Changing With The Seasons

IMG_0490Here we are again, in that beautiful time of year when leaves start to change their colors, nights call for soft blankets, and chilly mornings make me run to the attic to unpack a few cozy sweaters.

I LOVE this time of year. Though spring is always magnificent here in Virginia, with it’s colorful blossoms and the promise of new life, summer, usually leaves me exhausted with its busy pace that eventually drains my energy. The best parts of summer for me are those sun warmed tomatoes picked directly from the garden, and sweet, juicy peaches that make my hot weather breakfasts of yogurt, fruit and nuts, especially delicious. Now the peaches are getting scarce and when I can find them they’re mealy in texture. So I’m turning over with the season, moving to warmer breakfast foods like left over soup, bowls of hot cereal, or eggs and bacon.

DSCF0621My writing muse is fighting with my garden genie, which is calling me to spend more time outside amongst my plants. I’ve dozens of baby hellebores that need to be dug up and moved, lots of weeding, and the roses that have gone wild over the warmer months need pruning. In the summer, working in the garden is an early morning affair, but now cooler temperatures lure me out all day long. Thank goodness both are creative activities.

The arrival of autumn encourages me to slow down and get ready for the cold months, when I spend most of my time indoors writing, and reading. When I’m cold, I like nothing better than a long soak in my big tub filled with bubbles and the scent of lavender. Hot steaming cups of tea that include warming herbs and spices, like cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon, sipped in front of a crackling fire also will do the trick. I’m going to bed earlier now, and get up later, with the sun. I’m yearning to cook stews, braises, and soups with root vegetables like parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots that warm my soul.

On my morning walks, I notice squirrels stashing acorns away for the winter. Birds are fewer and quieter than they have been. Lilliput, my cat, is playing her seasonal game of in and out, unable to decide if it is more pleasant inside or out in the yard. The dogs walk at a much brisker pace cutting our walk time from about twenty minutes to fifteen. Once the real cold arrives they’ll walk even faster, wanting to come back in the house to warm their small bodies, in five minutes. Lilliput will go out to do her business and perhaps stalk a blue jay, but will be back in a flash if no bird are about.

Change can be hard. As a child I moved with my family from house to house, like a gypsy, as fast as my father could build them and sell them. I had little sense of what home really was. I’m ready to stay put now, especially at this time of year, when my feather comforter and warm wooly socks invite me to curl up on the sofa with a good book.

Do you enjoy the change of seasons? What is your favorite season and why?

Meet Max

IMG_0652I can’t help myself.  Today is the day I usually post a quote that inspires me.  But we’ve a new member of the family and just can’t wait to introduce him to you.  If you haven’t read this blog before you need to know that I love dogs. There are many posts to check out here if you do, too.

Just over a week ago we lost our dog, Brody, to pneumonia.  My family, the people who took such good care of him at day care every Thursday, and Brody’s veterinarian team were all devastated.  He had lived with us for only six weeks and I could not understand how I would be able to go on without filling the enormous hole he left in my heart.

My very kind and sensitive dog trainer friend, Karen, sent me a picture of a picture of Max and so began the task of my beginning to come to terms with what I now understand to be part of my job description in this life.  I was an abused child. I find it comforting and necessary to take in small abused and abandoned dogs. That does not mean that I stop grieving for all of those gentle souls who have shared their time with me.  There will always be cracks and crevices in my heart through which sorrow and tears will seep when I think of them.

This new little guy in named Max and he came to live with us this past Sunday.  He weighs in at about thirteen pounds and is mostly, if not all, a Shih Tzu. He lived with a single mom and her two kids.  One day she decided she’d had enough and packed up the kids and the dog and dropped them off at her mother’s house.  He was turned into a shelter because the kid’s grandmother couldn’t take care of the children and the dog, too.

Max hadn’t been clipped for a good long time and was covered with mats and infested with fleas.  The caring folks at the Louisa Humane Society, took him from the shelter. They had him shaved down to his skin and put him in a foster home until he could be adopted out.  His foster parents took great care of him and were kind and generous to be able to give him up.  I would not have been able to.

IMG_0632He is a sweetheart of a dog. Gentle, quiet, and he loves to cuddle more than anything else.  He and Sam are beginning to make friends and Lily, who tried to avoid him altogether, has finally given in.  Just this morning I found her rubbing up against Max, the way cats do to mark their belongings and territory.

Yesterday, Max passed his test at doggie day care with flying colors.  I took him in for a brief visit where he was introduced to a number of other dogs to make sure he won’t cause trouble in the big day care pack.  Tomorrow will find him there, mostly following big brother, Sam, around and figuring out the ins and outs of day care.

He’s been sleeping at night in a crate since he’s been here, but at 5:30 this morning he woke me, asking to be let outside.  When he returned instead of going back into the crate, he jumped up on the bed and curled up next to me under the covers.  Uh-0h!  I wonder where he’ll want to sleep tonight.  Although I prefer that he sleep in the crate, (Sleeping with dogs in the summer time can get overly warm.) he just might get the best of me.IMG_0630

Missing Brody

Brody and big brother, Sam.

