RIP, Pax

[Note to readers: I got very, very behind on updating this blog. I missed some very important events that I am going back and documenting now — and setting the dates back as well. I’m actually writing this post at the end of March, 2017. ]

Today was “the day” for my beloved Pax.

He has long been plagued by arthritis in his back and hips that we’ve managed with drugs. Still, as he aged, he lost more and more function in his hips. Now we’ve reached an impasse: if we give him enough medication to mute the pain, his hips are too wobbly to walk unaided. If we don’t, he can walk, but he’s in constant pain.

And, so, today we say goodbye to our dear boy. My heart is utterly broken, even though I’ve been anticipating this for some time.

Pax was my first curly — the first I ever saw, much less owned. He was everything I wanted in a dog — biddable (but still opinionated), brave, kind, brilliant, goofy, solid as a rock. We got him from Cathy Lewandowski in upstate New York. Her SoftMaple dogs are simply lovely, and I couldn’t have asked for better.

Pax was my dog, my heart dog. I was his mom, and no one else would do. One time soon after we got him a friend came over to “babysit,” so I could get some much needed sleep. Pax wouldn’t stand for that. He climbed the gate and sought me out and made himself a nuisance until Jay finally had to bring him in to me. I lifted the blanket, and Pax snuggled in next to me and fell asleep.

Together, everything was better.

He was young for a very long time. Even at 8, people mistook him for a teenager. But eventually age catches up. The harness in the picture above was an absolute life saver. It’s called the Help ‘Em Up harness, and it gave us at least two additional years with him. Even at the end, it was his body, not his mind or his heart, that gave out.

It’s very quiet here without my curly boys. Miss Pflouff, our Newf, is alone for the first time in her life. Jay and I are able to go out without hiring a babysitter. I won’t have to wake up every hour or two to help Pax shift positions, or to help him outside.

Sometimes taking care of Pax was hard, but I wouldn’t have traded it. Not one second of it. I love you, Paxil. I will always love you. See you at the Bridge.

Share
Posted in Menagerie | Tagged | Leave a comment

Starting a New Job

[Note to readers: I got very, very behind on updating this blog. I missed some very important events that I am going back and documenting now — and setting the dates back as well. I’m actually writing this post at the end of March, 2017. ]

I’ve been working from home doing contract and freelance work since, oh, 2001 or so? A long time. Since 2008, a large percentage of that work has been for T-Mobile. I adore T-Mobile. I have loved so many of my projects there, and more importantly, I have made some very good friends.

Today I started a new adventure: my very first FTE job since I left Microsoft back in 2001. I am a “Learning Solutions Engineer” for American Express Global Business Travel (AEGBT).

The job came about in an odd way. Back in January, when I was between contracts, I posted on LinkedIn that I was “looking for an ID position to ROCK in 2016.” One of my contacts responded and said she might have something. That person turned out to be a Director of Learning at AEGBT.

As is common with FTE jobs, nothing happened quickly. She passed my resume to someone else at the org, and I ended up having a nice chat with a different director. He and I hit it off (professionally speaking, of course), but he didn’t have an open position at the time. Then there was a big shake-up in the learning org that supports the frontline travel agents, and they had several open positions. I applied, interviewed with several different people, and here I am!

I mentioned a shake-up. Not only was my senior ID position open, but several management positions (including manager of this department) and the director of this org are all open. I actually applied for a management position, but they wanted me as an ID. It was my breadth of experience that appealed to them. They need a strong designer who can think out of the box. I was disappointed not to get the manager position, but they’re paying me well, AND it’s work-from-home.

Did I forget to mention that? Yup. 100% remote!

I am really, really, really excited about this. I’m actually glad to have the (perceived) stability of an FTE job right now. I am tired of bouncing and want to belong and make a difference. Contractors are, by definition, temporary.

Wish me luck!

Share
Posted in General News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

RIP, River

It has been a hard month here. On Feb. 27, we lost our retired mare, Guin. On March 22, we suffered a much more unexpected blow: we lost our precious River, our youngest curly coated retriever, to bloat.

When I woke up in the morning, River would give me kisses, washing the sleep out of my eyes. It’s much harder to get up now, to convince myself to crawl out from under my warm covers. Maybe I just don’t want to.

Then we — I and all the dogs — would go walkabout. Every morning I would have to tell River not to chew on his brother’s ears, not to chew his sister’s face, not to push Pax down the stairs, not to stop in front of me and trip me. Walkabouts are boring now.

Mornings are the hardest.

