Sunday, November 23, 2014

Meet Frank, the Urn

Last summer in the rush of all the garden walks here followed by the magazine article hoopla, we met a whole bunch of very nice people.  I'm ashamed to admit I can't remember all of their names, but it was a treat talking gardening with other enthusiasts.  Last summer was the busiest tour season we've ever had (which is also our excuse for not working on ol' Aaargh at all.)

Anyway, one day in late July a dear lady called me to see if it would be ok to bring her garden club friends over.  She lives out of state now and when she comes back to Wisconsin to visit her family, she usually makes a stop here with her pals (and brings the most delicious box of chocolates for you know who).  I was delighted to see her again and when two carloads of happy ladies pulled in the driveway, I greeted them cheerfully.  What seemed a little odd at the time was the two groups didn't mingle at first, but I didn't give it much thought as I dragged them around the garden for the Official Tour.

We had a wonderful visit, strolling the gardens as a large group with me answering questions and talking smart.  Although the smart part is starting to wear a little thin with me; I swear I lose my train of thought when someone calls me on the spot to name a particular cultivar of hosta or tree or what have you.  I fumble around in my brain and nope, the answer isn't there until a few hours later when there's no one around to impress, and then, out it pops, "Hosta 'Sagae' was also known as fluctuans variegata." 

Carl will look at me quizzically and I'll say, "Never mind.  Couldn't think of the answer until now."

Ok, back to my rambling here; as I said the two car loads of ladies weren't mingling much, though they were polite with each other.  Finally, the group bearing the delicious chocolate gift took their leave. 

As they drove away, the other group asked me who they were.  I said, "I thought you were all together."  Ok, turns out they weren't, it was just a coincidence the two groups arrived at the same time. 

One of the ladies, introduced to me as Mrs. P, took me aside.  After seeing the pan fountain and the dome and gates, etc. she was impressed with Carl's ability to repair and reuse items for the garden.

"I have something I think you'd like," she said.  "It's a big old urn my late husband and I had for over fifty years.  We used to have it in our restaurant as a fountain, but then we took it home and put it in our garden. As time went by,  it rusted and fell into disrepair.  It's been sitting in several pieces out by my barn for a very long time.  I've had a few antique dealers come around and offer me money, but I always turned them down.  I want you to have it.  Please come over to my house and take a look, ok?"

I didn't know what to say; but did ask her what she wanted for payment.

"Nothing!  I would be so happy to see it restored and put to good use in your garden," Mrs. P said.

I told her I still felt guilty about accepting the urn as a gift, but she would hear none of it.  "Here's my address and phone number, and when your husband gets home from work, please tell him about the urn.  I look forward to seeing you!"

When Carl came home we talked about the visitors and the urn, but neither of us felt comfortable descending on the lady immediately.  A few days later I called Mrs. P and told her we'd be coming that evening if it was alright with her.  Despite the fact she'd said the urn was big, I felt that arriving with a trailer in tow would look rather presumptuous.  What if she changed her mind about giving it to us?   So we took the Pontiac.

When we arrived at her home, we were amazed by everything.  What a beautiful place she has!  Her driveway was all done in bricks which were reclaimed from a street in Appleton and laid one by one by her late husband in a glorious pattern.  Her home had been completely remodeled and was perfection personified, when she showed us pictures of the old farmhouse it had been, it was unbelievable.  These two people had worked tirelessly on their home and garden for decades and it showed.  Though her husband had passed away several years earlier, it was clear she loved and missed him very deeply. 

The first thing Mrs. P said to us when we arrived was, "Where is your trailer?  Remember I told you the urn is BIG?"

I mumbled,  "Well, we weren't sure if we'd need a trailer and if you'd changed your mind or not," but before I could finish the sentence, she was off across the yard.

"Let's go look at it.  But I don't think it's going to fit in your car."

Wow.  She was almost right about that. The urn was Big.  As in Very.

 I don't have anything to show comparison sizes here, but the base alone is 2' x 2' and there are only two pieces shown here.  The upper piece was missing a corner and the top part where the rest of the urn would fit into is rusted away.

