Sunday, February 19, 2017

A drop of rain

The snow is gone, and I've been photographing raindrops and signs of spring.  My arm won't let me do more than one photo tonight, but this one caught my eye as I downloaded my images - not just because I love the drop of rain, but because when I looked at the foliage, it made me laugh.  I see a bird of leaves (with a rather featherless head and little tiny teeth), squawking as she passes a raindrop egg!  Can you see it? Or have I been taking too many painkillers?

Monday, February 13, 2017

In God's Waiting Room

The other day, as a friend and I discussed our old dogs, she mentioned that someone had once described the final stage of a dog's life as the dog being "in God's waiting room."  The image made me smile -- as an adopter of old dogs,  I know that stage only too well.

It is a time when each morning you put your hand on your still-sleeping dog to be sure she is breathing. It is a time when every sickness or stumble or refusal to eat has you questioning "Is this it?"  And sometimes it is a time,  after they stop eating and drinking and show no interest in their favourite things - maybe not even in you -  when you place that dreaded call to the vet.

And just as you hang up the phone, they bounce down the hallway and look at you as if to say "ARE YOU CRAZY?  I'm fine, feed me, play with me, let's go for a walk!"

Mama Jean, play wiv me!

When Charley was going through this final stage, back in 2011,  I called it her 'Dance with Death" - two steps forward, one step back.  Charley kept up that dance for a long time - three times I called the vet, three times I cancelled.  And then one day, she told me it was time.  She was tired of dancing. The music in God's waiting room went silent, and we said our last goodbye.

Ha ha, I really kept ya guessing! 

Some of my old dogs have barreled through the waiting room door, charged across to the inner chamber, jumped at that door with both front paws, and demanded to be let in NOW.  Others have patiently sat, neither doing the dance nor charging the door, just biding their time until they were ready - to either pass on their own or to ask me to help them.

I'm not a 'heaven or hell' sorta person, but love the imagery of God's waiting room. Even more, I love the imagery of the Rainbow Bridge beyond, a bridge where our dogs wait for us and our loved ones guide us on to the other side.  And I do believe in some sort of spiritual afterlife. So, for me, I think perhaps an image of a long rustic fence with an old gate that leads to fields of flowers, rolling hills, blue skies,  happy playing dogs, and in the distance the Rainbow Bridge, is more the image I see for my dogs.  Waiting by the gate, sometimes running back to me, sometimes pawing at the latch. But knowing their time is near as surely as I know it too.  Mitzi is now waiting by that gate.

What's on de other side?

We went through a tough time the last couple of weeks,  Mitzi and I -- a time when I thought the gate was about to open for her to prance through.  She went for days without food.  Then she stopped drinking water. She staggered, she had small seizures, she lost her sense of direction, and she developed bleeding into the anterior chamber of her eye.  So I emailed my mobile vet for an appointment.  And within fifteen minutes of  receiving a response from my vet, Ms. Mitzi got up, went to her dish, had a big drink of water, went outside to do her business, ate some food, and looked at me as if to say:

I kept the appointment time as Mitzi was due for her next check up anyway, and she was again refusing food, so we ran all the usual blood work and urine tests and other stuff that we do for very old dogs.  The results were much as I expected - her kidney failure, first diagnosed two years ago, has shown significant change since last year.  Her creatinine, urea (BUN) and SDMA are all very, very high, she has lost two of her nine pounds, and other symptoms have appeared as well, putting her into the start of the final stage of kidney failure, a stage at which her kidneys are operating at only about 10% of normal capacity.  However, she still has some good days and is not in pain - yesterday, for example, she went for a reasonably long walk (for her), ate several servings of smelly green tripe and then some other dog food, followed me around the house and came up on my lap for a cuddle (something she never used to do - one recent behavioural change among several others).  We made some changes to her medications, and we are taking it one day at a time. Most of the time she sleeps, often she doesn't eat.  It could be days, weeks, or even a few months, but it likely won't be more.