I occasionally get a bit wrapped up in my computer. (Hard to believe, I know.) River would come over, paw my leg in a most annoying way, and gaze up at me in the most endearing way. He was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Ever. He would persist with this until I got up to feed them.

I was half an hour late feeding Pax and Pflouff this morning. Neither said a word. They might starve to death.

Mealtimes are the hardest.

When he was a puppy, River didn’t nap. He would lie sternal, looking around, for hours, waiting for someone to get up and entertain him. That is, until I sat on the couch. Then he would throw himself at me, shiver and sigh, and settle close. He would fall asleep almost immediately.

A form of that ritual persisted throughout his life. Someone on the couch was a lap for him. He snuggled close, gave sweet kisses, and then lay down with his head on your thigh. Every moment we sat on the couch, we had a River.

River was an anxious dog, and those moments on the couch were the thing that most soothed him. And me. Now sitting on the couch feels very empty.

Quiet moments on the couch are the hardest.

The very first night River came home, he slept between me and Jay. That was his spot until his legs got too long. That was when we added the dog bed, a twin bed wedged between my side of our king-sized bed and the wall. He slept across the top of that bed with his head on my pillow for a long time. Eventually he moved back between us.

Jason reminded me last night of the time when River had surgery on his hips. He had to be crated for eight weeks. I spent those eight weeks sleeping on the floor next to his crate, my fingers through the bars, stroking him. It was for me as much as for him. I couldn’t bear to be separated.

Most nights, he and I would start the night cheek-to-cheek on my pillow, snuggled as close as we could get. Like when he was a puppy, he would shiver a little and sigh as he settled. Pure contentment. Eventually I would have to turn over, because he kicked in his sleep. It was like sleeping with a jack rabbit.

There’s too much room now.

Night time is the hardest.

2015-04-23 15.12.41

It’s the little things that catch me unaware. Often it’s the things that drove me crazy when he was here.

I miss tripping over his toys and telling him to get out of my kitchen. I miss scratching his riblets. (I really want to scratch his riblets.) I miss the puddle of drool at my feet at the kitchen table. I put away all the drool cloths. I threw away a paper towel tube because he wasn’t here to play with it. I miss his eagerness to be first in line — for anything. Opening the cabinet and seeing his seizure meds brings tears to my eyes.

I talk to him a lot.

Last night I felt a dog settle next to my leg in bed when there was no dog nearby.

Breathing is the hardest.

2015-04-23 15.16.19

I love you, River.

Share
Posted in Menagerie | Tagged | 10 Comments

RIP, Guinevere

My sweet Guin went to the Rainbow Bridge today.

Guin was a half-Percheron / half-something-small-we-guess-Quarter-Horse who spent the first 10 years of her life as PMU mare. That means the farm would breed her, wean off the foal early, and then keep her standing in a narrow stall for 6 months while they gathered her urine to be used in Premarin, the hormone replacement drug. The farms downsized drastically in 2002 when artificial hormones entered the scene, and she was rescued.

I got her in 2004, the same time I got Blue. I suppose it’s fitting that they’re leaving my life so close together. Guin was an amazing mare. She had very little training, but she filled riders with confidence. Riders who were afraid to ride other horses wanted to ride her and trusted her to see them home safe.

As she aged, she developed a problem in her feet that prevented her from being ridden, standing for very long, or for standing on three legs — something horses must do to have their feet trimmed. Guin and I were blessed to know Leslie Peeples, a farrier and clicker trainer, who not only taught her to lie down to have her feet trimmed, but also took my dear girl into her home for many years just to make sure she had the best foot care.

Miss Guin was queen of her farm for a long time. When Leslie moved to a new property, Leslie’s (and my) dear friend Jennifer moved in to her old place. They didn’t want to disrupt life for my old girl, so Jenn became her caretaker. Jenn took amazing care of my girl this past year, and it was Jenn who saw her off on her journey to the Bridge this morning.

I love Leslie and Jennifer with all my heart both because they are the best friends I could imagine and because they loved Guin as much as I did. I could not have asked for better for her, not even if she had been at my home all this time.

I love you, Guinevere. I look forward to meeting you at the Bridge. Say hi to Princess, Rowan, Paragon, Hoss, Thunder, and Rubin for me.

 

Share
Posted in Menagerie | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2015 Year in Review

I’ve neglected this blog for much, much too long. Occasionally I would look at it and think I should post about something that had happened, but after being away so long, it seemed out of left field to do so.