Close up of the broken top
Carl backed our car up to the barn and opened the trunk.  We all scratched our heads.  Was this going to truly fit in our car?
This part would need reconstructing if the urn were to stand again.

The pedestal part was the least of our problems loading.  The biggest parts were to come.

This is the lower part of the urn's bowl, shown with the piece of steel Carl fabricated to repair the damage.  This bowl is 36" in diameter.  And heavy.  We didn't weigh it, but between the two of us, we needed all of our strength to cram it halfway into the trunk of our car.

Though I don't have a picture here, there is another identical bowl that fits inside of the decorative one above, good grief where are we going to put it?  But we managed, much to all of our surprise.

We had the bowls in the trunk, part of the pedestal in the back seat and I straddled the other half in the passenger seat on the ride home.  By the time we left her home, it was nearly midnight because we'd stayed to visit.  Luckily the roads were fairly quiet, but every car we met flipped their high beams at us.   Our car was hanging down so far, with the weight in the trunk our headlights were up in the sky.

When we arrived home, we both risked hernias getting the bowls out of the trunk and went to bed.  Carl set to work the next day to make new parts for the urn.  Total repair time was over forty hours, spread over two weeks, but it was well worth it.  

Carl had to make a tapered plate and a half round section of steel to fit and then weld in place.

Before we left her house, Mrs. P recalled  she had some faces for the  urn in her machine shed and we were very glad she remembered where they were.   

Shown after they were painted, these were the faces that needed to be bolted back on.

It would have been very hard to replicate these faces.
After Carl was done fixing the pedestal parts and the urn received a coat of bronze paint, it was nearly impossible to see where the repairs were made.

There are a few pieces of decorative trim missing, but that's ok. 

Joel added to the project by bringing home two pieces of concrete left over from a job at a friend's house for a base.  And my friend Brenda had given me the sweet potato vines and dragonwing begonias which fit just perfectly.

We had just the site for Mrs. P's urn, right in front of the house. This is the first urn you see when you drive in the driveway.  (After Ernie, that is.)

Not to be left out, Ernie now has company.

Carl, looking very tired and dirty here after a long day's work, poses with his job well done.

And dear Mrs. P did come to see the urn after it was completed and was tickled pink.  She once again refused payment and took pictures with us and the urn.

I told her we'd have to do something to honor her as a thank you, like a plaque.

 Mrs. P said, "If you do make a plaque, put it in memory of my husband, Frank." 

We will be having a plaque made.

Welcome to Quarry Garden, Frank.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nebraska: The Movie

I have no pictures with this post and it's very late at night, but I just finished watching 'Nebraska' on Netflix tonight.  For the second time.  I don't often watch movies twice, but I think I could watch this one a third and fourth time because I relate to it.  Boy, do I.

Filmed in black and white and set in rural parts of Montana, South Dakota and, of course, Nebraska, the movie is the tale of an elderly man, Woody, with a penchant for alcohol and advancing dementia.  Woody firmly believes the Publisher's Clearinghouse-like letter he receives in the mail declaring him a $1,000,000,000 Prize Winner (is that a million?  You can tell I'm not familiar with the big bucks)  in their sweepstakes.  If no one else will help him get to Nebraska to claim his prize, he will walk there if he has to.  Finally, his youngest son, David, agrees to take a road trip with his father.

Ok, Dad, we'll go to Nebraska.

I won't go into detail about the movie, there won't be any spoiler alerts, but for anyone who has ever dealt with aging parents, this movie is dead-on.  When I started the film, I almost decided against it; do I really need to see a depressing tale of senile dementia and the effects on the family members?  I'm in the midst of that battle myself.  But ok, misery loves company, so I settled into my Lazy Boy to watch.

I figured the movie would either be very sad or there would be slapstick comedy, a couple of car chases and bad 'Depends'-type jokes/mishaps, the usual indignities disguised as knee-slapping hilarity served up in movies about old people.  I was pleasantly surprised, there were no cheap shots, just stark reality.

