Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lake fun and other news

We spent a wonderful week at the lake with Jon's family. It was so great to see my hubby relaxing. His job can be stressful, so I'm happy he got to enjoy the water, dumping his little bro off a jet ski and throwing his son into the lake...repeatedly. Ah, good times.

And we were so proud of Gabe. He is great about trying new things. Jet skiing. Tubing. Diving off a 12-foot platform. The best missed photo op was when he flew off into the stratosphere while tubing at an alarming rate of speed. However, after spitting out a gallon of water he announced he was ready for Round 2.

And the day we returned home we welcomed Bear to our family. She's an 8-month-old golden retriever. We weren't looking yet; still dealing with the loss of our beloved Chaser. But Bear found us anyway. She already had a great home, but the family needed to downsize the number of dogs they had. So she has found a home with us.

As she was in an outside kennel, we're experience the joys of housetraining. And she's quickly learned the value of air conditioning and comfy beds.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hole in your heart

For better or for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Right up until somebody kicks the bucket.

Ah, the lovely marriage vows.

It wasn’t until seven years later we realized we had omitted one: Nothing spells togetherness like a couple attempting to bury the remains of a beloved dog.

Then all bets are off.


When our beautiful Chaser, Wondermutt of West Edwards Street, passed away, my husband and I had her body cremated.

I had envisioned tossing the ashes into the sunshine and wind. Say a poem. Sing “Kumbaya.” You know, a real “Dead Poets Society” kinda moment.

My husband, on the other hand, had different ideas.

“I want to bury her in the backyard. At home. Where she belongs,” he stated. (Let’s disregard, for the moment, that it’s illegal to do so in most towns. Go ahead. Arrest us.)

He picked up the small box we had prepared containing her ashes and headed out the door.

Before I took two steps, he stopped me and motioned toward the garage wall.

“Grab the shovel,” he said, “and the spade. Don’t forget that little trowel thing. And the clippers.”

Geesh, I thought as I collected the items. Are we digging a hole to friggin’ China or what?

I dropped all the tools into a pile at his feet and pointed out the spot I had chosen beneath a tree. I took a deep breath. I will not cry. I will not cry.

My husband picked up the spade and quickly got down to business.

For about 37 seconds.

“What the hell!” he yelled, his hands rattling from the impact of the spade ramming into a particularly large tree root. He tossed the spade onto the ground, bent over and surveyed the situation.

I decided not to complain that said spade had landed and smashed three plants nearby.

With gloved hands, he began digging through dirt covering the root, trying to ascertain just how far it reached.

Apparently the answer was China.

“OK, this isn’t gonna work,” he huffed and stood up. “Find another spot.”

My jaw dropped and I peered down into what seemed like a perfectly good hole to me and whined, “But I want THIS spot. She used to sit right here. Watching the neighborhood. Terrorizing rabbits. Being beautiful.”

I will not cry. I will not cry.

My husband pointed at the hole and answered, “I. Cannot. Dig. Out. That. Root. Without. A. Nuclear. Warhead.” He paused and repeated curtly, “Find. Another. Spot.”

I pouted but knew if I insisted I’d be digging the hole myself. Alone.

A girl learns a few things after seven years of marriage. I sighed and gestured nearby. “OK, how about there?”

He looked over and asked, “There? Where that flower pot is?”

“Yes,” I answered with one raised eyebrow. “Right there.”

His own eyebrows met in the middle of his forehead, but he didn’t say a word.
Apparently a guy learns a few things after seven years of marriage too.

He yanked on the pot, picked it up and moved it over. And got back to work digging hole #2.

Twenty minutes, two broken shovels, one lost trowel and 138 swear words later we were the proud owners of one gigantic hole.

And that’s the point our five-year-old son wandered into the yard and demanded someone make him a peanut butter sandwich.

Before my husband could howl at his poor timing, I shepherded the royal heir back toward the house. “It’s only fitting, you know. Chaser did love her peanut butter,” I pointed out.

When I returned, Chaser was in the ground, and my husband was pouring dirt back into the hole.

No ceremony? No poetry? No Kumbaya, My Lord? What kinda funeral was this?!

“So that’s it?” I asked, watching him casually toss another uprooted plant to the side. “It’s all over?”

He stood, wavering from the exhaustion of digging halfway to China in 90-degree heat and answered, “Yes, but just so you know, we’re never burying another dog.” He paused then added quietly, “But now she’s home.”

And then we looked at each other, looked down at the freshly dug earth, and with the physical task completed, the weight of the moment pushed us over the emotional cliff we had tried so hard to avoid.

And then we cried. There by her spot under the tree. Together.

Now that’s marriage.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Golden Girl memorial

The flag I ordered for Chaser's memorial arrived today.

Thanks to my in-laws for the inscribed plaque. It pairs nicely with the pawprint stepping stone Chaser and I made a couple of months before she died.

We continue to heal. Missing her tons. Life goes on.

It's just not quite as bright as before.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The show must go on

When the Fourth of July rolls around each year, my husband considers himself a master of pyrotechnics.

I prefer another term.


I peeked inside the plain, brown paper sack and asked, “What exactly is a Dragon of Doom?”

My husband, eyes alit with the kind of manic craziness that usually ensures a one-way ticket into a straight jacket, answered excitedly, “I have no idea, but it’s gonna be awesome!”

He paused then added, “Careful with that. I had to give them my fingerprints and a DNA sample just to buy that thing. So there’s a good chance it’s radioactive.”




