Saturday, January 7, 2017

R.I.P Cy

Kiowa CSI or Cy as he became known to us, came to us directly from the race track in Birmingham Alabama. We were regular visitors and sometime volunteers to the adoption kennel at the track where retired racers would be "petted out". I remember passing by the rows of kennels where each and every dog would press up to the front of their kennel eager for a chance to get some attention and meet new people. Each and every dog except Cy. Cy would squeeze himself as far back in his kennel as possible seeming to hope no one would notice him. Cy didn't want attention or to be noticed, he was terrified of everyone and everything. It was sad to see, a genetic anomaly in the greyhound world similar to a K9 version of autism.

To say Cy was a spook is an understatement, Cy was a nervous wreck. Due to his demeanor he didn't present well to perspective adopters and had spent well over a year in adoption, an unusually long time. I remember Cy having to be dragged out of his kennel literally kicking and screaming to be turned out. Thanks to the dedicated staff at the center who always believed that given the chance, and just the right family, Cy would blossom into a great companion, he managed to stay off the kill truck, a fate reserved for dogs with irreversible injuries, terminal illnesses and the unadoptable.

When we met Cy, we already had a greyhound at home. Mickey (WV's McDowell) was a perfectly adjusted pup with the most prize winning personality. Mickey was a true ambassador to greyhound adoption and a much loved member of our family. Thinking if anyone could teach Cy the ropes of being a retired racer, and how to relax and enjoy home life, Mickey could, we decided to bring Cy home and give him a chance to have a pet's life. It was a commitment we made and a challenge we accepted with hope and some reservations, Cy was a mess and not well adjusted in any regards.

We brought Cy home and we set up a crate in a quiet spare bedroom. The door to the crate was left open so he could go in and out at his leisure, but the door to the room was closed for his peace of mind. He was given food and water in the room, but had to come out of his crate to get it. After a few days, we started leaving the door to the room open to give him the opportunity to explore his new surroundings as he gained his confidence. After about a week he eventually ventured out of the room to peak around the corner at us, but if we made eye contact with him he would flee back to the crate and huddle down far in the back. Eventually we learned to pretend he wasn't there and let him "sneak up" on us for a few investigative sniffs. One day, a couple weeks after we brought him home, he came out of the room and started investigating the rest of the house. He took cautious sniffs of all the things he had never experienced before like carpet, TV, furniture, a weird fat little creature with a waggly tail (Karson the beagle), and hardwood floors. One day, not long after, he ventured out of the room and never went back in. Our plan was working.

Eventually Mickey started showing Cy all about home life. She showed him how to lounge on furniture, how to kill stuffed animals, how to sleep on the people's bed, and how to ask for potty breaks. For months we had this game where Cy would get his front half onto the bed, but not have the confidence to make the leap. He would get half onto the bed like a child reciting their nighttime prayers, then look at you with a pathetic sad eye expression and ask to be helped the rest of the way. We eventually discovered this was Cy's quirky way of asking permission, as we would often find him on the bed when we hadn't been in the room, but each time we were present we would go through the sad eye help me up game.

Because of his spookiness, or maybe despite it, Cy was the ultimate watchdog. If anyone ever had the nerve to walk on the street past our house, or knock on our door, Cy would bark, snarl, and growl like no one's business. He would sound mean and extremely intimidating, yet should anyone make it past the door and into the house he would run and hide. Not daring even one investigative sniff of the scary intruder. Even for regular visitors to the house, it would take prolonged and numerous visits before they got the chance to even see Cy, and to actually meet him, they would have to play the sneak-up game and avoid eye contact at all costs. Although Cy enjoyed walks, should someone approach, as walking greyhounds always garnered attention, Cy would crush himself in to us as close as he possibly could and shake uncontrollably. Cy relied heavily on habit and ritual, and would become scared and nervous when things changed in the house. A new plant or rearrangement of furniture could make him nervous for days. Any misplaced object would warrant a full and cautious sniffing investigation. Cy would do things on his own terms, there was no rushing the process, but once he was comfortable with you, you were a friend for life.

