Woe is Me. Mow is Me.

Image

Here is our partially mowed yard and the remains of a completely destroyed dog bed. I call our riding mower Dear John because if he doesn’t start for me when I go out to finish mowing, I may break up with him. (For those who are not initiated into lawn tractor branding, this is a John Deere tractor, so calling him Dear John is funnier than you may initially think. For those who got it in the first place, I just over-explained.)

Mowing.

What emotion do you feel when you read that word? Dread? Reluctance? Resignation?

Me? EXCITEMENT!

You see, mowing at our house is a bit of an extreme sport. We have a sturdy riding mower. I believe in the country the politically correct moniker is “lawn tractor.” Yes, that sounds much more farmish.

For me, the whole mowing event kicks off by just getting the darn thing to actually start. There are these levers up by the steering wheel. You have to move one all the way up, and you have to move the other all the way down. I never remember which is which so I’m sure that doesn’t help.

I generally attempt to get the mower started by moving the levers every which way, turning the key about 1342 times while the tractor just says something like “Owwww. Owwwww. Owwwwwwwww.” Yes, it’s possible I am causing my inanimate lawn tractor physical pain.

At some point in this exercise I just start cussing and bouncing up and down on the seat because, yeah, that should help. Or I’m throwing a tantrum. And yes, I DO know Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.

So I hop off of the stupid tractor and stalk into the house to proclaim (once again) that the damn thing will NOT start. Jim quietly gets up, goes outside, and through some warlock voodoo, starts the tractor in one easy try. Magic. The guy is magic. One try.

Yeah, that might tick me off if I thought about it too hard, but there’s mowing to do.

The fun starts when you enter the dog yard (many people would call this a back yard, but ours is very obviously a dog play yard…or a war zone). This is where the simple act of mowing becomes an extreme sport. My lawn tractor kind of needs a seat belt and I kind of need a helmet.

You see, there are obstacles. First, our property grows rocks. I swear it does. Big, evil, lawn-tractor stalking rocks. They really do just pop up out of the earth willy-nilly (I have always wanted to use “willy-nilly” in my writing. CHECK!)

Beyond the naturally occurring obstacles in the yard, there are the traps set by the dogs. I would like to think that my dogs aren’t evil little lawn tractor poachers, but it’s hard to defend their innocence when they are all lined up in the giant back window watching and placing bets as I navigate their latest landscaping efforts.

Image

Here we have Brooke in the role of construction supervisor and Cookie is the sub-contractor.

My dogs dig some serious holes. It’s their yard…I let them have their fun…but someday, it’s entirely possible I am going to mow my way into one of their impressive pits to never be seen again. I checked on Google to see what is actually on the opposite side of the world from Mounds, Oklahoma and it’s the Indian Ocean. Great. My dogs are going to tunnel through and drain the Indian Ocean, thereby causing the mother of all floods in Mounds, Oklahoma.

I have photographic proof of one of their latest projects. Yes, there’s a whole Dalmatian in that hole. It’s not one of those little butt-only statues. She is, I believe, working on the media room. This hole already features three bedrooms, three baths and a lovely family room. It’s soon to be listed on Zillow.

Beyond these exciting obstacles there are other little and not so little land mines. In reality, the event of mowing the dog yard actually begins long before I fail to start the lawn tractor.

There is poop to scoop. So much poop. But it’s good poop (thank you fine folks at Fromm! Yes, I will continue to plug my favorite stores and brands on this blog. Fromm makes excellent dog food. Check them out.)

Then you have to gather all of the toys that could become projectiles if you mow over them (I may or may not have found this out the hard way). So many toys. What lucky, lucky dogs.

Then you have to pick up the remains of whatever the dogs last absconded through the dog door and destroyed in the yard. So many things destroyed.

That last bit may make it sound as though I’m a terrible dog trainer. I am actually a pretty darn good dog trainer. But just as the cobbler’s children have no shoes…and I blame the dog door… and some very crafty dogs.

Anyhow, there’s a lot of stuff to pick up in the yard before you can mow. My last dog yard treasure hunt yielded one used-to-be-a-good-dog-blankie-turned-tug-toy, one pair of shorts (unscathed!), one house shoe (slightly scathed, but I’ll still wear it), several socks (the mystery of how socks get lost in the laundry is forever solved in our home), one not-napping-on-that-again dog bed (took me a moment to even realize it once WAS a dog bed), and one half of my favorite bra.

Did this make you ask yourself the same question it made me ask myself? Where is the other half of my bra?

Before you nominate me for the title of Terrible Dog Mom of the Year, I can promise you one I’m not the only one guilty of this lack of dog supervision (I still say my dogs are extra-special-hyper devious).

As you may or may not know, in addition to being the crazy dog/donkey/horse/pig/squirrel/bunny lady of Mounds, Oklahoma, I also co-own a dog-centric business in Tulsa. Pooches is a dog daycare, boarding, training, and grooming facility—a busy, fun, furry place to work.  (On that furry note…between our house and Pooches, I think if I ever have to have my lungs xrayed, they will find a Pomeranian in there.)

In our line of work, let’s just say that we have been witness to some pretty amazing things being expelled from dogs, one way or another. I can’t count the number of times an employee has tracked me down to have me identify something nested in paper towels, held by rubber-gloved hands. It’s become a bit of a trivia game at this point. You really can’t gross us out.

We have found a string of beads, socks…many socks, bits and pieces of once-favorite toys, candy wrappers, and a few items that were never identified.

One day, not too long ago, a man brought his young lab mix for a day of play. As he was turning the dog over to one of our Rufferees (that’s what we call our daycare attendants…I made that up…love it with me), he mentioned that the dog had eaten a sock and though they had administered a hydrogen peroxide chaser to try to get the dog to “return” said sock, it had yet to appear. Could we keep an eye on the pup to make sure he wasn’t in distress? Could we please let him know if “something comes up?” Sure. We’re on it.

A couple of hours into the day, one of our Rufferees (that never gets old for me), came to inform us that our little labish friend had indeed expelled a foreign object. But it wasn’t a sock. It wasn’t a sock at all.

The object presented in the paper towel was red. And lacy. And teeny tiny. And likely once silky instead of slimy.

Uh oh.

So…it wasn’t a sock. It was a red, lacy, unmentionable. Now, this is not the first time we have found Victoria’s finest secrets in dog excrement or vomit (eating while reading? My apologies. You run this risk with me). But it WAS the first time that a husband told us to look for a sock that wasn’t a sock at all. So would HE be the one to pick the dog up or would his wife have that duty? Would we be faced with telling HER what we found?

