Ivy, Want a Stick?

One way to get Ivy to leave me and a guest alone is to say those words. Ivy’s favorite chew toys are Bully Sticks. I would never do rawhide again, as one of my huskies, Keli, nearly choked to death.

Bully sticks practically dissolve when chewed, they taste good to the dog, and they keep them busy when I am trying to unsolved the mysteries of “The Cloud”

Remembering Dr. Herbert Zipper

As an elementary school student, our school had an orchestra come to the gym to play for us. Its conductor and director was Dr. Herbert Zipper. While I did not care for classical music when I was little, there was a certain magic to sitting on a gym floor and listening to fine music.

Little did I know that Dr. Zipper was a Holocaust survivor, imprisoned at Dachau, was bought out by his father, then went to the Philippines to start an orchestra there. When the Japanese invaded, he was again imprisoned.

After the war, he came to America to do what he loved best: teach others to love music. One of the places he came to live was Chicago. He started the North Shore summer music program, and gave those school concerts among all the other things in his life.

I had no idea that his story was turned into a book, then an Academy Award nominated documentary. I got the documentary yesterday, and sat spellbound watching this great man’s life unfold where previously I just thought of him as the man who led the school gym concerts.

The title is appropriate, as Dr. Zipper was born in 1904, and lived into his 90’s. He was still working at the age of 92. The title of the DVD is a little different than the title of the book. I highly recommend watching it.

Never Give Up: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper.

Thank you, Dr. Zipper, for being a survivor with a tattoo who led generations of people on a path to music appreciation.

Drinking Out of the Trough is the Title of My First Book!

Yes, campers, I have finally taken the plunge and written a book. It’s undergoing editing by the wonderful Judy Fort Brenneman of Greenfire Creative, LLC.

After eight years, I have a new puppy, a delightful Goldendoodle named Ivy. She is six months old. Her breeder, Cathie Crosby of Placer Goldendoodles picked her out for me as a good match. Ivy is a delightful little soul.

I gave the pup Ivy for a name because my beloved Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016. Ivy covers the outfield walls at Wrigley Field. I got Ivy 6 days after the series, and today we celebrate four months together. She’s been through two puppy classes, and will take the Canine Good Citizen class to become a therapy dog when she turns one year old.

More later.

One year

Saturday marked one year since Earl passed away. The past year was one of the worst, if not the worst, year in my life. It didn’t have to be so bad, but there were some ugly dynamics with his family. Everyone handles grief in his or her own way. For me, I was OK until August. I gave his mom Earl’s beloved 2000 BMW Z3 roadster. She had purchased it for him in ’04, I think because I had bought myself a new Mercedes. Who buys an adult child a new car? He did love it. We thought she had bought it for herself, as she came home in it. But she titled it in Earl’s name only.

When Earl died, the car became mine. That was pretty much it. There was no estate filed for probate. He counted on inheriting from his mother, who is a real estate tycoon. We rented the house from his parents. She wanted the car. I think she thought since she purchased it, it was hers, but she put it in his name only. Had she put in in joint tenancy, it would have been hers. I, being nice to a mother who lost a son, gave it to her. Gifts should be given with no strings attached. That’s when things turned south, and much hate came my way. To this day, no one in his family except his mom has called or written. Not even last Saturday. Even his mom stopped calling, which I appreciate because I feel that a family I loved has become toxic for me, and I don’t need that while picking up the pieces of my life.

I planned a nice adventure for myself for last weekend. I needed a few more CE credits for my vet license, so I headed down to San Antonio. I stopped in some little towns to look for antiques. I think Franklin discussed this. I took Earl along with me in spirit. I know he would have loved the Alamo. He was fascinated with all things military and Western.

True story: Earl went to register for the draft when he was eighteen in 1970. The woman in Laramie asked him if there was any reason he could not serve. He told her he was going down to Denver for a kidney transplant the next day. The woman rolled her eyes as if to say, “Yeah, right.” Earl always said the military wouldn’t take him if he bought his own bullets.

Back in 2007, when everyone was getting married on 7/7/07, we were invited to his classmate’s daughter’s wedding in Riverton, Wyoming. I was looking forward to going. Earl had just had back surgery on the 2nd, and didn’t feel he could withstand the long drive. We canceled. I think that was the beginning of the end. He ended up having another, more extensive surgery on the same area of his spine, but recovered quickly. From the operation, that is.