Cy and Mickey became inseparable, they formed a tight bond and enjoyed being together. They would lounge together and snuggle in tight, never grumbling or growling, always sharing space, food, and water. Mickey showed Cy how to relax and be a pet, how to enjoy the company of people and how to have fun. While Cy never fully transformed into a well adjusted pet, he did become much more comfortable and somewhat confident. He went from being an almost feral spook to being a timid but mostly happy pup. When Mickey passed away Cy was devastated to the point that he completely shut down. He wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink and became sad and depressed. To help him out we decided to bring in another greyhound, and then another, and while it worked and brought him out of his depression, Cy never formed a bond with our other hounds like he had with Mickey. While they co-habitated and got along for the most part, in his later years he was just annoyed at these young energetic new kids on the block. He became a grumpy old man who saw them as children playing on his lawn, and there were constant grumbles over lounging space.

A few months ago at just shy of his 11th birthday, Cy became unable to hold in food. He was constantly sick and uncomfortable. Having gone through the same symptoms with Mickey who struggled for months until we got a cancer diagnosis, we wasted no time in performing all the tests available. While his diagnosis never came, hand cooked meals of boiled beef and rice along with medication could not reduce his discomfort. Sadly Cy had been loosing weight and energy, became frail, seemed to be in pain and had lost any joy he once had. We made the hard decision to help Cy cross the rainbow bridge.

Although Cy never seemed truly comfortable in his own skin, he learned to love and trust people, he learned to look to us for comfort and protection, and most importantly, he learned how to be a pet. He had his quirks, but in our eyes that only made him special. And he was. It was a rare and wonderful experience to watch him expand his comfort zone and develop his own personality, and hopefully now, he can fully find peace. We loved you Cy, you were unique and very special to us. God speed and run free sweet boy. You will forever be in our hearts.

Kiowa CSI


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Twilight Zone

In a few days I will turn an unbelievable 50 years old. Incredible.

April of 1966 I came into this world, born then abandoned by an unknown mother, conceived with an unknown father. According to my parents ( the people who raised me ) I was adopted at 6 months old. Under what circumstances and where I resided in those first 6 months is a complete mystery to me. Unknown. I'm not even sure if my date of birth is real, or if it's the date I was taken home, since the information on my birth certificate pertains to the adopters. Why I was given up by my birth mother, or under what circumstances I was conceived is also a mystery, one I will never know the answer to. One that hardly matters to me.

It is inconceivable that I am rounding the corner into my twilight years. In fact, I now have less years left on this earth than I've already lived. Truth be told, mentally, I'm still in my twenties. I still want to act out, show off, run with the big dogs, drink till dawn and charm the pretty young ladies. In fact, I still give it a valiant try every so often, and then I suffer. The mental image I have of myself is drastically different than the grey bearded, blurry eyed, overweight, receded hairline reflection I see in the mirror each morning, but I still have a big mouth and a cocky attitude, and I still seem to be able to get away with it. For now.

I've had a good life up to this point, no. I've had an incredible life. I've seen more, done more,  partied more, travelled more, befriended more, loved and fought more than most. I've played in a rock band in Alabama. I went to jail in North Dakota. I've traveled the Savannah river and shucked fresh oysters on Hilton Head Island. I've traveled to the other side of the earth and drank beer on Bondi Beach, and I shook the hand that shook the world. I've raised two beautiful daughters, and married someone who has stuck with me through some very difficult times. I've struggled and won, and lost, a lot. I've loved a dog more than I thought possible, and I held her in my arms and cried as she died.

I've held my granddaughter.

My teenage years were truly legendary. There have been books written of the exploits. Maybe someday I'll write one of my own, from my perspective, about breaking away from poverty and an abusive adoptive mother, and given absolute total freedom to roam and plunder with a large revolving group of working class neighborhood teenaged toughs, the do-nothing boys. Look it up and support a local author, but that's another story.

I've buried best friends.

I've seen more and done more in this life than most have a right to. I've had fun. My life has been extraordinary. I'm lucky, and I'm so very unlucky. I've ducked and rolled with punches. I've dusted off and carried forward, because that's what life is, a series of setbacks and let downs, punctuated with incredible and awesome experiences.

No one has lived my life, only me. No one has a right to judge. I've never quite fit in and I never tried. I won't, and neither did my friends. I look back and I see the fun, the wild times. My god. How we howled at the moon.

