Four stories that I wrote some time ago, about gain, loss, and what was to come.
November 26, 2010
Diane and myself are skipping the traditional Thanksgiving this year. We are presently sitting in site 41 at the Anvil Campground in Williamsburg, Virginia. Skipping the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, along with all the work that involves, didn't sit too well with some family members. I say too bad!
Diane and I need some time to ourselves. Time with less stress, less responsibility. We need a time to heal from the loss of our dog. We need some couple time. So the plan is to hit the shopping outlets on the morning of Black Friday, then to come back to the coach, and take a break. Friday night we have reservations at The Trellis, one of the best restaurants in town if not the best. Saturday morning we might explore the Colonial area some more or Yorktown or somewhere.
Around noon on Saturday we are going to Richmond to visit a copper colored Cocker Spaniel named Beasley. He is presently in the care of a dog rescue group. Beasley, according to what we have been told, is three years old, in good health, has a great personality and he needs a home.
We arrived at the Anvil CG around one o'clock on Thanksgiving day. It was an uneventful morning getting the rig packed up. We didn't need to load up much food or clothes but we did pack some doggie stuff. That stuff included treats, a Kong, a collar and leash and some dog food. All this is a just in case thing. The most excitement was over some lost cash, that Diane put someplace safe, so safe she couldn't find it. After some intensive searching it was discovered in a file cabinet drawer.
Once our mad money was stored away and the car hooked up we hit I-64 for Williamsburg. Forty minutes later we were in the campground looking at a white board in front of the office door. The white board had a list of Thanksgiving day arrivals and site numbers. Site 41 was the same site we were assigned to the last time we were here.
It did not take long to make camp and soon after we found ourselves walking on Dog Street in Colonial Williamsburg. It is not really Dog Street, but Duke of Gloucester Street. Dog is the name the locals give it and Diane and I consider ourselves locals. The street was quite crowded with tourists, most of them toting cameras and many walking dogs. We could not help but notice that. We talked to a mother and daughter walking a couple of Springer Spaniels and visited a couple walking a pair of PBGVs.
We bought a couple of ten dollar large souvenir mugs of hot cider (which come with free refills ) and I played Quoints, a game related to horseshoes, with one of the park interpreters, who played the character of Mr. Randolph ESQ., attorney at law.
We were back in the coach around five and had Chinese food followed by a viewing of Eat, Love, Pray or is it Eat, Pray, Love? We also watched The Crossing, a great movie about the Battle of Trenton, that I paid too much for at the Visitor Center gift store. Oh well.
Diane and I woke up early this morning with plans to drive a short distance to the Williamsburg Premium Outlets. Unfortunately I discovered that the hot water heater had not been turned on so I could not give my face a quick shave. I flipped on both the 12 volt and the 120 volt switches in order to do a quick warmup. The hot water heater would not ignite its gas burner. I spent the next half hour troubleshooting that problem without success.
So off to the Outlets we went. The hot water heater problem would have to wait. The Outlets were not that crowded when we arrived at nine thirty in the morning but sixty minutes later the whole scene changed. The placed became a mad house. Some stores had lines of people waiting to get in. Well the Coach store did anyway. The crowds, I didn't mind them, but the lines I avoided including the ones where the final place in line was in front of a cash register. Diane stood in a couple of those lines but not me. We purchased a few gifts for ourselves, and I mean that literally, including a pair of Sketcher Shape Ups for each of us. I put mine on in the store and wore them the rest of the time we were shopping. Those things really will make your rear end and legs sore. We visited most of the stores and found a bunch of really good bargains but bought none of them; however I may go back and buy a one hundred and thirty dollar Tommy Bahama shirt for forty bucks. But maybe not...I am feeling kinda cheap this year.
We walked around the place until dead tired, then back to the coach where I found a loose connection in the hot water heater compartment. Problem solved, we will now have hot water for showers before dinner.
Dinner at the Trellis was really good. Diane had half a grilled free range chicken. I had crayfish fritters and Idaho Rainbow trout and hot cider spiked with really good Bourbon. We ate a lot. Afterwards we made another walk down Dog street and visited a few shops. I didn't buy a thing. After our walk we made a visit to the local Wal-Mart with its Red Box to return Eat, Pray, Love. The titile of the movie seemed very appropriate for this little venture.
Richmond tomorrow. We shall see what happens. We could end up with a new four legged coach companion.
Stay tuned, so to speak.
Diane and I woke with the dawn. Actually I woke much earlier than that. I tend to wake every hour on the hour. I don't need an alarm clock anymore. I have not used one for years. After Diane had her morning coffee, she made a frittata with Portobello mushrooms, onions and green peppers. I sprinkled some grated cheddar cheese on mine. After breakfast we got dressed and loaded up the car with our just in case doggy supplies, which included a blanket, water bowl, treats and a leash. Then we headed over to the Yankee Candle Outlet.
