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Down to One

>> Friday, October 22, 2010

We are officially a one dog household.  Things with our poor Lucy went downhill very, very quickly, and on Tuesday night we made the decision to put her to sleep before they got worse.  She'd stopped eating anything at all - not even hot dogs and deli roast beef - and was having trouble keeping down water.  While she was still perky enough to enjoy being outside and appreciate affection, it was time.  She certainly wasn't going to start feeling better, and we couldn't really control her pain.  We at least had the chance to spend last weekend with her, and she got visited by many of her favorite humans.  She got a whole lot of attention in those last few days, and surely knew she was loved.

No matter how many times I have to do it, it's always just abysmally miserable to have to take a pet in to be euthanized.  It's at least some small comfort to know it was important that we do it so she didn't suffer.  But Oy!  It's So. Damn. Hard.

I am glad that this time we still have Simon.  The last time we had to put a dog down, there was no canine to come home to, which was just ghastly.  I like having a one-dog household in the sense that it's easier to bond with a dog when there's only one, but I sure like the insurance policy of having two so I'm never completely without canine companions.  Dogs are mighty good at comforting when one is sad.  And somehow it helps when one is worrying more about someone else's grief than one's own.

Simon, for his part, is adjusting admirably.  Although he's neurotic, he's also a goofy, happy-go-lucky dog who is inclined to spontaneously dance and chase his own tail because he has so much exuberance that he just can't stand still.  So I have high hopes that he'll be okay.  He's a little mopey, and very, very clingy.  But he's eating well, and will even still play with us if we put effort into winding him up. 

Last night we found Simon sleeping on top of our cat Pippin, just like he always used to do with Lucy.  My husband says things happen for a reason, and although I don't generally buy into that kind of thinking, I'm almost inclined to believe him in this instance. Pippin, who arrived in our household only a few months ago, drives every other member of our household to absolute distraction.  He's a cocky, obnoxious brute, who beats up the girl kitties, teases our male cat Tucker so incessantly that Tucker has literally gone hoarse from hissing so much at him, has shredded one window screen, one stereo speaker cover, and is working on an arm chair, keeps us up all night spazzing, makes a game out of tripping people, frequently tortures small rodents, and is generally the most exasperating cat I have ever owned.  But Simon sure loves him.  And he loves Simon.  So, Pippin, I grudgingly admit I'm glad you're here, for Simon's sake.  But it's a darn good thing you're so stinkin' cute, or you might not have lasted this long.

Simon has yet to spend a whole day in a crate alone, so it remains to be seen how well he'll cope with that.  My father has been spending time with Simon and doing some day-time dog sitting to ease the transition into being home alone while my husband and I are at work.  We bought him a new, smaller crate that has a calming dog pheremone emitter doojobbie in it.  I'm hoping he doesn't turn himself into a giant hot spot or howl when we leave him in there all day.  If he does, and he shows signs that he's not able to adjust to being home alone, we shall go on a quest to find him a companion canine of his choosing. 

The worst part for now is when something jingles that sounds like a dog collar... then Simon jumps up and goes looking for his Lucy, and gets so sad when he can't find her.  It's heart breaking.  I hope he doesn't do it for long, for all our sakes.

I miss my Stumpy/Loofah/Floofy/Soul-Slucker/Lucy-fur/Loo-Loo/Lula-Mae.  (I think Lucy took the cake for having more nicknames than any other pet we've ever had).  I suspect I always will.  But I feel grateful that we got to have her in our lives, although it was for far, far too short a time.

Thank you to all of you who expressed condolences.  My old most-favorite-ever boss's advice when she learned Lucy was sick was to suggest we surround ourselves with animal lovers who "get it".  And it was very good advice.  Somehow it helps to know that other people understand just how hard it is to lose a dog.  Extra special thanks go to my father, who provided Lucy with hospice services early this week and who has so generously been looking after our lonely Simon.  Dad, you rock.  I can't tell you how incredibly grateful we are.

Lucy:  January 6, 2006 - October 19, 2010.



Autumn and Architecture

>> Saturday, October 16, 2010

A week ago we on our way to somewhere or other, and as we passed a church I shouted to my husband, "Wait!  Stop!  I have to take pictures!"  Such is not an uncommon occurrence.  Have I mentioned that he's a very patient soul?

The church in question is I believe St. Mary's Catholic Church in Baldwinsville, New York.  I have long admired the Arts and Crafts style of the wooden doors, and on that particular sunny autumn day they looked especially magnificent with all the stone and bright leaf wreaths.  Here are the results:



>> Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our Basset hounds have never known a day of life without each other.  They are litter mates.  They sleep on top of each other, spend their days in a crate together, and spend every waking moment in each other's presence.  After touching each other all day in the crate, they proceed to play together, and then fall asleep on top of one another.  If they were human, they would most certainly finish each other's sentences.  They're so symbiotic, it's frightening.

And I don't say that lightly.  I'm staring the implications of such co-dependence right in the face.

Lucy is sick.  Very sick.  After weeks of visits to our regular vet and a whole lot of testing, we had no idea what was wrong.  She was limping and depressed, and started to lose her appetite.  Our vet recommended we take her to an Internist who works at a nearby emergency veterinary clinic.  We decided to skip that step, and took her straight to Cornell Animal Hospital in Ithaca.

