Early Morning Thoughts

It’s 12:03 am on March 18, 2016.

The snow is FINALLY falling… what my mom and I like to call “movie snow”. (Large, fluffy flakes, that are gently falling… and look CGI… or by some other means, fake.)

The baby is stirring and lets out a few tired whines before getting comfortable and falling asleep again.

And I can hear the mouse that has lived in our kitchen for at least a week… our cat Lyla must have heard it too… she just jumped off the couch to hunt.

I’ve spent the better part of the past two days sleeping. Whatever cold/illness that is going around has found our family again… for the umpteenth time this winter. Our older daughter only had two major colds and one stomach flu in her first 20 months of life. (Little Sister is only 13 months and has had Croup, RSV, and at least 4 or 5 separate colds since January!)  I do not remember any winter being so awful on our immune systems…as this one. And poor Little Sister… she has had more boogers than the rest of us combined!

We have had our fair share of loss and sickness over the last 4 months. With a few, short, happy breaks in between. But I tell, ya… this feels like a marathon that I never trained for… and I am growing incredibly weary…. and irritable… and a little too “woe is me” inside my own head. “Survival mode” has become “everyday mode”… it seems to take me forever to finish projects around the house…which only helps to overwhelm me further.

I knew I was going to struggle getting to sleep tonight, when I turned off the light at 10… tossed until 11:45… and finally gave up. And the frustrating thing is… I already know that tomorrow is going to feel like I can’t catch up… because the tiredness that eludes me now… will find me in the wee hours of the morning… and not leave until my next opportunity to rest. (Which has been the irony of my life lately.)

And I know there are so many things to be grateful for in the midst of all of this… things could be worse… much worse…

Hope makes things better.

I know that the weather will get warmer… illnesses will fade… survival mode will end. Eventually those projects will get finished (one day at a time), and this winter will be just a memory.

So, I’ll take some medicine… go to bed… and even if I wake up sleepier than I’d prefer, I will try to find beauty in the snow (which isn’t exactly difficult for me to do!), make some hot chocolate and popcorn, and maybe watch a movie with my girls.

‘Cause life is too short to wallow.

Happy Friday



Growing up in a military family (Air Force brat), I had never lived in any house longer than 4 years. (And that only happened once.) There were maybe two places we lived for 3 years but everything else was 2 or less.

That didn’t change once I went to college.

It actually got worse. Because you move into a different room each year and out again each summer.

After college I moved to Japan for a year.

When I got back, I lived with my parents while I was engaged (4.5 months) and then our first home was a rental (for a year), before buying our first home in December of 2007.

And we are still living in that home today!

It was weird as we approached that 4 year mark… I had an itch to move again. But we’d bought a house for the future. We bought our house knowing that we’d never HAVE to move. It would fit our family once children came along, had a great yard for the dogs, and had it’s own mailbox and wood-burning fireplace.

The interesting thing about living in one house for so long, are the memories you accumulate there. And while the decorations and home-improvements have changed the scenery a bit over the years… the rooms are still the rooms where things happened.

All of the writing I’ve done over the past week or so… about our animals and their passing… has brought up a lot. And I was reminded how often something remains from those pets in the house, long after they are gone.

Like the claw marks I find on cabinets or baseboards… when I stoop down to clean them. (Our cat Pepper left them all over the house.) They aren’t really noticeable unless you are REALLY close… so they surprise me from time to time… that they are still there.

The only evidence that we ever had rabbits in our house, are the 5 or 6 little tiny bite/gouges in the side of our fireplace mantel… from that one time I left the hutch too close to the wood.

Let’s not forget Scarlett’s carpet holes or the random dried-blood droplet I occasionally find (from Lady’s tail) in a random place on the wall. (That I was sure I’d cleaned completely.)

I remember the last spot I held, petted, and said good-bye to each animal.

I remember where Pepper died.

I remember the carpet in the hallway being damp still, even after Lady was gone. And remember thinking it didn’t seem fair that the water from steam cleaning the carpet should be longer lasting, than the dog who had the accident.

Animals are  only one genre of “ghost” for our houses… aren’t they? I mean, there are so many happy memories too… or baby/child memories. How about illness??

