Teeny Tiny Little Speck of Light at the End of the Tunnel

Not much new here. It’s still cold.

But when I opened the garage door to leave for work today, I heard the craziest thing. I heard a bird singing. It was like twenty below this morning. (That’s my estimate, which may be slightly exaggerated in comparison to reality. But in reality, it was definitely less than zero degrees this morning.) And this bird was not just chirping and peeping. It was singing. You never stop to think how pretty a bird’s song can be until you’ve gone months without hearing it. Maybe there’s hope for an end to this winter.

But in the meantime, it is still cold. And just like everyone else, I am sick to death of being cold. Being cold has a negative affect on me.

I have to admit that I’ve snoozed the alarm a few times, skipping exercise in favor of sleeping and snuggling under the pile of blankets for an extra hour. Just can’t help myself sometimes.

I haven’t used my camera like I said I was going to. There is little of interest to photograph inside this house, and I have no interest in spending time outside if I don’t have to.

I wear big, heavy sweatshirts whenever possible. And slippers over socks when hanging around the house. And Under Armour underneath my work clothes. I’m sick of it.

I haven’t done anything special, really. I did read a really good book, though. And of course, we’re closely following the Olympic events! And I passed the time one evening registering Lucy for a doggy photo contest. She could win what amounts to a doggy spa package and portrait session. But really I’ve probably just registered myself for a bunch of junk email. Still, I’m pretty sure she’s a shoe-in to win. She’s totally the cutest dog in the contest. Lucy would appreciate your vote, if you’re so inclined.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She'll make all your dreams come true.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She’ll make all your dreams come true.

So as you can see, I’m killing time as best I can while waiting out the deep freeze. The singing bird from this morning makes me feel hopeful… and alternately makes me wonder if the extended cold is just messing with my head. What bird is out singing in the arctic cold? It’s probably a good thing we booked a vacation. I hope southern Florida hasn’t completely succumbed to this miserable winter because I am seriously in need of some rays!

The Best of Canine Friends

It’s not easy to capture moments like these. If Lucy notices that I’ve stepped outside, she tends to come running, thinking I’m only there to play or offer a treat. But this time, I was very, very quiet and I caught them in action.

These two pups have proven that friendship can blossom and grow in spite of certain barriers. A little fence can’t keep Lucy and Gracie from enjoying each other’s company. I just wonder how long before Gracie figures out how to climb or jump right over to our side!

The next-door neighbors are early risers too. When I let Lucy out for the first time each morning, Gracie is usually already out in her own yard. As soon as the sound of a patio door can be heard sliding open and shut, the dogs race toward the fence that divides their yards. They greet each other with pure joy, tails whipping side to side, and they race each other up and down the yards along the fence as if it’s been weeks since they’ve been together.

There is often a stick involved in the dogs’ playtime. Lucy finds them under the massive pine tree in our yard, where Mark left a pile of sticks and brush last fall. Gracie? She has to work a little harder to find sticks in her yard. Actually, they’re not so hard to find. There’s just a little work involved in getting one. She goes to the row of shrubs that borders her back yard and grabs a branch in her teeth, biting, twisting and wrenching until one breaks off! I’m not sure how much will be left of the corner shrub come this spring!

Once a stick has been found, the dogs chase again, up and down the yards along the fence. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear Gracie dragging her stick across the chain-link, making a clickety-clanging sound. Sometimes one of them will figure out how to maneuver their stick through the fence so they can play tug of war. Gracie seems to share a bit more easily, passing sticks to Lucy generously. Gracie never seems to remember that once Lucy has the stick, it probably won’t be coming back to her. Still, there never comes a time when she’s not willing to share what she has with her friend.

