Saturday, February 20, 2010

Goodbye Merlin

*photo of Merlin:
Merlin

We had to put our dog down this morning. She’s been sick for a few years and we’ve known this day was coming, but it was very hard. Making the decision to euthanize a pet is so difficult. I wasn’t sure we were making the right decision until this morning when we saw her fall outside and urinate on herself. She was unable to stand or walk for long periods of time; putting pressure on her legs made her whole body shake. She suffered from excessive thirst and could never seem to get enough to drink. And yet, her tail wagged when we talked to her. She was always happy to see us.

We talked about it and said that as long as she was still mobile and eating regularly, we’d keep her with us. Recently she started eating less and drinking more, and several times a day, she would slip on the hardwood floors and couldn’t get up without help. This past week she started having diarrhea and vomiting, and her breathing continued to get so bad that she sounded like she was gasping for air all the time.

It was time.

The Husband and The Boy went to the vet for the procedure. The girls and I stayed home. Before they left, we sat with Merlin under the dining room table and said our goodbyes. She looked up at me with those cloudy eyes and her tail thumped softly on the floor. It seemed like she knew what was coming, and she was saying goodbye. Our cat Mabel came over and sniffed Merlin a few times, then sat down next to her. Animals are eerily perceptive.

Hollywood, Bumblebee and I sat crying under the dining room table with Merlin until it was time to go. They left for the vet and we talked about our memories.

I remembered when we first got her. The parents of a little boy that sometimes came around our house owned a dog who had a very large litter of pups. It was early July and very hot, and the puppies were living in an enclosed front porch that had no air conditioning. It was so hot that the mom stopped feeding the pups. They were going to take the litter to a shelter, and Hollywood wanted one very badly. I hadn’t talked about this with The Husband, but after seeing these puppies living in the horrible conditions, I couldn’t say no. I let her pick out a puppy, and I still like to tease her about picking out the ugliest one of the bunch. Most of the puppies were black or brown, this one was orange and brown and white. She grew into a beautiful adult dog, though.

We told Bumblebee the story of when she was a baby and I was walking her down the street in her stroller, a large german shepherd came running towards us. I don’t think the dog would’ve hurt us, but Merlin jumped right in front of Bumblebee’s stroller and snarled at this very large dog. She was protecting her baby!

Hollywood reminded us of another time when The Boy had taken a nap on the floor of the living room. He was all stretched out, lying on his stomach. It was an odd place for him to be napping. Merlin came into the room and went nuts, alerting TH and me to The Boy’s condition. He was fine, but she didn’t know that… Another example of her protection.

I’ll miss taking walks and jogs with Merlin. We haven’t been able to do that for a long time since she’s been sick, but she loved to go on walks with us. She’d get so excited when I put on my athletic shoes. Sometimes we’d have to spell the word W-A-L-K if we didn’t mean it was her kind of walk or else she’d go nuts on us.

I remember one time, when she was very young, we took her on a walk to the park. She loved going to the park or nearby school’s playground with me and the kids. On this particular occasion, she had just been spayed and her belly was still tender and sore. We were careful with her, but she hopped up and chased after The Boy as he went up a twisty slide. She flipped down that slide and flopped onto that sore belly of hers. We all held our breath, but she simply yelped a short “ow!” and was off chasing the kids towards the swings.

She passed away peacefully. The Husband said he held her head in his hands as the injection was administered and it really hit him hard when her body relaxed at last. As the medicine took effect and her heart stopped, she passed gas, a product of muscles relaxing or contracting as her broken body shut down. The thought of her farting on her way to the other side makes me smile. She sure knew how to stink up a room.

We will miss her. It’s a sad time for us, and yet we are closer as a family today; united in our grief and memories of our years with her. She was part of our family for almost eleven years, and we will never forget the joy she brought to us.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"I do not! Now go get me more coffee!"

Bumblebee

The other night, Bumblebee, The Husband and I were watching the Olympics in the living room. The cat hopped up onto the end table next to the love seat that TH was sitting on. She promptly leaned over and threw up all over the floor. (sorry - cat vomit is not the point of this post. I don't mean to always be writing about barf.)