This thought immediately begged the question as to whether this was her under garment.  Or was hubby unaware that some damning evidence had found its way into Rover’s gullet? OH, the plot thickens. Don’t tell me there is no drama in dog daycare.

Well, as fate would have it, the wife showed up to claim the dog and our ever-discrete and awesome manager, Lindsay, informed the young woman that her dog was fine and that he had indeed thrown up an article of clothing…an article that was not exactly the sock we were expecting.

The young woman started laughing immediately (oh thank the heavens!) and told us that her husband had been too embarrassed to admit that we should be watching for lacy red panties so he panicked and went with sock.

Laughter was shared, and another story was filed away that, thankfully, did not have a divorce court ending.

Which brings me back around to wondering about the other half of my favorite bra. My dogs are SO not going anywhere until that sucker surfaces.

Ok, off for another round of extreme mowing. Wish me luck.

Advertisements

We’ve Got Wag!

ImageWe have a new/old spotted soul wandering through our home. I wrote about Gus a few posts ago. Didn’t read it? Hmmm…then this may not make much sense. You can catch up here if you’d like.

The Reader’s Digest version is that on May 15, we received word via Facebook of a senior Dalmatian in a small shelter not far from our farm. We have rescued Dalmatians for a very long time (I was a founding member of the Tulsa Dalmatian Assistance League, Inc. in 1989—the height of all the Disney 101 hoopla), and in addition to loving spots, we have a particular soft spot for senior dogs.  When we learned of this old boy, Jim didn’t think twice. He just went to get our new/old foster dog.

When I described Gus in my initial post, I spoke of a dog that was thin, seemed tired, and seemed a bit numb. He didn’t show emotion—fear, happiness, stress, contentment…nothing. Most notably, his tail just hung straight down behind him.

Dalmatians are a bit famous for their tails. They are to extend like a saber, an extension of the dog’s spine. They are to have a subtle upward curve, but not curl over the dog’s back. Most notably, Dalmatians almost always wag their tails, whether it be delight, excitement, playfulness, or any number of upbeat emotions. Dalmatians are generally happy dogs and those tails can actually become quite the weapon. A good thwack from a boisterous Dalmatian tail can seriously smart.

But Gus’ tail just remained still. There was no joy. There was no happy-to-see you. Not just yet.

The comment made most often after my first Gus tale (play on words…right…right?), was something related to hoping Gus would give us a wag soon.

Drumroll, please!

I am so pleased to announce that one day shy of Gus’ two week anniversary as a member of our family, TODAY I came home to find Gus looking straight at me with his tail arched upward, fanning the air in a beautiful, rhythmic wag. TODAY Gus found his wag.

Take whatever joy he was feeling in that moment and multiply it by about a zillion. That’s the feeling that immediately soared into my heart.

Image

Gus and I are all sketchy! This is how you make a blurry, not-great photo kind of groovy. Effects are fun!

We’ve been welcoming Gus home every day for 13 days. Today, he finally returned the favor with the most beautiful welcome home anyone could hope to see. Good boy, Gus.

Sometimes It All Comes Down to ChapStick…Remembering Cindy

Image

The sister-friends, left to right, me, Terry, and Cindy

The room was dim. A little light filtered in from the hall, mixed with the noise of activity that suggested there was still a world out there, but it all seemed a million miles away. The room itself was quiet. Deafeningly quiet. I just kept my eyes focused on my sister. She kept her eyes focused straight ahead…somewhere else. Somewhere seemingly far away.

I had volunteered to stay the night with Cindy. Not so much out of strength or some sense of duty, but more because if I left, I would have no idea what to do with myself. Everything would just seem out of place, out of sync. At this moment, in this situation, everything that mattered to me was lying in the hospital bed next to my chair. She was right there, and yet I still couldn’t reach her.

The doctor’s words from earlier in the day were still bouncing around inside my head. I couldn’t remember the whole one-sided conversation, only specific points.

“It has spread.”
“Liver.”
“Happened very fast.”
“Aggressive.”
“No, there’s nothing.”
“I’m so very sorry.”
“Maybe two days, maybe two weeks, it’s hard to say.”
“We’ll keep her comfortable.”

Though I remained silent, in my mind I was begging the doctor to do something. There had to be something. But no. There was nothing. Nothing but this exact moment when the world seemed to simply stop revolving, all of the color drained away, and everything turned to shades of gray.

Then the voice inside my head started screaming. How can this be? How can this happen? Didn’t we say she was winning this battle? Wasn’t that just a month ago? My sister was going to be a breast cancer survivor. We were so sure of it. She was fine one minute and then…then there was this. My mind just couldn’t make sense of any of it.

After the doctor left, I remember seeing my sister’s boyfriend, Mickey, sitting by her on the bed, talking to her so very gently, so calmly. He knew exactly what to say. Though disease had robbed my sister of the ability to talk easily, she was fully aware of everything the doctor had said. Mickey knew exactly what her eyes were saying and he knew how to answer her unspoken questions. His connection with her was profound.

My sister Terry and I slipped away from the room and hid in separate corners of the hospital to make phone calls. Phone calls we desperately did not want to make. Trying to find the right words, knowing there were no right words. Then we went together to my parent’s house to deliver the news, in person, that no parent should ever have to hear; to inflict pain no parent should ever have to know.

Looking back, I remember all of these moments not as a participant, but rather as a third party looking in. I was hovering in the cloud of confusion that swirled above my dear, struggling family. I was detached, yet desperate to engage. Desperate for a moment of connection and understanding. Any moment.

And so when everyone gathered in the hall of the hospital, caught in the ultimate “what now” moment, I found myself immediately volunteering to stay the night with Cindy. I would stay to keep an eye on things. I would make sure Cindy was as comfortable as possible. I would be there to call the others if there was any urgent need. There was an unspoken agreement between us that Cindy would not spend one moment alone.

So I sat. I watched. I listened. The cold, dim room offered little in the form of physical comfort for me, but that somehow seemed appropriate. I desperately wanted to hold my sister’s hand. To stroke her arm. But her hands and arms were swollen…edema caused by the liver that was betraying her…by the demon known as cancer. Physical contact seemed very uncomfortable for her.

So, in the quiet of the room, I sat while my mind raced. They say that when someone is dying the movie of their life plays in their mind…flashes before their eyes. Cindy’s life—the parts I had shared—was playing out in my mind. The oldest of three girls, Cindy was our trailblazer. The one who taught our  parents to be parents. The one who left the nest first. The one who had figured out so much on her own, and then thankfully shared her knowledge with Terry and me.

She was my shoulder, when I needed one. She was my sounding board when I was unsure. She was ready to celebrate every little triumph with me. And now she needed me. She needed me and I had no idea what to do.

