Last day...

We had a busy evening last night on our cruise, and we hit the sack after midnight for the 6th time in a row.  The cruise director thinks of things to keep you busy and content if you want to, but at times, I just like to sit and watch.  Over the last 20 years, we have taken a ship to most places in the east and western Caribbean and even the Canadian coast and Alaska.  There are many memorable moments that I remembered and some I would like to forget.  Most were when you got wrapped up in the free drinks while out in the sun on a beach or traveling on a catamaran with your hair blowing in the breeze and the Bahama Mamas tasted like Kool-Aid on more than one occasion.

This trip was very relaxing in so much as I took to take a nap every day after pool time and lunch.  It wasn't a hard decision because the bed kept calling us and we always succumb to its invitation just like the “all you can eat” meals including all the soft serve ice cream you can get in a bowl along with walnuts and almonds.  No matter how full you are, this is the last thing you get as you exit one of the dining rooms or the 24-hour Pizzeria where the people know our name.

Elaine and I have traveled to all 50 states, all the provenances of Canada and nearly every tropical island in the Caribbean.  We’ve taken thousands of photos that are stuffed in some drawer somewhere in the house that our kids will probably pitch in the big Dempsey Dumpster when we’re gone, but the trips were fun. 

I did not bring a camera with me this trip because there are just so many photos that you can take of people and places.  As usual, if the kids ever look back on the photos before they toss them, they will wonder who Mom went with.  As God is my witness, I bet there are not two photos with me in them.  I always carried the camera and took shots of everyone else, and no one ever made any pictures of me.  Maybe there are some somewhere taken by an unknown person where I am in the background of their personal trip taking pictures of our family, but in a way, this is OK.

With the thousands of things I have done, you might be surprised at the things that are at the top of my “memory” list.  First, is the time that my son and daughter-in-law made the trip with us on one of our cruises.  One of the best parts of the voyage was the evenings we spent in our adjoining rooms on our balcony.  We would have coffee in the early mornings and at night watch the ocean and the waves and laugh into the wee hours of the morning.  One particular night, there was a storm a great distance from us, and the clouds and lighting seemed to be dancing and entertaining us with the lighting.  While it was calm and clear all around us, it was breathtaking to watch and ponder how small we are in the mighty, majestic realm of nature. 

Once we also saw a mystery when on a beach in Hawaii.  It also took place at sunset and was something I never heard about but told to watch for it.  As the sun would set on the horizon and as it got closer and closer to the water which in itself is beautiful but when the sky is clear, a green flash just above the sun's edge can be seen for a second or so when the sun touches the distant horizon. Green is the hue that is bent most, allowing an intensity of green immediately following sunset. The flash happens so quickly it is nearly impossible to catch the event on film.

Our trip ends in less than 12 hours.  Two of our rituals have and will happen today.  This morning I awoke at 5am and bounced out of bed, grabbed a pot of coffee and went to the top deck of the ship and found my spot where the wind was blowing, and I felt reckless with nature.  In just a short time, the horizon started to lighten.  There was a cloud cover that covered the lower part of the sky but ended, several hundred feet up and it was clear.  Puffy clouds abounded, and as the sun crept up, rays of gold, orange, yellow and white sprinted across the entire sky.  The colorless clouds started to take on a pink tinge, and the edges were as bright as gold.  In my mind, it was spiritual, and literally brought tears to my eyes.  I watched until the sun was up and felt like I had seen a miracle and in reality, I did.

Tonight before we turn in for our last evening, and as usual, we will visit the fantail of the ship with a bottle of Chardonnay and two glasses.  Under the stars along with the wind, we will sit and ponder life as we have many times.  We will talk about the things we love and tell stories and antidotes and speak of the things we enjoyed, and as usual, we will talk about our dogs and how much we missed them and how much we can't wait until we see them again.  The one thing I miss most is touching them and the way they smell except when they roll in poop.   Ken


Vacation Time...

As I sit at my computer in the middle of the ocean on a ship headed south; I can share my thoughts and feelings with the world, something I couldn’t do several years ago because of the lack of technology.  We have taken cruises for the last 20 years, and it is one of the best forms of vacations I like for several reasons.  The first is the beauty of the scenery all around us and many wonders of the ocean and foreign countries, but some things never change.  Secretly it’s a place where I can relax and do things that I can't do at home.  The first day and only being on the ship for a few hours I took a nap, and it was splendid.  You see, I have one of those minds that can’t and won’t shut off, but here I can because you make your itinerary and are forced to relax, which I like.

There is a curse to having nine dogs, and that is “what do you do with them when you leave?”  When we had a couple of dogs, it was a breeze to find loving homes for them to stay at but who would love to keep nine dogs with Dutchess entertaining everyone with her counter suffering and barking to play Frisbee.  She would change the dramatics of any home.

Abbie and Clancy on vacation in Michigan
We have taken Clancy and Abbie and even Meggie and Abbie with us at times, and it was pretty cool, but nine, we need a converted school bus.  The hard part is to get ready for a trip when we leave the country.  There are so many things to do, scheduling arrivals, getting food in for the dogs, ordering medication for Abbie and even ordering a case of pill pockets, from Amazon of course.   Two of our dogs went with our neighbor because of their activities, and their dogs love Frisbee too, Dutchess and Abbie will have a ball.  Dutchess has already presented her suffering skills, and this is the first time for Abbie.  Hopefully, they will do great, playing lots of Frisbee, and they will love it. 
Dash and Zena
We are blessed to have a couple from northern Indiana who has been coming to help us for the last five years.  They are Border Collie enthusiast and have two of their own which is very talented and loving.  The couple will do things to take care of the farm and dogs treating everything as their own.  I ask nothing but the care of the dogs, but the husband (Roy) is like me and can’t stay still and will fix everything in sight, including my tractor, rototiller and yesterday; I saw where he ordered parts to repair the compressor from an order he placed on my Amazon account.  This was something I ask if he knew anything about before I left and it looks like he will fix it before we get home.  Quite the couple and such great people and dog lovers.    
But everything stays the same with the dogs, you miss them and worry about them and miss them like crazy.  Our first-night last night, in the middle of the night, I wondered where Gabby was.  She sleeps on my bed on the pillow next to me and many times during the night, I will rub her head, and she will lick my ear.  She wasn't there.  We do miss them and wonder what they are doing.  Maybe we need to look at the big used school bus and convert it into a vacation vehicle for all of us…  Can you imagine us traveling across the USA?  I do wish I could take them.  Ken

PS    Thanks Roy and Taney and Doug and Sharon, you made it work...

The dogs would love it
From a Blog post over five years ago.   Some things change, some do not…

Well, here we are going on vacation, without the dogs.  When we go, It's a real dilemma to find someone that is reliable that we can trust with the dogs.  If you think it's hard to find a kennel or someone with one or two dogs, try it with all of ours.  Some people will run when you mention it, and if you board them at a kennel, then they are stuck in a small pin for two weeks while we're gone.  I have had a few success stories, and it has worked out great, but I have had some disasters too.  I once found women's clothing in my bed and a young man was staying here, and I don't want to even think about it.  Once when we got home, there was a phone message from a neighbor asking "Did you know your dogs are running in the road” I ran to the kennel just to check, they were all there, Whew...but it seemed that the dog's had a lot of free time in our absence.

As we were pulling away today, I turned to Elaine and said, "wonder what the dogs are doing."  We always look at each other, and a sign of panic comes across our faces, and then we snicker and say, "Oh, they're all right."  If you have ever left your dog or dogs, you do worry about them, because no one can watch or love them as much as you can.  Trust me; I feel your pain, I have been there.  Many times we have been on a cruise, and we were sitting on the fantail of the ship with a glass of wine, and one of us will look at the other and say "wonder what the dogs are doing” and then we will try to guess, and I'm sure we're never right.  There are so many things that will go through your mind.  You worry if they will eat, get hurt, get cranky with each other or "run in the road"  just don't let Dutchess see the women's clothing...she'll have them on...


