Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blogging in Real Time

The past couple of weeks have been very busy ones for us.  I haven't been able to post as often as I like, because work hours have been long, house guests have been many (three separate guests last week), and in my limited spare time Beep's needs have overruled blogging.

This morning I was up while it was pitch black out, and shuffled my way out to the kitchen to try to get a post or two done before my family awakened.  I let Annie outside, I let Fletcher out another door (Fletch has been confined at night because we've had a resurgence in coyotes lately), and peeked at the horses. 

I sent up a plea for an uninterrupted hour.

Then Annie started barking, so I whistled for her and shut her on the back porch.

I sat back down to look at photos and think about what to post.

Then Annie started barking again.

I got up, muttered some unflattering things about Annie's intelligence level, and let her in her mudroom.

I missed my Georgie. I sighed, put my hands on my hips, and took a moment to recognize that Annie isn't Georgie.  Besides that, she's still a puppy.  I patted and asked her to be sweet and cooperate.  She panted, licked me and spun around in circles in agreement.  I gave her a nice new bone.  Bribery.

Back to the computer, back to ponder what to write...

After a couple of minutes I heard Annie's water bucket sliding around her room.  Followed immediately by the sound of the bucket rolling around her room.  *Crap*

Stomping back through the kitchen, I steeled myself for the mess I knew I'd find.  Annie was playing with her overturned water bucket, sloshing around in the puddles, getting muddy paw prints everywhere, mixing it with stray dog hairs, and generally having a great time.

I stepped barefoot into the drippy mess, grabbed her collar and shoved her out the door.  Grabbed the mop, went to work.  Listened to her bark on the back porch.  Mopped, squeezed outside, told her to hush.  Repeated that sequence about eighteen times.  

Then I told her she was a butthead.  And put the mop away.

And now, because Annie drowned my hopes of doing a post that might be actually mildly interesting, the only thing I can think of writing about is why I can't get a decent post written.

And now I have to go, because she's barking again.

But then, I will probably make my family pancakes.  And hopefully soon I'll be able to tell you about my new favorite pancakes, which are light, fluffy, made from scratch, and filled with extra goodness.

If you don't hear from me again, you can thank Annie.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Word to the Wise

A word to the wise...  The bigger the toy, the bigger the mess.

Allow me to introduce you to a big toy.

Much of our property has never been improved.  I wish I could say that means it's an oasis of virgin woods, wildflowers, and natural wonderland.

It is not.  It's a tangled mess of brushy cedar grounded by a layer of rock, peppered with prickly pear. 

Earlier this year we (and by we I mean Cabbage) found someone who wanted the biggest of the cedar trees.  That guy cut down a bunch of trees at no charge, and in exchange he took with him all the cedar he wanted.  This was quite the deal for both parties, because he usually pays for his cedar, and we would usually pay someone to clear our unwanted trees.

That deal now appears in the online dictionary under both symbiosis and mutually beneficial.

The downside was that the tree guy [not his real name] left the downed cedar he didn't want.  We knew that ahead of time, and it was fair enough.  But since then, we've had a lot of downed trees and brush everywhere on our place. 

It looked really pretty, let me assure you.  Just because of that, we were asked to put our house on the Tour of Homes.

All good things must end, though, and Cabbage was just able to wrangle some time with a friend's equipment (see above toy) and clear the majority of the cedar debris.  There are no words to express how very happy this made me.

I should have known better.

True, the pasture is looking great.  We couldn't even see through this area before- first because of scrubby growth, then because of dead limbs. 

But oh, the horrors of the driveway, scarred from the skid steer as it maneuvered. 

And while he was there, Cabbage got carried away with Extreme Makeover: Driveway Edition. The basketball hoop paid a dear price. 

Ok, I can live with that.  It hung out over the driveway and always imperiled our horse trailer, so it needed to be relocated.  Or destroyed.  Whatever.

I really think my husband lives for this kind of project.  He truly loves excuses to go out in public looking like he hasn't had a bath in a month.

I married a wannabe hobo.

Fletcher isn't at all sure about this dramatic chain of events...  He took refuge on top of a pickup.

