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Monday, June 23, 2014

Our Dogs, Our Friends

Our Dogs, Our Friends


When most of us get a dog, the last thing we think of is his or her death (elder rescues excluded).  In most cases, we are caught up in the joy and excitement of having a new, fun loving creature in our lives.  Within minutes of entering our home, the furry being quickly becomes an important part of our everyday life.  He is there for us and with us day and night.  He sleeps with us, plays with us and often consoles us, but the truth is it’s a short-term proposition at best.  In the best of circumstances, he may live 17 – 18 years and in the worst of cases, he will be with us for less than a year.


 We just don’t know how it will play out.  We accept it and invite him to be part of our family for the amount of time ordained by God.


The Little Things Matter…

About two months ago, I observed that Sam was drinking and urinating more than usual.  The Vet tested his urine and he had a trace amount of blood in his urine.  Four days before we were scheduled to leave for a two-week vacation in Europe, Sam had an ultrasound and x-ray that showed he likely had bladder stones and possibly a mass on the right kidney.  He urinated blood for a day and a half before Dr. Daly performed surgery.  The day before we left for Rome, “Dr. D” performed a three-hour surgery to remove Sam’s right kidney and a large mass attached to it.  It was not cancerous.


We noticed a subtle change in Sam’s behavior and it lead to a surgery that saved his life.


Sam is now officially “the one kidney wonder!” I found the special “keep the dogs kidney healthy” recipe in Dr. Pitcairn’s Prescription for Natural Healing of Dogs & Cats and I am ordering the supplements this weekend so I can start making his food. 



is the dog most connected to me.  His emotional connection to me is often to his detriment and I must continually remind myself not to “drag him in to my angst.”   When my mom died, he lost 7 pounds and licked himself raw in three places.  He is the sweetest, most loving and expressive dog I’ve ever had in my life.


Borrowed Time

So, the previously hidden “life clock” is now more visible.  The surgery and sizeable Vet bill are but a tiny reminder that we are operating on borrowed time…but then again we always were. 


My Mission:

  • Cherish each day with my Wigglebutts
  • Wag my tail a little and celebrate my peeps every day!
  • Live in the now…dogs do!  Dogs don’t fear death so I’m going to push my fears away and try to better enjoy all of our days together.


And someday there will be a subtle change I don’t notice or a problem that can’t be fixed.  When it is finally time for us to part, I’m going to think of it as a temporary separation.  As my sister said about her beloved cat Oscar – He's been my angel and we sure did have fun but now we have to say meet you again soon. Oscar's just going ahead of us a bit to make base camp. 


Since I don’t really like camping, I’m pretty sure that when it is time, my guys will go ahead and get us a room at the Embassy Suites…two rooms, free breakfast and happy hour every night from 5 to 7.


All the while in my head I hear Paul McCartney’s clear, sweet voice:


And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make

*I cannot get Sam's photo to post.  I will add it later.  He was a handsome, handsome guy.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Week of Mom #5

Mom had emergency surgery the morning of August 16, 2008 and she seemed to be doing okay until “they couldn’t wake her up.”  My brother called me around 6:00 p.m. and I was at the hospital by 9:00 p.m.  By the time I got to her hospital room she was awake and not feeling too well.  Joe let me know that she was having morphine induced hallucinations. 

I was relieved that she recognized me as soon as I walked in.  Joe walked in behind me.  She looked confused and said “how do you know him?”  My first instinct was to laugh, but I must have had a look of horror on my face.  My kind & thoughtful brother stepped right in and reassured her I was his sister.  “Oh, that’s right” said Mom. 

The nurses were kind enough to bring in a reclining chair and a blanket and I settled in next to Mom.  She was extremely uncomfortable and we held hands for most of the night.  She leveled out by the following evening and I decided I would go to my friend Christine’s house for a shower and some real sleep.

We all need a friend like Christine.  I called her as I was in the midst of my three hour drive to the hospital.  She immediately volunteered her guest room should I need to stay in the area.  So, I headed to her house Sunday night with visions of a hot shower and a comfy bed.  Despite the fact that I arrived at her house at her normal bed time, she was waiting at the door (with her two handsome cocker spaniels) and she had a hot dinner waiting for me.

Dutch and Tanner – Halloween 2008

As we ate dinner, Christine recommended that I leave my car at her house the next morning and she would drop me at the Metro.  It would save me the expense and aggravation of parking in DC.  It seemed like a great idea to me…and then I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

As we were leaving for the Metro on Monday morning, I debated whether I should take Mom’s purse with me or leave it at Christine’s house.  The night before, Mom asked me to take it because she didn’t feel comfortable having her wallet in the hospital.  Mom’s purse had always been a sacred vessel not to be messed with so I decided I better take it.

