He Had to Have Surgery…Twice

This is a story of a loyal puppy and how he had to have two tumors removed (think Brady Bunch lyrics here…assuming you are old enough to know what I am referring to).

So on a wintry cold day last week when the temperature started in the single digits and never got above freezing, his loving family drove him to town for surgery.

Little did we know that this otherwise quick and uneventful procedure would turn into an epic adventure.

After leaving him at the vet for the day we returned around the close of business to pick up our almost nine year old pooch.   Although he was in a pitiful site, we couldn’t help but laugh at his appearance.  He was wearing the cone of shame, which I would later learn when I reviewed the bill is more properly called an Elizabethan collar.  I don’t think he feels very regal in it…just my observation.

But he was wagging his tail and happy to see us.

He had two streams of spittle running out of his mouth and ultimately hanging from his cone.  Since he had only been out from under the anesthesia for a short bit he was leaning a bit (like a ship that’s taken on a little water) and his rear legs were shaking.

But he was wagging his tail and happy to see us.

His left cheek (think posterior end of the dog) was sporting a nicely stitched lesion and he had a duplicate war wound on his belly, where they removed his second tumor.  They made me hurt just to see them…

But he was wagging his tail and happy to see us.

So we took him home and created a bed on the couch next to us and he relished the attention while the other dogs whined and sniffed under the basement door, eager to join us upstairs.  For the next few days it was like having a newborn in our house.  He required constant attention to keep him from licking his wound and removing stitches.  Somehow after all this nursing a few of his stitches still tore loose.

And this is where the dog surgery and the winter weather collided to make a colossal mess.

We called the doctor just a day before the snow storm, now famous for paralyzing Atlanta, dumped about four inches of snow in our neck of the woods.  But we figured that while we were in town visiting the vet we would stock up on some necessities in case we were house bound by the snow for a few days.  When we picked him up this time he wasn’t drooling but they had stapled his previously stitched posterior and it looked as if we had payed the vet to have a zipper installed.

We really thought that this would solve our problem, but when we got home we learned just how wrong we were.  I was sick to my stomach when I noticed that the staple in the center had let go and he now had a small hole in his zipper.

The next day, with the snow coming down steady Dad and our youngest son loaded Butch-the-wonder-pooch into the truck and headed to town for a second surgery.  After the doctor reviewed the wound she declared that it looked better than the day before and that she didn’t want to do surgery, but instead removed all the stitches and sent us home with an antibiotic cream to keep everything clean.

And with zero visibility and snow covered mountain roads they began the one hour drive home…only this time it took two hours.  I was so delighted to know that our lab wouldn’t need surgery and I was even happier when they pulled in the drive.

The next morning, however, we realized that we were back to square one as the skin had let go and he was now sporting a gaping wound.  And there was no returning to town.  The roads were too hazardous to travel.

Today being the first day it was safe to travel, we took the old dog in and they did the surgery over.  This time he was shaking but not drooling when we picked him up.  Throughout this tumor removing ordeal the kids have had to endure riding back and forth through the mountains four times.  That may not seem like much, but believe me…it gets old losing half a day in this fashion.  In an effort to lift spirits and make the trek more eventful I stopped at the grocery store and purchased a box cake to make Valentine cupcakes.  Add to that a package of hot dogs and my kids were thrilled.  Can you tell I rarely purchase junk food?

For the fourth time in a week Dad lifted the lab out of the truck and carried him to our couch, I got the fire going, and the kids unloaded the car.  While they made cupcakes I nuked the hot dogs.

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Life was good…and in no time they were removing the goodies from the oven.  When I told them that the cupcakes must cool before they could frost them, they came up with a brilliant idea.  Lets put them in the snow to cool!  And they did…

Please note…No one seemed concerned when I warned that a critter could find their stash in the snow.

And off they went to get baths…and then I heard the shrieks, which brought me running.  Alas…Buck the other wonder mutt had been released from the basement by their unknowing father and he had found their dessert.  He was one very happy dog, too.