I betcha I last longer than this snow on mah nose!

Perhaps the gate will open by an unseen hand on the other side.  Perhaps, with the help of my vet, we shall open it for her.  I won't let her suffer -  the very end of kidney disease is often marked with vomiting, diarrhea, and pain, and the emergence of any of these symptoms beyond a short-term gastric upset will tell me it is time.   I have always said I would rather help my old dogs to pass a week too soon than an hour too late.  I do not want her to end her life in crisis. And I know my cousin, her former mama, would not want that for her either.

And so we take it one day, one hour, one moment at a time, celebrating the little things - a meal eaten, a healthy poop, a walk to the end of the block and back.  And I let her sleep, and sleep, and sleep. I reinstated baby gates and carpet runners to keep her from falling on laminate floors, I use her xpen to keep her safe when I go out.  And when she is awake, but not wanting to eat or poop or walk, I hold her.  I hold her whenever she wants to be held  - my dinner can wait, my sleep can wait, this blog can wait.  I hold her and rock her and sing to her and talk softly to her. And I tell her how much I love her.

I think she can see those meadows through the fence, and she'll tell me when she's ready.  She is standing in God's waiting room, and it has rustic fences for walls, and a wooden gate through which she looks towards fields full of flowers and a beautiful Rainbow Bridge.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Isn't it supposed to be spring?

I live in an area that has the mildest climate in Canada.  We pride ourselves on filling our social media sites with photos of spring flowers in early February while the rest of Canada is still digging out from mountains of snow.  Most winters we get no snow, or perhaps a skiff that is gone by nightfall.

This time last year

Not so this winter.  It has been unseasonably cold and we have had more snow in the past week than all the snowfalls put together since I arrived on the island back in 2009.  And tomorrow we expect another 10-15 cm.  I had to hire someone to dig out part of the back yard for Mitzi (who has been under the weather - no pun intended. More about that in a day or two), just so she could manage to do her business.

Even princesses are entitled to use some unladylike words this winter.

Some of the trees in my newly landscaped garden have lost boughs under the heavy load, and in one case the main trunk snapped.  The birds aren't impressed either - their seeds keep getting covered with more snow and ice, the hummingbird feeders freeze or their ports get covered with ice and snow in no time at all, and the robins have to wear mukluks to keep their little toes warm:

(His mukluks are hidden by the snow!)

Okay, it looks kinda pretty, but right now I'm really envious of my Ontario friends who are whining about all the rain.  That's OUR wetcoast rain, people - somehow we ended up with YOUR friggin' snow. 
Pretty, yes, but time for it to go!

Personally, I think Mitzi has the right idea:

Wake me when it's over.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Taylor Beach with Luke and the Poms

Taylor Beach is a lovely, easily accessible stretch of beach in the Metchosin/Sooke area east of Victoria on Vancouver Island. There are only a few parking spots, but midweek that is all that is needed.  It is quiet and refreshing - a long, straight strip of  pebble beach (and sand when the tide recedes) perfect for walking.   And dogs are allowed off leash there all year round.

This week, I visited Taylor Beach with my friends Pat and Lisa, and their dogs Cosmo, Lexi and Luke.  It was a perfect late winter's day - blue sky, sunshine, and a blustery, chilly wind.  The day was so clear we could see Mount Baker to the south east, and the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula across the ocean.

Hey mom, you gotz sunbursts on you!
The dogs were eager to head out despite the chilly wind, so after a couple of trips back to the car for forgotten items, we were off.  I took a moment to capture this photo of a three or four year old girl sitting on a log gazing out at the water while her playmates and parents amused themselves nearby.  I imagine this child finding serenity on the beach in 10, 20, 60 years from now.  How often I have sat just like that, finding peace in a hectic and crazy world:

Child on a beach
But dogs wait for no one, let alone a one-armed photographer fussing with her camera, so off we went.

Hurry up, Auntie Jean!

Oooh! That's a lotta water!

Luke ran and ran and ran!

