Farewell, sweet friend

Cover photo: Miss Pup with her beau Rocko, who crossed the bridge earlier this year. 

Many hearts were broken just after midnight on August 23, when Miss Puppy’s sweet little heart—which was at least as big as Texas—just gave up.

Everyone lucky enough to have a loving dog understands intellectually that by human standards, their time with you is short. Pup was fourteen—she’d been with us for eleven of those years. We knew that she was slowing down, but she was still full of life. Then, in barely more than a week, she was gone. Although  grateful that she was saved the pain of a lengthy illness, we were shellshocked. Losing a pet we love, it turns out, isn’t much different from losing a person we love, as science has substantiated. Nor is it much easier.

Our kids, our extended family, our friends and neighbors, and all of the others Miss Pup encountered in her travels have felt the loss, too. Suddenly, the whole rhythm of our daily lives changed. Suddenly, we were out walking by ourselves…. no sweet Pup to nudge me out of bed at 6:30, then curl up on my pillow for another half hour’s sleep, or to take Hubby’s pillow till he came to bed…. no happy, smiling Pup in Hubby’s lap, being toweled off after her bath…. no crazy barking  when the doorbell rang…. no need to say, “Be a good girl, Pup. Eat your crunchies!”

Miss Puppy could hear me peeling a carrot  from anywhere in the house. Broccoli and green beans, cantaloupe and apples, peaches and pears—she loved her veggies and fruits and the crumbs of toast I shared with her in our morning ritual.

She was naturally, marvelously, curious, which is why she was Miss Puppy Clouseau. Her vocabulary was hug. Her Aunt Sue and Aunt Sue, when  providing her periodic “vacation spa getaways,” introduced her to shopkeepers around town and taught her to “look both ways” at corners and pick out her own treat at the Agway. When one of the Sues was interviewed by a local TV station, Miss Pup joined her in the shot, turning her head to the camera and then back at Sue right on cue. She loved rides in the country to see her “friends”—alpacas, goats, sheep, cows, horses—anything on four legs got her attention.

She made us smile, every hour of every day.

IMG_3775Miss Pup at her most regal… she owned every chair in the house.

IMG_0833She loved her shopping trips, probably because she got so much attention.

IMG_0054Checking out her favorite goats.

IMG_1479She owned the bed, too.

IMG_2924Woofer time!

Halloween fun and games with Aunt Sue.

IMG_1555Sunning herself on the green on an early spring day.

IMG_2913Where’s that toast?

IMG_1019Her seat on the patio, properly cushioned for her comfort.

IMG_2857.JPGOne of our very first photos of her… she was about three.

Note to my readers: Thank you for indulging me. I have tried to write this post for days, thinking that it would help us through the grieving process. I continue to be dissatisfied with every iteration—with every word, in fact—but I do feel a bit better now. On to the next task of honing down hundreds of pictures to make “a book of Pup.”



Step on it… an update

Not long ago, I received a jauntily designed email informing me that I’d “won” another Fitbit badge. This time, I’ve walked the length of the Serengeti–500 miles since I started wearing the rubbery black “watch” (which, since it follows me wherever I go, turns out to be double entendre, doesn’t it?) I’d  sworn I’d never own.

The older one grows, it seems, the more one eat’s one’s words.

More than six months into the Fitbit shtick, I grudgingly confess that I’ve grown to like it. Yes, it’s a good motivator. Yes, I am definitely walking more and have lost a bit of weight. Yes, I feel more energetic. Yes, achieving little goals, one after the other, gives me satisfaction. And yes, I get mad on days when something, however, legitimate, interferes with my steps.

I have a long way to catch up with Hubby, who started a few months before me and has, per his Fitbit badge,  “walked” the entire Italian coast. Or with my other Fitbit friends. My belle soeur* invited me to join her Fitbit workweek challenge as soon as she learned I was stepping it up. There are four to six participants, and whoever logs the most steps in the Monday-to-Friday race wins.