Let me paint a current picture of my household…

Buck is splayed out on the living room floor in front of the fireplace looking quite satisfied after his cupcake feast.  Next to me on the couch Butch is in a drug induced stupor on an old pink princess blanket while wearing his Elizabethan collar.  Dad is in his favorite chair with his iPad in hand…but he looks weary and if I had to read his mind I’d say he is just a little perturbed about wasting the last week of his life caring for and driving Butch around.   And the kids are sulking and bemoaning the loss of sixteen valentine candy enriched cupcakes, even though they prevented the dog from getting two and had them for dessert.  The other dogs are confined in the basement, where they are chasing our very unhappy cats.

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And this is the story of a loyal puppy and how he had to have two tumors removed.

I can only hope that it will end soon.

Hope in the Old and Weathered

Yesterday I talked about where I find hope, and how I keep the dreams alive that spring from it.  Have you ever noticed how inspired you feel when you receive a new pair of shoes or a purse?  This year for Christmas my oldest daughter gave me a purse.  And boy did I need one!  It is so great to have a female child who would notice this kind of thing and so carefully pick out a replacement.  I need her to be my personal shopper.  Oh to have enough money to just hire her to keep the pantry filled, the kids closet replenished with clothes that fit and the stained ones removed.  But I digress as I dream of such.

The point is this…I delighted in pulling apart my old wallet and placing all of my purse staples into the new one she had given me.  Do you remember when you were little and you were taken to buy new shoes?  Many times I left the store with my old shoes in the new box and my new ones on my feet!  I wanted everyone to notice my new (and many times white) sneakers.  At that age I was convinced I could run faster with the new footwear.  Now I know much better and even smile when I hear kids declare such, but I still take great joy out of a new pair of shoes.  It is easy to find hope in the new, whether it is a new year, purse, shoes, a book, toaster oven, sheets…and on goes that list.

But have you ever found hope in the old?

Yesterday before my sister left to go home for the holidays, she wanted to share a discovery she made a few days prior.  She was looking for a bike route for me to use that was off the somewhat dangerous highway that passes through our valley.  In her travels down old roads, she had stumbled upon something she knew I’d enjoy seeing.

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We are not sure if this house has always rested in this location, or if it was recently moved here.  The underside has been supported with new cement blocks and some of the older rotted boards have been replaced with new lumber.  Stones have been lovingly placed as supports at the edges of the house, so that the newer and more modern supports aren’t as obvious.

In addition to replacing portions of the tin roof, the windows have been boarded up to keep the elements out.

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The biggest indication that someone has hope for this building, is found in the way it has been decorated for Christmas.  Both windows hold candles and the door, which doesn’t completely fill its frame, is adorned with a simple vine wreath.

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As I sifted through these images and edited my favorites, it occurred to me that hope can be found in the old as well as the new.  What’s even better about finding hope in the worn and weathered, is that it is contagious.  When a neighbor cleans out an old weed filled flower bed and brings it to life with bright spring flowers, we are inclined to want the same thing for our adjoining property.  I dare say that the old houses around this one, are thinking…”If that old house can shine so brightly with its crooked and bent boards, what can we do with our home?”

It is easy to find hope and be inspired by the new and shiny, but real hope and satisfaction of a job well done, comes from seeing what can be in the old and worn, and then taking the steps to make that dream or image come alive.

While the joy of a new pair of shoes is wonderful, it is short lived and not nearly as rewarding as finding the hope in that which is weathered.  And I don’t think that anyone has ever been inspired by or found hope in my owning a new purse.

My Trinity of Hope

Where does hope come from?  That is the question I’ve been considering today, as we begin the new year.  After doing some reading and asking those who are closest to me there seems to be three main responses to this question.  Hope either comes from the heart – our emotions, head – through conscious decisions, or faith – belief in a higher power.  If I were forced into admitting which of these is my strongest source of hope I would unequivocally say that my faith as a Christian is the main sustenance in my hope for the future.

