Friday, September 23, 2016

Sharing a photo of Sophie...

Dej took this photo this morning.  Sophie looks quite angelic.

Friday, June 10, 2016

There's no sunshine when he's gone

Ivan, the cat who started it all, died very unexpectedly Wednesday. We did not know he was sick until I came downstairs Weds. morning to find him lying in his box, looking "off".  I picked him up and he was limp with some yellow fluid around his mouth. My mom came to get us and rush us off to the vet, as I was too upset to drive safely and really needed to hold my baby.

His blood work was good and his heart was good, so it was tough to determine the cause of his obviously critical condition.  Our option at that point was to drive him to Madison for an ultrasound, which was not an option for me. He was in absolute agony, stressed, and I couldn't leave him like that for several more hours. My primary vet was not in, as he had been in the hospital the previous week and was still home recovering.
  They called him, though, and he volunteered to come in, and do surgery on Ivan. It was the best option for quickly figuring out what was going on and potentially repairing it. I will forever be grateful to him for coming in when he was feeling so poorly. I have serious trust issues and was falling apart over my baby, and I trust Dr. Mark implicitly. He is the only one who could have given me the comfort and assurance I needed to survive this without second guessing myself for the rest of my life. I'm fine with all the vets at the clinic, but he's been with me through so much for more than twenty years. I can count on one hand the number of people who I trust to that level. He's been with Ivan since the beginning, and even my grouchy Ivan trusted him and allowed him "touch privileges" which were accorded to very few people.

He had been given pain meds, so we had lots of time to snuggle and cuddle before the doctor arrived. I gave him hundreds of kisses on his little face (one of his favorite things since he was a kitten--he'd close his eyes and lean into the kisses; he even used to approach me and make a kiss noise, requesting his face kisses) and left him on the surgical table.

I had convinced myself that Dr. Nelson would repair him--after all he was healthy, with good blood work, and only turned 12 last month.  They quickly found the problem. Ivan had colon cancer, and one of the tumors had burst, leaving the colon wall open. There was nothing in the world that could be done to fix my little boy.  They did offer to bring him out of anesthetic, so we could say a final goodbye, but I couldn't even consider putting him through that terror, pain, and confusion, only to euthanize him after. While every fiber in my body ached for one more round of snuggles and kisses, it would have been supremely selfish.

I've loved Ivan since the day he was found newborn, abandoned in a driveway, on May 9, 2004.  He was my first cat, and the bond we shared was profound. Ivan always kept me in sight. Wherever I was, I could almost always count on finding Ivan somewhere within range--he may be hiding, but he was always close and watching. He had intense needs for cuddles, and if given the option, would be touching me 24 hours a day.  As long as he was touching me, he couldn't be happier.  He spent most of the rest of the time being grouchy and complaining. He loved his sisters and Mark and was extremely affectionate with them too.  Being the center of someone's universe is a huge responsibility and could be exhausting and even frustrating at times. It also means that he was a huge part of every second of my existence, and I'm absolutely lost with him. I look for him 100 times a day and am currently on my third day of a cry-induced migraine.

At this moment, life without him seems unfathomable. I will adjust eventually, but he's been my faithful shadow for 12 years, and I feel incredibly incomplete without him.

He always held my hand while he slept.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Happy birthday; "love's too weak to define just what you mean to me"

The semester is officially wrapped up and done, both for my classes and the high school classes I was working with.  I do have one remaining high school student who is "flexing" her semester through the summer to finish up some work and her project.  That's only one student, though, so it's not a ton of work for me.  I do have to finish up the website my college students started but couldn't find time to finish. It's very needed and for a local non-profit, so I don't want to leave them hanging. Right now, that and gardening are my top priorities.  I'll be really glad when that's wrapped up, so I can focus more on the garden, and a couple of classes I purchased but haven't yet had time to take.

We're in the midst of several painting projects in the house, and we have several more large repair projects that we need done over the summer, but are unqualified to do the work. We had a really good guy for a couple of years, but though the quality of his work is still outstanding, he flakes and can't be counted on at all anymore. I'm not sure what happened to him, but it's really a bummer.  I have a couple of numbers to call, but I haven't been able to make myself do so yet. I really need these projects done, but I hate phone calls and I hate start out with new people. Every day I try to make myself call, but the last couple I tried didn't turn out well, and it's just so incredibly stressful to interact with new people and to allow new people (non veg.!) in our home.  I would pay so much for a reliable vegan carpenter/handyperson! I anticipate this whole situation will be my "fly in the ointment" all summer.  It's so annoying to have a long list of jobs (at least three weeks of work), money to pay, and be unable to find appropriate help.