Brody and big brother, Sam.

A week ago this past Friday, Brody died of pneumonia. He apparently had it for the entire six weeks that he blessed this household with his big heart and huge personality.

He lived every moment of his life with gusto.  When he was afraid, he turned snarly. He thought he was the biggest dog in the world and if he didn’t like you, he tried to make you as afraid of him, as he was of you.

When he slept, he slept deeply.  He loved lying on his back in my lap and have his tummy rubbed.  His head would drop toward the floor, his eyes would roll back into his head, and he’d snore a little.

He ate like it was going out of style, afraid that someone might steal his treasure, but there was no food aggression.  He never tried to get Sam’s food away from him and never seemed to be jealous that Sam was getting more attention than he was.

He played the way he did everything else, emptying a large basket filled with toys in minutes, seeking out the noisiest squeakers he could find.  He’d roll on his back, flipping his chosen plaything up in the air, catching it in his mouth and between his paws.  The living room floor was always a maze of stuff that Brody brought out to play, and if I picked it all up and put it back in the basket, he’d immediately begin emptying the basket over again.

He was always happy to see me, running at full speed through the door and into my lap just the night before he died, after Bill had picked him up from “Doggy Daycare.”

He loved with every cell of his body, consuming those he loved with his deep, dark eyes and his smile. Mornings, I’d lean out of bed, open his crate, and he’d jump up on the bed, waking me with his kisses. He loved Miss Lily, the cat, with as much love as he had for Bill and I, and simply adored his big brother, Sam.

Except for some coughing and sneezing that became nonstop the night before he died, he never showed signs of being sick.  He ate well, played well, lived well.  He had been examined by at least three veterinarians and they never picked up that his lungs were filled with fluid. His presence and his passing have served to remind me of how all of us must live … with gusto … with love … taking nothing for granted.

We all miss you, Sweet Brody, but we know you’re up in heaven somewhere, amongst the other angels, Molly, Charlie, Peppermint, Hannah, and Cleo, who blessed our lives before you. We’re taking your cue to live well and will soon be welcoming another little doggy soul into the place you kept warm for him.


Brody, taking a nap.


Sam the Man, also known as Sampson, Sambo, Little Sam and one big hearted dog.

Sam has lost three of his best friends this past year.  Last November it was Molly, the little Maltese/Terrier mix with whom he fell head over heels in love with the first time he met her.  They were very close and when she died, he grieved along with the rest of us.  After a month or so it seemed as though he was okay with her being gone.  He enjoyed being the only dog in the house, finding it easy to break the rules we had set up for them when there were two dogs instead of just one.

We always allowed them up on the bed for afternoon naps, but at night they both slept on their own cushy beds on the floor next to us. They seemed to understand the difference between afternoon and night and rarely jumped up on the bed during the wee hours unless there was a thunderstorm or one of them had to pee.  After Molly died, Sam gradually made his way up onto the ottoman at the foot of our bed.  He’d get comfortable and when he was sure we were asleep and the sound of snoring filled the air, he’d quietly move up onto the bed.  If he dared, he’s snuggle up against a human leg. Not liking hot legs, we’d gently move him back to the ottoman, until one night we said, “The poor boy is lonely,” and left it at that.  By then, he knew he should sleep in the middle of the bed, not up against his human’s bodies.

Of late he’s been looking sad.  He wasn’t eating much and wasn’t bringing us his favorite toys for us to play with.  Just two weeks ago, the day after his best kitty friend, Peppermint died, Bill and I left for a week visiting our grandkids. Though Sam was here at home with his beloved, Bobbie, who always comes in to stay with him while we’re away, he got even more depressed. When we got home he wasn’t eating.  His tail, usually a happy wig-wag machine and a sign of how he is feeling, didn’t wag much. I was very concerned and knew he was deep in mourning for his three family members, Molly, Cleo the cat who died in June and now Peppermint.

I knew what the best medicine would be and sent a message out into the Universe to see what we could do about it.  The following day, when I went to the SPCA to pick up Pepper’s ashes, I took a walk past the dogs up for adoption.  They were mostly big hounds and pit bulls, not matches for Sam.

Next, I went to the pet supply store hoping to find a new exciting dog food that might tempt him into eating again.  I walked through the aisles and turning a corner entered into a larger open space. There right in front of me was the cutest little terrier mix I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  He came over to me, greeting me as if we were long-lost friends.  Terry, was one of the dogs at an adoption event the store was hosting for Animal Connections, a local dog rescue group, that specializes in small dogs.  It was through them that we found Molly, ten or so years ago.  I knew this was the little angel dog that would be powerful medicine for Sam.  And if Sam and Molly had been able to have puppies together, this little man was what they would have looked like.

