Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Tuesday, 2017.07.25
I value kindness to human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't
respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society
except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper,
and old men and women warmer in the winter, and happier in the summer.

		Brendan Behan

2008.07.08

What A Difference A Door Makes

Wow.

I’ve wanted a new front door for 14 years. It was always on the plan…for next year. It closed. It locked…mostly. And there was always some other priority. Usually something cancer related. So it stayed. Today, that changed. Before…

And after (but still untrimmed and unpainted)…

For the first time ever, my front hall is filled with natural light in the evening. It makes it look and feel more like a home than it has in near 4 years. Maybe there is hope yet for this house of busted dreams.

[Edit History]

2008.07.09

Fixed typos and grammar.

2008.06.28

Paper Wars

Turns out Eric Scheie and I are fighting the same battle today. My efforts are far more modest than Eric’s, involving one puny schredder and a few garbage bags. Still, there is a lot of paper I HAVE to keep, mostly related to Janet’s psychotherapy practice. Stuff I can’t distroy for a few years yet due to some rather vague legal reason. Ack. Nonetheless, I toss what I can.

What’s interesting about the battle in Eric’s trench is he apperently gets far mor junk mail than I. He quotes from these folks:

“The amount of paper junk mail sent each year in the USA is staggering — some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened.”

The most staggering thing about that statistic, assuming it’s true, is that of those 4 million tons, over half of it actually is opened.

Who are these people?

2008.06.18

Wednesday Evening Rose

2008.06.06

Friday Evening Rose

First of the season…

2008.04.22

Tuesday Evening Flowers

Blog Haiku #23

Spry chickadees chirp.
Morning frost and crisp Spring air.
A new day begins.

2008.03.29

Saturday Morning Daffodils

Daffodils

First of the season. Ahhhhh. Spring.

2007.06.06

Cherubim Foundation Update V

The 2005 990 filed by the Cherubim Foundation Board has the numbers behind the organization’s last year in business. The document is public and is available from sites like GuideStar. For 2004, Cherubim Foundation showed $72,000 raised for the entire year. The Unfounding Board of Directors had $86,000 to work with, most of that on hand around May 2005, and yet they managed to fly the organization into the ground by year’s end.

The numbers don’t look right to me. They claim $57,000 “provided as aid and education to 56 participants” ($1,018/participant). Yet the 990 for 2004 claims $35,000 “provided aid and education to 42 patients” ($833/participant). 14 more participants consumed $22,000? Their own Board meeting notes indicate they moved to cut participant benefits. And I don’t know what happened to all of Cherubim Foundation’s material assets (office equipment, furniture, sound equipment, etc.).

What the Board didn’t know is someone on the Board, or close to it, was dropping notes at my door. I don’t know who and would rather they hadn’t. I prefer whistle blowers who actually blow the whistle. Regardless, the Note Elf(s) seemed pretty accurate and corroborating the important stuff was easy enough. A good look at the books would have been most enlightening, but would have served little more than to confirm what I’ve been saying all along. The Board members listed in the 2005 990 lacked the skill and the steel to do a decent job. They and they alone own Cherubim Foundation’s failure. It’s success belongs to the rest of us.

2007.02.11

Introducing…

…Rose (n. Willow)

At 2 weeks…

Rose - 2 Weeks

…3 weeks…

Rose - 3 Weeks

…4 weeks…

Rose - 4 Weeks

…5 weeks…

Rose - 5 Weeks

…6 weeks…wait for it…

Rose - 6 Weeks

…Ears!…7 weeks…

Rose - 7 Weeks

…and finally, 8 weeks.

Rose - 8 Weeks

Settled on “Rose” for the name after seeing the puppy’s ears. Two of Janet’s favorite rose varieties were “Barbara Bush” and “Barbara Streisand”. The puppy’s ears look like petals from these two bushes in Janet’s rose garden.

Spent most of yesterday driving out to Burlington, Colorado to meet the owners at Paws and Claws Kennel. Brought Jasmine along as she would have final say over whether or not the new puppy was a fit. It was a rough trip for the old girl, but she was a trooper and seemed to like the puppy. All that’s left is to work out a few hierarchy rules between the two of them back home (So far, it’s working out really good.)

They say you learn more about a company when things go wrong and experience how the company handles the problem. Such was the case here. A potential glitch in our deal arose and was handled completely to my satisfaction. Landon & Dana Richards were excellent to work with – conscientious, fair and honest. Their operations were very clean and a good example of what a responsible breeder’s kennel should look like. In addition to puppy pictures, I encouraged them to put pictures of their kennel on their web site. The puppies sell themselves, but pictures of their operations would add just that extra bit of reassurance to potential customers, letting them know they are working with professionals and not some puppy mill crank.

