87 and 65 years old, respectively, when this letter was written, so it's easy to understand the brothers' concern for their well-being. Isaac, in the letter, seemed to acknowledge that he was the logical choice to help Henry and Margaret move, but his reluctance to do so left me wondering how the problem was ultimately resolved.

I've never learned how Henry and Margaret were relocated or who actually tackled the job of moving them, but I was thrilled to find out that both of them were still alive at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census. (A misspelling of their last name had kept that fact hidden from me until last year.)

So where were Henry and Margaret in 1860?  In Southampton Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

And who was the only other person living in the household with them? Why, it was their son Isaac, the shoemaker and former buck-passer.

I love a story with a good ending.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sidewalks to sanity

NOTE:  An update has been added at the end of this post.

A number of things were going on around here during my recent absence from blogging, one of which involved having sidewalks laid in my backyard to replace the troublesome stepping stones. My son-in-law and I had discussed this project last summer, and when I mentioned it again as a potential project for the upcoming spring, he called the concrete man to get him out here for an estimate. As it turned out, the concrete man said he'd be very busy this spring, but he would have time to begin our little project the very next day.

Backing up five and a half years, I'd had the stepping stones put in during the summer of 2005 in anticipation of Butch's eye surgery a month later. We wanted him to have time to familiarize himself with their layout before the surgery made him totally blind, so he'd have them as a navigational tool. They served their purpose, and they looked nice, didn't they?

The first problem was that it took constant weed-eating to keep them looking this way--weed-eating around each separate paving stone.

The second problem was that they were laid into the ground instead of on top of it, so if it rained, they filled with water and became totally useless except as landmarks for Butch.

And so the laying of the sidewalks began near the last week of January.

To replace the stepping stones that had run parallel to the back of the house (the ones that had long since been allowed to grow completely over with grass), we extended the patio by three feet and added a sidewalk adjacent to the house.

That sidewalk would extend all along the back to the side of the house, where it would meet up with another new sidewalk that would replace the stepping stones formerly leading from the gate to the garden shed.

As you can see in the photo above, we left the stepping stones from the patio to the garden shed alone. We haven't decided whether to let them grow over (probably) or use them to build up the area behind the shed.

Above is the freshly poured sidewalk as it appeared when we thought the job was done. The little square you can see in the new concrete on the right side of the picture (about a third of the way up) was left on purpose because I wanted a little area of dirt that I could stick a bird-feeder pole into. The pole used to be in the yard, but the yard was so boggy I didn't like wading in the mud to refill the feeders.

Moments after I took the photo above, it began to sprinkle, and the sprinkle turned into a severe rainstorm that lasted for hours. Little did we know that the gutters were stopped up with leaves, so the heavy rains poured off the roof and created a deep rut right down the middle of the fresh concrete. The concrete men, who had hurried to finish the job while knowing rain was expected, had to come back two days later to add more concrete and refinish the job.

That rain lasted for long periods over several days and nights, and, at the same time, the temperatures dropped into the low 20s. For four long days, while the rain damage and the rain itself kept the concrete from curing, I couldn't let the dogs go into the backyard. The first day I took them into the front yard one at a time on a leash. Then I realized there was one little place at the side edge of the old part of the patio, a place about a foot wide, where I could lead a dog on a leash and step out into the backyard. So that's what we did, one by one, over and over and over and over for days. 

I had to wear plastic overshoes, but they didn't actually fit over my shoes, so I wore them over my bare feet as I walked in the near-freezing water that stood in the yard. I also had to wear a scarf tied around my head (couldn't find my ski cap), knit gloves, and a full-length, heavy winter coat, with my mother's old plastic poncho over that. It was no fun for me to do that every time the dogs needed to go out, and it was no fun for them to wait for me to put all those clothes on. In fact, Kadi couldn't wait. Kadi was sick the entire four days. Sick with diarrhea.

Do you still wonder why I didn't feel like writing?

Finally, back to Butch. We'd been a bit concerned about how he'd handle the new sidewalks, and he was a little put off by them in the beginning. On the first day he encountered them, he behaved very much like a Roomba vacuum cleaner: each time his foot touched the edge of the sidewalk, he'd bounce back and go quickly in the opposite direction. With a little time, though, and a little assistance and encouragement while on a leash, he figured them out. He crosses the sidewalks easily now and has even cautiously walked the length of the one behind the house. 

The other dogs seem to enjoy the sidewalks and often use them instead of short-cutting through the grass or on the remaining stepping stones. I love them, too. Being able to keep my feet dry while going from the house to the shed has been nearly impossible in all the previous winters I've lived here.

I thought I'd lose my mind during those long days when the rainstorms and the fresh concrete kept me housebound with three stir-crazy dogs, but in hindsight it was worth it. Now, when I'm standing out there in the moonlight, high and dry, waiting for Butch to take care of his urgent, middle-of-the-night business, I feel like the queen of all I survey.

