Saturday, May 28, 2011

Others' thoughts on dogs and loss

Old men miss many dogs.
--Steve Allen

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our life whole.
--Roger Caras

Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
--Khalil Gibran

You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.
--C. S. Lewis

Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our lives.
--John Galworthy

Dogs lives are too short.  Their only fault, really.
--Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Monday, May 23, 2011

In loving memory, Oskar O'Naturel de Guerande

Oskar died today.  He bloated after dinner, and at the vet I chose to put him to sleep rather than subject him to invasive treatments that had low chances of helping.  I'd been putting this video together for a while now.  I was still working on it.  You might need a tissue.

Oskar was a great dog.  If you've been reading this blog, you know many stories about his 12-3/4 years.  So right now I'm just going to tell you how today, his last day, was really good.

Like the rest of the country we've had a lot of bad weather here lately.  Today, however, turned sunny and warm.  I got home from work and we had our typical weeknight routine.  Check the chickens, make supper for everyone.  By 6:30 Oskar was outside in the yard and I watched the evening news.  Between 7 and 8 I went outside with the dogs.  Ulani and I played frisbee, and Oskar did his tricks for treats.  The birds sang and all was happy.

Ulani and I came inside to watch Dancing with the Stars, but Oskar stayed in the backyard as he loved to do.  The evening was sunny and about 75 degrees -- just perfect.

A couple of times at commercial breaks I looked over to see Oskar in the grass by the gate, watching over all the activity in the yard.  This was his favorite thing.  Then about ten 'til 9 when I looked he wasn't there.  Not unusual because sometimes he'd go off to make rounds.

As DWTS wrapped up I looked out and he still wasn't there.  Looking a little more carefully I saw he had shifted to a different place in the grass, and was surrounded by what looked like strips of white paper.  Ulani and I went outside to check and I discovered that the white was foamy spit-up.  Any owner of a large, deep-chested dog should know the signs of bloat.  I had him stand up and thought his chest seemed a bit extended but certainly not that basketball appearance you fear.  His gums, however, were grayish.  Not a good sign.  And he was panting.

I quickly called Dr. Mike and arranged to meet at the hospital in 20 minutes.  Oskar carefully put his front legs into the backseat and I boosted him in.  Then I drove faster on country roads than I ever have.  Dr. Mike examined him then took him for an xray.  I paced.  When they returned I was given the bad news.  Oskar was bloating.  I already knew that I would not opt for surgery on a dog his age.  There was only one other option.

And so I sat on the floor with my big boy, sang the Puppy School song with him, had him shake hands and do a quiet bark, while the drugs took effect and he left me.  It was very peaceful and I was so grateful to be able to end his suffering.

I'll have more to write in a day or two.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Morning has Broken, 10

There's a war going on at Busy Solitude Farm.  (No, not that war in the barn.  That's a different conflict.)  It's the Sugar Water War, fought each year by the male hummingbirds whose territoriality is legendary.

This little guy is currently "King of the Mountain."

He perches on the hook, looking all around for the challengers.  Currently there are two challengers.  Three beautiful boys fighting mid-air, screeching and zipping, to control the sugar water and win the ladies' hummingbird hearts.

You can watch a little bit of the zipping here. 

Every once in a while they pause and all refresh themselves with sugar water.  Which makes it appear to be more of a collegial exercise rather than blood sport.

I hope the ladies are impressed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

More storm damage...

This is one of about four evergreens knocked over in the big storm Wednesday night.  One particular road bore the brunt of the wind's fury.

Trees knocked over...

Branches and entire tree trunks cracked...

But wouldn't you just know...

This old barn is still standing!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mother Nature

There'd been no warning of severe storms.  But suddenly they developed at the south end of Lake Michigan and began moving north-east.  I'd been outside with the dogs and cats and watched the clouds on the horizon.  Finally when it began to sprinkle I said "ok, everybody in the house!"

In we went.  The dogs panted hard, a dependable precursor to a storm.  Sure enough, the rain came down hard.  And the lightening was constant, with thunder rolling in the distance.  We sat on the bed watching westward out the closed window; hail hammered the glass.  I popped on the television in time to hear the weatherman say "there's rotation in these clouds between Three Oaks and Galien."  That's EXACTLY where I live!

So I told the dogs "we're getting away from these windows!"  We moved into the living room, on the couch.  That's when I discovered that Luke had opened the screen after we all came in, and apparently gone back outside.  Now he was in the middle of a huge storm.  But there was nothing I could do at that point.

The storm raged on.  At one point I swear I heard that whoosh like a train that people always say they hear when a tornado races past.  The winds were massive.

And then a weird thing happened.  The power flashed and went out.  I live in the country and this is not so unusual, but it almost always comes right back on.  This time it stayed out.  And the weird thing was I heard a noise.  An electrical noise, right outside the living room window.  "Expletive deleted," I thought.  Now I'm really screwed.

It was pitch black in the house.  I felt my way around the dogs, past the dining table to the washing machine.  My rechargeable flashlight hangs in a plug next to the washer.  And it was not there.  So I felt my way back to the kitchen, found a candle and a match, then discovered the flashlight on the kitchen table.  Phew.  I immediately took the flashlight to the front door, and as soon as I called, Luke came racing inside.

Everything is a chore in the dark.  I searched around to find my cell phone, then searched to find an electric bill for the outage phone number.  Expected a message saying "we are aware of outages in your area" but no such luck.  Once that was finished, there was nothing to do but go to bed.

We all piled into the bedroom and snuggled up.  The dogs still panted loudly, and the cats were pretty clingy in the hot air.  Still, within half an hour we all dozed off.  Until midnight when there were voices outside.  The dogs set off the bark alarm.  I looked out the window and saw search lights coming up the road.

So out I went to the street to find the electric company guys shining their light on the electric pole across the street.  I figured they had things in hand and would have our power back on in a matter of minutes, so back to bed.  Where I awoke this morning still out of power.  And got the message that it was expected back on by 11 am.

Out with the dogs in the morning light, I finally figured out what had happened.  As you see in the photo, the lines on that electric pole snapped.  That must have caused the weird sound I heard, and definitely is the reason no power is reaching my house.  That's a corn field that pole is in -- no trees nearby.  Those lines snapped from wind.

Mother Nature is awesome!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Storm!

What a storm we had! No one forecast such a sudden onslaught --the dogs started panting half an hour before, and I put it up to the heat.  But they knew what was coming.  No doubt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where's the Smell-o-Vision?

Temperatures hit 80 today, and the lilacs burst into glorious bloom.  Though these two bushes are near the road, I could smell the scent clearly as I left the barn this afternoon.

There are three other lilacs in other places in the yard, kind of surrounding the house.  Now that the windows are open, I'm aware of them everywhere.

Believe it or not, this morning before I left for work I stuck my nose straight into this bush and smelled nothing!

I didn't include anything in this photo for size, but these two side-by-side lilacs are about a head taller than my 5 foot 4 inches.  And this year they're just blowsy and elegant!

 Oh, alright!  I couldn't resist adding myself so you can see just how tall they are!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


The rooster problem reached a sad climax today.  Multiple times I heard commotion in the barn, but each time I went to investigate I found nothing wrong.  Finally I stopped checking and went on about my business.

Sadly, when I went to close the barn tonight I discovered Eggy Jr. dead.  The food and waterer were spilled, and two of the white roosters were bloodied.  And as I cleared up the mess, the two roosters began fighting each other.

I've been preparing to rearrange the chicken housing, but am not yet ready to create any more separate pens.  So I took one of the roosters and boarded him with the ducks for overnight.  He can roost up high to stay away from the drakes' probing bills and it keeps him away from the aggressive rooster.

Tomorrow I'll have to give serious consideration to the options.  They aren't many.

Friday, May 6, 2011


This morning I saw my first hummingbird of the year!  (That's not it, that photo is from last summer.)  Others reported hummers in Michigan since early April.  I replaced my broken feeder, boiled up some sugar water, and then waited.  And waited.

I did notice that the water level was going down -- but the storms and wind might have been responsible for that.  At least that's what I thought. 

Until this morning!

I sat on the back step, drinking my coffee with Luke warming my lap.  Suddenly, ZIP!  BUZZ!  And there helicoptering around the feeder... a hummer!  It drank and drank, then zipped over to the clothesline and perched for a minute.  How I wished I had my binoculars in hand.  Or my camera.  But all I had was a cup of delicious coffee, much needed after last night's Cinco de Mayo margarita. 

Oops, that's another story.

After a rest on the clothesline, the hummer zipped back to the feeder and then off across the yard.  Where did it go?  I hope to tell the other hummers it's time to get back to Busy Solitude Farm!

Can summer be far off?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Nose Knows

Just a couple of weeks ago, on April 18, this is what we had to contend with.

Then the rains came.  The grass greened up.  The days got longer. 

And now there're just a few drips of water from the drink bucket decorating Oskar's nose.  Will the weather ever warm up?

The nose knows!