Annie assessed the tracks carved into the grass.  Oh, wait.  That was me.  I assessed the tracks carved (forever) into the (little bit of) grass (we have).

But, to keep my eye on the prize, I'll now show you one side of the brush pile Cabbage made, with him standing in front for a sense of scale. 

I'm loving this view now.  This is still a big mess, but we're making progress.

I love the smell of progress in the morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brew City Barbecue

My brother, Owen, received a double dose of mechanical know-how.  How do I know he got exactly two helpings?  He is in possession of his genetic share and mine.

Me: Failed at assembling a portable saddle rack each and every time I was confronted with it.  For a year.
Owen: Builds huge sets in a ginormous theater.

Me: Burned my finger lifting the top off my crockpot.
Owen: Welds complicated stuff out of metal.

Me: Challenged by changing a flat tire.
Owen: Converted a box truck to a portable scuba diving shop-slash-camper with solar panels.

When we were young, Owen wasn't satisfied with leaving our swingset alone.  It had to be bigger, better, more complex.  He'd rearrange our swings until every hook held a swing of different length.  It took a little guidance to use, but when the swinger was appropriately draped over each of the six(ish) swings, it was a pretty good- if somewhat awkward- ride.

He now channels his innate abilities to his highly technical job and also to his hobbies which include scuba diving in caves (nothankyou), feeding many people delicious barbecue and enlightening the world with his homebrewed beer.

It's all a good excuse to tinker with stuff.

Exhibit A:  Owen's smoker

It is not only fully portable (as demonstrated by Owen pushing it above), but also features a keg, working sink and seaworthy mounted beer holders.

We wouldn't want to chance spilling any of that delicious homebrewed beer.

He's fully prepared for any eventuality- hanging out, taking his show on the road to friends' houses, or going camping.

So Owen's got the market cornered on gadgetry and know-how.  This is how it's always been, and I may be a little bitter about it. 

I'll take it up with him just as soon as I can figure out how to free myself from my mangled saddle rack and change my car tire with my crispy finger.

Surely I'm not the only one with a sibling much more innately talented at a necessary life skill.....? 

Anyone???  Bueller?


Ok, then.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Running Buddy

Cabbage refers to his best friends as his running buddies, meaning the people who will always jump in the truck with you, the ones by your side no matter what, the guys who are guaranteed to be ready for the next adventure.

I choose to take the term more literally, because that’s just how I am.  Also, because it suits my purposes.   This is my running buddy.

We go [wait for it]  running together.

This has been made possible by that most useful of inventions, the jogging stroller.  We found ours at a consignment store recently, and it’s been getting a lot of use.

Up and down the hills near Cabbage Ranch, I push the Beep in her nifty new stroller.  She’s a good passenger and is always excited to see me pull out her ride. 
I love taking her with me.  But… make no mistake about it: just because I’m running my ass off doesn’t mean I get to stop parenting.

Wheezing up a hill isn’t enough.  Now let’s add pushing a stroller containing a toddler.  AND just when I think I might make it up the Mount Everest of the hill country and enjoy a satisfying triumph, the toddler decides it’s time to ask for “Dooce.”  (for the eighth time and in a tone that implies a tantrum if she has to ask again)  Adios, personal best.  I stop and hand her the juice box.

Or, just for kicks, she’ll wait until we’re halfway through the run- which would mean we’re the furthest possible distance from the ranch- and say “Out?” 
“No, Baby.  You need to stay in the stroller. “
[cue whining]
On the plus side, I get to introduce her to different sights than we normally see on Cabbage Ranch.

She’s learning to multitask by feeding her baby while we go.

She also doesn’t seem to mind getting rained on. 

And she loves waving to cars and yelling “Bah-bye” after they’re long gone.  The timing isn’t there, but the sentiment is.  She’s trying to be part of society.

I really like thinking I’m helping her learn healthy habits by setting a good example.  Naturally, this makes me feel superior.

