Friday, July 27, 2012

Settling in Nicely

Annie and Molly have been in New Jersey for almost 48 hours now, and they are settling in nicely. Here is a shot of their first meeting with their big sister/doggie mama, Emma.

Emma, Annie, Molly
Emma isn't sure if they are cats or rabbits or what, but she knows they can't possibly be dogs...

Emma and Annie
Here she is saying "What is this thing, and why is it sniffing my butt?"

Emma is pretty much ignoring them right now, which is OK. She will come to love them, I'm sure. She has been through a rough couple of months, and it will take some time, but we will all get there. In the meantime, Annie has claimed the biggest, comfiest doggie bed...


...but Molly isn't content with a doggie bed. She has to be on the over-stuffed chair with all the pillows that she can push around until she gets them in just the perfect position.

One of their favorite things is shopping, as you can see from this photo taken yesterday at PetSmart.
Annie and Molly
Molly was bark-bark-barking when she was walking around the store, but she quieted right down when I put them in the cart. She likes to ride in style.

Annie & Molly
Don't they look like stuffed toys?

These little munchkins are so precious, and have already brought a lot of joy to a house that was so full of grief and sadness over the recent loss of Tara and Cooper. They will be heading down to Fortescue this weekend for their first taste of the beach! Welcome to New Jersey, little girls!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In which Emma has puppies...

The past couple of weeks, or really months, have been so very difficult. In addition to coping with the loss of Tara and Cooper, we have been trying to keep Emma's spirits up. Not an easy task, as she misses her siblings terribly. She is sleeping better at night, but when she is left alone, she will howl. Not a barking kind of howl. It's a soft, coyote-like, kind of howl that is totally heartbreaking to hear.

Take a look at her in this picture. She was "helping" me piece together a quilt. She soon had enough and decided to lay down on the work in progress. She always has this sad, defeated look on her face now. It breaks my heart to see her like this.

 Emma on the quilt pieces

My sister and I have both been looking at possible siblings for Emma. I am still very raw inside, and wouldn't think of an addition if it weren't for Emma. She apparently needs the company of other dogs. Humans can only offer so much comfort, as we all very well know.

Anyway, rescue is the only option for us, so my sister has been scouring Brittany rescue sites like American Brittany Rescue, New England Brittany Rescue and National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network.
We took Emma to "meet and greet" an available Brittany, but the meeting did not go well. It was one week after losing Cooper, two weeks after losing Tara, and I think it was just too soon for all of us. Emma positioned herself in between the other Brittany and us, and snapped if she got too close.

We started to think that a puppy or a smaller dog would be better, so I have been setting my sights on another breed altogether. I have always, always, always loved the look of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

z cavs1

I have shied away from the breed due to their many health concerns, but there are no guarantees with anything in life. Look at my sweet Tara for an example of that...

After looking at a couple of Cavalier rescue sites, I filled out an application with Cavalier Rescue USA. To make a long story short (or at least less long), there is a pair of Cavalier girls about three hours from here who are in need of a loving home. Their owner passed away, his daughter couldn't keep the dogs and placed them with Cavalier Rescue USA. They were adopted out to a loving couple last month, but the wife has developed some very serious health concerns, and they are no longer able to keep the dogs.

Meet Annie and Molly:
Molly and Annie

Those are the names given to them by their original owner, so I don't want to change them. I have no idea which dog is Molly and which is Annie. They are approximately 5 years old, and Molly is perfectly healthy, but Annie is deaf and has a grade 4 heart murmur. ( I can handle this, right?) My dad and I will be driving down to Maryland tomorrow afternoon to pick up these cute little girls. Don't they look like Brittany puppies???

I have a really good feeling about this. I am positive that Emma will love and care for these two as if they were her own puppies. Let the healing begin...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Coping with loss.

I want to thank everyone for your comments and support both here and on Facebook. I have never gone through losing two of these precious souls so close together. Two dogs in two weeks. It's rough. Really, really, rough, but we are trying to keep everything as normal as possible for Emma. Unfortunately, Emma is extremely intelligent, and one of the curses of having an intelligent dog is that she sees through all of the false bravado and forced cheer. I swear she is more "human" than some humans I know.

