• Tag Archives Hilo
  • Hilo: Grief Is A Price You Pay For Love.

    Lughnasa                         Waxing Back to School Moon

    9 years ago Kate and I bought two small whippet puppies, sisters, and named them after two towns on one of our favorite spots on earth, the Big Island of Hawai’i.  The larger of the two, Kona, took her name from the west facing town on the Kohala-Kona coast, the side of the Big Island which has some of the most luxurious resorts in all of Hawai’i.  Hilo, the smaller girl by about half, took her name from the east facing island town of Hilo, a blue collar town of Japanese and Hawai’an workers, a bit rough around the edges and the site of more than one tsunami, the most recent in 1964.

    We held them on our laps a lot when they were puppies and even after they were grown they would, from time to time, lobby for us to hold them that way again.  Hilo would 600hilogarden_0128hop eagerly into my lap, sit there for a minute or maybe less, then stand up, moving here and there, trying to achieve some location that felt right to her.  Most often she would jump down.  She had her opinions about all sorts of things and acted on them.

    In the morning before we opened their crates Hilo would lead Kona in a high pitched whining chorus with dips and doodles, plaintive and loud.  When upstairs she would bark to be let out and to be let back in.  Though the smallest of all our dogs, she let none of the others take her spot on the couch or get near her food.  She was not ornery, but she was clear about boundaries.

    When I went outside to garden, Hilo went with me, sometimes standing right where I wanted to work.  I would gently lift her out of the way and continue.  After I got the bees, Hilo would come right into the bee-yard with me while I worked.  She would stand there, bees buzzing all around and watch me, sometimes lying down in a sunny patch.

    An enduring memory from her young puppy hood came when she and Kona dug under the southeastern corner of our fence.  I discovered her not long after they escaped, but she was on the other side of the fence.  I called her name, Hilo.  She looked over her shoulder, gave me a sweet, delighted look, and took off on a path through the forest–away from me–at a full suspension gallop.  She was so happy.

    She had some negative kidney function numbers earlier in the year and by the time of her physical in June, they had gotten worse.  Roger Barr told us she had probably two months, nothing to do but allow the disease to play itself out.  We changed her diet, starting giving her rimadyl for pain when she started wicketing.  We extended his two months to three, but she died this morning, just over 9 years old.

    Hilo was my friend and close companion.  Often, she would take a nap with me and curl up in the crook of my arm.  When I was outside, she was, too.  She came when I called her, after those early days, and sat with me while I read.  She was a vital, distinctive voice here and I’ll miss her.

    Grief is a price you pay for love.

  • Feeling Better. Me. Dwindling. Hilo.

    Lughnasa                                    Waxing Artemis Moon

    Ah.  It seems the nasties have journeyed on to other warm bloody creatures, leaving me in peace for now.  I hope my body now recognizes and will fend off these creatures that live only to replicate and in so doing make us feel bad.  But they don’t care.

    Groceries this morning.  Filled up the cart with fruit and vegetables and turkey burgers, soy milk and slim milk, Sharps and Diet Cherry Coke, a bit of feta cheese, some sliced turkey for the dogs, a few cheese curds, some peanut butter, oops, just realized I forgot the cereal, chicken breasts.  You know.  The stuff of daily eating.  It was church time while I shopped so I suppose we were all heathens in there, except for those righteous Catholics who went to Saturday night mass.  Grocery shopping has a soothing quality.  It combines shopping with a genuine need so the selection of items reflects not so much consumer driven behavior–though that does rear its head–as it does animal needs.

    (The Mexicans do mercado better.)

    Hilo has, as Kate says, the dwindles.  She’s becoming very thin and tentative.  We believe she’s lost the better part of her sight.  Last week she seemed frightened, wide-eyed and jittery; this week feels different.  Perhaps a resignation of sorts.  It’s sad to watch her fade away, but she still lives her life.  Napping with us this afternoon, going outside to wander around the yard.  Eating a bit now and then.  Live until you die.  That’s what I want for me and for her.

