Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another few steps

We did it. Caleb and I worked through his Canine Good Citizen renewal evaluation yesterday, and he aced it. Watching him was a treat for me. He has always done well in evals, but there was a clear difference this time. Another year of maturity and the closeness of our bond have contributed, I'm sure. After safeguarding me through my time of illness, our connection is definitely more complex. The important thing to me was the confirmation that Caleb thrives on our working together, and we enjoy what we do. Just being out at the training center and seeing Paul made Caleb so happy--I can only imagine what he will do next time he sees Jyl! Caleb's coat has grown out from the summer cut, and this fall weather has certainly recharged his battery. It is fun to walk the pups this time of year--especially Micah. He seems to become an alternative source of energy when there is a chill in the air. When he is in one of his goofy moods, it's impossible to keep from smiling! And Iris--who can be around that little character and not smile?

And speaking of characters--Jonah Mark Hughes! He is quite the bright light in Amanda and James' lives, and the rest of us treasure him as well. From what I can tell, he has one speed, and that is fast forward. They made a surprise visit a few Sundays ago, and here is a good shot of Jonah and me at Shady Grove.

The cooler weather has been a welcome change. I've been spending more time in my quilting studio and have actually completed one of my projects. I have sketches and ideas for the next one, and I hope to begin that today. We hardly have what most people would even consider winter, but I'm grateful for the climate change in order to focus on my quilting. Perhaps because I'm accustomed to such intense heat here, I don't enjoy gardening when the ground begins to chill. I do, however, need to scatter the poppy and larkspur seeds this week. The neighbors will be looking for those in early spring. And it's heartwarming to watch people, whether I know them or not, slow down, smile and simply enjoy the flowers.

Step by step, routine is setting in, and my health is stabilizing. Many special people, family and friends, walked with me through all of the confusion and change. Lots to be thankful for in life!

Thanks for checking in. Be well.

You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won't happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.' — Joel Osteen

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Going forward...

This past year has been eventful in many ways--some good, some challenging. The important thing is that I've made it through the obstacles and am beginning to see much more than just the light at the end of the tunnel. Health problems, even if temporary, are frustrating, but they became increasingly more so due to living alone. As always, if one perserveres, everything works out. Sometimes it can feel as if things move in slow motion. The best part of where I am now is that I'm on minimal seizure medication and have no restrictions on my activities. True, the meds slow me down a bit, but things are continuing as they should. Some of this I've written about before, but this process has been confusing and erratic, and writing about it has helped me sort through where I've been and what is ahead.

One of the most unsettling things of my being ill was the change in Caleb. He seemed to have transformed himself into a filter deciding what was best for me. Even long-known neighborhood dogs were not welcome for a few months. Trust me, when he would curl his lip and stand erect when a dog went by, those dogs quickly decided to use someone else's yard to meet their needs. Now that I'm back on my feet and alert, Caleb seems to have slipped back into his previous role. We go for walks and he saunters as if nothing had ever changed. I took him with me to Home Depot the other day, and all of the regular employees were glad to see him, and Caleb was just as happy to see them. I don't expect everyone to understand my connection with my pups, but I do hope that those close to me realize that the dogs bring me support and comfort in helpful ways. Now that Caleb has returned to his usual ways and I'm back on my feet, he will be re-certified for his therapy work, and that will benefit both of us. There is no way to describe how we feel after a visit to one of the facilities--both of us are always tired, quiet and know we've made a difference.

I was officially retired as of February 1, 2012, but, as I've written before, I left the university December 23, 2011 due to illness. Leaving the university was confusing. While I had many things to joyfully anticipate--time with my grandsons and my daughters, gardening, quilting, dog therapy work--the department had become my home away from home providing many friends. There were major life changes in my personal life over the years I worked at the department, and my colleagues/friends walked right beside me through those events. Of course, the most life-changing was Mark's passing in 2004. I honestly believe that those people know how much their love and support carried me through that time. The hardest part about retiring was knowing I wouldn't see many of those people on a regular basis. There is a small group that stays in touch, and I suspect we always will. My point for writing about this is that I've come to understand that we are given many people in our lives. Even though we may have extremely close, family-like relationships, we aren't necessarily meant to remain that way forever. Sometimes we are gifted with special connections for specific purposes. I've learned to trust God and understand that we have to move forward, and that can often mean letting go. Trust me, I savor the friends and the closeness we shared. Sometimes, that simply has to be enough.

We had a family Thanksgiving here at my house. It warmed my heart to watch Logan play with the little ones. He went to the garden shed to gather his own gardening tools to share with his little cousin, Jonah and little brother Spencer. It was also nice to watch him teach the boys how to feed the goldfish that live in the livestock tanks in the back yard. Most important to me was the realization that Logan felt at home and knew his way around. I absolutely love spending time with the boys, and it makes me smile to think of how many things Logan and I have done together. Also, he always waters the plants when he is here. When I asked him about it, he said, "Lulu, it's just what I do." And then he gave me a smile.

My Border Collie pup, Micah, is a sweetheart. As typical with BCs, he's incredibly bright, but this little guy has a sensitivity that is most welcome, and he is always at my side. BCs are known for being driven and focused. That turned out to be a major challenge for me when it came down to convincing Micah that the squirrels don't live in the back yard for his entertainment! He caught two of them, used them for playmates, and the end results were not good for the squirrels. In addition, he was also stripping the bark off of the huge pecan tree in hopes of scaling it to nab the little furballs.  So, I sought the advice of his breeder--after all, this wonderful, loving woman lives and breathes BCs. Following her advice, I purchased a vibrator collar with remote control. After a couple of days of being buzzed (thankfully, I didn't have to advance to shocking him), he decided that squirrels were fine to look at but that it was best not to chase them. There is no special place in my heart for squirrels, but they are living creatures, and I just couldn't watch them being tortured even if it was unintentional. I  must admit, however, that I smiled watching him play with them with such free and absolute joy--he was just doing what dogs do, and I'm glad he had the experience of having so much fun.