Over my long blogging absence, our Fergus bunny finally succumbed to one of many ailments he was getting pounded with. He was quite old and as often happens with the very aged, he started to get one illness after another.  We thought he would pull through the last one like he had all the others, but the little guy was just done. Fiona, his loving partner of 7 years, and I cared for him until the end. He was such a fun little guy and a great partner to Fiona. She lived without a partner, for the first time, for about a month.

I'm lucky to have a close friend with a rabbit sanctuary, so Fiona had a series of dates with some dapper rabbits of a variety of ages and sizes, and we were able to find a partner that was a good match.  Ferrero was her last of four or five dates, and they definitely had the best chemistry. I think she would have been happy with any of them.  She's a very chill rabbit and seems to be quite social with other animals of all species, and I've never seen any sign of aggression from her.  However, when the intent is to keep the rabbits in the same room for the rest of their lives, I'd like the rabbits to actually enjoy and not simply tolerate one another.

It took a little longer to get Ferrero moved in than we initially anticipated. We knew he had some health issues (neutering! and an ear amputation), but there were some complications/infections, and that added a little time to his recovery period. It was rough seeing her so lonely during those weeks. Her activity level dropped, and she was definitely depressed.  I gave her a large stuffed teddy bear, hoping at least having a soft body to sleep next to would help.  Finally Ferrero moved in, so we split the room in half, and let them interact that way while I was not in the room, with free access when I was there to observe.  After a several days of watching closely, I slowly extended their time out to include unsupervised time.  After a week, it was clear that they were not having any issues at all and really, really wanted to be together, so we removed the barrier, and they've been happy together since.

They both enjoy working on their bunny construction projects--putting doors and windows in very specific arrangements in a series of cardboard boxes and tubes, and then arranging the boxes and tubes in very specific ways that I don't really understand.  There is apparently a system, though, because if I move something, they make a point to hop over and rather rudely slam the box back into its designated spot. I swear there's a bit of an eye roll when they do it  ("Fucking dumb human. Clearly the Amazon box should be next to the Shark box, not the small box!").

Fiona has always had a raging sweet tooth.  They both loved their sweets (fruit and the sweeter veggies).  You could use Fiona to accurately rank the glycemic index of a grouping of fruits and veggies.  She will eat them always in order of most sweet to least.  While Fergus enjoyed his strawberry tops as much as Fi, he would mix up the order a bit--some strawberry tops, some greens, more strawberry tops, more greens, etc.  Not Fi. She eats from sweet to bitter--she even eats her mixed greens in this order, picking out the purples first, then moving to spinach, etc.  All that is to say that I think she's been a bad influence on Ferrero.  When he first came, he ate his greens, then his strawberry tops. I've noticed a gradual change, and the last couple of weeks, he eats all his strawberry tops before the greens now.

He's a sweet little guy, and I love him, but he's still warming up to me.  When he arrived, he had been through so much--brought into a shelter as a stray with a host of physical injuries, surgeries, medications, transferring homes--he's had a rough time.  He moved into yet another new environment, with a new person, and I had to give him antibiotic injections. He had no trust in me, so it was pretty brutal. He would run and try to hide in the corner, while I had to grab him and inject him between the shoulder blades.  He would cower and lean away like I was abusing him. I felt awful.  The injections are long since done, but now I have to build trust, as I violated it right off the bat.  He likes my feet, and headbutts my feet and legs a lot. I talk to him and and am slowly earning his trust as the food lady.  He's not really excited about my hands, yet.  We'll get there.  Slowly.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


...And now you're gone and I just want to be still
So silent, I'll just let my senses sleep

It's gonna be so hard to hear my voice
If I ever learn once more to speak
I'm so lost, no one can find me
And I've been looking for so long
But now I'm done
I'm so low, solo, my name is No One

Monday, February 08, 2016


Obviously, I've continued to struggle with keeping up my blogging.  In the three months since my last post, the husband and I have each had a birthday, we survived another holiday season, one daughter graduated from college, and the other turned 16.  I'm on the second day of the new semester and thought I better blog now before the homework starts rolling in and I am snowed under with grading.

