The Girl is Gone

This is one of my favorite captures of The Girl. She was very happy that afternoon and grinned for us when Older Son dropped his hat on her head.

On the way home from Davis Saturday afternoon, I realized I had not written on my weblog in quite a while. After I got home, I was just too heartsick to even think about writing anything. I was, and am, in need of just processing the loss of The Girl and all that means to my world.

Last night, or this morning — I cannot remember — I looked at my weblog and realized it has been more than two months since I last wrote anything. The last thing I wrote was about Wife’s death seven years before and my fear that The Girl’s life was coming to an end. The first seizure was in December of last year. It was followed in January by another and then came February and there were several.

Near the end of February, Older Son and I drove The Girl over the hill to the U.C. Davis Veterinary Hospital for imaging and a workup. What we learned confirmed what the local vets told us — Ki had a brain tumor. However, the tumor was on the surface of her brain and the morphology was consistent with one of the less severe possibilities, a meningioma.

What this meant is that I had hope that with surgery and possibly some radiotherapy, The Girl might live another year or two. So, against my previous decision, I elected to move forward with surgery with the hope that I might get some more time.

Over the course of February and March, there were more seizures and a general deterioration of her condition. She had trouble walking, dragging her feet and losing balance, not aware of her space, and a continued loss of interest in our daily walks. It was clear to me that the surgery needed to happen sooner, rather than later.

Although it was scheduled for the first week of April, they moved it to last week. We drove over the hill again and pulled into the client parking lot. After I called the main number, a vet technician came to the rig and took Ki from me.

As they walked toward the hospital, Ki paused once and looked over her shoulder at me, making eye contact. She was asking two things: “Is this OK? Are you going to be there when I come back?”

It did not cross my mind until later that it would be the last time I saw her alive.

The resident called me in the morning before surgery and apprised me that, as expected, her liver enzymes were much higher. With the phenobarbital and prednisone I was not surprised. They did the surgery, which took six hours, and the resident called afterward with the after action report. The tumor was worse and had shifted a bit to the back. But they got it out, or most of it, and Ki was recovering well.

Friday I got a call that Ki was not waking, despite them giving her drugs to counteract any remaining sedation from the surgery and post-op recovery period. The did an MRI and found that evidence of bleeding. So she went back to surgery for some cleanup. There was some brain swelling that was treated and was acceptable.

Friday evening I got a call that, although she had woken briefly post-op, she had still not woken and stayed awake. The resident advised me that she was going off-duty and that Ki’s surgeon would be watching over her Friday night. The medical team was providing supportive care, but had done everything they could and it was up to Ki to recover.

The surgeon called me about 0500h Saturday morning. Ki was no longer breathing on her own. Her prognosis had declined to the point where she was not going to recover. Older Son and I dressed quickly and headed to the hospital, only a few minutes away.

She had died in the few minutes before we got there. We stood there next to her body for a few minutes, saying goodbye. I got to pet her a few last times before it was time to go. I wept for The Girl and for all the time I hoped we would have, walking, playing, eating, snuggling, and just spending our time together like we had for nearly nine years.

I made arrangements for a service to retrieve her body and cremate her remains. I will take them to one of our beloved spots and scatter her ashes, returning her to the earth from which we all come. I will say a prayer, be quiet, and weep for my lost love.

Now I am in the bereaved space once again. I knew this was coming. I suspected it back in December. I wrote about it in January. I watched all of February and March. I had a glimmer of hope that the surgeons could get us a little more time. I was just wrong.

It will take awhile to recover from this. The Girl and I were so close. I have always been close to the animals who live with me. This one was different because she watched over Wife during Wife’s terminal illness. Then she watched over me as I grieved Wife. Then we lived and loved for seven years.

Now The Girl is gone too. I miss you Ki. You will always have space in my heart. There is nothing left to say, except goodbye.

Seven Years

We are at Asilomar State Park for an annual conference. As I walked away to go get coffee, Wife looked at me out the window of our cabin. I got the shot.
Yesterday was a long day, not because anything particularly difficult occurred, but because I had too many engagements. But, I am ahead of myself.

During the holiday period, I generally write several articles and talk about the season, they reason, and how I am thankful. This season, however, I was distracted by my concern for The Girl. After her seizure in early December, I was in a bit of a panic. I do not want to lose The Girl. She has been at my side for more than eight years. She is my constant companion and keeps me centered in the moment.

