A year passes.

Trauma comes in any form.

Today marks one year since my best friend passed away from cancer. It has been a busy year of learning new things as her personal representative to provide for her family as she wished, but I miss my friend. I miss my personal advisor, life coach and road trip adventure buddy.

The phone call from Jean in July 2007 saying she had masses in her liver lead us to postulate what it could be. She had lived many years in Arizona, so we thought it could perhaps be Valley Fever lesions. But let’s get real. Jean was a cancer researcher before veterinary school, and both of us saw enough cancer in practice to stop fooling ourselves. We knew perfectly well that diagnosing cancer from liver metastases is grim.

When the biopsies came back as malignant, the doctors had to go looking for the primary tumor. They found it in Jean’s esophagus and stomach. Another bad blow.

Jean told me she had a 60% chance of making it, but again, we knew better. There is nothing like hope for getting through a tough time. Jean had hope. She endured chemotherapy, special diets, alternative modalities, and kept a positive outlook. I wasn’t about to dash her hopes.

For a while, she did pretty well. Then, in December of last year, Jean called me to say she was in the hospital to have fluid (ascites) removed from her abdomen. In a private conversation with her doctor in my role as medical power of attorney, after reviewing her lab work with me, this kind man told me he doubted Jean would live a month. Thus began my longest journey with my friend. I would go back and forth to Denver to be with her and her family, including her 88 year-old father, a true man of Catholic faith who knew Jean would go to a wonderful place after she passed.

The hospital released her for home hospice care on December 21. There is a psychic connection I sometimes get that is very strange. On that day, I was so upset that I was literally screaming and crying. All day. It was very bizarre behavior for me. I’m glad I was alone and at home. I understood why it happened the next day. Jean’s brother, Mike, recently returned from a year of civilian work in Iraq, called to tell me that Jean was being returned to the hospital. She had a rough night in terrible pain, and they were calling an ambulance.

I rushed down to Denver, and met them in the ER. Jean was given a room, then taken down for an ultrasound-guided removal of fluid. I looked at the screen. There was no fluid. Jean’s abdomen was full of cancer. I spent the night of the 22nd at her home, and went back to the hospital the next day. Jean decided to distribute her jewelry to friends and relatives. Her brother went to her house to get it. The hour was pretty late, but Mike said that if Jean was up to it, we needed to get it done if that was what she wanted. Mike went home and found the jewelry. His son, Ryan, packaged it, and I recorded every piece for the Estate. Years ago, I had admired an antique blue topaz ring of hers. She promised it to me. This piece was the first one she distributed, right onto my finger. I never thought in a million years that I would have that ring so soon under such circumstances.  Jean signed the record, and leaned back in exhaustion. Although it was one a.m, I had to go home through the snow to get to a medical appointment later that morning. I returned to Jean early in the afternoon.

I spent the next three days with Jean, going to her home to sleep on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. On the 26th, I had to go home. I had an appointment I couldn’t miss on the 27th, and Earl had one at 7 o’clock Friday morning. Jean’s doctor discharged her to a hospice facility. I spent that last afternoon with my friend getting her transferred to hospice. I disagreed with the doctor, as it was clear she had little time. The social worker the facility sent with papers for me to sign, as medical power of attorney, was ill equipped to answer questions. Jean’s sister-in-law found the answers.

I reluctantly said good-bye to Jean. I knew I would never see her again in this life. It was a personal and powerful good-bye. I asked her to ride our mare, Marcie, who had lived until age 30, meet my mother, and say hello to my sister who had been killed by a drunk driver.  Jean promised she would. 

I phoned Jean three times on Thursday. Every call found her fading further away, yet her voice still reflected hope and faith.

Early the next morning, as Earl and I were leaving for his medical appointment, Mike to say that my dearest friend had slipped away a few minutes earlier.

Peace comes in any form.


Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) was one organization Jean wanted donations sent specifically to be targeted toward health studies using alternative treatments. MAF had never done this before. Because of the donations from her family, friends and colleagues; and with other sponsors, the first alternative medicine health study ever funded by MAF is now beginning. Click on here to see the ground-breaking study to be researched in Jean’s memory. 

Today in “Ask Frank”

In Ask Frank, Franklin discusses…..I really don’t know what Franklin is talking about.

At Cousin Jeanne’s dinner last night, she reminded me that I was supposed to bring Matthew to her about two years ago, so he could be her cat. Oops.

Matt was having relationship problems, one might say. There was an outdoor stray cat who kept coming right up to the diningroom window. Cats don’t like this, and their territorial sides come out. Matthew chose his way of marking his territory-using the dining room carpet and wall to spray urine. Yish. Since the carpet was nearly 30 years old, we replaced it, pad and all. Yet, the stray was still around, so Matthew christened the new carpet.

We bought a trap, but all we caught was a young raccoon who, after violent protest, was let go. It turns out that the declawed cat had been dumped by college students, and was on her own. Students do dothis; they are so proud of their pets, but when it comes time to leave, the pet is an inconvenience. Instead of placing an ad in the paper, they let animals go. “Well, it’s a cat, they can live perfectly well on their own.” Wrong. Traffic, coyotes, foxes, etc. all pose a risk for cats. Being declawed is a special risk.

My neighbor was feeding this cat, and said it was living in her horse trailer. I told her of our problem, and my trying to catch it. She promised to take it to her ranch over the border in Wyoming. She did, and the problem was solved.

Matthew stopped marking our home, the new carpet was a success, and I never did take him to Jeanne. She never lets me live it down. Matthew is a wonderful cat. If you are familiar with the Chinese five element theory, Matt is a wood cat-my way or the highway. Many veterinarians are afraid of him, but he doesn’t bite. He’s just really, really loud.

As we speak, I’m charging up my iPod for the ride home tomorrow. Can’t find any 98-cent movies to download, plus I don’t want to use three hours of time on Cousin Deb’s computer.

Merry Christmas!

Yuletide cheer from frozen Chicagoland. Gail and I got out of the driveway yesterday and had a wonderful Italian dinner last night with her mom, who is my first cousin, cousin Barbara and her husband, Rod. Yummy dinner.

Before dinner, Gail and I went to the Fannie May store. No, not the mortgage place, the chocolate store. Fannie May is my absolute addiction in life. No one makes better candy. Credit card is now limp from my treasured purchases.

At least while here, I have my cousin-dog, Gracie to pet. Gracie is a senior dog as Tipper is. Mostly Rottweiler plus something else. Gracie misses her family, my cousin Michael and his crew, who went to England for the holidays. Gracie’s Auntie Gail spoils her rotten, and I think Gracie enjoys being pampered.

I miss my crew, and Earl, who is eating at a friend’s house. This is so much better than last year, when I was staying at my friend Jean’s house, going back and forth to Porter Adventist Hospital, where Jean was dying of cancer. I left for home on the 26th, because I had to have a crown put in, and Earl had a doctor’s appointment. Jean passed away early in the morning of the 28th.

I miss my buddy. It sounds trite, but after what she went through, I know she is in a better place. More later.

Blessings to you and yours.

Today in “Ask Frank”

In Ask Frank, it’s nice to know that the boys miss their cat mother. Franklin discusses how cats do not appreciate change.

I’ll second that motion with a story of my cat, Pruney. Pruney was my cat for seventeen years. She went with me from high school through veterinary school. When Earl proposed marriage, I asked him if he would adopt Pruney. The rest is history. I have many stories about Pruney, but to add to Franklin’s post, here is one.

Jean and Phil went to England after vet school graduation. Dr. Jean Arnold is my dear friend who died almost a year ago. Anyway, they left their calico cat, Lucy, at our house.

I knew perfectly well that cats that do not know each other should be separated. Lucy stayed in a suite that was composed of the master bedroom, bath, and a guest room. Lucy was isolated from Pruney, so there were no problems.

After about two weeks, I thought it would be all right for Lucy to join the household. I let her out of her suite of rooms. No problems. One evening, Earl and I were in the family room watching TV. Pruney came into the room, and in the geographic center of the room, squatted and urinated all over the carpet. Message received. Lucy went back to her suite, and Pruney never did that again.

Cats indeed do not like change.

A nice place to visit but……

Happy holidays from Chicagoland!

I woke up to a mini-blizzard today, just enough to remind me why I don’t live here any more. I left for college at 17 and basically never returned.

Earl is fortunate to have stayed home to tend the animals and prepare for his presentation. For many years as a race track veterinarian, Earl studied race track surfacecomposition and their relationships to injuries of greyhounds and horses. He worked for the State of Colorado as the animal welfare veterinarinan. His job was to see that the racing animals were properly cared for. Occasionally, there were animal rights groups that picketed the tracks, but having Earl as their target was dead wrong. He was the guy that maintained a standard of care for the animals. If there has to be racing, a vet like Earl is needed to ensure proper treatment of animals.

One time, he told me he was going on a raid. There was a group of people holding illegal horse racing on a ranch. I went ballistic! Investigators with guns going onto private property? Busting up illegal gambling? No way. He assured me that he would stay in the car, and when everyone was captured or disbursed, he would check the animals. He had quite a story to tell when he got home.

Earl retired from the State of Colorado over a year ago, but is still working on his study. At least we get a trip to Florida for the presentation.

Da Bears beat the Packers in overtime here in Chi-town last night. I guess being from the area has its benefits. I guess if the Cubs can’t win, at least Da Bears can! There was a piece in the Tribune of drafting “Da Coach,”  Mike Ditka, to be the next governor. Works for me. I’m back in the land of twisted politics, and how I enjoy reading about it in a real newspaper.

