Charlie, Charlie, Charlie

We knew the dogs would be excited to see us when we picked them up from the pet spa on Saturday after we returned from vacation, but we were somewhat disconcerted when we noticed Charlie was not his normal happy psycho dog self. He seemed a little off, more subdued than normal, there was no one thing that we could point at and say that is what is wrong. So we watched him and his behavior trying to figure out if he was getting better or worse. I thought that maybe he was depressed and then thought can a dog get depressed and why would he be depressed? Life inside a cool air conditioned house, good food and our soft bed, what is there to be depressed about? The only clue at first was his sad face.

Charlie continued to do all of the normal things we do every day; he had a healthy appetite eating everything put in front of him, walked at his normal fast “I have to be first” pace and jumped into bed with us to annoy us at night. He just didn’t have his happy face. But on Wednesday things went downhill fast.

Mitch called me at work that afternoon and said, “Something is wrong with the little brown dog.”

I asked what and he said, “At first he was walking around in circles with his head down and like he wanted to throw up, but he didn’t throw up. Then he started shaking, after that he wouldn’t put any weight on his left hind leg and it started to spasm uncontrollably. I have him lying down next to me, but something definitely wrong with Charlie.”

I called our vet and made an appointment to take Charlie in and finally figure out what was going on. I thought maybe he’d had a stroke or cancer. Mitch came by and picked me up so we could both go to the vet. The vet took one look at Charlie and said that the shaking was from pain. Charlie was in a great deal of pain and we couldn’t read the signs. All I could think of was that we suck as pet owners. He said that first thing to do was pain management and he would give him some morphine, then do some blood work and take some x-rays. He took Charlie and told us to come back in an hour.

Bracing ourselves for the worst, an hour later we walked back in the vet’s office and were ushered into an examination room. Charlie was standing there happy to see us, still pretty wobbly, but definitely in a little better shape than when we dropped him off, must have been the morphine. The vet brought in lots of x-rays to show us (that was going to cost us, I thought). He said that the blood work came back normal so that was a good thing. But he found something on the last x-ray he took, isn’t that always the case, never on the first x-ray. The x-ray was of Charlie lying on his side and about midway between his shoulders and hips there was a spot where it showed a spinal injury to one of his vertebrae. Our vet said that it looked like an old injury, but maybe being at the pet spa and playing with the other dogs, he may have re-injured it and that may be causing the pain and his inability to put any weight on the back leg. Plus he said that Charlie had a high fever running a temperature of a hundred and four. He said he gave Charlie a shot of antibiotics.

Our vet handed me two bottles of prescriptions, one was an antibiotic and one was pain medication. He also said we were in for a rough night. I didn’t think too much of what he said just thinking Charlie wasn’t going to die and this was going to be very expensive. We walked out to settle up with the receptionist and just about turned around to give Charlie back when she smiled and said that the bill was seven hundred thirty three dollars. That and the two hundred ninety nine dollars we paid the pet spa to keep the dogs while we were on vacation almost made me regret taking a vacation in the first place. Oh I know it’s nobody’s fault Charlie got hurt and sick, the same thing happens to children at daycare centers and we dearly love our vet and trust him implicitly with the dogs, it was just the shock of the amount. Why can’t I just add them both to my health insurance, pay my ten dollar co-pay and be done? Technically they are sort of like dependents, they depend upon me to feed them and walk them, so in the broadest sense of the word, they could be considered dependents. Too bad the insurance company doesn’t see it that way.

Oh well, I guess the next vacation will be a “staycation”.

Our Vacation

We took a much needed vacation last week. I have cheated Mitch out of a proper vacation on the last three out of four vacations we had scheduled. All three vacations I had scheduled surgeries. One bunionectomy so I would look good in shoes, a bilateral mastectomy because I got stupid breast cancer and the reconstruction of the mastectomy so I would look somewhat normal in clothes again. So I decided that regardless of anything else, I was going to take Mitch on vacation, anywhere he wanted to go. He and I deserved that.

