Postscript — Six Years

As I worked through my day, a few more thoughts occurred to me. Perhaps they are worth sharing, so here goes.

The Girl and I walked more than five miles today. We had a long walk this morning down by the Carson River, which remains a favorite place. We greeted doggie-friends along the way. She had plenty of opportunities to sniff, pee, and explore her usual haunts.

On the route back to the rig, she split off on one of our favorite alternate paths, which takes us right down to the river but off the main trail. I particularly like this place and often walk this side path. But today I was ready to get home so I stayed on the trail.

She trotted our a couple-dozen yards, then turned to look at me. I know that look… “This way!” she says. But I stayed on the path, so she came running over to me, “encouraging” me to go the other way. So I played the this-way, that-way game for a bit, pretending to walk first one direction, then another.

She played, first leading me one way and then the other. After a few iterations she ran a large-circle zoomie and returned to my side, at least for a moment. Then we were back down the trail toward the staging area and the rig.

I laughed with her and played a little of the grab-ass game, with me grabbing either a little ass or a little tail. Either works and causes a big laugh from both of us. Dogs are such physical creatures and I love that about them.

I picked up a print job and a sandwich on the way home. The Girl was a little tired, but not too tired to pass the chance to beg a little of my sandwich, which I happily shared.

After lunch we had a nice nap. One of the things I love about my life is that ability to take a break and sleep for a few minutes in the afternoon. That time spent with The Girl is another small thing that gives me some joy.

We walked again in the evening, over that the old orphanage. It was a beautiful winter afternoon, with a few clouds, some sun, not much wind, and 55F. I noticed Squirrel’s memorial as we passed and thought about all the things I wrote earlier in the day. I spent some time praying as I walked and remembered Wife’s life as well.

These thoughts passed as the sun fell behind the Sierra Nevada and we returned to the rig. I elected to treat myself to supper and drove out to Applebee’s. I have not had a steak in a long time and wanted one. So, that’s what I did. The Girl worked for me and spent her time under my table, as good as always.

So, now we are home again. I ate all the steak, so I got out a Greenie after we got home, made her work for it, and then treated her. She earned it. And now she is sleeping under the table next to me.

As I sat in the restaurant, I recalled Becky’s comment and how I went to a grief group a couple of times. The hospice sent me a couple of invites after Wife died. I resisted at first, but then decided “what the hell” and went.

The first meeting was very small. There was a couple of women, another man, and me. The group leader went through her materials. We talked a little about our grief. Then the leader offered a few things and we broke up.

The second meeting was different. There were a lot more women, maybe ten or twelve. Then there was that other man and me. The dynamic was different, although I would be pressed to describe why and how. It was just different. I then realized practically something I knew intellectually — men and women process their grief differently. I realized that the other man (a bit older than me) was stuck. He was not going to move through his grief until he either learned to let go or got professional help. The women were not going to be much help to me.

When the meeting broke, I walked out of the hospice center where it was held. My back was straight and turned to the exercise and I knew I would not return. It was not right for me. I was doing what I needed to do to process my grief and the group was not going to help me with that.

And so it was. I did not go back. I read my books for advice. I did the work. I knew that no one else would be able to do that work for me. It was mine and mine alone to do. So, that is what I did.

Becky’s friends who recently lost loved ones have a hard path to walk. I do not envy them that path, but I know that can traverse what is before them, do the work, and be healed. Their loss will suck, it will continue to suck, it will always suck, but the suck will decrease with time and work (hat tip to Jim for that one). They will be stronger for doing the work. I pray that they can.

In reflecting on my day I realize how blessed and thankful I am. I have more than I need and about all that I want. My dog and I spend a lot to time together. I have enough work to pay my bills and then some. The work keeps me intellectually engaged. The dog keeps me emotionally and spiritually engaged. I am blessed. I am grateful.

Squirrel — And Six Years

The best little dog ever…

It does not appear that I wrote about the scene above. I looked in my archive, because I thought I wrote about the sad story of Squirrel, but found nothing. Perhaps that is because I talked to Older Son about what happened quite a lot and I am confusing conversation with writing. Therefore, if the story is familiar to you please feel free to pass this story.