The layers of snow in our yards seem to grow deeper by the day. I was walking in the yard yesterday. In places where the snow was not disturbed before I came along, it was over my knees! Lucy and Gracie have worn paths along their play area on each side. After a particularly heavy snowfall, Kacey went outside with the shovel to clear Lucy’s way again. The dogs often dig the snow away from their fence, as if thinking they might dig deep enough to tunnel underneath and finally be able to run in the same yard. They dig furiously with their paws and bury their faces in the snow. Lucy often forgets how cold it can be until one of her paws suddenly aches with cold. Then she’ll favor the aching foot and come limping to the door to come inside. Gracie seems a little more immune to the cold and at times like these, she’ll sit on her side of the fence watching sadly as Lucy goes back inside the warmth of her own house.

We’ve often joked with the neighbors that we should just cut a doggy-door in that fence so our “girls” can play together whenever they like.

Chasing the Light

The sun reflecting through a pair of glasses or bouncing off the face of a watch.

Light from the living room lamp casting shadows on the carpet.

The light beam of a flashlight racing around the floor.

Doesn’t matter which one. Lucy loves to chase light.

She’s smart. She knows how to ask someone to start the game. If you have glasses on your face, she sits and stares. She whines until you take them off, find a light source and create a spot of light on the floor for her to chase. If you have a flashlight? Same thing. When she finds shadows, she can entertain herself.

Considering the fact that she chews most doggie toys to a pulp, it’s the best form of entertainment we can offer her.

Dog People

One of the many things I love about my dog is the utter joy she experiences when she is reunited with the ones she loves. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been gone from the house and returned again, or if we’ve just been asleep for the night and are waking up for the day. Lucy Pie demonstrates such sheer joy at seeing our faces, she nearly crawls out of her skin. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll steer clear of her tail on such occasions.

Mark worked the night shift last night. Lucy and I were just getting our day started when Mark came home this morning. She had already given me my morning kiss and had scratched my neck in an effort to, I think, hug me. Mark was understandably tired after a long night on the job and plopped into a living room chair to sit and chat with me for a few minutes before going to bed. Lucy couldn’t stand the idea of not being near him. She climbed right up on him and displayed her long-standing belief that she is too a lap dog.

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007Last night, Mark and I were playing with Lucy in the family room. Lucy is the princess in this house and she knows it. Mark looked at her and asked, “Do you know how lucky you are, Dog? You were probably on your way to euthanasia until we came along and took you home.”

“We?” I asked. “What’s this ‘we’ business? I believe it was I who went in search of Lucy. I was the one who picked her out and had to convince you to let me bring her home!”

Scratching Lucy behind both ears and pulling her face to his, Mark explained, “That’s because I didn’t think I could love another dog after Shelby. But we got lucky. We’ve been lucky enough to have the two best dogs in the world. And we’ll never have another.”

“Um, yeah we will,” I corrected him.

He looked surprised. “You would be willing to take in another dog someday when Lucy’s not around?”

It seemed an odd conversation. I don’t want to think about a time when my Lucy is no longer around. But the reality is, I am pretty likely to outlive her. I thought about Mark’s question and realized that Shelby and Lucy have taught me what a joy it is to love a dog. As much as I hate to think about a day without Lucy, I can no longer imagine a life without a loving dog. I looked at Mark and answered without hesitation.

“Yep.”

Outsmarted?

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I would move “her” chair away from the windows, but the living room just isn’t big enough that I can keep the window side of the room free of furniture. Lucy loves to sit in her chair and watch the happenings out the front window. She gets really excited when other dogs pass by. The windows inevitably end up covered in nose and tongue prints. I had just cleaned them off while doing my Saturday round of household chores and decided to close the blinds on the two middle windows to keep Lucy off of them. She could still see out the outer windows, but since those are crank-outs and have screens, she wouldn’t be able to leave her mark on them.

Apparently Lucy felt that she couldn’t see as well out of those outer windows from the seat of her chair. She wanted to get closer. Maybe it’s a trick she remembers from the days when her “sister,” Bella was still around.

Still miss our little Bells so much...