We had decided that we would drive to Washington State and go wine tasting in the Yakima Valley. Well fate has a sense of humor. The week before we were to leave, Murphy decided to come and stay as a houseguest for a few days. That Monday afternoon Mitch called me at work to inform me that the microwave went out. The really nice three year old microwave died. Yippee! Thursday Mitch called me again at work to relate the story on how the outside faucet disintegrated when he started hooking up the really cool soaker hose system he made. I am going to have to stop answering my phone at work. Sunday was the final blow. I took Mitch to work as usual, came back did my usual Sunday morning stuff and waited for Mitch to call for his ride home. I loaded up the dogs in the station wagon, climbed in and put the key in the ignition and turned the key. Nothing, nada, zilch. The car was dead as a door nail. This meant that I had to unload the dogs, take them back in the house, fix them kongs stuffed with carrots to keep them occupied and jump in the firebird to go get Mitch. Mitch diagnosed the car and determined that we needed a new starter. Someone was trying to tell me something.

Mitch installed the new microwave, a much cheaper not as nice microwave without a hitch. Something went right for once. The new faucet took three trips to the hardware store and one afternoon to install. The starter for the car took two trips to the auto parts store (one to buy the starter and one to take it back) and an online order to get the right starter for our old station wagon. It seems our vintage car also has special vintage general motors parts. After I added up the costs of the new “fun” stuff, I decided that we should stay a little closer to home for our vacation.

Second choice was a trip to Texas. We drove to San Antonio for the River Walk and the Alamo. We both have been there, but it was decades ago and decided that it would be a nice place to go in the spring. The River Walk was beautiful and peaceful even with all of the people there. Down along the River Walk, there were cool breezes and shade, making the stroll very pleasant. Dinner was at a very nice restaurant. Very nice, meaning the steaks started at thirty five dollars and the wine list started at sixty dollars a bottle. I kept a straight face while the steward pointed out the better selections at three hundred and fifty dollars and up. I was pretty proud of Mitch and myself for not dropping our jaws and saying something totally inappropriate. We settled on a nice half bottle of wine saying that we couldn’t drink a whole bottle. The steaks were done to perfection and the wine was very good. A wonderful dinner and one we won’t be repeating anytime soon.

After spending two days at San Antonio playing total tourists, we headed up to Fredericksburg, Texas, the heart of the Texas hill country wine area. You know me I am not going to pass up wine tasting if at all possible. We found out Texas is number five after California, New York, Oregon and Washington in wine production and sales. Plus because of the size of Texas there are so many microclimates and soil types that the same grape planted in one area will taste totally different in a different region.

It’s a good thing that Mitch was the designated driver and adult because I was like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to stop at every one of the wineries I saw. Mitch being the adult and not totally feeding my wine habit stopped at a few. I tasted many wines and even brought a few bottles home.

I got to find my vice, wine tasting, so next up was feeding Mitch’s vice, history. There is a National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg and Mitch wanted to go so we did. I should have paid more attention when the nice lady explained that the tickets were good for two days and that we could come and go in the museum multiple times. The tickets also included the Admiral Nimitz Museum, Pacific Combat Zone, Japanese Garden of Peace Memorial Courtyard and Plaza of the Presidents. The first museum, George H.W. Bush Gallery was huge. I had no idea how much time, effort and money had gone into the museum. There was so much detail and photos throughout; there were even planes and a jeep in the museum. It was Mitch’s turn to be the kid in the candy store. I wandered around and looked at the photos, read some of the stories, but he was totally enthralled absorbing everything he could.

Three hours into the museum and only about two thirds of the way through, I was getting a bit antsy. I wanted to be outside in the fresh air, taking pictures and people watching, but I controlled myself and acted like an adult. I kept reminding myself this was also Mitch’s vacation and I had my turn, now it was his turn. Sometimes it sucks to be grownup. It took us four and a half hours to get through the first museum. I felt like I was back in school. I couldn’t wait to get outside. Poor Mitch, by the end of the tour I almost dragged him out.