I suppose my point in all of this is that I never realized how much more the memories build up, the longer you live in one place. It makes sense… since I have very vivid memories from the houses throughout my life. But 8 years… whew! It’s a lot! And it’s completely foreign and amazing to me. To actually still be living in a place where something special happened “x” amount of years ago… where I can picture something happening while being in the exact spot where it happened… there is just something about that.

I don’t know how many more years we will live in this house. But I do know that whenever that day comes…. it will be really, really sad and REALLY hard to leave. For all of the good, the bad, and the ugly that has happened in this house… it was where our life happened.

So many memories…so many ‘ghosts’.



Ugh… you guys.

It hasn’t even been a full two weeks since we said good-bye to our “Lady-baby” (her nickname). I still feel completely raw on the inside about this one… and I am still in the “waves-of-tears” stage. Some days are better than others…

We hadn’t even fully transitioned (for lack of a better word) from our last loss in December, before this one happened. And it came as more of a shock… because we expected to have YEARS left with her.

We’d gotten our first dog, Charlie, after about 5 months of marriage (May 2007). He was 8 weeks old, and neither of us had ever owned a puppy. It became apparent, when I went back to my teaching job in the fall, that Charlie needed a friend. Especially if he was going to be by himself for most of the workday.

So, when summer started (May 2008) we went to our local Dumb Friends League and brought Charlie to find a friend. We met with a chow-mix first. And they seemed to get along well enough, but mostly because the chow seemed more interested in the fence. (Turns out this dog had problems with escaping and jumping fences.) We decided to try one more match, just to see… and they brought out Lady.

She was named “Stacey” at the kennel. They thought she was about 1.5 years old.  There was a brief moment of tension to see who would be the ‘alpha’… but they took to each other very quickly after that. (It was her, by the way. 🙂 ) She was VERY high energy, and the worker who brought her out said that their energy levels seemed to match… which was a good sign.

I don’t think we REALLY knew what we were getting into… but she had a really beautiful face, and was very friendly. Very hyper. But friendly. And she’d already been brought to the shelter twice… because people didn’t know what to do with her. Which completely tugged at my heartstrings.


Summer 2008

We didn’t like the name Stacey for her. We were at Walmart typing in the name we’d chosen (I don’t remember what it was now…) and I told Darling Husband it didn’t seem right. Then I said, “What about ‘Lady’?” There had been a dog that lived next door for a few months (a rental property) when we’d first moved in. Charlie had loved that dog. At one point, a section of fence had fallen down, and for two days the dog (named Lady) and Charlie roamed the backyards together. His ears always perked up at her name…

Darling Husband liked it! So we deleted the other name and typed ‘Lady’.

We got her home and learned fairly quickly that she knew ZERO commands. Didn’t know how to sit, stay, lie down… NOTHING.

But she did know how to fetch a ball.

Like it was her JOB.

I don’t think we ever could have tired her out. She would have fetched that ball all day, every day, for FOREVER. She’d bring it back, drop it at my feet, and bark her much-too-high-pitched bark, until you threw it again. And out of our three dogs, she was the only one who understood the whole bring-the-ball-back-so-we-can-throw-it-again concept. Though, she would give herself small break now and then… if snow was available… for just a minute or two.


Playing Ball

And she LOOOOVED that red ball. (It was the only indestructible thing we EVER had and still have to this day.) She’d get it in her mouth so that it would push her nose up like a pig… causing her to sound like a pig grunting.

The vet we took her to for her vaccines and first check-up, said Lady had the equivalent of doggy ADHD. We were going to need a lot of patience. And our first job was to work on her focus.

Eventually her focus got better and she was able to ‘sit’ and ‘chill’ (our ‘lie down’). ‘Stay’ always proved a bit difficult as she turned out to be QUITE the “velcro dog”. (which is basically a term applied to dogs that want to be with you all the time no matter what…) If I left the room to go to the bathroom, she would follow me in and sit so I could pet her. 🙂 If I was cooking, her favorite place was between my legs and the stove/cabinets. But “Lady, come!” was never a problem. (Unless she got out the front door… cause then she was off and down the street before you could blink.)


Darling Husband’s and my 5th anniversary. (December 2011) We have so many pictures of Lady like this.

On walks, she did pretty well if she could walk beside Charlie, but if we ever separated them, she would constantly walk forwards and then backwards to make sure she wasn’t walking too far in front of us. Which sounds like something a dog on a leash SHOULD do… except the way Lady did it made it difficult to walk without tripping over her or the leash. Because the movements were erratic and sudden.



