Tag: dogs

Dogs, Grief and Loss

Goodbye Max; Thanks for the Memories

 

Max
Max still looking good at 14!

Dear Reader:

Fourteen years ago, we fell in love with a dog. Not just any dog. A perfectly proportioned, perfectly marked, black and tan long-haired miniature dachshund. He wasn’t meant to be ours, but HE picked us!

Here’s the story. Our good friends and award winning breeders, Karyn and Jeff of Wagsmore Dachshunds, invited us to their home to meet their new litter of pups. They  breed to show and any dog that does not have the potential to be a champion, for one reason or another, is placed in a loving home to live out their life outside of the ring.

At the time, we had another Wagsmore dachshund at home. Bill was born with a slightly twisted tail that needed a snip at the end. But, that wasn’t Bill’s story really. He was a perfect dog. If he’d been a person, he’d have been a perfect person. He was growing older and we wanted to give him some company. (And, frankly, one dachshund is never enough!)

We sat on the floor of our friends living room delighted to be surrounded by five darling puppies. But, only one puppy sat down in Natalie’s lap and fell asleep. It was a short nap followed by more puppy play. And, then that same puppy snuggled up to my husband and climbed into his lap. I turned to my friend Jeff who whispered, “He’s a show dog.” I understood that this dog was meant to remain with Karyn and Jeff and win awards just as his father, Tommy, had. There was another dog that was available, but he hadn’t been friendly and his demeanor did not appeal to us. So, we told our friends we’d wait for another litter to arrive. I still don’t understand why they decided to let us take Max home, but they did. And the chant in our house for more than a decade was: “He coulda been somebody; he coulda been a contender.”

Max
Max and me at the beginning of lockdown in March.

For those who haven’t ever loved a dog…well, first, I’m sorry, but I must simply say that just as people are unique, dogs are unique. They have personalities. It became clear very early on that Max was not only a thing of beauty with a perfect show-dog trot, he was also a bit of a devil. He was in sharp contrast to the elder statesman, Bill, who only caused trouble when the UPS man came.

Here are my Top 5 Max Moments to illustrate my point.

It was the night of my daughter’s third grade play; she was playing Little Red Riding Hood. Her grandparents had made the trip to see her performance and to meet our new puppy. At that time in our lives, my daughter and I were passionate about crocheting. We kept a basket of unfinished projects and skeins of yarn in the corner of our family room. We never thought to move it. We laid out puppy pads and gated off the room and arrived back home three hours later to find that Max had been busy. It seemed he’d re-created this memorable scene in the classic movie The Ugly Dachshund. Natalie burst into tears, thinking we’d surely return the puppy, but our surprise turned to laughter and an appreciation for the creativity of our new pet.

Max was no longer a puppy the day he sent me into the streets screaming and yelling and flagging down drivers on a very busy road. We were visiting Natalie’s grandparents and suddenly we looked up to realize, with alarm, that there was only one dog following us around the house. The home was large and sprawling, with many rooms to search. And, search we did, in vain. We decided he must have escaped from the yard and onto the dangerous roadway outside. I can’t remember how long we looked for him, but, ultimately, we returned in tears to find him in the pantry adjacent to the kitchen. He entered and someone closed the door and he did not make a sound as we called for him. Why would he?

Max liked to eat. You may have guessed that based upon his preference for the pantry in my in-laws home. He would ultimately become a connoisseur enjoying chicken, beef and cottage cheese. But, in his early years, he was like a toddler who puts anything in his mouth. Max went through a short-lived stage of rock eating. Usually, the rocks would come and go, so to speak, without much trouble. But, one night we found ourselves racing him to the emergency room. We were instructed to leave him there by a seemingly competent vet who felt sure that surgery would not be needed. We waited by the phone and at 2:30 a.m. learned that there had been a shift change at the hospital and the new attending vet thought that we should begin surgery at once. I didn’t like the way this new vet spoke to us. I trust my instincts. So, I hit the road to see my dog and have a face-to-face with Dr. Arrogant. Well, I’m not the greatest driver. It was late. Well, early. I started to exit the freeway, but then had a second thought about whether or not I was on the correct exit. Evidently, I slowed down to a crawl. I was glad I had taken the time to put on a bra and fluff my hair before I got in the car. I felt I looked somewhat respectable as the two highway patrolmen questioned me and ultimately decided to let me go with a terse verbal warning, but no ticket. My appearance startled the doctor almost as much as the fact that within a few minutes of my arrival Max safely passed the rocks on his own.