My frantic mind searched for some grand gesture. Some way to make this whole mess right. Where were my super-human powers? Why couldn’t I do something to make this go away; to rewind the clock and give her much earlier warning of the storm to come? Irrationality…you did me no favors that night.

So, doing the only thing I knew to do, I watched her very carefully. If she moaned or seemed restless, if her heart rate escalated, I ran to have the nurse come check on her, to administer more pain medicine. I smoothed her sheets, careful not to touch her sensitive limbs. I talked to her softy. I shared stories of times when we had laughed, of times when we had been silly young girls. I prayed. I prayed a lot.

Then, as I studied her, I noticed that she kept trying to wet her lips…running her tongue over them and rubbing them together. Over and over.

chapstickThat’s when it hit me. You know the feeling when you’re sick? You’re a little dehydrated, you’re breathing through your mouth. Your lips become so dry, so uncomfortable.

And in that instant I finally knew the one meaningful thing I could actually do for my Cindy. The one little thing that I could provide to give her comfort, to let her know that I was with her. I dug in the side pocket of my purse and found my tube of ChapStick.

“Cindy,” I said softly so as not to startle her, “I’m going to put some ChapStick on your lips. It’s going to feel good.”

I gently rubbed the balm on her tender, chapped lips. Slowly, as she rubbed them together, her eyes shifted to look directly into mine and we had our moment of beautiful clarity, of connection.

With great determination, her voice reached through the fog to whisper, “I love you.”

“I love you too, Cindy.”

Nothing more needed to be said. Everything had poured out in a simple eight word exchange.

As she drifted back to that place inside herself, I spoke quiet promises to her. I promised her that Terry and I would take care of our aging parents. I promised her that we would always be there for her two children, young adults now, but still not quite ready to be without their mother. Never ready. I promised her that I would remember her with smiles, laughter, and that I would perform her patented silly dance for future generations to enjoy.  I promised her that we would still talk every single day. I promised her.

Night finally surrendered to a gray dawn. We moved Cindy away from the institutional setting of the hospital and into the warm embrace of an in-patient hospice called Clarehouse. Clarehouse was our safe haven, the place that allowed beautiful colors to return to our world. It was a blessing that deserves, and will get, a story of its own someday.

In this warm, safe, beautiful place, surrounded by her family, my Cindy left this life quietly and peacefully. The ultimate educator, she gave me one more lesson that day—that there is beauty in everything; in new life, in life well lived, and even in life’s end.

After the nurses had taken care of Cindy’s body, I slipped back into the room alone, needing just a moment more. I looked at her face, carefully positioned by the nurses into an expression that was pleasant, but not one of her expressions. This body was no longer my Cindy. She was gone. She was really gone.

Then I saw the tube of ChapStick, still sitting on the bedside table. Upon seeing that reminder of our final shared moment, my heart filled with all of the memories and love this woman, my dear sister-friend, had ever given me. My Cindy came rushing back.

And so, with tears that were a mixture of grief and gratitude tracing paths down my cheeks, I slid the ChapStick into my pocket as I also tucked my sister’s spirit safely inside my heart.

My amazing sister Cindy passed away nine years ago on Memorial Day weekend. She was the age I am now. I do not remember my sister with feelings of sorrow. She would hate that. Cindy was a positive, spirited, fun-loving woman. Any tears that come are just reminders of how much I miss her, but do not define my memories of her. I celebrate Cindy with pure, unabashedly silly joy. I still have the tube of lip balm that gave us our final connection. Thank you Cindy, for giving me that last great lesson: Sometimes the most meaningful moments in life, in relationships, don’t come in the form of save-the-day acts of heroism or over-the-top grand gestures. Sometimes the most meaningful, beautiful moments are brought about by something as simple as a tube of Chapstick.

Facebook. It Wasn’t A Huge Waste of Time This Time, Betty.

ImageLet me start by saying that I love Betty White. Truly. I adore her.

First, she is ageless. She is living proof that if you love what you do and keep working, you can live a long, healthy, fun-filled life. She is also a huge animal lover and advocate, serving as a trustee for the Morris Animal Foundation since 1971.

I’ve grown up watching her on sitcoms, in movies, and even as a host of Saturday Night Live. It’s this latter appearance where she made a statement that I think she might rethink if she knew Gus. Who is Gus, you ask? Hang on. I’ll explain.

After landing the SNL hosting gig following a successful Facebook campaign entitled “Betty White to Host SNL (please?),” White, in her opening monologue, said:

I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.

Ok, the monologue was hysterical and Betty was a complete and total homerun for SNL. But Facebook…a huge waste of time? Betty, meet Gus. He thinks Facebook is awesome.

In addition to being a place where friends, new and old, connect; a place where people share photos, funny thoughts, emotions, and, sometimes, just too darn much information, Facebook has also become a valuable networking tool for helping connect homeless pets with potential adopters or rescue groups.

ImageAh, the power of the share. I was glancing through my FB newsfeed the other day when I noticed that a friend (thanks Venus!) had tagged me in a post about a dog in a nearby animal shelter. I get tagged on a lot of these posts as people network for different animals and shelters. This one, however, immediately piqued my interest.

The photo showed a Dalmatian. Yes, my beloved breed of choice. And it was not only a Dalmatian, but it was a senior. Oh, there’s another one of my weaknesses.  Sweet old guys.

In a flash, I re-shared the post with a one word question/tag…Jim?

I know I mention in a lot of posts what a great guy Jim is. I think we’re up to reason number 576,432 why I love Jim. This will make reason number 576,433. Jim didn’t question a thing…he just sent a message asking me if I was calling the shelter or if he should. And in mere moments, there was another message that simply said: I’m picking him up at noon.

No debate. There was no we-already-have-enough-foster-dogs comment. There was just a quick decision that this old guy would not spend his last days in a shelter. Go Jim!

Upon arriving at the shelter, the animal control officer told Jim that he knew very little about the old dog. In fact, the only thing that was actually known about him was that he was shoved from a moving pickup truck into the road in front of the local fire station. Well, of course. What a responsible, compassionate move. Because, as we all know, part of the firefighters’ code of ethics requires that they must immediately take responsibility for all unwanted Dalmatians. Sure.

So the old throw-away dog who would become “Gus” went for a ride with Jim away from the tiny, but determined animal shelter in Mannford, Oklahoma, back to meet our veterinarian and good friend, Dr. Lauren. Lauren allows all of our dogs to be on a first name basis with her. She’s cool like that.