Step by step, I suspect I'll find my way. Thank you for taking time to check in.
Be well.
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
--Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Unexpected surprises!

Another new day full of surprises. Last Saturday, I accepted a foster pup for our pyr rescue group. It seemed that it was my turn and this baby girl is quite special. She is sweet, gentle, spunky, alert and responds to direction very well--all of this at 7 weeks of age. I enjoy communicating with my fellow group members and this work helps keep perspective in my life. I'm thankful that the litter was found and that we are on the path of rehoming them. Here comes the real reason I decided to write today.

The first adoption application on my foster girl came from someone I've known since the late 90's, and this person did not know that the pup is in my care. This extraordinary young woman, I'll call her DM, was a grad student in the program I administered at the university. DM is kind, compassionate and I remember watching her engage affectionately with my family's pyrs. Our rescue group prefers to stay with in-state adoptions except in special circumstances, and I can easily say that this is an extremely special circumstance! In fact, I stated that if an unforeseen situation arose where I had to relinquish one of my own pups, I know that they would be safe in DM's home. As my rescue friend and I discussed, this is a small world! Glad I was behaving myself this time!

Over the past year, I've had some challenging situations and life events. I've written about them openly in this blog even though, at times, I felt like I had mostly sad or difficult information to share or write about. It made me so happy to be able to share this uplifting story with you all. What are the chances of our paths crossing like this? Even though it has, at times, been sporadic, I'm proud of the pyr rescue work I've done, and those activities have brought numerous good people into my life. Easily, I can say the same about the therapy work I do with my Caleb. He is the essence of pure love...

Occasionally, I sense that some people in my life roll their eyes when it comes to my dogs' roles in my life. Until fairly recently, that bothered me. Now, it doesn't concern me at all. I can say with certainty that Mark's beautiful smile is ongoing as he watches me trudge through life with my pups at my side. Many times over my 61 years of life, dogs have helped me stay the course. They have provided an energy and unconditional affection that kept me going and reminded me of God's strength and love.

I hope all is well for you. Thank you for reading.
Be well,

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.    - Milan Kundera

Monday, November 5, 2012

Over 10 months since my last posting. How is it that time seems to simply evaporate?

Major life changes occurred on December 23, 2011. Apparently, I was affected by partial seizures--the kind that cause you to black out--and those seizures went on for about 24 hours before my grandson, Jonah, playfully called my cell phone. After a couple of minutes of nonsensical conversation, Amanda called EMS. Following 8 days in Intermediate Care at Seton, I was permitted one night in a regular room before being released. Luckily, I survived and have returned to good health. Over the past 10 months, life has been confusing and frustrating. The doctors had to adjust medications, run tests, adjust medications, run more get the drift.  As far as they can tell, some prescribed antidepressants triggered brainwave activity resulting in a diagnosis of epilepsy. I didn't realize how often this type of situation occurs, but I'm confident in my doctors and the care I've received. Fortunately, life has almost returned to normal--I'm driving again and am on a minimal dose of a single medication for the epilepsy. My energy is lower than it used to be, but that is likely due to the medication. I've also learned that naps are good! : )

Due to the severity of my health situation, I did not return to UT after the holidays. I wrapped up January with sick leave and officially retired on February 1. Since a good bit of this year has been spent getting my health back on track, I've not taken on any significant projects. Caleb and I have taken a sabbatical from therapy work. All of our Divine Canine friends have been terrific, and they are ready to see us back in the saddle again. There was a DC barbecue yesterday, and, even though I was tired afterward, it was a much-needed reminder of how much the dog therapy work means to me. Plus this work has given me many new friends and ways to make a difference for others. After talking to our trainer, I'm expecting that we'll work through the annual renewal test and hit the circuit again in the next month or so.

Early this spring, Asher left to go to a place in the country where he could run and play like a Catahoula should. He was extremely traumatized by my illness, and his anxiety was apparent in so many ways and that was simply not fair to him. It was important to let him be somewhere without worries or was so hard to say goodbye, but that's what we do in rescue work.

In June, a Border Collie baby joined my pack. Micah came from a loving home in Belton, Texas. I'll include a photo because I don't know how to truly describe his beauty. Micah is a sweet, kind and loving boy, and he is extremely laid back for a BC. He has one green eye while the other is swirled green and blue. We have already completed the puppy class at The Center for Canine Training and Behavior.  I agree with Paul's recommendation that we consider Treiball and/or Agility for his next direction in training. I'll be surprised if he doesn't end up in therapy work because of his unusual demeanor, but I want him to be a puppy first. I believe it is important for all dogs to have the time to romp, play, learn and understand what a loving existence can be for them. So, perhaps we will enroll him in therapy work, but that will be after he has his time to be a puppy. And I know Lee would approve!

Iris continues to run the household as always. Since my illness, she prefers to stay as close as possible to me. As I write this, I'm sitting in my red leather chair with Iris affixed to my right thigh! Not long ago, a friend of mine told me that "Iris is not a dog." I must say that I understand his logic. Angels must come in all shapes and sizes in my world.

There is always so much to share. Thank you for caring enough to keep up with my pack and me.
Be well.

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward. -C.S. Lewis