The reality of watching a parent struggle and his son feeling a duty to do what he can to fix the situation.  I have been there, done that with my late father.

I am there, doing that, now with Mom.

My father was a big, powerful man with a short temper who seemed larger than life, and I admit I feared him.  And I also admit, I did not know him personally.  Not really.  Like Woody, so much of Dad's life abuse and demons were carefully hidden from view only to come out in the drinking and anger.  And as he aged and became more frail, I wanted to reach out and protect him from tripping and falling, just as I would with a toddler learning to walk.  But of course, this was an affront to his dignity, and much like a toddler saying, "NO, I can do it MYSELF!" my frustration, fear and worry were a bother.  Don't coddle, don't hover, but don't abandon them, either.  They are still adults, they have dignity and willpower.  And they know what they're doing.  Until they don't.  And then you have to step in and take charge.  And it sucks.  And like that toddler, they won't be happy with your interference.

Watching the movie unfold, I remembered many drives I took with my father after he had slipped into dementia.  We'd be just a mile from home and he'd peer out the window and say, "I've never been here before," as he gazed out at the farm he'd been born on eighty-six years before.  The same farm he cleared of trees as a child, walked behind a plow with a team of horses, and eventually covered thousands of times on a tractor.   It was all new territory to him.  And I would bite my lip and blink back tears, trying hard not to say, "Now, Dad, you know this is our farm.  Come on, now, be reasonable."

I didn't say it.

"Yes, Dad, it's a nice-looking hayfield, isn't it?" as I slowed the car to look at the acres of alfalfa rippling gently in the breeze.

And he'd continue staring out the window and say nothing more, soaking in the sight of the field almost hungrily.  A few times I  parked the car and we sat in silence watching the swallows dipping in flight over the alfalfa in bloom.  Finally he'd rouse himself and then I would know it was time to move on to our destination. 

He didn't know who I was half the time.  I was the enforcer of rules that made him angry.  Like the time he filled the lawnmower's oil reservoir to the top and was soon enveloped in a cloud of blue smoke so thick I thought the house was on fire when I arrived.  He was not happy with me when I ordered him off the mower and had him shut it off to cool down so I could drain the excess oil.  He reluctantly got off the mower and went to the garage, but before I knew it, he was right back on it again, defiantly continuing to mow, smoke billowing.   And hot in pursuit, there I was, at forty- something years old, chasing an elderly man on a smoking riding lawn mower around the yard.  What a sight we were, to be sure.

Much like being a first-time parent with a new infant, caring for an elderly parent put me into situations I never could have anticipated if I'd tried.  If someone would have told me that by the time I was forty I would be holding my father's hand as if he were my child on our halting walk across a parking lot to a shoe store, no, I wouldn't have believed that could ever happen.  But it did.  So many things happened, good and bad.  Some so comical I'd be weak with laughter, some so frustrating I wanted to run screaming for my sanity, some so sad, I cried on the spot.

When my father went through this stage in his life, I was still parenting our young sons, so I was truly in the 'sandwich generation' trying to be caretaker, wife, mother, and sane all at once and failing more than I succeeded, sad to say.  My mother isn't as much of a handful as my father was, so far, anyway.   This time around I don't have children or a job to tend to in addition, so it is more relaxed, but now I'm older, too.  And I won't sugarcoat it, it's still not easy. 

It seems if we live long enough, we will all go full-circle, from helpless infants to wayward toddlers with a mind of our own to childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle-age, and finally to our elderly years. We may once again become wayward and willful, chafing at the restraints placed upon us by supposedly caring adults who think they know what is best for us despite our protests of "NO!  I want to do it MYSELF!"

Old age is not for sissies.  And the caretakers of the aged can't be sissies, either. 

'Nebraska' was a funny movie as well as poignant, there were a few moments I startled the dogs when I laughed out loud.  Oh, yes, I have Definitely been there, done that.  Oh, how did the writers know?  

It is obvious someone has walked in my shoes.

Woody wouldn't give up.   And his son didn't either.

And neither will I.