During his exam it was found that Gus was underweight by 15 pounds or more—approximately 30% shy of his ideal body weight. While he was thankfully free of heartworms, Dr. Lauren did find an advanced heart murmur and arthritis. He was treated for intestinal parasites. Both ears were crinkled from past hematomas, likely caused by ear infections. His teeth were pronounced, and I believe this is a technical medical term, extremely nasty. They guessed Gus’ age at somewhere around 12 years. I think they were being a bit generous. My guess is that his age has the word teen in it.

ImageWith further necessary testing and medical treatments on the horizon, Gus was first desperately in need of some good food and a comfortable place to rest.  Our home had plenty of both. And so Jim brought our new/old boy home.

Our current herd of on-purpose and foster dogs are no strangers to meeting newcomers. We have a bit of a revolving door around here. We always introduce a new dog carefully and gradually to be sure everyone is going to get along. Just because WE like a new dog, does not mean our existing canine residents will agree. We do not need a doggy smack-down in our living room.

In Gus’ case, his introduction to our furry family was blissfully anticlimactic. It was as if our other dogs—including a gang of rambunctious youngsters—appeared to immediately recognize that this sweet old guy was certainly no threat to any perceived doggy hierarchy. After many sniffs were exchanged, Gus set off in his stuttering gait to investigate his new situation, a parade of curious new friends tagging along.

I always wonder what must be passing through the minds of these old guys who have, for whatever reason, been abandoned in one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Some seem elated to come into our home. Some come in showing fear and mistrust. Gus just seemed a bit numb.

His eyes were blank and empty. His tail hung limply. He accepted attention, but seemed to hardly notice scratches in all the right places, often moving along after a moment or two when any other dog would have stayed put, stretching and groaning in pleasure.

ImageFor the first several hours in our home, Gus just paced. He walked every inch of our house. He found the dog door, headed outside and paced the perimeter of our yard. Then he came back inside and paced the entire route again. Over and over and over.

Was there more wrong with Gus that initial exams did not reveal? Did Gus have potential to relax and enjoy whatever time he might have left? Or was he plagued by the dog version of Alzheimer’s disease?

The only thing that finally stopped Gus’ trek that first night was a bowl of food topped off with some enticing chunks of chicken. Ahhhhh! The old guy had a good appetite. He plopped flat to the floor with the bowl between his front legs and ate every last bite.

After a bit more pacing and frequent bouts of heart-murmur related, body wracking coughing, Gus finally found one of our 40,000 (perhaps I exaggerate) big soft dog beds and collapsed in exhaustion. That first night he slept for at least nine hours straight through. It was the kind of deep sleep that made me stop to watch for breathing every time I passed by him.

ImageThe next day was filled with more pacing, but also with increased interest every time I headed toward the dog food bin. Now, instead of random pacing, more often than not, Jim and I found Gus following close behind as we moved around there house. His eyes still seemed vacant, his tail was still motionless, but there was something more purposeful in his step.

Finally we would find him looking up to meet our eyes. Was there hope in those eyes? Some sort of expectation? Was there relief? Actually, what I believe I saw was the glimmer of growing trust.

Later, in Gus’ second evening with us, on one of his rounds through the house, he walked straight up to where Jim and I sat on the couch. As I leaned forward to pet him and scratch his bony back, Gus raised his head and very deliberately licked my nose.

Jim and I smiled at our new/old boy. Deep inside the old dog’s stoic facade, there really was a grateful, tail-thumping soul.

Now, following another visit to the vet less than a week after Jim picked him up at the shelter, I am happy to report that Gus has Imagegained nearly five pounds. He is now on four different medications—three to help stabilize his heart condition and one to bring comfort to arthritic joints. Gus paces less frequently, naps more frequently, and is prone to emitting a loud, melancholy howl if he can’t figure out where Jim and I are in the house. Any day now I expect to be blessed by the wag of his tail.

Our dear Gus now has a secure place to call home. He has also secured a place in our hearts. Our job from this point forward is to keep him comfortable, to meet his care requirements, to give him loving attention, and to make sure he enjoys good quality of life.  Whether he wants to stick around for a few weeks, a few months, or even more, we’re committed to giving Gus a good life. And someday, when he’s ready to go, we’ll be there to see him through. His story will not end alone in a cramped little shelter.

So, Betty.  Is Facebook really a huge waste of time?  This time, not so much. I know I speak for Gus when I say he agrees. I’m pretty sure you, dear Betty, would agree as well.   One simple share resulted in one sweet old life allowed a bit more time with a promise of dignity to the end.

Jim and I have taken in numerous senior dogs through the years. I can honestly tell you that some of our most cherished foster dogs have been our old guys. There is something so sweet and special about getting to know and love a dog that has several years under his belt. So many people say they could never give their hearts to a dog that may only be around for a short amount of time, and I can understand that thought. I would suggest, however, that the concept of quality vs quantity truly has meaning when learning to embrace the idea of fostering or adopting a senior. Whatever time we have with our old friends is so special. I would encourage anyone with a little extra space in their home… with a dog bed to spare…to consider adopting an older dog. In our world, they give back twice as much as they take. 

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day

Image

“Do you have big plans for tomorrow?” said the grocery store clerk named Judi, according to her nametag, as she scanned the items from my cart. I know she was referring to the two bundles of roses atop my groceries and the obvious-unless-you-are-in-a-coma fact that it is Mother’s Day weekend.

“No, not really,” I replied. “Just a quiet day.”

This was obviously not the reply she expected. After all, I am a woman who has obviously seen her child-bearing years, but who is also still young enough to have her own mom around. After a brief moment of silence to mull the lack of a rosy-Mother’s-Day response on my part, Judi offered another opportunity for conversation.

“My son called me last night. It’s a busy weekend for his family and he wanted to be sure to wish me a happy Mother’s Day.”

“That’s so sweet,” I commented. “You have a very thoughtful son.”

And then silence as I scanned my credit card and punched in my pin number. Sorry, Judi, I thought. I don’t have much to offer in return. I am never quite sure how to answer these questions…how to join in this conversation.

“I got to talk to my grandkids too,” she nudged, hopefully. “I have a grandson who is nine and a granddaughter who just turned six.”

Ok, time to give this woman a nugget…she’s trying.

“That must be fun for you. I didn’t have kids and my mother passed away a few years ago, so Mother’s Day is a bit quiet for me.”

Judi’s response?

“Oh.”

And then she proceeded to scan my groceries a tad faster. I spared her the awkward silence by asking her a few questions about her grandkids. She loved this line of conversation and I am a very good listener. Awkward moment averted.

Her son, who lives in Kansas City, actually calls her every single night on his way home from work. He has done this since her older son passed away a few years ago. He likes to make sure Judi is ok. Ah Judi, your son. That’s a tough one. I see we’ve all had our losses, I thought to myself.