As the holiday approaches, days of preparation are in order. Scouring firework tents across three counties and two states. Building launch pads. Checking satellite schedules so he doesn’t accidentally knock out a government-issued orbiter and bring down the wrath of Homeland Security.


But no matter how much one prepares. No matter how many plans one makes. No matter how many permits one files with the local government....

Mother Nature is gonna screw with you.

“Uh, so...how about this rain?” I asked with trepidation as my husband stood just inside the open garage door, his gaze locked on the pouring sheet of rain outside.

He was purple with rage and a slight buzzing was humming off his body. I backed up slightly, knocking into a display behind me and sending pieces of brightly colored fireworks scattering toward the ground.

I cringed and said, “Oops. Sorry.” And ran like hell back into the house.

Mother Nature - 1.

My husband - 0.

Twenty minutes later, awash with the kind of stalwart determination of Never Give Up that built this great country of ours (which also led to the invention of Silly Putty and duct tape) he announced to all that the show must go on.

“I have a plan,” he said.

I bit my nails nervously as a million thoughts rattled through my mind. The first of which was the realization the banks were closed and the ATM has a $300 withdrawal limit.

Because - undoubtedly - his plan had a high probability of ending with a judge and a bail order.

“You’re coming with me,” he announced and pointed my way. I slowly turned around, hoping there was someone standing behind me.


It was just the refrigerator. Unless it magically sprouted opposable thumbs, I was out of luck. My shoulders sagged, and I took a step forward.

“And bring the umbrella,” my husband threw over his shoulder on his way out the door.

So there I was. Standing at the end of our driveway in the middle of a downpour holding an umbrella over my husband as he attempted to light the first firework in the rain.

While part of me admired his determination to follow things through, another part of me - especially my bare toes when he took a step back and smashed them - decided this was getting out of hand.

Just as I opened my mouth to share my black thoughts, I saw him place the lighter next to the fuse and prepare the launch sequence.

Then click.

And...nothing. No flame. No orange ball of ignition.


Click. Followed by a disgruntled grrr as he gave the lighter a savage shake.

Another click. Followed by a more animated “You stupid piece of sh--.”

Then another click. Followed by BOOM.

Which, in my estimation, is exactly the sound of a small sledgehammer busting up a cheap piece of plastic into about a gazillion pieces. But since my husband was back in the garage at this point...it was only a guess.

After a short silence, he stalked out of the garage and said, “The lighter...uh...ain’t working. We got any matches?”

Half a box of spent matches later (because 47 in a row went pffft in the rain before he finally got one to light the fuse) the Dragon of Doom soared high into the sky.

With a BOOM that thundered over the city, it exploded into a shower of dazzling purple and blue flames that seemed to stretch a million miles wide.

“Ooooh!” I said excitedly and shivered with excitement.

And then I uttered the very words that made my husband’s night:

“Do that again!”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lock it up tight

When we decided to have Chaser's remains cremated, I had envisioned spreading her ashes at the pond on the family farm. Symbolically setting her free to become one with the wind and the sun.

But my husband had other ideas. He wanted to bury her ashes in the backyard. At home. "Where she belongs," he told me.

At first, I wasn't sure what to think. Then, remembering that it's not really her, she's already flown to her new home, I agreed. Maybe because I keep finding myself staring out the windows into the backyard, searching for her face. Then I wander outside to sit under the tree she spent so much time under just to feel close to her.

And then a part of me - the part of my soul that will always belong to her - whispered 'this is the place.' So we've chosen a special spot beneath her tree. We planted some flowers and laid the stepping stone of her paw print there. I purchased a small set of windchimes, which now hang in the tree. And when the wind blows, the sound reminds us of the jingle of her collar.

Standing there, I feel peaceful. And now I have something to look for out the window again.

Jon's idea turned out to be a great one. He made a vault of sorts, including Chaser's parrot, Jose, a family portrait, her Bearcat collar and her remains, which I topped with a beautiful sunflower since I always called her my brown-eyed girl. And - never forgotten - one of her tennis balls.

To some, it may seem a bit much, a little dramatic, a little weird. But for us, it seems a fitting tribute to a golden girl who brought so much joy to our lives.

So we'll lock it up tight and bury it in Chaser's garden.

Friday, July 2, 2010

She's everywhere

I finally broke down today and decided to vacuum.

I haven't done that since Chaser died. Seems silly, but I knew it would be the last time we'd see her golden fur scattered on the rugs. After spending the past 7 years vacuuming 5-6 times a week - and successfully burning up three vacuums - going two weeks between jobs was some kind of major house-slob record.

Just as I was getting started, I discovered three tennis balls under the couch. Chaser had stuffed them there for a rainy day.

It made me smile...so I left them. Even though she won't be back to claim them, they'll be waiting for her successor some day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Land of PureGold Foundation

Through the wonders of social media a few months ago, I met the founder of Land of PureGold Foundation. The foundation promotes the human-canine bond and responsible pet ownership, and also funds cancer research and treatments for working dogs for animal-assistance therapy, search and rescue, etc.

Rochelle first contacted me after reading one of my columns, which featured my Chaser. She wanted to reprint it in Pet Talk, her foundation's newsletter. Of course, I said YES!

Just a few short weeks later, she returned the favor by providing us with a great resource - http://www.tripawds.com/ - after learning about Chaser's osteosarcoma diagnosis.

As if Rochelle hadn't helped us enough...she continues to amaze me. In this month's foundation newsletter, she included a two-page feature on my Chaser. Others will read about her journey and her life. It is ways like this my Chaser will live on.

You can read it here (pages 7-8).