I did it, Mom

Dear Mom (Carol, as I called you when we worked together),

Today I found out that my book, Drinking from the Trough: A Veterinarian’s Memoir won  three awards just from one competition. Judy, my coach and editor, took a stack of books to send in to many competitions. She said winners are often announced close to a year later.

Yet here we are, three months after the book launch, and I got word this morning of the three awards from Beverly Hills Book Awards. Here they are: Winner: Animals and Pets; Winner-Regional Non-Fiction-West; and Finalist: Memoir. Finalist is just as good as Winner.

You were the greatest writer I ever knew. I think we can thank Northwestern School of Speech (now called School of Communications) for that, where you got your undergraduate degree. For me, my Master of Arts from the Graduate School (now called School of Education and Social Policy, SESP) helped me.

I remember your starting a writer’s column for a little Highland Park paper, the name of which escapes me-it wasn’t the Highland Park News. One time, entries were slow, so you wrote the most exciting short story I’ve ever read. I wish I could find it. The ending was no less unexpected than a Stephen King work.

I miss you so much. This March 12 will be 40 years since you took your leave. In 1979, there were set visiting hours at the hospital, otherwise I would have stayed with you longer than college spring break. Instead, the phone rang early the next morning with tragic news. It was unfair to lose my best friend when I was 26. When I have a birthday now, I count how many more years it is since your 56 years of life.

I know we communicate. Doing well on my first book I owe all to you. Thanks, Mom.

Love you, “Cara”


Just when you think you knew everything

I went to a funeral of one of my vet professors the other day, an activity that unfortunately is getting too frequent. I said hello to one of the visitors in front of me. He said, “Who are you?!” I thought he was serious, so I said, “Mary Carlson.” Then I remembered how he always liked to jerk my chain, like the time on his service he gave me a grade of 11.96 out of twelve. After the service, one of my favorite profs of all time, who always teases me about giving law school a try, left before the funeral directors go up row by row to let people go to the reception. This professor, Dr. Jim Ingram, jerker of chains, leader of the student “duck patrol” was helped out by his wife and another professor, who had driven them to the church. I thought that in spite of oxygen lines, he looked pretty good. I learned today that he had a fall right before leaving home. Speaking of falls, he still owes me a bucking bronco belt buckle for breaking my hip in ’04. Now that I’ve broken both, well…. On the other hand, how many of your professors visit you two days out of a three day hospital stay for a hip replacement?

The funeral was for Dr. Bob Pierson, my neighbor before marriage, and painter of my horse art watercolors. Bob painted the original portrait for a birthday present Earl commissioned. I had it downsized for my business cards and this blog. Visit “Portrait of the Horses” to see it.

I thought about Dr. Ingram, the oxygen, the fact that he is 93, and that my book isn’t coming out until August. I still had one relatively untouched ARC, so before leaving for Ivy’s job today, I called and talked to Peggy, his wife. Would Dr. Ingram, classmate of my father-in-law, class of ’52, and one of my best profs who is prominently featured in the book, like a copy of the next to final book? Would he be able to read it? Peggy said absolutely, and it was fine to bring it over after the care home visit. She was OK about Ivy coming too, it was really hot today, and no way could she stay in the car. She was a good dog who fell in love with the best horse neurologist I ever knew.

I had written words inside of the book for the good doctor, but said if he wanted, I would give him a final copy. I know the book launch wouldn’t be good for him, but I will invite them anyway.

We all got talking about WWII, and how he got to go on an Honor Flight last year to see the monuments in DC, particularly the breathtaking WWII monument. He showed me his hat with the pins on it. I quickly spotted the Purple Heart pin. Turns out the smily doctor known as Grim Jim (a moniker he never liked,) is a Purple Heart WWII hero.

I stayed about an hour. Ivy was a good dog. Peggy asked me if I would like a picture of Dr. Ingram from the honor flight. Absolutely! It’s magnificent. A head shot with the WWII ball cap on his head, and a priceless expression. The expression on his face is pure Jim Ingram. The picture is going into a frame ASAP.

I hope I’ll get to see him more. Seems I see some people only at funerals now. I’m happy to go over to the Ingrams for awhile so Peggy can run some errands. All she has to do is call, and I’ll be there.

What an unexpectedly special day!

Fighting for freedom 50 years apart

Veteran and former CSU prof donates rare WWII glider uniform to Avenir Museum
“Please take care of this.” That’s what 93-year-old Jim Ingram told staff of CSU’s Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising on May 23 as he donated the complete, pristine uniform he wore during his World War II service in the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment.



Great Turkey Day

What a great day for Thanksgiving in Colorado. 70 degrees and sunny. Ivy and I went to the dog park, as her dog walker had other commitments. Not such a wise idea with me on crutches, but only minor mishaps.

Had dinner at my cousin’s house. It is nice to have a relative in town. Michael and Shari picked the Fort to retire and brew beer.

I’ve been so housebound and healing, it was nice to be out in the sunshine in the morning, a nap watching inane TV, and then out to dinner. I even brought home some turkey leftovers. Looking forward to a turkey sandwich tomorrow.

Michael and my grandmothers were sisters. I really didn’t know him, due to age, and the ravages of divorce. Kids of divorce never really go anywhere. This was my mother’s side of the family, and I know my sister will agree with me, that I sure wish I had had more family contact.

But the day was great, hip feels good, two more weeks only on crutches. Pretty good. The icing on the cake is my restarting PT on the arm I broke last winter. No pain while using crutches, but murder moving after. Maud Monnet, ace physical therapist, skier and Pilates student will get me feeling a whole lot better starting Monday.

Hope you all had as nice a day as I had.

Trash Day

Well, Ivy the Golden doodle went out earlier at 5 this morning to pee. Usually, I go outside to watch her at night, then she sleeps in. I can’t do that right now, as I am on crutches. I assume she has peed.

So, an hour later, after sleeping outside until 6am, Ivy barked once to come in. She is a good dog about this, and my new neighbors are pleased. Ivy knows that when she comes in in the morning, it is time for snoozing on the bed with me and the cats. She loves Matthew, my tough guy, 16, and he really likes her kisses. He will jump on the bed if Ivy is there. I adore sleeping with Ivy on the bed, but I don’t trust her for all night because she chomps up pens and pencils. She sleeps in her crate. Besides, the bed is for the cats at night.

The rest of the day, no animals are allowed in the master. One time, Matt woofed up such a potent hairball as to take the finish off one of my mother’s old dressers. Because the cats also leave prodigious vomit on the bedspread and sheets, that the door is closed all day.

I was awake, the earliest since my accident at dog school on the 27th, so we all got up. I let Ivy out, and stumped around getting my breakkie. I never appreciated having an island before. I can just push stuff around. The best kitchen I had in the best house I had was in Lubbock, Texas, and it was a galley kitchen with tons of storage space.

I’m trying to do the “homework” my editor, Judy, gave me. She is out of town, so we won’t have our weekly meeting this week. She said to read my publisher’s book, Green-light Your Book by Brooke Warner of She Writes Press. Very good and informational book.

I started to get tired and snoozed a little. What do you know, Ivy went ballistic. Lovely little dog, big bark; still pees submissively when people come whom she doesn’t know. Waiting for her to outgrow that. Today is trash day, and also recycle day. I heard the recycle truck, which comes in the morning, and stumped downstairs thanks to Ivy’s keen watchfulness for trash trucks.

First, I put the little trash can out. On crutches, this is problematic. You take the bad leg’s foot, and make fit it so the container can roll. Hang on because it’s downhill, and try to advance the crutches without killing yourself. Next, do the large recycle can. My neighbor next door did this for me last week, but now that I can put a little (15%) weight on my surgicated hip, I tried it. Phyllis saw me fumbling around and asked if this was all my trash. I said all but what is in the kitchen trash can. She took care of it, and I was so proud of myself-I put in a new trash bag.

