Tuesday, August 31, 2010

She thinks she's helping

Home sick + Magazine deadline = Working from bed today. With a golden who thinks she's a lap dog.

And this is how she thinks she's helping. She managed to type an entire sentence of gibberish on Page 6 before I noticed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Art smarts

Gabe and his first homework assignment - complete!

Gabe's kindergarten class was instructed to find pictures of things they enjoy/like then decorate their journals with them.

We Baldwins may not be artsy fartsy folk...but we can do wonders with a glue stick.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Making the right decision

Her name is Bear.

And each day she helps heal the aching throb that pounds my chest and the heaviness that weighs on my soul.


Pets burrow into our lives and our hearts with the greatest of ease. Providing unconditional love and a purity of soul unlike anything else we experience.

We feed them, provide shelter, take them to the vet, play with them, hold them, laugh at them, get mad when they break something, wonder what they’re thinking when they cock their head and stare into our soul.

But Chaser, WonderMutt of West Edwards Street, was special.

When she was diagnosed with bone cancer, my husband and I made the difficult decision to have the leg with the tumor amputated. The cancer, a sickeningly aggressive form, had yet to spread but would not be stopped.

But we could slow it down. Give her - and us - a few extra months. Moments for car rides. Belly rubs. Swimming at the lake.

The surgery was a success. She was hopping around on three healthy legs. A little groggy. Somewhat confused. Probably a whole lot mad. We got the call that she was ready to come home.

Then, soon after, the phone rang again....

Chaser. My Chaser.

Was dead.

Perhaps a blood clot, but it really didn’t matter. She was gone.

As our vet continued to talk, her voice cracking with disbelief and sadness, I remember looking down at the kitchen floor beneath my feet.

It was covered with a patchwork of area rugs I had conned from friends all over town and taped to the hardwood floor to provide traction to a fuzzy friend who’d be a little uneasy on her paws for a while.

I reached down and slowly began to peel back the tape. Shock willing my body to do something, to stay productive and keep my mind from shutting down. The menial task of removing the rugs was the only thing that kept me sane in that moment.

Then I had to tell my husband.

Nothing prepares you to say it.

Nothing prepares you to hear it.

In the weeks after, as we adjusted to life without her in it, we battled our own demons.

My husband - racked with guilt she didn’t die at home surrounded by family.

Me - racked with grief, walking into the vet’s office to pick up her collar with the bone-shaped brass tag marked “Chaser” hanging forlornly from it.

The pain cracked my heart, and my life would never be the same.


Just a few weeks later, another phone call changed our lives.

A friend who volunteers to get dogs and cats to rescue organizations knew of a golden retriever who needed a home.

She didn’t want to push. Didn’t want us to feel obligated. Knew we probably weren’t ready but wanted to let us know anyway.

I should have said, “No.” I wanted to say, “No.”

I needed to say, “No.”

But the girl needed a home.

I made the 30-minute drive and prayed with each mile that she’d be nothing like Chaser. Heavy with the burden that my husband had left the decision up to me, I desperately tried to sort through my brittle feelings.

What if I made the wrong decision?

What - exactly - was the right one?

And as I made the return trip home, looking down to see a golden head lying in my lap and big, beautiful brown eyes staring back up at me with such love and trust, I knew in that moment I had made the right one.

A friend said when our pets pass away it’s as if they make room in our life for a new one. Bravely stepping aside so another can be loved.

So today we have another collar, with another bone-shaped brass tag.

And this time it says, “Bear.”


If an animal has touched your life like Chaser and Bear have touched ours, please consider supporting your local humane society or animal shelter. National groups like the Humane Society of the United States promote animal welfare, but neither its dues nor donations directly support your local shelter financially.

So please think about making a difference where you live. In Maryville, the New Nodaway Humane Society has launched its annual membership drive for the community and surrounding Nodaway County area.

Dues start at just $24. Junior memberships for those under 18 are just $12 a year. Not much, is it? But it means so much to the dog or cat you help save.

Please click here to learn more and help other families find their own Bear.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spay or neuter your pet...PLEASE!

Bear is a brave little girl. She underwent the spay procedure yesterday and is already back to normal, playing with my husband outside on this beautiful summer afternoon.

If only we humans could bounce back so fast!

As a volunteer and board member with the New Nodaway Humane Society, I spend much of my time advocating the importance of spaying/neutering pets.

And people still refuse to listen. Got questions? Click here to learn the myths and the facts. The only way your local animal shelters will ever get ahead is when people step up and become responsible for their pets. Do it. Do it now. Please.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Nothing brings out the stupid like a summer vacation and a little family rivalry.