Breanna (Brea) the puppy:

Brea is seven months old now.  She was spayed at the end of December, and we enjoyed one night where she was exceptionally quiet and mellow.  She rebounded from the surgery quickly, and by the next day was already tearing around like the insane little pup she is. She and Froggie have continued their very sweet relationship.  They are inseparable.  She's grown quite a bit (we had to move her up to a larger collar and a larger diaper size) but is still much smaller than we had expected her to be.  She won't grow much more at this point.  We have gotten really good at changing diapers on a constantly moving puppy!
Sophie, Brea, Froggie

I am trying to train her to use potty bells, as she is able to hold it somewhat, but to a very limited extent.  It would be nice if she could let us know when she needs to go, rather than sticking to an schedule of putting her out every 90 minutes or so to try to catch it.  She was initially quite afraid of the bells, but after two months, she is no longer afraid, so I'm trying to get her to interact with them. She doesn't really like the idea at this point, but I think she'll catch on eventually.



Dej's graduation was long awaited, and we're very proud of her. She ended college on a very high note--good grades, a strong work ethic, a completed internship, good connections, a love of learning, and a passion for her future career.  Now she's working on the very difficult task of finding employment.  It's a rough time of year, but she's committed and will find something.

Sadly, we have discussed changing her name on her application materials.  We still live in a world in which her (ethnic-sounding) name significantly impacts her ability to find a job.  I hate giving in to that, and I'm glad the final decision is hers. I wouldn't want to have to make that decision.

Dej's boyfriend got her this sweater for Xmas.
Another reason I have a hard time blogging is that some stories are not my own to tell, even though they may monopolize my life, thoughts, and energy.  One of those stories has been behind significant changes in our lives.  Dej and her long-term partner split up earlier last year.  He has been part of our family for a long time, and this has been a difficult adjustment for all of us.  They continued living together until her college graduation. It made more sense to share expenses and keep the animals intact until we reached a point where they could deal with moving and selling the house.  The split was hard on everybody, though at this point, they have both moved on and are involved with other people, M & I (and my parents) are still kind of sad and struggling with it.

Until she finds a permanent job and knows where she will be geographically, it doesn't make much sense to get her set up somewhere with her dog and four cats, only to have to move again when she gets a job.  So, she moved back home right before the holidays.  I spent a few months in extreme stress over the chaos of fitting all of her stuff, her animals, and all of our very big personalities and moods into our house.  It has turned out so much better than I had anticipated.

We're really enjoying having her back home. It was great to have so much time together over the holidays.  Integrating the animals hasn't been nearly as painful as I thought it would be either. There have been some spats and a little more territory urination, but it's been shockingly smooth for the most part.

The biggest loss for me has been my workout room.  That has been my joy, my sanctuary, and now it's her bedroom.  I now work out in the living room.  I miss the padded floor, the privacy, the neatly organized weights/videos/etc.--my little sanctuary.  It's not the end of the world, though, and when Dej is home (she's spends a lot of time in Michigan with her partner), she works out with me, which is really cool!

Back to School:
Still inseparable.
Today is the first day of the third week of my semester. Typically I hit my groove and settle into the semester around the third week, but the flu hit our household last week (horrible timing!), and I had to cancel a day of classes and spend a few days in bed.  This has kind of thrown me off, and I feel a little behind and out of sorts yet.  I think once I get through next week, I should be settled into the routine nicely. All three of us got it (Dej was in MI with her boyfriend, so she missed it), so I'm hoping we have our major illness out of the way for this year.

Campus is very different, with about 1/3 of our already very small staff gone.  It's still rather depressing and hard to come in.  Everyone is still walking around looking/feeling rather shell shocked.  It's such a tragedy to see first hand the devastation that Walker has inflicted on the state's educational system.  