“You have a very good son,” I said with a smile. “I just bet he calls you tomorrow even though he wished you a Happy Mother’s Day yesterday.”  Judi smiled and agreed that he probably would. We loaded my bagged groceries back into the cart, the flowers placed carefully on top, and I told her to have a very happy Mother’s Day.

“You too,” Judi auto-replied as I walked away.

“Thank you,” I said, “I will.” And I will.

Mom and her girls. Cindy was the oldest, Terry was the middle child. Me? Yeah, I'm the little one in the fancy glasses.

Mom and her girls. Cindy was the oldest, Terry was the middle child. Me? Yeah, I’m the little one in the fancy glasses.

Mother’s Day is not a sad day for me. I had a wonderful mom. She was loving, supportive, funny, fun-loving, compassionate, and a whole lot of other great adjectives. My mom was a stay-at-home kind of mom. She was the cook-a-big-meal-every-day kind of mom. She was a put-every-scribbled-drawing-prominently-on-the-fridge kind of mom. She was a tuck-you-in-at-night-even-when-you’re-a-little-too-old-for-it kind of mom.

She was a great kind of mom.

Mom passed away in October of 2010, after a long battle with dementia. Disease robbed my sister and I of our mom years before we actually lost her, but our memories serve us well and I still feel her presence with me. My mom is gone in the traditional sense, but she’s really not gone at all.

Mom is everywhere. Wherever I am, Mom is there too. I see little things all the time that remind me of her.

A beautiful little finch coming to my bird feeder? My mom delighted in each visitor. I learned to enjoy bird watching thanks to my parents who kept their feeders religiously filled and marked each new species sighted in their bird dictionary.

A dead tree stark against an otherwise green grove? Beautiful! My mom would want to stop to photograph the gracefully bare branches, ignoring the flourishing leaves all around it.

A precious little baby offering an innocent smile and a gurgled laugh? Melt a little. Mom sure would.

A beautiful shell washing up on a beach? You can’t have too many. Take it home to add to your collection.

In fact, anything beach related was something my landlocked mom appreciated. She loved to make pilgrimages to the beach in Texas or Florida as often as possible. Since she was, as I mentioned, an avid bird watcher, she was particularly drawn to the birds found at the ocean. Pelicans were among her favorites. The seemingly clumsy, comical birds just fascinated her as their unlikely bodies balancing those shovel-inspired beaks somehow lifted gracefully into the air and then plunged into the water to find the morning’s breakfast.

She also loved seagulls. On vacations, she would take little snacks down to the beach at sunrise delighting in finding herself surrounded by the demanding aerial acrobats.

In fact, I am quite convinced that mom now uses these particular little feathered reminders quite often. Though we are nowhere near a shoreline, there are seagulls in Oklahoma. They fly along the shores of the Arkansas River. You don’t necessarily see them all the time, but they’re around.

I truly believe that my mom sends seagulls to me when she wants to say hello, or when she knows I need her. It has happened since the day she passed. I’ll be driving along, or I’ll be out for a walk and a random seagull will appear to hover over me for a bit and then soar away. I always smile and say “Hello, Mom. I love you.”

Image

Amazing seagull image captured by my dear friend, Lesleigh Shaefer. Leigh is a talented photographer and when I told her how much I loved her seagull photos and why, she immediately shared some with me. Thank you Leigh…I will treasure them as much as I treasure you. This photo used here with Leigh’s blessing.

One day, not long after Mom had passed, I was having a bit of a rough day. I missed her terribly. There were things I wanted to share with her and ask her. I wanted to sit with her. I wanted to hug her. There was no denying it. My heart was heavy with a healthy bout of grief.

I was home alone and had walked out to the barn to check the water troughs when suddenly I heard a familiar screech.  I looked up to see a few obviously lost seagulls circling the barn.

As I smiled and watched, the sky suddenly started filling with seagulls. Not a few, not a dozen, literally hundreds of them. Maybe this is a scene you might find near a fleet of fishing boats, but it’s certainly not a common occurrence in the skies over Mounds, Oklahoma. Our farm is not anywhere near the river. Seagulls do not flock to my little farm pond.

I just stood in awe as the air over my farm filled with hundreds of seagulls swirling and soaring overhead. Their performance went on for several minutes. Then, just as quickly as they appeared, they were gone. I searched the brilliantly blue sky for any stragglers and didn’t see even one.  In that moment I knew that I had just received the most spectacular hug my mother could deliver.

Through tears and laughter I thanked my mom for reminding me that she is still with me. No matter where I am, she can find me. Her seagulls can always find me. And leave it to mom to send them when there were no other witnesses to confirm or deny my sanity.

Tomorrow, I will take flowers to her grave—the very flowers I purchased today from sweet mom and grandmother, Judi. I will brush the dust off of her headstone and I’ll talk with her and with Dad as well. I’ll arrange the roses nicely in the urn that marks their little place in the earth. I’ll sit for a moment to enjoy the peace and beauty of this place.

And I won’t be one tiny bit surprised if I see a clever little seagull supervising my visit. Not one bit surprised.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you too.

ImageImage

Happy Tink Day!

Tink loving life...even during an ice storm. Most excellent photo by Jim Thomason

Tink loving life…even during an ice storm. Most excellent photo by Jim Thomason

Today is the fourth annual national…

no…

Worldwide, Universal TINK DAY!

You do know what Tink Day is, right?

No? Seriously?

Ok. Twist my arm. I’ll tell you.

The tale of Tink actually started on Saturday, May 1, 2010. I was off running errands. Jim was off running errands. The weather was gorgeous, spring was in the air, and it was a busy, get-things-done kind of day.

Just as I was getting down to the business of checking things off of my to-do list, my phone rang and Jim uttered those telling words, “Where are you?”

Now that may sound like a really innocent question, but in Nancy-Jim speak, the actual translation generally is: I have found an animal of some sort and I need help.

My immediate response was, “Why? What did you find?”

While cutting through the back alley of a strip mall (note: MALL, not CLUB), Jim caught a quick glimpse of a small dog sniffing around a dumpster. OF COURSE he stopped to check on her.

When he parked the car and got out to call to the little dog, she took one look at him and shot immediately under another nearby dumpster; this one a giant compacting dumpster.  Not the type to just shrug and go on his way (yeah, another one of the million reasons I love this guy), Jim stopped to investigate.

Image

Our first glimpse of dumpster dog.

On hands and knees to look under the dumpster, Jim could just see, in the small, filthy space, a tiny face peering back. Well out of his reach, Jim tried to coax the dog into coming out to see him. He even bribed her with some dog treats he had in the car (doesn’t everyone always carry a few emergency dog treats?). Dumpster dog, however, was having none of it.