He did manage to ride again, and we rode all summer in 2008. Earl did all the chores he loved to do around   El Rancho Pig Sty-o. Both horses had been gravely ill during the winter, but recovered quickly to be ridden that summer not only on the flat at the state park, but also up in the mountains. We had really never done much mountain riding with them. We had Hannah only two years, at age four, when I fractured my hip. I had to get my leg in top shape, and Hannah had to mature to climb mountains.

I look back on that summer and realized it was Earl’s last summer. The horses were healthy, the Wonder Husky didn’t have cancer yet, and the cats made us laugh on a daily basis. I firmly believe that the day you die is pre-determined by G-d. Now that my physical meltdown is gone, the one year anniversary is past, and his family is out of my life, I’m feeling pretty good. The Grief Monster will visit from time to time, but I know this is normal. I love my new home as the cats do. The town is nice, and I am ready for school. The horses are well, even though they are not with me, and I miss them. Fort Fun is home, and time will tell where I end up. I will try to savor each day. I hope you will too.

Doc

The streets of Heaven got a brand new angel on Saturday. My pediatrician and Highland Park neighbor, Dr. Mark F. “Doc” Canmann passed away at nearly 100.

Doc and his wife, Margie were so special to all the neighborhood kids. Their yard was the one where all the kids gathered every evening to play. Margie served lemonade, Doc put together toys, and both played with all of us.

It was Doc who came by in his convertible Bonneville to gather us up to go to the Good Humor man for ice cream on a hot summer night.

When I came home for the first time from college, I had been exposed to chicken pox. They emerged the day after Christmas. Although my father was a physician, Mom asked Doc to stop by on his way home. I will never forget that this was the sickest I had ever been. I remember Doc walking in, washing his hands in the powder room, then turning to me, lying on the couch in the my most pathetic pose and saying to me laughingly, “Chicken pox!” The way he said it is imprinted in my mine.

Doc was extra special to my sisters and me, as our father did not live at home. Doc paid extra attention to us. We had a father figure and role model only two doors down.

I last saw Doc in October of 2004. My hip was fractured, and I was about to go back to work. My cousin, Barbara, was getting married, so I took a trip of freedom. Earl did not go with me, as it was the weekend of the CSU-Wyoming football game.

I spent a day roaming around the North Shore visiting the former neighbors. I stopped in on my friend Linda’s parents. They lived next door to me while we were growing up. Stan and Janet told me Doc and Margie lived just around the corner. I called, and Margie said to come on over.

Doc looked great for being in his 90s, but he was deaf, and didn’t participate in the conversation much. It was so good to see my beloved friend.

Doc married Margie late in his life. She was 20 years younger than he. She was the pretty young mother on the block. They had two great kids, Mac and Lisa, for whom I babysat. Tragically, Mac was on a business trip to Rio de Janeiro, and tried to help a woman being mugged on the beach. He was shot in the head and died instantly. Since this was only a year after my sister was killed in a car accident, it hit home too hard. Natalie was 27, Mac was 26.

I don’t know what plans there are to honor Doc’s life yet, but I don’t think there is any house of worship large enough to fit in all of “Doc’s Kids.”

Peace on the trail

After the scary weather this spring and summer, I bought one of those emergency weather radios today at the grocery store. I’ve heard them work. Very cool. I wish I had it Wednesday morning at 1 am when a storm woke everyone up in Larimer County.

We have had perfect Colorado summer weather the last three days. Yesterday, Hannah and I rode the perimeter of Lory State Park. What a good Baby. She is so fun to ride, and it’s nice to hear compliments on her beauty. Friday, I rode Scoot up the Timber Trail at Lory, a technical trail for experienced riders and bikers only. Last summer, Scoot became a monster of a mountain horse after rehabbing his horrendous surgery the previous winter. This was his first time going it alone without Hannah. I was concerned that he would wig out, but he didn’t.

