Monday, December 17, 2007

Trout is an angel now

Our beloved Trout died yesterday. So was just days ago that Tanya came out from her classroom and asked me to take a look at what she was seeing in his breathing. Her alert observation had Trout to the vet that evening where his lung tumor was diagnosed. He was really a friend to every dog at Dog Tired and I am just heartsick. I'll never forget how he bounded in every morning and we all sang "Trout!" (actually, we all went "Twowwwwt" - we always called him Twout for some reason). I'll also never forget the day I suddenly could NOT find him in class, and ran in and out and even out to the parking lot before finally discovering that he'd packed his big self into a little dark blue airline kennel and made himself practically invisible. Oh Trout, I just can't believe I'll never hug you again.

Trout Branson
July 12, 1999 to December 16, 2007

by Kari Campbell

Trout Branson entered Dog Tired on October 13, 2005, just ten days after we opened. An institution here, he was a friend to everyone large and small. His entrance every morning was eager and excited and he left with the same enthusiasm each night when his parents came to pick him up.

The staff spoke often of his uncanny lust for life and great luck with his health. As a young dog living in King Salmon, Trout was accidentally struck by a plane propeller on the airstrip. Severely injured and with no veterinary care nearby, his family was forced to make the decision to put him down. Trout took one look at them and took off into the wilderness. Several days later, very ill from his injuries, he was stumbled upon and rushed into Anchorage for emergency vet care. He survived against all odds to a full recovery.

The last year has been difficult for his health, but he remained in daycare, ever eager to come visit his pals and share his wisdom. Two weeks ago it was discovered he had a lung tumor. His last visit with us was a happy one and we will all miss his sweet face and cheery disposition.

Please keep Trout and his family in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season as they go through this difficult time.

We will miss you dear Trout.

Your Dog Tired Family

Monday, November 26, 2007

Long days

Another month of impossible days gone by. Today was my last regular day at Job #1, having only worked Mondays (and some weekends) this month. Since the first of Nov, I've officially transitioned to Dog Tired as the daycare manager for the next however many months while the building expansion is underway and I run the boarding operation instead.

An agreement's been signed on the new building, and the 60 days of due diligence and financing is elapsing quickly. If that goes well, renovations will start, and by the summer we will be in operation.

In the meantime, I've just been working as many hours as I can put in there, as well as the max hours I can put in at Job #1 to help with that transition - as a financial firm, year-end and prep for the 2008 tax season makes this a critical time of year.

FOP has really fallen by the wayside for me, and I am grieving that a lot as the backlog grows and I feel pretty despondent about holding up my end of things there. The days are burdensome and there isn't a lot of me left. I have had a little time to work on editing Matthew's manuscript and I've really enjoyed those few moments.

Nana fell ill on Thanksgiving and I took her to the ER where she was determined to be in atrial fib again and her lungs quickly filled with fluid - congestive heart failure. She came home last night. So this past weekend has been about trying to put in time at both jobs, take care of my own dogs and spend as much time at the hospital as I could. She's feeling better and I hope the medication changes will help keep her symptoms at a manageable level. I feel very tired; maybe I said that already. I'm working 7 days/wk most weeks through mid-February, and when I think about the holidays and the additional things that are expected, I just wish so much that it could pass by me this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Piper's progress

I know I've said virtually nothing about how we've been getting along. She's been on Prozac the last three months and I think it has helped her anxiety a little, though she's still extremely reactive and very vocal (with nerve-jangling shrillness and with ear-piercing volume). She had seven teeth cut out of her head this summer, and it was a painful recovery. A couple of others are iffy, as the bone loss in her jaw continues. She's lost a much-needed 18 pounds by doing it the hard slow way, and still cries hysterically at mealtimes. I know just how she feels.

She's a real pain in the neck, frankly, and I suspect that my karmic reward for taking in this old abandoned girl will be as one of our clients yesterday predicted, that she will turn out to be the world's first 30-year-old German shepherd dog and I will never be rid of this short-term obligation. So she lives her life each day without ever getting enough to eat, and I live my life each day without ever getting enough silence to sleep. We are stuck with each other and that's just the way it is when you're family.

The month in review

A monthly blog entry seems to be about all I can come up with right now. Two weeks ago I got severely ill with a viral bronchitis which turned into multiple infections.

I blame it all on actually going to the doctor. I was so very ill initially that I felt scared about being able to care for my mother's needs. The bronchitis I had earlier this year lasted 12 weeks and I really wanted to just die, so this time I made it a priority to immediately see the doc-in-the-box (around the corner, 20 min, $262) and get meds. However, I think the steroids they put me on for the bronchitis left my already largely non-existent immune system open to all the other things that hit two days later.