I still remember the first time I saw her tongue during a walk. It looked twice as wide and twice as long as what it SHOULD be. It was kinda freaky.

And she loved to give kisses… all the time.

Back, B.K. (before kids) we let the dogs sleep in our bedroom… and Lady’s favorite spot in the room was on the bed right between us! But that didn’t last long… we eventually got dog beds for the floor and insisted (quite repetitively)  that all the dogs use them.


One year for Christmas I got her this sturdy dog-toy, pink dragon. We called it her baby. Her favorite game was for us to throw it down the stairs. Then she’d run down and back up with it, for us to do it again… and again… times infinity. 😉DSCN4561

She had the most soulful brown eyes, that seemed to have so much emotion.


She tolerated baths, loved water (like lakes, ponds, streams) and got so excited to play in the snow.

It also didn’t take too long to discover that Lady suffered from something called “Happy Tail”. (I had bruises on my legs to prove how hard her tail could wag.)  It became problematic when the tip of her tail would connect with something hard, cause it to split open, and then stream blood anywhere and everywhere.

Seriously… it looked like a crime scene from CSI.

All over the house.

And then the cycle would begin. Because even once it scabbed… it would hit something, re-opening the wound… and cause it to bleed all over the place AGAIN. (Wash, rinse, repeat… for-e-ver.) So, it wasn’t uncommon to see her with one of those EPIC-sized  band-aids on the tip of her tail.


Her exuberance for life was 100%. And that meant car-rides too. 🙂 She actually loved it so much, she’d bark at every car she saw… for however long we were on the road. (We discovered, even our 6 hour drive to Pagosa Springs was not long enough to cause her to get tired and go to sleep.) We actually had to drug her for our drives down to Texas… because we couldn’t handle the barking for 17 hours in a row. (And neither could the other two dogs.)

Lady went from “completely normal” to “not okay” in almost a day. I woke up with a cold on Sunday, February 21. Darling Husband informed me that Lady had peed all over the bed/rug the night before. That day, she needed to pee all the time, which caused her to drink way more water than normal. It was a warm day outside, so eventually, we put her cleaned/dried dog bed on the back patio for her to lie on between bathroom breaks. She suddenly looked very old…. and tired…. and not like herself at all.

We scheduled a vet appointment for the first thing the next morning.

That night, having had too much water, Lady threw up (what seemed like a GALLON) all over the floor. It was really frightening.

And it seemed like she was having a rough time walking.

I went to her at bedtime, made sure I gave her extra ear scratches, head pats, and belly rubs. My gut was starting to realize that it might be much worse than we thought… and she may not recover from this.

Everything I’d read seemed to point to kidney failure. But I didn’t know how extreme it was OR if it was treatable. But she hadn’t eaten all day, and wouldn’t take the treat I’d offered her at bedtime. (The same kind of treat she’d gobbled out of my hands 48 hours before.)

The next morning, I found myself saying my goodbyes and told Lady what a good dog she was… before Jared took her. (Just in case. I didn’t want her to have to suffer longer if a decision needed to be made.) I also told her that I hoped the vet had a way to make her feel better and that I hoped she would come home. The girls were both still sleeping, and I was on the worst day of my cold, so Darling Husband took her himself. Charlie had to go with them… because since we’d gotten Lady, if we separated them, Charlie would bark until Lady was with him again.

When it was time to go… Lady couldn’t walk anymore. Darling Husband gently picked up our 60 pound dog and carried her to the car… for what would be her last ride with Charlie.

I got a phone call about 30 minutes later. The vet wasn’t even concerned about the possible kidney failure. Instead, she was concerned about the lack of feeling in Lady’s back legs. She said it was either a blood clot or a tumor. But there was nothing they could do for her there. (We’d have to take her to a larger facility.) And the quote to get her an MRI was around $2000. Either way, the vet said surgery was necessary but she said having the surgery wouldn’t guarantee survival. And the recovery process would be very, very long.

It made me angry, in the middle of thinking about what to do, that it costs so much- just to find out what a problem is…. and then costs so much more to fix it. (And that just seems to be how all kinds of healthcare in this country works… but I digress.)