Both horses have climbed Timber alone with me this summer. They have done well. No problems like, “Gee, I think I’ll spook at this rattlesnake and send Mary tumbling down the mountain!” I enjoyed the views of Fort Collins below. The vista expands all the way up into Wyoming. I love being up high and looking down and out across the short grass prairie. Deer and golden eagles were abundant.

I had a hunch all along on these perfect rides the last few weeks that Earl was riding along with us on Marcie, our Angel Horse. Friday, as Scoot and I rode the trail, I actually had a one-sided conversation out loud with Earl. Alone with Scoot on that mountain, I started to cry. I guess it had to come out. I haven’t been trying to hold emotions in, that’s unhealthy. But on that beautiful, peaceful perfect day, I knew the love of my life and the horse of my life were with me and Scoot on that gorgeous trail. Usually I converse in thought with the Almighty about what his plan is for me, and how I can be of service to Him and his children, human and animal.

On this Friday, I spoke to Earl and Marcie . There was peace.

So much more than a Golden Girl

Besides being a wonderful actor most remembered for the ‘Golden Girls’, Betty White Ludden is a true lover and advocate of animals.

Last night, I attended the annual Morris Animal Foundation dinner in Denver. These are high class functions, as MAF is well known as the largest non-governmental non-profit organization devoted to animal health care studies. Betty is a Trustee Emeritus, and has been with the organization over 40 years.

Everyone had been informed of Earl’s death via email to the Trustees. I had also been in touch with staff members about the Wonder Husky’s memorial, and about Earl. During his illness and subsequent death, MAF sent Earl and the family cookie bouquets, flowers, and cards. I told the CEO, Dr. Patty Olson, a former professor of mine that I wanted to go, but didn’t want to be stuck in a corner with strangers. She put me at her table. Betty was at the next one over. I brought a friend, Karen, with me. Karen has been so wonderful to me, and worked so hard on the open house we had.

When a speaker mentioned Betty’s new movie, ‘the Proposal’ with Sandra Bullock as being the number one film at the box office, Betty went marching up to the podium to take the mic away. She gave a heartfelt thanks to the Morris Student Scholars; veterinary students in attendance which have health studies in progress sponsored by MAF, and told them very emotionally that they were the future of protecting the animals. Wow.

While I didn’t have to tell anyone about Earl’s death, I reminded Betty how the three of us walked around the Denver Zoo at last year’s 60th anniversary celebration. She remembered that, so I did mention to her that Earl had died exactly two weeks before. She looked at me with true sympathy, as she still mourns the love of her life, Allen Ludden. Then, she tenderly kissed my cheek. I love you, Betty.

A lesson in Newtonian Physics

June 24, 2004 proved to be a typical Colorado summer day. The weather was warm, a little windy and threatening to erupt into a storm at any moment. We were taking a young Hannah to a jumping lesson. That would be my last day of walking normally.

We loaded Scooter and the Baby to go her lessons. At the farm we tacked up the horses and prepared for Hannah to take her lesson with Earl aboard. I rode Scoot with English tack and watched the lesson while practicing some moves and jumps with him. We had our horses take a year of jumping lessons at age four for agility, discipline, and to teach us how to ride our young horses. The Baby was four that summer.

Marcie and Franny did well as jumping students long before Earl and I were married. We hauled them down to Loveland for Friday evening lessons returning in time to watch Dallas. It was a date we had enjoyed very much before we were married. During the “Who Shot JR” drama, “the girls” became fine jumpers. Scooter, our gelding, had been a willing student and is a good jumper himself. He is pretty flashy looking in English tack.

Hannah’s Dream, whose great-great grandsire was Shecky Greene, the 1973 Kentucky Derby horse named for the comedian and who ran against Secretariat, is a brilliant red dun registered paint that has a thoroughbred look to her. She is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s fun to tell people that the Baby is a registered paint because she is not painted. She has no chrome other than a star on her forehead. This is called breeding stock.

That Thursday Earl had a sore on his leg and his boot rubbed uncomfortably against it. I volunteered to ride the lesson on Hannah. We traded mounts. Hannah had yet to pick up her right lead when asked to canter. It was difficult urging her to get on the correct lead. We were working on this when the instructor advised me to sit back in the saddle. The natural inclination incorrectly is to lean forward in the saddle to help the horse along. I did as Sue asked while Hannah changed to a fast trot. I sat back at the same time Hannah brought her hips up in the gait. Our butts crashed together, Hannah swerved unexpectedly to the left and I was launched like a rocket.

A true science nerd, Newton’s laws of motion passed through my brain as I flew through the air. There truly is a Universal Law of Gravitation. Newton’s three Laws of Motion do exist. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force all right. I struggled to hang on, but found myself falling. It’s peculiar that you know you are falling, you know you will hit the ground, and it most definitely takes place in slow motion.

I hit the dirt dead center on my right hip as though a target had been painted on it. Although we always wear helmets, my head never touched the ground. I lay there for a minute a little disoriented and peered up at Hannah, who wondered what the heck I was doing on the ground.

It didn’t hurt at first. I tried to get up, but only made it to my hands and knees when I realized that my right leg wouldn’t move. I told Earl to call 911. Because mountains surrounded the arena, our cell phones wouldn’t work. Sue went into her house to call the paramedics. The fire station was close by so the truck came immediately. By the time the fire truck came, I was sitting up in a farm vehicle. I was calm, thanks to years of yoga breathing techniques, and had only one minor episode of nausea and dizziness.

I barked the firefighter, “Whatever you do, do not cut my boot off!” It had taken me all my life to find a pair of knee boots that fit me. I had used my late sister Natalie’s discarded English boots for 30 years. My beautiful brand new shiny boots were field boots, the kind with shoelaces in them. The firefighter was very patient, and worked with me to get the boot off intact.

I realized I had a fractured bone. I had felt the broken edges grinding when I had tried to put weight on the leg. It felt like wobbling on top of a pond.

I was packaged up to go to the hospital. I chatted with the EMTs in the ambulance.  I observed the position of my injured leg. It was rotated with the foot turned totally to the outside, the classic position of a fractured hip.

The emergency room staff took over my care, put in an IV line, gave me longed for pain medication and then sent me off to radiology. The ER doc never put a hand on me.

Taking the x-rays was the worst part of emergency treatment. The radiology technician was heartless. The room was frigid for a trauma patient, and I was left alone with no safety railing on the table. I worried that I would fall a second time. It was too painful to put my leg into the position the uncaring technician wanted. She had to call others in to hold my leg. I was shaking and crying by that time. I didn’t know that my husband was just outside the door, and they never sent him in between attempts at x-rays.

Returning to the ER from radiology, I heard one of the techs say the word, surgery. I knew I had a fracture and would need surgery, because the ER doctor had also ordered a chest x-ray, a mandatory precursor to surgery. I informed them I was aware of confidentiality rules, but since I couldn’t see their faces, please tell me what was broken. The femoral neck, I was told.

I had to wait all day for the orthopaedic trauma surgeon. I was not critical, and he needed to finish office hours. The injury occurred at eleven o’clock in the morning, and I was taken to surgery at 7 p.m. It was a long, scary wait.

That evening, I underwent surgery to place three screws large enough to hold farm equipment together across the fracture. Physical therapy began the next morning. It was an excruciating. I had to learn to use a walker and crutches for the first time. I had to shower on a special seat.

I reacted badly to the morphine drip. Narcotics are delivered on demand by pushing a button on a special machine attached to the IV apparatus. Then they are delivered directly into the vein. It was an effective pain medication, but it made me itch all over, talk like a crazy woman, and hallucinate. I had no clue that I was hallucinating. I just thought I was in a different room every day for my six-day stay. One day, my room had a kitchenette. The next day, I wondered where the kitchenette had gone. I saw visions of my childhood home on Indian Tree Drive as fronts for new condominium buildings. Animals morphed into other animals. That was pretty cool and in Technicolor®, too! A couple of teacher friends came by to visit and told me that my visions were hallucinations. I had no idea. It took 51 years to experience a hallucination. My friends laughed so hard they nearly fell off their chairs. I was never a druggie in high school or college. I had been an athlete too busy being a pioneer for Title IX to do drugs. I didn’t know what a hallucination was until the 21st century.