Late last year, The Girl and I were walking our circuit(s) around the old state orphanage one evening. I noticed a marker, a pot with some dianthus in it, and a paper fluttering in the evening breeze. I am the curious sort (not nosey, I promise), so I stopped to read.

What I read caused my heart to sink. It was the heart-wrenching story of another park visitor whose little dog was attacked and killed by a pair of larger dogs at this spot. Two “pet bulls” charged Squirrel, grabbed him, and tore him between them before they were called off by their handlers. “They must have thought he was a toy,” was what they were reported to say before they hurried away.

So, this man stayed with his little dog as the life left him, shocked and dismayed. I do not know this man, although we interacted a few times over the last couple of years. He is one of the afternoon visitors to the little park, where several others bring their dogs each day. He had three dogs, as I recall, and they would follow and play as he walked the circuit as part of their daily routine.

Later he returned with the marker to celebrate his little dog and remember what happened at that spot. I came across the marker only a few days after Squirrel died. Since that time, I have been quite watchful for the two white “pet bulls” and their “heavy” handlers. I have not seen them.

I spoke to one of the DPS troopers (Capitol Police Unit) who patrol the area every day. He was aware of what happened and asked if I had seen the dogs and their handlers. So, the authorities are aware of a couple of aggressive dogs who attacked and killed another.

I reflect on this almost every time I walk past the memorial. Since November, it has been enhanced and made relatively permanent. The groundskeepers seem to leave it alone. Passersby added some stones and other things to the site. I will probably bring a rock from somewhere and leave it as a token of respect for this man’s loss. I can imagine his grief at the violent loss of his beloved little dog. It saddens me to think of it.

And I know grief. One cannot live six decades and not experience a variety of loss. My grandparents are all gone. My parents are gone. My sisters are gone. I am the last of my generation’s nuclear family. I have a brother-in-law and an uncle still alive, and of course, my children and grandchildren.

But the most difficult loss was Wife. She died six-years ago, today. That loss, and the grieving that followed, was crushing. Losing my parents and my sisters was hard, but those losses paled in comparison to the loss of Wife. I recall the sound that emanated from me the moment she died. My sons heard it. I still have difficulty believing that I made that sound.

Like the moment of Wife’s passing, that sound did not last long. It marked my passage from caregiver to widow. And then… the grief-work began.

I learned to enter into my grief, not to let it possess me, but to fully experience it, to work it because that is the only way to get through it. Grief cannot be put away or buried. It must be lived in order to be healed. I did that work and it was not easy. It was a way to honor Wife’s life and the relationship that we shared for all those years.

It took me nearly two years to work through my grief. The first year was absolute hell. The second had moments of clarity and moments of darkness. But, near the end of the second year, life began to be interesting again.

The holidays remain difficult because of Wife’s love of them. They always bring memories of her joy in that season. I know I am not alone in that perception of a mix of joy for the season and sadness at my loss. I am alright with that and accept it as part of the gift that came with spending most of my life with her. Then, today is difficult as well, marking the anniversary of her death. But it does not hurt like it did five- and six-years ago.

I will grieve a little today as I remember Wife’s life and our life together. It is a good thing to do, so long as I do not let that affect me negatively. But, I am healed of my grief. I did that work and it was a good work. It celebrated and honored Wife and our communal life as a family. I think these are honorable actions.

And, I am reminded of another old man who lost his little dog, whom he loved. Maybe those dogs are his only family. Maybe he spends all of his time with those dogs and has little human contact. It would not be the first time such a thing occurred. In any event, I understand and relate. I nod at the memorial in salute every time I pass it, thinking about my own relationship with The Girl and often of Wife’s life and that relationship.

And today I celebrate and remember Wife, who died six-years ago today. I will grieve a little, but only a little. Wife would chastise me for dwelling on the negative. She would be right.

Baski-Robo

The fall colors are fading fast. So, I’m collecting what frames I can so I’ll have stock for the next few weeks.

Fall progresses. The colors are fading quickly. I am capturing every frame I can. I should have material to keep me busy for a few weeks. But I feel the change coming as the landscape dons its winter colors.

A couple of years ago I read The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. There were many scenes in the book that captured my attention. One of them came to mind yesterday afternoon.