On our way back north we wanted to stop at this huge outlet mall in Gainesville that Mitch had gone to about twenty five years ago. The mall he remembered was huge with so many stores and the parking lot was filled with cars making it difficult finding a parking spot. So we stopped in Gainesville and checked into a hotel for the night, planning on doing some serious shopping in the morning. After breakfast I asked the front desk clerk if there was a map of the outlet mall so we could chart our shopping trip for expediency. She looked at me and said that almost all of the store fronts were empty that there were only about six shops still open. We couldn’t believe it so we walked over ourselves, just to see. It was like a ghost town, store after store front empty. This would be a great place to shoot a zombie apocalypse movie. What a disappointment. There was nothing left to do but hop in the car and head home.

After we got home, the really fun stuff started, unloading the car, getting the dogs out of hock, washing all of the clothes we wore and putting everything back on hangers that we didn’t wear, because I am a firm believer in over packing. Of course the yard has gone to seed and needs to be mowed and the weeds are planning a coup on tomato plants. I wonder why we came back.

Saturday Morning Mists

We had a cold front come in with temperatures dipping into the mid to low thirties yesterday morning and this morning, setting so records. No thank you, I have had my fill of cold weather for a few months. This morning I took my camera on our morning walk to catch the mists coming off the water. The water is much warmer than the early morning air creating some really cool photo ops.

This one is a great shot of a tree at the water’s edge off of a point and if you look closely right off the point a goose is standing just offshore in the shallow water.

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It gives an ethereal view of the early morning, almost like I was deep in the bayous of Louisiana.

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Poor lonely dock waiting for someone to come and sit a while.

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The sun just coming up to burn off the morning mists.

Photos taken with my Canon Rebel

Happy Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and to all the mothers out there Happy Mother’s Day. But I don’t think that it is really any more special than any other day. Don’t get me wrong, I think that motherhood is the most wonderful experience in the world. But reserving just one day to thank someone who made you what you are seems a bit underwhelming. Of course in my case, maybe I should change it from Mother’s Day to “Thank God My Children Survived Day”.

Raising children to be self-sufficient, productive adults is a noble achievement and I think I did an okay job. Nobody went to prison and none of them is on the dole. So I did okay, I certainly was not a perfect mother. I lied to my children when the need arose, such as when they were little and wanted candy out of the gumball machines. I told them that the writing on the front of the machines said, “Out of Order”. I sounded so sad and sincere, that it worked every time until they learned to read.

I bullied and terrified them telling them that I was an apprentice working on my mastership to be the meanest mom in the world and I was very close to getting my degree. I told them that I had eyes in the back of my head and could hear a pin drop three blocks away, so they better watch what they said and did. I dealt out justice swiftly, I never once said, “Wait ‘til your father gets home.” I let them play and get scraped knees and elbows. I let them fall down and helped them get back up so that they could fall down again. I told them to rub some dirt on it and get back out there.

I taught them to never be cruel to animals and other children, but at the same time I told them to never back down from a fight. Stand tall, be honest and treat people the way you want to be treated and it will all work out in the end. I told them that the only job they had in this world was to go to school and get good grades. A’s and maybe a B, but nothing less and there better be a really good reason that there was a B. Then we would work on the problem class until we solved the problems. I expected excellence out of them, mediocre was not acceptable. There is nothing wrong with not succeeding, but there is no excuse for not trying, that is the true failure.

As they grew older and started thinking about life, careers and families of their own, I told them that I didn’t care what they did or how much money they made, but to make sure they chose to do something they really loved doing. Because whatever they decided on, they would be doing it for a long time and if they didn’t love it then they would be unhappy for a very long time. I taught them that family is important but not at the expense of self.

I did what I did as a mother not because I wanted accolades or to be their friend. I told them that often, “I am your mother, not your friend, you have enough friends. I am here to guide you, to teach you and to make you into a worthwhile human being. You don’t have to like it or me, but you will do what I say, because I am your mother.”

Cruel wasn’t I?

Poetry for Tuesday

A bit of poetry for your Tuesday.

The Sentinel

On a hilltop overlooking a small village
Stands a sentinel ever watchful
Never moving always on guard
Protecting all below.

His gaze never wavering
Looking over the horizon
Stoically waiting for the need
To unleash his power over the realm.

Though he is made of plaster and wood
His mere presence gives comfort and courage
To the villagers below
Having faith in the belief that the Sentinel will stand for them.