But you know what isn’t out of left field? An end-of-year Christmas letter! I’m one of those people who really enjoys receiving these letters tucked inside Christmas cards, but since I don’t actually send Christmas cards, I can’t return the favor. So here is the Alexander year in review.

TL;DR: Ups, downs, we all survived. Now go drink some eggnog.

For those of you who want something a little more detailed:

5-year-old River had a tough year

5-year-old River had a tough year

We went into January happy and content. We were both employed, had a nice cushion in the savings account, and everyone was healthy. Then on January 3 — just three days into the new year — River reacted to a rabies vaccine and began having cluster seizures.

Fortunately, after a few days in the emergency clinic, he adjusted to the medication and has been largely seizure free since. In fact, we’ve identified just one on-going trigger: the vet clinic. Unfortunately it’s a consistent trigger. He gets so anxious that he has his first seizure as he approaches the door to a vet office.

This wouldn’t be a problem is he were a healthy dog, but he’s rather a fragile flower. I’ve got a plan to do some counter conditioning, but I have yet to implement it.

March saw a major change in my job situation. To my great disappointment, my contract at T-Mobile came to an end. I’ve worked there since 2007, and I would have loved to have stayed there for the rest of my career, but alas, it was not to be. Most of the company is moving away from contractors, and more than that, they’re moving away from work-from-home. Sad. I’m keeping in touch with my friends, but I still miss that place.

My lovely fireplace and red accent wall. That wall is my favorite part of my house.

My lovely fireplace and red accent wall. That wall is my favorite part of my house.

March had an upside too. We were finally ready to make serious progress on the basement remodel we started several years ago. We had originally planned to make the basement a large living room area, but I had an epiphany and it turned into a master bedroom. We have a gas fireplace, a gorgeous tile floor, a working-but-not-finished bathroom (that will eventually have a large walk-in shower), a walk-in closet, and bonus storage space. We moved down there in June, and I absolutely LOVE it.

Moving into the basement meant we were able to finally organize the house. I hired a neighbor boy and his friend to do the heavy lifting and FINALLY all the furniture is in the rooms it should be in, junk has been thrown out, and stored things are in storage. It’s quite a relief.

Finishing the basement cleared out that cash we had squirreled away, so by summer I was anxious to replenish it. When my contract at T-Mo ended, I moved right into a new position with a company called Trillium Creative Solutions. They’re a learning consulting company that primarily functions as a Microsoft vendor. I freelanced through them steadily until Microsoft’s fiscal year end at the end of June. They warned me that work would be unpredictable in July, but July turned into August and August into September. Small projects here and there, but the months crept by without anything steady. I began looking for work, but work-from-home is a deal killer to so many.

All of the job news isn’t bad, though. After 18 years working for University of Washington Medical Center Information Systems, in July Jay got a job at Philip’s Healthcare. And it’s work-from-home! Jay’s commute was 1.5-2 hours EACH WAY every day, and it was killing him. He loves his new job, but more than that, he loves all the time he has gained by giving up the commute.

7-year-old Pflouff -- thankfully healthy!

7-year-old Pflouff — thankfully healthy!

So as we moved into the fall, we had less money than we were used to, and my work was spotty, but we were doing okay. Then in October, the dogs started getting sick. River bloated. Pax had a serious attack of IBD. They recovered, and then a wave of kennel cough went through the house. First Pflouff — our strong, healthy Newf — had a mild case. Then River — the dog we can’t take to the vet — couldn’t breathe. Our incredible vet worked with us on the phone to diagnose and treat him for pneumonia. Just when we made it through that crisis, Pax developed pneumonia.

Pax. Too stubborn to pose for a picture

Pax. Too stubborn to pose for a picture

Our beautiful Pax is 14 years old. I wasn’t concerned initially, because River had just had this and came through it fine. But we took him to the animal emergency clinic… and he was there for three days. They didn’t think he would make it. When we brought him home, I think they thought it was hospice care. But he fooled everybody. He’s feisty. He rallied, and he has fully recovered.

Happy but dirty ponies

Happy but dirty ponies

That brings us to the end of December. Right now all is peaceful and content in the Alexander household. Pax is well enough to be an ass. River is curled up at my side where he belongs. I had a short project in November and early December that brought in some much-needed money. Jay is still enjoying his job. Pflouff and the ponies are, thankfully, staying out of trouble.

I’ll be glad to see the end of 2015. I’m hoping 2016 is better. I have a few resolutions, one of which is to update this blog more frequently. Hope all is well with you, and I hope to chat with you again soon!

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading!

Share
Posted in General News | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment