Image result for reath of flowers for memorial day

All of us will “go home” at some time, it’s inevitable.  I remember when I was a kid, we drove for what seemed like days to visit my Mom’s family in the country for “Decoration Day,” which is also called Memorial Day.   It was an annual trip that we took to decorate the graves of family members that had passed before us.   As kids, we had such a good time, and it was a whole weekend of fun, excitement, and things I had never seen before.  There were 13 children in my Mom’s family of which my Mother was the youngest. We were the city folk side of the family, everyone else lived near the homestead.  We would drink out of a well, ride cows and even ride on a drag on the back of a tractor through the fields.  

When we would visit, we would stay at Aunt Maggie’s house because it was the only home that had indoor plumbing, something that I took for granted at our own home.  On Sunday after decorating the graves, we would gather at the homestead for the giant potluck/pitch in dinner.   I remember that if we needed to “go,” we had to go to the “barn” to do our business, which as a kid, I thought that was pretty cool.  All in all, it was a great weekend, and I got to see my many cousins and play in the fields and get dirty.  We always brought home fresh eggs and homemade butter, something my Dad said always reminded him of his youth when he was a boy.

Several weeks ago, and with the help of Google Earth, I went back home to the farm my mother grew up on, and sadly, everyone had passed-on some time ago.  Not knowing the address except for RR2, I scowled the location from a satellite.   Low and behold, I found it, I saw the farm, and I was thrilled.  Things had changed and my mind flashed back to when I was 12 years old.  I will always remember the well that we got the water from by dropping a rusty galvanized bucket down a hole and cranking it up for some cold, clean water and going to the bathroom in the barn.  When I expanded my Google Earth search, I also visited the graveyard where we went to decorate the family graves.  With the technology today, I was at the very spot and could even rotate my view to see the graves of my family.  There is no one left to have a reunion, and it’s sad, and my visit was bittersweet, but I did enjoy it and the trip down memory lane.

Abbie and Clancy
As for this Monday, Memorial Day, remember to honor the men and women of our armed services who gave everything for us but remember our past pets too and the funny, cute and loving way they loved us.  Take a minute to look into your present dog's eyes, stroke their fur and assure them that they are everything to us because someday before we know it, it may be too late, trust me, I know...  Ken

How did this happen?

This was something that just crept up over time, and it has gotten worse over time.  It started years ago when we would put the dogs up for the evening and when it was time for bed.  We were lucky enough to have a kennel with heat and air that always had the best interest of the dogs in mind along with their comfort.

Molly wanting in
I do know how it happened and it was Elaine’s doing.  Every night we would keep several dogs inside with us and while the others slept comfortably in their own area.  They had food, water, heat/air music and even a monitor.  This worked well until it was Elaine’s time to put them up, we would take turns.  When she came inside, the dogs followed her back in, and I ask “what happened?”  Making perfect sense in her mind, she couldn’t decide because of their sad eyes.  “I couldn’t do it,” she said, and I usually agreed, but it changes our household in several ways.

JoJo found her pillow
I would say that our house is dog-friendly, almost too much in a couple of ways and it started nearly five years ago.  As a rule, it’s not a problem or concern, and they all have their spot.  Dutchess is on the table or begging for food, Doc is checking Shepp out and following him around.  Meggy is under my desk, and Molly is in “her” bed.  JoJo and Dahlie love their human beds and run to get their “spot.”

Guess who
Everything has developed into a routine.  Every morning, Elaine will sit on the couch in her bedroom with Gabby who will go back to sleep with her, and they will ponder life and snooze.  I’m an early riser and take the dogs that want to go out, but most will stay on the bed waiting until Elaine gets up.  Night time is always a piece of cake and rather than saying “let’s go to the kennel” not it’s let’s go to bed.  The dogs will separate, and half will go with Elaine to her bedroom, and half will stay with me where everyone finds their space, and I will tell you, the beds are full. 

At least I have a little room
Many changes have taken place doing this, we have a vacuum cleaner on all three floors which is frequently used, but someone needs to tell Elaine you have to empty it.  You don’t go up or down the steps with things in your hands because they will try to race you to see who is first.  You shut the bathroom door when you’re visiting, and you don’t eat with Dutchess, offering her anything or she will be in your lap.  When you get a bedtime snack, you make sure you have enough for each dog who will form a semi-circle in front of you and watch every bite you take and many other things.

This is what it's about
Dogs can change your life for the better or make it worse, and I have looked the other way several times, but there is nothing better than to sit with a dog next to you or sleeping on your pillow at night.  I wouldn’t have it any different…  Ken

Getting knocked down...

Most of us run into adversity every day, and at times we deal with it, but sometimes it’s not so easy to deal with.  I have experienced this first-hand many times seeing it in my dogs and in my personal life.

As most of you know, Doc is going blind.  To see him, you would never know it because he still gets around and does the things he wants to do.  He has such a pure heart and is full of love.  I’ve said many times that Doc will love you until he knocks you down, which is true.  I have noticed some subtle changes in his behavior and things he does because of his blindness, but he seems to muddle through which I have been told he would learn to do. 

He can see in the daylight much better than when a room is dark.  Just last night, when I sat the remote for the TV down, they jumped up and ran to the door because they think they are going outside.  Doc jumped up too, but he ran into the wall.  He got up, shook his head and repositioned himself and got back on course, which he made.  Sometimes life is like that, and you need to reposition yourself when you get knocked down, it’s hard, but usually, it’s a lesson well learned and not forgotten.
I’ve seen this all the time with most of our dogs.  You watch their ways and see them adapt to changes.  My pack is getting older, and Molly and Dutchess are approaching 13 years old, and it is showing.  Mollie does the best at getting around now, and where Dutchess would be in every activity, I see her now sitting and watching as things go on around her, she has lead a pretty hard life.

