Dickens Loses a Friend

Last night, as we always do, Dickens and I took a stroll.  The night air had a chill to it, but we felt something else, something indescribable.

We approached my friend’s house.  I have posted about her situation with her dog over these past few days.  There on the front lawn lay this beautiful Rottie mix.  He looked different to me.  He seemed serene, even regal.  He didn’t appear to be in any discomfort whatsoever.  This dog looked ethereal.

The Rottie happened to be Dickens first friend.  Dickens would push the Rottie’s buttons and the Rottie set him straight.  Dickens loved to fuss around the Rottie, but not last night.  Dickens approached the fence and began sniffing.  He then ever so tenderly gave the Rottie a quick smooch.  The Rottie then softly got on his feet.  Both exchanged the universal canine greeting (the leg lift, you know what happens then) and then the Rottie sat staring at the lush green lawn. The image still remains with me.

This morning we received a message from our neighbor telling us that her dog had had a very bad night.  They were flying up to the vet’s (the good one) .  My neighbor said they had an awful night.  She had willed and prayed for the time to pass until the office opened.

The good vet had the day off, but upon hearing the news of the emergency visit came into the office.  He had just gotten the labs back.  The dog did have lymphoma.  It was at that point they discussed options, chemo, etc., etc.  The treatments MIGHT work.  Might buy him a year, but the courses could be very rugged on an older dog.  The decision came to let him go.

In some way I wish I had been there.  In other ways, not-so-much.  My neighbor and I spoke a few minutes ago.  She said she also saw the beauty of that moment last night as the Rottie enjoyed the cool night air.  A calm seemed to envelope him.  The perfectness of that moment told a story.  Maybe that tableau signified when that sweet dog transitioned.  We’ll never know.

In any event, Dickens and I will miss you.  Thank you for taking on and teaching Dickens in the brief time you knew each other.  You gave each of us a beautiful memory.

Rest well, son.  Rest well.






Dear Veterinary World: The Evaluation

Well, guess the Almighty listens to prayers after all (I admit to some doubting days).

The Rottie got up this morning, drank, ate, and, thanks be to God, lifted his leg (if ya know what I mean).  Yes!  Oh, sweet yes!

In the DVM world, someone who I call “a real vet” made a house call, bringing a vet resident for backup.  He drew fluid from some slightly enlarged glands and drew blood.  Thank you! Veterinary World, this procedure has a name.  It’s called “an evaluation”.  That’s all I asked at the end of yesterday – an examination.

Lymphoma has been ruled out, but clearly there’s something amiss.  The tests proved inconclusive and have been sent to a specialist for further evaluation.  It’s progress.  The dog appears to be more comfortable today (that leg lift probably helped, no doubt).

The family realizes they are not out of the woods.  The time spent waiting for the vet to come to evaluate the dog gave them some space to discuss how to proceed should the news be grim. The visiting vet demonstrated kindness and compassion for his patient and the patient’s humans.  As they wait and pray, they know they could face a grave diagnosis, but they also have precious time to honor this noble animal who they consider a family member.

And tonight I’m grateful to the vet who understood the love and concern invested in this animal, for having a heart, for treating the family with dignity and for the dog who’s not giving up quite yet.

Prayers rising.



Dear Veterinarians of the World,

Just wanted you all to know what went down tonight with a few members of your profession.  Now maybe the following isn’t the way you roll, so forgive me for singling out the entire profession, but I’m a little hot right now.

My friend has a beautiful 10-year-old Rottie mix (mixed with what I don’t know Burmese Mountain Dog?  GSD?) not germane to the tale.  The dog had an appointment with a member of your humble profession.  The dog never saw the appointment because her owner couldn’t heft all 100 lbs of him into the car.  Something had gone horribly wrong earlier in the day and he couldn’t walk.  What happened?  My friend still doesn’t know.