The Girl and I left the house around 1600h for an evening outing. Now that we are back on standard time, the light begins to fall about 1700h. Therefore, I will adjust our evening schedule so we are not walking in the dark (at least, not often).

I had a late lunch/early supper and she was fed, so there was no rush for supper. We took our time walking around the park, playing, loving, enjoying the cool evening air, and watching the light fade as the sun worked off to the west.

She did the squirrely pit bull thing, wriggling around on her back in the grass, snorting and coughing. I knelt beside her and played a little, then started a tummy rub. I have a smiling dog when she is pleased and I saw the corners of her mouth turn up into that little smile when she is happy and content. We played our little games as we made our way back to the rig.

I offered the ball, but she was not very interested. Well, sometimes she is interested and other times not. So we packed it in and headed away from the park. I decided I wanted a treat, so we drove down the Baskin-Robbins.

I no longer keep ice cream in the house. I like it too much and do not need to eat it every day. So, if I want ice cream, we drive over to the shop and pick it up.

Yes, I said we… wait for it.

I parked the rig and walked into the store. “Do you have black walnut ice cream,” I asked.

The first young woman said “Ummm…” The other, working the register and the drive-up window answered “Yes!”

“I’d like a scoop of Rocky Road and a scoop of Black Walnut in a cup, please.” The first young woman busied herself with my order while I paid the other working the register.

The first returned with my order and handed to me. “Could I have a second spoon, please?” I got a flash of a puzzled look, me being by myself, but she complied.

I walked out to the rig, sampling the Rocky Road as I walked. The Girl was waiting in the back of the rig, watching for me. As I opened the door, she stretched way out “sniff, sniff, sni-sni-sniff” as her nose worked, wondering what wonderful delight I might have returned with.

“Are you going to eat that?” she asked.

We sat there in the lot, me nibbling at the Rocky Road and watching the light change as the sun traveled further west. In between bites, I paused, loaded the second spoon with a little Black Walnut, and offered it to the Girl.

The first bite was funny. She s-n-i-f-f-e-d tentatively, then tried a light lick. Then it was GAME ON and she worked the spoon clean. I placed her spoon on the console and took a bite of Rocky Road for myself.

I took my time, enjoying each bite. I remembered the scene from Peaceful Warrior in which Socrates savors each bite of his food while Asshole just shovels his food in, never noticing anything about it. After each of my bites, I loaded The Girl’s spoon with some Black Walnut and held the spoon for her while she enjoyed her share. Then I would get one for myself while she watched me carefully.

“You are going to share that with me, aren’t you.” It was not a question, but a statement. It is one I hear often. Heh…

We continued working through the treat with me sharing the Black Walnut after the Rocky Road was depleted. It seemed the scoops were much smaller than I recall. I suppose that is just progress.

I was also reminded of a favorite musician, Warren Zevon, gone now for too many years. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he admonished those around him to “Enjoy every sandwich.” It is the same lesson Socrates was teaching Asshole in Peaceful Warrior. Life is short. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. There is wisdom in practicing gratitude, in reflecting on the moment, and on savoring each and every bite. Each is a gift from God.

Last night I was paying attention. The Girl cleaned up the cup after we finished. Then we drove back home. I gave her the last bit of her rawhide chew as I began to settle down for the night.

I am grateful.

Key|Smart

I have carried this Key|Smart for several years. The anodizing is wearing from high-friction areas, but it is holding up well and is one of my better purchases.

A couple-three years ago I carried my keys on a ring a-jumble in my left front pocket. They were on the opposite side from my front-pocket wallet. They were forever bouncing around the bottom of the pocket and I cannot recall the number of times they poked my leg, sometimes painfully.

They also subjected my pocket to a lot of wear. I have had more than one pair of jeans lose the pocket to my keys and need repair.

About that time I became aware of the EDC “thing” and the community that grew up around it. I did not that Every-Day-Carry was a “thing” — but it is quite a thing. Keys and wallets are two significant components of EDC, along with knives and other tools. I could write several articles about this and I might.

In any event, I came across the Key|Smart. It is a small device designed to hold several keys in a compact, secure holder that is easily clipped to a lanyard or other retaining device. I bought one and it was delivered a few days after my purchase.