Christine and I hopped in the car and headed to the Metro.  We were chatting away as she entered the drop off point (called the Kiss and Ride) and she accidently entered the “Bus Only” lane!  Once in that lane, there is no way to get out of it so I jumped out of the car quickly so she could get drive away unnoticed.

When I exited the Metro in DC, my phone rang and it was Christine.  Apparently, a Metro police offer saw her lane error.  Despite her best effort to explain the situation, she got a $95.00 ticket!  I was horrified.  No good deed goes unpunished.

I got to Mom’s room around 9:30 a.m.  She was happy that I remembered to bring her purse back and I tucked it in to the closet with my purse.  She filled me in on her morning and I filled her in on my evening and morning.  I finished my recap with the bus lane and ticket story.  She was equally horrified and then she started calculating.  “We can split it three ways and help Christine out.  Get my purse.”  Wait, what?  My mother was deathly ill in the hospital and she wanted me to get $32.00 out of her wallet?

“Mom, Christine and I will work it out.  You just worry about feeling better.”  I said.  Mom did not like that.  “No, she is driving you around and giving you a place to stay.  Get my purse” said Mom. 

It was all I could do to stifle a laugh.  She was serious.  Right was right and wrong was wrong and she was determined to pay “her share” of the ticket.  Her family was her top priority and that included friends of her children.  Maybe the story is only funny to Christine and me, but it still makes me laugh.   

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Week of Mom #4

Mom, Pat (Jack’s wife), Jack, Julia, Mel (Aunt Gerry’s husband),
Margaret, Gerry and J. Gilbert

The funny thing about family is that everyone has a different role in the family play.  My Mom was a very sickly child and the youngest by many years.  For the first three years of her life, there were 4 – 5 foods she could eat without vomiting.  As she told it, she was allergic to everything.  That included the family dog who had to be re-homed when little Janet came along.  Apparently, her siblings were not too happy about that.

Grandma Julia made sure Moms siblings were aware of her food restrictions and everyone had instructions to keep an eye on her in case she had an allergic reaction to something.  By the time she was an adult she could eat almost everything except nuts and eggs.  She also remained allergic to cats and dogs, but that never stopped her from coming to our dog infested house.

One summer in the 70's we piled in the car and headed to Aunt Gerry’s house for a family vacation.  All of us kids loved to swim so we spent lots of time at the pool.  I couldn’t tell you what the adults did because we were too busy being kids! 

 Almost every night Aunt Gerry and Mom would gather in the kitchen to fix snacks for the hungry swimmers and prepare dinner for everyone.  One night Mom and Aunt Gerry were in the kitchen washing and cutting up fruit for a salad.   At some point, I ran in to the kitchen and surprised Aunt Gerry with a hug from behind.  We both laughed and I said “I thought you were Mom!”  I didn’t mean to scare her.  Both of them were wearing cute sundresses and to a kid running in from another room, it was hard to tell their backs apart.  I decided to hang out with the sisters and it’s even possible they gave me a job. 

Aunt Gerry and Mom, 1990

They were chatting and chopping and having a wonderful time.  Aunt Gerry grabbed a bunch of bananas and suddenly went silent as though she was thinking about something.  She said “I’ll put these bananas on the side since you’re allergic to them Janet.”  Before Mom could say a word, I said “Oh, she’s not allergic to bananas, she just hates them.” 

Oops.  Mom’s banana gig was up!  All those childhood food allergies gave her a chance to edit out foods she didn’t like by saying she was allergic.  She was a pretty smart cookie.

She said “Dawn, you ratted me out” and flashed a guilty smile.  Aunt Gerry smiled and said “Is that true?”  Mom admitted it was the truth and then we burst out laughing. 

Throughout their lives, my Mom and my aunt really made an effort to get the families together.  It’s those simple things, like dinner preparation with “the sisters” that gave me a glimpse at Janet the person versus Janet my Mom.  I have glorious memories of the times we spent with my aunt, uncle and cousins and in my mind’s eye I can visualize the banana revelation like it was yesterday.  It is a moment that you cannot create or fabricate, it just happens.

Janet the person was a pretty amazing woman.  She was a friend and counselor to me and many others.  I spoke to her at least once a week for my entire life.  Today, four years ago was the last time we spoke to each other.  We chatted on the phone for over 30 minutes and ended the call with a flurry of “I love you.”  For that I am very thankful.

