Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holding On to the Past While Moving Forward - A Memory of a Dog

It was three years ago, late February. I had just gotten off duty and was headed on up to Chicago to join my husband of four months for the weekend. It was a 400-mile round trip I made most every weekend there was not severe weather over several years before we got married, and then again as I waited for a transfer without sacrificing pay grade so we could finally both work and live in the same city.

How this trip was different was that my dog of 11 years, Barkley, was not making the journey with me, only his collar and leash and a few toys in a box that I could not bear to part with. His remains were in the polished box on my crash pad dresser. I laid my hand on it as I left, imagining warmth that was not there and softly said goodbye, telling him I'd be back soon.

It was a solemn drive and a lonely one. You'd think an animal that slept a lot wouldn't be much company on a long drive but he was. He was the reason I'd stop at the rest stops so he could get a little walk; he was the reason we'd sometimes go through a drive-thru where he would get a kid sized burger, no mustard or pickles, and a soft serve cone. I'd take a point and shoot camera and hold it up without taking my eyes off the road. Many of the pictures continue to make me smile to this day.
One more inch and the Cheez-It's are MINE!

That day, I was fixed in the annealed spot that was his fate and mine as outside the miles of cornfields and the steady thump of late night tires flew past me as if I were frozen to the ground. The drive could have been five minutes, it would have been five hours but I remember thinking that if I would stop, he would somehow appear in the back of the extended cab pickup truck as if there was some quality of the eternal in the hushed journey forward. I did make one stop at a long deserted rest area, and of course, he was not there, There was only that box of dog memories and tears that stained the steering wheel. I sat in the truck motionless as outside of me the farmland stretched away from me, merging into the limitless silence of every loss I'd known.

We've all been there, going on about our lives, happy, with a plan, then suddenly, what was mapped out is literally shredded before us, leaving us to pick up the scraps laid down on the floor and move on, that rewind button nowhere in reach. It can be the biggest moments of our lives, it can be the smallest ones. It can be a relationship ended, or a friendship snubbed. It can be simply a day where nothing went as planned, unforecast weather aloft, a cantankerous crew chief, and you really can't complain, as everyone's looking at you for direction as you're the commander; you can simply hunker to the new challenge sobered looking out the cockpit window as you realize your deep dependence upon the invisible.
The key thing is we gather up we have left and look forward. Even more importantly, we do so with a communion of not just saints but of sinners. I remember so many days there after we lost both Barkley and my brother to cancer at the same time when my friends would stop by. They'd talk with cheerfulness of the good things they remembered, we would plan things in the future to look forward to. When they left, with a cheerful wave, it seemed as if they left a bit of themselves with me, some of their stores of strength and hope, renewed affirmation in the promise of life. I realized then just how much I needed them.

I'd always prided myself on being the kind of person that could handle things most people couldn't, so aware of how in those moments when man's bones and flesh are laid upon fate's altar to be torn, there is a moment when that will of bone and flesh to remain alive is almost enough to sustain it. I approached each day with that will, only to find that it took just one act of fate, that neither marked my flesh or my form, to make me as fearful as a child, suddenly left alone.

With my family and friend's help, with their shared stories, memories and laughter, my heart healed. There isn't a day I don't miss my brother, but I feel him close. There are days I still pick up Barkley's collar and tear up but there are as many days as I laugh as I relate a story I never put to paper about Barkley, sharing with the friends that knew and loved him.
For life does indeed go on.  As I went for a walk earlier at one of the city parks, I watched Abby Lab jaunt joyfully ahead on the leash with my husband. When she was dumped at a high kill shelter, very sick, she likely had no happy thoughts of the future, only fear.  When she was well again and her foster mom from the Lab rescue organization brought her over to meet me I wondered if it was too soon, that perhaps I should have waited to get another dog.  The foster mom said before she drove over that I was under no obligation, there would be other dogs and she would have a good home with someone soon. But then that gentle dog moved towards me, drifting across the parking lot like shadow, to a stranger.  She then leaned lightly against my leg so my hand could caress her head, looking at something only dogs can see off in the distance, vibrating like a released string.  I knew then she was at home. Her trust in me indicated that like dogs will often do, she joyfully mistook the world as a place with a doubtless future. Here she would stay, my not wishing to shatter that illusion.