If your decision is to work with a breeder, I highly recommend the Richards and Paws and Claws Kennel.

Previously:

Dangerous Cuteness IV
Dangerous Cuteness III
Dangerous Cuteness II
Dangerous Cuteness
A Dog Needs A Dog

2007.01.10

A Dog Needs A Dog

Somewhere buried in this new techo-widget I got several weeks back, beneath the MP3 player, the still camera, the video camera, the web browser, games and the manual only knows what else, there is a phone. Once I figured out how that worked the rest became so much cruft to be ignored. A few days back, an almost need arose for a camera in an unanticipated situation. So it was time to learn how the camera feature worked. Pretty simple and the quality was better than I expected. Here’s the old lady:

Jasmine 1Jasmine 2

Since Mac Duff’s departure, Jasmine has been slowly sinking. She’s a fabulous companion for me, but alas I’m wholly unqualified to be a good dog. On walks where we encountered other dogs, Jaz would light up. Clearly, she needs a companion dog. It doesn’t help that most of the sidewalks around here are pretty much buried under ice and snow. That makes it difficult to walk a small dog, especially and old, slightly arthritic one. Hence the search began more than a month ago for a buddy to Jasmine. Happy to say, it looks like I have one lined up.

The criteria were fairly straightforward. No large dogs and no nano dogs. Most of my experience is with terriers so to minimize the learning curve as well as insure the greatest compatibility with Jasmine, my skills and the house/yard configuration, the choice came down to either a Silky terrier, a Cairn terrier or a West Highland terrier.

I looked at all the rescue organizations for each of the breeds, but the wait was too long or the expense was too great once travel/transport was factored in. Some of the dogs also had behavior problems which would not have worked with the combination of Jasmine’s age and me not being able to be at the house 24/7. A puppy would be easier to work with in this regard, but they rarely show up on the rescue dog circuit – at least not for the breeds I was looking for.

So the next option was to look for a breeder. I looked at quite a few. Some had rather…um….extensive requirements and made adopting a child look like shopping at Wal-Babies. Agree to unannounced visits for the life of the animal? I don’t think so. First right of refusal for the life of the animal if I have to give it up? Nope, not after I paid for air transport. I want breeders to work to place their animals in good homes and I expect some level of checking. But once I’ve been cleared, the deal is done and I start carrying the bills, the breeder should be out of the picture except for any guarantees they may have offered.

I have found a dog breeder with whom I am comfortable doing business. I won’t mention the breeder until the puppy is home and settled, but so far so good. For a Silky or a Cairn, there would have been the added expense of air travel. But a Westie breeder with several recent litters was found within a few days drive. Close enough I can bring Jasmine along for the road trip. Around mid February, I’ll have my pick from two of the following three female puppies (shown at 3 weeks):

Trio - 3 weeks

Hmmmmmm. What to name the puppy…

2007.01.03

The Helping Hand

Normally, when eating an orange, I like to carefully peel the skin away and enjoy each perfectly portioned slice. Such was the goal when I sat down this evening to cruise a few favorite blogs and catch up on what’s been happening. What I happened to be reading as I started peeling the orange caused one of those nanosecond wince-flinches that resulted in the orange being torn near in half.

Orange

It brought forward some painful memories. I was reading one of Cathy Seipp’s posts in which she mentions a few of the ways people have endeavored to “help” her, but which have caused her to bite her tongue.

Since several years before Janet’s death, I’ve been taking notes on how a person might be helpful to someone fighting a life threating disease or injury. This will eventually be part of the book I’m writing to compliment Janet’s book. I do believe everyone means well, but for a variety of reasons, how they express their desire to help often ends up being…well, not very helpful. I made note of some to the goofy things people did in the name of “helping” as well as those things which others did that were exquisitely, even elegantly helpful. Inspired by Cathy’s post, I’d like to share a few of those notes here.

What you offer to do should save the person you are helping their most precious commodity: time. Time to spend how they see fit – alone, with family, friends – not necessarily you. If you are genuinely helpful, it will be appreciated if not always acknowledged, particularly if the one you are helping is in pain.

Think before you do. Is your help really helping? It may make you feel good to spontaneously empty the dishwasher. But when the person you were trying to help has to spend the equivalent amount of time looking for the potato peeler you stashed in a seemly logical place on the other side of the kitchen from where it normally lives, you have not helped. Worse, you have cost them valuable time and left them aggravated.