50 years old. Ten, twenty years left? Thirty? Like my beginning in this life, the end is a mystery. More struggles? Maybe. I know for certain there will be more fun and more good times, more laughs, and maybe the odd howl at the moon because life is in your attitude, not in your situation.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Furniture Fiasco

It takes a special type of person to share your home with retired racing greyhounds. When I say share, I mean surrender wholeheartedly all living space, sleeping space, and places of comfort and relaxation.

Gone are all choices for home entertainment, as even our new, top of the line, family jumbo-tron is too small to be viewed unobstructed by greyhounds who stand at the precisely perfect angle to block each and every one of the 58 million pixels available for the ultimate experience in better than life home viewing. If one should glimpse a momentary flash of unequaled color radiating from the ultra-thin flat panel display, a greyhound is sure to be standing in anticipation of a dropped crumb or the chance to steal a seat, and in the direct line of the operating remote controls. Due to this fact, the jumbo-tron has been stuck on the Home Shopping Network for the past three months, and I am now the proud owner of 17 lifetime supplies of reusable and incredibly simple to install picture hooks and 3,200 Sham-wows. Are you with me Camera Guy?

The Boss recently decided it was time for new living room furniture because she walked into the family room and caught a greyhound lounging on the floor when a perfectly empty sofa seat was available. This, obviously, is an indication that the furniture is worn and uncomfortable, and must be replaced immediately. Since I have only sat on the furniture once, which was not long ago and in the showroom prior to purchase, I have to take the dogs' word for it, as the book of racing greyhound pet etiquette clearly states;

Sec. 4 (7) Lounging
No greyhound must ever lounge on the floor when:
  1. a seat on the sofa is available, or
  2. when a human in a seat on the sofa can be forced from that seat and thus stolen by pretending to need a potty break.
Armed with sale leaflets, summer catalogs, checkbooks, credit cards, and an uncomfortably large home improvement loan, The Boss and I set out to replace our nearly new but woefully greyhound inadequate home furnishings, and began an exhaustive search for the perfect dog approved lounging surface. This started what was basically just a long blur of me picking out a set I liked, and The Boss pointing out how little I understand about fabric staining, retained heat, fur accumulation, comfort and nesting damage resistance. In each and every home furnishings store we entered we were followed by lurking salesmen trying to be inconspicuous and ready to pounce on a potential sale, but staring in disbelief as we discuss the pros and cons based on dog comfort and lounge-ability, and rejecting set after set. After searching every home store in the area, and revisiting most a second and third time, The Boss finally settled on a patent leather, reclining, rocker/roller sofa with a built-in heating and cooling system, foldaway tables, pull out storage and massage, and a matching love seat. The price, too embarrassingly large to mention here, was made more bearable by the salesman generously including a limited lifetime warranty, set-up and delivery.

Once the new furnishings were delivered and in place, and the nearly-new but no longer greyhound approved old furnishings were removed, The Boss and I decided that a movie night was in order to celebrate and appreciate our purchase. Giddy with excitement I rushed off to the movie store and rented 5 films I have been dying to see ever since they were released prior to bringing greyhounds home (known as life before greyhounds or LBGH). Upon my return popcorn is made, soft drinks are poured, fold-away tables are unfolded, and lights are dimmed. I fire up the jumbo-tron and marvel for a moment at the clarity and incredible contrast, select the perfect sound settings on the home theater, and insert the first movie disk into the player. I reach down as the opening scenes are about to begin, turn on the heat and vibration functions of the sofa, and deploy into the reclining position. I turn to The Boss and ask, “Whats happening now? Cy is in the way.” Then suddenly I notice Myka doing the potty dance and desperately trying to tell me she is well passed due to go outside. As I raise up to take the pups out, Loki jumps into my seat, gulps down a few mouthfuls of popcorn, and settles with a deep long groan of pure comfort and joy as Myka laps some of the soft drink from my glass and takes the seat beside him.

I take a yoga inspired seat on the floor, and mount a valiant attempt to get a glimpse at the screen through Cy's legs and under his belly. As I start to complain to The Boss about the fairness of the seating arrangements, and express my dissatisfaction with the comfort level of the cold hardwood floor, I am met with a loud “SHHHH, I am trying to watch a movie!”.