Certainly one of the greatest fears of any dog owner is the possibility that their dog could be run over. Thankfully, we’ve never had a dog that was hit by a car. But, one day, Max hit a car. I was standing in the front yard talking to neighbors when a car sped down our cul-de-sac at an unsafe speed. Max came running from the back yard barking loudly. He quite literally attacked the car, running into the side of it. As Dr. M put it:  “Good thing he ran into the car and not the other way around!” He spent about a week sleeping the incident off in his crate.

Max
Dr. M performed routine healthcare on Max while we vacationed. I always miss the dogs when I’m away!

And, then there was the day, I heard myself saying this: “Dr. M, Max ate my Prozac!” Apparently this isn’t a rare occurrence. She calmly asked, “How many milligrams?” He was only a ten pound dog, but thankfully I was trying to taper of my 20 milligram meds and so he only got 10 milligrams that morning. It wasn’t a problem.

As I share these stories with you, it crosses my mind that you may think me an unfit dog mommy. But, I can assure you that I am not. I will add a word of caution here: There are dogs…and then there are dachshunds! The breed I love so dearly has a talent for seeking out and finding trouble. I might also bring you back to the beginning of my tale; Max was fourteen years old when we said good-bye to him.

Max did have an immediate effect on his brother Bill. Our friends all commented that Bill seemed younger and more energetic as a result of his brother’s arrival. It would be four years before we lost Bill and by then we’d added Bart and Bella, two more Wagsmore hounds, to the pack. Max mellowed a bit as he assumed the role of top dog, a role he performed for 10 years. He’ll always be remembered as the #1, a trouble-maker, a beauty, a trotter and a sweet companion and lap warmer.

Max, Bella and Bart
Max, Bella and Bart circa 2014

As a family we’ve been mourning our loss for two weeks now. It would have been impossible for me to write this post any sooner. I’ve lost my brother, my grandmother and my parents. Our doxies Bill and Bart have passed. You might think that this loss, amid a world-wide pandemic, would be less impactful. You’d be wrong. A piece of me died with Max, part of my history framed by the presence of my furry companion.

Max and Winnie
Winnie, our baby, snuggling Max just last month.

Thank you Dr. M at VCA, Almaden Valley, for taking care of my boy for most of his years. Thank you to the best neighbors anyone could have, Hector and Ralph, for the flowers and sympathy card. Thank you Karyn and Jeff for inexplicably letting us take home Max.

Many talented writers have taken to the page to share their love of dogs. The joy and sorrow that come from sharing your life with a dog is immense and I like best the way  Will Rogers summed it up:

“If there are no dogs in heaven, when I die I want to go where they went.”

Michele

P.S. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve just read the longest post I’ve ever written. Thanks.

P.P.S. You get extra credit if you’ve been able to keep all the doxies straight. We now have two, Bella and Winnie. My husband is outnumbered…4 ladies to keep him company during lockdown.

 

 

 

 

Pandemic Prose

Thor and I Are Socially Distancing

THOR
Those eyes!

Dear Reader:

Meet Thor, a five pound Yorkshire Terrier, and one of the most popular residents here in East Sacramento. (Shhhh…I like him even more than I like some of my neighbors who walk on two feet!) It simply must be said, even though it is completely unnecessary since I’ve included a photo, that he’s darling! He’s also quite friendly.

I’m lucky that he lives only two doors down with his dads, Hector and Ralph. We met him shortly after we moved in. Ralph stopped by one night to welcome us to the neighborhood and to ask if he could spend some time on our porch and in our front yard so that he could acclimate his dog to our dog statuary. Seems Thor felt a bit intimidated on his daily walks past our pack of metal and terra cotta dachshunds. Funny that he had no problems with our real dogs. It didn’t take long for all of us, the people and the dogs, to become best of friends.

IMG_3526
One of many dachshund shaped garden statuary in our front yard

This is where my story becomes sad. You see, for a year and a half now, I’ve looked forward to running into Thor on his daily walks. Sometimes I would encounter him by chance, but often I’d spy him from one of my windows and rush outside for a quick visit.  I’d call out to him just after greeting his dad and he’d pull at his leash, sometimes so hard that he’d be standing up on his back feet straining to get to me.

