Category Archives: Menagerie

Ending 2016 and looking forward

[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. ]

This has been a long year, and I will not be sad to see it end. If I could figure out how to kick it in the ass on the way out, I’d be standing at the ready. Of course, I think I’d be in a long line. This hasn’t been a good year for very many people, I don’t think.

In January of this year, I had three dogs and three horses. Now I have two dogs — one new — and one horse. Sort of.

We lost Miss Guin back in January. My darling mare. She had an incredible retirement, and it was her time, so although it was sad, it was understandable.

I didn’t lose Mr. Blue — not in the permanent sense. Instead I gifted him to Heidi, the young woman who has adored him for many, many years. He’s in a good place with someone who loves him.

Rosa is our “sort of” horse. She’s an interesting story. We got her a couple of years ago with the plan to let her grow up, and then get her trained and rehomed. Unfortunately, she got hurt just a day or so after we got her. Turns out that injury is going to prevent her from being ridden.

We sent her for training back in April. By the end of June, he trainer had to throw in the towel. The lasting pain in that injury made Rosa potentially explosive and unsafe to ride. We are paying her board and looking for a permanent companion home for her.

We lost my curly boys, Pax and River, back in July and March respectively. The pain of that loss still hits me, still brings me to tears. Pax was an old man, yes, but River was not. River was lost much, much too soon.

Miss Pflouff, I’m happy to say, is still with us. She turned 8 this year. She has some issues with her shoulders, but she’s still trucking right along. We adore her.

And of course, there’s our newest boy, Mr. Polo. He has settled in and become a much loved member of our family. We missed having a curly boy.

I started a new job back in June, and it has gone incredibly well! I honestly couldn’t have asked for better. It turned out to be a blessing not to get the management position. I’ve excelled in the position they gave me, and I have terrific (new) leadership.

I’ve spent the last couple of months heads down on a big project that rolled out at the beginning of December. It went FABULOUSLY, and I’ve gotten nothing but congratulations since then. I really, really love working for this company!

The big news is what’s coming in 2017. Jay and I have decided to move… to Mexico.

Okay, sort of. We realized that he and I are BOTH working remotely, and that we’re tied only to US time zones. So we’ve decided to sell our house here, and “snowbird” outside of the country. We’re not moving permanently (or even officially, really). We’re going to keep an address here — just not a big house and 10 acres — and we’re going to pop back and forth, living in different places south of the border for 6 months or maybe up to a year at a time.

We want to travel and explore the world, but we don’t want to be TOURISTS. We want to immerse ourselves in other cultures. I’ve been planning to quit work in a few years and explore by boat, but we realized that since we’re both remote workers, we don’t have to wait.

We can’t do the boat thing right now because we need fast, reliable internet for our jobs. So we have to move and live on land, but that’s okay. This will be a good opportunity for up to get a jump start on what we want to do in retirement — and hopefully by selling the house, we can even save some money!

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Introducing: Polo!

[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. ]

And then this happened!

Introducing Bright Explorer Tornado Beta, the son of International Champion and World Dog Show Champion Roughyeds Poseidon. His call name is Polo, and he’s a 16-month-old curly coated retriever, who joined our family yesterday.

Polo has been living with a field trainer, but he wasn’t maintaining his weight there. Unfortunately, his owner has intact females and lacks the facilities to keep everyone separated. So Polo has come to live with me (and remaining intact, so his very desirable genes won’t be lost).

He’s performance bred, so we’re going to try out lots of fun activities. I’ve been really grieving the loss of my curly boys, so I’m super excited to have him and ever-so-grateful to Kari Swarztrauber for giving us this wonderful opportunity.

Jay and I left bright and early yesterday morning to drive the 250 miles to southern Washington to pick up Polo. The drive down was gorgeous and stress-free, and then we had a TERRIFIC time meeting Kari, Polo, and Kari’s lovely curly ladies. (And we had THE most delicious lunch. Kari grew everything herself, and it was marvelous. Her garden is just fabulous.)

Mr. Polo was sweet but reserved. Once we got in the car to drive home, he was pretty certain he had been dognapped! Jay sat in the back seat with him, which was good. It gave him a chance to start to trust one of us. We carefully regimented a procedure for opening and closing doors, putting on his leash, etc., since we didn’t want to risk his bolting away. He was obviously stressed and scared, but still very kind and biddable.

We stopped several times, giving him a chance to potty and decompress a bit, but 250 miles is a long time in the car. He didn’t sleep… laid down only off and on, and only for a minute or two at a time. For the last 100 miles, he was DONE. He wanted out.

When we got home, we put Pflouff on leash, intending to introduce them out on the driveway. NOPE. Polo was done. He growled and made it clear that he couldn’t handle more of that tonight. So we didn’t push it. Poor Miss Pflouff had to spend the night upstairs.

We took Polo down to the basement (where our bedroom is). Jay set up a crate for him, thinking he might be more comfortable there. He hasn’t set foot in it, though. He got on the bed and settled in Jay’s spot. I scooted over to the dog bed, so he could be between us without being “forced” to snuggle. He was still up and down a lot throughout the night, but he didn’t get off the bed, and he eventually fell asleep.

This morning, he was MUCH better. He played eagerly with us, both with and without toys. We played tug, and we threw a ball. Oh, and of course, we introduced him to Pflouff. It took a little while, because it took her time to understand that she needed to be calm and gentle, but now they are living together free and relaxed.

We’re going to be pretty low key and relaxed for a while to give him a chance to destress and adjust. He has a lot of exploring to do, and we want him to bond with us. Right now, Jay is his preferred dognapper. But as I write this, Jay is doing the grocery shopping, and Polo is lying on the floor at my feet.

We love him dearly and are so grateful to have him here.

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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.

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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.

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I love you, River.

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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.


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