Phillis and Sharon are going to Trader Joe’s, and I gave them a list for me. Mostly comfort food. Sharon went to Safeway for me yesterday, and I gave her a check made out to Safeway with my signature. A blank check. Also gave her my Safeway card. Safeway didn’t like it, so this time, I’ll just pay her back. I did drive to my dr. appt. last Thursday, because I hadn’t used any pain medicine. But hauling groceries is whole another thing.



So how many of you have gone on Medicare the first of the month only to break your hip on the 27th? Yeah, baby, right here.

Ivy only had three supervised therapy dog visits to do to become certified to make people smile. I had her in agility class for something else to do. She is really good at it.

So, she had gone over the large upside down v shaped thing, and went to the tunnel. I went outside along side of her shouting, “Tunnel, Ivy, good girl!” when I tripped on the holder of the tunnel, fell on my L knee and landed hard on my left hip. Oy. I only have one untouched large bone left.

Fast forward to the next morning scheduled for surgery. I had talked to my world-famous joint replacement surgeon who had looked at the films on his cell phones. He said the Doctor on call could put 3 parallel pins across the femoral neck. Deja vu from 2004?

So, I get down to pre-op. The chaplain there was a friend of mine, and stayed with me the whole time.

Dr. Doogie Howser shows up. Standing at my back so I had to crane my neck over, he said, “Hi! I’m Dr. Howser. I’m here to replace your hip.” WHAT? When was that ever mentioned? I told him to go call Dr. Famous, who had replaced my R hip in ’05. In the meantime, Young Skippy comes up to me and says, “Hi! I’m your nurse anesthetist. I’m going to be doing your anesthesia today.” “No you are not, I requested an MD anesthesiologist.” Adele, the chaplain, told him to read the notes. He backed up and said to Doogie, “She won’t let me do the anesthesia, wa, wa, wa!”

Dr. Doogie had gotten ahold of Dr. Famous, and Dr. Famous had told him what to do, and that if the hip failed like the other one did, he’d replace it. Mission accomplished. I had an anesthesiologist with a sense of humor, whom I asked if he was a graduate of the Denver School of Nursing. Humor is the way I roll, not interacting with idiots who can’t read.

So now I have three pins in my L hip which will stay. I now have broken three of the 4 largest bones in the body. I saw Dr. Famous today, whom I thanked profusely for having my back before surgery with Doogie. We discussed going back on osteoporosis meds, just not the one that made me feel bad one day of the week. Twelve days after the accident, today, he said I could now put 15# of weight on my hip using my crutches. I will see him next month, and probably ditch the crutches. No PT for hips, just walking. Ivy will soon be able to have her three supervised therapy visits.

Last thought: A freshman med student can nail a hip. I’ve put a pin in the wing of a roadrunner. It’s not rocket science. I think most ortho docs think they are Jesus just because they are really good carpenters.

My latest read.

I usually read several books at once. I have a Kindle Fire, and hear from a lot of people how much they like the feel of a real book and turning the pages. Occasionally I buy a book, but not that often.

I am reading NBC reporter Katy Tur’s New York Times bestseller, Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American history.

From the beginning, I was laughing out loud. Being a traveling reporter is definitely for the young. She uses some colorful vocabulary, which I enjoy. She goes through the raves and rants of the candidate, the running pace of keeping up with where the campaign is going, and sometimes not knowing where she is on a particular morning.

Tur was living a good life in London, had a French boyfriend, and had everything a young reporter could want. Along comes the non-stop of a 24/7 campaign, and her world changes.

I highly recommend this book. It is a fun read, and because it is so well-written and interesting, a quick read.

Meantime, I’m waiting for the Kindle version of Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened. I have read her books before, and I find she is an interesting writer. Her book is also on the NYT best-seller list.

I wish these gifted women luck with their books. I hope to join the ranks next year with Drinking Out of the Trough. The book is written so I’m almost there!

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.

Remembering the Wonder Husky

Today marks one year since Tipper went to the Rainbow Bridge. I really miss not having a dog to walk, but right now is not a good time for me to have a dog.