Still miss our little Bells so much…

Lucy is a very smart dog. When she first joined the family, she very quickly learned to ding the bell we hung on the back door to let us know when she wants to go outside. She knows how to shake, speak and stay. I think she plays stupid with the command, Come! I keep trying, but always resort to, Whose here? or Treat! Only then will she come in from the back yard, unless of course, she wants to come in.

On Saturday, I was playing find the treat with Lucy. Just like Kacey taught her, she sat when I said sit. She stayed when I said stay. She watched intently as I walked down the hallway with her treat. She watched me go into Kacey’s bedroom and she stayed put while I placed the Milk Bone behind Kacey’s bedroom door. I then walked out of the room and straight back to Lucy’s side before saying, Go get it!

My brainiac dog ran down the hallway, past Kacey’s bedroom and into Jake’s bedroom. She sniffed around for a few seconds before going to Kacey’s room and finding the hidden treasure. I was cracking up as I told her, Good job! I don’t know if she just thinks that part of the game is to go sniff around other rooms before finding her prize, but regardless, she provided me great amusement!

Dog Possessed

Have I ever mentioned what an extreme animal lover my mom is? Always has been. Sometimes I think she likes her animals better than she likes her people. Sometimes I can completely understand that.

There are old pictures of my mom. One in particular stands out in my mind. It’s a black and white photograph of a young farm girl. She’s standing outside in the yard in a winter coat that reaches her knees. There’s snow on the ground and she’s wearing saggy tights and has winter boots on her feet. There’s a sweet smile on her face and in her arms, she’s holding a cat that’s nearly half the size of her.

There are stories of Mom and her chickens. There’s the picture of mom and the cat. But most often, there are the stories of Mom and her dogs. Another black and white photo comes to mind. Mom isn’t in that one, but three little Pekingese dogs are in it. One was named Penny. I remember that much. The other two dogs’ names are lost somewhere in the recesses of my memory.

Almost as soon as Mom and Dad were married, they had begun their family. We four kids came in quick succession and there were dogs right from the start too. I have no memories of him; I was that young or maybe not even born yet, but the first was Sugar Pooch. (Who names their dog Sugar Pooch? My parents, that’s who!) Then there was Neko. Neko I remember. He was a big, pretty Collie who thought he was little enough to wander around under the kitchen table while the family ate. (He wasn’t.) Our little house with a family of six people and a tiny yard proved to be too small for Neko. He was constantly in trouble. He needed space. Mom and Dad sent him to live with a cousin who had a farm.  I hated saying goodbye to Neko, but he was better off in his new wide-open space.

Kippy looked a LOT like this.

Kippy looked a LOT like this.

Sometime after Neko left us, around the time I was six years old and in Kindergarten, I came home to find that Mom had a new “baby.” His name was Kippy and he was a funny-looking little Pekingese dog. He had a smushy face and a curled, furry tail. He was really cute and Mom was head-over-heels for him. And Kippy soon showed that the feeling was mutual. He was fiercely loyal to my mom and was never far from her side. In fact, he was usually in her lap.

There are a few cute stories about Kippy, like the time my mom left her place at the kitchen table to answer the phone. She had just sat down to have a bowl of homemade vegetable soup. This was before cordless phones when a length of the phone cord dictated how far a person could move from the place where the phone was located. Mom finished her short conversation and turned to head back to her chair at the table where she saw Kippy, front paws on the table, happily licking up the last remnants of her soup.

Yeah… that was cute. But Kippy wasn’t always so cute. Like I said, he worshipped my mom. He was protective of her and barked viciously at anyone who dared to walk along the fence surrounding our front yard. And god forbid anyone come to the door! Kippy also felt inclined to show us kids who was in charge in Mom’s kitchen. We didn’t dare do our after dinner chores in stocking feet. Kippy hid under the open dishwasher door. If an unsuspecting kid tried to load the dishwasher minus shoes, Kippy would bite their toes. I know he drew blood from me on at least one occasion.