Terry. Sometimes I think of him as Terrence

I rushed home and brought Bill and Sam back to the store to meet  one year old, Terry.  When they met, Sam’s tail was waving a mile a minute and we took them both outside for a little pee party in the grass.  I was happy, Terry was happy, and Sam was happy. But Bill was reluctant.  We’d promised each other we that we wouldn’t fill the house back up with animals again and thought Sam would be fine after a while.  He’s also been wanting to travel more and knows I don’t like to be away  from my animal companions for very long.  He thought that the more animals there are in the house, the more reluctant I would be to leave them.  Not so.  When it comes to my furry friends, whether it’s one or ten, they are my special companions and I don’t like to be away from them for very long.  I’d find my life empty without them.

Lily and Terry

At the end of our meeting, we set up a day for Terry to come to our house for an overnight.  That would give him and Sam plenty of time to get to know each other. On Thursday morning when Terry’s foster mom, Lynette, brought him over, Sam was very excited.  Within two hours, beside myself with joy, I called Lynette to tell her that Terry would be staying with us forever.  We’ll sign the final adoption papers today. But in heart and soul, no papers are necessary. He’s ours and we’re his already.

Sam is eating again and playing for the first time in many months with a new companion who he wanted and needed. Terry has a new forever home and seems to be as delighted with us as we are with him.  He loves to play and this morning finally coaxed Lily, our remaining cat, to play with him.  The floors are a jumble of toys that haven’t been used in a long time and when Sam gets tired and needs a nap, Terry carries on by himself, chasing a tennis ball he tosses around for himself. Or sometimes he crashes next to Sam. Bill adores Terry as much as Sam and I do. He whispered to me that if I wanted him to, he’d put it in writing that I was right all along.  Companionship, of all kinds, is big, powerful medicine.

The Boys

Cleo, 1995-2012

She was my Mom’s cat.  I was there when Mom went to the SPCA to find a new friend.  Mom had recently moved here to Virginia from New Hampshire and was finally settled into a lovely small home.  Now she was ready for a companion to share her days with.

There were so many cats waiting for their forever homes, all ready to curl up in a lap and cuddle their days away.  Mom chose two feral kittens about five months old who were hiding in a corner under a table.  They were scared to death and difficult to capture. She named them Cleo and Leo. Leo was a ginger colored tabby and Cleo a beautiful calico.

The first few weeks at home, they made a nest under Mom’s bed in the box springs.  They came out only for food, but after a while realized that she wasn’t going to harm them and took up following her around the house.  When she finally let them go outside, they roamed the neighborhood by day, always returning for their evening meal.  They were afraid of everyone but Mom.  They would occasionally put up with a pat on the head from me, but Cleo had a distinct dislike for men, especially Bill.

When Mom’s health began to decline and she moved in with Bill and me, her buddies naturally came along.  They weren’t happy at first, afraid of our aging dog, Charlie and old Hannah, our Maine Coon Cat.  Leo disappeared a few months later.  We checked the SPCA daily, put up posters in the area and even called the folks that Mom had sold her house to, across town.  But he was never seen again.  There had been reports of Coyotes in our neighborhood. We figured the worst had happened.

When Mom broke her shoulder and then her leg in two separate falls, and I could no longer take care of her, we moved her into a nursing home until she was able to walk again and then into an assisted living situation. Cleo couldn’t go with her, so she came upstairs to join our pack of now two new dogs, Molly and Sam, and recently adopted cats, Peppermint and Lily. She wasn’t happy at first but slowly adjusted but always seemed to be the odd man out.  She disliked most prepared cat food. I cooked chicken thighs especially for her.  Pepper and Lily would have none of it, preferring Fancy Feast and other kitty fast foods that come in cans or bags.  Mom died a few months later and Cleo became a true member of our pack.

We moved here to the city two years ago. Cleo’s behavior changed dramatically.  I have no clue as to why, but suddenly she was greeting guests on her own standoffish terms and spent TV time in the evening settled in Bill’s lap.  But she was also aging and we were told she’d probably be gone in the next six months.  She began losing weight and her kidneys were beginning to fail. We chose not to take any heroic measures to keep her alive because of her advanced age and the invasiveness of many medical procedures.

Most recently she looked like a walking cat skeleton dressed in a fur suit. She hadn’t been eating much including her favorite home cooked chicken.  We knew her time was drawing near.  A few weeks ago I noticed that someone had been peeing on a new carpet we’d had installed and caught her red-handed. One evening while I was out doing some weeding in the garden, I noticed she was straining to pee and looked terribly uncomfortable.

We decided it was time and a week or so ago on June first, at noon, as she sat on a towel in my lap, my friend and Veterinarian, Richard, injected a magic sleep potion into her veins.  As she slowly let go and the light went out of her eyes, I imagine she was scampering off across the Rainbow Bridge to her other Mom, who was waiting on the other side. I feel sad that Cleo is gone, but also relieved. It is so hard to watch a loved one in pain slowly slip away.

With such a loss, there is always an ensuing emptiness.  Cleo’s spirit and energy is no longer here. We all feel it and miss her. In a week or two she will return home in a small box in the form of ashes. We will sprinkle them in the garden where we sprinkled Molly’s ashes not too long ago.