My dear Jean came to visit and did some relaxation exercises with me. She applied some acupuncture seeds taped to important meridian points to help me relax. I will never forget Jean stroking the palm of my hand so gently. My nurse that afternoon was fascinated with what Jean was doing. Since the nurse had a little headache, Jean applied seeds to the nurse’s hands.

Things improved when I was removed from the morphine pump and allowed to swallow a different narcotic. I became a rock star at physical therapy.

Upon returning home, I had eight weeks to sit in a chair using first a walker and later crutches to get around. Summer as I knew it was over. My friends and junior high school family were wonderful about bringing meals, sending cards and flowers, visiting and calling. Family members checked in by phone. One friend, a retired flight surgeon who had an artificial knee, came once a week to take the Wonder Husky for a long walk, one less thing for me to worry about.

My mother-in-law, Beverley, widowed eight months to the day before my accident, arrived to spend the summer with us. Bev helped out a lot, although I didn’t need much help other than to carry things and be driven around. Bev struggled with me to put on the vile uncomfortable compression stockings worn to avoid deep vein thrombosis. It was over one hundred degrees many days that summer. We don’t have air conditioning.

Earl drove me to physical therapy twice a week. In my mind-set I was not in rehabilitation. I was training as for sports. It helped my mental outlook by focusing on training for future physical performance rather than rehabbing a past injury. I saw hip fracture as an adventurous journey.

I learned the value of patience and creativity. I accepted help from others. For example, I had to shower sitting down on a transfer table using a hand-held showerhead. At first, Earl had to pick up my leg and put it into the tub. I created a nest of sorts on the table next to my recliner chair where I kept the TV clicker, pens, paper and medications. I took my mealtime vitamins in a paper cup carried between my teeth as my hands were otherwise occupied. Soon Cowboy Joe and Frank, then kittens, were carrying paper cups around the house.

A few days after I got home from the hospital, I stumped clumsily out to the barn using my brand new youth-sized walker-not an easy feat on our flagstone path. Hannah was relaxing in the barn looking out the window. I managed to go up to her, where I burst into tears, and told her it wasn’t her fault. I hugged her head and stroked her soft muzzle while standing on my good leg. She understood.

Eventually I was able to sweep the barn on crutches. What a wonderful psychological boost for poor old bunged up me! I would place one crutch against the gate, and using the push broom and other crutch for support, I could sweep out the stalls without putting any weight on my injured leg. I left the shoveling to Earl.

Hannah skulked around waiting to take the crutch not in use, and chew the top of it or toss it in the air. I delighted in watching her silly antics during a time when there was precious little fun in my life.

During my sick leave from school, we took Hannah to Steve, our horse trainer, for some remedial ground lessons. He determined that at the time of the accident, the Baby had a sore hip herself. She did well in her lessons. I couldn’t wait to be allowed to ride again.

Shortly after getting off crutches, I requested that Steve bring Hannah close to me. He knew what I was thinking. I tentatively mounted Hannah with Steve holding the lead rope. Rudimentary as it was, I was riding again.

In October before I returned to school, I was able to ride and move around to the point where I could drive our rig alone and take Marcie to Lory State Park to ride. Free at last.

I visited school one day before my return to work, and told some staff members hanging out in the lounge that I was going riding that afternoon. Quizzical heads looked up. My colleagues asked if I was really going to ride horses again. My response was something to the effect of, “Have you ever had a car accident? Do you still drive?”

Riding is vital part of my life, like breathing or thinking. What transpired that June five years ago was a freak accident. Even the surgeon said so. One millimeter’s difference in the way I hit the deck would have avoided disaster. I’ve had more car mishaps than equine incidents. During the year I spent commuting to Northwestern for graduate school, I was rear-ended four times in my VW bug and totaled it when a tree jumped out into the middle of Sheridan Road during a rainstorm.

After returning home once I began teaching in November of that year, there were the horses to take care of, talk to and ride. Although my rehab team included an excellent trauma surgeon, physical therapist, Pilates therapist, massage therapist and a health club, the horses turned out to be the best rehabilitation modality of all.

© 2009 Mary Elson Carlson Trust

May peace be with you, my dog of love.

One of my great pleasures in life is reading the paper with breakfast. This was particularly so when I was teaching. It is a way to relax and prepare for the day.