Anyway, one of Emma's issues right now is sleeping at night. She doesn't want to do it. At least, not in either my bedroom or my sister's. Normally she would come to bed with me for an hour or two, then jump down and go into my sister's bedroom for the rest of the night. (She likes to spread the love, you know?) Since losing her siblings, she won't sleep in either bedroom. She wants to sleep in the great room, but not alone. No sir-eee. Someone has to sleep out there with her, or she will bark. She will bark, bark, bark, and then bark some more. Then nobody gets any sleep. Needless to say, my sister and I have been taking turns sleeping on the sofa. Problem solved.

Another challenge for Emma is being left alone. It's not an option right now. She will howl at the door whenever she is left alone in the house. Not a big surprise, as she has always had another dog or two to keep her company. Our solution? Don't ever leave her alone in the house. There is the small issue of my sister and I both having jobs, so we are getting over that hurdle by Emma going to work with my sister.

Here is Emma just lounging around when she really should be doing some filing.

Emma 7-12-12

Emma is learning how to use the telephone. As long as someone holds it for her, that is.
Emma 7-12-12
Beware of dogs popping their heads up from under computer desks.

Emma 7-12-12
Emma can just...about...see...over...the...counter. We need to see someone about lowering these countertops...

Emma 7-12-12

Recycle? Of course we recycle here. Anything edible goes into Emma. Everything else goes into the recycle bin.
Emma 7-12-12

Of course, this situation can't go on forever. Eventually, the summer will end and my sister's school will be filled with kids again. While that's not a problem for Emma since she absolutely loves kids, there are a couple of kids in the school who have severe allergies. So, along with the no-peanut-butter-allowed-in-the-building rule, there is also a no-animal-with-fur-allowed-in-the-building rule. ::sigh::

I realize that so far we have been using short-term solutions. The long term solution would be to get a brother or sister for Emma. I'm having a hard time with that right now, and am nowhere near ready to get another dog. It's too hard. I know that they give so much more joy than the heartache that losing them brings, but having that heartache so fresh, from losing TWO of these beautiful souls... I'm just not ready. I can't even think about it right now.

That said, I have been thinking about it. If it wasn't for Emma's issues, I wouldn't consider it, but Emma needs a friend. She needs a brother or sister who can give her what us humans simply can't. I have been looking on the American Brittany Rescue website and there are so many dogs out there in need of homes... Emma needs a sibling, and there are dogs in need of a home. Any way you do the math, how selfish would I be to say no to another dog?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

And then there was one...

It hardly seems possible, and I'm still in shock, but it's true. Cooper is gone. Emma is all alone now. She has been grieving for Tara, and now she has lost her brother, too. Cooper has--had been having asthma-like problems for months now. He had xrays and bloodwork in December, and had been on a couple of different meds until we found the combination that worked for him. He has--had been stable, only having episodes when he was excited or scared, like during a thunderstorm. This morning he was fine, ate his breakfast, got into his usual mischief, then all of a sudden he couldn't get enough air. We tried to calm him down, but nothing helped. We rushed him to the WonderVet. He gave him a couple of shots, put him on oxygen, then took xrays. His lungs were worse. Much worse. End-stage-disease worse. Despite everything the vet could do, every breath was a struggle. For the second time in two weeks, we made the hardest decision in the world. But also for the second time in two weeks, there was no decision to be made. We could not allow him to suffer. I can still hear his gasping struggles to breathe. I will hear them until I die.

Cooper on the day we found him, June 19, 2008. He was 9 years old at the time.


Cooper helping with the dishes, and breaking the dishwasher door in the process.


Cooper helping mommy knit.


Cooper at mommy's work.


Cooper enjoying being an inside dog after a lifetime of being outside

Loopie Coopie

Cooper, my boy, my little man.


 Four years with Cooper was not long enough. No matter how long they are with us, we never have these beautiful souls long enough.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Sweet Tara

Tara is gone. She is now playing with Scarlett, Katie, Mellie, Scupper, Sam and Sam II. Her battle with Lymphosarcoma was short, just shy of 12 weeks, but she was a fighter. Her case was atypical, and there were no guarantees when we started chemo, but we had to give it a shot. After trying three different protocols, the oncologist took her off meds last Tuesday. She has been on "comfort care" for a week. Last night, or really early this morning, she was struggling to breathe, and could barely stand on her own. This morning, we made the hardest decision, but really there was no decision to be made at all. We were not going to have her suffer. She was too good for that.

Everyone has been so supportive through this, and I feel fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life. The words of encouragement here on the blog and on Facebook are truly what got me through some of the roughest days. My whole family has been wonderful, from going to appointments with me, letting Emma and Cooper out on the days that Tara had chemo and I would be away from home for most of the day, to just being there when I needed them the most.

My work has been wonderful, allowing me to work from home when I couldn't leave Tara, approving vacation days no-questions-asked, and my coworkers picking up the slack the days I wasn't at work. I even got a new boss in the middle of all of this, and I wasn't there until the afternoon on her first day of work because of one of Tara's treatments. How lucky am I to work for a place that understands that pets aren't just pets, they are so much more than that?

OK, I'm really blubbering now, so I will just share some of my favorite pictures of my sweet girl and then go to bed.

Tara the first day we brought her home from the American Brittany Rescue transport. Look how scrawny she was!


When she first came here, she didn't know what toys were, but she learned pretty quickly!


She liked to help around the house, from cleaning out the cabinet where the trash and recycling bins are kept...
Tara in trash
 helping with the dishes.


She was fashionable...


...refined (eating off of a fork)...

...and loved. Loved so very much.

Happy Tara

 I am positive that she is in heaven right now, because if there is a heaven, the worst dog in the world would be more deserving of a place there than the best human.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ups and Downs

It has been a month full of ups and downs. Literally. One day Tara would be covered with lumps...

...and after a treatment at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, they would be gone.


Now if only they would STAY gone. Everyone following on Facebook knows that Tara is now on her third protocol. The first one worked great, but only for 4-6 days at a time. By the time her weekly appointment with the oncologist rolled around, the lesions were creeping back. They kept coming back faster and more numerous as the weeks went by, so Tara was switched to a second protocol. That was last Wednesday. Things looked good on Thursday, but by Friday the lumps returned. Over the weekend, they kept growing, and more and more kept coming. Clearly protocol 2 wasn't working. Tara went back to Red Bank on Tuesday, and the oncologist put her on yet another protocol. It's Thursday now, and the lumps are getting smaller, but not at the rapid pace that they shrunk up before. Maybe that's a good thing, though. Maybe this time they will slowly shrink up and go away and stay away. Maybe the third time is the charm???

On another matter, totally unrelated to Tara, (who am I kidding, everything I think about and everything I do is 100% related to Tara), remember those posts I did a while ago about getting out of debt? You know, how I took a second job, and I cut up all my credit cards and vowed never to go into debt again? Funny thing about that... It's not gonna happen. I cash flowed the first month of Tara's treatment from my emergency fund (after all, what could possibly be more of an emergency than a sick dog, right?) but that well quickly ran dry, and guess who opened up a credit card?

It's not a terrible kind of credit card, though. It's called "Care Credit" and it's only for medical or dental expenses, for you and your pets. I hate posting about this and including a link, but I thought I would mention it in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation.

So, back to Tara. I don't want anyone to think that I'm allowing Tara to be used as a canine pincushion or a lab rat. I hate the fact that she is getting poison in her system every week. I hate the fact that that there isn't one treatment that works for every dog. I hate the fact that Tara's case is atypical, which just adds another element of surprise. (These kinds of surprises I could do without!) That's a lot of hate. But, as long as Tara is tolerating the chemo well with no (or minimal) side effects, we are going to give her every shot (no pun intended) to go into remission.

In the meantime, Tara spends her days hanging out with her brother and sister...
Cooper, Tara, Emma
...taking naps...


...letting the ceiling fan blow her belly hair...


...and modeling mommy's knitting.


Tara thanks everyone for their continued prayers and healing vibes. She says she can feel your support, and it just makes her want to fight all that much harder. Keep 'em coming!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes!

If I didn't see it with my own eyes, feel it with my own hands, I wouldn't believe it. Tara woke up this morning (after a good night's sleep), and the tumors are smaller. I'm not crazy. Maybe I am crazy, but the lumps really ARE smaller. Some of the little ones are gone. The bigger ones that were about the size of a goose egg are smaller. They have maybe decreased by half. One dose of chemo, and the lumps are going away. I can't tell you how thrilled I am. I had to share right away since I know so many people are following her progress and sending prayers, vibes and healing thoughts her way. We feel all of that support, and are truly appreciative. It makes a huge difference.

I've tried to get photos, but it's hard with her long fluffy hair. The best I can do is show you this one from May 1st. She is eating a french fry after one of her vet appointments, and you can see a couple of lumps on the top of her head. That was five days ago, and they were just getting larger every day.


Here is a picture of her this morning. Can you see the lumps? Nope! They are so small that you can't tell they're there unless you feel her head. She looks a little grumpy in the photo, but that's just because I've been following her all around and rubbing her all over, keeping her from getting her morning nap.

Tara 5-6-2012 One day after first chemo
She is tolerating the chemo really well, slept great, and had a hearty breakfast. One of the lumps in her mouth was bleeding quite a bit yesterday whenever she would lay on her right side, so her "hearty breakfast" was all soft foods, but she enjoyed it just the same.

I don't have any false expectations, and know that each week she will get a different chemo drug, and she may have side effects. Her best case prognosis is 18 months, but they will be 18 quality months. It would have been a few weeks, at the most, without chemo, and I have to believe they would have been rough weeks for her. Right now, every day with her is a blessing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Too Numerous To Count

This past week feels like it has been at least a month long. This past month seems like a year, or a decade. I feel like I have been walking through a fog, with occasional episodes of a reality so freaking unreal. I've got to tell you, the fog is looking pretty good right about now.

Four days ago we got the detailed report on Tara's tumor. You know, the ONE tumor she had on April 9th. The ONE tumor that was removed on April 10th. The ONE tumor that, one week later was joined by six others. The six tumors, that just one more week later were joined by 20+ others. And then this morning, I found out that if there are more than 50 tumors on your dog, the doctor lists it as "too numerous to count." Yes, indeedy.

Two days ago we saw an Oncologist in Malvern, PA. Wonderful facility, but they kindly said that they don't take cases as extensive as Tara's, and referred us to Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ. That same day we took Tara to an Holistic vet. Somebody asked me what holistic is, and I don't know what the official definition is, and I'm too tired to make the effort to link to wikipedia, but it's all natural remedies, with herbs, massage, acupuncture, and stuff like that. I learned a lot about the body and blood, and got some really good suggestions on changes to make to their dog food recipe. I also got a couple of supplements to aid in digestion and restore energy. The holistic vet also highly recommended Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. Her exact words were, "run, don't walk, to an oncologist." Not something you want to hear.

That brings us to this morning. We left at 7:00am for our 9:40am appointment with the head of Oncology at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. (By the way, if anyone is keeping track, that's seven visits to four different vet offices in 4 weeks.)


 I have to tell you that I was immediately impressed with the facility. Bright, airy, immaculate, well thought out. You have got to go to the link above and click on "virtual tour." Really, really impressive. Every staff member I dealt with was kind and compassionate, even though I had been up all night (and looked it) and couldn't stop crying from the moment I got there. There was something so very final about this appointment. This was our last hope, and it is incredibly terrifying to take your sweet little girl through this door:


The doctor was so good with Tara, and kindly did not comment on the fact that I was a blubbering idiot. He was incredibly calming, he took his time with us, and answered every question. Even the stupid ones. In a nutshell, we learned that Tara's cancer is atypical. Lymphomas usually appear in the lymph nodes (around the neck, in the groin area, etc.) and then go to the internal organs. Tara's cancer is sub-cutaneous, under the skin, and is over her whole body, but ONLY directly under the skin. No organ involvement. That's a good thing. It is also extremely aggressive. Remember the "too numerous to count" comment? That's a bad thing.

Typical lymphomas have a 75-80% remission rate after chemo. That's good. With Tara, he said all bets are off, and would estimate a 50-50 chance of remission. That's either good or bad, depending on the whole is the glass half full or half empty kind of thing. Apparently dogs have only about 10-15% chance of having side effects from the chemo, as opposed to 90% chance in humans. If this was a typical lymphoma, we could expect an 80% reduction in the lumps in the first week. Again, Tara is not typical, so no guarantees.