Panicked and clearly exhausted my friend called her dog’s regular vet who casually offered that “if he had time, he’d might stop by,” which is admirable and appreciated.  She waited and waited to hear back.  Nothing.  Friends who love both dog and owner urged her to contact another vet (the primary had given her some names of DVM’s who  might make a housecall.  A very kind thing to do.)

Now, here’s the part responsible for my seeing red…the reason I want to throw something.  She called the vet referrals and during each conversation, the respective vets asked, “So, what do you want to do and how are you going to pay?”  One emphatically said she didn’t accept checks or credit cards?  My friend did not call “1-800-Euthanizeme”.   She needed a vet to come out and “evaluate” the situation.  Examine the dog, draw blood, you know the stuff that vets go into student loan hell to learn to determine an animal’s medical status.  My friend did not call 1-800-Darkvet, the grim reaper of the animal world.  It was all I could not to snatch the phone out her hand and say, “Hello, we’re asking you to do your job.  In the twenty minutes you’re taking to determine how the dog’s going to die, you could be here by now seeing if the animal might live. Let’s check for infection shall we?  You know.   Do the assessment this owner needs so she can make informed decision.”  Sheesh.

My friend has exhaustion written all over her face.  She’s cried tears of fear and frustration.   She’ll stay awake with her “little boy” willing him to make it through the night.   Not one member of the canine medical profession has stepped up to visit a dog in distress.

I truly understand the legalities involved.  I understand the “obviousness” of a situation when one deals with life and death every day, but I will never understand how not one, but three vets can jump to the conclusion that the animal’s got to be dispatched sight unseen.  If the human medical profession worked that way, they’d be protest heard round the country.

As I left her house, I offered to be with her when a vet did arrive…to ask the right questions.  To listen.  To be there no matter what the prognosis.  I sensed my friend needed to hear my offer and would not hesitate to accept it.

My thoughts drift to “Ma” as she labored to give birth to twins.  She lives in New York on a place named “Bedlam Farm”.   I recalled Ma’s owner wrestling with “the decision” when the situation became grave.  She turned a corner and now fulfills her role as mother with grace and dignity.  Her owner insisted she have a medical care.

I, for one, am disgusted, but I’ll offer prayers tonight to the Almighty who has infinitely more going for him than the other vets.  The prayer I say tonight goes like this, “Heavenly father, who knows a heck of a lot more about your own creation since you made it, please deliver my friend and her dog from this awful distress.  Send them a knowledgeable vet who remembers why he entered the profession in the first place to provide comfort and care for those who cannot speak for themselves.  To assess before jumping to excess.  Amen.”

Burger Toppings

Yesterday, I finally assembled the little charcoal grill that I purchased at an end of season sale last year at 75% off.  I didn’t want something big and cumbersome just a little tabletop number to get the job done.  The box advertised “Assembly Required” so I bought it based on the grill manufacturer’s honesty.  The box didn’t scream “Easy to Assemble” or “Comes together in minutes”.  Nope, the subtext said it straight, “You are going to have to put this sucker together.”  After herding the nuts and bolts, tearing the house apart looking for a Phillips-head screwdriver (by the way, who was Phillips?), and telling my stomach to calm down (let’s just say hungry equaled understatement, this little gem came together beautifully.  No bolts, nuts, or washers left over (I never did buy that “They pack extra in case you lose one.” theory).

With my appetizer salad in hand I sat down to catch up on email and read Facebook.  My feed showed many, many Memorial Day messages, some tender, some a little cranky.  One in particular reminded the masses that “Memorial Day doesn’t mean National BBQ Day”.  “Oh, oh,” I thought, what about my shiny little beauty waiting for me in the yard?” Now, military genes run in my family and as a former soldier myself, the guilt crept in as I mulled over the quandary.  Suddenly, the whole notion of a burger on the grill felt sacrilegious and disrespectful.  Maybe I should just stop at the salad and call it a day.  “Oh, man, this is not good.”