The Yankee Candle outlet is a great place. It is not only a place to get really good bargains but it is just a lot of fun. We watched kids making hand candles. A hand candle is a wax model of a human hand, to be precise the hand of the person making the candle. With the help of a Yankee Candle employee, the hand is dipped into a number of containers holding warm paraffin each in a different color. After all colors are selected the form is removed from the hand somehow.....I didn't get a chance to see that part of the process. I did see a finished product and it is quite interesting. The Outlet is quite large and has one section dedicated to toys, another to clothes and one just for Christmas Villages. We both enjoyed roaming around the place a lot.
After leaving Yankee Candle we visited the Orvis Sporting Goods outlet. I bought a shirt there that was marked down from ninety eight bucks to nineteen dollars with an extra thirty percent off at the register. Diane bought two tops that were over seventy bucks each originally. Our total bill was just over fifty dollars including the tax. I want to go back tomorrow and buy a dog bed and another shirt.
Yes, we need a new dog bed for our new pupster. As I write this he is asleep on the coach couch. He has had quite a day and he is "dog tired".
It is a one hour drive from Williamsburg to Richmond. We had arranged to meet Becky, who runs Angel Dog Rescue and Transport otherwise known as ADRATI.com sometime between one and two pm at her house in Richmond. We had to skip lunch in order to get there on time, but neither of us cared.
We called Becky and let her know that we would be arriving just before one thirty. We arrived at the said time and parked in a school parking lot just past her house. As we walked up the street to meet her, we saw Beasley zipping around at the end of his flexible leash. It was obvious that he is a high energy dog. That turned out to be more than the case. Beasley loves to walk and when given the opportunity loves to run. He is extremely social and loves people, other dogs, cats and children.
Once Becky filled us in on Beasley's history, and we watched him run around the back yard, we both had no hesitation about taking him back to the coach. We are now in the first day of a one week trial. At the end of that if all is well, he will stay with us. Day number one has gone very well. He rode in the car well, and loved his walk down Dog Street. Many people, once they saw his cheerful face, long blond legs, and curly floppy ears, came over to take his picture and ask if they could pet him. One lady in a wheel chair just fell for him and loved it when Beasley gave her a big sloppy kiss. Diane had always wished that Nickolas had the disposition to be a therapy dog. But he was just to shy around strangers. Beasley, however, is not shy at all. He might just be able to fulfill Diane's wish.
It will take a bit of time for us to get to know Beasley (his full name is Mister Beasley) and I am sure that his transition to a new home will have a few bumps, but a few is all we expect. He appears to be a dog with a lot of confidence in people. His first owners may have given up on him but it is obvious that the people who have looked after him since have given him good care.
We are very thankful to have this opportunity.
Tomorrow we head home. We shall see how Beasley travels in the coach.
I think he will do just fine.
Better than Chocolate
November 7, 2010
It is very quiet around the house. There is no tapping of little doggie nails on the hardwood floor. No tinkling of a metal dog tag against the side of the food bowl. There is no cheerful crunch of the doggie eating his breakfast.
Life continues to go on. Diane will laugh at a joke, e-mailed to her from one of our friends, when it arrives in her mailbox. She will cry when a sympathy card, snail mailed by one of our friends, shows up in the standard mailbox. She also cries after taking a phone call from family or friends.
Diane was really moved when Miss Vickie, owner of Salty Dog grooming, sent a card and a dish garden.
I mostly mope around, feeling sorry for myself.
It obviously isn't going to be easy to recover from this loss.
I find myself googling puppy sites, wondering if we should consider another dog.
Wisdom says it is too soon.
Exercising wisdom, in and of itself, does not remove the pain of loss.
I have heard that chocolate makes one feel better when one is hurting.
If we stocked much chocolate around here, I would eat it all.
I am hitting the Chips Ahoy pretty hard.
Prayer is better for me than chocolate or cookies. It is easier on the waistline.
I look out my office window at our motorhome and I can't help but think how much we will miss our pup the next trip out. Nickolas was such a large part of our life in the coach.
He spent his last good week with us at a motor coach rally.
Diane and I hosted the event. It was for the Workhorse Chassis Motorhome Club. WCMC is a FMCA International chapter. The rally took place at Camp Hatteras, in Rodanthe, North Carolina, the first week of October. Fifty nine coaches were in attendance. We called it The Sound and the Sea Rally.
The rally was a lot of work for me and Diane. Fortunately we had a lot of help.