In addition to my full-time teaching, and the local high school class I'm working with (I did give in and agree to do the grading as a volunteer; there's just no one else to do it.), I agreed to help out with two online computer science classes for another high school in the state.  With all of the teacher cuts throughout the state, many districts have been forced to purchase online curriculum from virtual schools in other states (mostly Florida, which explains the nauseatingly poor quality of these courses).  Many schools have no computer science or foreign language teachers, so to fill in the curriculum gaps, they bought these really bad courses, enrolled students, and then subsequently realized that the courses are not good at all; there are underlying technology problems; the students still need a human to answer questions (especially in a programming class!), grade their work, and provide feedback.  This is the role I've taken on.  I truly don't have time, but I know that I was their very last hope, and I couldn't walk away from the poor kids, who are stuck in a class they've put so much time into.  It's created a lot of stress, because it's one more thing that I'm perpetually behind on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Breanna joined our family on October 2.  We met her the Sunday before but needed a little time to get the house puppy ready, so we endured five very long days of anticipation--waiting for her to come home, after meeting and falling in love with her.  She's about four and a half months old and weighs around 13 pounds.  She's part worm, I think, as she only stops wiggling when she's sleeping.  Her mom was a white pitbull (maybe pit/boxer mix?), and we're pretty confident that her dad was a German Shorthaired Pointer.

Puppies are new territory for us.  We typically adopt senior dogs, as that's my real passion. I love the seniors and can't abide the thought of these poor older animals being dumped in their golden years.  We will continue to adopt seniors going forward. This was a one-time deviation. :)  L & Mark have been campaigning for a puppy for years.  They love the older dogs, too, but craved the energy and exuberance of a puppy.  We've had a lot of losses lately (as you tend to when you adopt senior/special needs animals), and our remaining three dogs are all over ten, so the idea of adopting a dog we wouldn't be losing in the next couple of years held some appeal.  I could use a little break from terminal illness and death.  M & I are also at an age where we're still young enough (theoretically, anyway) to keep up with a puppy, but probably wouldn't be up for doing so as we get older and don't have any kids at home.  All of those factors, coincided with a special needs puppy.  I wouldn't take a healthy puppy, because they are easy to place, but a disabled puppy is not so easy, so that seemed quite fortuitous. M was still in England for our initial meeting, but we knew they would love each other and had no concerns there.

Breanna's foster mom brought her, and things went well, except for Froggie's strange inappropriate social skills.  He demands that other animals play with him by barking relentless at them, and if they continue to ignore him, he charges them and smashes his flat little face into their flank.  It's rather odd. He doesn't mean any harm, but it can be obnoxious and off putting to other animals.  It was so obnoxious, I had to repeatedly send L to take him upstairs, so we could talk without his constant interruption. I was anticipating some major work on getting Froggie to socialize in a less offensive way and also anticipating some jealousy issues, since Froggie still thinks he's my conjoined twin.

L & I went to pick her up from her foster home in Rockford the following Friday, with M still in England.  She was snuggled up in her blanket in L's lap, when about seven minutes into the car ride, her nervous puppy diarrhea hit.  It was a very long, smell, messy ride home.  We arrived home, with all three of us covered in shit and stench. We got cleaned up, did laundry, and gave Brea a bath.  As soon as she dried, we took the pack for a nice long walk.

After we returned from the walk, the Froggie issue resolved itself perfectly.  He decided that he would be her playmate, best friend, and protector from that point forward.  He doesn't mind sharing me or his toys with her, so there have been no jealousy issues to navigate. They are the cutest bonded pair!  They play and wrestle endlessly, they snuggle up to sleep, and I have to be somewhat alert, because he takes his job of protecting her seriously, and I've seen him get snappish with strangers who try to touch her.  We're working on that.  I love how they love each other, though. They are the oddest pair.  She is quickly getting bigger, so I worry a little bit about my tiny old man, as she continues to play roughly with him.  She gets along with all of the other dogs in our family and extended family, but Froggie is clearly "hers".  The other dogs are not nearly as playful or tolerant of her roughhousing, so she doesn't find them nearly as interesting.

We're in the midst of potty training, and while she's definitely progressing, we have a long way to go.  One of the big unknown factors is how much bladder/sphincter control she will ultimately have, as her back end didn't form properly.  She's missing some bones and muscle function back there, but we don't yet know the full extent.  She wears diapers in the house, and we do positive reinforcement only.  I am planning to add bells and try bell training, so she can ask to go out, but we have some concerns that any bells we put up for the dogs will end up being used as cat toys.  We'll see how that goes...