I read a few horror stories about users who had their Key|Smart loosen and floor sort all of their keys, some of them lost. These were individuals who carried their keys outside the pocket. If the device loosened, then there could be a loss of keys. However, for the life of me, I cannot understand why one would not hear them drop to the ground.

So I assembled the set of carry-keys (I have another non-carry keyring that holds the remainder), organized them in a fashion I thought would be optimal, and started carrying them in my KeySmart.

After a few days, I build a lanyard from some paracord that permits my keys to ride in my left-front pocket but they hang from my belt and do not lie on the bottom of my pocket. This works for me. I use an S-biner to clip to the lanyard (a loop-lanyard) so I can one-handed release the upper portion of the S-biner, retrieve my keys, and flip open the housekey without needing both hands.

This works for me.

I have reorganized the keys as the number of keys changes with time. I also have the most-used keys away from the clip end of the KeySmart.

Yesterday, I removed an unused key (probably an old Post Office key) and rearranged the spacers to put one between each key. This means the keys no longer ride against each other and they are a little easier to roll out with one hand.

Besides not having a jumble of keys rattling around in the bottom of my left front pocket, the Key|Smart is nearly silent. I rarely hear it unless it bounces against the Bestech Kendo that I currently carry clipped to my left front pocket. The silence is a boon.

I can readily recommend this handily little device.

A Pair of Bald Eagles

On walkies near the Carson River, the Girl and I found a pair of bald eagles sitting in a cottonwood tree. It made our day, or at least mine.
I posted this image a few days ago on my Instagram account. I mentioned before that I am disenfranchised with IG of late because of FB’s decision to change to timeline from a chronological order to some algorithmically-driven monstrosity that does not permit me to track my follows. Urgh… OK, I need to end that rant…

The last couple of months were viciously busy with deadline-driven project work. It started before Christmas and has not let up yet. I have a couple more projects in front of me and then I may get a respite. This is not a complaint; I am deeply appreciative of the work. It is an explanation for why this part of my life is quiet — there is simply not enough energy to do the work and to keep up with my personal projects (that are important to me and that provide satisfaction). So my writing and my photography are operating at a low level for now until I finish the paying work.

That does not mean that my daily outings with the Girl stopped or that my carry of a camera has not gone on. In fact, the Girl and I walk at least once each day and on many days we take a second, shorter walk at a nearby doggie-park. I usually carry a camera along with me, either the tiny Olympus OMD E-M10 or now a Sony A7R if I am in a full-frame mood.

I remain a photographic experimentalist, preferring to use vintage or odd lenses on my cameras. I have some solid, modern glass for my Fuji and my Nikons, but those systems are generally reserved for when I need that type of image or am on some kind of project. But, I digress… it is not the equipment that I really care about. The equipment is just a set of tools I use to capture what I see.

On Friday I delayed walkies, partly because Young Son and I went to breakfast and partly because I was working on project work. But we finally drove over to Riverview Park about 1100 hours. I know I can get about a 3.5-mile walk there and it is near the Carson River. Although the river area is much prettier during the warm months, winter still offers the sound of flowing water and an opportunity to see wildlife.

It is this area where I saw my first Kestrel, my first Harrier, and my first Rough-Legged Hawk. I often see flickers, jays, and woodpeckers as well. So I love watching for birds, bunnies, and the occasionally coyote. There are reasons why I prefer walking the Carson River Corridor and not in-town.

As the Girl and I made our way along the path, we were greeted by many other walkers, both two- and four-legged. The Girl loves human interaction and tolerates most canines. She is a different dog than when she came to live with me.

We broke off from the main circuit around Riverview Park and headed north towards Empire Golf Course. As we turned the corner, I noticed a large raptor in a cottonwood tree. It was a bald eagle! Then I saw the second a few feet from the first. It was a pair!

I saw another pair in the area a year or two ago, about this time of year. They were perched in a small tree in the ephemeral wetland in Riverview Park. So I knew that bald eagles are seen in the area. But I was still surprised and delighted to find two of them on my morning walk. It made my day.

Fortunately, I had the Sony A7R with me and an old Vivitar 70-210mm manual-focus zoom lens. I spent a few minutes making captures of the eagles and talking to them while the Girl did doggie things. The eagles just watched us, more interested in the Girl than in me.

We walked on, me marveling at the encounter and the Girl continuing her doggie-things.