We planned all the events for the week, decorated the tables with shells, hung large kites and windsocks from the ceiling and on the wall, provided printed name tags, ran the fifty/fifty lottery and we were a two-person complaint and problem department.
We catered most of the meals, had lots of seminars, (including a Wi-Fi and computer security Q&A session provided by me) and, on the last night, my son's band "Long Division" played.Their set started out a bit rough, but once they adjusted the volume for a bunch of non-college folks, it ended up sounding really good.
I booked an absolutely hilarious comedy lecturer who had the audience eating out of his hand!
I happened to be the lecturer and my subject was my Rules for Owing a Motorcoach.
Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the whole week went. The formal surveys turned in by the attendees were mostly positive. The last day, I helped some people with coach problems get their jacks retracted, their steps in, and watched them pull away. I then went kite flying, four at once, with Nickolas sitting by my chair.
Unfortunately, about half way through the week, we noticed that Nickolas was not feeling very well. We were not alarmed, but by the day after the rally, he was not doing well at all. After we returned home he just got worse until the end.
Sometimes the two of us find ourselves just sitting and staring at each other. We both know what the other is thinking. Diane is holding Nickolas' favorite blanket, I am looking at his favorite spot on the floor wishing that my four-footed special someone could still fetch my slippers for me.
I don't bother to go fetch them for myself.
Diane and I continue to move forward. Each day gets a little easier, but our hearts are still raw to the touch.
Today my daughter Christine is over with our grandsons and Bella the sweet Bulldog. Tonight we will watch Toy Story 3 and have a few laughs. Tomorrow, well, it will just have to take care of itself.
This weekend we are hoping to return to Camp Hatteras. We will be attending our Good Sams Chapter Christmas/Thanksgiving party campout. Diane and I are looking forward to being with a lot of friends. It always helps to be with friends, especially RVing ones, when trying to get over the loss of a friend.
I should know. This makes two for me.
Goodbye our Little Friend
October 17, 2010
As I write this our precious Nickolas is fading from this world. I think a final trip to the vet is just hours away. He has been sick for five days now. He cannot hold down any water or food.
This thing came on so suddenly. We rushed him to the vet where they could not find the cause. It would take blood work, more needles more pain and maybe even more surgery to even begin to find out what is wrong. .
It was impossible to put our loving dog through that again. Something just didn't come out right after the surgery to remove that awful lump from his side. He couldn't control his bladder, he started to loose muscle tone, and he drank water by the cupfuls. We put him on PPA, a very powerful incontinence drug and that seemed to help. For awhile he seemed to make an effort to be his old self, but I could sense he was depressed and he started to fade before our eyes.
I prayed constantly for him. I have not had a conversation with God like the ones I have had the last couple of days since my son was born. I almost lost Joel and my wife back then, but God answered a sinner's prayer and because of the combined work of God and the doctors, my son and wife were made well and whole.
This time my prayer is not getting the response I hoped for. Nickolas just got worse. Does that mean that God is not listening? Does it mean he doesn't care to exercise just a little bit of His universe creating power to fix my little dog? I can't answer that in words. God is who HE is, faithful to the end. I know that He loves me, my wife, and my dog. Sometimes, in the midst of a tragedy a bigger thing may be happening.
Our dog is so, so, sick but once again Nicolas is giving something special to me. He looks me in the eyes and I can see appreciation and love. I know that its there. I cannot make him whole but he trusts me and Diane to look after him. My prayer changed from "God heal him!" to God help me to help him.
I will admit that I do not understand why my simple prayer is not given the answer that it asks for, but I have to look to God the same way Nickolas looks at me, with simple trust. That's all I can do. I am grieving, but if I get angry, then I loose more than just my pup; I loose my relationship with The God of the Universe who sent His Son to make things right between the Father and me. This will be Nickolas' last gift to Diane and me. She and I have held hands, held each other, and prayed together with more passion than we had in years. That is surely a good thing.
We will rise above this loss, this huge loss. It will not be easy but it is what Nicolas wants us to do.
A few minutes ago Nicolas asked to go out into our yard. He layed down in the grass, which is something he never does. I could see him smelling the air, the birds were singing and suddenly there were more of them than usual and Nickolas just watched them fly around him. I think he was saying goodbye to this life. He was preparing himself to leave this earthy place.
Right now he is asleep on our deck. Unless God does work a mircle I do not expect Our wonderful dog to wake again.
It will be so hard to live without our Coach Buddy, our friend, my wife's shadow, her constant companion. But live we will.
So help me God.
Goodbye Friend, you were so loved.