L-R: my late brother, Bob, Dad, me, and Mom 1964

Friday, November 7, 2014

Shared Worry Lessens the Burden

I have to tell you  my worry has eased some over the last few days.  I know for certain the biggest reasons for my relief was getting it all down in writing and being blessed with wise, warm and loving concern from the blogging community, my dear friends.  Thank you. 
Random fall garden pictures, Milton the Rock with hostas and Golden Shadows dogwood.

Things are looking tentatively better.  We took both dogs to the veterinarian on Tuesday and with a few tweaks of medication and a bag of dental treat chews apiece, we left with lighter hearts.  (The dental chew treats were for the dogs, just thought I'd clear that up.)  Our veterinarian, Dr. B, is a wonderful man; I've often asked him if he takes on human patients, but drat, seems his license only clears him to work on four-legged creatures.  I did point out that chickens are bipeds, just like me, but that didn't change his mind.  No, he can't be my doctor, too. 

Teddy, looking surprised to see me.
Dr. B is always optimistic and impressed by these two old troopers of ours; he said with meds and luck from heaven above, we could all be together for quite some time.  Or not. And I know what he means, so we'll cherish what time we have.  I was able to halve the dose of furosemide Pudding is taking and she seems much more comfortable; even barking to be fed last night which was music to our ears. 

Mom is working on painting another garden ornament for me but I've got to get her something else to do as she's nearing completion on the project.   Busy hands make for a happy heart and she is never happier than when she has several things waiting to be painted.  I have a collection of cast iron garden lanterns and she has painted all of them several times. 
One of her latest works of art.

 So now that we're hopefully on a plateau around here with aging moms and dogs, I can talk about what else has been going on. 

Ok, not much. 

We didn't work on Castle Aaargh at all this year; with being in the magazine and all the visitors who came to see the garden there was no time to get all the rock pallets hauled back up and the mortar mixer out.  One of the visitors said we could look at the project as something to do in our retirement and in the meantime, it's a ruin.  Wise words, don't you think?
A ruin with a stained glass window.  Yep, that's what it is.
Our last magazine tour visitors came about two weeks ago.  I think that is the latest anyone has officially toured the garden.  I was headed up to Mom's with my walking poles and duh, forgot her pills, so I turned around and marched back to the house to get them. 

When I came back out of the house, I was startled by a car sitting on the road at the end of our driveway.  A big, black car with tinted windows.  Tinted windows make me nervous, it's like mirrored sunglasses.  I have a hard time making eye contact with people wearing mirrored shades.  Who's behind those Foster Grants?

But you all know me, the lady who drags Jehovah's Witnesses around the garden for tours even when all they want to do is save my soul.   (Ok, that was an accident and it only happened once.  I thought they were a group who had called earlier.)

  So I smiled at the blank window and waved them on in.

The car rolled into the driveway and the window rolled down to reveal two nice people who wanted to let me know my landscaping from the road was very nice.  And of course, we all know that I said, "Thank you.  Do you want to see the back yard?"

And of course, we were off and running.  We'd already had a frost and the day was dark and drizzly and the hostas were hanging like rags, but they both said they'd come back next summer when the garden didn't look like a bedraggled bedspread.  The pictures in this post are from that day, in fact.  The last hurrah for 2014.

Golden Shadows dogwood fall color

We're still working on clearing out the garden for the winter which has been a much more relaxed task since we don't have mortar mixers and rocks to deal with at the same time.  I guess it was a good idea to take a break from Aaargh construction this year.  We'll get back at it next year.

Since these pictures were taken, the hosta foliage has degraded significantly and all I have to do is grab hold of the leaves and they fall right off.  I don't like to leave the foliage stand through the winter since it harbors slugs and possible disease and also because in the spring, I have way more than enough work to do.  This way we can start out with a clean slate when the spring crazies arrive.  And this year, there is an abundance of mice all over the place, so giving them less places to hide will hopefully help.  I've never seen so many.  It's creepy.

The Quarry takes on a different look in the fall.  I've got to get those waterlilies cut back, too.

When it rains, Carl's pyramid shows the light and dark side more vividly.