It amazes me how much a few yards of concrete have improved the quality of my life.

UPDATE (just for Patsy's amusement):

Even after the concrete was dry, the yard was so wet that I still had to take Levi out on a leash.  Butch and Kadi walked gingerly through the muck, but without the leash, Levi ran in leaps and bounds and covered himself with it.

At one point Levi yanked hard on the leash just as Butch darted right in front of me. I was standing on the corner of the patio, with the bird feeder pole right behind me, so there was nowhere for me to go except head first over Butch into the water/mud/dog$#!%. Fortunately, I wasn't hurt.  Between the heavy coat I was wearing and the boggy ground, it was sort of like falling onto a waterbed.

No harm but very foul!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Trinkets and Treasures - No. 1

I'm not a material girl. I don't own expensive things, nor do I have a desire to own them, but there are some things in my home that I really, really like. Some are significant because there's history behind them; some just appeal to me for no particular reason at all.

I was looking at one of the items in the latter category today and it occurred to me that I might be able to turn these things into a regular series of blog posts. After all, the word "trinkets" is featured prominently at the top of my sidebar, so the "trinkets and treasures" theme would fit right in. I worried that it might not be an interesting topic, but look how well Oprah has done with her "favorite things" segments.

Pffft! I'm going for it.

Realizing that this bright idea might turn into a "series" of one, here's that one:

This large bowl on my coffee table is probably about fifteen inches in diameter if you don't measure it right where that notch is. The notch, the little holes, and the jagged edge are all part of what appealed to me, along with the patches and the general rustic appearance (I'm a fool for texture). The bowl is very light in weight and seems to be made out of papier mache or something similar.

I was thrilled when my daughter pointed out this bowl in the hobby store. I thought it would be the perfect thing, filled with pine cones, to add a little touch of the outdoors to the room. And it was, for a long time.

The bowl still sits on the coffee table, but it's empty for now. Levi sure did love the crunch of pine cones.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

"Oh, did you need this old thing?"

I should have put Levi in his crate before I took a shower yesterday, but he was sleeping soundly and I knew the shower was going to be a quick one, so I didn't. That was my first mistake.

Midway through my shower, I saw his big head poke through the shower curtain and his mouth clamp down on the hot water faucet. "Okay, now he's going to scald me," I thought right before telling him to go away. Telling him to go away was my second mistake.

I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair, wrapped a towel around it, dried off as quickly as possible, and walked into my bedroom to get dressed. This is what I saw there:

What looked like an explosion in a cotton candy factory had been Butch's bed only minutes earlier. I didn't have time to deal with it right then because I was on my way to take Kadi to the vet, so I got dressed, put Levi in his crate, and left the house. I was pretty upset; this was Butch's favorite bed. When I got back home, I discovered that Butch didn't seem to mind the damage as much as I did.

It was late afternoon before I could face cleaning up that mess. With Levi hovering nearby and watching every move I made, I fussed at him the entire time I filled two kitchen-sized trash bags. I grabbed another bag of trash from the kitchen and hauled all three of them outside to the garbage can. When I got back in the house, Levi was missing. I found him back in my bedroom with this:

That was all just yesterday. Earlier in the week, wielding a shovel for the first time in, oh, probably twenty years, I filled five large holes Levi had dug in the yard. That little hole he dug the first week he was here? That was nothing. He's a much better digger now:

In fact, he's such a good digger that it took him only about fifteen minutes to redig two of the five holes a few hours after I'd filled them.

Here's some of his other handiwork:

Another one of the four dog beds he has destroyed so far.

A chenille throw that had been folded and draped
on top of a decorative trunk in the corner of my living room.

The first of three books he's chewed. There would have been many others
in this condition if I hadn't caught him while he was running
 with them. He actually pulls them off the bookshelves.

The biggest item he has damaged so far is the futon mattress. Its black, faux leather cover was an early casualty, an easy target because it already had minor damage from the other dogs' toenails.  Levi ripped it to shreds. He also bit through it--and through the original green microfiber cover and the mattress underneath. He pulled stuffing out of the corner of the mattress. I threw the black cover away, sewed up the green cover, and thought it would be okay. An hour later he had torn part of the zipper out of the green cover. I repaired it again, and this time I covered the whole mattress with an ugly, heavy-duty, clear plastic tarp. So far that's still intact. 

I've already told you about the many, many stuffed toys Levi has disemboweled. The only other items that come immediately to mind are the umpteen pens and markers he has snagged off tabletops and countertops. That boy loves the taste of ink.

Now, I realize that this is typical puppy behavior, and I also realize that the fault is mainly mine for not watching him as closely as I should have been. I have consistently failed to comprehend that he has long ago scoped out the house, noted the location of all the items of interest, and needs only a minute away from me to set his plans in motion.