He also wouldn’t let us kids pass through the kitchen to go down the basement stairs. I remember trying to sneak past Kippy as he lay on the floor guarding the doorway to the basement. He snarled and barked and lunged at anyone trying to get by (except for Mom.) If we could get to the first step though, he was usually too lazy to chase us. It got so that when I knew I had to pass Kippy to go down the basement where my bedroom was, I’d go put on my winter boots. I laughed hysterically the first time I thought to do this. I put big, black snowmobile boots on my feet and let him attack the boots to his heart’s content. He couldn’t hurt my toes anymore!

Kippy’s favorite game was “tuck the kids in bed.” My sister and I shared a double bed. Mom would call down the stairs to let us know that Kippy was coming to tuck us in. We would squeal and hide under the blankets and Mom would come in carrying her baby, then set him down on the bed where he’d bounce around, snarling, trying to get the blankets off our heads.

Kippy scared the heck out of me. He had a nasty temper and only loved one person – my mom. He tolerated my dad, but he clearly felt he ranked above us kids in the family hierarchy. And clearly, my mom had some kind of twisted sense of humor to let her dog act so nasty to us kids. But believe it or not, Kippy provided many fond family memories. I remember being fed up with that vicious little ankle-biter more times than I can count, but when we tell childhood stories, they often involve Kippy.

Thankfully, not long after Kippy came along, Mom brought home a “sister” for him. She was another Pekingese named Tina. Tina was much nicer to us kids and never thought to bite our toes. Somehow, she made up for the fact that we had to put up with Kippy, a dog who often acted so possessed!

When I was thirteen, Kippy got sick with pancreatic cancer. It was my first real experience with losing a pet and really understanding that feeling of loss. I forgot all those years of feeling what a nuisance Kippy was. I forgot about his antagonistic demeanor and my bitten toes. Suddenly he was sick, weak and fading away. He didn’t scare us anymore, but we sure wished he could. Suddenly he let us kids pet him, kiss the soft top of his furry head and tell him we loved him. Suddenly he was gone and we were so heartbroken.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Abby often has stories on her blog that are prompted by the prompts at Mama Kat’s blog. Abby’s prompted writings often prompt me to remember a story. Today I read Abby’s story about her childhood fear of dogs, her response to Mama Kat’s promptSomething that scared you when you were young. Are you still afraid?  Abby’s fear-of-dogs story reminded me of when I was afraid of a dog and I decided to jump on the prompty bandwagon.

I was afraid of my family’s own dog!

We were at the lake

It seemed like my little vacation was never going to start. I was off work as of Wednesday, but because none of the kids could arrange their work schedules to be off any sooner than “early” on Friday, Mark and I decided not to leave until Friday either. There was much that could be accomplished at home in the meantime.

I spent most of Wednesday cleaning my parents’ house while it rained all day long, and then came home to do some cooking. On Thursday Mark and I finished the big “closet purge and reorganization” project, otherwise known as “nearly divorce court.” I had begun this enormous task the previous weekend and it ended leaving Mark and I feeling seriously fed up with each other. But the closets are clean and organized, the Goodwill has been well-stocked with everything we decided we could live without, and Mark and I are on speaking terms again. When Friday finally arrived, I planned to pack my bag for the weekend and make sure my own house was clean. (I hate going away and coming home to a dirty house. It must be cleaned before we go.)

My plans were slightly waylaid by the demise of the dryer on Friday morning. Mark did some investigating and quickly learned that it wasn’t worth the cost of replacing the motor. The dryer was very old and had been repaired many times. It already had more features that no longer functioned than ones that did. So a trip to the appliance store was squeezed in and I quickly picked out a new dryer. My only requirements were that it be large capacity and that the buzzer that signals the end of a dry-cycle could be turned off. (Day sleeper in the house!) I found one for a reasonable price and we were out the door within twenty-minutes with the promise of delivery for the following Tuesday.