Shaking off the guilt I found myself looking at the grill.  Should I light it or not?  Decision made.  I laid the charcoal in the grill bowl and set a match to it (after placing the hose next to the grill in case things went horribly wrong).  As the coals began to glow from flame to ash with a soft red glow I thought of the brave soldiers who fought in the Revolution, the Argonne, Vietnam, and Antietam who crouched over a fire for warmth, for food, or for sterilizing medical equipment to save a soldier.  No doubt that from that warmth sprang a reason to continue to fight.  A fierce determination that the sacrifice would be worth it in the end.  That the fire from bullets and bombs could and had lead to death.  What would they think of me now?  Would they curse my burger?  Would they curse me for being so casual… for not being more solemn?  The burger sizzled.

A quick flip onto a burger bun and I was ready to tuck into the first bite.  “Nope, these fallen soldiers would not curse or blame me at all for eating a burger on this Memorial Day.”  They gave it all, so we could have it all.  And for their sacrifice, this burger’s topped with my profound thanks and gratitude.

In the Spaces In Between

Church doors

In the spaces in between my time off from blogging, I never gave up on writing.  In fact, I spent much of the time behind these doors.  They are special doors that belong to a special building that once a week welcomes perfect strangers united in one belief.

St. James Church

This is my church.  I don’t know who snapped the photo so credit goes to “I don’t know who took this photo”.

In the spaces in between I find tremendous comfort in this building.  It’s an old building dating back to 1879.  Prior to that it housed a Baptist church that opened its doors in 1818. Originally purchased for the price of a buck (that $1.00) back in the day, the land has been a sacred space.  During its Baptist incarnation, it hosted Civil War officers who came to this area known as “Fruit Hill” to recuperate from war injuries.

In the spaces in between, I’ve worked on an outreach program to provide beds for pets housed in animal shelters.  With donated materials, this fantastic woman whips up mats for dog kennels and cat pillows.  She tells me she has to make more so “the dogs’ elbows don’t wear down” in the kennel.  Her 14 year-old granddaughter’s contribution? Creating a sustainable, washable dog toy.  This woman has produced 67 dog mats since February, over 20 cat beds, and now’s working on an order for a cage cover for a shelteree Cockatiel and rescued white dove.   And, she’s gone state-wide serving other municipal shelters.

In the spaces in between, I’ve written two grants and one loan application.  Worked on parish marketing and networking, represented our parish at our town’s National Day of Prayer observance and hosted contractors on church site surveys for a construction project.

In the spaces in between, I think this church and I are on parallel missions.  We strive to let the public know that behind those red doors incredible impossibilities become possibilities.  We are reinventing ourselves in spite of our respective ages.  That this building and I share similar missions based on assistance and love.

We might creak, take on water, and see parts of ourselves disintegrate, but we are relentless. Our spires are to inspire.  We might have bats in our belfry, but with little heat, we’re just fine.


Remember This Guy?

A Little Laydown

Here’s my Cairn Terrier, Dickens, as a 6 month old pup  This guy had more gumption and aggression than Gary Busey.   Expelled from Puppy School II as a “bad dog” (I have to redeem that credit for last two classes BTW).  But, and this is a big but, his bad manners came from food allergies, not bad genes.

Picassa Dickens-001

Here’s my little man on his first birthday.  Fluffy fur and all.  New diet to combat allergies, new four-footed and two-footed friends, and a constant companion to my mother.  Dickens had this unique way of making her laugh.  I’d hold him and he’d lick her all over.  Sometimes I’d wonder what why he didn’t show the same affection toward me.


DSC_0036 DSC_0039 And today, at two years old, in spite of all the problems, frustrations, and trials, I love him more every day.  He’s taught me so much.  I’ve wanted to give up multiple times.  More times than I care to admit.  I wanted to document his growth, so I learned photography.  I wanted to tell the world about him, so I blog about him.  I wanted to tell all the trainers, vets, and nay-sayers that this animal had potential.  That he isn’t a pariah, but merely a small pup who had an unpredictable tummy who didn’t need to be managed chemically.  He needed help of a different sort-an holistic diet free from gluten, dairy, and rawhide chews.