And people in their 40s should sign medical waivers before performing cannonballs and back flips off a lakeside swimming dock.

Just sayin’....

“What do you think you are doing?” I hollered at my husband, having just spotted him balanced with heels hanging over the edge of the dock, back to the water and in what appeared to be a countdown to launch position.

“A backward tuck and twist,” he quickly responded before jerking his thumb to the left. “I’m not sure what this joker is planning.”

The joker beside him was my brother-in-law. Equal in age and what appeared to be IQ, he simply nodded and gave the universal sign for insanity: two thumbs up.

Before I could remind them that the odds of successfully performing such a maneuver at their advanced stage of age really wasn’t in their favor, they yelled, “THREE-TWO-ONE-GO!” and hurled themselves backward into space.

Time stopped for one brief moment as they hung there in silence.

Then all hell broke loose.

Arms went one way. Legs another. An elbow flew out and shot the other one in the nose. A foot ended up in someone’s stomach, and a scream that rivaled an 8-year-old girl at a Hannah Montana concert tore through the air.

It finished with a deafening splash and a wake big enough to cause a tsunami and wipe out a small fishing village in New Guinea.

The rest of us stood in silence, waiting for some small sign the maniacs had survived their suicidal leap.

With baited breath, one head popped up through the surface. Shortly followed by another. They shouted their jubilation while coughing up half the lake and slowly swimming back to higher ground.

I sighed in relief then turned to hear my 5-year-old son scream, “That was AWESOME! Can I do that?”

Wearing red swimming trunks with a bright yellow life jacket wrapped around his body and blue goggles strapped to his head, he was a kaleidoscope of colors on that hot summer day.

And he was entirely too cute to follow in such undesirable footsteps of the family elders, Thelma and Louise.

“No,” I said. “You can NOT do that.”

“But, Mom,” he managed to eek out before I interrupted with an “over my dead body.”

Then - before anyone else knew what was happening - my other brother-in-law tore across the dock, screamed, “GERONIMO!” and took a header into the lake.

I was surrounded by crazy.

And not in a good way, like at a shoe sale or opening day.

No, in a we’re-so-gonna-end-up-on-YouTube crazy kinda way.

I shook my head in disbelief then turned to hear my only child scream, “GERANIUM!” and jump into the air, following his uncle into the water.


While it was unbelievably cute that he had misheard his uncle’s war cry and instead replaced it with an ode to flora, I had obviously lost control of the situation.

Not that I ever really had it in the first place. Welcome to my life.

The afternoon continued with siblings attempting to - and succeeding in - throwing each other off jet skis. Summer’s favorite past time behind making s’mores and drinking beer.

Or was that drinking beer and making s’mores?

Anyway, we watched as pinwheels of arms and legs spun across the water as their bodies were hurled from the racing watercraft, skidding off the surface for several feet then sinking below out of sight.

In between bursts of laughter from the gallery, I leaned over to inform my son that while watching Dad perform selections from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” really wasn’t safe and please don’t think about doing this when you’re older but if you do have the heart to make sure I’m dead first.

And then they graduated to that wonderful sport that turns grown men into boys whose maturity level has yet to sprout past the fifth grade.


They rocked. They rolled. They bounced. They bucked.

They scared fish and performed stunts that are probably illegal in many states.

And everything was fine and dandy.

Right up until the next morning.

When they realized there weren’t enough pain killers in the world to make life right again.

And there’s a lesson in that for all of us.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life is golden

Bear has adjusted nicely to our home.  In one short week, I can report the following:

1. Housetrained in two days.

2. Learned to sit, stay and lay down. Also understands what NO, DROP THAT and WE DO NOT EAT POOP mean.

3. Decided the most comfy place to sleep is on our bed. Since she's already 56 pounds and growing...the odds of her staying in it are very, very low.

4. Gabe is her favorite person. He's even better than peanut butter.

5. Chewies rock.

6. She's definitely a golden: bred with an inate need to steal socks and other assorted laundry items.

We have loved opening our home to this beautiful spirit. Sometimes when she cocks her head a certain way or runs down the hallway, she reminds me so much of Chaser it makes my heart ache.

After Chaser died, a friend remarked that when our beloved pets pass it's as if they leave to make room for another. In a way, that has happened. We'd give anything to have our Golden Girl back with us. But that's not possible. So here we are, sharing our love with another.

Chaser trained us well.