Mark, Kacey and Connor headed for the lake not long after our visit to the appliance store. Brad and Heather left Fargo not long afterwards and began their drive to the cabin. I worked on the remaining laundry at home, shuttling loads over to my parents’ house to use their dryer. I finished cleaning, baked cookies and packed my bags. I checked the house over to make sure it was in good shape to be unattended for the weekend, double checked my packing to make sure I had everything I needed, and when Jake still wasn’t home from work, I went to the gas station to fill up the gas tank and get a car wash. Jake finally came home, about an hour and a half later than he had hoped, and he, Lucy and I hit the road just in time for the Friday afternoon rush hour.

The first hour of our drive was frustrating, but then the road opened up and we were really on our way. Jake had insisted on driving, so I got to kick back and relax in the passenger seat, helping navigate now and then. We talked, sang along to our favorite country songs, and enjoyed the scenery while Lucy alternately slept in the back seat or watched the scenery pass by out the windows. We made a stop at McDonald’s for some food and  to let Lucy out to stretch her legs and attend to other business. We finally made it to the cabin by 8:30 Friday night where everyone else was waiting for us.

And I was so exhausted that I was in bed and sleeping by ten o’clock!

We were all up early on Saturday morning, thanks to two dogs who were not only excited to be together, but to be in a place so full of new things to explore. I swear, Lucy and Dakotah were like a couple of toddlers, running from one place to the next and investigating every new taste and smell. And we, their people… we played right into it and catered to the dogs’ every whim. What can I say? They make us laugh and they reward us with complete adoration. How can we help ourselves?

The weather was beautiful and we spent much time sitting down on the new dock. The kids fished for hours and for once, the fish were biting. The dogs were fascinated by the water and the way the waves lapped up to the dock, by the fish that were being pulled from the lake and just happy to hang out with their people. Lucy still can’t be trusted not to run off, so we kept her on a leash whenever we were outside. But on the dock, she could be off leash as she quickly proved she wouldn’t leave it if any one of her people were there.

Dakotah practiced retrieving her “dummy” from the water. Heather would throw it into the lake and Dakotah would launch herself in after it, grasping it in her mouth and returning it to Heather. Lucy was fascinated and she clearly wanted a chance to give this dummy thing a try. Seeing as how she’s had very little exposure to water (except for her pool on the deck,) we took it easy at first. Heather threw the dummy just off the shore and Lucy would jump in and grab it and proudly walk it back to Heather on shore. After several attempts, Mark suggested that Heather challenge Lucy and make her swim for it. So the dummy was thrown a little further this time and Lucy heaved herself into the lake and began to walk out to the dummy. When the water became deeper than Lucy was tall… she went under water!

We all gasped, momentarily panicked, although anyone of us could have hopped in and grabbed her. But just as quickly, Lucy turned around, resurfaced and looked at us as if to say, “Where did the bottom go?”

We all cooed at her and patted her wet head and told her what a brave girl she was. Then Brad suddenly remembered something. “Oh, yeah,” he said! “I forgot that I had to teach Dakotah how to swim her first time! I’ll go put my swim trunks in and show Lucy how it’s done.” Before long, Brad was in the water, with Lucy in his arms. She was none too keen on going back in, but she let Brad hold her up in the water and within seconds, her little paws were paddling and she swam herself back to shore. We all cheered like the bunch of dog-loving doofuses that we are and I swear I saw Lucy smiling from ear to ear!

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When it was too dark to fish on the dock and the mosquitoes threatened to eat us alive, we’d head back to the cabin and watch funny movies that we’ve all seen a million times and we’d say the lines right along with the characters and crack ourselves up all over again. We slept at night on the ancient mattresses with dogs wandering from room to room all night long, unable to decide which people they wanted to snooze with. But we didn’t mind about the mattresses and the dogs, because we were at the lake, where everything slows down and there’s very little that has to be done at any specific time.