But the simple truth is that I am losing her. She had a second seizure a couple of weeks ago. It was worse than the first in some ways, although I was better prepared for this one. Her recovery, once she recovered consciousness, took about two hours. She was then ready to settle down. We both slept hard that night. I have more to say about her condition in a moment.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of Wife’s death. I woke about 0500h this morning, asked Siri about the time, and then took a few minutes to remember Wife, her life, our lives together, and her departure.

As I reflected on that time, I realized that no grief came to me this morning. What I had was a sense of loss, a wishing that things had gone better, and a realization that nothing is permanent. Today I will spend several times remembering Wife, being thankful for the time we had together, all those fun, crazy times we had, and praying that her spirit lives on in the bosom of God. She deserves that.

As I laid in bed one recent morning, The Girl slept snuggled close to me. I love these snuggles.
After talking the her vet several times over the last few weeks, it is clear that The Girl’s departure is coming. I do not think it is imminent, but her time with me is limited probably to a month or two.

I believe the vet when he says she has a brain tumor. He does not know with certainty and I plan to take her to the research vet hospital in Davis to have a workup and imaging of her done. I want clarity and closure, even if treatment is not possible. If, as I suspect, she does have a brain tumor and it is diagnosed, then the local vet will be released to treat her medically. That means mitigation of brain swelling, seizures, and palliative treatment to make her comfortable the remainder of her life.

When her time comes, I intend her life to end here at the house. There is no reason for her to feel the anxiety of the vet’s office, deal with the clinical aspects of that location, and deal with all the other animals there for treatment. She can die here at home, in her space, with her things, and with her loved ones.

It would be a lie to say I have not grieved my dog already. Unlike her, I have the ability to anticipate the future. When I do, I imagine life without this wonderful creature and weep. Then she comes to check on me and brings me back to the moment, which is all we really ever have or know.

I am treating her with CBD oil. Based on my research, it will not hurt her and has every possibility of increasing her comfort, reducing inflammation, and reducing the probability of another seizure. I am not sure I have the buy-in of the vet, but I am not sure I care. As I wrote, I do not see anything in the literature that the drugs will hurt her. It seems reasonable that CBDs are not as harsh as some of the other medications.

It is cold and cloudy today. I am not looking forward to being out in the cold. But The Girl wants an outing and I am going to give it to her. The exercise will be good for both of us. The cold will likely make her frisky and that is always fun. She will exude joy at being alive and outdoors. It will be good.

Then we will return home. She will sleep most of the afternoon until she wakes and starts begging for supper. I will work on a few things and spend time remembering Wife. Remembering is a way of keeping her alive. She will never be truly gone so long as she is remembered.

Enjoy Every Sandwich

When it’s warm in the 4Runner, many times The Girl falls asleep sitting up.

One of my favorite musicians, Warren Zevon, said some time before he died, “enjoy every sandwich.” Those words struck true to me when I read them (and saw the interview in which he shared them).

I cannot say that I am always successful at being so into the moment. But I am, sometimes.

Nearly a year ago, The Girl had a seizure which scared the poop out of me. I wrote about it back then, here. She recovered, mostly, and we have been living happily together and enjoying life. We walk, play, eat, love, and sleep together. It is a wonderful relationship.

Her idiopathic vestibular event frightened me — not the fear-for-my-life kind of scare, but the I’m-not-ready-for-this kind of scare.

I knew, when she came to live with us about 8-1/2 years ago, that there was a significant probability that she will die before I do. Intellectually, I am prepared for that.

As it turns out, I am not so sure I am emotionally prepared.

Last night, a little after 1900h, we had eaten and I was watching a little Netflix at my computer. I had a small cup of chocolate ice cream and a Cognac that I was enjoying for dessert. The Girl was sleeping on her bed under my worktable, as she often does in the evening. We are generally not very far apart.

I was startled by a “BLAM” and then she tumbled out of her bed onto the carpet protector under my office chair, convulsing. I kicked the chair away from us and knelt by her side. She was in a full-on seizure, paddling and foaming at the mouth.

I put my right hand on her side and began talking to her in a calm voice, projecting love and positive energy toward her as she fought herself. With my left hand, I reached up to the keyboard and stopped the stream. Then I got my phone and dialed the vet clinic, putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the table. Her rapid breathing and paddling had diminished. For a moment, I thought she was dying.

I continued to comfort her while I talked to the vet tech on the phone. She suddenly came to, as he said she would and was confused and disoriented. I simply wrapped my arms around her and held her to me while she flailed.

Once she regained her composure a little, I released her and quickly dressed. While I dressed, she bumbled about, still confused and uncoordinated. I moved the rig to the front door and carried her to the waiting, warming 4Runner.