Time with them...

As I was getting ready to go outside, the dogs watch me put on my shoes, and as I touch the door, they are off to our play area wanting to play.  Usually, I get my chores done first, and we have play time when I’m caught up, but this day, I grabbed a couple of balls and a Frisbee and off we went.  They all ran through the woods like their tail was on fire except Dutchess.  She spied the Frisbee in my hand and wouldn’t leave me alone, so I just gave it to her and off she ran as happy as can be with a Frisbee in her mouth helping out.  

They were wired up, and it showed.  Everyone was going after a ball or Frisbee, and in just a few minutes, all three balls were lost, and two Frisbee's were nowhere to be found.  They get excited and carry it, and when another object flies, they will drop the one they have and go after the other, unable to find it again.  All in all, we only got about twenty minutes in and had nothing to do when everything was temporarily gone but I'm sure they will find them and bring them to me.  The older dogs were a little tired, but Abbie was still raring to go.  She gave me her sad eyes, and I said “another time, ” and she turned and ran toward the house with the others but I felt like a heel.  The next morning, Abbie sat as close to me as she could, while we were on the porch and literally wined like she was speaking, wanting something, but what?   
Every one of our dogs is excellent at playing ball of Frisbee but when you get them all together, it can be mayhem trying to keep up and there is just no simple solution, or so I thought.

The next morning, as usual, everyone is up (except Elaine) between 6 and 6:30 and the dogs go for their morning constitution, and we kennel them and feed them about 8 AM, and they are usually ready for breakfast.  They are great about going to the kennel after the command and even stand at their own kennel door, waiting until you open it.   Everyone was let in but Abbie.  After everyone was secure, I grabbed a Frisbee tucking it under my shirt and said “Abbie, come on girl” but softly.  Once outside the kennel door, I gave her the Frisbee and off to the lake we went, her tail on fire and a Frisbee in her mouth.  It was a pure joy watching her spin and twist, doing the things she loves to do.  There was no hurry, except the speed of the Frisbee and no one to chase after her and she didn’t have to look over shoulder for fear of someone beating her.  Back and forth and back and forth she ran until she let me know she was finished and back to the house we went.  

She stayed out to catch her breath and dry off and then had breakfast in her kennel, it was “her” special time.  That night Abbie followed me to bed when it was time.  As usual, she got in her spot near my head and laid down but this night, she scooted just a little closer putting her head on my pillow, licked my face.  I reached over and petted her saying “that'll do, ” and it did.  Fast to sleep she went, chasing Frisbee's… 

Our new routine is when we feed them in the morning, one dog doesn’t get kenneled, and it’s their time to do what they want while one dog gets brushed right after eating, everyone needs they alone time too...

They do talk to us if we would only listen and it took me a long time to understand this…  

Some of this I wrote several years ago and it holds so true.  Just this Sunday morning right before uploading this, I took Abbie and Dutchess out for a round of Frisbee.  Abbie knew what we were doing and when we got to the cabinet with all the toys, Dutchess caught on and grabbed a brand new Frisbee and off we went.  Afterwards, and while I was feeding them I took Shepp out and he was by himself and was in heaven.  Ken


“Walter, ”  was a funny little guy who has spent the last five years here at the farm and been a companion to Elaine.   He was the first and last thing she usually saw before she went to bed and in the morning and every day they would talk, with her doing most of the talking.  He would watch her as she talks just like me too.  I was never jealous of Walter because he was her friend and kept her company when I wasn’t around.  He had his meals when we did and gobbled it up, while she cleaned up the kitchen, he would be close to her.  Elaine even taught him tricks and patted him on the head which know dogs like too.