She's been with us almost three years now, and she acts as if her former home, the shelter, that great drive for emergency vet care, was all the memory of someone else.  When she bounds up the step from the yard, she pauses at the back door, as if sensing she had gone to sleep in one place and awoken to another. What is painful to her is only a dream.  When I come home at night, she is laying by the back door, rising only on the sound of my voice, as if she had laid guardian to all I held dear in my absence, only relinquishing it, these walls, and windows, and memories of dogs gone before, only when I was safely  home.

I will open the door and she will be there dancing around as if I'd been gone for years, and we'll enter the house together, those three years crowded into one moment, one room, one instant of time so full there is no room for tears, but only breath.

Today, I knew that even if cancer had not come into our lives, Barkley would still be gone. There are some journeys that are inevitable for us all.  Yet as I looked outside, I realized that whatever has happened to me, the world outside was just how we both would remember it. There was motion, there were laughter and tears, there would be new memories and love that ebbed and flowed like the waves upon the lake. As I looked out on the water's surface, the gentle waves swept away vast and drowsy, like a vision of life with a shadowed surface and somber depths. I gave it a defiant smile and ran after the dog, toward a future that sparkled off in the distance like diamonds.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Dog Haiku

Of course I'm asleep
you said fluffy bed was mine
you meant the small one?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dogs! Cats! Horses! Heifers!

 I'm not sure how I stumbled across this, but this has to be THE most annoying pet informercial I have ever witnessed. I'm not sure if she has a cough drop in our mouth to keep from coughing from all the hair, but the voice is. . . well, you'll just have to experience it.

 I played it and Abby whined and went and hid in the closet.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Where the Wubba Hits the Road - A Barkley Memory

Angel Barkley stayed at a doggie day camp occasionally when I knew I was going to be away from home 12 hours plus, til myself or a friend picked him up. We were living in Indiana and visiting my boyfriend (now husband) in Chicago on our weekends. He loved that day camp place as it had lots of outside and indoor play areas with wading pools when it was hot and all kinds of toys. His favorite was this really hard rubber ball with feet on it. It also squeaked. Any of you who read The Book of Barkley, know all about the infamous Mr. Squeaky, but in looking through some old photos today, I saw a photo of another toy that I had forgotten about.

Abby Lab LOVES her stuffies and is normally very gentle with them. Barkley would destroy any cloth toy with a squeaker in minutes, but the doggie day camp had this large toy with feet that was so hard, he couldn't get his teeth through it and could just work it with his jaws, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK. (I was thinking at the time I should buy the folks at the dog camp some high caliber ear protection.)

I wanted to get him one, but I'd never seen one in the pet toy section of the small pet store where I normally shopped. It looked to be made out of the hard Kong material but that's all I knew. Then, surprise! my boyfriend (now Abby Lab's "Dad") was able to find one at a big pet store in Chicago and presented it to Barkley for his birthday and he continued to play with it until the incessant squeaking was such it got taken away for a while each day (Look! A Squirrel! Mr. Squeaky? What Mr. Squeaky?)

Until the day the squeaker died.

He got a tooth in the little vent in the back for air to move in and out of. Over a few days, he worked enough of a hole in it that it wouldn't squeak but would just sort of wheeze like an asthmatic blowfish.

He was seriously bummed.
I know, Mr. Squeaky is DOA and your other friends are home with their paw-rents. But come on, it's the new issue of Classic Trains!

I got tired of the look so off I went.

To the big-box pet mart. They didn't have one in stock, but they did have a similar device, a kong style big ball that squeaked. Not as big, and not quite as hard, but pretty thick AND wrapped in extra tough fabric (reinforced! it said). The instructions were in English AND French (do not ask me why as it was "American designed and tested" and "made in China"). Jeu amusant et interactif! Fun, interactive play! At last I could use my college French, -yes, for instead of taking a language that appears to be more popular than English in most border states I took French, finding out quickly I did not have a talent for languages though I got an A, out of sheer effort and some tutoring. Put it this way, one day in my airline pilot days, I made the announcement to the back of the airplane about checking your seatbelts and flight attendants be seated in English and what I thought was flawless French as we had about two dozen French students on board on some sort school-relatedted trip. When we landed they were all totally cracking up when they were deplaning, waving at me and giggling.  Finally, I said "OK, what DID I say?"

Apparently, the French announcement was "We're becoming unglued, guard your nose for a quick abruptness".

The Kong WUBBA!

He was so happy. For three minutes. SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, JOUET COUINEURrrrr!


I removed the remains in a bucket.

That night it was another annoying night at the crash pad with Calgon Dog, but fortunately, my soon to be husband was able to find another pink Mr. Squeekee, that now sits on the top of the box that holds the remains and memory of the black lab that stole both my shoes and my heart.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More Valentine's Day Excitement! (It's the Kaboomy kind)

It's that time of year folks, flying cupids, Hallmark cards, and presents.