In the mornings we ate big breakfasts, like pancakes and eggs and French toast. For dinner, we grilled steaks over charcoal and buttterflied them for steak sandwiches which we ate with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions and steak sauce. Everything tastes better when you’re not watching the clock and you’ve got nowhere else to go and most importantly, you’re sharing a meal with the people you love.

The weekend, of course came to an end much too quickly. The kids wished out loud that the weekend could go just a little bit longer. It just wasn’t long enough. I felt the very same way and proposed that we start planning now for next year. And let’s make it a whole week next time. There was a chorus of agreement as we hugged Brad and Heather goodbye and headed back home.

Vacations are just never quite long enough. Guess that’s why we love them so much.

A Week of Rain

SperryKacey had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. When asked what she wanted for her gift, she said shoes. She’d had her eye on a particular pair for quite a while. We had to order them online to get the exact style she was looking for. When they were delivered to our front door a few days later, she squealed in delight.

The weather has been full of rain. The new shoes sit in their box on Kacey’s bedroom floor, not yet worn. She says that she has wanted these shoes for so long that she refuses to take a chance on getting them wet and ruining them. She’s sprayed them three times with waterproofer. Still, she’s taking no chances until things start to dry out.

All week long, the skies have been gray. The sun comes out here and there, but mostly its dull skies, thick clouds and rain. The wind blows endlessly, tree branches swaying side to side, back and forth. Pink crab apple tree blossoms past their prime  float away in the wind, dropping like snow onto the pavement. When I open the patio door to let Lucy out in the mornings, the wooden deck and backyard grass are still soaked from the nighttime rains.

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Today there was bright sunshine streaming down from a sky that felt heavy. The wind refused to die down. After noon, weather reports warned of heavy storms in nearby areas.  I worried about Lucy at home all alone. Poor dog  is afraid of thunder! But by the time I got home from work, the sun was still shining, the wind was still blowing, and the heavy stoneware vase on the front step was laying on its side, shattered. I salvaged the decorative branches that had filled it and tucked them away in the garage. I scooped up the landscaping rocks that had added weight to the vase and tossed them back into the front garden, then picked up all the broken pieces and dumped them in the trash barrel.

Kacey came home from work as I was wandering the back yard with Lucy, tossing her ball, patting her head, and asking her why she keeps sneaking into the tomato garden. (She offered no reasonable explanation.) I joined Kacey up on the deck and we watched big puffs of clouds clump together and sail across the sky, moved along by the persistent wind. I asked, “Tacos for dinner?” She said, “Yeah, that sounds good.”

I chopped onions and tomato at the kitchen counter while the ground beef defrosted in the microwave. Kacey sat at the table and chatted with me while I got the fixings ready. The kitchen radio was tuned in to the Country station and we sang along. Baby you’re a song… You make me wanna roll my windows down … and cruise…  We got a little loud and too late, remembered we had slid the patio door open to let in some fresh air. I wondered if the neighbors had heard us from where they sat out on their deck. They probably think we’re weird. Oh well.

I heard about Kacey’s work adventures while I fried the meat at the stove. Lucy scratched the screen door to go out and then remembering she missed her people, scratched it again to come in. Kacey absently reached for the door and accommodated Lucy each time. Darn dog is wearing holes in that screen.

I was putting the taco seasoning into the ground beef when there came a frantic plea from the dog to be let back in. Kacey slid the door open once more and said, “Hey, it’s raining out!” But the sun was still shining brilliantly. Lucy doesn’t like to be rained on, but Kace and I stepped outside to marvel at the sunshower that was happening in our neighborhood. It was a quick, little shower and by the time we sat down to our taco dinner, the sky had turned threatening.