But what do you do and how do you deal with life changes?  My take is to treat them unique in their separate needs.  With Doc, he seems to need more company with me and all of the pack.  Where once, he loved to be outside and hang on the porch, including sleeping outside, he has changed.  Now, he wants to be inside and even sleeps on my bed every night.  If he’s on the porch by himself, he will now bark to come inside and will lay by my feet.

Several days ago, I was outside just with Doc.  I was cutting the grass he was in heaven, not because of the mowing, but because he was free.  He would run circles around the house and always end up back where he started.  His hair was flowing in the wind, and he seemed to be smiling as he was running, even stopping to cool off in the lake.  He had quite the day.

When you get knocked down by that wall, get up, shake your head and reposition yourself and at times, it’s hard, but you’ll be stronger for it, I know...  Ken

Our Trip...

As I sat on a plane traveling west at 40,000 feet over Ireland heading home and while sitting next to a window, I pondered my life and Clancy and Abbie.  I took another kind of journey several years ago, and while it was in the works, I never sensed a thing, much less ever thought it ever possible.  The view from the window was speculation but gave me a sense of smallness in a vast world, making me feel so incompetent in a world of wonderment and how small we really are.

Late last year, some friends of ours moved to England and purchased a house in the charming town of Great Malvern.  It has been well established for a thousand years or more and is full of history.  Our friends also own two of our dogs, Xena a Daughter of Clancy and Molly and Jack a Grandson of Clancy.

As we were looking for a vacation for the fall of the year, I came across a transatlantic cruise that was traveling to the Azores, Ireland, France and finishing in England.  When our friends were leaving the states to go to England, goodbyes were said, and the statement made “if you’re ever in England, come and see us.”  I laughed inside knowing it would never be possible, timewise or financially or so I thought.

The 1st of April, fate had its way.  All the cards came together, and we booked the trip, how did this happen? No way could we swing a 3-week vacation in several foreign countries much less travel in areas we never knew about, finding someone to watch the dogs, Elaine’s work schedule and getting someone to care for Elaine's aging father, it's not going to happen, but it was not my decision.

Abbie had been in remission from her cancer for 30 months and was doing great.  In fact, just a week from our departure date, I posted that she had had a birthday and how well she was doing, but in following three days, she had passed.  She was buried here on the farm just two days before we left for vacation.  Going through the usual customs that we do for our dogs when they cross, I brushed her and clipped part of her hair and collar and placed it in safe keeping.

As we left on the trip which was very timely, I took a small bag that was only aware to me of its purpose and knew what I needed to do.  I kept this secret to myself not because I didn’t want Elaine to know, I just couldn’t talk about it, and I would embarrass myself trying, I’m very emotional about my dogs.  Just a few days before the cruise ended, early one morning, I went to the salon and had my hair cut.  For some reason, I had been determined to let it grow since early last year.  When in the chair, the stylist was surprised I wanted it cut and ask several times, “you sure?”  My only request is to keep a braid of it. And I did for my mission.

After settling in at Malvern Hills and deciding what to do while we were there, I also requested a trip to British Camp which was very close to where we were staying so early one morning we were off on my mission.  The day was vibrant, and in the early morning, you could see the beauty before us, even telling our host, “this is spiritual,” and it was.  After hiking through switchbacks and looking at the sights, we finally climbed to the area that was meant just for us. 

Our host knew what was coming and she laid back giving me plenty of distance, and I took out the small bag that contained the hair of Clancy, Abbie, Oreo, Elaine and myself.  The wind was fierce heading directly due North toward Clancy’s birthplace in Selkirk UK.   I took out the fur, smelled it one last time, kissed it and released it watching it travel to distant places.  It was very bittersweet, comforting, and I felt my heart tugging again.  I watched their fur sail into the heavens while it was carried long distances.  After I was finished, I turned into the northbound wind turned my face to the heavens and wept like a child, I miss them so.

Jack and Xena with me.
During every vacation since Abbie got sick, we have had a plan in place for her in case she got ill while we were gone and never needed it.  Abbie’s birthday was just a week or so before our departure, and again we worried, we were on borrowed time. Only three days before we were to leave, I had some blood work done for her, and she got a clean bill of health but without the results which were due the next day.  I knew something was wrong even before the Vet called and he confirmed it.  The cancer was back.  Abbie went downhill very quickly, faster than any dog I have ever seen.  Later that day, she crossed the bridge to be with her dad, Clancy.  It's only fitting that Abbie traveled with us to England, you see, her heritage is also from the United Kingdom too.

British Camp has it all; a 365-degree view of all of the surrounding territories and heavy in history.  It has had castles, Romans, battles and has been fought over by many cultures but today it is owned by the public, never to be changed and space to walk your dogs where sheep are allowed to graze on the hills.  It also has the fur of Clancy, Abbie, and Oreo which is always present in spirit with the greats of history that is there. 

It’s hard to leave some things behind, and as we were leaving England at the train station, our host said “I will visit them,” and I know she will.  I took my last look toward them and felt that I left part of me too and I believe I did.  I don't know why I am so passionate about the dogs, and I'm sure you have wondered that also about yours.  They give so much and need so little, but when their bright fire burns out, nothing shines as brilliant, and it's not replaceable and never will be.  Do I believe in fate, maybe if things happened once ever so often, I don't know, but in my world, I see it all the time through my dogs and the rescues we deal with.  Everything came together for this trip for a reason...    Ken