I expected them to be gone when we returned. But the pair was still there, still watching. So I made a few more captures, interacted with another walker (who did not see the birds), and we made our way home.

It was a good day. It was a good walk. I am blessed and the visitation of the bald eagles reinforced that for me once again.

Pahrump

After a fun play, The Girl posed for me.

Work once again brings me to Pahrump, Nevada. I’ll have field work to do for the next couple of days. Then we’ll head back home again.

The drive down was uneventful, for which I’m thankful. The weather was good and the Sun felt good on my body. The Girl snoozed most of the way here, which means she slept most of the day. We did take a couple of breaks to get out of the rig and move around.

But she had quite a lot of pent-up energy. So after getting settled into our room (Older Son is with us), we had a big-old play on the floor. She bounced between Older Son and me, and we roughed her up really well. She was mildly mouthy, which is unusual for her, but she was so gentle that I couldn’t bring myself to admonish her.

In the end, she posed for me before I got out her food for the evening. She was hungry, having forgone breakfast in the nervousness of impending travel.

We then walked over to the sports bar and got supper for the big dogs. I really enjoyed my salad.

I had to correct several personnel there about how to *not* deal with a service dog. Everyone seems to think they can just approach a working dog and engage. So, once again I found myself having to train service personnel on the proper way to (not) interact with working dogs.

I’m pretty good at it. I’m not one of those handlers who loses their mind if someone looks at their dog. (There are many who will.) So I’m a good one for untrained service personnel to interact with.

It was good.

After a long time, our server finally reappeared with the check. She said “Sorry it took me so long. I had to break the bartender.”

I looked at her, raising my eyebrows, “Break the bartender,” with visions of her actually *breaking* someone. I began to laugh.

“No, no, no… I gave the bartender a break,” regardless of me giving her a hard time, she remained (mostly) nonplussed.

I laughed quite a lot. “You look pretty strong… I’ll bet you could break the bartender.”

I was still laughing about this as we paid the bill and headed back to the room. Normally, someone “verbifying” a noun makes me crazy. In this case, I thought it was hysterically funny.

I still think it’s funny.

Spiney

I’m glad the Girl didn’t get into these!

There’s an old Wife story about “spiney.” I think we were visiting with my dad one afternoon, probably a Sunday afternoon because I recall there being ham and beans in the large pot simmering on the range. That means the weather was cool and there was probably football to watch, back in the days when I watched professional sports. (I loved watching football games with dad.)

Wife remarked something about my few-day-old stubble and couldn’t think of an appropriate descriptor. Somehow or another, she managed to say something about me being “spiney,” and it came out unintentionally.

Of course, dad picked it up and ran with it, much to the embarrassment of Wife. That was another great laugh and a great Wife story.

We were hiking on the Riverview Park trails a week or so ago and came across a patch of cockleburs. When I saw them, several thoughts ran through my mind in quick succession.

“Boy, I’m glad that the Girl didn’t get into those! Even with her short fur, she’d be an unhappy Girl when I had to pull them from fur, ears, and feet.”

“Boy, I’m sure glad I didn’t get into those. They’d be a bitch to get out of my socks!”

“I sure got into a lot of those back in Missouri, particularly when squirrel hunting in the fall. They were a bitch to get out of my clothes and are spiney as hell!”

“Those might make an interesting photograph. I’d better make one.”

At that, I pulled up the Panasonic Lumix G3 and got to work. I happened to have the Wollensak 25mm f/1.9 cine lens on the camera. It has an interesting, if a bit busy, bokeh.

Lost… and Found

I found my pen…

Yesterday on walkies I carried my slingshot and was practicing shooting at found objects. (I followed the four safety rules, of course.)

This morning I discovered that one of my favorite pens, a baby blue Fisher Bullet Pen, was missing from my pocket. I had it clipped to the edge of my left slash pocket. I carried shot loose in the bottom of that pocket.

Apparently, while retrieving shot from my pocket, I snagged my Bullet Pen and released the clip. It fell to the ground without me noticing.

I decided to walk my route, which I probably would have done anyway, just in case I might walk across my missing pen.

Have I said that I hate losing things? I’m still looking for a lost/misplaced 12-ft tape measure that I’ve had for 40 years.