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The heavy rain came then, splattering off the canvas canopy on the deck and forcing us to crank shut the living room windows. Lucy warily watched the drops pelting off the deck. The rain was keeping her away from her playground and she wasn’t happy. It was over though, by the time we cleaned up dinner. There were still some interesting looking clouds up in the sky, but the worst of it was over. I realized then how green all the yards are. The grass is lush, the trees are full. And there was a hint of a rainbow to the east.

006bThe weekend is here. There’s more rain in the forecast for Saturday, but Sunday holds the promise of sunshine. Finally, maybe, a nice day to enjoy being outside and celebrating spring! And maybe Kacey can finally wear her new shoes!

A happy ending to a (literally) crappy week

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been so obsessed with poop as I have been this week. But it was for the best, believe me.

Poor Lucy has had the Hershey’s Squirts since Monday. Of course, I was immediately concerned. The dog has a stomach of iron and eats everything that will fit in her mouth, usually without incident. I had Mark take a stool sample in for testing, but nothing was found. I was advised to cook some white rice and feed it to Lucy with her regular food for a couple of days. But it didn’t cure her loosey goosies.

Lucy Chatting

“Mom? My butt hurts!”

I watched Lucy in the yard last evening. After she did her business, I went to investigate, hoping to see some sign that things were returning to normal. But things were far from normal and I also saw blood, which made me feel a little panicky. Bella had bloody stools just as she got so incredibly sick. I couldn’t sleep last night. I worried that Lucy was getting incredibly sick too. I made Mark promise to take her to the vet today.

Mark called me at work this afternoon. He asked, “Do you want the good news? Or the good news?”

“Umm… the good news,” I said.

“They found a fungus in Lucy’s stool. She has some pills to take for a few days and her poop should get back to normal as soon as this evening.”

I was so relieved! When I got home and Lucy greeted me at the door like usual, I dropped to my knees and hugged and kissed her and told her how happy I was that she was going to be just fine. She put her paws up on my shoulders and gave me a big, sloppy, wet kiss! A happy ending to a crappy week!

On a side note, for anyone wondering, “Why don’t I know who Tigger is?” ….

Tigger

This is Tigger.

There’s not much to say about Tigger. Like some of our other pets, he found his way into our lives when we weren’t even looking. He used to belong to my parents until they couldn’t keep him anymore. It took him a while to get used to us. He never really did, I guess. He now resides behind the furnace for the most part and comes out for treats and a snuggle from me when I get up for work in the morning. Otherwise, he pretty much keeps to himself and prefers not to be looked at or touched.

I can’t say for sure, but I think Tigger is glad that Lucy isn’t feeling so crappy anymore too.

They’re getting to know us really well at the vet’s office

Lucy’s tummy is bothering her. I knew it was bad when Jake called me at work yesterday to tell me she’d had an accident in the house and he was cleaning it up. I’ll spare the gory details he shared except to say that he mentioned the words green and reeks. He wanted to know how much carpet shampoo to put in the little scrubber machine and also to inform me that he was going to Target for some Spot Shot. I thought it was just a fluke thing. With much of the snow melting, Lucy has spent more time playing in the back yard than she has in months. The grass is matted and there’s probably mold and gross stuff in there after a long winter under the snow. And everything goes in Lucy’s mouth. God knows what she might have eaten.

After I got home from work, she threw up on the deck a couple of times. We kept an eye on her the rest of the night. She seemed normal otherwise and I wasn’t too worried. She continued to drink and eat normally. Dogs expel a lot of bodily stuff. Figured it was just one of those things and she seemed fine this morning.

At work today, I received a call on my cell phone from a number I didn’t recognize. It turned out to be Emily at the vet’s office.

Emily is the one who assisted the veterinarian when we had to have Bella put down. I liked Emily immensely already because she loves Lucy and treats her extra special whenever we visit. I liked her a hundred times more when she cried along with me as I was letting Bella go. That day, I was asked if I wanted to keep Bella’s ashes and have a paw print made. I said yes without even thinking about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted them or if Connor might want them, but it seemed important to accept them. Emily was calling today to tell me that Bella’s ashes were back and we could come pick her up whenever we were ready. I thanked her and told her I would probably stop in after work.