When this furniture wears out next month, I am choosing the set I want. At least when I am staring at it from the floor, I will have the satisfaction of knowing it was chosen specifically for me! 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How Quickly We Forget

Dogs, like babies, have a way of making you forget the trouble and turmoil they cause in your life. The mere glimpse of a baby turns The Boss into a blubbery, gibberish talking, goo goo spouting maniac, eyes radiating jealousy and the I Want One look. Gone are the memories of long sleep deprived nights of incessant crying, late night emergency trips to the disposable diaper store, and the ever present bodily fluid stains on clothing and furniture. Thoughts of duffel bags full of medications and other baby related paraphernalia, who’s mass and bulk exceeded general airline luggage allowances, each one carefully packed and unpacked with every trip outdoors regardless of how brief the journey, are long gone. In their place, pure joy and unconditional love.

When our sweet Mickey passed we decided that we would down-size our pack. We would let nature run its course, and eventually be a pet-free household. We are getting older, and once The Princess’s trolls quit messing up her bedroom and drinking all the milk, we will be empty nesters. The Boss mentioned some words that are associated with pet-free empty nesters, FREE TIME and TRAVEL. I’m not sure what they mean, but I think they are French or German words since she also mentioned Europe. Apparently pet-free empty nesters go to Europe and experience their FREE TIME and TRAVEL. Since I know that beer and wine come from Europe, the idea must have some merit, after all, no matter how strange FREE TIME and TRAVEL might be, French wine and German beer have to make it worth the trip.

After Mickey left us, her constant companion Cy quit functioning. He totally shut down and refused to eat, refused to play, and withdrew from the family unit. Sure, he still had his beagle brother Karson, but no matter how hard Karson tries, he is not an accepted member of the greyhound community. Clearly Cy missed Mickey and was grieving terribly. In desperation we took him to a greyhound adoption group so he might interact with his own kind because Greyhounds can be horrible snobs, and most will not recognize the K9 credentials of a less noble breed.

When Cy walked in to the room full of other greyhounds, his eyes lit up and we saw happiness. It was obvious Cy needed a companion greyhound to keep him company, and we picked out a quiet, sleek little 2 year old girl who we felt would fit right in with very little trouble. After all, we are going to be pet-free empty nesters, there is no need to bring in a high energy puppy, they can be a handful. While a two year old will likely be with us for a good long while, The Boss says that we could still have some FREE TIME and some TRAVEL with one hound, so we adopted Myka and took her home.

The day we brought Myka home, she walked into the house like she paid for it, and promptly ate all of my shoes. After the shoes were devoured, she turned her attention on all things plastic. It is obvious that some plastic object at some point must have insulted her mother or caused some other grievous injury, because she has an insatiable desire to inflict great violence upon any plastic object that has the nerve to be within her reach. She has an uncanny ability to open closed doors and baby gates to get to offending plastic objects, and barks continuously if there happens to be an object she can see, but can’t get to. Myka is very vocal and talks to us constantly in whines and grunts. She insists on sleeping with us and steals all the covers, and if one of us has the audacity to request a scrap of blanket for some glimmer of warmth during the night, we are met with groans and grunts of displeasure. In short, Myka is a handful. A delightfully snuggly, loving, happy and outgoing hound who adores her people and her brother Cy.

The destruction and havoc Myka brings to the home are things most puppies do. Puppies are playful and rambunctious, and demand time and attention. Training, interaction, love and caring eventually calm the pups, and help mold their personalities into adulthood. So what are soon to be pet-free empty nesters to do with a hyperactive, attention deficient, wantonly destructive puppy? Why, bring home another one of course.

A few months after bringing Myka home, a big huge 2 year old male greyhound became suddenly and unexpectedly homeless. Having no where to go, we were asked if we could take him, temporarily, until a suitable permanent home for him could be found. Loki is a well adjusted and stoic boy with a hoarding fetish. He steals anything he can get his teeth around, and secrets the objects away for later enjoyment. Loki and Myka work as a team, with Myka opening the doors and gates, and Loki getting the objects that have been placed purposely high and out of reach. Their teamwork and tenacity a perfect storm of teeth and slobber, inflicting permanent, irreversible damage to anything they contact.

Like Myka, Loki loves his people and is a snuggle champion, and, at 2 years old, will be around for many years to come. Gone are the days of lounging unencumbered on the sofa to take in a show or movie. Often we are forced from our seats by 150 lbs of combined greyhound mass competing desperately with each other to gain the most comfortable lap position. Of course, these are all things we experienced when Mickey and Cy were young pups, but were long forgotten with one glimpse into the sorrowful eyes of a homeless greyhound. Having Myka and Loki around has brought Cy back to his puppyhood. He is happy and playful, and runs right along with the young dogs, and it looks like Loki has found his permanent home here with us. Despite his puppy playfulness and massive frame, he is a perfect joy to have in the house, just like Myka.