 I love you Mama and miss you every day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Week of Mom - Day 3

November 1998

Mom looks especially beautiful in this photo, but that smile is likely hiding a heart of sadness.  This photo was taken at a luncheon following Aunt Gerry’s funeral mass.  We took LOTS of photos during the few days everyone was together.  There was so much sadness, but we were glad to be there to support Gib, Cathy and Julie, as well as Mom.  Though the occasion was sad, I really love this photo and have it displayed in our family room.

Please note that Mom’s hair looks great and she is wearing a lovely shade of lipstick.  Mom wasn’t a “high maintenance” kind of lady, but she had two requirements to leave the house.  She had to have lipstick on and she wanted to be sure her hair was presentable.  She was pretty consistent with these two things throughout her entire life.  She was not going to the mailbox without lipstick!

Mom was very self conscious about her hair.  For most of her life, she had really thick, wavy hair.  In the 60’s and early 70’s she had her hair “done.”  The same routine every week…rollers, under the hair dryer, tease, tease, tease and Aqua Net hairspray to glue everything together.  Then, along came the affordable hand held hair dryer.  Mom thought she didn’t have the skills to make her hair beautiful.  She didn’t have the time or patience for rollers and she viewed the hair dryer as her enemy.  She criticized herself and constantly tried new products in the hope her hair would cooperate.

July 1994 Family Wedding

 At some point in the early 1990’s, she was in between hair dressers and really down on her hair style.  I am no hair stylist, but I offered to give it a whirl.  Little did we know that this would be the first of many home styling sessions. 

Our “fancy” salon was a tiny guest bathroom.  I put the lid down on the toilet and that was her salon chair.  Only the best for my clients!  I asked her to turn to the right so that I could dry the back of her head.  No problem.  She turned and said “You really need to think about upgrading your chairs.”  “Listen lady, this is a budget operation.”  I said.  “How do you think I keep the prices (free) so low?”  We laughed and I asked her to hold one of the brushes.  She mock grumbled about being my assistant.

I worked on her hair and it was shaping up, but it was time to move her to the other side.  I asked her to shift and she made a funny comment.  We laughed.  She moved almost 180 degrees and turned back to say something.  She looked at me and I said “Oh, let me get you in to position” and I pumped the imaginary foot lever on my fancy salon chair.  We laughed for almost 5 minutes!  Every time we were about to stop laughing, we looked at each other and laughed harder. 

Despite all of the hilarity, her hair looked pretty good and she was happy.  She thought I did a good job and I was glad to help out.  It was one great day in a long line of wonderful ordinary days. 

My Mom was so easy to be around.  It was a pleasure to hang out with her. 

November 1998

I would still be thrilled if you would share a favorite story about YOUR Mom via the comment button.  Don’t be shy.  I would really enjoying hearing about your Mom or anything else on your mind.  My Mom was a really good listener and she’d be glad to know that I am working on my “listening” skills :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Week of Mom #2

Mom and Aunt Gerry May 1990

When I look at this picture it really brightens my day!  Both of these ladies look beautiful.  This was taken on the balcony of Mom’s condo.  Aunt Gerry was in town for Karen’s graduation and all of accompanying festivities.  As usual, these two stayed up late chatting almost every night and then laughed about how tired they were the next morning.  I think they wanted to take advantage of every moment together and catch up on sleep later.  Even as a kid I remember that they stayed up late sharing stories.  As we got older, my cousins Cathy and Julie and I felt obligated to do the same thing.  One year during a visit to Aunt Gerry’s house and to the horror of my Mom, we decided to tell Karen “the facts of life.”  What are cousins for anyway?!

When I look back at old photos, it reminds me that both Mom and Aunt Gerry always had a great sense of style.  Some trends and styles Mom might have been thankful to leave behind though. 

Easter 1968.  Check out those hats!

For most of Mom’s life she was on the thin side.  She said that kids made fun of her in elementary school and she did not consider being called skinny a compliment.  It made her uncomfortable.  On the flip side, she was still rocking a bikini after having three kids.  She is hidden behind Joe in the photo below, but I remember that bikini.  It was pink and white check and I thought it was the coolest swimsuit ever.

Meanwhile back in the 80’s, Mom looked great in a red suit with matching spectator pumps and coordinating handbag.  (Please ignore the dope in the green and white check dress.)  The photos below are from Joe’s graduation.  Prior to graduation, he was commissioned in to the Army and we got to pin his bars on.  (Grainy photo – sorry.)

