Caught in the act.

I’ve been hauling firewood the past hour.  EXHAUSTING WORK.  And no easier with 2 feet of snow on the ground.  I have to keep the puppy inside b/c our yard isn’t fenced and she has a tendency (read: compulsion) to run off after the turkeys.  So I come in this last trip and sense something weird is going on.  I hear Noises.  The puppy isn’t answering.  I grab my camera because I just know whatever she’s doing is bound to be bad.  I enter the dining room to find THIS.


My dog Max died two weeks ago.  Although his legs had begun to fail, he was otherwise in good health and spirits, and his passing was wholly unexpected.  We’d taken a long walk the day before and he’d been so full of joy!  Rushing ahead, leading the charge, till finally he was so spent he’d practically collapsed.  He woke us early the next morning, about 3:30 am, crashing around downstairs.  My husband rose to let him out, thinking he had to go to the bathroom.  Max went out into the yard and laid down in the grass.  He wouldn’t get up, even after John called him several times.  His breathing was labored, his tongue hung to one side and his lips felt cold. Something was seriously wrong.

John came and got me, and together we went outside and rolled Max onto a blanket and carried his heavy (150 lb.) frame inside.  We placed him gently on the rug, then fetched blankets and pillows for ourselves.  We laid, side by side, as if on a camping trip.  Petting him, speaking to him, sensing – somehow – that this was the end.  Just shy of 4:30 his breathing became almost imperceptible, punctuated only by a few deep gasps. He didn’t seem to be in any pain. John woke the girls in time for them to say goodbye. And then Max was gone.

His swift departure has left a hole in the heart of my family.  Max lived with us his entire life, from 7 weeks to almost 10 years.  He grew up side by side with our daughters, and neither can remember life without him.

We miss him terribly.  But even in death Max remains a steadfast presence in our lives.  I see him when I walk the woods, I feel him beside me at the beach.  Each morning as I rise, I meet him in the hallway where we parted, and every meal I fail to finish I take out to his yard.  2 weeks ago, Max died, and we buried him under the apple tree.  And next year, when flowers bloom from his grave, I will think of him all the more.

A dear neighbor gave us a book of poems to help us through our loss.  Many are consoling, some difficult to even read, but the one which has touched me the most was written by Rudyard Kipling and is entitled Four-Feet.

I have done mostly what most men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through —
Wherever my road inclined —
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round, —
Which I shall never find —
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.

Big Foot? That You?

Last night my husband & I were out on our back porch, stargazing.  It was late (around midnight), and dark.  After viewing through the binoculars and telescope for a while, we decided to relax for a few minutes before turning in.  We’re sitting there quietly, when we hear this rustling noise coming from the other side of the yard, maybe 60-70 ft away.  The first time we heard it, neither of us said anything, but after the 2nd or 3rd time, my husband asked, “Do you hear that?”  I said, “Yes.”  But it was hard to make out what it could be.  We keep a box fan in the room right above the porch, and the whirring noise of the motor was drowning out the sound.  Another rustle.  Then another.  My husband announced he was going in to get the flashlight.  “But what if it’s a Yeti?” I joked.  He went inside.  The rustling noises continued.  Sitting there in the dark, alone, I was getting a bit nervous.  I started thinking about Big Foot.  You know, I don’t think they’ve ever truly discounted his existence completely..  What if…?  I counted the seconds.  John seemed to be taking his sweet time.  That big flashlight was just in the adjacent room, what could be taking him so long?  I heard the fan switch off above me.  What the hell-?  HE’S UPSTAIRS?!  Another few minutes ticked by.  I was starting to sweat, wondering whether I’d be carted off by the time he got back.  The rustling noises had increased slightly in intensity and volume, perhaps b/c the fan was off – or maybe b/c Big Foot was getting hungrier.  And Closer.  FINALLY. John stepped back out onto the porch.  I breathed an audible sigh of relief and said, “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOU?”  He explained he had to go to the bathroom.  I told him I could have been eaten by the Yeti, which at that point was nearly visible across the yard (in my mind, anyway).  He laughed and sat down beside me.  Very quietly we counted 1,2,3, then ON with the flashlight.  Light blazed across the yard, illuminating the guinea pigs’ pen, and one extremely determined red fox perched right on top!  The fox stopped pawing the lid and looked up, as if to say. “Excuse me?”  We stared at each other for several seconds, before John stood up to make chase.  The fox took off, hesitantly, and we went to check on our poor pets.  They were all fine.  Fortunately the handmade pen is super sturdy and has a thick, wire lid for exactly this purpose (to thwart would-be predators).  I petted the piggies, and then worried out loud about the fox coming back.  My husband reassured me, “Oh, I’m sure he will, babe.  He’s probably here every night.”

Oh, Bag Balm!

