Loss

DIXIE DOGS-6370  Jed and Ariana asleepDIXIE DOGS-6376

Loss has been a big part of my life this past year. It started with the loss of health and mobility, then moved into loss of husband and all that entailed – loss of companionship, partnership, physical closeness, financial and physical security, someone to ‘have my back,’ and so much more. I lost my uncle a year ago — my last aunt/uncle, the last of his generation in my family except for my parents. Around the same time, I lost my beautiful, loving Somali cat Sienna, at age 4, to a genetic form of chronic anemia.

Obviously none of this compares to the truly devastating losses that some of my friends and family members have suffered. And loss is, of course, a part of life. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, and sometimes it has to be initiated in order for life to move forward.

A week ago today, I sent Jed back to his breeder. It was a very difficult decision many weeks in the making. At about five months of age, an odd behavior pattern started to occur. Around 4:00-4:30 every evening, Jed would begin to dribble urine. A house trained dog, he was clearly distressed by this. It was often accompanied by a sudden, frantic burst of activity, but unfortunately, the urine dribbling occurred at the same time, not afterward, so this behavior wasn’t useful as a warning. Even if I saw it happen, it was too late to prevent a urine stream, sometimes through several rooms. This happened every evening, repeatedly, up until bedtime, sometimes at 10-15 minutes intervals. Let outside, Jed would run to the yard and urinate, every time. But that didn’t prevent another occurrence in the house, a quarter of an hour later. To all appearances, he could not hold urine in his bladder – although he did not have nighttime accidents in his crate, nor did this occur in the morning or early afternoon. So very strange.

My vet checked Jed twice for UTIs – none – and checked to see if his urine was more dilute than normal (was he drinking lots and lots of excess water without my being aware of it?) – no.

During this period, Jed spent two weeks at the house of a friend who is a very experienced dog trainer. He exhibited the exact same behavior pattern there. She leashed him to her inside the house, and even then couldn’t always catch the onset of frantic distress quickly enough to prevent the urine dribbling.

She and I both tried crating him for several hours after he ate dinner. He didn’t soil his crate; however, as soon as he was released, after urinating outdoors, he would come inside and the dribbling pattern would begin.

I altered everything I could think of: what and when he ate; where, when, and how much he drank; what he played with and chewed; even what room he was crated in. Nothing changed the behavior.

I did not have the financial resources for the major medical workup that would have been the next step, nor did my swollen and painful knees allow for multiple crawling-on-the-floor urine cleanups throughout every afternoon and evening. So I talked with Jed’s breeder, who agreed to take over the search for the cause and, hopefully, a cure for whatever is happening with Jed.

So, another loss. Single Life, Without Puppy.

Well, I still have the Big Puppy, Falcon.

Falcon head tilt

I have always deeply disliked the term often used by shelters and rescue groups, “forever home.” “Sparky found his forever home.” “Bitsy is looking for a forever home.” Well, guess what. Nothing is necessarily forever. Life changes, circumstances change. None of us can count on anything being ‘forever;’ not people, not dogs. And sometimes change is for the best. I’ve seen terrible mismatches between dog and owner, where a change of home would be the best thing that could happen to both parties. Sometimes a ‘forever home’ is a life sentence.

People and dogs are masters of adaptability.

This has been a discouraging loss, but my hope is that the breeder will discover the cause of Jed’s issues and he can go on to live a long and happy life.

Autumn Leaves Photos by Cryrolfe Photography

Full House: The 5-1/2 Pets Who Share My Life

For someone who lives alone, I have a great deal of company in this house. Here are profiles of the five full-time and one part-time Pets of the Realm.

FALCON

Falcon upside down

Full name: CH Falcon Mes Yeux Vigilants, CGC (CH – Champion; CGC – Canine Good Citizen)

4-year-old male Beauceron dogFalcon and Sienna head to head

Function: Guard, sentry, loyal companion, occasional silly goose

Most likely to be found: staring at me from very close range

Falcon peeks around the chair

Favorite things: Attention from people he likes, Bully sticks, order in his kingdom.

Most appealing quality: kind tolerance of anything not a squirrel.

JED

Full name: Jeremiah Mes Yeux VigilantsJed at 15 weeks outside

Six-month-old male Beauceron dog

Function: Apprentice and assistant to Falcon

Most likely to be found: trotting around the house squeaking a toy in his mouth

Favorite things: Food, fetch, Falcon

Most appealing quality: cheerful, relaxed attitude toward life.Elizabeth holding Jed

Jedphoto by cryrolfe photography

HOBNOB

Full name: Aksum Hobnob of ArkenstoneHobnob sandwich

4-year-old male Abyssinian cat (chocolate)Abyssinian kitten

Function: Official household greeter

Most likely to be found: Someplace comfortable

Favorite things: freeze-dried chicken, yogurt, head-butting and paw-patting people he likes

Most appealing quality: Great friendliness and calm

Hobnob reclining regally

ARIANA

Full namAriana on the couche: BlueRiver Silver and GoldWanna buy a cat?