Levi is good about minding when I tell him "no," but the "no" doesn't stick for too long. He's scheduled for obedience training next week. He's already good at "sit," "shake," and "down." I'm hoping the training will focus on teaching him what not to do as well as on teaching commands to do something. 

When Levi isn't in barbarian mode, he's sweet, lovable, smart and very, very funny. That's why I haven't killed him. I forgave him for all of yesterday's transgressions when he climbed up on the sofa last night, pushed as close to me as he possibly could, licked my chin, then lay down beside me with his head in my lap. He's just a baby, after all. A great, big baby.  With a whole lot of teeth. 

But he will grow out of this.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Sometimes I think about you...

Sometimes I think about you
Wonder if you're out there somewhere thinking 'bout me
And would you even recognize
The woman that your little girl has grown up to be?*

One month ago today I got an email from a woman I remember as a child. She's a grandmother now. Her father was my second (and last and best, I always point out) husband. I saw her a few times when we first married, but then we moved away, then she moved away with her mother, and our paths never crossed again.

'Cause I look in the mirror and all I see
Are your brown eyes looking back at me
They're the only thing you ever gave to me at all*

Her brother lived with us when he was in high school and for a short time after that. He moved out as soon as he was old enough to make it on his own, and then, a few years later, their father and I divorced. I only had one phone call from her brother after that.

Oh, I hear the weather's nice in California
There's sunny skies as far as I can see
If you ever come back home to Carolina
I wonder what you'd say to me*

I stayed in touch with the rest of my husband's family until he remarried, then backed out of the picture so his new wife wouldn't have to share her warm and wonderful in-laws with me. In doing so, I let people slip away from me whom I loved and respected and thought I would know always.

I think about how it ain't fair
That you weren't there to braid my hair like mothers do
You weren't around to cheer me on
Help me dress for my high school prom like mothers do*

My former husband passed away in 2003. His son died three years later. The only things that connected me to his family after that were the memories my daughters and I shared of the time we spent with them and, also, the family name. I still have that.

Did you think I didn't need you here
To hold my hand, to dry my tears
Did you even miss me through the years at all?*

The little girl I remember so well, the grown-up woman who found my daughter's website, a link to my blog, and then the courage to send a message to a virtual stranger, has started something special. It began with correspondence between her, me, and our daughters. We wondered about her aunt on her father's side, so we reached out on Facebook and found her aunt, her first cousin, and the husbands and kids that belong to each of them. We wondered about her brother's child, also lost to the family through divorce and all grown up now.  We found her first in a blog and then on Facebook. That child and her mother, who was divorced from the family like I was, have since "friended" us all, and those of us who haven't met them yet are hoping to get to know them.

Oh, I hear the weather's nice in California

There's sunny skies as far as I can see
If you ever come back home to Carolina
I wonder what you'd say to me*

We are individual threads of a tapestry called family, unraveled by time and distance, by death and divorce. As adult women now, we are reweaving ourselves into a different sort of family. We are building trust, asking questions, sharing knowledge, fitting the stories of our lives together so that they all make more sense.

Forgiveness is such a simple word
But it's so hard to do when you've been hurt*

I'm writing about this not only because the experience has been so meaningful to me, but because I want to share with you some words that have been repeated several times, from several sources, as we've made these reconnections: "I'm so happy to hear from you," and, "I  never thought anyone cared."

Oh, I hear the weather's nice in Callifornia
And just in case you're wondering about me
From now on I won't be in Carolina
Your little girl is off, your little girl is off
Your little girl is off to Tennessee*

The happy news is that we all cared.  The sad part is that nobody did anything about it.

Sometimes I think about you
Wonder if you're out there somewhere thinking 'bout me*

Unlike the singer of the lyrics quoted above, none of the women in this newly reunited family group is wondering quite so much anymore. I'm so grateful that one little girl grew up and reached out.

*From the song "I Wonder" by Kellie Pickler.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The "I'ds" of March

I'd have had more time to write if Levi hadn't torn up something every time I turned my back on him. The picture in the header shows just a thin slice of my whole house filled with the white, fluffy guts of stuffed animals. I'd have given up on him if he hadn't shown steady signs of improvement. You wouldn't believe the exercise I get every day just picking up after him, but I sure am glad I didn't spend money on a gym membership.

I'd have gone completely crazy if the weather hadn't warmed up when it did and dried out the yard. The dogs tracked in so much dirt during the muddy season that I could almost taste it in the air. It's been warm for more than a week now, and I'm still cleaning dirt and dust out of the corners.

I'd love to have posted the following photos while the moon was still full, but the moon selfishly stuck to its own schedule of phases and completely disregarded what was happening in my life.

I'd like to thank those of you who have continued to check in despite my lengthy, unplanned absence. It would be so easy to just let this blog lapse if I didn't know there are  a few people who would miss it. You can't possibly appreciate how much it means to me that you let me know you care.  I promise to be back in a day or two with a new post, one that I hope will be more worthy of your time and attention than this one is.