    The sewing machine is on its movable platform, the wind-up reels for the cloth are in place, we attached a high-tech stitch regulator and a laser pointer to the apparatus that allows Kate to guide the needle.  Now it’s RTFM, a couple of extension cords and she’ll be ready to practice.  No more taking pieced work out for quilting, now it happens here, right in our lower level.

  • Not Good News

    Summer                                    Full Grandchildren Moon

    Not good news for Hilo.  She is now in end-stage renal failure.  Roger Barr said that since her decline has been gradual she may  tolerate values in her  kidney functions that a dog with more rapid onset may not.  Translation, she may live a bit longer this way.  Right now you wouldn’t know she was sick.

    This is a sadness for us, of course.  Since we had Orion euthanized, I’ve given a lot of thought to my extreme reactions to euthanasia.  After much internal searching it finally came to me.  Dad and I decided to take Mom off life support.  The conflicted feelings from that decision, which we made together, carried over for me into euthanasia.  I now feel that I could make the decision to euthanize with a clear heart.

    Having said that, my preference will still be to have her die at her own pace, at home, with no help from us.  Doggy hospice, when it becomes necessary, will be the norm if or until she seems in constant pain or dire discomfort.  Not for awhile though.

  • Getting the Week Underway

    Summer                                               Full Grandchildren Moon

    Vega the wonder dog update.  Now the focus shifts to Vega.  Who has learned to open the patio door, both ways, with a quick twist of her super strong neck.  Last night Kate and I sat outside reading and talking, a pleasant evening.  Vega looked inside, saw her sister Rigel and Kona waiting to come outside.  She did what any nice big sister would do.  She went over and opened up the door, letting the two out.  Of course, like most three year olds she does not close the door.

    Hilo goes into the vet today to get her kidney values.  We have a little bit of hope that her condition will have improved since her physical.  Not likely, but she does seem to feel better now than she has.

    Working at memorizing verb conjugations while I’m off the weekly chapter preparations.  Took a yellow tablet to the nightstand last night, reading the perfect tense endings just before I went off to sleep.  Sure enough, I dreamed of Julius Caesar and the Appian Way.  No.  But, I do think I remembered the perfect tense endings. We’ll see later in the week.

    At 2pm today a designer from Mickman’s comes by to give us an estimate on a water feature for the two patio areas where we’ve had trouble keeping plants alive.  I want something simple, two-levels, with enough noise to shut out the minimal traffic noise from Round Lake Boulevard.  Hard to say what the cost will be until he looks at the site.

    (you know.  something like the pic. just kidding.)

    Now outside for a bit more weeding in the cool of the morning, then preparations for my tour tomorrow morning.  China, my favorite.

  • Pictures

    Summer                                                 Waning Strawberry Moon

    The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.
    Mark Russell

    You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun.
    Al Capone

    I didn’t know there was another theory about Saturn’s rings.

    That Al, what a kidder.

    06-27-10_beekeeperastronautBeekeeper as Backyard Astronaut

    06-27-10_smokerReady to add the third hive box to the package colony

    06-27-10_package-colonyAfter the addition



  • Another Northern Summer Day

    Summer                             Full Strawberry Moon

    The full strawberry moon, evocative.  Our strawberries have wound down  for this season, but we enjoyed them while they ripened.  I had blueberries on cereal this morning, blueberries from our patch.  Finished the  planting for a third harvest:  beans, spinach, swiss chard, beets:  golden and detroit red and carrots.

    Kate has been picking  currants like a woman possessed.  She has I don’t know how many and won’t rest until all five bushes are clean.  That’s a lot of currants.  Last year I couldn’t even spell currant and now I have more than I know what to do with.