The drive down and back was uneventful. The vet examined her, took a blood sample, and told me that if there was no metabolic abnormality it was most likely a brain tumor or lesion.

She was regaining her balance and awareness, but had some residual effect from the seizure. He indicated it should clear up in a few hours or maybe a day. He told me to be watchful for another event and to keep track. So I am now on seizure watch.

I am having a mental block on that word, “seizure.” Several times today I could not remember the word. I think it is so distasteful to me that my mind refuses to recognize the word.

I closed the bedroom door once we returned home and made a bed on the sofa. After pacing around the house (a normal post-seizure behavior) for about an hour, she hopped onto the sofa-bed and settled in.

There was no settling for me. I slept a little, but every time she moved I woke to check on her. I was in a hyper-vigilant state and did not rest much.

She slept until almost 1100h this morning. After going out and eating a little breakfast, she started asking for an outing. To be honest, sitting in the house was not doing me any good. So I drove us over to the Station 51 park and we made a couple of loops. She seemed fine, sniffing and playing like she always does.

I took advantage of the outing to reprovision the house. She seemed to tire at the grocery store, so I kept the trip as short as I could. Once home again, she stayed by me while I made a bite of lunch.

I was very tired, so I laid on the bed. It took only a few minutes before she hopped up next to me and snuggled. I put on a little music and we both slept. I slept an hour or so, she is still snoozing as I write.

I love those snuggles with The Girl. It is a wonderful thing to be so close to another being that we can share the heat our bodies generate and just enjoy being near one another. There is great comfort in that relationship. Dogs are wonderful creatures who are so intricately linked to humans that the connection baffles me.

It is unclear what the near future holds for her. I suspect the vet will adopt a watch and wait position to see if another seizure occurs. If one does, then there will be additional tests to run (probably a scan) to determine the cause and whether it can be treated. The vet suggested palliative care could be very useful and that brain tumors are generally slow growers.

In the meantime, I am reminded for Warren Zevon’s words — “Enjoy every sandwich.” I enjoy every moment I have with this wonderful creature that God brought into my life nearly nine-years ago. Last night was another reminder that life is short and it is wise to pay attention.

N.B. The image is one I captured of her a few days ago. Over the last few months, I have caught her falling asleep sitting up. She has FOMO and does not want to miss something. So she will continue to sit up even while falling asleep, much like a small human child will fall asleep sitting up and then… face-plant. She is such a hoot.

Burnt Cabin Summit Moonrise

Just before supper, I captured the moon rising over the northern Nevada desert near Burnt Cabin Summit. Image captured with iPhone XS Max.

A week ago (yeah, it has been a week) I drove out to Burnt Cabin Summit where my friends Greg and Subrina were camping. Greg asked if I wanted to come help with the antenna we’ve been working on.

So of course I drove out there.

We worked on the antenna most of the afternoon. I think it is working on all the bands (that he wanted) with the exception of 80-meters. For some reason, the element won’t tune properly. We worked on that a long time.

As the sun drifted below the mountains to the west, we put away tools and equipment. I paused for a moment to make a couple of images with my iPhone. To the east, the moon was rising over the northern Nevada desert. I liked the light, so I made this capture.

“How about chicken alfredo for supper?” my friend asked, “I think I have enough wine for two glasses.”

“Of course,” I replied, it didn’t take me long to think about it.

We enjoyed supper in their camper, The Girl resting on the floor where it was warmer than in my 4Runner. The food, wine, and fellowship was fun and I enjoyed it.

The Girl and I then headed home for the evening. It was a little later than I am usually out (about 2130h when we got home), but it was totally worth it.

NVQSOP Finale

Diana, KJ7GVY, wins the IRON WOMAN award for tent camping at sub-freezing temperatures. Photo credit KG7D.

Thursday night was COLD! Greg told me it was 11F when he rose Friday morning. Diana was tent camping!

I made some coffee and sat down at my table. I had not setup my radio yet so I put on some music, sat, and relaxed a bit before making some breakfast and setting up the station.

I setup my radio on the dinette table, put the (very heavy) AGM batteries on the seat across from my operating position, and then started working outside. I assembled my portable vertical antenna and tuned it for the 40m band. I decided to put up my end-fed wire antenna as well. The intent was to provide both vertical and horizontal polarization for the outbound signal. So I threw ropes over two juniper trees and hoisted the wire antenna up to about 12 ft off the ground.

My campsite and vertical antenna. Photo credit KG7D.

I setup the solar panel to keep the station batteries charged. As soon as I connected the charge controller to the panel and batteries, the controller showed that current was passing to the batteries. This was confirmed by meters I installed in-line on both the input and output sides of the system. I now have solar power for my station.