I don’t always manage 10,000 steps. If I do, it’s often on the weekends, which doesn’t count in the challenge. I haven’t won this competition once. I’m a morning person; morning is the best time for me to do just about anything. I get my first few thousand steps doing the morning chores and walking Miss Puppy,  hopefully reaching my admittedly modest goal in the early afternoon. Then, depending on the length of our late afternoon constitutional, and whether I’ve done the grocery store (always good for a couple of thousand steps), I fill in during the evening hours. This often involves a kind of pacing from one end of the first floor to the other that makes Miss Pup, like the dogs in a James Thurber cartoon, regard me with utter disdain.**

This “morning person” almost never makes major progress, with steps or anything else, after 7 PM—especially with darkness arriving earlier each day. Whereas I am entirely diurnal, at nightfall, my belle soeur is just getting started. If I go to bed at 11, comfortably in second place, I will inevitably awaken the next morning to find that she has surged past me, like the near magical horse who flies into the lead in the last few furlongs of the derby.  I have affectionately referred to her as my “night stalker.” Still, I’m glad to be a part of this friendly competition, and I’m actually pretty happy with my overall performance. Every 10,000-step day is especially satisfying.

As I write this, early on a Wednesday morning, my belle soeur is about 1,000 steps behind me. Then again, it’s not even 9 AM.

*I refuse to use the phrase “in-law” for anyone I care about, much preferring the gentler French expression for the relationship.

**If Miss Pup could talk as I pace, she’d surely be saying, “Have you gone totally bonkers, and, if so, why are you taking me with you?”


Old dogs can, in fact, learn new tricks

UPDATE: Notice the goof in paragraph 2, where I wrote “spring” instead of “string.” Wishful thinking if not a Freudian slip, so I’m going to leave it as is!

I launched my blog with the New Year after months of tossing the idea, well seeded by my daughter,  around in my head. Finally, around Christmas time, I plowed headfirst into WordPress to see if I could figure it out on my own. Some aspects were fairly intuitive; others, virtually inscrutable. I’m no techno-dummy, but at times I felt completely intimidated by all the techno-speak.

I plodded along, going back again and again to try to unravel what seemed like that gigantic ball of spring that sits along a roadside in Kansas. With each small victory, my confidence grew. Sometimes, it took four or five tries. Sometimes, I hit a brick wall and needed professional help (probably in more ways than one). My son pitched in when he could. One of my new younger friends, whom I like to call my techno-angel, has been very gracious and helpful. Little by little, it’s coming together. I try very hard not to get discouraged—after all, this is supposed to be fun—but there are moments when I long for a resident 10-year-old. LOL.

Happily, I’m making progress with each passing week. Now, thanks to the wise counsel and assistance of my techno-angel, I even have a Gravitar… a “globally recognizable avatar” that shows up online whenever I do, in my #HashTagRetired persona. As my irrepressible Uncle Sam used to say, “Who’da thunk it?”

I’m determined that this blog will always be not only informative and entertaining but also lovely to look at. I know a striking, user-friendly website when I see one, but it was a revelation to learn, thanks to my kids and my techno-angel, that my initial notion of a beautiful look wasn’t necessarily the most effective for a blog.

It had never crossed my mind, for example, that I should be more concerned about how format and photos look on a cell phone than on my laptop screen. That was an Aha! moment for sure. I write on my laptop every morning, but I use the phone all day long to check email, the sites I follow, the weather, yadda, yadda, yadda. Most of us do. And even though I agree that we’re overly dependent on our electronic devices, if you resist keeping up with technology, you risk losing your social context. And just like sitting in front of the TV in a recliner, being out of context can make you feel old and out of touch long before your time.

You may have noticed that I started out with #retired and then migrated to #HashTagRetired, which, if you’re techno-savvy, you probably think is redundant. I’m not 100% sure where that will land. If you’ve followed the blog from the start, thanks for your patience with the changes thus far. There will be more; there’s no room for complacency in the faster-than-Superman online universe. Tweets, Instagram, maybe even Pinterest—they’re all on the horizon. A blog, I’ve discovered, needs to be just as organic as the thought process that produces it.

Photo: Miss Puppy Clouseau visits her friends at the solar farm.