Well, as Lady Luck would have it, I walked up to my missing Bullet Pen. I’m surprised someone else didn’t pick it up because it really stood out.

I moved it to my left cargo pocket, where it will live with a few spare poop bags, my Olloclip auxiliary lens, and my pocket flashlight.

Lesson learned…

A Rough Couple of Weeks

View from the waiting area outside the Carson Valley Vet Hospital.

It was a rough couple of weeks for the Girl (and of course for me was well). She healed quickly after her surgery. Yes, the mass was a soft tissue sarcoma, but it was low grade and the margins were clear. She has a 15-percent chance of recurrence. I’ll take it.

I made the image on the day we returned so her sutures could be removed. I can do it, but the clinic gets pissy about it if I do. [Heh…] Her wounds were healing nicely and we were released to normal activity again.

However, that afternoon she seemed sick. Her symptoms were coughing and gagging and she ate more grass than usual. I was concerned.

She was not better the next day, refused to go walk, didn’t want any food, and seemed really off. So I called the vet and we returned for the urgent-care clinic that evening (at 1600h).

The vet found nothing obviously wrong and gave me a plethora of diagnosis/treatment options. I elected to go with some supportive care, left the Girl there, and returned to pick her up later in the evening.

She seemed better that Friday (a week ago), so I thought we had passed the worst of it. However, over the weekend I noticed she still wasn’t acting normal. Something was just off.

I struggled with the decision to return to the vet for another visit. It was partly cost and partly the uncertainty that anything definitive would be determined. I hate spending money on medical care with a null outcome. (I have a long history of spending money on medical care with no outcome.) So I thought I’d wait until the weekend passed and see if her condition changed.

Monday came and she refused to walk again. We walked to the mailbox and back, then I drove us up to the old orphanage and we walked the site. She was not feeling well. She kept me up most of the night wanting to go out and just feeling miserable. But, early in the morning she vomited up a bone shard (that I had not seen her eat) about the size of a half-dollar coin.

I thought that might be the problem. So I decided to wait until after the 4th of July holiday to see if another vet call was required.

By Wednesday she was her usual self once again — pestering me to go walkies, asking for play, asking for treats, eating normally, and generally being the pain-in-the-ass that I love.

Her wounds are mostly healed. The rough patches of scar tissue receded. Her fur is growing back (what little of it there is), albeit slowly. She is back to telling me what I want, once again, like most of the women in my life.

It was a rough few weeks. It was horribly expensive, in terms of money, time, and energy. But my constant companion is healthy and happy again. Life is good.

Deer Stand

Brother-in-law’s deer stand on their place near Vienna, Missouri.
Last weekend we drove from my in-laws’ place north to Vienna, Missouri to visit their youngest daughter and her family and to celebrate grandfather’s and grandson’s birthdays. It was a beautiful day and much too nice to be inside sitting around watching television. (I remembered why I don’t care much for television programming as well. The sports were OK; but the remainder — not so much.)

The field their place overlooks was clear and I thought a walk would be good for both the Girl and me. So I asked permission to walk down to the end of the field and look around. Permission received, the Girl and I headed off to the chagrin of the other dogs in their pen.

I puttered around the deer stand a few minutes, the Girl making happy sounds behind me. I wanted an image of the stand and of their place before we headed back for supper and celebration. As I finished my last capture, I discovered why the Girl was making happy sounds… she found something to roll in. She trotted over to me, looking quite proud of her self, grinning and laughing.

“What have you gotten into????”

She looked at me, still grinning.

“#$%%@!!!@ Ki? You stink!”

She was no longer grinning. But I couldn’t hold the anger long and her joy was contagious.

“Alright then… you get a bath and you’re not going to like it.” And with that we headed back to the house. I acquired soap, a towel, and the help of my nephew. He held her collar while I wet her down and washed her. She started to shake a couple of times.

“If you control her head, she can’t shake,” I told nephew.

Clean but wet, I toweled her off a couple of times so she wouldn’t get cold. Her collar went into the trash. I had intended to replace it anyway.

Supper and celebration were fun and appropriate. The Girl smelled pretty good as well. FiL and I stopped at Wally-World on the way home to buy a couple of cheap collars, one to wear and a spare in case the first failed.