This is where Jim hoped I could step in. Sometimes a dog will be wary of a man, but might respond better to a woman. You see it all the time.  Jim also suggested that I run to the store for something a bit higher value than dog treats. Yes, it was time to break out some stinky lunch meat.

So I ran to the nearest convenience store (my regional favorite, Quik Trip—and yes, I will continue to plug them until they decide to sponsor my blog and/or give me free fountain drinks for life). There I found what would surely be Dumpster Dog’s olfactory siren song.

Bologna. I really can think of no better purpose for the stuff than bribing a dog away from a dumpster. Stinky bologna in hand, I rushed to meet Jim in a back alley. He takes me to all of the nicest places.

There I found my partner, sitting on the dirty pavement, appearing, to the unknowing eye, to be talking to a dumpster. Further proof that public appearance means NOTHING when trying to save a cute little dog.

Jim stepped back while I, confident of my dog magnetism (especially when wearing Eau d’Oscar Meyer perfume), plopped down on the warm pavement to work my charm on what was sure to be my new little bestie. I talked to her in my best soft, reassuring voice. I offered very lovely, stinky, slimy bologna. I gave it my very best shot. And I was shot right down.

In fact, I even thought I heard a little growl. But not really a growl. A moan? A groan? Maybe more of an audible sneer? Whatever the sound, it did not convey an oh-yay-the-human-of-my-dreams-has-arrived message.

Ok. Plan B.

It was apparent to both of us that Dumpster Dog was no stranger to this way of life. The space under the dumpster was obviously her current home. She felt safe there. Nothing could really touch her there.

So we decided to back off for that moment and visit her the following morning. It would be a Sunday morning, so the strip mall would be quiet and we would surely convince this little darling to run into our waiting arms.

Sunday morning dawned and we were in the car, on our way to claim our newest foster dog. When we pulled to the stark space Imagebehind the building, Dumpster Dog was actually resting in the shade of the one tree planted in the middle of the one small patch of grass adjacent to a loading dock. One glance at our slowing vehicle and she was once again a white blur darting beneath her dumpster fort.

So we sat and talked to her. We reached as far under the damn dumpster (it was swiftly earning that name) as our arms could reach to offer bits of turkey, chicken, and hot dogs. While she would stretch her neck to pick up offerings tossed her way, she was not budging an inch.

That’s ok. She was just not ready. And she was still making that weird noise that we couldn’t decipher. We left a bowl of water and a bowl of dog food. If Dumpster Dog needed us to work a little harder to gain her trust, then work a little harder we would.

And so our lives as part of a bizarre dumpster sit-in commenced.

Between the two of us, I would say we visited Dumpster Dog around five or six times throughout the day, for the next four days. Fortunately we were having a run of gorgeous, mild spring weather, so sitting in the middle of a sea of concrete chatting up an invisible dog was not a completely unpleasant task.

We got to know the UPS guy who said he had been tossing food to the little dog. We learned from the employees of Bed Bath & Beyond (anyone else pre-occupied by this company’s decision to eschew not only the Oxford comma, but all forms of punctuation? Only me?) that our little dog had been sharing their dumpster’s address for around six to eight weeks. They too had been tossing her some food, but gave up when the dog refused to warm up to their attention.

Gave up? Blasphemy! Heartstrings twanging at the thought of this little creature surviving on her own for such a long time, our determination to win her over doubled.

I went by on my way to work. I spent my lunch hours with her. I stopped by after work every day. I ran over to Dumpster Central every chance I could.

I read books to her. I sang to her. I shared my lunch with her. I made her all sorts of crazy promises. Had she crawled her way to me on visit four of day three, I believe she would have been the lucky winner of a BRAND NEW CAR! (Price is Right Voice…Bob Barker version. No offense, Drew, it’s just not the same.)

Meanwhile Jim was putting in an equal number of visits. We were nothing if not determined and Mother Nature was brewing some incredibly good inspiration.

Spring in Oklahoma. Yes, it can be quite lovely, and in the click of the minute hand, it can turn quite nasty. The forecast for the coming weekend promised strong thunderstorms and heavy rain. We could not stand the thought of this little, lost dog left to ride out storms of that magnitude by herself. We also did not relish the thought of huddling under umbrellas (AKA: lightning rods) to keep her company through it all.

Dumpster Dog had to surrender.

Friday rolled around. I visited in the morning. Jim visited later in the morning. I visited at lunch. I begged the little dog to come to me. I desperately wanted to be able to call Jim to tell him that she was safely tucked in my car.

Instead, I was the one to receive that delightful message—live and in person.

Right after work I headed over to my now-favorite dumpster in the world.  Just as I was rounding the corner for yet another visit, there was Jim, walking toward me, cradling a small white dog in his arms. OH happy day!

Image

Jim and Tink. The first of many selfies.

I will admit that I just burst into tears. Finally, this precious little dog was safe. I believe my first words were, “I love her! We’re keeping her!” Oops. Did I say that out loud? Yes, over the course of the week, this dog had become more than just someone’s dog. She was our dog—in my heart and mind. I just failed to mention that concept to Jim…until I saw him holding her.

Laughing and hugging in relief, Jim told me that in desperation he finally just stretched out on the pavement and shoved himself as far under the dumpster as he could fit. Let’s consider this visual for just a moment:  A man flat out on his back in an alley who, to the unknowing eye, likely appeared to be half crushed by a huge dumpster.  Thank goodness for seldom traveled back alleys and a few I’m-not-getting-involved passersby.

Jim just stayed right there. He shut his eyes and pretended to nap. He became one with the damn dumpster. For 45 minutes.

Eventually, he felt a cautious sniff at the top of his head. He still didn’t move. Slowly, a little white dog with faint black spots moved to Jim’s side to curl up with him. And so a beautiful and devoted friendship was born.

Upon finally meeting her up close and personal, it was immediately clear that the little creature who had seemed so very shy while in her hiding place, was actually a very friendly, fun dog. The odd not-exactly-a-growl sound that she emitted from her dumpster fort (where Jim swears she lorded over an army of minion mice) now seemed to be from some sort of congestion, so off to the vet we ran.

This is where it is a very good thing to have a best buddy who is also your awesome veterinarian. Stick around after hours on a Friday to see our latest foundling? Well, sure she would.

A quick exam revealed a basically healthy five to six month old puppy that just seemed to have a really stuffy nose. We headed home with antibiotics and very high spirits.

Image

First visit with Dr. Lauren. She’s really nice.

We got to know our new puppy and found that she was one huge character packed into an 18 pound body. Her small stature combined with her huge spirit quickly earned her a pixie-inspired name…Tink.

