Carpe Diem

Summer                                      Waning Grandchildren Moon

Over to Rum River Central Park this morning inspired by Emma.  Her death reminded me life flees behind us as the ancientrail of our lifetime grows longer and longer.  This day is all we ever have, so we cannot allow habitual, customary or rigid behaviors to steal it from us.  I had grown away from my every morning exercise at Rum River Park or, in winter, at the park behind the Rum River branch of the Anoka Library.  I don’t even remember when that transition happened.  When the treadmill and the resistance work came into the house, I imagine.  They are not exclusive of each other, inside workouts and outside.

Here’s one solution I’m trying now.  Three days a week interval training on the treadmill and resistance work alternated with three days of a steady pace outside, either on foot or on snowshoes if we get enough snow.  I used to do the snowshoes every morning in the winter when we had good snow.

The Rum River time this morning was not without problems.  Biting flies, mosquitoes and the variability of the trail all made it less than desirable.  Plus, I’m not in as good as a shape as I was when I did it before.  Bug  juice will solve one of those problems and increased resistance and weight loss the other.  The variability of the trail will become a plus again, as it was in the past, as I get used to it again.

Carpe diem.

Holes in the Fabric

Summer                              Waxing Strawberry Moon

It seems the gods of fate have not left our pack just yet.  Today was the annual physical for all of our dogs, a process that begins with luring Vega and Rigel into the back of the truck.  Hilo and Kona just jump up into the front seat.  That all went fine.  Kona and Rigel were a bit nervous, panting and walking around in the exam room at Foley Blvd. Animal Clinic.  Hilo sat on my lap and Vega, still a bit dopey from the stings, I think, laid on the floor as if she lived there.  Or, as if, as Kate suggested, she hoped she was invisible.

The exam went well enough.  Vega came in at 115 lbs and Rigel at an even 100.  Kona had gained half a pound and Hilo had lost a pound and a half.  During the results, Dr. Roger Barr, a friend now after 16 years of Irish Wolfhounds and Whippets, said he would, “save Hilo for the last.”

Our littlest girl and the dog most devoted to me has some form of kidney disease.  Roger says within two months or so she should start to show symptoms as her kidney functions slowly shut down.  There’s not much to be done about it.  A round of antibiotics could, but probably won’t, knock out a pyelonephritis, if it’s there.  If it is an infection, then her kidney function tests will return to normal.  It’s possible, but not likely.

Hilo is 9, so she’s not a young dog, but Emma was 14 when she died a couple of weeks ago.  Hilo’s not gone yet, we have some time with her, in some senses as we always have, but now with a knowledge that those times are nearing an end.

Each dog is different and special.hilo600 When they die, a unique aspect of our life here comes to a finish.  It is the unique and the special traits or memories we recall when we speak of them in later years.   Celt’s stepping on my snow shoes, barking at the flapping black plastic bag, receiving attention at the St. Kate’s Art Fair as if it were his due.  Buck’s careful positioning of the pillows and blankets so he could lie down on the perfect spot.  Iris retrieving and shredding tissues.  Emma standing on the tree.

But in the immediate aftermath of a death it is the hole in the fabric of our life that tears the heart.  We were seven and now we are six.  Soon, if Roger Barr is right, we will be five.

Rain

Beltane                                                  Waning Planting Moon

Today I looked up at the sky while weeding.  Gray clouds covered it all and rain drops had begun to splash on the brim of my hat.  The sky and I, it felt, were sad and crying, both of us, on this June summer morning.

It was an odd sensation that did not last.  As the day has gone on, I’ve had a nap and feel refreshed, but  the rain continues.  A soaking rain, a kind we’ve had too little of of late.  Now we often get thunder, lightning and torrents, often producing more erosion than watering.

All the dogs have been subdued yesterday and today, adjusting to Emma’s absence.  Marking her passing.  Me, too.

Emergence

Beltane                                            Waxing Plating Moon

Her crate is cleaned.  Her body taken for cremation.  The bowl in which I fed her has joined the other big bowls, no longer needed for our smaller whippets.  Emma was a big girl, tall and ropy muscled in her prime.  There is still, or do I imagine it, a faint odor of death, a sweet sick smell, not decay.   Hilo and Kona, who’ve known only life with Emma, appear subdued, but it’s never clear to me how much dogs grieve, although I know they do.