Breanna's foster mom runs the rescue organization, Mending Hearts, and she chose the name, because it meant "strong", and little Brea has already overcome quite a bit of adversity and progressed beyond expectations.  Foster mom was advised that Brea should be euthanized. It's not a name we would have chosen, but she came with it, and it works.  She knows her name and comes when called (usually--she's in the Terrible Two phase right now), but she most often gets called Brea.  We seem to end up with nicknames for all of our animals.

She's curious, energetic, happy, fun, and a little bit naught--all of the things a puppy should be.  It's been fun watching her grow and mature just in the 2.5 weeks we've had her.  She's learned so much, so quickly, and it's really intriguing to watch her little brain develop. I will be glad/relieved when she gets past the stage of trying to chew and eat absolutely anything that fits into her mouth.  She loves to play outside but can't be left unattended for even a minute. I have removed rocks, sticks, wood chips, various plant stems and pieces, countless leaves, poop, and other questionable objects from her mouth, all picked up while I was standing right next to her.  She's quick and curious, and requires constant attention.

She's 4.5 months old now, and as soon as she gets a little bigger and stronger, we'll have to take her in to get spayed.  I'm pretty sure that's an overnight recovery, so I'm already dreading having to leave my baby.

I can't help but think about how much Damon would have loved her.  He would have adored playing with her and Froggie! They would have been the cutest group of best friends.  I wish she could have known him.

I finally caught up on grading, which is why I'm finally able to blog.  It's been a very busy semester, and I have hard time allowing myself to blog (or do anything else online) when I know I have a queue of student assignments waiting for grades.  I have a batch of group projects and presentations that still need to be graded, but those just came in today, so as long as I get those done by the weekend (which I will), they can wait a bit.  I'm going to try to get my midterm grades entered tonight (two whole days early!), instead of two hours before the deadline.

Monday, October 05, 2015

3 Down; 1 To Go

So my husband is in England for another week.  He has already been gone for three weeks. He's working as an intern at Great Dixter gardens, in southern England. I don't normally share on social media when he (or we) are gone, because it's just not smart.  He was gone quite a lot this summer, but I don't generally like to mention it for security reasons.  I've asked him more times than I can count if he would refrain from posting on social media until he returns.  As he prefers to live update his friends and strangers to every detail of his travel on multiple forms of social media rather than waiting until he returns, there's really no point in me not mentioning it here.  I'm not thrilled with his decision to make this trip (he is very aware of this), but he chose to do it, and I have no choice but to accept it.

Needless to say, since my life is over scheduled already, inheriting his chore load makes life nearly unmanageable.  It's quite stressful to say the least.  I'm incredibly grateful to my parents, who have filled in and helped with L's school transportation and other instances where I simply cannot be in two places at one time.  As my body is a giant asshole, it has decided that now is the perfect time to crap out on me and start failing and having issues.  This has slowed me down quite a bit, I know that my stress levels are high and my quality sleep is really low, and that tends to exacerbate any existing conditions.  It's very frustrating that it's doing this when I can least handle it!  It's really my own fault, I guess, because if I could learn to keep my stress levels lower, I probably wouldn't be struggling with health issues.  I am not good at lowering stress.  I've tried biofeedback of various types and meditation and failed miserably at both.  I am the worst meditater in the world and have just given up on trying.  Sleep and meditation continue to elude me--I repeatedly fail to do either effectively.

On the up side, the girls and I have enjoyed lots of spicy food in his absence.  We all love hot chilies, but he can't handle that much spice, so I normally cook to his tolerance level.  His trip coincided with peak Habanero and Scotch Bonnnet season, and I had a bumper crop in the garden this year, so I've been making everything better by adding roasted Habaneros/Scotch Bonnets to our food.  It adds such a rich, smokey flavor.  I processed a ton of them this weekend, cleaning, roasting, dicing, and freezing, so I have a good supply to get me through the winter.  I'm hoping to harvest another big batch next weekend and make some salsa.

Jezebel and I just returned from the vet, where we had to schedule yet another mass removal (Friday).  She is the queen of weird growths on her body and has had several removed.  So far, they haven't been malignant, but each time I find a new growth, it's terrifying, and I can't sleep until I get results. This one is weird, according to the vet.  He's not sure what to make of it, but is leaning towards a gut feeling that it's benign.  I'll take that, as I really need the comfort right now.  Poor Jezi will have stitches again!  **Update:  I started this post over a week ago.  Jezi had her mass removed and it was weird but benign.  So relieved!