Yesterday I started to feel human again except for the pressure- deafness in my left ear that's been ongoing the last six days. I think it will break, sometime, but I've never had total ear blockage persist for days on end - it's weird. But at least I narrowly avoided a burst eardrum. Last weekend I was completely without a voice for three days. Another visit to the doctor (out to Palmer, two hours' drive and $60) got me on a broad spectrum antibiotic and things started to resolve. I did get back to work most days this past week, just slowly slogging. And yesterday felt almost normal, just very tired. We had a Halloween party for clients and dogs and although it was very enjoyable (and I will have to post a photo once I have one, of Kari and I dressed as each other) I came home after and didn't get anything done the rest of the day.

In other news, I finished another section of working on Matthew's book last weekend while I could do nothing but sit on the couch. I really am enjoying watching his efforts bear fruit. And am looking forward to another piece of good news - he and Alice plan a trip to Alaska in a few months as he will be here on a speaking tour in January.

My mother is not precisely herself since the stroke. Much to be grateful for in her recovery, but a lot has changed. Being so sick myself, I haven't felt like I was doing the best in taking care of her now that there's a good bit that she can't do for herself. Dirk has been cooking for us at least once a week and sending Kari over with his creations - besides being a meat master, he makes the best soups and stews particularly, and that hits the spot for both Nana and me when we haven't been well.

Katie, Brett and Saucy moved away (to Las Vegas where Brett is now stationed) the second week of October, and I am sick at heart still. I know the future is bright wherever their young lives will take them, but the world here is so dark and diminished without their particular brand of compassion, perception, decency and good humor. I know that when you have had the gift of such extraordinary people (and dear little bulldogs) in your life, nothing will ever really take it away, but the loss of their physical presence is deeply painful right now and I can't think of it without breaking down in tears. I look at the wonderful photos Katie framed for us before they left and it's just hard to know we'll likely never see our little Saucy again.

In all, another month I'd just as soon forget, to add to a rather long string of the same.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

An unrecoverable summer

Life upended around the first of May or so. At the briefest of moments since then, I have thought at times of how I might return here to capture the events and the strain of repeatedly stepping into breaches, how to describe the decisions I've made. I kept thinking things would level and then I'd tell that story. With each considering I pared the imagined story down to ways that wouldn't do it justice ever. Moments of living very close to the bone, of holding lives in my hands and making calm and rational decisions that destroyed me inside, of seeing the water start to clear above my head and suddenly being plunged into more cold shocks. It would be quite a ravaging story, so I'd punctuate it with photos of the comic relief that's occurred here and there - and maybe those parts will still get posted sometime.

A week ago my mother had a mild stroke, and everything from the moment I found her on the floor has seemed both blurry and painfully clear since. Tonight when cleaning out email I found messages from a month ago where I've apologized to people for the many obligations I was not meeting because of so many emergent weakening threads in the world. I've held together as many of them as I could.

The week ahead is an express train from hell, which in context of my life - or even the last week - is really saying something. The air is cold at night and the snow is coming over the tops of the east hills and slouching toward us. So I am burying this summer and all its moments and its million bits of broken glass, bright and unrecoverable tears.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

αυτός αστείος

That's the Greek for "that's funny," according to Babelfish (so God only knows what it actually means).

Anyway, that Nana is such a card. We were in the car when a report came over NPR about all the wildfires in Greece that started last week. I was already silently forming the punchline of a "a Greece fire" when my mom said it out loud. We chuckled, but then she slayed me with "And I bet they're putting water on it too."

Monday, August 20, 2007

I never get these things exactly right

Today was Nana's 81st birthday - we spent the evening in the private room at Glacier Brewhouse for a lovely dinner celebration with friends. Amazing food, wonderful company, lots of laughter and we got Nana to tell lots of stories about her youth.

But did I take a single photo? Nope. Unngggggh!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

National Homeless Animals Day

Will anyone remember me?
I was just one in a million,
Of millions more, who walked
And breathed and lived, and died
When love ran out for me.

Does anyone remember me?
In that crowd of hopeful faces,
Does anyone notice my two bright eyes?
Or have the colors run together

And the faces disappeared
In a nameless river
That gathers and gathers
That washes against dark doors and sullen porches
And roars on to a savage sea.

Will anyone remember me?
Do I dance now in your dreams?
I walked and breathed and lived and loved
And I was one in a million.

Peg Banks, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I didn't fall off the Planet

I'm still orbiting, but ducking the asteroids requires my full attention.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Our pickled pepper picker

It's only been a week or so, but there's no getting around it: Piper is a permanent part of our pack.