I would, however, have to place some large conditions on this response.  As I approach my 44th birthday I have learned two things about optimism.  Yes my faith in God sustains me, but sometimes my head is needed to overcome my heart and vice versa.  If you have ever had a season of depression (and most have) you know that emotions cannot be trusted.  During these periods our mind must choose to believe the promises provided by our faith, and not have our actions affected by our dark emotions.  We actively make a decision, the likes of which are generated in the head, and dive head first into trusting that which we cannot feel nor see.  And even as I think this through I can recall plenty of instances where my thinking was poor but my faith was strong, and my heart emotionally responded to this belief and pulled me through times of trial, when all logic defied the positive attitude I exhibited.   As such my heart was fueling me and giving me the much needed power boost to endure.

If someone had asked me when I was younger what the source of my hope is, I would have said it was my faith and my faith alone.  My faith in God and his will for my life has guided me though some terrible storms.  As I look back on these experiences I shudder to think of enduring these trials alone.  My hope most definitely finds its strength in God.  However, after a few decades of life experiences I have also learned that the head and the heart both strengthen and hold back my faithful walk and hope for my future.  They are my hopeful trinity and I have learned when to engage the heart to steer my trust in the unseen, and when to use my logical head to guide me around the storm of emotions that aren’t allowing me to trust my faith.

Where does your hope come from?  Are you a head, heart or faith hopeful person?  Or do you have another source for your optimism about the future?  And lastly, what color most signifies hope to you?  For me it is green…

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When a plant turns from brown and dead to bright green in the early days of spring I see great hope.  Hope for bright strong branches, flowers, and warm summer days to come.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of green around us this time of year.  But the moss endures…remaining us of the spring that is just around the corner.

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Happy New Year to you…and best wishes in establishing high goals and resolutions that fill you with hope as we dive into 2014!

Peace and Bears

One of our main reasons for choosing to move to the mountains of north Georgia, was to find a remote and peaceful life.  In the months to come it is our goal to create a small farm on the five acres we now call home.  In an effort to achieve that goal, we have begun searching for the heritage breeds of goat, chicken and pig that we would like to raise.  Yes, it takes a long time to get to town, but the peace here is unparalleled.  We do not butt noses with humans, but instead find our neighbors are bears, coyotes, turkeys and deer.

Yesterday as we explored the valleys and gaps around our home, we discovered a handful of homes nestled around the shores of a lake.

And the atmosphere from the deck on the back of one of the houses invoked the feelings that Yeats described in his poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”

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I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
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And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
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I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
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-William Butler Yeats
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While this move has proven to provide us with the peaceful life we were looking far, it has had its humorous moments.
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I am fairly certain that the neighbors have found us a bit (if not a lot) entertaining.  For instance, within a few days of moving in our closest neighbor introduced herself with a batch of homemade cookies.  She couldn’t help but notice that we were storing our milk and other perishables in a cooler on the back porch.  Our appliances had yet to arrive and since the temperatures were low we knew this would be a good place to keep them cool.
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The call we received a few days  after her cookie delivery indicated that we didn’t quite understand how close we now live to bears.  It seems that when she relayed that we were using our deck as a walk in fridge to another neighbor, he became quite concerned.  He asked her to tell us that we needed to get the food inside before a troop of bears was using our rear french door as a drive thru window for grub.  I knew that they were telling me the truth when the following night, after bringing the food inside, a raccoon and opossum were staring in our back door.  Now they didn’t just walk up and leave when they discovered that there wasn’t anything left to eat.  No!  They did not.  Instead, they looked into my eyes when I approached the glass and it was quite clear that they intended to open the door and come in, if I didn’t do it for them.  I shoo(ed) them and when that failed to motivate them to leave, I introduced them to our labrador retriever.  He was able to convince them they wanted to find their food in the woods, the traditional way.  This experience was unnerving, to say the least.  Thank you dear neighbor…I am grateful you alerted us and that we now have a refrigerator.