Froggie has a suspicious small lump near where his last malignant tumor was removed, but aspiration revealed no cancer cells.  We're watching it carefully, and I'm trying not to obsess about it, but I admit that I'm still quite afraid it's an early malignancy, and there aren't enough cancer cells to show up yet.

Our new puppy will be moving in with us this Friday.  I'm really excited but a little nervous, too.  It's been a long time since I've had a puppy.  Jez was a little over six months old when we adopted her, and she's over ten now.  This pup is only 3.5 months old.  She is full of energy and as sweet as could be.  My family has wanted to adopt a puppy for some time now, but I really feel strongly about adopting senior animals, who are much harder to place than puppies.  This little girl has some special needs and would not be very easy to place, so she seemed to be a good compromise.  The family gets the puppy they wanted, but I don't feel guilty for taking an easy-to-place animal.  Another huge benefit is to Jezebel, who has never had pups but has always been an incredibly maternal, nurturing dog. She cares for all of the animals in our house (real and stuffed) with such tenderness, that I've often felt bad that she didn't get to be a mom.  I think the puppy will make her very happy, and the puppy, being so young and abandoned by her dog mom, will be glad to have another dog mommy to snuggle with.  Breanna is a pit mix, just like Jezebel.

We met Breanna (her foster mom named her) yesterday, and have been missing her since she left.  We will pick her up Friday night and bring her home for good.  Between now and then, I have to get the house put back together (from some construction/repair projects that are wrapping up), puppy-proof for her safety, and work on making some modifications so she can get around easier.  Her back legs didn't form properly, nor did her sphincter muscle, so she has some problems with her back end and mobility.  She is able to walk and run (though it's a decidedly unique gait), but is more prone to slipping, falling, and having her legs give out.  I need to configure the house so she can tear around like a little maniac (she was awesomely high energy yesterday, running around and exploring) without worrying about her injuring herself.

We will have to potty train her, though she may still have issues due to her deformity.  I've ordered some washable diapers for her.  I hope she is able to not have to wear them for long, or at least not full time, but I don't know how that will play out in the future.  We will figure it out together.  It will be quite an adventure, and Friday feels way too far away.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Goodbye big-big boy

On the way home from Manitowoc Humane Society
I don't want to write this post.  I've been avoiding it all week.  It needs to be done. It's been a rather rough two weeks.  School started a week and a half ago (on a Weds.), and I was a sleepless mess after having to say goodbye to our Damon on Tuesday night.  It was fast and rather shocking.  Of course he was old and had several chronic health issues, but he was a normal fairly healthy old guy Sunday afternoon.  He was his normal giant-puppy self on our walk and fine after our return.  Around bedtime, he was upstairs drinking, and he stiffened and started to fall over. I was able to catch him and lay him down gently, while screaming his name and rubbing his face and neck. It was terrifying.  I thought he was dying. After a few seconds, which seemed much longer, he "came back" and seemed a little confused but normal.  We weren't sure what had happened or what to do.  We decided to watch him carefully after convincing ourselves that he just got overheated on the walk, it was hot and humid upstairs, and he probably just had a head rush.

We didn't really sleep that night, but he seemed okay--just tired.  Monday morning went well, so we were pretty encouraged that it was a one-time thing. Then it happened again Monday afternoon. We scheduled a vet appointment immediately and took him in. This time it was a little worse--he was out a little longer, and wasn't able to get up as quickly. We got bad news at the vet.  He had a small tumor on his heart that started bleeding.  The fluid/blood around the heart wasn't allowing it to have an effective ejection fraction, causing syncopy.  The tumor couldn't be removed, and there was no way to fix the heart, so his doctor put him on a beta blocker to try to help with the fast, irregular heartbeats in hopes of minimizing the syncopy.  He wasn't in pain or feeling unwell, so though it was devastating news, we thought we'd have weeks to months left with him at that point.