With all that in mind, we elected to begin chemo. With such a low chance of side effects, we had to go for the 50-50 chance. She goes back next Saturday to be evaluated, have more blood work done, and round two of chemo.

It is wrong for me to hope that since the tumors appeared so quickly, they might leave just as quickly? Maybe I'm not hopeful. Maybe it's wishful. More than likely it's delusional, but let me have my little fantasy, OK?

In the meantime, I am sitting here watching her.  Watching, watching, watching.


Is she breathing too fast? Too slow? Does she look thirsty? When did she pee last? Are those lumps any smaller yet? Less numerous???

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Burgers and Fries!

Thanks to everyone for your kind and supportive comments to yesterday's post. Tara would really appreciate them, if she could read. Now the hugs and belly scratches from everyone...that's a language she understands. She says keep them coming! I appreciate the good thoughts, healing vibes and prayers, too.

Tara had a fun time at the vet today. She got to visit all the the vet techs, she saw her nanny, and she even got a massage from Dr. Bill. Truth be told, he was just checking out how many lumps have popped up the the last 7 days, but Tara thought it was a massage, so we're sticking with that. The decision was made not to remove any of the lumps. There is no reason to put her through another surgery at this point. Dr. Bill just did a needle biopsy of some of the larger lumps, took some X-rays, and then came back in the room with some choice expletives. Gotta love him.

Tara didn't care. She got to see her friends at the office, and then she got burgers and fries on the way home. The burgers she saved to share with her brother and sister at home, but the fries? Nope. She ate them right down.

Watch those fingers, mommy!


Emma and Cooper were not pleased that Tara got to go for a ride without them, but all was forgiven when she came back smelling like the Vee-Eee-Tee. The burgers she brought home helped, too.

What's next? In addition to the holistic vet appointment on Thursday afternoon, we have a 9am appointment with an oncologist in Malvern, PA. Unfortunately, we already know where that facility is. We took sweet Mellie there in 2007.

Oncology and Holistic in the same day? Sounds like we don't know what we are doing and are trying to cover all bases, doesn't it?

That's just about right.

Monday, April 30, 2012

More Burgers in Tara's Future...

Contrary to my last two posts, I have found that I am not at all brave. A brave person doesn't want to crawl right back into bed every morning so she doesn't have to face the day. A brave person isn't on the verge of tears every second of the day. A brave person wouldn't feel as though her whole world was caving in when she finds a new lump on her dog.

The additional testing came back on Tara's tumor, and it is not good. It has spread to the lymphatic system, but I didn't need the report to know that. There are new lumps appearing every day. Every freakin' day. Her head, neck, legs, back, sides...everywhere. You know that feeling of being punched in the gut and having all of the wind knocked out of you? That's what it's like with each new lump.

Last Tuesday when Tara had her stitches removed (from her surgery on April 10) we showed the vet the half dozen lumps that had appeared at that time. Tomorrow he will be taking one (or more) of them off to be biopsied, just to confirm what we already know to be true. It has spread. Like wildfire.

Thursday we will be taking her to a holistic veterinarian. At this point I kind of feel like it's closing the barn door after the horse has run off, but it can't hurt. Plus, Tara really loves to go for rides in the car, and she knows she gets a burger after every appointment! Here she is after getting her stitches out last week.


Nom, nom, nom!

The only good thing about this whole situation is that Tara feels perfectly fine. She is acting normal, eating and "eliminating" normally, playing with her toys, running around the yard, and generally being the sweetest dog in the whole wide world. Don't get me wrong, this whole thing sucks, but at least she has no idea it sucks.

It's my goal to keep it that way...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In Which I Become Brave, Part 2

When last we heard from our (allegedly) brave blogger, she was about to embark on an epic journey across the country. Well, maybe not "epic", and not exactly "across the country". Still, it was from New Jersey, through the whole state of Pennsylvania (which is a pretty wide state, by the way), and well into Ohio. Yes, I do know how pathetic that sounds, but I've never been that far west! Yes, I know how pathetic that sounds, too.

Moving right along... The plan to leave on Monday was scrapped, and new plans were made to leave at 9:00 on Tuesday morning. That would still give us a full day on Wednesday for me to help my friend unpack, return the rental car, and be on the train at 12:25am on Thursday. WP_000601

I packed my things late Monday night, and had everything ready to go. Dad would pick me up and take me to my friend's house in Cherry Hill (about an hour away) and we would get the cats in their carriers and be on our way.