December 18, 2009
Yesterday morning started out normal, almost. I woke up with the memory of a disturbing dream. I was walking Nickolas, down a long faded green hall. It reminded me of an old high school corridor, or maybe an old office building. It had a polished dirty brown vinyl tile floor. There were exposed fluorescent lights, the long two-lamp kind that flicker and make a lot of ballast noise. At the end of the hall was a metal door with a reinforced glass window in the top half. The bottom of the door had one of those metal kick plates. It seemed to be dented and had black marks on it. The door that opened into the hall was slightly ajar. The hall was long and Nickolas seemed impatient; he kept tugging at his leash. As the door got closer he suddenly jerked the leash out of my hand and went running for the door, with me right behind him, calling to him. Just as I was about to grab his leash he made it through the door, leash and all, and it slammed shut. I tried to open it but it was locked. The window, which had until now been dark, began to glow with a white light. I put my face up to it and could see a huge wall-less white space. There were many, many dogs in there, all kinds, most of them white, running back and forth, jumping around, some chasing each other. I desperately looked for my dog and caught a glimpse of him just as he was headed deeper into this space. I called to him but there was no reaction. I started kicking the bottom of the door and banging on the glass but it didn't do any good. The window went dark and I woke up.
Diane was standing by the bed with Nickolas' leash in her hand. It was time for him to go to the vet to get his teeth cleaned and while under the anesthesia to also have this large fatty lump removed from his left side. Both these procedures were routine. He had been through it all before some four years earlier. Diane wasn't worried about it; she had been pushing me to get it done. My only objection was the cost, but then I object to the cost of most things in life. As I set there in the bed, the money wasn't what was worrying me.
I reached over to Nickolas and said a quick prayer.
"Do you want me to go with you?" I asked.
"No, we will be fine... won't we, pup?" Diane responded as she snapped on the leash.
"We are late, better get moving."
An obviously reluctant Nickolas jumped off the bed. A few seconds later I heard the front door squeak and click shut.
"I have a bad feeling about this," I told myself. However, it could just be an overactive imagination.
At about 8:15 a.m., I was sitting where I am now, at my computer when Diane arrived back at the house. She told me that Nick would be at the vets until about 5 p.m. They were not sure when his procedure would start, but it might be early afternoon.
At around 10 a.m. the phone rang. Diane answered it after seeing Churchland Animal pop up on the caller ID, which displays on our TV. I heard her talking and gathered something was wrong, so I went into the living room and sat down in front of her.
It seems that they almost lost our dog while on the table. Usually the procedure is to give an injection to make him still and kill any pain, and then they administer a gas once the injection takes effect. They did that this time, but just after the injection his heart rate doubled. It went from 128 beats per minute to over 260 beats per minute. A momentary heart rate spike is not unusual, but this time his heart rate would not come down. After two minutes of this, even after the gas was started, they could not bring it down. They had to bring him out before his heart arrested. The vet, to use his words, was starting to feel a bit panicky himself. Nickolas gave him a scare, but by the time they called us his heart rate has started to come down and they expected it be back to normal shortly. He was alert, but panting a lot, and they wanted to keep him a few more hours to observe him. Diane asked a few questions, but they had no real answers to what happened. They could only surmise that maybe his heart had an electrical malfunction, or he had a reaction to the pain meds, although he had not had one four years earlier. The cause was just not known.
Diane said thank you, hung up the phone, and broke down in tears.
I was shocked, but then I realized I must have known something was going to happen.
As usual, when I don't understand something, I jumped on the Internet and started searching. Could this have been caused by some medication that Nickolas has been taking? Or could he have an enlarged heart, a condition called DCM that cockers can get when they get older? What caused us to almost lose our best little friend?
I don't know. I suspect it will not be easy to find out. I do know that God answered my prayer: He looked after Nickolas.
Neither Diane nor I are prepared to live without him.
The vet called back around 3 p.m., and this time I took the call. Nickolas' heart rate was back to normal, but the doctor said he would still like to observe him for a couple more hours and then we could come for him.
After and anxious two-hour wait and a short drive to the vet's office, we picked up our pup at five o'clock. We first had a talk with the Doctor, who pretty much reviewed what he had told us on the phone.
Nickolas came out of the back, very happy to see us, and we were overjoyed to see him.
He hopped in the car, and we went to a local Red Box to rent a comedy, because we needed a laugh after the day's events. We also picked up a cooked chicken and some side salads at the local Kroger. The smell of the chicken drove Nickolas, who had been on a fast from the night before, crazy. I think that was a good sign.
As of this morning our dog isn't quite is old self yet. He seems a bit groggy and tired. It's no wonder, after what he has been through. He is probably wondering what he did to deserve a day like yesterday, but like most dogs he will forgive us pretty quickly.
When we leave on our next RV trip, I am sure he will be where he always is, on his mom's lap, looking out the big window at the passing world.
Thank God for that.