She had to steal a kiss from her son.  She was SO proud.


Mom also looked fantastic for my graduation.  My always thoughtful Aunt Nancy gave a corsage to both my Mom and Grandmother that day.

 One of my all time favorite pictures is of Mom, Karen and me on Mother’s Day 1991.  She is wearing one of her favorite dresses.  I have this photo on my desk and look at it almost every day.

Each one of these photos makes me smile and I am forever thankful that I had her in my life for such a long time.  One time I told her “if I can be ¼ of the Mom that you are when I have kids then I will be one of the best Mom’s ever.”  It really caught her off guard and my normally reserved mother had tears in her eyes.  I told her I was serious.  She was fantastic.  She really was something special.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a hair salon story. 
Thanks to my cousin for sharing a story yesterday.  I would be thrilled if you would share a favorite story about YOUR Mom via the comment button.  Don’t be shy.  I would really enjoying hearing about your Mom. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Week of Mom

My brother took my Mom to the George Washington University Emergency Department on August 15, 2008.  She had emergency surgery with some complications.  She seemed better and moved to a rehabilitation facility, but something wasn’t quite right. 

I’ve dreaded every August since 2008 and this year is no different.  July becomes August and I start to feel a weight building up on my shoulders.  August 16 is my birthday and that’s the first weigh station.  That’s the night my brother called to say the nurses couldn’t wake her up.  August 29 is the next weigh station.  That’s the last day I spoke to her.  August 31 is the last weigh station.  At 6:57 a.m., the Rehabilitation Facility called my cell phone to tell me that there was something wrong and she was being transported to Alexandria Hospital.  I was 4 ½ hours away in Durham, NC.  She died on Monday, September 1, 2008.

Every year I try to implement a coping strategy for September 1st.  It’s 2012 and here we are at the start of a dreaded week.  What to do this year?

This year will be "The Week of Mom."  First, I will tell you a little bit about her and then I will pull out some good Mom stories.  Please read along with me and smile, laugh, cry and sigh.  My Mom was a wonderful person and it is my privilege to share her with you.  I would be thrilled if you would share a favorite story about YOUR Mom via the comment button.  I think it would help me get through this week a little better.

This beautiful young woman is my Mom, Janet.  We think this photo was taken for the Alpha Chi Omega sorority composite so that would make her about 18 – 19 years old.  She was enrolled at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, but that’s not where she started. 

Mom grew up in McCook, Nebraska and was the youngest of four.  She had two sisters and one brother and wasn’t embarrassed to tell you that she was an “oops” baby.  Her Dad was a dentist and her Mom was a busy stay at home mom who cared for her children and her own mother who lived a few blocks away.  By the time Mom was in first grade, her oldest sister, Gerry, was at the University of Nebraska and her brother Jack was in the Navy.  She pretty much worshipped the ground they walked on.  Margaret was six years older than Mom and it always sounded to me like she got “stuck” babysitting my Mom.  I think Mom and Margaret spent lots of time together and had the same give and take; love and hate relationship of many a sister.  One of Mom’s fondest childhood memories was picking apricots from the trees in front of their house with Margaret.  Interestingly enough it was Margaret she was asking for at the hospital the first night they had her all high on morphine.

In the summer of 1954 Mom, Margaret and her Mom accompanied her Dad to a dental convention in the U.K.  After the convention, they traveled in France and Italy with her Aunt Eloise (her Mom’s half-sister) and Uncle Skip (given name Herrol).  After a particularly busy day of sightseeing in Rome, everyone returned to the hotel to change clothes and relax before dinner.  At the door the key was entered into the lock and before they could move forward in to the room her father dropped dead of a massive heart attack.  He was 54 years old.  She was 16. 

About four years later, my parents were married.  Three weeks after their nuptials, Jack died.  He was 33 years old.  Dad was ROTC in college and had already gone to his first Army assignment in Italy.  Mom attended the funeral and left the country.  She was 20 years old. 

Two years later, her mother had a stroke and died in May 1960.  Mom had recently suffered a miscarriage and it was determined she couldn’t travel back to the United States for the funeral.  Can you imagine? 

Mom & Dad finally returned to the U.S. in July 1961.  Margaret died in 1962.

I always found that eight year chain of events unimaginable.  How did she hold it together?  By the time I had a clue about any of these events, I just knew that she was very close to my Aunt Gerry. 