Now properly named and in procession of two completely love-struck humans, Tink should have been ready to just live out her happily-ever-after, but following a full week of antibiotics, her cute little nose was still doing a heck of an impression of the Sleestaks from Land of the Lost. (If you don’t get it, check it out on YouTube…you don’t want to miss out on this slice of pop culture).

So we headed back to the veterinarian, who consulted with another veterinarian. Who then sent us to see another veterinarian with a fancy scope-thingie. Who then found that Tink wasn’t ill at all. Her nose had apparently suffered major trauma, likely as a very young puppy, and both nasal passages were almost completely blocked. The noise we kept hearing wasn’t growling, groaning, moaning, or even a really good Sleestak impression. It was simply a puppy trying to breath.

Well if we didn’t love her madly before, that sure sealed the deal.

With our “free puppy” in tow, we were sent off to a veterinary specialist in another city. He performed a surgery that he hoped would result in a reduction of some of the scar tissue and blockage in Tink’s nose.

A few thousand dollars and six weeks of green tubes protruding from said nose later…we still had a really cute little Sleestak.

ImageSo no, Tink still really can’t breathe through her nose. But she has overcome and we have grown accustomed to her snoring.  Jim says I’m louder anyway. Ironically, I really can’t breathe through my nose very well either. Paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it?

Tink has now been head of our canine household for four wonderful years. She is Jim’s devoted little buddy. Oh she likes me too, but I would never want to ask her to choose between us because I guarantee she wouldn’t give me a backwards glance. Jim is Tink’s prince in this fairy tale. After all, he’s the one who crawled into the dumpster fort to save her, didn’t he?

A couple of years ago we had the opportunity to have Tink meet with our favorite animal communicator, Pam Case. It’s always fun to hear what our furry friends have to tell Pam–she always manages to hit several proverbial nails squarely on the head.

We purposely did not tell Pam any of Tink’s story—nothing about her rescue or her injured nose. Pam and Tink “talked for a bit.” Pam related many stories about Tink’s thoughts on her life with us. She told us many likes…a few dislikes. She did not, however, say anything about Tink’s life before we found her. So I asked Pam what Tink thought about her life before coming to us.

Pam got very quiet and still for a moment as she studied Tink. Tink studied Pam right back for that moment, and then hopped up to go sniff around, as best as a dog with a broken nose can. Pam looked up and said, “All I saw was a heavy work boot coming straight at her face. After that, she said she didn’t want to think about her life before coming home with you anymore.”Image

Well, what a great little teacher Tink turned out to be. The image that Pam related to us (and she had no prior knowledge of Tink’s nose problems), was exactly in line with the type of injury the veterinarians believe Tink suffered. Exactly.

But according to Tink herself, dwelling on the past was wasted energy. That was then, this is now, and now is a pretty damn good place to be. We should all be so wise as to follow Tink’s lead. Leave the past where it is and go sniff something new.

Thanks Tink. Thanks for four great years and many, many more Worldwide, Universal Tink Days to come.

ImageImage

Channeling the REAL Mary Poppins

Image

I am a very strong and healthy person. Very, very healthy. Except for the last 24 hours in which I experienced the mother of all illnesses.

Ok. Admittedly, I should probably not use the “mother of all” reference this close to Mother’s Day. Sorry to our fabulous mommies everywhere. But seriously, I was M I S E R A B L E. Twenty-four solid hours of pure torture. When my body decides to attack an invading bug, it apparently chooses to give it all it has and then some.

I always try to follow the practice of positive thinking. That’s why I don’t say (though I’m putting it in print here, yikes!) that I never get sick. The universe does not recognize negatives, so it only hears “I” and “sick.” WHAM.

The positive way to say it is that I have been strong and healthy for six years. Yes, it has been six years since my last real illness (colds don’t count). Now we can officially go back to posting “I have been strong and healthy for ZERO days.”

Through it all…and “all” included congestion, sore throat, persistent coughing, aches, chills, and a delightfully queasy stomach…a dear friend I’ve never met kept coming to mind. We are friends through an online community for artists of all disciplines. It’s a wonderful cyber family that has now introduced me to some incredible friends and allowed me to form relationships I truly cherish.

It may seem odd to think of someone you really, really like during one of your darkest moments, but my friend Denise, alias the real Mary Poppins, is the queen of putting a positive spin on just about any situation. Seriously. This woman could fall into a nest of porcupines amid a field of cacti and come away from it with a valuable, heart-warming message.

So, while fighting a truly angry stomach and multiple other ailments (did anyone else do a check against the symptoms for MERS? I did), I tried my best to channel Denise.  What WOULD Denise do?

Denise Poppins would put a spoonful of sugar spin on this. Somehow. She would.

Ok. This one is for you, Neese. The positive things I gained from my 24-hour dip into HELL.

  1. I got a jumpstart on my diet. I would like to drop 10 pounds…12 would be delightful. While I realize that the weight I dropped yesterday may have actually just been due to dehydration and the fact that I only ate six saltines in an effort to put ANYTHING in my stomach to cushion the blow of the barrage of over-the-counter meds and vitamins I was popping, I’m still counting it. Three pounds down! Hooray!
  2. My wildly sore stomach muscles have led me to believe that there is no greater workout for the old core than persistent, relentless, deep, body-wracking coughing. The sore core muscles nicely complement the already sore thigh and butt muscles I achieved through a legitimate work out the day BP (before plague). So a fabulous start toward firming my neglected core. Hooray!

Well, that’s about it. But it’s something right? And I am back up today at about 60% of my normal strong and healthy self, so that’s great news too, right? Right Denise?

I AM strong and healthy. DAMMIT. 

A Terrific, Radiant, Humble Happy Birthday

Image

If you had told me 15 years ago that I would someday have a pet hog, I would have…well, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. In fact, I would have likely just said, “Cool! When?”

Yeah, that’s how I roll.

I have always been “that kid,” and now “that person,” earning me nicknames like Horsey Girl, Chicken Girl, Dog Lady, Squirrel Mom, Bunny Mom, etc…so naturally, Pig Mom felt so very right.

It was May of 2002 when I got the call from Dave, a good friend who worked at the City of Tulsa Animal Shelter. I volunteered at the shelter on a regular basis at that time and Dave knew I was “that person.” He called with a special request for a foster home. Three pigs had just come to the shelter…yes, the shelter set up to house dogs and cats, but NOT pigs…and one was very young and very tiny. Dave was afraid the piglet would not survive if housed in the shelter.