Driving back from the vets this  morning, I realized, as I have before, but never quite like this time, that the moments of life are precious and fleeting.  When life ends, whatever, if anything (and I doubt it) happens, happens in a manner  out of conjunction with this reality.

I resolved to get out in the beautiful Anoka County parks more, to wander the back roads and wild areas here as I have in the past, but have largely given up.  Not sure why.  Emma may not have been human, but she was loved and loving, a mammal, warm blooded, feeling, a thinker, conscious of her own life, and her death reminds me of these gifts, the true and miraculous, the precious, and yes, the sacred gifts of life itself.

A thinker I’m becoming more acquainted with wants to redefine sacred as the emergent properties in the world.  Life is emergence at its most complex, its most mysterious, its most wonderful.  What is emergence?  It is the remarkable, unexpected something more when the sum of our body’s chemical components come together as a vital organism.  We’re not worth much, broken down into our chemical constituents, but with life we become a treasure, a unique contribution to the ongoing fabric of the universe.

To that understanding of the sacred I say, “Namaste.”

Emma’s Last Adventure

Beltane                                                Waning Planting Moon

Emma’s excursion yesterday gave her, as things turned out, her last chance to wander on her own, beyond the woods and backyard that have been her home for over fourteen years.  She died last night, in her crate.  It was probably an arrhythmia that did not convert like the one several weeks ago.

Emma has been old for a couple of years.  I mean bow-legged, wobbly old.  Her hearing had diminished and she didn’t eat well.  Dogs though, and Emma was no exception, take their infirmities in stride, as part of the way things are.  Really, are they ever anything else?

We got Emma and her sister Bridgit, dead now three years or so, from a breeder who had sought the perfect whippet.  Through line breeding, sort of the doggy equivalent of incest.  We didn’t know that at the time and were happy to have two new puppies.  Iris and Buck, our last whippet pair at that time, had both died.  We missed them.

As they matured, though, Emma and Bridgit were both peculiar, shy and reclusive.  Emma, for years, and I mean, like 10 years, wouldn’t allow us to come near enough to pet her.  She flinched and ran away.  We’ve had dogs always and many dogs so we could see aberrant behavior and not blame ourselves.  It was just the way they were.

Bridgit left us to live with Jon because he needed a companion.  In that one-to-one situation Bridgit took the turn toward a normal doggy life, running to you when you came and playing.  Emma, though, in a house with sometimes as many 6 dogs, didn’t get there until much later.

Same of my fondest memories of Emma came when she was 5 or 6.  We had a bad storm that toppled a basswood, a giant maybe 60 feet high.  The trunk lay where it fell and it happened to land with a clear path on its side to the sun.  Emma took to running up that trunk and standing, head erect and surveying the property, maybe 10 feet off the ground.  She looked grand.

The Wolfhound deaths, and I’ve seen 8, are wrenching, difficult because they die between 5 and 8 years old, in what seems like their prime.  Emma’s, and Iris’s too, are different.  These are deaths of old age, a life run its course.  I’m sad, of course, but not heart broken.

Em was a regal and quiet dog, who kept her own counsel and lived life as she wanted.  Would most of us could say the same.

Emma Elopes

Beltane                                  Waning Planting Moon

Emma took off on a tour of the neighborhood.  Our housekeeper Lois opened the front door and Emma slipped out, using her fourteen years of observing human behavior, not speed, as her ally.  By the time I got to the front after Lois alerted me, Emma could not be seen.  I hollered a bit, mostly fruitless since Emma hears about as well as most nearing the end of their natural life.

I felt sure she would return on her own, but hearing Kate asking me if I did everything I could, I got in the car and drove around the neighborhood (which, by the way, uses the term very loosely).  No Em.

Came back home, made myself some noodles, came downstairs to get ready for Latin.  Halfway through the noodles Emma sauntered by garden patio doors.  Knew she would.