I seem to be having a harder time moving on from Bella’s death than I did with Shelby and Holly. Both Shelby, our Springer Spaniel and Holly, our gray cat lived to be ripe old ages (fourteen years each.) When their time came to leave this world, we had plenty of warning. They started slowly going downhill and we had time to get used to the idea that they wouldn’t be staying with us much longer. Maybe that made the grieving process slightly easier.

It’s been different with Bella. Her sudden illness took me by surprise and I feel guilty that maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. Some days I think I’m used to the fact that she’s gone. Other days, some little reminder will bring me to tears again. She keeps showing up in my dreams where I’m surprised and thrilled that she’s come back to us. When Emily called today to tell me I could pick up Bella’s ashes, I felt okay. But as I neared the vet’s office, I felt tears stinging my eyes again. All I could think about was that day when Mark drove me there with Bella dying in my arms and the doctor and Emily waiting for us there, staying late at the office just so we could come in to have our dog put to sleep.

Thankfully, no one was in the waiting room when I arrived. I had brushed away my tears by then and was pulling myself together. A girl I didn’t recognize was at the front desk. When she asked if she could help me I said, “I’m Terri. I’m here to pick up…”

“Oh. Yes,” she said in a careful sort of voice. She stepped back into the office area and reached for a plastic bag. When she returned, she pulled out the clay paw print and explained that it wasn’t baked yet, in case we wanted to add Bella’s name or anything else to it before it was permanent. I nodded and thanked her.

Before I left work today, Mark called me to say that he was watching Lucy in the yard today and it looked like her stomach issues weren’t over yet. While at the vet’s office, I remembered I wanted to ask what they thought, and I was anxious for a distraction so I mentioned it to the girl at the desk. I went over my suspicions of moldy grass and whatever treasures Lucy might be finding in the yard. She agreed it was a good possibility that Lucy had simply ingested something that wasn’t agreeing with her.

I asked if we should be worried or if we should bring her in. I was grateful when she suggested that since Lucy seems otherwise normal, we could just bring a stool sample in for testing. God knows we’ve racked up enough vet bills over the last couple of weeks so if we can alleviate our worries without paying for another vet visit, I’m all for it.

I told the girl that I would assign the job of collecting said sample to my husband and she made me laugh when she said she would write a note to make it official that it was his job and not mine. I was appreciative but assured her that I could convince him without the official paperwork.

On the ride home, I kept seeing the box with Bella’s ashes on the seat next to me and I started to feel sad and teary again. Part of me was feeling embarrassed, thinking how some might think it is silly to feel so mournful over a dog. But another part of me was realizing that my pets have filled a hole that was left by my children growing up and that it’s natural, me being a dog lover and all, to take some time to grieve.

Anyway, when Lucy greeted me upon my arrival home, my thoughts turned away from my sadness. I remembered that I was worried about Lucy. The panicky side of me was worried that something was wrong with Bella that may have been contagious to Lucy. But when I saw Lucy acting her normal, squirrely self, I gave her a hug and relaxed a bit. And when she ate her evening meal as anxiously as ever and wrestled with Jake later on, I felt more certain she was only suffering some temporary ailment.

Also, I remembered the elk antler I’d bought last Friday at the pet store for Lucy to chew on. An online search led to some information about these antler chews being suspected of causing diarrhea in some dogs. Who knows. But Lucy’s been gnawing on hers since I brought it home and she’s done some damage to it. I took it away just in case. Then I called Mark at work to tell him that the vet staff said he was responsible for collecting a stool sample tomorrow. He was a good sport and played like he bought it.

I can’t worry too much as long as Lucy continues to be her mostly normal self. But I’ll feel better when we can get some answers and hopefully all we need to do is work on curbing her habit of treating the back yard like a salad bar.