Downs and Ups

Day’s Verse:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Carmel 2002 In the movie Clue, there’s a scene where, after all sorts of craziness, Colonel Mustard says, “I can’t take anymore scares!” as the chandelier crashes to the floor inches from him.

This pretty accurately reflects where I’m at right now. On Monday morning, Dad sent me an email early, asking me to call about Carmel — not a good sign. When we talked, he elucidated that Carmel couldn’t use her right hind leg, and he planned on calling the vet when they opened. My spirits plummeted. A couple times I’ve dreamed Carmel died, and woken up both times crying, tears running down my cheeks. If that’s how I reacted in a dream, how much worse is it in real life? I’m not ready to find out! Especially not with already having the emotional burden of Grandpa dying at Easter, Ben’s memorial service just on Saturday, and my dear friend Rachel moving to Fresno in a couple days.

The vet X-rayed Carmel’s back and told Dad she had a spinal injury. He gave her a shot containing a very high dose of steroids and sent her home, telling Dad that if she didn’t significantly improve by this morning, she probably wouldn’t improve and that would be that.

Well, this morning she wasn’t dramatically better, but if Dad picked her rear end up, she would bear weight on it. And she was willing to walk for a Milkbone. But it wasn’t enough improvement to think she’d get back to living a functional, happy doggy life — what’s life if you can’t walk around and sniff stuff? — so Dad made an appointment with the vet to put Carmel down at 5:00 today. I stopped by midday to check on her, and she had moved! –just a few feet, and frankly she didn’t seem herself at all when I came over. She didn’t move an inch, and although I petted her ears the way she likes, she seemed extremely subdued. My impression was that she was really just enduring, and we’d already lost the the happy dog we know and love.

I won’t sugarcoat it; I spent a good portion of the day crying and heartbroken. We went to go on a farewell walk with my dear friend Rachel, who is moving to California in a couple days, and all I could think about was losing Carmel. Carmel has been in my life since I was in high school, and I can hardly imagine not having her stinky, hairy self around at Mom and Dad’s house. She sometimes comes for visits at my house, and we practically have to drag her out the door when it’s time to go home. Carmel has been a consistent, unconditionally loving presence in my life for many years, and the prospect of losing her truly broke my heart.

I have so many happy memories of her, I can’t even begin to quantify them, let alone describe them. We hiked innumerable miles, snowshoed (that darn snow between her toes!), walked in parks, took her swimming, dressed her up silly, taught her tricks; I won’t go on. You get the idea. I missed the best years of her life while I lived in Massachusetts, and she was the one thing I really missed all those years back East. You can talk to parents on the phone, but you can’t get dog cuddles remotely. I collected tennis balls on my commutes and mailed Mom and Dad long tube full of tennis balls. Oh joy! …at least, on Carmel’s part.

So Dad picked me up at 4:45 to go with him and Carmel for her last visit to the vet. She was surprisingly able to walk, but kept staggering badly and losing control of her rear legs. Standing up proved particularly difficult. We walked into the vet’s office, and Dad asked to talk with Dr. Marsh a bit before we put Carmel down. He came in, and Dad described Carmel’s symptoms (a different vet had seen Carmel the previous day). One new symptom Dad mentioned: Carmel seemed to hold her head at a strange angle. Hmm. Out came the eye-examining light. Hmmm. More discussion, some more investigation of her posture. Yes, she definitely held her head at an unusual angle, off to the left. Stand her up: Gee, she’s clearly listing to the left. Well, hey, this lameness may not be due to the back injury observed on the X-ray! Turns out Carmel has vestibular syndrome, which he described as kind of like doggie vertigo, where Carmel doesn’t know where down is. It’s a central nervous system problem that isn’t treatable, but often resolves itself in a week or so, with a decent likelihood of her getting back to reasonable functionality.