In truth, I knew she was mine before I met her and before I saw her picture. There was nothing super-special in the message from her family that after 11+ years, she was going back to the pound from where she was adopted as an 8-week puppy. No novel twist in her story - old dog is left behind in a move. But although my life circumstances maybe aren’t right for a second dog (my landlord just called, telling me she's got to ditch this house, fast) my heart's been ready for a while. The last ten fosters and guests have tugged my heartstrings a little harder, making me realize that my preferred dynamic of multiple dogs had been missing for such a long time in my life while I made more sensible, rational choices. That joy and its attendant complications has been denied since Courtney died four years ago and Hunter and I went on alone.

Still, I went into it assuming it was a done deal. Then I saw David’s beautiful portrait of her (photo credit Alaska Pet-ography)...and I refused to publish it anywhere until I had a test drive with her first. And finally, “Piper” herself crashed into our lives.

Living with Piper is like living with a furry, irritated ox. She doesn’t walk – she stomps. She’s bossy and vocal, persistently agitated, but also vulnerable and dear. She carries her stuffed toys around the house and comforts herself by nursing and kneading her blanket. She’s a bit of a medical mess, she’s fat and chronically hungry and bangs on the cabinets where she knows the treats are. Has dropped significant weight but has at least another 20 pounds to lose and she's patently opposed to that. Hunter is still pretty bamboozled by her; when they’re outdoors and he romps or flops down in the snow, she rushes into his face with lots of loud barking, disconcerting to him and me both. He’s stopped flinching when she does that, and so far she hasn't shown anything to back up her bluster.

Her loyalty of many years turned out to be misplaced, her love betrayed when she became inconvenient. She very much would like to have things her way, if only she knew what that really was. She has a big loving heart and an injured soul. And the world is just not laid out the way she thinks it should be. She crashes through life with good intentions but regular storm squalls.

Remind you of anyone?

Piper and I aren’t yet intimately acquainted, but we definitely ‘get’ each other. This dog is more like myself than any person or creature I have known when it comes to multiple positive/negative attributes in constant internal collision and often sprayed around on others. I can't think of two beings who deserve each other more. There have been lessons in every relationship I’ve had with a dog over the years, but this one is the magnifying mirror. I had it coming.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jingle Bell Jacks

Nana has been making these dolls for her great-grandsons, for what seems like forever - it's amazing how many small bits of thread and fabric have been all over the house. She got Nathaniel's done in time for his birthday last month. I was beginning to fear that Will and Zack would receive theirs just about in time to take along to college, but she finished them this weekend. I think they're pretty cute. And they are indeed very jingle-belly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Props to Honda

That good old-fashioned American company (cof), for this display of evident interest in customer satisfaction yesterday...

Background: Last week, I got my months-long broken driver's door lock fixed ($2.79 part, $79 labor) after this goading by a fake gift certificate that Kari made for my birthday, with my photo, a birthday message, and such fine print as

- Authorized by the Nag who is tired of watching you crawl through the passenger door
- Not redeemable for cash or any other favors you may think you want
- Expires in the distant future if you don't get off your ass

The gift certificate was so entertaining that I paid for the repair myself. When I picked up the car, I realized later that the stereo didn't work and was flashing an ominous demand for a code I didn't have. Took me a while thru the owner's manual (which I also didn't have, but bought one) to determine this is part of the anti-theft system. I had no idea my car was this technical; I prefer to think the world is still back on the Chevy station wagon 3-on-the-column that I first learned to drive hmmpty-hmmp years ago.

Yesterday I checked the Honda website and it says talk to the local dealer. I call the local dealer and they tell me it'll cost $100 for them to pull out the stereo to get the serial number to track down the code. I object. The gal says the original dealer would have this info, and I think okay, I got a Carfax last year when I bought this thing used, so it probably will have that dealer on it. I hang up.

Then I think no, I'm not at home, I don't want to go digging through paperwork, I just want this fixed. So I call national customer service. They answer on the second ring, I tell them my problem, they ask me for the VIN and for the label code inside the glove box, retrieve the code I need and tell me for my protection they are revising it, ask me to fax my license and registration to them, then call me back to give me the code over the phone and at no charge. The whole thing took maybe ten minutes and cost me nothing. I like it!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

And nothing was ever the same again

March 1, 1988 - March 8, 2000

Addendum: David Jensen of Alaska Pet-ography sent me this memory collage today of Gryphon in his youth. (The other dogs are Diva and Max.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

I must be alive, I'm still coughing...