While intending to go to a pet-free household we have actually increased the size of our pack, but we can down size in the future, after all, I’m sure the Europeans will be offering FREE TIME and TRAVEL, what ever that means, for many years to come.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Manitoba's Bird of Prey

One thing I like about Manitoba in the summer is that Mother Nature is kind and gentle, and nothing wants to kill you.

Living in the deepsouth was an eye opening experience when it came to our love of nature. Everything that walked, crawled, slithered, or flew, wanted to do you harm. Mixed in with poisonous spiders, deadly snakes, alligators, rabid bats and killer fire ants, were terribly horrible summer storms that threatened to level entire towns. Just the heat alone from April to November was enough to kill an ill prepared Sunday shopper, and heat stroke gardening accidents were common in our neighborhood.

Manitoba generally has gorgeous summer weather. You need to be quick to catch it, as this summer is forcast for two weeks in August, but when it arrives, it is almost Utopic. Calm winds, highs of 85 degrees, lows of 60, sunshine and clear skies. The stuff of legend. When summer arrives, all worries depart for the few weeks we are blessed, the days are long, and people become uncharacteristically pleasant to one another.

While the deepsouth weather was a bit to handle and while there were dangerous creatures lurking in every nook and cranny that would surely eat you if you ventured too close, what they didn't have were mosquitoes.

Sure there were palmetto bugs, an affectionate name for giant flying cockroaches that are faster on their feet then in the air, and sure, there were cicadas, which look like some horror story version of a house fly and emit a deafening drone from the trees, and yup, spiders everywhere, but there were NO MOSQUITOES.

The mosquitoes in Manitoba are bad. When I say they are bad, I mean they have tattoos, carry weapons, and ride motorcycles. They are clearly angry with their lot in life, and take out their pent up rage and frustration on the general population. Just yesterday, while returning home from yet another trip to the store for mosquito repellent, I witnessed a group of four or five mosquitoes beating up a duck. The right thing to do would have been to try and help, or call the police, but honestly, I was too afraid and didn't want to get involved. I feel bad, but really, it was either him or me.

We have used any number of mosquito repellents to try and keep the monsters at bay, lotions, creams, sprays, electric appliances, and old wives' home remedies, but all that we have accomplished is to create a roving gang of drugged out blood thirsty devils in the neighborhood looking for their next fix. If you have never seen a mosquito coming off a DEET high, I can assure you it not a pretty sight. One town close to us has even built a giant mosquito idol to which they worship and offer small sacrifices, but it has done nothing to appease the mosquito leaders. I heard that they lost the town hall and the post office last week and are now paying protection money to use the facilities.

When August rolls around, and our two weeks of summer hit, We will be enjoying the nice weather and calm skies trough the relative safety of our livingroom picture window, so long as no mosquitoes make eye contact. The last time we spent summer in Manitoba, they kicked in our door and tried to steal one of the hounds.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rest In Peace Sweet Mickey

I was ugly as a child. So ugly in fact, that most of the other neighborhood children gave me a wide berth and pretty much left me alone. In an effort to get me out of the house, my Grandmother would often give me leftover dinner bones to attract the dogs that roamed freely in the neighborhood, in the hopes it would give me someone to play with. One of the only dogs that would even come close by for a free snack was a neighbor’s retired racing greyhound named Casey.

Casey and I became close friends, best friends actually, as we had a lot in common. Casey was sort of beat up and kind of funny looking too, with deep scars and a mangled ear. He also didn’t have a lot of friends, and we made quite a spectacle roaming through the neighborhood.

Our relationship grew to the point that we were pretty much inseparable, and remained that way for a number of years. Eventually I moved away and promised to write, but I never did. We lost contact, I got new friends, and Casey likely started getting his bones from another neighbor because dogs are pretty flippant and easily swayed when it comes to free treats. I never forgot about Casey, but I never saw another racing greyhound.

I grew up, developed a career, got married and had children. Every once in awhile, thoughts of Casey would come to me, but they would be gone just as quickly as they had arrived. I had related the story of Casey to the Boss at some point in our lives together, but for the life of me, I can not remember when or why.