Going through the Egress Gate, this is where Carl and I cleared out hostas last night.

I still have this bed to clear yet.
 And now for something completely different below:  Carl made some more garden sculpture this summer.  I know the pictures don't do them justice, but these stainless steel 'things' were made from scrap at his work. 
Hard to see in this picture, but they resemble pussy willow branches.  Ok, if you have an imagination.

 Trust me, they look better in person.  As you walk around them, the different facets light up, they're really cool.

I stuck bunches of the welded stainless works in the roller stands that usually hold the petunia pots for winter decoration along the driveway.   

And in the rain one day, I got the garage urns ready for the winter, too.

I have to tell you about an amazing gift we received from a garden visitor this summer.  Stay tuned for that tale, coming up soon.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Worry Part Deux

 My whole-hearted thanks to everyone for their concern, prayers and hugs.  I can't tell you what it means to have such wonderful friends, even though we've never met.  I am blessed.

And now I'm going to prevail upon you one more time with the other part of my Worry-Fest.

As if worrying about my mother isn't enough, there's the dogs.  We have two dogs as I write this, but my heart is heavy.

Teddy 2002
Teddy is our Original Dog.  The one we acquired as a puppy in November of 2001, a month after my father died.  He was the comic relief we all needed after Dad's passing.  My mother took to him instantly, but also informed me in no uncertain terms that I was not to get her a dog just because she was now a widow.  She had had her heart broken by our late, great German Shepherd, Sparky, twelve years earlier when he died suddenly at the age of ten.

Sparky had been my dog originally, but truth be told, he was Mom's dog through and through.  They had a mutual love connection.  It was amazing seeing my mother play with the powerful German Shepherd.  She was in her 70's then, and would toss a stick (more like a log) for Sparky and when he dashed off to retrieve it, she would run and hide.  Yes, run and hide behind a spruce tree.

Sparky knew the routine and would dutifully tear off after the stick only to stop in his tracks halfway there and immediately reverse directions and chase after my mother, diving around the tree with lightning speed.  To a casual observer this could look like an attack; a tiny elderly woman being mauled by a ninety-five pound killing machine.  But of course it wasn't anything of the sort.  It was two good friends having the time of their lives.

Sparky and me back in the '70s
After he 'found' her, Sparky would jump up in the air and frisk about in front of my mother, wagging his tail and smiling.  I swear that dog smiled more than any other dog I've ever known.  He never hurt her or jumped on her, but he celebrated finding her every time with a joyous doggy dance and Mom would hug him and tell him what a good boy he was.

Sparky followed her everywhere.  He was not a house dog, he had a bed in the garage, but he was never far away.  Where Mom went, Sparky went.  When Mom came down to see me on her bicycle, Sparky was at her side.  When she weeded in my garden, Sparky was lying in the shade on the lawn, ever faithful, ever watchful.   When she was on a tractor, he was trotting by the wheel.  He would stay home when she went to town as he understood following the car was a no-no, but upon her return he would throw a ticker tape parade and scatter the chickens and any cows grazing in the pasture in an effort to show his unbridled joy at her return.

And then one day on her way down to see me, Sparky had to stop running alongside her bicycle.  He simply stopped and abruptly laid down, looking miserable, and he was unable to get up.  I managed to get him into my dad's pickup truck and took him home.  We hoped it was something that would pass, but it was not to be.  I'm not certain what it was that ended his life, but the end was swift.  And my mother was inconsolable.

I have only seen my mother cry twice in my life.  Once when my late brother was having a hard time with his financial situation, I heard her crying in the basement and I was angry.  Nobody should make mom cry.  I knew she didn't realize I'd heard her and I said nothing to her about it, but it was a revelation to me.  My mother did indeed cry; she had emotions I knew nothing about. 

And the second time was after Sparky died.  She cried for days, openly, not even making an attempt to hide her anguish.  I started to really worry for her, but understood completely.  It hurts so much to lose your best friend.  Tears are healing, and eventually she did recover, but she said Sparky was her Last Dog.  She could not go through this again. 