This leads to the notion of helping in a consistent manner. If the person takes the time to show you where things belong when unloading the dishwasher, then be the dishwasher helper person. Own that chore and do it consistently. The more you can be transparent in your help, the more helpful you actually are. Trust me, this will be noticed and greatly appreciated.

Do some of the unpleasant chores, like empty the trash or clean a bathroom. When ever Janet was feeling particularly bad, there was no want for people willing to rub her feet, massage her hands, read her stories and such – all things I wanted to do because they were enjoyable, things we did normally together and, most importantly, time spent with Janet. Not once did anyone ever pick up a clue and offer to pick up the dog shit in the backyard. No special skills needed for that one. There were a couple of offers to weed Janet’s rose garden. One actually followed through, the other bailed when Janet died before the promised weeding date. Er, that was helpful.

Cooking is a risky way to help someone who is ill. If you are unfamiliar with the ill person’s dietary needs, it’s almost guaranteed to be a miss. (H/T to friends Angie and Bruce who pulled this one off with perfection. But then again, they are each skilled in the ways of paying attention to the details.) If you must, bring canned or otherwise non-perishable food (i.e. it can be kept in a box in the basement for 5 years.) And make sure what you bring is high quality. It may be fancy for your tastes, but show you care enough to see they are eating good when they feel like eating. That 5 pound can of Ol’ Slim’s Genuine Campfire Stew from Costco says “doorstop” and not “I care.” Go ahead and visit that high floutin’ organic food store and buy some quality soups.

Offer to help only in ways you can complete. Leaving a chore half done is most often worse than having never started it. This also implies offering to help only with things for which you are qualified. If you think the Internet is made of tubes, keep your hands off anything electronic. If your experience with cooking doesn’t go much beyond vending machines and a can opener, stay out of the kitchen. And even if you are qualified to practice medicine, perform an aura balancing, read tea leaves, preach the gospel or exercise The Devil, keep your yap shut unless the person you wish to help specifically asks for your help in this regard. It’s near certain you will upset them on some level, even though they may be polite to your face.

If they do ask for help, be attentive to when they have had enough of what you are offering. Tune your senses to recognize when they are tired or increasingly uncomfortable. Then look for other ways to help that get you out of the way. Running errands is a good way to help. You are saving the person time and energy while staying out of their way.

That’s about it for now. Rule of Thumb: If how you are contemplating helping has you feeling a nagging sense of uncomfortable doubt, it’s best to reconsider and cast around for another, simpler way to help. “Thinking of you” cards with a personal note are a good thing.

So this post is for you, Cathy Siepp. Thinking of you and hope this helps.

2006.12.24

Blog Haiku #10

The light of 68 candles
Warms the room.
But not the heart.

2006.11.22

Mac Duff

Lay on, MacDuff, and curs’d be him who first cries, “Hold, enough!”. — Shakespeare

Re-read my post on Mac Duff moving on and thought of a few things I wanted to add.

First, I wanted to say more about Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder. She is a tiny woman, a grandmotherly figure who looks like she stepped off a Norman Rockwell painting. Neither her attire or her bags had the slightest suggestion of being a veterinarian. And Mac Duff’s nose was as curious as ever about what she was carrying. He quickly found the biscuits and was welcome to them. Dr. Ann thought of every detail and asked me questions like if I wanted a snip of Mac Duff’s fur (I had already done that) or a paw print in clay (which I accepted). She even researched the proper tartan for the Mac Duff clan and tried to match the blanket he would be wrapped in after he was gone.

In addition to explaining what she was going to do, several times, she carefully explained what Mac Duff’s reactions would likely be along the way. I knew most of what to expect, but if this was a first time or if there were kids saying goodbye to a pet, her explanations would have been priceless in helping them with the experience.

Dr. Ann talked about how after the last shot, and Mac Duff’s breathing and heart had stopped, animals sometimes take one last quick breath. She described this as the soul leaving the animal’s body and not to be alarmed by it. She was also willing to let me spend as much time with Mac Duff after he died as I wanted. I told her all I wanted to do, after his breathing and heart had stopped and he was leaving his body, was to play a piece on the cello which Mac Duff seemed to like. And so, when it was time, I played the “Ashokan Farewell” for Mac Duff. (Alas, I hadn’t practiced the piece on the bag pipes for the lad!)