He knows me for who I am, warts and all, yet still slobbers me with kisses.  Some days I swear he reads my mind.  He’s loves to play with careless abandon.  He still retaliates in some way, shape, or form if he feels I’ve been away too long (yes, pup, I do miss those headphones you chomped last month).   And he WILL steal my knitting if given the chance.

Above all, he’s reinforced in me the most valuable lesson of all:  Love, in its essence, possesses incredible power.  Love IS patient.  Love IS kind.  Love forgives.  Anything else isn’t love.  We have challenges ahead, but we have each other and that, right now, seems more than enough.


In short spurts I’m slowly getting used to this WordPress stuff.  Learning new stuff usually doesn’t bother me, but this site appears “richer” than my previous blog host.  Photos and other enhancements are underway, but like me, it’s all a work in progress.  So bear with me.

This morning I find myself mulling over going to the beach before the tourists descend or staying home to continue with the planting/weeding/mowing.  Both offer joy, but the beach idea’s a little less labor intensive.  Coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, so I’m deciding not to decide.

I’ve been thinking a lot about balance lately.  What constitutes a balanced life? Try as I might I struggle with the notion.  I understand the concepts of a balance between work and leisure…of active vs. inactive…ying/yang, but I think balance goes a whole lot deeper than that.  Like the ocean, some folks appear to have flow with life’s events.  Things happen to them and they appear to rise to the occasion, regain their equilibrium, and, swim smoothly over their lives like the waves at low tide. Then, there’s what I call “High Tide People”.  You know, that time when low tide transitions to high tide and the waves seem to roll in one after the other, where it’s tough to stay afloat.  For the record, I consider myself a HTP (high-tide person) as I chop through life’s waters, hoping not to get swept into a rock.  And, also for the record, I’m a little sick and tired of treading water.  So, how does one achieve a balanced life?  Is there such a thing?

One of my former parent companies had an employee program entitled, “Work/Life Balance”.  At the time the title seemed to make sense.  Now, upon reflection, I find the title odd as if life’s something set apart from work.  The goal I’ve set out for myself under the heading “My Life” includes a work component. Life’s to be a vessel that contains all the elements toward the pursuit of happiness, including work, and, hopefully, swimming with the tide.

Now, if I can only keep my head above water.






Write Life…Right Now

Hello, everyone!  Welcome to Write Life…Right Now.

“Wait!”, you might be saying to yourself.  What happened to “The Daughter” or “Plumbridge Cottage”?  Well, they are still active, but they do not reflect my life as it is now…at this moment.  So, I decided to write about life “a la minute”.

Since my parents passing and dealing with the fatigue and swirl of emotions, I can honestly say the exhaustion has been mind-blowing. Compounded with the “Endless Winter”, I’m happy to say Dickens, Amelia, and I are still here to tell our stories.  Those are the stories that “Write Life…Right Now” has to tell.  Wildly creative?  From your lips to God’s ear.

My friends have stuck with me, thankfully.  I am grateful to them.  Grateful from the depths of my soul.  The isolation that winter wrought didn’t do too much to help me re-engage life.  Honestly, its been a struggle dealing with the distance of it all.  The stark realization that the “happily ever after” lived in a fairy tale and not in my life frightens me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still believe in the fairy tale…believe in endless possibilities, but some days are spent wheel spinning as I explore different career options, worry about bills, pursue life as an urban farmer, work with my feral cat, Amelia, and cry on Dickens’s shoulder when need be.  Trust me, that little guy has huge shoulders.

When I’m down Dickens drives me.  He’s one relentless pup and I can safely say he never gave up on me.  He pushes me out of bed in the morning with a bevy of kisses.  The sheer joy he exudes as he faces each new day puzzles me.  Sometimes I dig deeper under the quilt, hoping he trots back to his bed.  He’s not having it.  I can honestly say there have been and there are days he drags me through life on a leash.

So, I hope you visit often.  There’s more to come, but for me it’s all about writing about life…right now.