Work had taken us to South Carolina, and one day, as the Boss was watching TV, she saw a story about retired racing greyhounds available for adoption. Remembering my story of Casey, and knowing that the easiest way to get something she wants is to make it my idea, she very casually mentioned that you could adopt a retired racing greyhound right in our area. I was on the phone to the adoption group the very next day.

Mickey came into our lives on Thanksgiving 2005. Fate or some higher power must have chosen Mickey for us, as out of the dozens of hounds available, she was the one I was attracted to immediately. In fact, I prefer male dogs, but something about her captured my attention and I was smitten. She was tall and lean with a striking pose and a long beautiful tail. The day we took her home, she settled in like she had always been there, and our bond was strong right from the beginning.

Mickey was born on February 7, 2002, and actually shared her birthday with the Princess. She was born WVs McDowell, and competed in over 90 races under that name. She was a good runner, and graduated all the way to A class, which is the best a racing dog can hope for. One day however, Mickey decided that she just didn’t want to race any more and when the starter box opened, she just stood there and refused to run. She never ran another race.

Mickey was not an ordinary dog. She had these little quarks and unique mannerisms that you just don’t see in other dogs. In the first weeks we had her home, she developed a habit of stealing things from us and taking them to her bed. Shoes, purses, books, and even pillows were all fair game. She never damaged anything, she just seemed to want our personal objects for herself and horded them like an old hobo. It got to the point where when leaving the house, we no longer looked for footwear by the door, but rather went straight to Mickey’s bed. I once found a very expensive watch and the Boss’s wedding rings among her “stash”. She was a master thief that could steal food from counters in the blink of an eye. She once stole an entire meal right off the table while we were sitting there without getting caught. She was also a master escape artist, and once got through three layers of security to run the neighborhood. She was a deep passionate singer, and would howl with all her heart if you got her going, and she could kill a stuffed animal like nobody’s business.

Due to immigration issues and work, Mickey and I spent many months alone together. She was the one constant companion in my life. She had these huge deep brown eyes that looked right into your soul, and no matter what she had done, it was impossible to be upset with her. She was my heart dog, the K9 version of a soul mate, and I loved her dearly.

Mickey was almost perfect in every way. She was friendly and out going, and would literally pull me across the street to visit children. Toddlers were her favorite, and if she were allowed, would kiss them with gusto. Her personality made it possible for us to take in other troubled dogs, as she was able to keep them in line, while showing them how to behave in a home and how to enjoy human interaction. She was dainty and lady like, and would accept a treat with perfect manners, and she always insisted on jumping up with a paw on each shoulder to plant a kiss on every person she met. I was greeted in this manner every single day of all the years she was with us, whether I had been gone or hours or simply minutes. She insisted on sleeping with us, and I often found myself with lack of covers, lack of space, and lack of sleep, but her comfort for a bit of cold or a few hours sleep was a pretty good trade I thought.

The only issue Mickey had, if you can call it an issue, was a deathly fear of thunder. Even before us humans could hear the rumbles, Mickey would start to pace and whine when a storm approached. When the thunder grew intense, Mickey would start to shake, pant, and tremble all over. Her trembles were so severe that you could actually hear the vibrations of her muscles, and she would often cower in the bathroom. No soft gentle words would soothe her fears, and no amount of petting or gentle hugs could comfort her. We worked with Mickey throughout her entire time with us, and even tried calming drugs, but no mater how much of the medication we took, her fear persisted.

In late March Mickey had some stomach issues. We took her in for some tests, and she showed signs of a digestive tract infection. We gave her a medication to take care of that, but she had a very bad reaction and we nearly lost her. We switched to a different medication, and she improved.

Her tummy issues resurfaced in the middle of May. She became very ill, and we again ran tests and thought the infection had returned. We started on a different course of medication, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. We returned to the vet for x-rays and an ultrasound to try and get to the bottom of what was ailing her, and discovered a large and aggressive tumor. By the time we made the discovery, her liver had swollen to about four times the normal size and was compressing other vital organs. By the evening of the diagnosis, she was clearly in distress and was crashing fast. The next day, Mickey was barely able to walk, and was struggling to breathe. The spark had gone from her eyes, and she looked so so tired. She was fading away from us, and we were powerless to stop her. We made an emergency appointment and put her to rest.