Sorry for disappearing again. I have lots to share, all of it inane. Real life and constant coughing are interfering with my ability to breathe and blog. But there are a good many cute pictures in the camera, so I'm hoping to catch up some next weekend - I no longer work on Saturdays since we've stopped the socials until next fall (yeay! Kari rocks!) and I have a lovely excuse to stay at home all next weekend, in the furry guise of an old doggie grrl who will be taking us for a test drive to see if we're good enough to be her permanent home.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Nissa has been staying with us while George & Becky are in Phoenix. She's a lot of spirit in a little package. Here she took a rare moment of relaxation in her favorite sunny spot on the stairs. I didn't realize how well the sundogs (from the beveled glass of the front door) would frame her. Look at those incredibly long black eyelashes!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Life on Planet M&M

This is Peg as a delicious treat that will melt in your mouth. The character creator at Become an M&M is fun but be warned that their server is frustratingly busy - this took a bunch of tries to produce.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Home repairs

So I drove out to his house tonight to fix the computer. Relatively easy fixes, at least within my ability to wrest little pieces of power from Uncle Bill and put something the way I want it. Glass of wine and studying the photos of Laura and Alexa on the walls. Getting ready for the long dark drive back to town, we stood together in a long hug - and the momentary wild distraction that his very tall frame and very broad shoulders has always kindled these last 20 years - simple whispered pain, and walking out the door with an uneasy burden for my dear friend. It is hard to face that some losses will take more time to heal than the time one has left.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The power of Thieves

So since I am still pretty sick with bronchitis, Nancy shared with me today her secret of warding off the bad bugs this winter. I'd noticed while housesitting here last week that she has acquired a huge apothecary of essential oils. She's been using Thieves to prevent getting ill (though to my knowledge she has not been robbing plague victims as a side benefit).

She also indicated she had no idea really how to use it, and seemed surprised at my gasp when she demonstrated how she's been knocking back 10-15 drops of full strength oil down her throat every 20 minutes. Oh my god. Seeing as how the testimonials include how great the diluted version is at removing permanent ink from porous surfaces, I'm surprised she has any throat lining left to protect. I tried it once, and once is....enough. At those doses I suspect Drano would be a suitable substitute. But I'll definitely go get some of the spray and see if that helps build me back up without fire-breathing as a new skill.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This won't hurt a bit

It's V-Day and my insides aren't spilling out. Whodathunkit.

Personal: to The Glorified Donut

I don't know how precisely I was supposed to respond on my blog, but here it is.....

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anchorage: Most. Stupid. Slogan.

The muni has spent tens of thousands of dollars on a new marketing campaign "Anchorage: Big Wild Life". And is now doing the follow-up PR to get its citizens on board with supporting it and the odd Rorschach all-it's-missing-is-a-corpse-chalkline abstract backdrop. For a state whose elegant flag was designed by a schoolboy, you'd think they might have asked the people for some opinions first - but I guess they didn't because they knew we would all say there's not a thing wrong with "Wild About Anchorage" which has served us for over 20 years now. There's plenty of tap dance left in that old moose yet.


Sorry to be away but I got a full order of bronchitis with a side of pneumonia.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The darker side of doggie daycare

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to actual daycare clients is purely coincidental...

Doggie Daycare Daily Report

Today your dog was
[ ] an angel
[ ] a brat
[ ] a weirdo
[ ] a spaz
[ ] a fiend

We especially noticed when your dog
[ ] sat for treats
[ ] destroyed a door
[ ] boinked his playmates

I can't tell you how many times your dog
[ ] played nicely
[ ] inappropriately deposited bodily fluids
[ ] made me want to quit this job.

We recommend that your dog
[ ] change daycare schedule
[ ] take a formal training class
[ ] undergo a lobotomy
[ ] acquire normal parents.

It is always
[ ] a pleasure
[ ] an irritant
[ ] a catastrophe
to have your dog in my class.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A cough before dying

I've been struggling with a deep chest cough or some kind of infection or I don't know what, for the last couple of weeks. Whatever it is, has been resistant to medication (well, resistant to wine and tequila therapy anyway). This has knocked the blog awry not because I haven't had time to write - missed some days of work last week with this - but because I don't seem to be able to string together any particularly compelling thoughts. I did, however, have an uneasy moment in front of the cough-and-cold display when the various animated renderings of television ads for these products began to twirl on the shelves in front of me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Four-day weekend

Boss #1 gave me an incentive last week to finish year-end reports, with a carrot that I could add a day onto the 3-day weekend. Weekends are just a different kind of work day for me but I certainly leapt to the chance to get some things caught up in other areas of life. Still, I appear to be programmed where no matter the length of the weekend, "if I just had one more day" things would have been in much less disrepair. But a couple large and/or important projects got off the desk despite the amount of time they sucked out of the marrow of my life, and I'm not feeling exhausted today at least. (That comes soon enough, as Kari heads out of town tonight for college visits with Cassi, which means extra plugging of holes for five days.)