"Yuck. You should probably clean that up before the dog gets to it." I told The Husband. (It was, after all, on his side of the living room!)

He completed the clean-up without complaint. In fact, he was almost cheerful as he said, "I'd much rather clean this up than dog shit. It doesn't smell bad or anything."

That's when Bumblebee piped up and delivered this quote-worthy announcement:

"Mom," she said. "You treat people like they're your minions."

How does she even know that word?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to Kill Cabin Fever on a Sunny Winter Day

Facebook is a cool thing. Last week I posted a status update that asked if anyone knew of a good winter hiking spot in central Iowa. I got a few really great responses. One of them gave us information about a snowshoe hike out at a wildlife refuge about 40 minutes away.

Because we have been suffering from the worst case of cabin fever I can remember, I really wanted to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Saturday was a beautiful day - it was almost 30 degrees out and sunny. Ok, so below freezing temps don't usually count as 'beautiful' days in my world, but... we've had sub zero temps and a shitload of snow this winter, so a sunny day above 20 is as welcome as finding a $20 bill in your jeans pocket this winter.

Brother Z and his girlfriend (M) came along with us. We had such a great time!

When we were telling Bumblebee about what we'd be doing, we described snowshoes as things that look like tennis rackets. I guess they've improved them since the olden days, because they look nothing like tennis rackets now:
*photo of The Boy with his snow shoes.
snowshoes

The hike was led by a naturalist who works for the wildlife refuge. This refuge is amazing - it's the largest reconstruction of tallgrass prairie in the U.S. and there's an enclosure that houses buffalo and elk, things you don't get to see very often. The cool thing about a snowshoe hike is that because it's winter, we could walk all over the place and not stick to the trails. In the summer you have to stay on the trails so that you don't hurt the grass, but since it's winter and the grass is dormant, we could trample all over it.

The snow was a few feet deep in places, and having snowshoes made it much easier to walk. But they were hard to get the hang of:
*photo of The Boy and Bumblebee on the ground after falling in the snow:
Snowshoes are tricky

In fact, Bumblebee fell face first into the snow about a dozen times. But she seemed to enjoy it:
*photo of Bumblebee face first in the snow:
Bumblebee falls in the snow

Brother Z took some notes while we were out hiking - he's a grad student at Iowa State, studying forestry, so this was right up his alley (even though there were very few trees to be seen.)
*Photo of Z taking notes on the hike:
Z Snowshoe hike

Tallgrass prairies are gorgeous in the winter - and this is something I never would have known. As far as the eye could see, there were sloping hills and tallgrass covered by snow.
*Photo of Hollywood with the prairie landscape behind her:
Hollywood snowshoe hike

We were lucky because the bison were up close to the fences and we were able to see them quite well. It was interesting to see the bison and elk hanging out in close proximity:
*Photo of bison:
Bison

*Photo of elk:
Elk

*Photo of an elk bull:
Snowshoe hike wildlife refuge

*Photo of Z and M in front of the bison:
Z and M with the Bison

*Photo of me and the kids in front of the bison:
Snowshoe hike

The hike was really a lot of fun. After it was finished, we went into the learning center and things got really crazy:
*Photo of the kids, Z, and M making goofy gestures with bison bones:
Bison Bones

We really had fun with this stuffed buffalo and the surrounding bones and artifacts that were on display:
*Photo of Hollywood putting Elk antlers on her head by the giant stuffed bison:
Hollywood Antlers

I tried to look intimidating to this bison, but it wasn't afraid:
*photo of me holding the bison by the horns and giving it an 'intimidating' look:
Monnik Bison

Bumblebee took a different approach:
*photo of Bumblebee sticking her finger in the bison's nose and making a grossed out face:
Bumblebee Bison Nose

Here we are sort of acting normal:
*photo of me and the kids in front of the bison
Family Bison

And then the kids decided to get under the buffalo skins and pretend to be animals:
*photo of the the kids under the bison skins:
Bison Coats

I'm not sure if we'll be allowed back in to the learning center. But we didn't just goof around. The Boy enjoyed this display on how an ecosystem is like a song:
*photo of The Boy in front of the display.
The Boy Wildlife Learning Center

And Bumblebee loved the activity they had for kids - it was a scavenger hunt worksheet where they had to walk aorund and find things in the displays:
*photo of Bumblebee with her clipboard in front of a prairie diorama:
Bumblebee Scavenger Hunt

All in all, it was a really fun day. Something that I never would have thought of, and we all enjoyed it. The best part? It didn't cost a dime. (Well, until we got to the gift shop at the learning center...)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hey, How are ya?