Last week, Walter got sick.  This was not the first time she nursed him through some difficulties.  She would treat him with antibiotics, and he always came through.  He fell ill again and just didn’t feel good, and while the antibiotics only seemed to fix him for a day or two, higher powers were sought through Google, and extra things were done.  Special food and water but Walter passed away Thursday night.

The first of this week, I was notified that the marker I had ordered several weeks ago for our pet graveyard was being made.  A larger black granite stone was ordered and had come in, and the engraving had started.  Soon it will be delivered and placed at the entrance of our revered ground for all to see and for the future residents of Dogwood Ridge.  When we decided where to bury Clancy, it was a location we had to decide on and make fast because of the urgency.   It turned out to be a perfect spot for several reasons.

The new marker
Why do we feel so lost when our pet dies?  According to personal experience and experts,  friends have guiltily confided to me that they grieved more desperately over the loss of their dog than over the loss of their relatives, I know I did.  Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is in almost every way comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook, no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service to help us get through the loss of our pet.  Friends are afraid to say anything, and to some, it’s not a big deal because it was only a pet.  We are even uncomfortable which can make us feel more than a bit embarrassed to show grief over our loss.

Since Clancy had passed away over a year ago, his peaceful site has been a comfort to all, and it even explains to other who we are.  Just last night, we interviewed someone for one of our fosters, and they are to get their new Buddy today.  As we walked the long drive back to their car after our interview, I stopped and pointed to Clancy’s grave and said, “that’s where Clancy is.”  Everyone is always grateful but honored to see who started an incredible program knowing they and there new loveable dog will benefit from him and our loss. 

If you have ever been here at the farm, you saw Walter on the counter, he was Elaine’s goldfish.  He was placed in a tiny box and buried right on top of Clancy.  They were friends as he would watch Walter swim in circles and Clancy would love to sit and follow him with his eyes.  Some think this is silly, but when you have an overwhelming loss, you hold on to anything and everything.  Ken

Fall starts soon...

It's now is getting dark early but I realized that we are winding down this summer and it’s kinda sad.  We will soon turn our clocks backward for daylight saving time and in a way, it’s sad that the season is changing.  I love spring and summer except for the hot humid weather but it’s worth putting up with for the long pretty days and dry weather.  The only good part of winter that I like, I can take longer naps and don’t feel that I have “be on the move” the whole time.  There is nothing like a long nap in front of the TV with several dogs in my lap and a fire.  Every season has its perks but spring is best for me.  Spring and summer are always busy and packed full of adventures of play and fun and especially work which never stops and I'm sure my dogs suffer a bit and miss "our" time. 

I’m sure the dogs will appreciate more time with “big daddy” and in truth, I will to, I just don’t want to deal with the mud from the fall rains.  Frozen ground is good but lots of rain and mud is brutal to everyone and then the nap time with dad is out until they are clean, something they never think about, just running and playing for the moment and as much as they think, I wish they would think about that.

Cold winters seem to bring the best out, I put on my sub zero coat and insulated boots and off we go on long walks several times a day around the lake and down the long trails.  In the evenings, Dutchess will park herself in front of the TV just to watch the local weatherman and when the word “snow” comes on, a loud bark follows from her with eager ears and a spring in her step.  I will tell you, around here snow is great.  The deeper the better and as long as it last, there is joy is in the air.

The one thing I won't miss at ALL is as we travel through the woods, there is a certain kind of spider that will spin its web across a trail that seems to go on for 10's of feet and it's always at face lever.  At night it's nothing to be hit be at least eight or ten of them o our walks.  I have started carrying a stick in front of me just to knock the ones down that I don't see.  They are never at dog level.  I often wonder if they are trying to catch a person?

So here we wrapping down another year, I just wonder what it will bring.  Hopefully no mud, no work and lots of time to relax before we start over again but I'm sure there will always be lots of work.  Ken