Back before we re-did our kitchen, I was washing dishes every day BY HAND.  That’s right; The Daily Dish washing The Daily Dishes.  Cute, huh?  Not really.  All that dish washing was wreaking havoc on my hands.  With each passing dish, they grew a bit drier, a little more chapped, until finally my knuckles began to crack and bleed.  I tried different dish soaps, grotty gloves, scrubbers on sticks.  I slathered on hand cream, I drank water by the gallon.  I even tried letting the dishes pile up, hoping my husband would wash them.  But I was STUCK.  After months of scrubbing, my hands hurt like hell and they looked even worse.  One particularly bad night, as I lay in bed thinking about my poor hamburger hands, came two words.


Bag Balm – OF COURSE!!  Anyone who’s ever milked a cow knows about Bag Balm.  What?! You’ve never milked a cow? Okay, me neither.  But I had heard of Bag Balm.  I’d read about its wonder properties some time ago.  Originally created to soothe cow udders, Bag Balm is a treat for teats and more.  Its patented blend has been known to cure all sorts of ailments, not just in cows, but in goats and horses and even HUMANS.  I’d bought a can of it before we left Philly, I thought surely I’d need it sometime.  As soon as those 2 beautiful words popped into my head, I leaped from bed & found that tin.  Oh, Bag Balm!  I coated my hands in goopy goodness & fumbled to turn out the light.

In the morning I gazed open-mouthed at the wonder before me.  My hands weren’t just better, they were BACK!  When I’d gone to bed they’d been red cracked & bloody.  Now – like magic – they were soft and white, pain-free, the cracks GONE.  I had never seen such a transformation in all my life.  But it hasn’t stopped there.  My hands, despite all of the renovation work we’ve been doing, all the hand washing, and until last week – daily dishes – have remained baby soft.  Truly, the loveliest they’ve been in years.  Oh, Bag Balm!

But there’s more.

About a month ago, we adopted two guinea pigs off Craigslist. OH YES WE DID.  We already had two, we figured what the heck.  But when we went to pick them up, these new guys looked weird.  Their fur was dull, not glossy, and one had bald spots.  We would have turned & walked out the door, but those poor ugly guinea pigs just screamed HELP US.  So against better judgment we took them in, brought them home and (yes) introduced them to our two healthy males.  Almost immediately, the second pig began losing fur.  Ignorant of the fact that the “harmless balding” we’d been informed of was in reality sarcoptic mites, we allowed all four pigs to remain together in the same pen.  By the time we realized this was serious, it was too late.  All four pigs had mites.  I was HORRIFIED.  To think these poor creatures had been dealing with this disgusting, incredibly itchy and potentially lethal situation w/out us knowing.  My blood boiled.  After some online research, I discovered people have treated this very same issue w/ success using (you guessed it) BAG BALM.  Which I just so happened to have!!  And so I did what any good guinea pig owner would do.  I sat down with my piggies and smeared them head to toe with greasy salve.

We let that grease work its magic for a few days, and then followed up with two small doses of the topical mite treatment Revolution (Selamectin), which we also just so happened to have.  It’s been two weeks now, and I am thrilled to say all four piggies now appear mite-free.  They are no longer balding, some hair has begun to grow back and the scabbing & dandruff are virtually gone.  YOOOHOOOO!!  Oh, Bag Balm!!

For more information on where to buy Bag Balm, click HERE.

March 2, 2010

Max and Blackie.

So unlike each other and yet, so fundamentally the same.

A year ago, Blackie survived an interstate move.  He spent hours bouncing in the back of an unheated UHaul truck, in a broken waterless aquarium.  6 months ago he survived a second move, one which claimed the life of his tank mate Sunny.  We tried finding him some new friends and instead gave him a parasitic anchor worm infection.  Poor Blackie underwent extensive treatment over the course of weeks and somehow managed once again to triumph.  But even heroes have their time.  Blackie the miracle fish, who had given us his all and then some, passed away overnight without drama or fanfare.  It was a gentle death.  The most any of us could ask.

Much like Blackie, this year Max also rebounded from a horrific infection which nearly claimed his life.  He’s always suffered from acute allergies (to what, we don’t know) but 7 months ago, Max was in the worst state he’s ever been.  He’d lost nearly a third of his body weight, and his body appeared to be breaking down.  I’ll never forget taking him to the Portland Dog Wash, a self-serve facility, just before we moved into our new house.  As we gently bathed him, blood literally poured from his sides.  His back half was nearly bald.  The vet put him on steroids & antibiotics, we switched his food for the MILLIONTH TIME, and we prayed for the best.  I don’t know if it was a combination of everything – this beautiful yard, the new allergen free food, the steady low dose of steroids, sheer willpower, love, but over the past 6 months, Max has RETURNED.  Our friends and family who saw him at death’s door and see him now simply marvel at this beast.  None of us expected him to live, let alone thrive.

Today is March 2, 2010.  Max’s 9th Birthday and Blackie’s “death day.”  I am not quite sure what the great cosmos is trying to say, taking one life as we celebrate another.  So I will close with Happy Birthday Max.  And happy trails, Blackie.  Here’s to you both.