And I watched the waves roll in, casting their foamy skirts upon the sand.

Luke is a social butterfly, making friends with every dog he meets.  This day, he met a chocolate lab who shared Luke's passion for sticks.  They spent a few minutes chasing sticks together and trading them back and forth, and then the lab's owner tossed a big stick into the ocean for the water loving lab.  Luke decided he'd let his new friend retrieve that one!

I'll just wait here while you get that!

But as soon as the lab was back on shore, the game resumed:

They reminded me of a caption I saw recently on a similar photo:

Branch manager Choc Lab, with assistant branch manager Luke!

After saying goodbye to  his lab friend, Luke continued down the beach with us and soon met up with a friendly German Shepherd - and off they went like old school chums from way back:

Luke and friend run off into the sunlight

By now,  Lexi was tired of walking and wanted to go home.  Cosmo was quite happy to keep walking, especially given the lovely (ahem!) snack of horse poops he found.

What?  Horse poops are da bomb!

He's disgusting!  I'm beautiful!
Boy dogs drool, girl dogs rule! 
I  CAN'T  H E A R  YOU! 
I took a few more shots of the ocean and the dogs:

Gorgeous Luke in sunshine

Hey mom, ya make a better door than a window!
Move - yer blockin' mah view!

And then it was time to go.  What a great day we'd had!

That was fun, mom.
Can we meet up with these friends again soon?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today marks the start of the Year of the Rooster on the Chinese Lunar Calendar.  Bob, a resident at RASTA sanctuary, thinks he should be their poster boy.  Here's some of my favourite shots of him:

Hear ye! Hear ye!
Gong hei fat choy!

Bob doing his Celebration Dance

"So, when is the year of the turkey?"
"I don't think there is one."

"Really?  Year of the Turkey?  No comparison!" 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Morrell Nature Sanctuary

My blog posts will continue to be few and far between - or at least short - for the next several weeks or months,   as even a few minutes on the computer exacerbates the torn deltoid muscle and/or torn rotator cuff and/or smushed joint (there's a five month wait for the ultrasound to determine the exact problem) in my injured right arm.  Living with constant pain is no fun; waking up in the middle of the night with the whole arm in agony from five minutes on the computer is even less fun.  However, this is as good a time as any to add to the blog some photos of hikes I did last fall - photos I edited and watermarked and posted on facebook back then, but never posted here.  I'll forgo commentary other than to tell you the location. 

This set was from a hike around the Morrell Nature Sanctuary in Nanaimo last October.  You'll find more information about the sanctuary on their website.

These were a few of my favourite photos from that beautiful fall day:

First glimpse of Morrell Lake

Grass Reflections
What would a nature sanctuary be without ducks?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen!

[Cue music:  ♪ ♪ ♪ Tra-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen ♪ ♪ ♪]

Mitzi is sixteen years old today!  We decided to exchange letters on this momentous occasion:

I'll just dictate mine to mah scribe, please. 

My dearest Mitzi, 

When you came to me, four years ago, little did I know how quickly and completely you would steal my heart. My love for you just grows and grows, and there isn't a day goes by that you don't make me laugh.  In the past year, your health has actually improved both physically and mentally - I love that you connect with me more, invite me to play with you several times a day, chase me around the house with loud barks and little squeaks, and make your wishes - whether it be for a walk or some food or for company at bedtime - clearly known.

Play wiv me, Mama Jean!

You are more demanding, more sassy, more talkative, more active than ever before, with your tail always wagging, and how happy I am to be able to say that!  Our bond has deepened exponentially and I can't imagine life without you. Happy birthday, my beautiful, sweet, sassy Mitzi. I love having you in my life and in my heart.

Love, Mama Jean


Dear Mama Jean,

Today I is SIXTEEN!  Sweet sixteen is a term that fits me perfectly.  In human years that is 112, which is even older than you are.  My vision and hearing may not be as good as yours, and sometimes my brain gets muddled or my legs don't function as well as I'd like - but your brain also gets muddled and your legs (and arms!) don't function that great either.  We is a good match, don'tcha think?