    The whole garden, including the bees, has proved a bit much this year.  The longer season didn’t help, it got stuff off to an early start, ahead of me.  Plugging away though.  I’ll probably get back to even about time to put the sucker to bed for the winter.

    Hilo helped me plant, each hour with her more precious now that we know her days will wink out in the not too distant future.

  • Kidneys and Bee Stings

    Summer                                Full Strawberry Moon

    The dew-point and the temperature are one, 67.  That means a cloud hangs not above us but around us.  It’s a drippy, soggy Saturday fit for neither garden work nor bees.  And I have work to do in both places.  There’s always Latin.

    Hilo now takes naps with me every day and sits upstairs with me longer at night.  I want to have as much time with her as possible before her kidney disease takes over.  Kidney disease is strange.  As long as there is at least some kidney function, the disease doesn’t manifest itself much except in heavy drinking of water.  The creatinine level and other measures of kidney function reveal a different, starker picture.  They show the gradual, then exponential depletion of effective kidney reserves.  Once the body tips over into renal insufficiency, things can get bad quick.

    As the universe would have it, at the same time Hilo had her labs confirming her problem, I had to go to the lab at Allina Coon Rapids to get my creatinine levels.  Witnessing the steady and relatively rapid deterioration in Hilo’s situation, I awaited my lab results with somewhat more intensity than I might have.

    Mine remain unchanged from December and not appreciably different for several times in the past.  Looks ok for now.

    After my thumb got all black and blue following my last sting, I began to investigate bee defensive behavior.  I learned a lot of interesting things, a few very practical that I hope I remember the next time.  It seems that when a bee stings it releases an alarm pheromone that attracts others to the location of the sting.  So.  I should scrape off the stinger (not pull it out because that causes the stinger to pump more venom into the wound), then smoke the area stung to mask the pheromone.  I also learned that the same alarm pheromone expresses when a bee gets crushed during hive inspections.  Of course I try to avoid this but it happens.  That situation, too, calls for smoke.  Last, and most obviously, if the bees are ornery on a particular day, put on gloves.  Oh, yeah.

  • 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.

  • Leeks, Shame and Ancestry

    Spring                                                           Waxing Flower Moon

    The new dog food must be a mistake.  The whippets did not eat at all this morning, the big dogs ate little.  Hilo (our smallest whippet) is in her crate with what I take to be a belly ache since she doesn’t look seriously ill.  How do I know?  Well, I don’t really, but I’ve seen multiple dogs in extremis over the years and she just doesn’t look like one.  I diagnose it to be a tummy revolt against the salmon and sweet potato I found so alluring.  I bought six bags at 35 pounds a bag.

    As any good chef, if the public refuses to eat the food I’ve chosen, I have to have a different menu selection.  In this case it will be food they’ve always liked.  Off to Costco.  Oh, and I can get that salt for the water softener, too.

    Leeks, basil, thyme, fennel, marigolds, lettuce and oregano starts sit in the front yard right now, still in the cardbox carriers Mother Earth Gardens gave me for them.  Later today, in the mid-afternoon, when it warms up into the high 50’s, I’ll continue planting this year’s garden.

    The leeks especially excite me because I want to learn how to grow this delectable vegetable.  It is, after all, the crown vegetable of Wales.  By that I mean Welsh soldiers would often wear a leek stuck in their hats.  No, I don’t know why, but the leek and Wales have a long standing relationship.  The ancestry I can trace most clearly is Welsh; I can put us in 17th century Denbigh, so I gotta learn how to grow leeks.  Besides, I really like them.  Their delicate onion like flavor is great in soups and wonderful as an addition to vegetable dishes, too.

    Welsh Leek on Reverse of 2008 Proof Gold One Pound Coin
    Also Used in 1985 & 1990

    The time while Kate’s been gone has been busy even adventure packed, though all the adventures were domestic in nature:  hiving bees, doing the complete reversal on the over-wintered colony, buying vegetables and herbs, dogs and their diet and today–the garden.