I crawled up on the front storage box of my camper and assembled the mesh network antennas and router. We used the Broadband-HamNet software flashed to old Linksys home WiFi access points/routers so we could use a networked contact logging software, N1MM+. In testing, the mesh nodes permitted communications locally through the mesh net and the intent was to allow all of us to work stations and log contacts to a common database and under Greg’s callsign.

After connecting everything else and double-checking all the connects, I powered up the radio, the panadapter, and the station computer. Everything seemed to be working and I was able to check into one of the nets that was operating.

The mesh node and antenna at the KJ7GVY camp.
I headed down to the Greg/Subrina camp to see if help was needed down there. They had everything under control so Greg sent me up to Diana’s camp to help setup her mesh node and antenna. This required some jury-rigging to get the antenna up high enough for line-of-sight with minimum interference from vegetation. Duct-tape always works. Because of the relatively high frequency, the cable run from the mesh router to the antenna has to be short, so I had to “hang” the router from the antenna mast.

After some fiddling and a few trips back and forth, we had a working mesh network. It was time for a lunch break and a rest. Then it would soon be time to start operating for the Nevada QSO Party.

My operating position, plus some coffee ready to drink. Photo credit KG7D.

For the next couple of days, I played some search-and-pounce (listen/look for signals and then call for a contact) and also called CQ many times. The voice recording feature of my K3 was wonderful because I could transmit a standard call and then call using my voice and microphone every few calls to keep from being bored to death and to provide some variety in my calls.

Friday and Saturday nights we gathered at the Greg/Subrina camp to share meal, take break, and fellowship. Then it was back to the stations and try for a few more contacts.

I slept really well. The camper’s heater kept us plenty warm. The Girl and I got enough exercise walking between camps over the rough ground. Some care was required because we found a few cacti that grow really close to the ground, are almost invisible, and have nasty spines. One of those in The Girl’s foot would have made a very bad day.

As the event wound down Sunday afternoon, the contacts dried up. I had been calling CQ for awhile when a voice broke in during my pause to listen.

“Are you going to answer all those foreign stations calling for North America?” came the call.

“If I could hear them, I would!”

“You goin’ to sit on this frequency all day?”

About that time my noise level came up and I could no longer hear the caller. He did not give his call sign and was therefore in violation of Part 97 of the CFR (the rules that govern amateur radio).

Yes, I did camp on the frequency the remainder of the day. We had been spotted by another station and had as much right to the frequency as anyone else. I made a few more contacts before the end of the event.

Sunday night we gathered at Camp Greg/Subrina, broke bread together, and drank a little wine in celebration of the weekend. It was a successful event. We made contacts. We solved problems. We spent time outdoors with people who matter.

I never could get my wire antenna working. It needs some work and measuring to figure out what I did wrong. I will be working on that.

We broke camp lazily Monday morning and headed for home. The trip home was largely uneventful, with the exception that Diana’s handheld radio stopped working.

I parked the camper in my driveway and then unloaded. It was nearly dark but I do not relax well until the bulk of the unloading is complete. But once I was done, I poured myself a Cognac, sat in a comfortable chair, and relaxed.

It was a good trip and a good experience. And now that experience is shared.

…A Day Makes

Seemingly overnight, the fall colors were gone.
A few days ago I reveled in the luscious colors of fall along the Carson River. The Girl and I walked the Mexican Ditch Trail nearly every day. Those times we could not do the long walk, we drove over to Riverview Park and made a shorter walk, but still near the river.

Then, seemingly overnight (actually a day or maybe two), the cottonwoods shed their color, but not their leaves — at least not all of them. The trees took on their winter colors, conserving their energy for the coming spring.

I love the turn of the seasons. The extremes of summer and winter are harder, but I love the change and I can keep cool or warm as the season demands. There is something magical in the seasons and when I am aware I marvel at that regular pattern and am grateful to experience it.

Winter comes… what a difference a day makes.

Nevada QSO Party Expedition

The county line. Photo credit Greg KG7D.
A few weeks ago, Greg KG7D, mentioned to me and Diana KJ7GVY that it was time to plan our expedition for the Nevada QSO Party. He is very organized (a good thing) and selected a potential campsite/radio operation site in eastern Nevada.

For those who do not know what a QSO party might be, here is an explanation. The Q-code, QSO, stands for a contact or conversation between to operators. It derives from the telegrapher’s shorthand. A QSO party occurs when a group of operators put together a plan for operations on the amateur radio bands with the intent of making many contacts, receiving points for each contact (depending on location and operation mode), and then competing for the most points collected over the party period.