Tip was a good dog. A really good dog. We got her from the same breeder from whom we got Keli, the first dog of our marriage. At first, we chose a red female, a huge pup that we called Moose. When we went back for a second look, however, we noticed that Moose had a huge umbilical hernia. Looking at the other pups, we saw a little grey husky with two blue eyes and an adorable turned-up nose. She looked a little like Keli, with a cloverleaf mask, so we took her.

Tip had an dew claw on one hind foot, a genetic abnormality, but so did her sire, Sir Nicholas. We had it removed later when she was spayed. Dew claws on the front paws are not removed in Huskies. Actually, extra dew claws are a reason to not breed the animal that has them. A happy, but misguided breeding of Sir Nicholas for us!

We had a date to pick her up in January, 1997. The weather was so horrible, we couldn’t make it into the breeder’s property. Bobbie promised to deliver her. I will never forget the delivery. I was working in my cat clinic, focusing on a late-comer, an older cat belonging to an even older lady. The cat probably had renal failure, and we were giving options to the lady and her son. The door opened, and my employees and I knew it was Bobbie with Tipper. I excused myself from the exam room and went out to see Bobby with Tip in her lap holding the pup so her front paws were in the air.

I finished the appointment ASAP, and closed the clinic. Tipper was ours! Keli, age 14, came to life with a little pup around. I still can see Tipper going under Keli’s tummy to get from one place to another. Keli and Tip had 6 months together before Keli’s death at almost 15.

Tipper was a fun little dog. Actually, she was a big dog, 10 pounds more than Keli’s 50. I took her to school the next day. She let many kids pet her during passing period.

Her name came not from Tipper Gore, Second Lady of the United States at the time, but from the tips of color on the ends of her fur. I had held a puppy naming contest at school, and got a lot of cute names. Peyton was the one I liked best,but none really suited her. Tipper it was. I won’t tell you her AKC name, because I made it up. Registered names are stupid, and the one I invented was disrespectfully related to a crime that had happened in Boulder after we had chosen her.

I took her to school every now and then. She would let 100 energy-crazed, early adolescents pet her during 5 minute passing periods. She was always up for a tummy rub. I let the moderate needs program have her for a morning so the kids could pet her, groom her and have the responsibility of taking her outside to do her business. She was a big hit.

Although she barely passed puppy class and was ‘retained’ in novice obedience (husky obedience is an oxymoron), she came away with a wonderful trick where she jumped over a stick for a piece of Pupperoni. She also was a gifted singer, and her signature tune was ‘Ragtime Cowboy Joe,’ which delighted Earl as it is the fight song for the University of Wyoming.

Tipper was never the alpha dog Keli was, and didn’t do well at the dog park. On our last visit over a year ago, she was bitten by another husky. End of dog park. She was just not into other dogs. She loved cats, and when we put Fletcher to sleep due to dilated cardiomyopathy on a hot July day in 2000, Tipper sniffed the body, and I truly think she mourned him. When Matthew came in 2001, they became best friends.

I wrote about Tipper’s last morning, June 2, 2009, which was published in the local paper. It’s in this section of the blog. It happened to be published the day after Earl passed away. That date is around the corner, June 12. I truly think Tipper went ahead to greet Earl at the Rainbow Bridge. I can only imagine how much fun they are having with all the folks and animals who went ahead of them.

May we all be blessed with the love and companionship of a good dog. Aleha ha-sholom, my dog of love.

She was a good dog.

A life well lived

Our beloved paint mare, Marcie (Liberty Sunshine) left this earth four years ago on Monday, July 25, 2005 at the age of 30. We had had a lovely trail ride alone together at our local state park the previous Saturday morning.

Sunday, she looked a little off. I acupunctured her and gave her some medicine. Marcie had had many episodes of colic throughout her life, and I wanted to prevent an episode. I noticed her gut seemed empty, and that she had some trouble eating. The water trough that had been clean and clear was grey and cloudy. My husband and I had noticed some drooling. On our Saturday walk, I heard some breath sounds that were abnormal, rather like gurgling.