3-year-old female Abyssinian cat (blue torbie)

Function: lapwarmer

Most likely to be found: curled up on the back of the couch if no lap is available

Favorite things: yogurt, warm places, being brushed

Most appealing quality: coziness

Ariana on her first day here

ELSA 

ForAllegra with toymer name: Allegra (Elsa just seems to fit her better)

Five-month-old female Somali cat (silver black)watching TV with Allegra

Function: Look beautiful and be cute & entertaining

Most likely to be found: busily exploring the house

Favorite things: riding on my shoulders, following Hobnob around, playing with toys on strings

Most appealing quality: sweet happy kitten energy

Beautiful Allegra kitten on the bed

LEO

Full naBaby Leome: Int. CH MGL’s Personal Ensign (Int. CH – International Champion)

13-year-old male Papillon dogLovely old Leo

Function: to be dear and old

Most likely to be found: very soundly asleep in a soft dog bed

Favorite things: string cheese, K9 Nose Work, the company of the few people he really likes.

Leo nose work

Most appealing quality: When he gets very happy, he finds a dog toy, play-bows in front of it, and barks at it. He also ‘stalks’ the water bowl every single time he gets a drink.

Leo spends part of his time here and part with my ex-husband.

A Last Look Back at 2014

Because 2014 was dominated by two big, bad events – the breakup of my marriage and a year-long struggle with Löfgren’s Syndrome – I have been thinking of it as a Big, Bad Year. But that’s really not fair. Plenty of good things happened in 2014, too. Here are a few of the bright spots.

Closeup Falcon and JedJed joined the family. He is a challenge, especially now that he’s a fully-fledged adolescent, but always such a joy-bringer. (photo by Cryrolfe Photography)

Alert AllegraAnd Somali kitten Allegra came to live with me in December. She is a bold, silky, playful, three-pound nonstop purring machine.

7 Ladue Hills front of house with pathMy groundhogI moved into a house I love … with a very handsome resident groundhog in the back yard.

Little London with ParchaeLittle London, my newest great-grandniece, came into the world.

Graham and Rebecca coming down the aisleRebecca Bailey, my beloved faux niece, married handsome Scot and fellow geologist Graham Emerson. I was honored to be at their wedding and the fabulous ceilidh that followed.

Hilltop Hoods posterFools Face new album shotI was lucky enough to hear two of my favorite bands in concert; the Hilltop Hoods, from Australia, at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York City, and Fools Face on December 27 in Springfield, Missouri.

Once I started thinking this way, more and more happy events occurred to me: meeting new friends and reconnecting with several old friends; family and friends visiting here and being visited; two successful seminars put on by my business, HALO; the great joy of another year in which to love and cherish my parents; and so much more.

So, 2014 will be packed into my memory box and given a pat before I close it, rather than kicked into the back corner of the closet as per my original plan. I’m still happy and relieved to be moving into 2015. But I’m glad I took the time to remember the good things about 2014.

The Pros and Cons of Single Life Are Often the Same

I am finding that there are pleasant perks to living single for the first time in my life, as well as some difficult challenges. It struck me recently how often the pleasures and the challenges are two sides of the same coin. Here are some examples.

No one to answer to but myself.  

Pros: I still get a little shock of pleasure occasionally when I’m browsing in a bookstore, for example, thinking “I wonder if I need to be getting home,” and realize that no one cares when I get home; I get to browse for as long as I want to. There’s no one to ask why I took so long (or bought so many books!), or to suggest I should have been spending my time doing something else. If I want to pick up a second – or third – latte during the day, I may. If I see dust on the furniture and don’t feel like polishing, no one will see it or care. For that matter, if I want to get up and slide back into the clothes I wore the day before, no one will notice, as long as they aren’t too disgusting.

Cons: This could get out of hand pretty easily. The only way to prevent that is to flex my self-discipline muscle, an underused, weak little thing that is slowly getting stronger out of necessity. Having pets helps, too; I can’t really stay at the bookstore forever unless I want to deal with puppy puddles and kitty criticism when I get home.

As much solitude as I want.

Pros: I love time alone. There have been few times in my life, if any, where I have gotten enough, and I am reveling in the opportunity to spend time alone, in my own house, now.

Cons: I don’t always want to be alone. There are some things I haven’t done at all since becoming single, such as going to a movie by myself at the theater. I don’t think I would mind, but it seems like a slightly depressing prospect somehow. My family and friends are a busy lot, and there are times when I get tired of listening to the narrative inside my own head and would really love to spend a few hours with another human being, exchanging ideas, and it isn’t always possible. Living with someone does give a person company.

I am in charge of everything.