Also on the plus side, when I’m worn out, have officially hit my limit and I can’t take another step... I  slow to a walk until I regain my breath.  I unapologetically wave to bicyclists whizzing past (they’re not only alone, but have a machine helping them).  I say hello to other joggers (who do not have strollers) and I’m not embarrassed.  I take a couple of minutes to crest a hill or catch my breath before striking back out at the jog.  And I don’t. Feel. Bad. About. It.  If I’m huffing and puffing and in need of a break, it’s because I’m actually running for two. 

Do you exercise with your kids, spouse, or a friend?  What are your favorite (and not-so-favorite) parts of having a partner?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Somewhere Bright and Cool

This week has been one of trying to adjust. After twelve years of sharing each of my many homes with her, I still expect Georgie to greet my car, walk up from the barn, or peek out from the shade of the porch.

The collar that encircled her neck every single day since 1999 is now empty and coiled on my dresser along with a lock of her hair. It will take time for it all to sink in.

Cabbage always asks “How are you?” And I respond by shaking my head, or silently meeting his eyes for a moment. His expression and voice soft, he comforts me with one of several kind replies:
“She’s worth missing.”
“I understand.”
“You’ll be ok. It takes time.”
And always, without fail:
“I got your back.”

All of this, and especially everything that is still good and right in my life, makes every day ok. I still laugh and smile and eat dinner and sleep at night. I just miss my JoJo, and instead of her as my constant companion, I have an achy sadness. Eventually I know I’ll feel better and have a different normal without her sweet face but I’m just not there yet.

I was thinking the other day of this photo.

I took it about eight years ago, soon after I got Maybe. It reminds me of those early halcyon days when I was still stunned that he was mine, that I actually had a horse of my own, and that he was such a beautiful and fascinating creature.

I had this photo a long time, and looked at it dozens of times, before I even realized Maybe wasn’t the only one in the frame.

We all recognize that black and tan face.

This. This was Georgie. 

She was a barn dog, a one-person dog, a goofball “helping” work a horse, and above all a happy and constant companion.

I remember that fall day; the sky was clear and blue in that singular Colorado shade, and from our perch on the high plains we had a panoramic view of the mountains all along the front range. The breeze blew crisp, dry air scented with grass and hay. Maybe and Georgie were happy and playful, teasing each other from opposite sides of the fence.

It’s so easy to picture them now together in a place not so different from that. I hope they’re playing again, both of them young and whole and joyful, somewhere bright and cool.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Watching the Steam Rise

On Saturday, I tried to ride my horse.  After losing Georgie Friday night, I needed the mental challenge and physical exertion.  I needed an escape. Unfortunately, Sam was not in the mood.  He was hyper and uncooperative, challenging me at every turn.  Eventually I cut my losses and got off, and later I went for a short run instead.

This morning I tried again, and it was a different story.  The doctor was in.

Winston Churchill apparently liked to wax philosophic about horses, and one of his better-known quotes is "There's something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man."  I like the quote but it's only partly true.  It's ultimately not about the outside of the horse.  It's about the inside- the mind, the heart, the intelligence.

Those are the qualities that make this my therapy couch.

Sam and I walked to the arena.  It was where I needed to be. 

It was just after 8:00 in the morning, and it was beautiful.  Long rays of sunshine, crisp clear air, and a happy horse to act as salve for my hurting heart.

After our ride, my sweet Sam enjoyed a sudsy bath and some grazing time.  While he munched and the steam rose off his wet, warm muscles, my mind drifted toward Georgie.  Of course.

I thought of all the thousands of hours she and I spent at a barn together.  

I remembered her nosing around while I rode, following scent trails until she disappeared around a corner, across a field, or into the forest.  When it was time I always whistled for her- one short, then one long and lifting call.  After a pause she'd reappear, running.  Her tan markings bobbing, black fur streaming, she'd come racing with joy from wherever she'd been, back to my side in a big long loop.

My heart felt quiet and tender.  I thought of her, and I watched the steam rise.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Georgie

[It's only fair to warn you...  This is the very sad account of how my dear Georgie died.  She was my dog for the last twelve years through, well, just about everything- cross-country moves, jobs, boyfriends, marriage, births and deaths.  If you'd rather skip the sad stuff and enjoy some photos from our life together, that would be just fine with me.  Just scroll down until you see the photos start.  I hope they make you smile, and maybe even remind you of a special dog who changed your own life.] 