I took Sunday evening for myself, spending a quiet evening with Pat. She opened a lovely bottle of shiraz in Skye's vintage (2000) and we spent four hours letting the conversation amble through tears of recent grief to adding layers to the background story we know about each other. As I drove away in the late-night cold, I thought of all the things there are to get done and how I don't ordinarily make time to just stop and relax with people who are important to me. I said to myself, I want to be the kind of person who takes that time rather than so constantly driven by the clamor of others' needs. Took me a second to realize that in making the choice to stop for those sweet hours, I already am that kind of person.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

High finance

Through a series of strategic moves over the last several weeks, I am now in possession of enough Dagoba chocolate bars to create a stable base of currency for a small country, as long as that country is not in Central or South America where this stuff literally grows on trees. I've learned that there is one flavor I can live without (Lime) and one that is the cocaine equivalent of the chocolate world (Eclipse 87% extra dark). I am a woman of wealth.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Maddie at six months

Nancy asked me to take some photos of her today. Her head has caught up with her body so she looks proportional instead of like Puppy the Pinhead. At six months she is becoming a beautiful wild charging rhino dog.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

All the warmth went out of the world

This morning I got the car started early for my drive out to Palmer. We've had some more snow - I've lost track now of how much, something around 3 feet total I guess, and then the temps dropped hard yesterday so it just around zero this morning. Black ice all the way under a completely frigid sky. Standing ice fog obscured the mountains, and the sun too - you could just see generally where it was supposed to be behind that layer of descended cold. It felt like the world had shut down for Laura's funeral.

Inside the train depot at Palmer, I joined a line of people filing past the register - the main hall was already full. I was still several people away from a chance to sign my name when they asked us to just come in so things could start. We pushed our way into the crowd and I found a space along the wall - nearly as many people standing as there were occupied chairs. I only have a small sense of how many worlds intersected in that room today; those who spoke represented some of Laura's closest sphere but the outward ripples were represented in those of us who stood packed together for that hour and a half. It was meant to be a celebration of life, but in my heart I didn't feel anyone there who was prepared for that, not yet. But there was encouragement and support and honor, and a clear sense of a shared gift that was taken too soon.

I felt alone in that crowd of people. There were some folks in the room that I knew from my years at the University, but that world was an unhappy one for me and there was no comfort in those faces. Allen was remarkably functional but from across the room he might have been a million miles away. I stood and I listened and I mourned but I barely breathed - it felt like sadness was squeezing my lungs.

Afterward, the clog of people at the back of the room was huge as folks greeted family members before a shared meal. I waited a little while, then took a different exit. The cold air hit my lungs and I wasn't warm enough despite my sweater and heavy coat, I could feel the warmth seeping out of me as I put my head down and walked away, feeling about as barren and desolate as I have in years.

About 30 yards later, I didn't hear any steps in the snow behind me, just a hand on my shoulder. I turned and there was the friend who has known me every day of my life in Alaska, and Becky wrapped her arms around me hard and the sobs in me burst. I hadn't known she was there the whole time - she'd pushed her way to within a few feet of me but I hadn't looked around the room. She didn't know about the service until 45 minutes before it started, but rushed to add her shoulders to my burden. There are blessings that come to us undeserved in this life. Magical people like Laura are among those blessings. Vessels of grace like Becky are among those blessings too.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Auntie Edna said it

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind:
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, January 01, 2007

A shooting star

Laura died a few minutes after midnight. She was so vibrant and impossibly beautiful; despite my heartbreak I am glad to know she is released from the prison of a wrecked body. I find that four years of preparing for this doesn't prepare you at all. Michele, who always has something genuine and perfect to say in moments of deep grief, shared this poem with me today.

God's Lovely Likeness

I know that where you are, God is
Since he is everywhere
And being everywhere, he is where I am too
And since you and I are ever in God's presence
We can never be apart
Apart from Him or apart from all He is
To know this brings comfort where sadness otherwise would rule
So when sorrow would steal away my peace,
I give up what I cannot keep
To cherish and rejoice over what I cannot lose
With this, the stillness all about me comes to life
With sweet assurance that God's lovely likeness--whom I have known as you--
Is here and now,
Just as you have ever been.