So when I brought Teddy the Shih Tzu puppy up to her house to meet her, she was happy to see him, but that was as far as it went.  Her heart belonged to Sparky.

Teddy is a white dog with a feisty temperament.  He's always been a scrapper, if you think of small dogs as barking cats that are afraid of their own shadow, you haven't met Teddy.  Teddy thinks he's a Big Dog and you would do best to Not Mess With Him.  I've had him pull on his leash with all ten of his pounds in a frantic attempt to go after a dog six times his size to show the other guy who's the boss. Down, boy.

And then, five years ago, I acquired another dog named Pudding.  Pudding is Teddy's sister, given to me by my friend Ann when she had to move to an apartment that wouldn't allow pets.  Pudding is the exact opposite of Teddy, sweet-tempered and very cuddly.  I hate to admit this, but I really didn't want another dog at the time.  Pudding was eight and with the disruption in her life, had potty training issues, so we had to start all over from square one.  She caught on fast, though and soon settled in to life here.  As Sparky was to my mother, Pudding is to me. She is my shadow and totally devoted to me.  She loves to go for walks, but only if I'm on the other end of the leash.  If I'm not coming, she's not going and will simply stand and stare back at the house.
Pudding and Teddy in better days

 Carl tells me that Pudding sits by the door when I'm gone, waiting patiently for me to come back.  He said she watches the ceiling for the telltale shadow that someone is walking outside and seems to know it's me before he does.  Any attempt he makes to have her lie down in her dog bed is useless, she won't rest until she knows where I am.   And when I do walk in, no matter how short of a time I've been gone, she goes into a tap-dancing routine with her front paws and a joyous, tail-wagging, barking, licking extravaganza of a greeting that makes me feel like the Most Important Person in the World.  I guess I am, to Pudding.

I've been very blessed by these two dogs; they've been wonderful companions.  But the years have not been kind to either of them.  Almost two years ago, Pudding suddenly let out a wail one night that cut right through us.  It sounded as if she was in the worst pain of her life.  Joel and I rushed to her side to find her convulsing.  After a minute or so,  her head hit the floor and she stopped moving.  Joel listened to her chest and could not hear her heart.  We both thought it was over.    I was too stunned to cry and kept caressing her gently.  Suddenly she took a huge inhalation and struggled to right herself; again, we were both shocked, it was like a resurrection.  After a few minutes of cuddling, she got out of her bed, took a little drink of water and asked to go outside as if nothing had happened.

Well, the vet visit the next day confirmed that something had happened.  Pudding was in the early stages of congestive heart failure.  She was put on two different heart medications.

Teddy has always had problems with allergies, he is a very itchy dog and very prone to ear and eye infections.  And sadly, one day last fall after I gave him a bath, he fainted.  The vet visit again confirmed the same diagnosis:  Congestive heart failure.  Teddy's heart failure escalated faster than Pudding's at first; he is on three different heart meds.  He has horrible coughing attacks every day, but still eats and drinks as usual.  The coughing attacks are hard to hear, but there isn't much that can be done.  We know we're on borrowed time. 

Both dogs loved to walk, but we've had to cut them down to much shorter excursions as the months go by.  I usually don't put a leash on Pudding because she follows me so closely and most of her walks are around the Back Eight.  Sometimes we go a short way down the road and back, but gone are the days of going along at a clip.  Sometimes Pudding stops to investigate a tantalizing smell and before I realize it, I'm a good twenty feet ahead of her.  When she realizes she's being left behind, she comes running full bore and my heart is always in my throat, no, don't run, it could kill you.

In fact I told the veterinarian about her wanting to run to meet me and he said, "It's very likely she'll be running one day and simply drop.  Dogs just don't realize that they shouldn't stress their hearts."  So I try to watch both dogs carefully to make sure I don't get too far ahead of them by accident.  Until this past Saturday, that is.