Saying Goodbye to Georgie

Last night, my beloved Georgie died.

It happened suddenly and there wasn't much time for a goodbye.  I hope that also means there was not much suffering for her, but I don't know.

I was fighting traffic on my commute home when Cabbage called me to say "Don't stop at the barn.  Come right on home."  When I asked him, sharply, "What?" he said "Well, Georgie's not feeling too good..."

His tone was enough.  I got there as soon as I could.  There were stoplights, slow drivers, the crush and congestion of rush hour traffic.  My gas tank, which I'd been intending to stop and refill on the way home, was almost on E.

I pulled through the gate, teeth gritted, gripping the steering wheel.  Flying from the car, I stopped short at the sight on the back porch.  It was Georgie, lying on a pallet of soft rugs, with Cabbage (holding Beep) softly petting her sweet face.  He had a fan blowing cool air on her.

He looked up at me.  "It's ok,"  he said.

I took a hesitant step forward, then another, and bolted the last couple of steps to them.  Kneeling beside her, I put my face down and cried "Georgie girl?  I'm here.  I'm here, JoJo."

He ears perked up, her eyes shifted to mine.  I ran my eyes, and then hands, over her and immediately found her swollen abdomen, panting breath, distant gaze.

I thought She's hemorrhaging.  Oh my god.  This is bad.  I knew she was dying.

I pulled out my phone, dialed the vet clinic for the emergency clinic number, and Cabbage called them for directions.  As quickly as we could, running, we loaded the baby, opened the back of the car.  I checked for gas in our lawnmower cans.  There was none.  Goddammit.

I didn't know how to move her, how to gather her up without hurting her...  Cabbage swept past me and scooped her up to his chest.  I carried her head, walking backward.  I smoothed her face and talked to her.  She looked at me, passive but coherent.  When we laid her in the back compartment, she didn't move.

I sat in the back seat, trying to soothe my fussing baby and comfort my dying dog.

Georgie?  Can you hear me?  I see you, JoJo.  I love you.  Do you hear me?

I tried to find a place to pet her that I thought wouldn't hurt.

I covered my eyes to pray.  "St. Francis, please bring comfort to this sweet girl of mine.  I'm begging you to take away her pain and give her peace.  Send your better angels.  She's my girl.  She needs your better angels."

I did not ask for her to live.  I knew it was too late.

Her abdomen seemed to grow tighter, distend more.  Her breaths grew shallower.

We had to stop for gas.  It didn't take two minutes.  We had to stop for fucking gas.

My baby was crying and saying:
"Yes, baby?"
"What, baby?" 

We were getting closer to the clinic, but there was a train.  There was construction.  We had to flip a u-turn and drive a block through a neighborhood.  The sun was shining through the trees.

Her breaths grew shallower.

Georgie?  Can you hear me?  I love you.  I remember the farm where you first found me.  I remember everything.  I love you.

"Oh, no.  Oh, nonono.  Cabbage, hurry."  She wasn't taking every breath anymore.
"I'm trying," he said.

We finally pulled up at the clinic, and as Cabbage carried her through the doors she took her last breath.  They did CPR, they administered drugs.  They tapped her abdomen to relieve pressure on her organs.  They did more CPR, tried and tried to start her heart.  The vet came to talk with me while the others continued to work on her.

She was gone.  I told them to stop and let her go.  I knew she was already gone. 

Her stomach had bloated, flipped, and compacted arteries.  Her circulation was interrupted, her body couldn't function.  There was so much damage and oxygen deprivation.  The vet told us it doesn't happen often, but they see it more this time of year.

An hour and a half before, she was playing with Annie, running through the yard.

We said goodbye to her in a private room, right after I looked Cabbage squarely in the eye and said "This can't be it.  This can't be the end of it for Georgie and me.  This can't be the end for us." 

I hugged her head and stroked her ears.  I asked Beep if she wanted to say bye-bye to JoJo, and she didn't.

I petted her a long while, and told her I remember everything...  I remember everything.  You're my girl, JoJo.    

In Memory of Georgie
1998- October 14, 2011