I got a new stuffie and a cup to put treats in.

And a BEAUTIFUL card from my sweet Frankie Furter.
 You can't really see it in the picture but the "water" in the card is all sparkley and so pretty.
I'm so tired out from the great day at the K-OSS pawty and getting to be town chef for the day, I was too tired to even get on my bed or the couch.
Best Day Ever!  Blogville really outdid itself.  Fun, Food, dance lessons, skydiving, bungee jumping games for the kids.  WOW!  But now it's time to tell you about Mom's Valentine's day
Mom appears to have received an old antique box. Mom wasn't sure what was in it as Dad usually makes her something for Valentine's day - she's had a bouquet of duct tape roses, a carved wooden cupid that shot a rubber band weapon (perfect for bouts of  workplace immaturity), a hand enameled red whiskey flask that said "Candy is Dandy but Liquor is Quicker" and some beautiful paracord creations or handmade pillows (Dad actually likes to sew crafty things, Mom would rather have a root canal).  She had NO idea what to expect this time.

It started with a card.
with a somewhat cryptic message.

Hmmm, it's a copy of the Blaster's Handbook (copyright 1949)
 Apparently, Mom is  going to need some directions with her "gift"
Time to carefully open the box.

It seems Dad has Put the BOMB in Bath Bombs!

If you haven't seen one, ladies buy them at the drugstore or from Etsy shops for their bathtime. Made out of baking soda, citric acid, Epsom salts, water, oils and fragrance oil they are usually formed into round balls and make a wonderful fizzy and moisturizing bath. The home DIY ones usually turn out a bit more crumbly than the store bought and Etsy ones but they use very simple home ingredients in them for even the beginner.

Mom's smell like lavender/sandalwood/orange, very relaxing. Just toss in the bath water.  Mom removed one for a test bath (after removing the "fuse") and gave it a thumbs up!

Well done Dad well done!

We hope you all had a memorable Valentine's Day. Thanks to everyone that participated in the pawty antics and had such detailed and clever posts about it.  We loved meeting old friends and making new ones. That is what Blogville is all about.
I know I had a BLAST.

The Catering Truck has Arrived - Time to Paw-ty

It's time to PAW-ty folks.

Abby Lab - Blogville Chef here with the NEW and improved catering truck.  I've got it set up to have both hot and cold foodables set up for the Banquet Hall and we'll have some snacks set up outside for those that want to enjoy a little sunshine.

For fun for all of the Blogville adults visit our hosts

They also include links for Madi, who is giving the dance instruction and Oreo who has a HUGE aerial surprise for all.

Plus Arty will be hosting a Kid's Room for the youngsters over at

Frankie and I will be hitting the dance floor with his brother Ernie and his beautiful girlfriend Roxie once the food is set up so help yourself. 
There's pizza bones but this time you can eat the whole slice!

Here's thin crust squirrel sausage pizza
And my favorite:

Classic Furter Pizza made out of hot dogs!

Don't forget your Woofle Fries.

We have so many nummy things to offer for party goers today!

We've got country fried bacon with squirrel gravy to dunk it in.

I've even got my favorite wiener dog here to help me out. Hi Frankie!
And more hot dog goodness with weiner wraps
 There's lots of yummy fruits and veggies for those that don't eat meat plus

cheesy mice~

The day isn't done til you've had some paw-some cookies (and we have some catnip ones for our feline friends)
 Yummm - gluten free rice crispy bones!
 Of course, since it's valentine's day you have to have some conversation heart cookies.

 Don't forget to grab a pupcake or a kitticake.
 And thanks to our friends at Chewy we have a whole table full of crunchy treats.

 Cat Pops

Yum - they have coconut!

And if you are thirsty after dancing cool off with some. .

or go see Ruby at the Margarita truck for one of her tasty concoctions!

Hey - where did Abby and Frankie go?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pre-Valentine's Dilemmas

It's pretty hard to top the dozen roses Dad made for Mom
 out of duct tape for their first Valentine's 

Abby Lab here.  Mom just realized that she doesn't have any wrapping paper suitable for Valentine's Day for Dad's gift, only some Santa and Reindeer paper.

Don't worry Mom - you can just add some stickers to it and it will be JUST fine and you don't have to drive into the city to buy more paper.

See you all at the paw-ty tomorrow - I'll be there with the new Blogville catering truck