    Forgot to mention something that warmed my heart yesterday.  I called Kate yesterday and she put Ruth (granddaughter) on the phone.  Ruth told me she was about to go gymnastics and a few other things even Grandpop’s good ear couldn’t grasp through cell phone reception and voice quality.  When she gave the phone back to Kate unexpectedly, I told Kate to tell Ruth I loved her.  Kate told her.  Over the phone came a loud and confident, “I know.”  Gossh.

    Also, while on the drive out to Nature’s Nectar yesterday I began to analyze my feelings when I get under pressure.  I had a bit of those feelings then and noticed a faint, dull ache in my lower left abdomen.  To make it feel better I could tell my body wanted to lean forward and down, then to bow my head.  Oh.  Shame.  Explained a lot.  Somehow either pressure triggered shame or shame triggered pressure, perhaps both.  So, when did I remember shame and pressure together?

    When I was maybe 12 or 13, the Ellis family had moved from rental quarters on East Monroe Street into our first home purchased with a mortgage, and our last for that matter.  This house, 419 N. Canal, has that magical valence that home has.  It also had a basement that flooded during heavy rains.

    Dad was not a handy man, if anything, he was the anti-handy man.  When the basement flooded, his solution was to bail it out with buckets.  Yeah, I know, but I’m sure it was the best he could think of at the time or else he considered other solutions too expensive.  I don’t know, but I do know I had to join him often at night  in the damp to carry buckets of water up from the basement to dump outside.  I didn’t like it, hated it in fact.

    I couldn’t get away from it though and I remember having more than one fight with him over doing it.  That’s the memory I have, the one that came up when I thought about pressure and shame.  It was the perfect metaphor, too.  Bailing out a flooded basement is what my defensiveness and short-temper try to do when I sense myself backed into a corner.  Too much in the id, the just below the mainfloor area in my psyche, needs to get taken out somehow, but I still don’t like the work.

    One solution to this, if I can remember it when pressure hits again, is to stand up.  I’m an adult now, not a 12 year old and I can make my own choices about bailing the basement.  I can choose another option, like, buy a sump pump, put in a drain field, landscape the area around the house so that it slopes away from the foundation.  Lots of options. I don’t have to bend over, bow down and be conflicted.

    Just to be clear.  This is not Dad’s fault. It was the way I responded to what he thought was the best way to handle a difficult situation.  One that probably caused him pain and shame, too.

  • Caution: Dangerous Rodent Ahead

    Spring                                      Awakening Moon

    We have an injured dog.  Hilo, our smallest whippet, and a friend for many years, got in a scrap with an animal, a squirrel or a rabbit, and got a nasty wound below her right lip and another, larger one underneath her jaw.  She didn’t come for quite a while yesterday, we thought she had escaped, but she finally came in the house.  It was only this morning that I noticed a swollenness to her jaw, a sack that looked like a double, maybe a triple chin.  Infected.

    Kate took her to the vet where they drained the infection, debrided the wounds and sent her home with antibiotics.  She looks better now and was happy to go in her crate for the night.  A safe, familiar place.

    Dogs have their good days and their bad days.  I think yesterday was a bad day for Hilo.

    Yesterday afternoon, when I went out to finish the boarding up of the chain link fence, Rigel sat out near the back Norway pine, a small floppy ear and a front foot stuck out of her mouth as she made crunching noises chewing on what could only have been some small animal’s skull, most likely a rabbit, perhaps the one that wounded Hilo.  The reality of the natural order goes on every day on this property, dogs and small prey animals, bees protecting their hive, gophers digging through the lawn, hawks diving and killing small animals, humans eating pork and beef and god knows what else.

    Our world has two lives, the one of artifice in which we humans take a shot at controlling the weather, food supply and safe drinking water while just outside the carapace of our homes, any home, anywhere, the world of violent struggle, a world without artifice, goes on about its traditional routines.