We walked back out into the waiting room with Carmel. The entire staff was there, waiting to be sad with us. Instead, when Dr. Marsh announced the new diagnosis and sent us home, the entire staff clapped and cheered. Hooray! What a huge blessing! I felt like I was the one reprieved, rather than Carmel. She’s still a 13-year-old overweight golden retriever, and nothing will bring back the boundless-energy ball of enthusiasm we remember, but at least we get time for more stinky, hairy cuddles.

Now I’m exhausted. Like I said at the beginning: I can’t take anymore scares! Or, more accurately, I can’t take any more, PERIOD.

And here’s my all-time favorite video of Carmel.

All Autosuggest, All the Way

I wrote the following post entirely using the swipe feature on my phone, accepting all the autosuggestions. Good luck.

The best on posts is sure to the fact that we’ve had an exceptionally long, hard, and fussy week. Benji has not been slurping ad much lately, but he’s been made up for it by talking up the crying – I’m upgrading it from “fussing” bad on the peeing of time we see his Ibiza – all the extra time he’s not sleeping.

Fortunately, we still love him anyway, for some inexplicably reason. I think is because this morning, while I was changing him, I smiled at him… and he smiled right back at me, a big happy smile. Then he smiled out a judge squirt poo all over the towel we keep under his bottom for just that reason.

In other news, we are watching Caramel for my parents. She is a say dog, very mellow now that she’s off, and she is very duplicitous of people. As a result, she get anxious when Benji cries: he starts fussing, and she comes over and put her house towards Benji, trying to make sure he’s ok. Is very say, seeing how she wants to make sure Benji isn’t in trouble. It almost makes me want to get a dog.

Under the fold, what it should have said: Continue reading “All Autosuggest, All the Way”

Rain Garden Green

Day’s Verse:
The more talk, the less truth;
the wise measure their words.

Proverbs 10:19

I continue to find the growth of our rain garden plants fascinating and thrilling. They seem to thrive despite my usual lack of plant mojo. Today, while weeding the garden (grass keeps wanting to populate it; I can’t blame the grass, as that soil is super-nutritious and must be deeply appealing to plants) I thrilled to find that a couple of sword ferns I’d written off as goners had, unbeknownst to me, produced some fiddleheads.

Fiddlehead 1


Fiddlehead 2

New growth! I think some kinds of ferns may die back in the winter, and then in the spring produce fresh growth from that unpromising pile of apparently dead leaves. If that isn’t a metaphor for Christian life, I don’t know what is.

We also have this other plant, I don’t know what it is, that’s already as tall as I am and quite nicely greened out with small, fresh-looking little leaves. Since it looked like a bare twig when we planted it last November, that’s doing pretty darn well.

New Growth

I don’t know if this is premature, but I feel like I’ve seen more birds than usual in the back yard. The rain garden, with its standing water, has certainly attracted more bugs — lots of insects lay their eggs there, and I see them flitting around. Haven’t noticed more mosquitoes than usual, but time will tell. But I wonder if the higher bug count, plus nice soft dirt, plus a ready source of water, draws more birds. The other day I saw a small, cute little bird taking a bath in the pond.

Not in the rain garden but still in the back yard, the strawberries I planted last year have lots and lots of flowers. I’m keenly anticipating the next couple months, when I hope to determine definitively whether a person can, in fact, subsist on strawberries alone.

Delicious Future

Finally, a farewell shot of Carmel rolling around in the back yard grass.

Rolling in the Grass feels so GOOD

My parents’ back yard is in the midst of a massive landscaping project that has annihilated all the grass. Carmel is not allowed in the muddy morass, and instead has to be taken out to the front yard on a leash to do her business. So I’ve been bringing her over to our back yard and letting her just chill there, enjoying the life, sniffing the smells, hearing the sounds. I keep her well-supplied with ice water (it’s over 70° for the first time in well over a week, downright hot for around here) and she seems quite content.


Day’s Verse:
Another story. “God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge pine tree, and eagles build nests in it.”
Matthew 13:31-32

It may seem like a waste of time, but I brought Carmel over… and then vacuumed the house while she was here. This time of year, Golden Retrievers convert from being dogs to being dog hair-generating factories. Regular brushing barely begins to mitigate the hair. Also, they tend to smell, well, doggy due to the fact that every time they go outside, they get damp. That’s not to mention the other biological functions involved, of course.