But alas, that was not to be. My friend calls at 1:00am to say she is not feeling well and can't possibly leave on Tuesday. OK. Plans were made to leave Wednesday morning. I would be at her house by 7:00am, we would gather all the cats and be on the road at 9:00am. Sharp. 

Wednesday morning, dad picks me up at 6:00, we make good time and get to Cherry Hill a little before 7:00. There are no signs of movement in or around my friend's house. I knock on the door and she comes to the door. At this point, I am seeing this whole thing through dad's eyes. There are boxes and packing material all over the house, empty cat carriers in the hallway, and my friend comes to the door in her bathrobe. I look at dad, he looks at me, and I tell him everything will be fine, it's under control. He doesn't believe me for a second. He gives me a hug, promises to pick me up at the train station the next day, and against his better judgement, he leaves.

Our plan was to be on the road by 9:00, so I enter the house with thoughts catching cats and loading them in carriers. I find out that first we have to finish packing. FINISH PACKING!!!! OK, calm down. How long can that take? I find out that her plan was to be on the road at 10:00. OK, that's just an hour later. We should still get to her house in Ohio by 7:00pm, allowing for a couple of stops for gas, etc. 10:00 comes and goes. 11:00 comes and goes. She is packing, and I am moving boxes into two pods that are still in her driveway. The pods are scheduled to be picked up at noon. We surely have to be on the road by then. Surely not. The pod men come and go, and we are still packing and loading the two cars. 

At this point, I ask, delicately, if we shouldn't be catching cats and getting on the road. You have to understand that my friend has such a good heart, and is truly a wonderful person, but I am beginning to see that what I thought was a mild case of separation anxiety (along with her normal crazy) is out of control. I tell her that no matter what, we have to be on the road by 1:00. That would get us there by 8:30 if we don't stop for gas or have to pee. (Not exactly realistic, but I am trying to make the best of a bad situation.) That would give me 3 hours in Ohio to help her unpack the essentials and get the cats acclimated to their surroundings before having to leave to get to the train station.

Are we on the road by 1:00? No. We have a terrible time catching the cats, in which much blood was shed. Human blood, not kitty blood, although I have to admit I was tempted... We finally had 8 cats in crates, at least I think it was 8, and then two get free. Turns out we had the cages upside down and they got out through the big holes that are supposed to be at the bottom of the crate under a tray. I sat on the front porch and could feel the tears starting. My friend says, "Maybe today isn't a good day to go, after all." I point out that for me it was the last day I could possibly go. I have to get the 12:25am train on Thursday to be back in Philly the next afternoon. I work on Friday, and have got to be back. I also can't afford to reschedule the trip for another week and take more time off work. For me, it was Ohio or bust. I said I would drive the rental SUV which was packed to the ceiling, literally, and whatever cats she wanted me to take. I would drop them off at her sister's house in Ohio, and her sister could take me to the train station.
WP_000603So that's when I became brave. At 2:45 on Wednesday afternoon, I pulled away from her house, and headed to Ohio. By myself. Not counting the wailing cats in the back seat, of course. To let you know the enormity of this undertaking, I do not drive over the Walt Whitman Bridge, and I certainly do not drive on the Schuylkill Expressway. Have never done it, and never will. Heck, there's a reason why people call it the Sure-Kill Expressway. However, to get to the PA Turnpike, I drove over the Walt Whitman Bridge and the Schuylkill Expressway. (How brave am I?)

I was doing fine, concentrating on  listening to the GPS, getting through the traffic, and not missing an exit, but when I finally got on the Turnpike and the mechanical GPS voice said "Continue on Route 76 (the PA Turnpike) for 298 miles" I broke down. After the PA Turnpike, I still had to drive on the Ohio Turnpike for well over 100 miles. I thought there was no way I could possibly do this alone. Again, not counting the angry, wailing cats in the back seat.

Turns out, I could do it alone. Although, I was on the phone with my sister or parents every hour (hand's free, of course) so I wasn't really alone. Then my friend's sister, Judy, called, and assured me that she would get me to the train station in time. So even though I was alone in the car (except for some really, really pissed cats) I had a whole support network making sure everything was OK. Some might say my family is over protective, to be so concerned about a 49 year old daughter driving to Ohio. I prefer to say my family loves me.