Life is a Conspiracy Against Nature

Spring                                         Full Flower Moon

Dicentra in deep pink, iris in deep purple, tulips in yellow, red, orange and purple, daffodils in many combinations of yellow and white, plus, amazing for this time of year, lilacs, fill out the full flower moon here.   The moon’s light, silvered and slight, gives no presence for the flowers so they close up, invite no visitors.  When I walk in the garden at night, under the flower moon, its namesakes here on earth sleep, perhaps dreaming of bright days, bees and warm breezes.

Emma has recovered almost to her old self, and I do mean her old self, not even her mature self.  Her old self is wobbly, a bit eccentric in motion and attention, but she enjoys the sun, a small dinner and a warm spot on the couch.  So do I.  Life is a conspiracy against nature, wonderful and delightful while it dances and spins, mocking the tendency of all things toward chaos.  That it exists at all is a miracle.

A good day, productive and educational.  All except for that sting on the posterior.  A bit of humility administered by an aging worker bee.

Emma’s Conversion

Spring                                     Full Flower Moon

A quick update on Emma.  Once inside she grew more alert, though she remained on the couch where I put her last night until I carried her outside this morning.  Once out she stood on her own, ate some turkey, walked around, then drank some water.   Returning inside she ate some cottage cheese.  She had a coordinated gate and jumped up on the couch by herself.  Where she is now, on the blue blanket, under a lap rug from the Amana Colonies.

Kate thinks she had a non-perfusing arrhythmia.    In which case her heart came close to stopping due to an irregularity in the wiring, then it failed and continued to fail to have enough pumping power to distribute (perfuse) blood to the outer extremities.  Kate says she may recover or continue to dwindle.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Right now with the bees and Emma and the Latin and the art museum and the Sierra Club not to mention the vegetable garden, I’m feeling a bit stressed.  Only solution–dig my way out of the pressure and enjoy these things, each of them, as I normally do.

Living and Dying

Spring                                                    Full Flower Moon

Death comes calling whenever it wants,  not worrying about the season or the weather or the inclinations of the living.  Kate’s colleague, Dick, suffering from multiple myeloma has gone on hospice care after two years of often brutal treatment regimens.  Bill Schmidt’s brother, who has prostate cancer, also chose hospice care recently to ease the pain of complications.

Tonight I was on my first Political Committee call of the year, a Sierra Club committee that deals in endorsements and retail politics.  The dogs were making noise so I quick ran upstairs to shoo them inside.  Emma didn’t come inside.  She lay under the cedar tree.  I’ve watched a lot of dogs die over the last 20 years and when I went to her side, she looked up at me, but had the stare that looks beyond, out a thousand yards, or is it infinity?  Her body was cold and she did not rise.

Vega, the big puppy, came outside and poked at Emma with her paw, sat down and nuzzled her.  Vega loves Emma, has since she was a little puppy.  I called Kate to let her know I thought Emma was dying.  Emma’s fourteen, our oldest dog right now, and our oldest dog ever with the possible exception of Iris.  At fourteen her time is near, perhaps it will come yet tonight.  Right now she’s on the couch, wrapped in a blue blanket, her head on her favorite pillow.

She seems a bit more alert now and Kate says her heartbeat is regular.  She may have had an arrhythmia and converted it, that is, brought herself back into normal rhythm.  Hard to say.  As Kate said, she appears to have the dwindles.

When I compared the call, about politics, and Emma lying outside, I realized Emma was more important to me than the call, so I stayed with her awhile, brought her inside and made her comfortable on the couch.  Then I returned to the call.

Had a Wreck Lately?

Samhain                            Waxing Wolf Moon

Well, Tiger Woods had a wreck.  Why?  What could have been going at 2:30 a.m. to cause him to drive into a fire hydrant near his home?  Why would I care?  Nobody but the insurance company cares when I have a wreck.  Not saying I have had one, though, and, also not saying what the circumstances were under which I may or may not have had a wreck.  Anybody want to interview me about the wreck I might have or might not have  had?  Didn’t think so.

Emma has come from the vets minus one hemangioma and much cleaner teeth.  Not a serious deal and our 78 year old dog (in human years) did not seem fazed at all.  She would not pee at the vets, but proceeded to do so as soon as we got home.  They were worried about this.  Emma has had a long life and it looks to extend a bit longer.  Good for her.

Colder weather coming.  Highs in mid-20’s, lows in the teens.  About time.  Now we need some snow.