I had talked to several colleagues, who said it was probably a mouth problem. The Colorado State University equine dentistry crew was scheduled to come out the first of the month and see the horses for their 6-month checkups. Monday, she had that look in her eye that always told me something was really wrong. Earl and I didn’t want to wait and see Marcie decline. We knew when we took Marcie into the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital that we were probably looking at euthanasia, but we had to be sure it was the right thing to do. Endoscopy and radiographs showed a growth on the back of her tongue that screamed cancer to me. Her blood work was abnormal as well. Major surgery on a 30-year-old horse in an unreachable place was not an option.

It took a while for the tests, diagnosis and final decision. We stood with Marcie in a stall and talked to her. She was never alone on that last day. My girl was a true lady that trying day.

As said in previous posts, it is never easier to make the ultimate decision on an animal family member just because we are veterinarians. We cried like babies together in each other’s arms just as our clients do. The kind equine staff of the CSU hospital set up the apparatus, put Marcie under anesthesia in a padded stall, and let me euthanize her as indeed I did for Franny in 1996. Euthanasia is a special gift we have that physicians do not. Earl stayed outside the closed stall, preferring not to watch. I had to do this for my best girl. I helped our beautiful friend drift peacefully out of this life and into the next.

The following morning we went to pathology to watch the necropsy. That might seem gruesome to some, but we were vets, and Marcie was gone from her body. The pathologist on duty called Marcie’s medical team from the day. They had found something significant for them to see. Marcie had a fist-sized cancerous tumor called a squamous-cell carcinoma on the back of her tongue that threatened to block her airway. That was what caused the abnormal breath sounds while we were riding on Saturday.

There was a lively discussion of her case at pathology rounds that Friday. It was common tumor in a rare location. No one there had seen this before. We took comfort that we did the right thing for our precious pet.

We had 27 wonderful years with this special creature, from pulling her off a ranch in Wyoming four years before we were married, to the last minute. My mother saw her on the ranch before we brought Marcie and Franny, to town. Marcie was the last pet that either my sister or I had that our mother knew. Mom died in 1979 when I was 26. I actually had my horse longer than I had my mom.  Marcie lived three years longer than my sister Natalie, a horse lover and owner, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1981 at the age of 27.

I am a believer that there is a reason why things happen. I think Marcie lived so happily in her last year to help me relearn riding three times after the misery of my orthopedic trauma suffered the previous summer that involved multiple surgeries including the total hip replacement. When we celebrated her 30th birthday on June 1, I was not yet cleared to ride. My cousin, Gail, and my husband took her on a birthday ride with her buddy, Scoot, while I stayed at home.  The instant I could ride, it was “cowgirl up” on my gentle beauty.

Mom always said that kids should not have pets or grandparents, but there is a lot to be said for the human-animal bond. We honored Marcie’s long and graceful life during our grief. Animals also grieve for their friends. Scoot whinnied all that night and into the next day, looking for her after we returned with an empty trailer. Hannah, the Baby, was puzzled that there was no one to trade stalls with to search for after dinner morsels.  Our dog and cats knew too.

There is a quote from Stephen King’s book, Pet Sematary, that brings me comfort:  …”time passes, and time melds one state of human feeling into another, until they become something like a rainbow. Strong grief becomes a more softer, mellow grief; mellow grief becomes mourning, mourning at last becomes remembrance.” The poem, Rainbow Bridge, author unknown, while it always makes me weep, gives me hope for the future with no fear of death when it comes.  My image of heaven is riding Marcie on a warm summer day in the foothills at Lory State Park where my ashes will be scattered when my time comes. I have many animal friends waiting for me at Rainbow Bridge, and Marcie will be there ready to take me over the bridge on her back.

We wished Marcie well on her journey to Rainbow Bridge. She had what we all hope for: a life well lived.

As a postscript to this piece, I had every intention to post it on my blog today. I had no idea that six weeks earlier, Marcie would meet Earl at the Rainbow Bridge and carry him across. You can be sure she was waiting for him, and they are having one joyous reunion.