Anyway, I only made two very quick stops for gas (where I also pumped gas for the first time, by the way! Yay, me!), and made it to Ohio, without mishap, at 10:30pm. We will overlook the fact that I arrived at the wrong house and knocked on a complete stranger's door at 10:30 at night. People in Ohio are really, really friendly, by the way, even very late at night. After finding the right house, I finally met Judy, her husband and her best friend. They all welcomed me like a long lost friend.

I followed them to my friend's new house, where we set up litter boxes, cat food and bowls of water, and I unpacked cat beds. They we let the cats out of their kitty prisons, and we left for the train station. Judy and her friend Peggy insisted on accompanying me to the train station and waiting until I was safely on board. I kept telling them they could leave me, but they insisted. I'm glad, too, because the train station was in a dodgy section of a small town in the middle of the night. Also the train station was unmanned, and the building was really, really nasty. We all agreed that is was a perfect spot for a murder.

Eventually three more people arrived to board the train, but they wouldn't have been any help in an attempted murder. It was one older woman wearing sandals, and a couple who had to be at least 100 years old. And the man was blind. No help at all. Plus the train was over an hour late. Could things have gotten any worse? Yes, we could have been murdered, but we weren't, and we made it safely onto the train.

WP_000605The train trip home was uneventful, and I made it to Pittsburgh in plenty of time to catch the connecting train to Philly. I was exhausted, but had so much caffeine the day before that there was no way I could fall asleep.

In honor of my new-found bravery, I had a Greek Salad on the train. It was delicious! I even ate the stuff that I usually discard. Instead of eating just the lettuce and the tomatoes and tossing the rest of the add-ons, I ate the black olives and feta cheese. First time ever. You might point out that there are also onions and mini pepper like things in the salad, also, but no, I didn't eat them. Eat onions? Unidentified peppers? That's just crazy talk!

The train eventually made it's way into 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. I have always told dad that, while it's good to see him at any time, I was never so happy to see him as when he came back from the pharmacy after picking up my prescription for pain killers after my back surgery. I was so happy and relieved to see the prescription er, him. He now topped that day. Both mom and dad were at the train station to pick me up. This is the only picture I got...


...but I think it's my new favorite picture of them.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

In Which I Become Brave...

Well, it's been less than a month (barely) since my last post, so I guess I'm getting better at blogging??? Probably not. I've just been so busy, and quickie updates on Facebook are much easier. Haven't found me on Facebook? Here I am. I am making up for the absence of posts with this very, very long one, so settle in...
Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know the worst. Ten days ago I found a lump on my sweet little Tara. 

It wasn't the normal fatty tumor that lots of female dogs get. It was large (about the size of a half dollar), round, hard and flat. I immediately thought the worst, of course. I called the vet right away and they said to bring her right in. As soon as WonderVet saw it, he said it had to come off and to bring her in the next day. (Love my WonderVet!)

 WP_000602Tara is such a little trooper. She did great with the surgery and the stitches (and she has a LOT of stitches). Any time she would try to mess with the stitches you just had to look at her and say "Tarrrraaaa, Tattie, Tattie, Tattie" and she would stop.
She is such a sweetie pie... I have been trying (mostly unsuccessfully) not to freak out...too much.

We got the preliminary lab results that it is a malignant sarcoma, and that the surgical margins are clear. We are still waiting for a more detailed report. Tattie gets the stitches out on Tuesday, and the WonderVet will show me where all of her lymph nodes are so I can check them every day. Apparently that's the next probable place for a lump to appear.

 I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I hate the month of April. I totally blame April for every bad thing in the world. Not really, but I have so much anger over this. So very much...

So what about the title of this post... "In Which I Become Brave"? What's that about? Certainly not anything to do with Tara. I am the opposite of brave where the dogs are concerned. Not at all.

A very good friend who has a large heart, and an even larger dose of craziness (the way all good friends should be) has gone through a very nasty divorce over the last two years, and decided to move from New Jersey to Ohio. Her main concern about the move was her cats. She has 6 indoor cats, and 5 outdoor cats. The indoor and outdoor cats do not get along, or else they would all be indoor cats, so I offered to help drive the cats to Ohio. The plan was for her to drive the indoor cats and I would drive the outdoor cats. The moving date? April 15. April 15, 2011.