Joel, Dave and I had been cutting down some dead elm trees on the line fence in the back forty.  Carl had stayed home to work on taking a nap, he'd been working too hard and needed the rest.  When he woke up, he brought both dogs out to the field for their evening walk.  It was getting dark and we were finishing up, so I opted to walk the dogs back home while the men took the tractors and trailers.  Pudding was as happy as ever to see me and frisking about, but Teddy was having none of it and was clearly tired.  I handed Teddy up to Joel on the tractor and Pudding and I headed for home walking.

I don't know why I didn't notice that Pudding was tiring; I was wrapped up in my own thoughts about Mom and supper and a dozen other things.  Worrying, of course.  Finally I realized she was panting heavily, so I picked her up and carried her the rest of the way home.  She licked my face, Pudding loves to lick, and we went on like this for awhile when she started to squirm a little, so I put her down and she trotted on happily by my side.  By the time we got to the house, she had a hard time making it up the steps so I helped her with the second one.  She went in and laid down immediately, and I could tell her breathing was still fast, but she seemed ok.  I should not have had her walk so far, what was I thinking?

I set about making the evening meal and doing what had to be done afterward while keeping an eye on Pudding.  She didn't want to eat her dinner and I had to help her get outside to go potty that night.  Her eyes were clear and bright, but her breathing was difficult.  She finally snuggled down in her bed, gave me a goodnight lick and seemed more comfortable, so I went to bed.  A few hours later, Teddy woke me up, barking.  Pudding was struggling to breathe and harsh, dry coughs were wracking her body.  Carl and I quickly dressed and took her to the emergency veterinarian, arriving at 3AM.

Her initial evaluation was critical, she was struggling to breathe, her gums and tongue were purple, but when I handed her off to the technician, Pudding leaned into me with all of her might.  She did not want to leave me.  I told her it would be fine, and with one last lick, she was whisked off to an oxygen kennel and some furosemide injections to try to reduce the fluid build up.  We were sent to a waiting room where I numbly realized the error of my ways in making Pudding walk too far.  Why had I done it?

Carl assured me I hadn't intentionally overworked her; he also pointed out this is the progression of congestive heart failure and we knew it was coming.  The very nice veterinarian came in to talk to us and said Pudding's condition was grave, but they would leave her in the oxygen and see if the furosemide would help.  We were to go home and wait. 

As we were leaving, the technician had us leave a deposit and then said, "Would you like to see Pudding before you go and say good night?"

I started to say yes, but Carl cut me off.

"No, it will just upset Pudding more if you go in there and don't take her with you.  Let's just let her rest."

He was right, so, blinking back tears, we left the Vet ER just as the sun was starting to come up.

I called to check on Pudding at 9AM and they were happy to tell us she'd come out of oxygen, had trotted out with them to use the potty and seemed to be breathing much easier.  At my 2PM call, the news was much the same.  And the veterinarian called us for the last time at 6PM to tell us we could come and get her, "I've never seen a dog bounce back so well, she's looking very good."

So, there will be no more long walks for Pudding, I will never make that mistake again.  The furosemide seems to be working for her breathing, but she does not have much of an appetite at all and sleeps a lot.  And this morning, she looked at me so sadly, because she had wet the floor.  I know she couldn't help it, the water pill is relentless and she had no choice.

Teddy isn't doing much better or worse, he coughs when he gets up and struggles for breath, but can still walk around the house fairly well.  He's blind in one eye and his hearing is very bad.  But when Joel comes home, he's always glad to see his person.  As Mom was for Sparky, and I am for Pudding,  Joel is Teddy's favorite person, always has been, always will be.  Teddy is definitely Joel's dog. 

I have another veterinarian appointment for the two of them this afternoon.  I know the news
probably won't be good.  I know it's just a matter of time.  So, in the meantime, I worry over every little cough, monitor their breathing rates and dread going to bed as much as I dread waking up and wondering what happened overnight for both my dear mother and my dogs.

Stress, thy name is Karen.

 Everyone I know who has had a dog die tells me the same thing, I will know when it's time to say goodbye.

And it will be one of the hardest goodbyes of my life.

But for now I will try to keep my worrying to a minimum, for where there is life, there is hope.

Mom and Pudding

“Cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey.”
Jack Layton