Anyway, on the occasion of my sixteenth birthday, there are a few things I would like to say to you:

1.  Thank you for adopting me when my Mama Anita died.  That will be four years ago on Monday. At first, it was hard for me to feel comfortable with  those other dogs galloping around (and especially that Eddie who used to bowl me over), but now that I am an only dog, I am truly home.

2.  Thank you for unnerstanding that I am a PRINCESS (and have the sign to prove it!) and should be treated as such.  That means personal chef services, doorperson services each and every time that I even think I might want to go outside or come back in, treats on demand, frequent clean bedding, etc. Princesses hasta be treated royally.

Mah Auntie Mary gaves me this fer Christmas.
'Bout time someone acknowledged mah status around here!

Yeah, yeah, whatever.
B o r i n g !

3.  Speaking of treats, thank you for finally discovering that I love, Love, LOVE the cat's favourite treats - Temptations!  And thank you fer making sure I get my fair share.  And fer keeping the cat away from me while I eat them!

Oh Gawd Say It Isn't So!!!

4.  Thank you for my daily walks.  We may be slow and may not go far, but I love to sniff sniff sniff all the wonnerful smells out there.

Ahhhhhh, such good smells!

5.  Thank you for my frequent spa dates.  You know how I love my groomer and love to feel all clean and tidy.  Princesses have to look perfect, you know.

This waz last year's picture.
I wents to the spa today, but Mama Jean hazn't been able
 to get a good picture of me yet. 

And now that I have shown your readers just how sweet I am, I have a few birthday requests:

1.  I'd like a new orthopedic mattress please.  Mine is getting a little worn and thin.
2.  More Temptations.
3.  Do I hasta eat dog food?  Couldn't I just eat kitty treats and maybe some homecooked meats and steamed carrots?  Just don't try to add anything to that homecooked meat - I only like it plain. Or with carrots.  Keep the yucky potatoes and other veggies on yer own plate.
4.  More Temptations.
5.  Come to bed when I tell you to, not when YOU want to.  If I want to go to bed at 8 PM, then that is when I need you, my personal security guard, in the bedroom with me.  How else am I supposed to settle down for mah beauty rest?
6.  More Temptations.

Thank you again fer lovin' me.  I like to make you laugh when we play chase around the house and I play bow to you.  You are a very fortunate human to have me in your life.  We is a good pair.

Luv, Princess Mitzi, 
Age: Sweet Sixteen. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Deja View

It's been a long while since I walked the loop around my town and down along the sea walk.  Mitzi's not a fan of the seawalk - she didn't mind it when she had good vision and good hearing, but as her senses become more impaired, encountering large dogs and grabby hands on a boardwalk over the water is not her idea of fun.  But the seawalk was always a favourite walk for most of my dogs, and especially for my early risers like Oliver and Shiloh who enjoyed our alone-time watching the sun rise over the bay.  Mitzi's idea of early rising is getting up before noon.  No sunrises for that girl!

Shiloh's sunrise
(Not likely to ever be seen by lazybones Mitzi)

Today, as I'm still not able to return to hiking or swimming, and am badly in need of exercise, my friend Sally and I decided to do the loop - the long cold snap finally broke, the ice in town has gone (though not on forest trails), and the sun was trying to make an appearance.  I can't raise my right arm to my face to use the camera, but I took it along away and shot from the hip - or a convenient rail or post.  So..... not the best shots, but as I've not posted any of our bay for a while, I figured you wouldn't mind having a sense of deja vu view!

View from Crofton Beach, looking towards the mill and Shoal Islands

We spent some time watching the ducks enjoying the milder weather

Anchored sailboats, with Salt Spring Island behind.

Another sailboat at anchor, with cargo ship in background.
The mountains beyond are the North Shore mountains of the mainland.

And, lastly, the familiar view near the start of the sea walk -
old posts and broken wharf from days gone by.