Then came the pandemic. I’m not sure exactly how long it took for Thor to understand that I’d no longer run to greet him. But, I can remember the site of him trying to get close to me in the early days of the shelter in place order. I wanted to pet him and hug him and talk to him just as I’d always done. (I talk to dogs.)

Thor has been trained to social distance. Now he continues walking with his master as they pass and are met with quick hellos. Or, he stands by waiting while the humans speak to each other from a safe distance. I miss him.

Hector and Thor
Hector and Thor

Of course I miss his dads even more. I miss the 5 p.m. cocktail hours that always stretched to 8 p.m. because the conversation was so good. I miss the hugs and the fashion advice. I miss the every day exchanges that make life interesting and pleasant.

Someday, we’ll party again and hug again. Dogs don’t hold grudges so I’ll anticipate a warm greeting from my four-legged friend, too.

Michele

Dogs, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Pandemic Prose

Hugs…the safe kind

 

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Dear Reader:

I am a homebody, so perhaps it’s easier for me to deal with the day to day issues of protecting myself and my family from coronavirus. I’ve been staying home for the past two weeks…voluntarily. My friends in Monterey and Santa Clara County have been placed on Shelter in Place Orders. I’m grateful for that, as I am also a worrier.

Hoping that you are healthy and that you can appreciate the small pleasures that come from being at home:

  • dogs sleeping in your lap
  • hot cups of tea
  •  good books
  • pajamas…all day
  • and time to bake, clean, organize, relax and reflect.

I will conclude, as I always do, with “HUGS.” I am a hugger and, I must admit, I’m missing those.

Michele

 

Creativity, Grief and Loss, Inspirational Women

Thank You Mary Oliver

My Library

Dear Reader:

Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, is dead. I feel heavy writing those words as if I lost a friend. I am simply another reader…one of millions. But with her books in my hands, I’ve felt the companionship of a friend. I’ve nodded my head or spoken aloud as if in conversation with her. And, so it would be true to say that we had a relationship. That was the power of Mary’s art. That’s what made her so well-loved.

She was the rare poet who sold well. My social media feeds are filled with her brilliantly strung together words and moving tributes from regular people like me and her famous admirers like Hillary Clinton, Madonna and Oprah.

When I heard the news of her death, I retreated to my shed to pull her book Dog Songs from my shelf. The book popped open to page 31:

BENJAMIN, WHO CAME FROM

WHO KNOWS WHERE

What shall I do?

When I pick up the broom

he leaves the room.

When I fuss with kindling he

runs for the yard.

Then he’s back, and we

hug for a long time.

In his low-to-the ground chest

I can hear his heart slowing down.

Then I rub his shoulders and

kiss his feet

and fondle his long hound ears.

Benny, I say,

don’t worry. I also know the way

the old life haunts the new.

I read that poem as a dog lover, a hound lover, to be precise. But, I also read it as a person whose old life can be haunting. In one of the rare interviews Mary gave, she spoke of her unhappy childhood that included sexual abuse and parental neglect.

“I had a very dysfunctional family, and a very hard childhood,” Mary told Maria Shriver. “So I made a world out of words. And it was my salvation.”

Thank you Mary for sharing your world with me. The joy, solace and inspiration your words have given me are alive. Still. On my bookcase.

Michele

Dogs, Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Family, Friends and Neighbors

The $1,400 Gingerbread House

“Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

From the 1983 classic A Christmas Story

Dear Reader:

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. I love it all…the carols, the movies, the trees, the egg nog, the presents and most especially the fun of assembling and decorating a gingerbread house with my daughter. We’ve been creating in candy and frosting since Natalie was four years old.

This year within days of her return from college, we set up our decorating station at the kitchen table in our new home. It was such fun. Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time adjusting to the move. But, as soon as my girl arrived, my mood improved. We simply need to make memories in our new home…I thought. And, a gingerbread house was the perfect start.

Two days later, it was time to celebrate Natalie’s 22nd birthday. We’d do whatever she wanted. Turns out it was a simple request. Pizza on the couch while watching one of our favorite seasonal movies: A Christmas Story.

We’ve got a bigger house this year so I placed Nat’s birthday gifts in our living room under the tree. As we left the family room, I checked to make sure all the plates and pizza scraps were removed from the coffee table and shut the adjoining door as our three doxies are not welcome in our formal living room.