4 AM with Miss Pup…

What’s wrong with this picture? Miss Puppy Clouseau and I have now been playing the “What is it you really want?” game for almost two hours. Miss Pup was a rescue, as all of my dogs have been. We were told she’d been abused, which may still account for some of her quirks and ticks after nine wonderful years with us. She is queen of her domain, and color-coordinated with just about every room in our house, perhaps not coincidentally, and owns every chair in the place as well as our king-sized bed. I’m sure some of you can relate.

But back to the “What is it you really want?” game. Miss Pup recently recovered from a brief episode of something like kennel cough, no doubt contracted from all the fun sniffing and peeing (where does all that pee come from???) she does on her walks. My husband calls that behavior “instant messaging,” which is cute. Anyway, the night the coughing started, we were up all night with her, stopping just short of dragging her into the bathroom and turning all the faucets on, as I used to do with croupy little Christopher. In the morning, we took her straight to the vet, whose comforting message was that her dogs had it, too, and that it would likely ease on its own in a few days. Which it pretty much did. By the way, just like that rattle that goes away the minute you take your car to the garage, she didn’t cough at the vet’s. Not once.

Let me preface the rest of this story by stating outright that, even though the kids are fully formed adults now, I am still the “mom” in the house. Which means that, most of the time, I attend Miss Pup if she’s ailing. For instance, I slept on the floor with her when she had elbow surgery. I don’t let my husband do these things because, as he has been generally averse to sleeping like a normal person most of his life, the few hours of winks that he does get are worthy of protection. Miss Pup, by the way, though probably mostly Maltese, is pure sheep dog at bedtime. She’d herd us into that Tempur-Pedic® at 8:30 if she had it her way.

Last night, Pup had another coughing spell, though this time not so alarming. Thinking that a rush of cool air would help, I took her for a block-long walk, which seemed to calm the cough right down. Then we all went to bed. Pup curled up and went right to sleep, leaving me the usual two inches’ clearance, but at 4 started nagging to go out. She did this first by climbing on hubby and peering straight down at him like one of the doggies in James Thurber’s cartoons*. Realizing that nothing good would come of it if I didn’t respond, I got up and took her out. She peed and we all went back to bed.

It became very clear very quickly, however, that peeing wasn’t the problem, and that she wasn’t interested in sleep. So Pup and I got up. She lay on the couch beside me for a while, then perked up and seemed to want breakfast. I gave her a little less than usual because of the early hour. She gobbled it up, but there was still no satisfying her. She moved on to what I call her “insisting” behavior, which involves relentless whining, climbing up on my lap, and licking my hand furiously. Thinking she had to pee again, I opened the garage door and stood there with her, only to have her sniff around without so much as an IM (see paragraph 2, above). Our neighbor, meanwhile, had the great treat of going off to work with a vision of me in my schleppy bathrobe, flannel PJs, and mukluks. Pup and I went back inside, but the next round of whining began almost immediately. I responded by giving her the rest of her breakfast, which she again gobbled up. She quieted down a bit but still had that “You haven’t satisfied me” look on her face as she sat staring at me from the wingback she assumes is her own, along with all of the other furniture in the house.

Eventually, Pup went to sleep. I, of course, did not. I did somehow manage to read another chapter of The French Chef in America, poke half-heartedly through my daily online reading list, and start this blog post. When I started to hear a few birds outside, I opened the shutters to let the light in, and made an espresso. There would be no rest for the weary. “Jim the Trim Guy,” our favorite carpenter, was due at 8, and my Pilates class would start at 11.

You know how this ends. I got through the carpentry and the Pilates, but at about 2, all bets were off. Cranky and dragging, I eschewed food and fell asleep at 8:30. My husband wisely kept a wide berth. Pup, meanwhile, showed no further signs of discomfort or infirmity.

*Possibly an obscure cultural reference if you are not of a certain age. Thurber wrote books and stories including, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” My personal favorite is “The Night the Bed Fell on Father,” which, though it will seem dated, quaint, and/or odd to some readers today, still makes me laugh out loud. He wrote and produced fabulously funny cartoons for The New Yorker and has been called the greatest American humorist of the 20th Century. His “dog” cartoons and insights into the behavior of man’s best friend are priceless.