Tag Archives: dogs

Happy birthday, Pax!

My dearest Pax is 10 years old! The pups in his litter were born during the late night hours of Oct. 8, 2001, into the early morning hours of Oct. 9. Not sure which day is his official birthday. This picture was taken that very first day. He was the blue collar black boy — I think that’s him on top of the pile.

Here he is on day 3. I find it hard to believe he was ever this tiny.

In the litter, he was the first boy to open his eyes, and he was the most adventurous of the black boys when they were taken out of the whelping room for the first time. Here he is exploring the deck on his first trip outside.

Their whelping room became a playground as they got a little older. I love this picture of him napping under a ramp.

I fell in love with him as soon as he came home. My beloved Great Pyr, Satch, passed away one month after Pax came home. I think he had been waiting for me to have another heart dog, and Pax most definitely was that. He would crawl into my arms to sleep, and it just melted my heart. He bonded to me as closely as I bonded to him. Jay and my friend Debi tried to give me a break one night so I could get some uninterrupted sleep. Pax climbed over a baby gate and lay in my discarded clothes until Jay came up and put him in bed with me. He curled up against my stomach and was instantly asleep.

He has slept at my feet nearly every night since. (Except when we travel. If we stay in a motel with two queen-sized beds in the room, he claims one and sleeps with his head on the pillow and legs stretched out to take up as much room as he can.) In the mornings, he crawls up to the top of the bed and snuggles with me. It’s my favorite time with him.

Pax means “peace,” and he lives up to his name. I call him my Gandhi-dog, but the name isn’t really right. He doesn’t like to fight, but if he’s forced into one, he doesn’t back down. He and Aslan got into two big fights, and both times he kicked Aslan’s butt. (Much to Aslan’s dismay and mortification.) Those are anomalies though. He is a gentle, peaceful, loving soul.

For the longest time, he was ageless. Six, seven, eight… no one could believe his age. So young and energetic, such a delightful personality. But then the years began to show. He has cataracts now, and his hearing isn’t what it used to be. We keep a close eye on his health, and so far, so good, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t worry me. His father lived to be 13, and that suddenly feels so close. I want to freeze time, to keep him here right now, healthy and happy and with me. But I can’t. All I can do is cherish every minute I do have with him.

I love you, my dearest boy. You are the best part part of my heart.

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And time marches on….

Fall has fallen in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. I’m a southern transplant, and though I’ve lived here for more than 13 years, I’m still surprised when the season changes in September instead of late October. Of course, I should be equally surprised that summer arrives in July rather than April or May.

Here, Fall means the return of cool weather and rain. The maples, oddly, start turning in early June, but most trees start their transformation now, in early October. Not much color yet. Not sure we had enough extreme temperature this year to kick off a big color show. Summer was shorter and cooler than usual. The few warm weeks we had were stunningly perfect, but there weren’t many of them. Those native to the area tend to crave those hot, over 90* days, and probably feel they didn’t get any summer at all.

No big updates for the Alexander family. Work has been steady for both of us. Jay played manager for a month while the senior managers were on vacation, and he hated every minute. Neither of us likes that particular career path. The dogs are doing fine, all healthy and happy. River is still torturing his siblings, but he is such a delight it’s difficult to be upset with him. Pax and Pflouff are happy, contented dogs, but River is the living embodiment of JOY. It’s impossible not to fall in love with him. Just seeing him makes me smile.

Life on the farm has been uneventful. Blue and Guin are down in Olympia, rather than here at the house. Blue, in fact, is no longer mine. He officially belongs to his 13-year-old soulmate, Heidi. They are amazing together, and I can’t imagine a better home-for-life for him. Guin doesn’t like to be alone, so rather than keep her here, she’s living a happy retirement and being spoiled by children who like to comb her long mane and tail. Without the horses, the farm is considerably less chaotic. I raised a small vegetable garden with sugar snap peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Corn too, but it didn’t do so well up here on the ridge. I planted roses too.

We haven’t done any work on the house yet this year, but Jay is anxious to start on the basement. We’re planning to gut it, floor to ceiling, so we can redo the electrical, add heat and air between stories, update plumbing if necessary, and move walls around. We’re going to move the stairs around too, which will probably be the most expensive part of the process — and definitely the most inconvenient. Not sure what we’re going to do with the basement floor, but I’m determined to get the leak fixed!

I’ve been working on my novel. Slowly. But positive, forward progress. I like it, and I’m determined to get it finished. In the meantime I’m living vicariously through my dear friend Sharon Fisher whose first book, Ghost Planet, will be published by Tor in November 2012. I’m beyond excited for her. She deserves every bit of her success (and I highly recommend the book!).

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I tried, tried, tried to get at least one photo for this post, but really:

  • My camera sucks.
  • I have a black dog.
  • I suck as a photographer.

Yeah. That means no cute smiling dog photo.

River, our youngest curly coated retriever, is now 11 and a half months old. He was the runt of his litter, so it was natural, when we got him, to call him Little Bit. He was just a little bit of a thing, especially next to Pax and Pflouff. Now the nickname seems ironic — like calling the bald guy “Curly.” He is the tallest of the three and the second-heaviest. And he’s still growing. Little Bit will be our  largest dog when he matures. Even bigger than the Newf.

From the beginning I noticed something odd about him. He loved to run, loved to wrestle, but he almost never jumped. If he couldn’t climb up, he put his front paws up and waited to be lifted. That was not normal, not for a puppy of any breed, much less a curly. In March I took him to the vet and had his hips x-rayed. The ball and socket of his left hip joint didn’t fit well.