It’s funny how you develop a sixth sense about these things when you own dachshunds, but I knew something was wrong the second we returned to the family room.

Where’s Winnie?! I quickly answered my own question when I discovered her on top of the kitchen table gorging on our gingerbread house. The next thing I knew I was slipping on my boots and throwing a coat over my p.j.’s while my husband googled emergency veterinary services. Luckily I thought to toss the half empty bag of Navitas cocoa nibs into my purse.

The veterinarian was not particularly concerned that Winnie had consumed about 10-15 milk chocolate chips (see the empty bowl up top) or large quantities of coconut and frosting. But the cocoa nibs that we surrounded our house with, because they so resembled dirt or gravel, necessitated a call to the Animal Poison Control Center .

About an hour and a half after we checked in, we were called into a room to consult with a vet who looked too concerned for me to be comfortable.

“We’ll need to keep her tonight,” she began. “She’ll be put on an i.v. and her heart rate and vitals will be monitored.”

There was more rather serious conversation until I finally asked if her life was in danger.

“Well, the experts at the ASPCA are very concerned about the cocoa nibs. That’s straight chocolate and she had a large dose for an 11 pound dog.”

“She can’t die,” I said. “Today’s my daughter’s birthday.”

“She probably thinks Nats is eight,” my husband whispered as we left.

“All she had to do is look at me to know our daughter is not eight,” I replied. “But, no one wants their dog to die on their birthday no matter how old they are!”

As you can see, Winnie lives! She spent two days in the ICU at a cost of $1,400. She’s asleep in my lap now. There aren’t too many things nicer than having your daughter home for the holidays and a sweet, small, warm creature to warm your heart and home. And I’d say that we made a memory!

I’d like to challenge anyone to show me a more expensive gingerbread house.

Hugs,

Michele

P.S. The cocoa nibs are excellent in yogurt, but I’ll never buy them again!

Dogs, Family, Friends and Neighbors

So Many Options!

Which rug will it be?
Two out of three dachshunds agree on the first rug option…the third could care less as the sun is shining outside!

Dear Reader:

I’ve been in my new home now for exactly 25 days. I always think that I should count the boxes when I move, but I never do. Part of me thinks it would give me a sense of accomplishment to know how many boxes had been packed and unpacked, but the smarter side of me knows that I’d be better off not knowing.

There are a lot of boxes. My husband and I love to collect…art, china, books and all things Christmas! I’ve managed to get through about 3/4 of them.

I’ve only had a washer/dryer for four days now and we are still waiting for California Closets to come and install new master bedroom closets in the empty spaces cleared by our contractor. But, we are almost fully functional here! As you can see, we have the bandwidth to consider rug options for our kitchen nook, so that’s an improvement over the first ten or so days when we were drowning in wrapping paper and trying to find the dust buster.

I am making friends with my new town and feeling confident that life here is going to offer so many opportunities to learn and grow. I’m truly excited to get beyond the “home set-up phase” and onto the “live my best life phase.”

I’ll be doing a reveal of my new pink shed soon. Watch for it!

Hugs,

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors

Like Mother…Not Like Daughter!

My daughter
My lovely daughter

Dear Reader:

When a woman gives birth to a daughter, I believe she consciously, or subconsciously, believes her daughter will resemble her in many ways. But why? It is an odd assumption upon thoughtful consideration. Why should she be more like her mother than her father? I’ve asked myself that question now for 21 years.

My daughter is her own person, but she is more like her father than she is like me. I can accept this…despite the fact that it took 28 hours of hard labor followed by an emergency c-section to bring her into this world!

I wonder at the differences!

She is:

  • ambitious but not competitive; I am competitive but not ambitious
  • reserved, i burst
  • quietly thoughtful, I am obviously opinionated
  • forgiving and patient; I try

She loves:

  • lace and florals; I like stripes and animal print
  • teal; I love pink
  • Thunder Mountain; I love It’s a Small World
  • Harry Potter and Jane Austen; I love Tinker Bell and Danielle Steel

But, we do share some common opinions and interests. We are both feminists, but she does not like to wear it on her t-shirt. We love donuts, doxies, Disneyland and Maui. We are happy when we are shopping at Lululemon or Target, walking the streets of London in rain or shine and sipping from English china while perusing beautiful books.

And, most importantly, we still love spending time in each other’s company. I hope that never changes.

Is your daughter very much like you, dear reader? Or is she more like her father?!

Michele