That date came and went, obviously, so then the moving date was was July, then November, then February, and then April again. (Yes, freaking April!) Plans were made to leave on April 4th, and I would return by train on April 6th in time to go to work on the 7th. I arranged for vacation time from work, we rented an SUV, and I bought my train ticket home.

 April 2nd comes, and she says she will never be ready, can we delay a week? I couldn't go the next week, so we decided on Monday, April 16th. We would leave early in the morning, arrive at her new home outside of Cleveland in the afternoon, have a couple of days to unpack and get things settled, and I would catch a train home on the 19th. The only passenger train that comes through northern Ohio heading east arrives at 12:25am. Middle of the night. Ugh, but no problem. We can deal with that.

She called me on Friday the 13th (that should have been a red flag) and said the movers would not be finished packing, and could we leave on Tuesday? Sure. No problem. At that point I was just as happy to be home with Tara, as it was six days after her surgery. I drove to her house anyway on Monday to help with getting the rental car, and any last minute packing that needed to be done.

Last minute packing? It looked like a tornado hit the house with "stuff" still everywhere. (This should have been another red flag.) Not to worry, she says, she is leaving lots of stuff in the house. OK. No problem. We pack until late that night, and make plans to leave at 9:00am on Tuesday.

 What happens next? Do we catch all of the cats? Do we go to Ohio? Stay tuned for the next installment in a day or so. For now, I am headed to Fortescue. No phone, no internet, but plenty of gnats! Heaven!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

So much for more frequent updates...

Once again it has been way too long. Why? Working, working, and more working. Things will be getting better on that front, though. I gave my notice to Glitter World. I had a really, really bad day at the register a few Sundays ago. I had a rude, horrible, nasty, bully of a customer, and I realized that it's just not worth it. If I hadn't been exhausted from working seven days a week for the past 18 months, the customer probably wouldn't have gotten to me the way she did. The next day I turned in my notice. They asked if I would continue teaching knit & crochet, and I said yes, but that's only once a week, and at least I won't be working the register any more. Sure, it will take me longer to get rid of my debt, but it will get done, eventually.

On a brighter note, I have found some really great ideas on Pinterest. Knitting hints, recipes, and fabulous home ideas. Take a look at these cool light fixtures made from teacups...

Lights teacups
...and fruit jars!

lights mason jar
Wouldn't these fruit jar lights look great over a kitchen sink? Maybe a set of three of them? How does one go about making these lights, though. I know...ask dad! Dad is always up for a project. Sure, he might think it's a stupid idea, and he might question why would anyone would want fruit jars hanging over their sink when the could have a perfectly good fluorescent fixture, or better yet, recessed lighting so you don't see any light source at all. Why draw attention to the fixture, especially when the light it provides is less than adequate for a kitchen? It is worth noting here that dad's idea of "adequate" kitchen lighting is something akin to surgical suite lighting. After all, if you should have to perform an appendectomy, where better than over the kitchen sink?

Anyway, I casually mentioned this idea over dinner last Thanksgiving, and dad made the first prototype that weekend. Notice the use of a pumpkin pie filling can as the light fixture:

Lights dad

After multiple trips to Lowes and an electric supply store on dad's part, and a day trip to find fruit jars on my part, we were ready for the fun to begin. At least, it's the fun part for dad. Ripping and slashing is always the best part of any job, according to him. The cabinet trim came down in one piece (thank goodness) and then it was time for the demolition!

Where there was once just a small hole that fed electrical wires to an ugly fluorescent fixture, now there is a huge, gaping hole. Notice all of the junk on the counter. Insulation, sheet rock, pieces of a was all in dad's way, so now it's all gone!
At least we spread a tarp down first for easy cleanup. Next step, install the board dad made to fit over the sink. He had already pre-wired the new fixtures, of course.

Add the trim again, and some fruit jars, and voila! A concept becomes a reality!

I'll never be able to perform an appendectomy over the sink, but I absolutely LOVE my kitchen lighting! Thanks dad! You're the best!