Adoption day - still on the way home
We left quite heartbroken but looking forward to really enjoying the time we had left with him.  Things got quite bad after that though.  By Monday night, he was having episodes almost every time he would stand up and move around for more than a few minutes.  He still wanted to go for his nightly walk and continue to enjoy his normal activities, but we had to follow him around and watch for the eyes to roll back so we could catch him to prevent any falls/injuries.  We realized then that his remaining time would almost certainly be a lot shorter than we had expected. At that point, we started full-out spoiling him. Everyone hung out with him, playing, massaging him, giving him his favorite treats (he got to eat a whole cantaloupe--his favorite food in the world, along with every other food he loved), throughout the night.  He did better through the night, and I kind of convinced myself that things were improving. In reality, it was because everyone he cared about was around him, and all the things he liked to do/eat were right there, so he didn't try to get up or move.  As long as he remained relatively inactive, he felt great.

Tuesday was rough. He was determined to conduct life as usual, but was progressively getting worse and was unable to get up and do anything on his own without passing out. We called the vet, begging for hope that it might get better or improve---perhaps we could up the beta blockers? Anything? Anything at all to buy some time? We brought him in to check, just to confirm that things were indeed worse and that nothing in the world would improve things for him.  By this time, his heart was working really hard, causing him to pant and become low on oxygen at times.  There's no way we could justify dragging this out until he felt miserable.  He was just starting to get uncomfortable physically, but his mind was still active, alert, energetic and puppy-like.  He couldn't accept that his body wasn't allowing him to jump up and greet everyone who entered the room.  It was time to let him go.

We had prepared for that likelihood when we brought him in, so the family had already said their goodbyes--we spent almost 24 hour wonderful hours with him, and we had packed a bag of his favorite treats and brought his cushy bed along.  I almost lost my courage, because he rallied when we brought him in.  For the first time since Monday morning, he was up, active, jumping around, and didn't pass out.  He didn't drop once from the time we told him he was going to the vet til the time we got into the room for the exam.  I again convinced myself that he improved and things had miraculously resolved themselves.  His heart exam indicated otherwise, though.  It was a lot worse than it had been the day before.  The tumor was leaking aggressively, and the fluid was really putting pressure on the heart.  He LOVED going to the vet, and it was probably just adrenaline and excitement and luck that allowed him to make that trip without dropping. The vet was very honest about his condition and reiterated that this would only continue to get worse, and it was time. He was totally right.  As hard as it was to let him go when he was still so happy and seemed a little better, it was infinitely better than waiting until he felt in utter misery and completely lost his dignity (he truly would rather die than potty in the house--he was such a good boy!).

He has THREE toys in his mouth!
He was quite cute, holding court in his room at the vet's office.  He loved the staff there, and they all came in to visit him and give him some love (and treats).  He lay in the middle of the room on his cushion, with his giant happy tail thumping, as his family snuggled with him and all of his Mt. Zion Clinic friends gave him attention and goodies.  He loved to show off by catching treats in the air, and had a great time consuming and entire package of Tofurky slices and various other treats.  We got quite a laugh out of the massive quantities of food he managed to consume.  It was quite impressive.  He ate until the happy drugs kicked in and he couldn't manage chewing any more.  We switched back to doggy massages then.  I know hearing is the last sense to go, so I whispered in his ear that we would go on "Damy-walks" and "Damy-swim".  Yes, I lied, but I'm okay with that.  He was a brilliant dog with a phenomenal understanding of human language. He knew the meaning of those words and phrases, and I wanted his last thoughts to be of his favorite things.  I think from Damon's perspective, his last 48 hours were pretty awesome.

We had a little over a year with our big boy.  It wasn't nearly long enough!  He was such a smart, fun dog.  He came with so many quirks, which I will never know the source of, and was fairly high maintenance.  He was totally worth it, though.  He was so kind and gentle--there was not a single moment he showed any signs of being crabby, aggressive, impatient.  He was happy and sweet to every single creature he encountered.  He was playful and had a zest for life, refusing to slow down even when his arthritic body had to be in pain.  He enriched every moment of every day that we got to spend with him.  He made us laugh every single day of his life.  He brought warmth and affection into all of our lives, every single day that we had him.  The dogs and cats in the house universally loved him, leaned on him, lay across him, and groomed him.  He's left a huge, gaping hole in our family, and we will feel that pain and emptiness for a long time.  Every member of this family is better as a result of loving Damon.

I know I've shared some of these pictures before, but they are among my favorites, and are how I want to remember him.

