Thursday, May 6, 2010

Time to catch up...

It doesn't seem possible that it has been over a month since I last wrote. Funny how time seems to fly when one is busy. First of all, I must share some wonderful news. Spencer Thomas Brown left the hospital and went home with his family on Tuesday, May 4, 2010! He is well over 6 pounds and visibly growing each day. Here is the link to a short video Kate placed on Facebook. What a handsome boy, yes?!/video/video.php?v=387823166450

On April 13, Logan turned 3! He is a big boy, and he had a great birthday party. We enjoy our time together when he stays over here. In particular, he likes the livestock tanks I have in the back yard. He likes to feed the goldfish and play in the water with his boats. Oh, and he has his own set of garden tools, and he loves to dig holes for me...such a good helper!

Here's a shot of me with my first-born daughter, Kate. How did I get so short?  I wonder if she has any idea how much I respect and admire her? The journey with Spencer has been such a challenge yet she kept going a step at a time, day by day.

And here is a picture of Kate, Joe and Logan at the birthday party. A happy family.

On April 27, I drove to Houston to attend a baby shower for our youngest daughter, Amanda Grace. She is healthy, happy and very pregnant! Jonah Mark is due in mid-June.  I'll  definitely be driving back to Houston for his arrival! It is such a joy to be around Amanda--she is happy and, best of all, she laughs all the time! She has a lovely in-law family who adore her and offer support. As a mom, that's a nice reassurance when your daughter is a couple of hours away. Here is a snapshot of Jenny, me, Amanda and James.

And here is a shot of the sisters, tired from the day's events but obviously enjoying each other. Kate couldn't be with us because Spencer was still in the hospital, and she needed to be with him. Just think of the good times we have waiting now that we're going to have 3 little boys running around!

Iris began her Tricks and Triumphs class last week. She has been an outstanding student--eager to learn, happy and energetic. Of course, once she gets in the car after class, she falls right to sleep. This class was created by 2 of the awesome trainers at the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior--Jyl and Inka. It was developed for dogs that are extremely shy, have social issues, physical handicaps or have been mistreated earlier in their lives.

Most of you know my little Iris came to me in December 2008 from a puppy mill where she had apparently never been out of a cage. Her nails were grown in circles, she had very little hair, she could not stand on her own and she was terrified! That little girl was 10 months old and had never known happiness. Well, over time, that has all changed. Iris is a happy girl and rejoices in life. She still lacks confidence in new situations, thus the class. After only 2 classes, she now runs through tunnels, jumps through a hoop, walks a maze, walks a raised dog walk, walks over a horizontal ladder and sits at others' commands rather than just mine. This may seem silly to some, but if you had seen this little baby a year and a half ago and then saw her now, you wouldn't know she is the same dog. This is why I am active in rescue. To bring happiness to a little creature is beyond's life changing.

Caleb was a rescue as well, and he has blossomed. He was sick when I adopted him at 8 weeks of age and 26 pounds. He is now 9 months old and 96 pounds. No doubt in my mind, Caleb is the happiest dog in the world. Everyone is his friend...everyone! On May 16 we will begin his Canine Good Citizen class which will then lead to Therapy Dog certification. After that, we will visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools and anywhere we're needed. I've wanted to do that ever since I lost Mark.  It seems  that if we can bring smiles to faces and help people forget they are in pain, then we can make a tiny bit  of a difference. 

Watching Iris and Caleb together is quite entertaining. Iris loves to instigate a game of chase because, after all, she can take short cuts and go places Caleb cannot. They are best  buddies, and the neighbors love it when we go for walks because they are quite a sight with such enormous size differences. Here is a recent photo of them together on the deck.

 On a sad note, the world lost a very special person on May 2, 2010--Lee Mannix, the Dogfather, mentor to many, a genius at understanding dogs and an incredibly kind, loving man. I first met him early in 2009. He taught me how to read my dogs' behaviors. And, before I realized it, we were friends.

I remember one day in particular after we had finished the first session of an agility class with Zeke, he asked me to sit and talk awhile.  Lee had piercing blue eyes and there was no way to avoid his gaze. He said that he would "sure as hell like to know who or what broke my heart." My eyes immediately filled with tears, and I realized that he could truly read me. I told him about the love I shared with Mark, how we began so young and on to losing him at the age of 54. He told me about a book that he wanted me to read, and then went on to talk to me about working with dogs. Lee assured me, actually promised me, that I would find profound healing if I would really throw myself into working with dogs.

That fall, he gave me a scholarship to attend his annual 3-day dog camp always held around Halloween at a Wimberley resort ranch. That weekend was the beginning of an enormous change in me. Caleb was only 3 months old, yet he was awarded the overall award for Best Parlor Tricks because we had learned so much at camp!  Lee was adamant that Caleb is an old soul who has come back to teach us something--if he said it once, he said it a dozen times.  He really believed that, and, now, so do I. Another profound experience--one day, when I was out at the center with Iris, Lee sat beside me on the couch there in the office. Iris, who had been afraid of all men, left my lap and crawled into Lee's. He began singing to her and stroking her fur. Iris clearly felt safe with Lee--almost unbelievable. I'll always remember that day.

I know I've written about much of this before, but it matters so much to me that I pay tribute to this larger-than-life man, Lee Mannix. I will always be grateful that I was given the opportunity to know and learn from him. Rather than remaining sad at Lee's death, I will be thankful for his friendship and lessons. He will live on in my mind and heart, and I will continue to support his center and the gifted trainers that intend to carry on his legacy. Godspeed, Lee.

My garden is bursting with flowers--poppies, roses, rudbeckia, coneflowers, yarrow, larkspur, day lilies, and, my favorite, irises. Butterflies are aplenty out there, and it is a comforting exercise at the beginning and end of the day to just go out and browse, touch and smell the flowers. Those few minutes can offer a great deal of perspective.

God is good in so many ways.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  ~Kahlil Gibran