And it made me even more angry that money was a factor in our decision (no matter how small). It wasn’t the only factor… she was very sick… and old. And some black labs just don’t make it to the 10-12 year expectancy age. (Although, with her shelter background… she COULD have been and we’d never know.) But, when you have two small children, other pets, and one income from a brand new job that has ebbs and flows…. you have to make the best decision you can make. And quality of life is so important to me. I never want an animal to suffer longer and needlessly because I don’t want to say good-bye. So, we made the decision. And it was awful….

Girlie was up by then, and I had her tell Lady she loved her, that she was a good dog, and she’d miss her, over the phone. (Darling Husband said THAT made the vet tear up a bit.) He pet her and told her what a good girl she was… Charlie was there… eating tissues… but the vet seemed to think he “understood” what was happening.

And then she fell asleep…. and was gone.

Darling Husband came home after… with Charlie looking like he didn’t even have a clue…. and we both hugged and cried. And then I took some cold medicine and went to bed. It felt surreal. And I still have moments that I can’t believe it all happened so fast.

The next day, we had to drug Charlie with Lady’s car-trip meds. (The irony of that is not lost on me.) He thought we had her somewhere… and just kept barking, until his medicine kicked in. And then he just looked like a sad, droopy-eyed puppy.

He’s better now… but I think he misses her. I still catch him running into rooms like he’s expecting to see her. (It hits me right in the heart… every. single. time.)

Our family dynamic has changed so much. Lady had so much energy and desire to be with us… her missing presence has left a huge, gaping hole.

Darling Husband, Girlie, Little Sister, Charlie, and I went on a walk as a family the other night …. and I actually wondered out-loud, “Is this it? We are such a small group!”

It’s a smaller and calmer group now.

We THINK Lady’s birthday was in the fall sometime. Which would mean she was 9.5ish on February 22. (She was only 6 months older than Charlie.) And we would have adopted her 8 years ago this May. It was an incredibly large chunk of my life that I got to spend with her.

And I would do it all again… all of the ‘crazy’ that came with her personality. All of the hard work and time spent cleaning, teaching, petting, and loving her… all of the vet trips, and summer baths outside, and the games of fetch, and dog hair in my food, and scrubbing the blood off the walls, and getting her tail bandaged (which wasn’t easy).

It was all worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Lady, you were so loved…. we will remember you always….and our family will never be the same without you.


Sunday, February 21, 2016






Scarlett joined our family in October 2010. She joined two other dogs, 2 cats, and 2 rabbits.


-Lady, Charlie, Scarlett     (Mother’s Day 2011)         photo credit Darling Husband


Darling Husband said, “We don’t need a third dog.”

And that was probably true.

But we needed THIS dog.

We’d dog-sat for her before. She was so calm. At night, she curled up into a tiny ball (that seemed much too small to be comfortable for a dog her size), went to sleep, and didn’t make a sound until morning. I gushed when our friends (her owners) came to pick her up, about how good she was. And we’d be happy to watch her ANYTIME. Cause I LOOOVED her! She had the most beautiful brindle colored coat. And she had the softest ears I’ve ever felt on a dog.

When our friends could no longer keep Scarlett… they thought of me first, and asked if we’d be interested in giving her a new home! And I was! Darling Husband took some time to convince, but agreed on a trial week to see if it would work.

When I went to pick Scarlett up, (or maybe they dropped her off, I can’t remember now) our friends also gave us her chair… a really pretty chair, that matched our house… and was Scarlett’s to sit in whenever she wanted. We got her all set up and the first thing she did was curl up in the chair.


This dog was more of a third cat, than our third cat  (we got HIM a few months later) would be! She was so quiet and calm.

Scarlett never got a song, but she was nicknamed “deer-face” because she had a very doe-like face and she was timid at first.

She had a few quirks that weren’t immediately evident. Eventually we would find out Scarlett HATED thunder. or lightning. or fireworks. HATED. The poor thing could hear thunder before we even knew a storm was coming. Her whole body would just shake… and the only thing that seemed to help was to be in the same room with someone. I still remember one storm that started during the night, and all of a sudden, Scarlett was on our bed… trying to sit on my face. (Trying to get as close as she could.)

She liked carpet. And so she licked it. And licked it. Until carpet pieces started coming out, leaving a hole down to the mesh backing. (Not sure what the official word for that is…) There are currently three “Scarlett holes” in our living room/hallway area. All about the size of a silver dollar.