Fortunately for me, I get to experience all the nice parts of dog ownership — going for walks, but only when I feel like it; cuddling, petting, and adoring gazes; ridiculous ball-fetching behavior; being followed around the house adoringly; good company — without the downsides. This is because Carmel really lives with my parents, and I just borrow her whenever I feel like it. Thus, I get to experience this:
Library Dog
Without the attendant downsides.

It’s true: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted a dog. By the time I was old enough to responsibly care for one (high-school age, really), we got Carmel — and only a couple years later I went off to college, missing Carmel’s best years. Now she’s a pretty old Golden, content to spend most of the day sleeping, with the occasional gentle walk. Old age certainly could be worse. She lives with my parents, and I still want a dog. Every time I think “OK, the time’s right,” something in life comes up to make me wait. I’m sure eventually we’ll get a dog, but in the meantime, Carmel and I seem to have reached a satisfactory arrangement.

Twin Falls Hike: Photo Impressions

Day’s Verse:
When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it.
James 1:9-11

Dad and Carmel on the Twin Falls trail.
On the Trail 1

I meant to do this.
Forest Blur

Nothing like a hike for getting out in NATURE.

I liked this leaf.
Watery Leaf

Dad gets credit for snapping this partially-submerged shot of Carmel.
Underwater Dog Nose

Trying out the waterproof claim of my camera.

Check my Flickr photostream for more pictures.

Tiger Mountain Hike

Day’s Verse:
Look! Listen! There’s my lover!
Do you see him coming?
Vaulting the mountains,
leaping the hills.

Song of Solomon 2:8

A last few pictures of Carmel from her short stay with us. If I sit cross-legged on the ground, she immediately comes and sits in my lap.
Large Lap Dog
In the kitchen the other day, Carmel was vacuuming for us, Hoovering up food scraps from the corners. She twisted her head and stuck her snout under the oven to get something, and Ian said, “Oh, look, she comes with an edge attachment.” Which nearly caused me to snort tomato soup out of my nose, let me tell you.

I just like this picture.
Watch Dog

Today instead of me vanishing for the whole day on a long bike ride, Ian and I went and hiked up Tiger Mountain. Actually, we hiked up West Tiger 3. There were a number of other peaks we didn’t get to today, which was OK with Ian. This is his game face.
Ian @ Tiger Mountain West #3
You can’t tell, but it was apparently Asian Hiking Day, unless every day is like that there. I don’t know if it’s usual, but I swear 75% of the other hikers — and there were a lot of them, even on a cloudy, cool day — were middle-aged to old Asian people. There were also some younger Asian people with kids. But it was almost like a tour bus had disgorged a group of them, or maybe they’re a hiking club and today was Tiger Mountain day, because they clearly all knew each other. Anyway, it was kind of surprising.

Also noticeable was the grade. It was unrelenting almost from the start all the way to the top. I hadn’t been up to Tiger Mountain in years, since high school or maybe very early college. Definitely not in the last 6 years. And that was to Poo Poo Point, which I don’t think was as steep of a climb as this. Today my miles of biking paid off and I didn’t have any trouble, but poor Ian had to grit his teeth and put some real effort into getting up to the top. He was a good sport. It probably didn’t help that I loaded him down with the two water bottles and snacks. I carried my Rebel XS, which didn’t really prove worth the back pain it incurred (it seems like any time I carry anything on my back, no matter how light, I end up sore. Bah, humbug). Not much to take pictures of when the summit is mostly clouded in. But since I carried it all the way, here’s a picture that doesn’t really capture the vibrancy of the green or the mistiness or, most of all, the steepness of the trail.
Tiger Mountain Trail

And, lest you think I’m skipping out on the biking, tomorrow after church I’m planning on doing what should work out for me to be about a 75-ish mile ride to Snohomish with Team Earthdreams.