Thanks for bearing with me as I tell the story of this very important person.  I just wanted to give you a glimpse of where she started life.  Lest you think that I’ll bore you with sad stories all week, I promise to tell a few funny stories.  Mom loved to laugh and I know she would approve.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Anatomy of a Coast to Coast trip

Sonny helping me pack this morning.

Today I traveled to San Francisco for a work trip.  If you can get a nonstop flight from Washington Dulles (IAD) to San Francisco (SFO), you can expect to be on a plane for a minimum of six hours.  Actual flight time varies from five to five and a half hours.  My “plane time” today was six hours and 35 minutes. 

I started my day in Virginia.  I ended my day 16 hours later in California.  On a coast to coast travel day, you know that you’ve got hours of “sit time.”  My motto is plan accordingly or you’ll be reading the airline magazine a few times.  For the record, I think the Delta Airlines magazine is ten times more interesting than the United Hemispheres magazine.  If you forget your book, Kindle, iPod, iPad and Sudoku and get tired of playing games on your Smartphone, I hope you’re flying Delta!  If not, take a nap.

What did I do with all of this glorious time?  Because  I was sitting in the Exit Row, I looked at the Safety Information card and most importantly found out that the Exit door weighs 29 pounds and should be thrown out the window in case of an Emergency.  You think I am kidding?  I am not.  On some planes, the instructions tell you to place the Exit door on the seats…that’s why you take a minute and read the instructions.  Just because I travel frequently doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention!  Don’t mock me.  If there’s an Emergency you want people like me in those Exit Row seats.

After my own safety minute, I watched the ground crew load bags.  At this point, I had a feeling we were going to be departing late.  Everyone was seated and the door was closed, but bags kept coming.  So, I grabbed the latest issue of HG magazine out of my bag.  I’ve never read this magazine before, but a sub-headline on the cover caught my eye while I was browsing at the airport.

We finally took off about 40 minutes late and immediately hit turbulence.  I finished the HG magazine and realized that United has installed viewing screens in the seatbacks.  Unlike JetBlue where TV is F-R-E-E, United charges their patrons for the privilege of viewing hundreds of channels on Direct TV.  TV service in United Economy is $5.99 for flights of two hours or less and $7.99 for flights over two hours.  If you’ve forgotten all the aforementioned games, books and devices then this might seem like a small price to pay…exactly what the sharewhorders, oops I mean shareholders are hoping. 

The rough ride went on for about half the flight.  It doesn’t really bother me anymore, but I could tell a few of my fellow travelers were relieved when we finally hit smooth air.  After having a ginger ale and an uber-nutritious snack box (NOT!), I grabbed my second magazine which was Lucky.  Right away this caught my eye and I have to share it:

Does Julia Kalachnikoff really believe that the little, teeny, tiny strap on that shoe is going to give it more stability?  <Screaming now> HONESTLY?!  Come on.  I could twist my ankle in that shoe and that little strap wouldn’t do a dog gone thing to help me. 

In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, "That’s all I have to say about that."

Once I plowed through Lucky, I realized that I probably shouldn’t waste my money buying it again.  I don’t think that I am the target audience (I’m over 40) and I can get fashion “looks” on Pinterest and Polyvore for free.  I contemplated moving on to the Wall Street Journal, but my eyes were tired and I decided to read it later.  What to do?  I still had 3 more hours to go.  Might as well do some work!  I had a sales spreadsheet with unsorted data and a needed to do prep for two meetings next week.

Two hours later, the data was sorted and one presentation was mostly done, but I was definitely WELL DONE.  So, I moved on to a game of Scrabble.  If you don’t have this on your laptop, I highly recommend it.  John got it for one of his laptops a few years ago and it is a lifesaver.  Time flies when you've got a good game of Scrabble going!  Buy it for your own laptop or channel Santa and put it in a stocking this Christmas or make it a gift during Chanukah.  You will thank me :-)

The fasten seat belt sign came on, the laptop was turned off and we landed in San Francisco.  Air travel is a modern miracle, but six hours on your butt is a long time!  After sitting that long, I’m always thankful that the walk from the gate to Baggage Claim is about a half of a mile.  Luckily, the bags came up in about 15 minutes and I headed to the Rental Car Center to meet my colleagues.  Funny thing…Hertz upgraded me to a Mercedes 450 SUV!  That will make for some funny looks tomorrow when I pull up to our corporate office.

Another travel day over for the Dog Mom!  See you soon pups!

Chaka Khan, "Luggage Helper" and all around great girl!

Save a Life.  Adopt a Dog from a Rescue or Shelter.