Not so today. While getting a report on my hospitalized husband, I was preparing the Wonder Husky for home euthanasia. She ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with sedation added. As a cancer patient, that was pretty much all she enjoyed at that point. I added some chocolate, as she wouldn’t become poisoned from it on her way to the Rainbow Bridge.

While she rested, I read the obituaries. Given the ethnicity of my ancestors, this is what I do first. I dread seeing names I know. Today, there was a former student of mine listed. Jenny was an animal lover and a figure skater. She would come to my cat clinic and observe. A tragic reality check.

Over the last two weeks, Tipper went downhill quickly. Many people are too hasty to send their pets on. I waited until she told us it was time by her glassy eyes and lack of appetite and enjoyment of her daily walk. There is an honor and dignity to hand feeding a beloved, aged pet that is very private and intimate.

It is never easy planning to put down your own pet because you are a veterinarian. I slept with Tipper downstairs last night with a DVD on. It really was quite peaceful. We had a walk in the rain this morning. She enjoyed sniffing the wet grass. We gave the horses good-bye treats before our friend came to release her from this life.

Tipper was only the second dog of our 27-year marriage. Our first Husky lived fourteen years. We got Tipper six months before Keli died. Keli was rejuvenated having a frisky puppy around until her death a week before the Great Flood of 1997.

Tip was a popular dog on our daily run/walks. It is nice to have a beautiful dog because you meet people you ordinarily would not speak to. Dog names are exchanged, but rarely do people give their own names. She also served as protection. Huskies look vicious, but in reality would help a burglar hold his flashlight. Our cats and horses are the guardians of the home.

Tipper would sneak up on the couch to nap when we weren’t home. I’d come home and feel warm upholstery. One time, I decided to see for myself. I crept through the bushes to the window. There she was, sprawled on the couch asleep with the cats. I tapped on the window to get her attention. Busted! By the time I got into the house, not only was she in her crate, she was faking sleep.

Making the final decision is the toughest thing to do. Then comes peace. We honor Tipper’s life, and thank her for being a delightful, loving member of our family. It was totally appropriate that her doctor took her little dog body away in a Porsche 911.  Pax tecum, Tipper. Good-bye, my love.

Holding her own

The Wonder Husky is holding her own against lymphoma. It is slowly sapping her energy, and her breathing is sometimes harsh. The lymph nodes in her neck are becoming larger and harder, but it is not time yet.

She is eating canned cat food and peanut butter on dog biscuits. She no longer eats her regular chow. She enjoys walking along the fence sniffing the grass late at night and relaxing in her dog pen either in her husky hole or on her porch. At bedtime, I hide a pill in a lump of peanut butter so she will rest comfortably. She is not in pain.

People are too quick sometimes to end a pet’s life when a terminal diagnosis is made. There is a special dignity to caring for a sick pet. It is an honor for me to feed her by hand with soft food on a tongue depressor and seeing her relish her meal. I always enjoy watching animals eat. There is a certain loving closeness as I give my best dog friend nutrition of any kind.

Tipper will tell us when it is time. I thought I would help her go while Earl was in the hospital but Tipper really has been OK. Not great, but OK. I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital with her collar to show Earl. I haven’t been able to spend as much time with her during Earl’s hospitalization, but she has always enjoyed being alone in her dog pen or in her crate. The cats supervise her when she’s inside. It’s amazing to me how the cats know what is going on, especially Matthew, her special feline buddy.

Whenever an animal family member has been sick, I have been ready to euthanize it before Earl has. I have always waited, with two exceptions, until he has agreed that it is time. The two exceptions were when he was working in Denver, and I had to make a decision after consulting him long distance. The first was my cat, Pruney, the cat of my life, born at the end of my senior year in high school, and was found outside in a coma under a bush shortly after vet school graduation in 1987. The second was our first dog, Keli, who was comatose on a hot July evening in 1997. My classmate and neighbor helped me run blood work, then euthanize Keli under her favorite tree, which is where Tipper will go when it’s her time.

Earl is coming home from a tough hospitalization today. Tipper will be here to greet him. He will process her situation, and we will agree, with Tipper’s input, when it is time to send her to my friend Jean, whom I know is watching and will come to take her to a place with no illness, the Rainbow Bridge.