Dr. Ann took care of the cremation arrangements as well. I like it that they use the metal tag identifier with pets like they do with people. Dr. Ann had recorded Mac Duff’s tag number on my receipt and tied the metal tag to his front left paw with, what else, a tartan ribbon.

I helped wrap Mac Duff’s body in the tartan blanket Dr. Ann had brought and I carried him out to her car. She had lined the back of her VW wagon with blankets of the same tartan and had a pillow ready for Mac Duff’s head. I put Mac Duff’s little body in the back, scratched his ears one last time and stepped back. He looked every bit like he was taking one of his naps. Dr. Ann said I could close the hatchback of her car when I was ready. I didn’t need long, Mac Duff was gone.

Wow. What a contrast to the way Pfred and Oscar had to leave. Particularly Oscar, for I believe he unfortunately suffered more than necessary before his death. He knew where he was and he absolutely hated the vet or anything that so much as suggested a cage of any kind. A dislike no doubt coming from his first 6 months in a puppy mill cage shared with a bigger dog that continually attacked him.

Time HealsThe next day I met a friend for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Marie and I feel the same about our dogs and loosing one is no small thing. At the end of the meal, the fortune cookie for me was “Time heals all wounds”. I had written quite a bit about this particular phrase in a notebook I’m using to collect such thoughts which will eventually end up in the book I need to write.

Any truth behind this phrase is a myth. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. I’d say unequivocally it doesn’t heal any wounds. What it can do is give those who have suffered a loss the opportunity to grow, explore and discover new and deeper ways to live. Time gives those with even a small amount of courage the opportunity to find ways toward strengthening their soul and moving forward. And in doing so, the distance traveled gives perspective and reveals meaning about the rough road behind them. It doesn’t matter that others fail to understand this insight. It only matters to those who have suffered such deep losses. For them, there is no such thing as just another sunrise or sunset. It is the paradoxical gain that comes from loss.

2006.11.20

Janet’s Boy Drops His Body

Mac DuffFor the third time in the past 18 months I’ve had to hold hospice here at home. First Janet, then our little silky terrier, Oscar, and this past week it was our cairn terrier, Mac Duff. I had to euthanize the pup this past Thursday night.

This all unfolded rather suddenly. About four weeks ago Mac Duff started limping on his front left leg. He reluctantly put weight on it and would hold his left paw in the air when he was just sitting. Pick him up wrong and he would screech in pain. Not a good sign. Detailed blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, MRI, a lump biopsy, $4,000 and four vets later the answer came back as very aggressive malignant lymphoma.

Mac Duff was a rescue dog. We got him at about 6 months of age. Janet wanted a third puppy and I grudgingly acquiesced. She had been through some rather difficult chemotherapy and surgery and wanted some puppy energy in the house to help boost her spirits and had wanted a blond cairn terrier for a long time before that. Mac Duff provided all this in one tiny nuclear package. He never slowed down and had the best temperament of any terrier I’ve ever known. He was Janet’s puppy.

Phyllis Glawe, the oncology vet at the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado (VRCC) was clear and detailed with the facts. I’d asked for that up front given my history of supporting Janet in her fight with cancer. Smoke, mirrors and candy coated prospects are a bad thing. A very, very bad thing. If I’m to make a decision, I need to know what I’m up against, what the options are and what the likely consequences of any decisions might be.

A vet, or a medical doctor, earns a great deal of my respect from me if they are capable of acknowledging when they don’t know something. The valuable piece of knowledge contained in that acknowledgment is that I need to look elsewhere for an answer. Feigning knowledge for egotistical reasons, presenting speculation as fact and the like is also a very, very bad thing. It was that kind of attitude that put Janet is such a difficult situation before we even knew what was going on.

So, given that Mac Duff’s cancer was very aggressive and already quite advanced, if I had opted to put him through chemotherapy the cytolysis of the cancer cells would have flooded his little body with buckets of dead cell material, further taxing his already struggling liver and immune system and making him even sicker than the chemotherapy drugs would already make him. He could die from the treatment. Then there would be the side effects of the drugs: fur loss, vomiting, incontinence, risk of infection. God damn it, this is all too familiar. Not only this, but after six months of treatment, Mac Duff would have another 3-6 months cancer free after which the likelihood of a recurrence is very great and we would be right back where we were this past week. Only after much suffering and another $4,000+ lighter.

As Mac Duff’s owner/caretaker, the tough decisions are left to me. When Dr. Glawe showed me the protocol Mac Duff would be on, I knew what was in store for him when I saw words like “Adriamycin”, “Anzemet”, “Cytoxan” and “Cycloposphamide”. I could hear Janet’s voice screaming at me “Don’t torture the puppy!”