She loved squirrels, rabbits, and birds… but mostly squirrels. She would stand under a tree and just bark until someone would go get her.

She hardly barked at all in the house… but on walks, she would pull, jump around, and bark at anything and everything. She always seemed so young on our walks… even as the years went on.

She never licked our hands or us… unless it was by accident and there was a treat involved.

And after a bath… she would RACE around the house. Think bucking bronco meets playful puppy. It was the most excited she ever got in the house…. and it always made me laugh!

We did the math with our friends, when they gave us Scarlett… we THINK she was around 7 years old. She always had a bit of white on her face, which made a lot of strangers comment on our “old girl”, but 7 isn’t so old.

If she was, in fact, 7 when we got her… then in October of 2015 she was around 12. She’d already begun to slow down… and math alone told us she’s be the first of our dogs to pass. She had started to lose a bit of weight and slow down a bit more… but everything else seemed ok.

I went out of town during the first week of December. I got back on December 6. The next day, I asked Darling Husband if he’d noticed that Scarlett wasn’t acting normal while I was gone. He hadn’t. But I knew something was up. She kinda chose one spot and didn’t really leave it most of the day. She’d eat and go outside to go to the bathroom… but other than that… she’d just sleep. And WHERE she would choose to sleep was unusual for her too. We’ve since gotten rid of the chair, and she had a nice, plush dog bed by the fireplace in the living room. When she slept, it was usually there. And she wasn’t sleeping there. She was choosing a weird spot in the middle of our hallway.

She wasn’t in any pain that we could tell, and she was eating and going outside to use the bathroom without issue… so I wasn’t overly concerned. But I knew something was up. And began to wonder if this was “the end”. My gut told me we were close.

But it didn’t help that, during this week, my older daughter was up for two nights with a fever that turned into chicken pox (we’d vaccinated her and it was a mild case, but I was more concerned about our younger daughter who was still 3 months away from being old enough for HER vaccine), and my baby was cutting 4, yes FOUR, of her first teeth at once. So I wasn’t sleeping at all. When that kind of sleep deprivation happens and you go into survival mode. A sleepy dog who seemed otherwise normal, didn’t set off any alarms… but by the evening of December 12 I knew something was wrong when Scarlett was walking to get water and her legs gave out and she collapsed.

Scared me to death.

But she was ok…. slow to get up and shaky after that.

December 13th is Darling Husband’s birthday… and we spent the day taking pictures with Scarlett and saying our good-byes. We had a vet appt scheduled for the next morning… she had collapsed a couple more times that day. We hoped to be surprised and the vet could recommend an easy treatment. But we just… knew.

That night, Darling Husband went to the store and bought some nice canned dog food. Our dogs only get dry food, with few exceptions. When I saw the cans, I teared up a bit. He’d been thoughtful to bring something tasty for her last meal. Which our older daughter served her the next morning. (One of her first chores was giving Scarlett her food… which speaks to how gentle this dog truly was.)

One of the hardest things for me to do was not be there. I couldn’t take my contagious child with me, and I couldn’t do the hard thing (if that was what was needed)… alone. So Darling Husband went without me, and put me on speaker for the vet consult and through the entire process.

Basically… they couldn’t say exactly what was wrong. She had pain in her stomach (that we didn’t know about) and her pulse was so weak, the vet could hardly believe she was alive. The low blood pressure is probably what caused her to collapse… and she was old.

Darling Husband let me listen while he told Scarlett what a good dog she was…. she fell asleep, and then she was gone.

I knew she would be missed. But I didn’t expect to be be suddenly surprised she was gone again and again. She was just so quiet most of the time… it kinda felt like she was still here. And then the fire would pop in the fireplace, and I’d instinctively looked around to tell her it was ok. Or I’d go to vacuum, and be ready to comfort her.  After the girls are in bed, sometimes I putter around the living room (read, do projects, etc.) and as it would get later, Scarlett used to do this very sleepy/dramatic sigh. Even now, MONTHS later… I can still hear her in my head when it is dark in the living room…

And I wasn’t ready for my older daughter (2.5 years) to ask often “Where is Scarlett? I miss her.” I certainly wasn’t ready to explain death yet. But, there you go.

Scarlett was so, SO loved. And is SO missed. We are so grateful to have gotten 5 years with her.

Though, no amount of time is ever “enough”…


December 13, 2015