Got the blues? Walk a dog.

The cold continues here in the West. The sun came out, so I harnessed up the Wonder Husky and we hit the road. Sunshine here tends to negate low temperatures.

Walking a dog is a super way to enjoy the sunshine even when bundled up like an Eskimo. Tipper and I toured the neighborhood delightfully deserted due to the exodus of college students for semester break. No worries right now about the dog pack up the street.

After Tipper went back in her dog pen, I spent some time with Hannah and Scooter in the corral. I brushed the Baby, who loved a good rub in her tickle spot. She kisses me by touching my hand with her tongue.

Scoot got his long, velvet coat cleaned as well. His skin biopsy spots are healing, and his hair is growing in. No news about the cause of the patches yet, but it seems to be a self-limiting condition as no new lesions have formed.

There is nothing like being out in the sunlight doing something you enjoy to ward off the blues. It was great playing with the horses.

I’m downloading a 99-cent movie rental to put on my iPod right now. It’s pretty cool to watch a movie that way, but it takes three hours to download. I’m off to Chicago tomorrow to hang out with my cousin, Gail. My golf buddy, Diane, called me and said she and her husband drove through a blizzard to get to her mom’s house in the ‘burbs. Oh well, I guess I will be reminded why I no longer live there.

Be sure to get out into the sun whenever you can this winter. It’s a great way to elevate your mood.

 

The great escape.

Tomorrow marks the official beginning of winter. Of late, the weather has made people around here wonder about the existence of global warming.

For the last three winters, there have been lots of cold and snow. Two years ago at this time, there were back-to-back blizzards. When the second one hit, I went out to get Tipper, who yipped to come inside. I thought there was so much snow that the dog would come in without being walked on a leash. She made it the twenty-five feet to the back door when off she went, my senior dog fleeing at top speed into the night.

The driveways were buried in snow. The only usable vehicle was our truck. I was more than a little scared of spinning out or getting stuck, as I was only a year and a half out of my total hip replacement. I didn’t want to have to hike for help. Nevertheless, I got in the truck to drive around the neighborhood in almost whiteout conditions.

I returned home with no dog and a massive anxiety attack. With all the growling I do about dogs off leash, my own dog was a runaway. I wasn’t worried about my dog doing any damage. I worried about someone finding a beautiful Husky in all her winter glory and keeping her. I never have understood why people steal dogs. I would go nuts if that happened, which is why our dog pen and corral are locked. I also wasn’t worried about Tipper being hit by a car. I was the only idiot on the road.

Admitting defeat at finding our pup, I called animal control to inform them about the situation. Tipper has tags and an ID chip. I was told that there wasn’t much chance of her getting busted in this weather, and because I called, she would be returned to me if found.

While still on the phone, out of the corner of my eye I saw a streak of silver zooming by the kitchen window. There was the Wonder Husky returning home. She had gone around several blocks, a wide circle of  streets, returning home with a big grin on her face. 

The next two days showed that a ten-year-old dog shouldn’t escape to run full speed at-large. Tipper spent those days sacked out on her plush dog bed inside her crate. I had to hold a mirror under her nose to see if she was alive. Her blizzard road trip was finished. I laughed at the way Tipper looked at me when she returned, breathing hard, her face covered with snow, and her crystal-blue eyes bright as if to say, “Boy, that sure was fun!” 

Our feathered friends.

As you go about your winter tasks in the yard, please remember to feed the birds. It has been strangely quiet around El Rancho Pig Sty-o. Time to bring the birds back.

We have several types of feeders. The tube feeders for wild bird mix and sunflower seeds are popular with the songbirds. Hanging platform feeders so the birds can get in there and snack seem to be a hit for our feathered friends. The downy woodpeckers and marauding squirrels like suet feeders.

I dropped some bucks on new feeders when I had some gardens re-landscaped. The result was beautiful. However nothing, not even a squirrel baffle, can waylay the plans of these little thieves. They even jump off the roof to land on the feeders. They can go through one suet cake in a day. Want to know a secret? I love to watch the squirrels and their gymnastics. Back in Highland Park, where I was born and raised, there was a neighborhood squirrel my sister trained to eat out of her hand. Radcliffe was with us for many years of delight.

Feeding birds in the winter can help drive off the blues of those cold, dark winter days. Our cats are in feline heaven, chirping at the birds through the window. How nice it is to take a time out from a busy day to sit on the floor in the dining room with Matthew on my lap, noting what species came for a snack. Wish we had Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, my favorite bird. They live east of here, but I have seen one here exactly twice. Once in my yard, once up in the mountains. That was in 1980. We can but hope.

Much has been said of diseases birds can get from feeders. Start with clean feeders, disinfected then rinsed well, and there should be no problem.

Oh, about winter tasks-forgot to put straw in the rose gardens. Oops! I hope it’s not too late after a few below zero days.