For the record, I don’t believe this was breeder error. He has an awesome breeder, Dawn Fleming in Ohio, who did all the research and health checks. (No dysplasia in either side of the pedigree for generations.) River was the runt of the litter and developmentally behind his siblings throughout his early life. My personal theory, truly, is that he just wasn’t done baking yet. No one’s fault.

The vet referred us immediately to a specialist, Dr. Byron Misseghers at Puget Sound Animal Hospital. Dr. Misseghers recommended a triple pelvis osteotomy (TPO) on that hip. It shot the budget for working on the house this summer, but we didn’t hesitate — not about money anyway. We were scared to death about the post-surgery recovery process. River is a somewhat. . . emotionally fragile. . . dog. Would he be able to handle eight weeks in a crate? Would I? I was an emotional wreck when I left him for surgery. I understood then why parents fall apart when their children are in the emergency room. He was so frightened, and I was so helpless. I still choke up thinking about it.

He came through the surgery amazingly well. When we picked him up the next day, he was walking without a limp — even the surgeon and vet techs were amazed. I was armed with a bag full of antibiotics, pain pills, and sedatives. A dear friend of mine had been a vet tech at this vet hospital for five years and had a dog go through the same surgery. “Use the sedative,” she told me. “It will make the confinement bearable for both of you.”

I took her advice to heart. The first week was easy — much, much easier than I’d ever dreamed possible — because he was on so many meds and still healing. He was in his crate except when he had to go out to pee, on leash only, straight out and straight back in. I put the crate near my desk, and I moved a mattress downstairs to sleep next to him, so he wouldn’t be alone at night. When he came off the bulk of the meds, we had to up the sedative a tiny bit. He began to get a little more restless and a little more vocal. We followed the vet’s instructions to the letter, though: crate rest, on leash to pee, no stairs, no playing with the other dogs.

After four weeks, he had follow up x-rays. The vet said they looked great, and so he lightened the restrictions. Still no stairs and no playing with the other dogs, so he moved from his crate to an ex-pen in the same area. Through the next few weeks we increased him freedoms gradually. Off leash to pee. Access to a larger area with some stairs. Pax (who won’t wrestle) in the area with him. Despite the added freedoms, those were difficult weeks. He had been a good soldier for the first few weeks, but he was making it clear now: He was DONE. It was time to be a real dog again.

On June 4, eight weeks post-surgery (almost — it was three days early because it got too hot to restrict him to his ex-pen), River was given his final freedom: access to Pflouff. I don’t think they’ve stopped wrestling since. “River, stop torturing your sister!” has again become the most often heard mantra of the house. I and all three dogs have moved back upstairs to the master bedroom with my husband.

What does it mean long-term? I don’t know. I hope it means that he’ll have essentially normal hips and be mostly pain-free throughout his life. He isn’t jumping much, but that could be habit rather than pain. He won’t ever be an agility dog, but I’m okay with that. I just want him to be happy and healthy.

And now that he’s a completely normal teenager again, I want him to grow up and stop torturing his sister. You know, I kind of liked him in the box. . . .

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I forgot!

I’m so sorry. In my haste to get my post out yesterday, I completely forgot about adding a photo and a personal update. As recompense, here are a couple of extra pictures.

First, here are two pictures of the snow we had last week. Both are taken from our back deck, looking out toward the pastures. We have a fair number of trees in our pastures, which I like, because trees provide shelter from sun, wind, and rain when the horses don’t want to go back to the barn.

And here’s a picture of Little Bit with his daddy. River is a snuggler; sit on the couch in the evening, and you’re guaranteed to have him squeeze in beside you for a nap.

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Looking forward to 2011… and beyond

I’m probably not the only person who has been reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next one. As I’ve thought about and planned my writing goals for the next year, I’ve been trying to put them in a more big-picture context of a writing career.

My first goal is to finish Doubting River. I should have finished it this year, but I completely overwhelmed myself in the latter half of the year. I backburnered it for a while, and then had trouble getting back on track.


I know I’m busy, so I’m going to be realistic. Desired word count per day: 500 words. Absolute minimum, must-accomplish-or-else: 250 words. If I do more than 500 words, that’s gravy.

Second goal is to update this blog twice a week. Sunday and Thursday, I think. I’ve been thinking about how to focus the blog in a way that will satisfy my current readership and, hopefully, increase it. The feedback I’ve gotten is that people seem to like the writing-related posts, which is good, because there aren’t enough dog- or farm-related events to warrant regular updates.

My plan, then, is to continue to blog about my novel and the industry, but to focus the bulk of the posts on “A Plotter’s Guide to Novel Writing.” I am a plotter to the extreme, and because I first wrote screenplays, I’m passionate about structure. Those “Just write and see where it takes you!” pantser types will no doubt feel ill at the thought of putting so much planning into your first draft. Keep an open mind though. You might find something helpful for your editing rounds!

Those of you who want to read more about River, Pax, Pflouff, and the rest of the critters, don’t worry! I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve needed more photos and videos on the site. So I think I’ll make a goal of including a dog pic (or video) with each post, plus a short anecdote or update. If you think about it, you’re probably going to get more content than if I targeted the blog around the dogs!

My remaining writing-related goals are dependent upon the completion of goal number one:

Goal #3: Get an agent. I want to attend at least one conference this year — preferably two — and I want to get another partial critique from an agent during Brenda Novak’s charity auction in May. I did that last year, and the agent has requested the full. I will definitely send it to her as soon as it’s complete.

And finally…

Goal #4: Start a new book! I already have the premise. I’ve been anxious to write it for a long time, but I refuse to do so until Doubting River is out on submission.

I’m really looking forward to 2011! What about you? What are your goals?

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