So... my normal semester-starting excitement was dulled a little by the emotional and physical exhaustion of the previous couple of days and the loss.  I was sleep deprived and struggling to keep it together.  I refuse to cry in front of a class--especially the first class!  I have another great group of students, some of whom I'm excited to see again, and some of whom I'm looking forward to getting to know.  

It's a little somber on campus this semester, with the current political climate and bloody budget cuts, our campus feels somewhat like a war zone.  We've lost some really good, really vital "soldiers", and there are many more on the chopping block.  Those are haven't yet lost their jobs are exhausted from picking up the slack (the work still needs to be done, though there are so many fewer bodies to do it) and looking fairly shell-shocked from losing so many compatriots.  It's quite devastating.  We were already a skeleton staff operating on a shoe-string budget, and now we've lost staff and money.  We are a small, tired, somewhat discouraged team, but we will stick together, prop each other up, and keep going.  We have to.  What we do is far too important to let some education-hating, oligarchs destroy it.  That's exactly their goal.  Affordable education for the non-elite is a terrible threat to their long-term vision, and as much as they are determined to permanently destroy us, I speak for the majority of us on our campus when I say we are willing to die keeping our institute the same high-quality educational opportunity that is has always been.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My last day of summer :(

Though I thought I was done with the high school web development curriculum, I was not, and I've been working on that and trying to catch up in the garden, before returning to work this coming week.  The course was supposed to be a one-semester course, but it was erroneously published as a year-long course.  By the time we noticed it, students had already planned schedules around the class.  So...I'm adding some material to the end to extend the course.  We'll get to cover some fun topics I didn't think we would have time for (objects and cookies, along with others), and I'm enjoying that. I would liked to have had the time to do something fun though.  I like to name my summers.  Previous summers include "Summer of the broken wrist", "Summer of the heart crap", "Summer of Dej & Laree's drug exploration".  This summer gets to be called "Summer of drudgery".

I had a long, productive cooking day, getting ready for the work week. The first couple of weeks are always so difficult, intense, and hard to get back into the swing of things, that I try to have as much done ahead as I can to take a little stress off.  I still need to make a batch of hummus, but I  have everything done, cleaned up and put away, and I'm having a hard time convincing myself to get back in the kitchen.  The hummus may have to wait until Tuesday.  So far I've made:

  • Dal
  • Roasted Red Pepper Sauce - I've never tried this before. I'm serving with pasta and
  • Roasted broccoli (harvested from our garden today), cauliflower, and eggplant (also from our garden)
  • Stewed seitan and potatoes in miso gravy served over
  • Quinoa
  • Peeled and prepped 2 bulbs of garlic (I use a lot of garlic)
  • Chocolate "ice cream" (and chopped and froze another big bunch of bananas for the next batch of ice cream)
  • A giant fruit salad, because we go through buckets of fresh fruit
It's going to be a really rough week for Froggie, who still can't stand to be separated from me.  I've barely left the house this summer, and suddenly this week, Luce and I will both be gone for long periods of time.  Frog and I are both going to have withdrawal!

Froggie loves the idea of going for walks with us, but struggles, and I have to carry him for at least half the walk.  Pugs have issues with breathing and overheat easily, and he's an old man with much shorter legs than anyone else. He loves to look around and be carried while we walk.  We walk four or five (we watch Sophie--Dej's dog a lot) dogs, and carrying one isn't particularly easy. I gave in and got a doggie backpack carrier for him.  He loved it! He relaxed against me, looked around, and was a very happy boy. His face said, "What took you so long to figure this out."  He gets a ridiculous amount of exercise following me around the house everywhere. I walk fast, so he runs, and I go up and down the steps dozens of times a day. I'm not worried about his exercise level, so the backpack seems to be a good solution for us for now.

I'm not totally certain what my schedule will be yet.  I know my class times, but Luce will be starting at the high school on our campus, and I will have to arrange my schedule around her transportation needs.  We don't yet know her schedule.  The school runs like a college, rather than a high school, so they don't need to be there all day every day.  We won't have her class schedule until next week (I hope!), and then I can set my office hours and set my daily schedule.  I don't like not knowing.  I'm going to try to be home as much as I can for Froggie and may have to get someone to come sit with him on my longer days.

Max and Elvis moved into their third new "nesting box" this morning.  I'm pretty sure they have decided that the eggs will come if they just find the right box.  Poor little guys!