This is similar to the radio contests but has a little less pressure associated with it. It is newbie-friendly in that regard. It is also an opportunity to practice radio operation and copy skills under varying conditions. These are good skills for radio operators for those times when normal communications are interrupted and amateur operators are called upon to pass traffic.

So we were headed east to the White Pine/Lincoln County line. Each contact we made was worth two because we were activating two Nevada counties. We were also operating in an area where there are not many amateur radio operators. We should have been rare DX (desirable contacts).

It took me a few days to prepare the camper, collect necessities and food, and gather/pack the equipment I would use.

I intended to go out to the area a couple weeks before all of us headed east to scout for a good campsite. But work kept me from my intention and we headed out blind.

We gathered at the staging area about 0600h on Thursday 10 October. After milling about a few minutes, we mounted up and headed east on U.S. Highway 50, America’s Loneliest Road. All of use have VHF radios in our vehicles, even if only handhelds connected to external antennas. So there was plenty of chatter as we drove east through the gathering light. There were no mishaps on the route out and we made a few stops to pay the rent on coffee and to take on fuel.

At Ely, Greg called, “ Do you know a good place to eat. We’ll stop at Love’s for fuel.”rdquo;

“Let me think a moment.” I spent some time in Ely a couple years ago and had a couple of places in mind. “There’s a Mexican place a half-mile before Love’s that is pretty good.”

“Is there parking for the trailers?””

“I think there is.” And we moved through Ely toward the east side of town. Sure enough, I called the location of the restaurant. Greg and Diana turned off into the residential area near the restaurant. I pulled ahead to the Ramada Inn and casino, found a large graveled area suitable for parking semi-trucks, and called out the location while I parked my rig.

All of us parked, we walked across the highway to the restaurant. It was as good as I recalled.

Fed and rested after the break, we remounted, drove to the fuel depot, and refueled the vehicles. We were then off to the east to find our way to the operating point. An hour later (and after some rough roads), we were at the White Pine/Lincoln County line. Unfortunately, the original location was not acceptable for camping. There was not enough room.

We sent Diana to scout a trail we saw that broke off the main road to the northeast. The topographic map on Greg’s GPS unit showed that the trail crossed the county line about a half-mile east from the original choice. After a few minutes, Diana called that the road was rough but passable and that there were reasonable campsites located in the pine and cedar trees. So Greg and I turned our rigs around and headed for the trail. A couple hundred yards in Greg suggested I move ahead and check the trail to be sure he could get his rig turned around. (He was driving a 1-ton Ford truck and pulling a toy hauler.)

I found a place where I thought he could get turned around, although it might take several moves and I found a place where I could park my camper. Greg came up the trail. I was right about the several moves. After a half hour of work, some clearing of brush, and many moves, he got his rig turned around and parked in a decent place.

The view from my campsite.

He helped me get my camper located and then walked back down the trail to set up his camp. It took me a few minutes to get myself situated. Subrina brought a level up to my site and I dug a small hole to level my rig side-to-side. I completed the leveling with the tongue jack. I had my rig setup in about a half-hour.

I walked down the trail to help Greg and Subrina with their campsite. Subrina worked inside while I helped Greg outside.

We nearly ran out of daylight before camp was setup. As the sun fell, the temperature fell rapidly as well. I think it was at freezing about the time the sun set.

Everyone was tired and ready to turn in. But we gathered at Greg/Subrina’s camp to share a meal and some fellowship before retiring for the day.

KG7D and KI7OAL working on their campsite.

Mexican Dam Color — Fall 2019

The fall colors are sure pretty these days.

The fall colors were sure pretty this year. A couple of days ago The Girl and I were walking the Mexican Ditch Trail along the Carson River. She enjoyed doing doggie-things and I enjoyed being outdoors and the fall color.

When I reached the Mexican Dam, I was treated to a combination of color and reflection. I was carrying the Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens. It’s a good combination.

Delete Me From the Group…

I recently joined a Groups.io list dealing with Elecraft KX3 radios. There is a bit of traffic on this list. One of the first messages that arrived in my list folder was:

Dear Admin… Please remove me from the group….I’m heading off to the land of silent keys soon and have sold all my ham gear.

I am not sure why this short, succinct, and direct statement hit me so hard. But, there it is… the direct acknowledgment that a man’s life is ending soon. He has recognized it, accepted it, and accommodated it.

He will soon be… in the land of silent keys… where we all go.

And so it is for all of us. None of us get out alive. I hope to go with such poise and dignity when my time comes.