Mickey passed in our arms. When the injection was given, we held her tight and we cried. We spoke encouraging words, and told her how much we loved her through deep sobs and a river of tears. Moments before she drew her final breath, it seemed that she knew we were there and she was at peace.

When she passed she was with us, she was pain free, and she was beautiful. In the end, she died just like she lived.

Having to put Mickey to sleep is the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried for days, and I am still deeply sorry for loosing her. Being with her when she passed was a very traumatic experience, but it was the last final gift we could give to her in return for the years of unconditional love, the joy, and the companionship she gave us.

Hopefully, she is now running free with the angels that passed before her, and stealing all the shoes and pillows she can. There will never be another dog like Mickey, and we are incredibly lucky and eternally grateful for having her come into our lives.

Mickey Filby
2/7/2002 – 5/24/2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Having lived in the south for a good deal of time, where winter forecast temperatures never include a negative number, you forget just how cold, cold really is.

Winter in Northern Canada is harsh. It takes a tough and hardy type of person to live in a climate where the daily weather forecasts include words like "daytime highs of -38 with winds gusting to 90 kilometers per hour". It takes a mentally unstable and slightly deranged type of person to willingly relocate back, after having experienced a number of southern winters.

For those like me who are metrically challenged, 90 kilometers per hour is our legal posted highway driving speed. To fully experience the thrill of a Canadian winter, simply dump a bag of ice into your undergarments, get into your vehicle, and drive at full speed with your head sticking out of the window. For a more realistic experience, you could have a friend tow you on a trailer while you perform simple tasks such as chopping fire wood, changing a flat tire, or boosting a dead battery.

I remember as a child walking through huge mountains of snow on my way to school each morning. Drifts of snow blown up over the sidewalks would present formidable obstacles, one side we would climb, and the other we would slide down. I remember temperatures so cold your eyelashes would freeze and stick together when you blinked. I remember cars frozen into the street, who’s owners would be shoveling around spinning tires, or cursing non-starting stone dead batteries.

The kids from my neighborhood walked about a mile to school. There was no yellow bus that came by our houses and no parents ever drove their kids. We walked a mile each way, every day. A mile in the rain, a mile in the snow, a mile in temperatures so cold that loosing extremities was a real and serious possibility. Each and every kid in my school by the age of six, had experienced severe frostbite and had been stuck by their tongues to a pole or some other large immobile metal object. In fact, successfully daring a classmate to lick a frozen metal fence post is a coveted skill. You can reach local legend status if the classmate remains stuck to the post until a teacher or other responsible care giver is forced to search for the poor gullible victim. Canadian law dictates that you are immediately graduated from grade school with full honors if you can convince the same kid to lick a frozen pole twice, regardless of present marks or current grade.

I remember winter as being fun and exciting. I remember waiting with anticipation, surpassed only by Christmas Day itself, for the first wondrous snowfall to arrive. I remember rushing to the window every morning when winter drew near to see if the world had been blanketed by a beautiful layer of pristine white snow, and being thoroughly disappointed to discover it had not. While we had fun playing outside in the summer, snow added an entirely new dimension to fun, with a bonus of endless potential for torment to neighborhood children. There were face-washes, where a handful of snow would be rubbed vigorously into one's unprotected cheeks, and dunks, where one's entire head would be forced into a snowbank. Snowballs would be carefully constructed and then tossed full force at unsuspecting prey who's distance was carefully gauged to ensure an easy escape without the possibility of retaliation, and gloves or toques would be stolen and filled with cold frozen snow. We would spend a week building an ice fort which we would then vigorously defend against neighborhood marauders brandishing ice-balls and hockey sticks. I don't remember when I started to hate the cold, but it seems that my distaste for winter has increased in exact proportion to the increase in my age.

Winter, and more specifically cold and snow, now represent pain and suffering. There is work and toil in everything that involves leaving the warmth and comfort of my easy chair. Long hours of extended darkness, chapped and bleeding lips, crippled aching joints, and mountains and mountains of shoveling. Snow is removed from walkways and dog runs, roofs, driveways, and cars. Snow is now something to be dreaded, and long months of cold and darkness becomes depressing. Thankfully, just when the season seems the darkest, and all hope is near dashed, some poor kid comes along and licks our fence. 

That just never, ever, gets old..