Would I provide a foster home for a baby pig? Well, hell yes! There really wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. My only questions were:

  1. Where is she?
  2. When can I pick her up?

I would figure the rest out as I went along. A lack of plan seemed like the perfect plan.

Now, let’s set the stage here. At that time I did live on a small acreage that boasted a barn where my horse, a llama, and my growing donkey family lived. I also owned 75ish acres that I had hoped to move to. Hoped. But at THAT time I was in the middle of a divorce and everything seemed way, way up in the air. I wasn’t sure where I would be living over the course of the next six months. I wasn’t sure if I could keep my animals. I wasn’t sure about anything.

Was it a good time to take on a baby piglet? Well…sure! She was just a foster pig, right? (Yeah, I’m laughing too.)

SPAMELA-03 (2)

So skinny at first! It didn’t last long.

The piglet had been transferred to an area veterinarian for a checkup. Beyond being a bit malnourished and having a case of pig lice (ewwww!), she was proclaimed healthy. I did quickly learn that pig lice are species-specific and that they had treated her for them, so I parked my heebie-geebies at the door of the vet hospital and rushed in to claim my new little charge.

I believe I heard her before I actually laid eyes on her. Squealing all the way into the exam room, a tiny pink bundle was delivered into my waiting arms.

Oh my. She was adorable.

Big ears, a wrinkled little snout, button eyes and a pricelessly curly tail—it was love at first snort. She was truly no bigger than a football (forgive the cruel comparison!). She walked on tiny, cloven high-heeled feet. She loved to snuggle. She was all personality. I was completely smitten by my first pig encounter, beyond the destined-to-be-bacon pigs at the state fair.

I quickly ran to the feed store to purchase some appropriate food and then also hit the produce stand to buy some fruits and veggies I knew she might like—nothing but the best for my little bundle of joy.

I bedded her down in my spare bathroom because that somehow made sense at the time. The dogs met the pig and miraculously made friends. They even played together. It was quite a sight to see my Dalmatians racing around with a little pink bullet at their heels.

Within 24 hours I knew this pig would NOT return to the shelter. If the owner of the pigs returned to pay the fines and claim them, I knew she would be destined for slaughter. If she remained unclaimed, she would be sent to auction where her fate would likely be—you guessed it—slaughter. That was just not going to happen.

So I called Dave at the shelter and told him the pig was staying put and he needed to figure it out on his end. His answer (God love this man…I know I caused him stress) was to list the piglet as deceased. Yes, he wrote on her intake card that she had been too young and malnourished to survive. (By the way, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent…) We joked for years afterward that Spammy was the healthiest dead pig anyone had ever seen.

HERE PIGGIE PIG (2)

A girl and her pig.

Now I had a pig. Wow. Now I had a PIG. My up-in-the-air plans officially needed to accommodate a pig that would swiftly turn into a full-fledged hog. A lack of planning on my part perhaps not such a good idea? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, the piglet continued to charm everyone she met. Jim (who was not my partner quite yet, but soon would be—lucky, lucky me!) named her Spamela Anderson within the first few minutes of meeting her. GENIUS. A quick, quick wit. Just another reason why I fell for this man.

Image

Spammy and Monte demonstrating a good “stay.”

Spamela, affectionately known as Spammy, quickly became a beloved fixture in my home…well, actually in my barn. The “let the piggy live in the house” idea changed pretty quickly. Did you know that pigs like to back up against the walls of your bathroom to poop? Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

Creating poop art on the walls issues aside (and in her defense she DID “go” on the papers we put out…well, her feet were on the papers), Spammy was clever. She learned tricks and behaviors just as easily as the dogs did. She liked to play, she liked to eat. Oh she really liked to eat. My tiny pink piggy swiftly grew into a beautiful, huge hog.

Now fast-forward 12 years.

Spam and Jerry

Spamela Anderson napping with Jerry Swinefeld. Friends at last!

Spammy and I have been together through a lot of life changes. Well, life changes on my side of the board, anyway. Her life, on the other hand, has been fairly stress-free and even keel.  She has always had a comfortable barn to snooze in. She has always had lovely mud to bathe in when the weather gets warm. She has always had plenty of good food to eat. She has always had room to roam and graze. She even eventually got a younger adopted brother that she wasn’t too sure about in the beginning, but grew to enjoy his company (except at dinner time—he’s such a pig!).

Spam and Monte

Spamela and Monte were best of friends. They played together until I decided she was just too big and might hurt him accidentally. It was sure fun to see them romp. Interesting side note, Monte would never accept one of those pig ear chews. Turned his nose completely up. What a loyal friend!

All these years later, we get to celebrate Spamela Anderson’s 12th birthday. So few pigs live to see this milestone, so it’s special. All the more special because, after a bit of research, I found that the average lifespan for Yorkshire pigs, who are actually allowed to live, is listed as six to 10 years. You go, Spammy!

This little piggy has lived a very good, long life. Together, we survived divorce, we survived figuring out where and how to live, and we survived changes in family, career, and lifestyle. Through it all, Spamela has been blissfully unaware, but she did play an important role in swaying many a decision and I am grateful for her not-so-silent influence (have you ever heard the noise a 600-plus pound hog can make at mealtime? Think roaring lion.).

Now Spammy’s years are showing. Her once impressive bulk has faded. She is a little slower to rise and enjoys naps a good deal of the time. She still meets each meal with the enthusiasm of a young porker and she still loves a good wallow in the mud. I know we don’t have a lot of time left together, but whatever time she graces us with, will be wonderful.

To borrow words from another famous pig story in which a clever spider named Charlotte documented the attributes of her porcine friend within her web, I would have to say that Spamela is, indeed,

“Some Pig,”

“Terrific,”

“Radiant,”

and

“Humble.”

Image

Portrait of a senior pig.

After all, she was a bit famous in these parts with articles documenting her life in magazines, newspapers, and even on the news. Through it all, she remained unaffected, and slightly mud-caked.

I would have to one-up dear Charlotte’s list, however. My last web-message for Spamela would have to be “Much-Loved.” And she is.

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to our dear Spamela Anderson. You are one very fine pig.

 

Following are more photos from the life and times of Spamela Anderson. Here’s to hoping we get to add many more.

 

DSC04141 (2)

Yes, she would let me ride her. Sort of.

Bitty ride spam (2)

We were our own little side show.

DSC04147 (2)

She could heel better than most dogs.

IMG_7834 (2)

Hanging out with her horsey friends.

IMG_7848 (2)

Carrots. Always a favorite. She loves all fruits and veggies, but does not like cake…especially stuff like Twinkies. This could be a key to her long life.

216578_1027815339302_8307_n

Spammy, at her full size, enjoying a visit from friends. She was quite impressively large in her prime.