Howdy! It's been a long time! How's it going? Thought I'd pop in and give an update or two, though this will be a rambling brain dump.

Improving:
February isn't turning out to be any better than January. Well, I take that back. It's closer to spring, so by default, it's better than January. And, after being sick last weekend, at least we're all feeling better, so thank God for small miracles.

Learning: My new job is getting better. I'm starting to learn things. Still looking for things to keep me busy, but I'm sure that will change. I'm still struggling with not having many 'friends' or acquaintances at the new building. But on the other hand, having no friends forces my jiggly butt to the gym over lunch, so maybe that's not a good thing.

Annoying: Speaking of the gym, I worked out later than the usual lunch crowd today and had no warm water in the showers afterward. Brrr!

Inconvenient: Our home computer is fried, thanks to a few viruses that The Boy accidentally downloaded. My brainy brother is going to have to revive it from the dead, but until then, no iTunes and working with photographs is almost impossible.

Depressing: Football is over. This was a weird season - my Packers were decent, but not stellar; Aaron Rodgers really became Green Bay's QB and not just Brett Favre's successor; and then there was the drama with the Vikings and Favre. Yuck. But, at least the Superbowl was fun to watch.

Infuriating: Just like the rest of the country, we've had snowfall after snowfall. Everywhere you look, there are six to ten feet piles of snow. It's horrible, but it's pretty. I'm so over winter.

Exhausting: Because of being confined to the house due to bad weather so much, my kids are at each other's throats. Bumblebee and The Boy will not stop fighting. It's driving me nuts and the other night I made them put on their coats and snow boots and run around the house in the (very deep) snow and the super cold temps. Hollywood said I was being a child abuser, but they needed to cool off and that was actually fairly effective.

Fun: We had a fun trip to a wildlife refuge this past weekend, and I'll post pictures on that later. My brother and his girlfriend came along with me and the kids to go on a snowshoe hike through a bison and elk refuge. It was pretty cool, and a great break from the usual stuck in the house routine that mother nature has dictated lately.

Boring: Wow, this is a boring drive by post. I promise I'll get more interesting as the weather thaws.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How Many Phrases Can You Think Of For "Vomit"?

Well... it's February. Thank God January is over. What a vomitous month it was.

Thursday night I was sitting in a very elegant and pricey restaurant with my book club, when I got a call from Hollywood.

"Mom? How do I clean up puke off the kitchen floor?" she asked.

Oh no. This could not be good. Turns out that poor Bumblebee had ran into the kitchen, asked Hollywood (who was babysitting) for a barf bucket, and promptly blew chunks all over the floor.

As I was explaining which cleaner to use on the ralph, Hollywood shouted, "No Merlin! Don't eat it, get out of here!"

And there went my enjoyment of a $40 sea bass dinner. Every time I tried to savor the meal, I thought of the dog thinking, "Jackpot!" when Bumblebee tossed her cookies on the floor.

I spent the rest of the evening taking care of Bumblebee as she upchucked every half an hour or so. I worked from home on Friday, and spent most of Friday night doing seventy loads of laundry and scouring everything. I was trying to get the smell of yack out of my house and hoping madly that my vigilant cleansing efforts would save me from catching the flu.

I was not saved.

I had it all weekend. The Boy had it too. We were both praying to the porcelain god and I, for one, wanted someone to knock me unconscious so that I could get rid of the nauseous spinny feeling I had. I haven't had to do the technicolor yawn in a long time, so I wasn't prepared for this bout of the flu. To add to the fun, I had several nosebleeds thrown in there with the gastric geysers. When it rains, it spews?

I slept most of the weekend, and I can now keep down water and food without throwing up, though I don't feel all that well yet. Here it is another Monday already and I didn't get to make use of a decent weekend. My to-do list is longer than. But at least it's no longer January.

Thank God for that.