Pros: Pretty obvious, isn’t it? If I feel like eating meals at some odd hour, I do. And I’m eating what I chose to stock the refrigerator and panty with, on dishes I chose and bought; sometimes at the dining room table, sometimes curled up in front of the TV watching whatever I want to be watching.

Cons: I’m in sole charge of everything here; not just the groceries and the remote. If there’s a rotting squirrel in the yard and I don’t pick it up, no one else is going to (this is not a hypothetical example). No one else comes around and changes the light bulbs or the sheets, sweeps out the garage, drags the trash and recycling bins to the curb, or removes the dead mouse from its resting place in the laundry room. These things are true whether I am sick or have a headache or am exhausted as much as when I feel capable and well. It’s an adjustment to be responsible for absolutely everything in one’s life.

If it’s in my house, it’s because I want it here.

Pros: I love knowing that every single item in my house is something I deliberately choose to have here. Moving into a new house helped this process tremendously. I tried to purge ruthlessly as I packed, taking two entire Highlanders-full of bags and boxes to the charity shop. Even so, I always have a ‘giveaway bag’ in active status, adding anything of decent quality that I do not want or need. Life is too short & precious to clutter it with junk. And at my age, 55, why on earth am I keeping things in boxes for ‘later’? If I don’t have my things out to see and enjoy now, when do I expect to get them out and do that? I have never yet seen a single resident of a nursing home going through boxes of memorabilia they saved all their lives and are finally getting around to looking through.

Cons: There is something a little, well, maybe sterile? about knowing exactly what every item in my house is and where it came from. Having my things mixed with someone else’s added a little touch of discovery, of potential surprise. It can be a bit dull to realize you will never open a box or drawer, not to mention the refrigerator, and find something you didn’t put there yourself.

I can have everything in the house exactly as I want it.

Pros: It’s very pleasurable to see a painting one one would love to have hanging in one’s living room and to know that there’s no one who might hate it and nix having it in the house. The furniture in every room of my new house is exactly where I want it to be; and if I change my mind, I can move it without consulting anyone. If I want a third dog, or a salt water aquarium, or a breeding pair of macaws, I can just go out and get them.

Cons: There aren’t any cons to this. It’s awesome. Well, actually this is closely related to no one to answer to but myself and could get out of hand, too. So far I have successfully prevented excess by remembering the cons related to I am in charge of everything. If I don’t feel like cleaning out the aquarium or the aviary, no one else is going to.

I’m sure there are many more examples of the pros and cons of living single; I would love to hear any of yours, fellow singletons.

Meet the Puppy

At age 55, I unexpectedly found myself a single person, facing the prospect of living on my own for the very first time in my life. Not really alone, though; I had my loyal-and-honest, brave-and-true 4-year-old Beauceron dog, Falcon, and two feisty and funny Abyssinian cats, Hobnob and Ariana aka “Kitty Galore.” I couldn’t bear to stay in the house I had rented for five years and lived in with the person I thought would be my forever husband, so I bought a house, another first for me. I love my house so much that I still, four months later, find myself wandering through the rooms, thinking “I love you” at them. And I have found living on my own to be a very interesting and rewarding experience in many ways, some of which I will talk about in future posts.

Yet, something was missing. I needed a puppy. In spite of my new situation and all its complications – actually, probably because of that – I needed the sweet, lively, happy energy that only a puppy can provide. And I wasn’t without experience; I knew exactly what I was in for, the challenging as well as the delightful. I have been dog-crazy all my life, and have worked as a dog trainer for many years. I knew that a puppy meant many nights of broken sleep, early mornings (ugh), gallons of Nature’s Miracle, furniture sprayed with Bitter Apple, crates in my lovely new rooms, rolling up and putting away the nice rug, getting out to socialize and train, and much more. Puppies are hard work – unless you don’t care what kind of dogs they grow into, and I care, very much. Falcon was amazing, and I wanted the new puppy to be just as wonderful. So, hard work there would be – made even more challenging because I was going through an outbreak of Löfgren’s Syndrome, a type of sarcoidosis that makes joints painful and swollen, leaves one short of breath, plus another handful of delightful symptoms. But – the house needed a puppy, and there was no way to get around that.

So, enter Jeremiah Mes Yeux Vigilants, aka “Jed.” Here he is looking very innocent the day he arrived, at 9 weeks of age.

Jed sleeping, first day in his new home

Jed is a Beauceron, like Falcon: a French sentry breed. He will weigh 100 pounds or close to that when he is grown – and he is growing fast! Here he is at five months of age, with Falcon:

Standing Falcon and sitting Jed

Falcon and Jed, photo by Cryrolfe Photography

Jed is a busy, busy boy, regularly trotting around the house, giant feet thumping, rhythmically squeaking the toy in his mouth. His tail is always waving, even while he’s eating his meals. Sometimes when I offer him a particularly appealing treat, his joy overwhelms him and he has to run a couple of laps around the living room before he can come back and accept it.

Now THAT is why I needed this puppy.