After the awful experience of having to put Oscar down and the way his last week on the planet unfolded, I wanted to find a vet who would make house calls for euthanasia. After speaking with several contacts, I settled on Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder who specializes in pet euthanasia and calls her business “Beside Still Water“.

What a find! Dr. Ann is an angel. I had expected the house call vet would pretty much do what they do at the vet office except they would give the shot to put Mac Duff down at home. Not so. As soon as Dr. Ann stepped in the front door, she sat on the floor with Mac Duff and worked on setting a friendly rapport. There was nothing about Dr. Ann that said “vet” to Mac Duff. She had tasty biscuits from Great Harvest Bakery, spoke softly to him and scratched his ears. Even my other cairn terrier, Jasmine, took biscuits from Dr. Ann. Jasmine never takes treats from strangers. While doing this, she explained the process. She did this several times during the two hours she was there at the house, no doubt to remind me of what would happen.

Basically, she used four shots over about 15-20 minutes. The first was a strong pain killer, which made Mac Duff relax (first time in 4 weeks) and made him a bit sleepy. The second shot relaxed him even more. He was still aware and Dr. Ann said a loud noise or such would cause him to take notice. He was still tracking me with his eyes. The third shot was basically anesthesia and put him into an unconscious sleep. The fourth shot was an overdose which stopped his breathing and heart. Like Janet, when Mac Duff left, he jetted out of the galaxy.

I have a clear sense Mac Duff didn’t know what was about to happen. At no point was he afraid or agitated. He was comfortable and certainly enjoyed the treats. Unlike Oscar, who I had to take to the vet at 3:00 AM. As much as Oscar was suffering, he knew where he was – that place where people hurt him. So he fought and struggled. And the animal hospital vet didn’t get the euthanasia drug dose right and had to give him two shots. So he didn’t die right away. It still troubles me thinking about how he left. With Mac Duff, I have a much better feeling about his last days and moments. Dr. Ann is the main reason I’m doing better after Mac Duff’s death than I was after Oscar’s. The overall cost of using Dr. Ann’s services are not that much more than taking one’s pet to the vet to be euthanized. But the benefits to both you and your pet are an order of magnitude better.

I have one ding against VRCC for the record. It needs to be said to help readers who may be in my position. First off, understand that the vets at VRCC are very, very good. We refer to VRCC as the “Mayo Clinic for Pets.” They are also very, very expensive. And that’s not my grudge. I love all my pets and consider them a part of the family. Not in the perverted sense that some pet owners do who think it fitting to dress their pets up in people clothes, feed them human food, take them to pet psychologists and pet psychics, etc. Not in this house. We know our dogs are dogs and we care for them according to their nature. My dogs are on a raw food diet for the most part and they thrive on such food. They are given plenty of room to play and frequent walks. What ever care they need, if I can at all afford it, they get it.

My ding is how the tests were triaged. With obvious multiple lymph nodes that had had swollen to the size of plums in just one week, the sensible thing to do would have been to run the blood tests and biopsy first and deferred the $2,500 MRI until after the less expensive and, frankly, more appropriate tests results were available. But VRCC tends to go for the full buffet. They did this with Oscar but I put the breaks on that when they presupposed my instant answer to his potential glaucoma problem was to remove the cataracts in his eyes and replace his lenses with artificial lenses.

When it’s one of my dogs that is suffering, it’s difficult to keep the caveat emptor attitude. I trust the vets to make the correct call and not act as if they have a blank check with which to work. VRCC has my vacation for 2007. I hope they enjoy it because I likely won’t be traveling far.

[Edit History]

2006.11.22

Add more information in second post regarding Mac Duff.

2006.10.08

Heartland

A few pictures from a walk several weeks back. I’d meant to post them, but forgot about them until I happened across the digital camera this morning.

dsc00396_50.JPG

Janet and I called this cottonwood tree “Quasimodo.” Out in a field all by itself, it has been struck by lightning more times than I can count. The bark on one side is all black, the after effects of its most recent brush with primal forces. As gnarly as it looks, it has always been an inspiration for persevering and getting through our own tough times.

dsc00404_50.JPG

It used to be I could point a camera in any direction on my walks and end up with a cool picture like this. Now, there is so much mega-house building going on I have to frame my subject as best I can. On this walk, it was quiet, warm, fragrant and tranquil. Just like old times. I stood on this bridge soaking in the sunlight and comforting smells of Fall for a good long time. I want a strong memory of this place before it is gone forever.


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