At first, after the initial exam at Cornell, the vet there thought as our vet had - that she likely had an immune mediated illness that was affecting her joints.  They started running tests to confirm that diagnosis, and ran into a big old red flag.  They noticed Lucy's right hip joint is being eaten away by something, and that something turned out to be cancer.  To be precise, it's a pancreatic cancer that has now spread through her whole body, and is eating away at her bones.

It is not treatable.  All we can do is try to manage her pain.  The vet speculates that, given how aggressive this particular cancer is, we may have a week to a month before the pain is unmanageable.  All we can do is try our best to monitor it, and convince her to eat.  If she doesn't eat, obviously, our time with her is very short indeed.  At this moment she's contemplating some ground beef... and thinking about tasting it.  I hope the strong pain killers will help in all respects, but am not convinced.

She is only four years old.

We remain adamant that whatever decisions we make for her must be right for her - her quality of life is our primary concern.  I have lost pets before, including our sweet old dog Clancy whom I loved more than I knew it was possible to love another living creature.  The grief of losing a beloved pet is always terrible, but the joy they bring us somehow makes it worth it.

But this time, we know that whatever decisions we make for Lucy also deeply affect our poor Simon.  We wonder if he will survive without her at all, or just give up and stop eating.  And if he does survive, I cannot even begin to comprehend the kind of loss he will experience.  I think only twins could know what that would be like.  This time, looking at Simon's worried face (he is worried) is making this infinitely harder than any pet's illness has ever been.


Stuff and Things

>> Thursday, October 7, 2010

Part I, in which I whine.

"What the...???"

That's what I said when I opened the wood stove door a few days ago and saw this:

Can anyone explain to my why the grasshoppers came in droves to die in my wood stove over the summer?  The few yellow jackets and the June bug carcasses that greeted me when I swung open the door were no shock, as we gather a few of those every year.  But I am forced to conclude the local grasshopper population hosted some kind of cult ritual in my wood stove this summer, only to perish there en masse and crispify into titchy green exoskeletons.

I figure they're so dry they're just a little extra fire starter.

So, anyway, it's autumn.  I've mentioned that I'm not a fan of this season because it means winter is coming, and I don't like to be cold.  Not.  At.  All.  Not even a little bit.  Here's where I start becoming a contradiction, though.  Although it's getting cold and the house temperature has been hovering in the clammy low 60s, I've been stubbornly refusing to light, or to allow my long-suffering husband to light, a fire.  Why would I do such a thing?

Because it would be like an admission.  An admission that it's almost winter time.  That it's almost the time of year when we spend hours hauling wood into the house, feeding the fire, vacuuming up the debris from the logs we've carried in, and grousing at the dogs for chewing on the logs and spreading tiny wood chips across the rug again immediately after I've vacuumed.  It's when I have to put dorky sweaters on my almost-but-not-quite real dogs who start to shiver when the temperature hits 65.

It's when I have to get up in the dark, which is not helpful when you're the kind of person who hates mornings the way I do.  It's the time of year when I have to wear fuzzy socks all the time or my toes turn gross colors.  Winter means I have a really hard time finding produce, and spend a lot of time kicking myself for still not having gotten around to purchasing a chest freezer so I can eat local organic heirloom produce year round.

I don't want to admit it's that time of year.

But, after days of resisting it and freezing, we did eventually break down and light one evening fire to take off some of the damp chill.  It was quite yummy.  And I admit I had forgotten the other benefit of having a wood stove: it's a doggy baby sitter.

Part II, in which I worry.

A few weeks ago I posted that our poor Lucy was not feeling well.  We took her to the vet who suspected a tick-borne disease, and ran some tests.  They came back negative.  Lucy started to feel better the next day, so we thought perhaps it would just pass.

It hasn't.  The vet decided to prescribe a course of antibiotics in case it was either a tick-borne disease we hadn't tested for (apparently there are many) or else she'd had it too short a time to have built up antibodies that would show up in the test.  We hoped that would take care of it.

It hasn't.  She's still got some random wandering lameness, and has days where she's just kinda under the weather.  I hate it.  I feel helpless.  If she's not feeling better on Monday, we take her back for more tests.  I'm now seriously concerned that it's an autoimmune disease.  I really hope not.

I'd just like my poor kid to feel better.

Part III, in which my ego figures prominently.

Soooo... I'm starting to worry that allowing my husband to play with my camera will be bad for my ego. It turns out he's taking a lot of nice photos.  Yesterday I had to be in to work early, and on my way in I noticed that the morning light was just delicious on the dewy autumn scenes.  So I called my husband and told him he might want to take the camera with him and shoot a few pictures on his way in to work.

He did.


They're quite nice, aren't they?  I have competition.  I don't like competition.


Autumn Sunset

>> Wednesday, October 6, 2010

As I arrived home about a week ago, I was greeted by this incredible sunset.  It looked like the sky was on fire, or else like something demonic.  Such intensity!  Using some of the new skills I garnered from my Adirondack photography trip, I set up the tripod and shot a few pictures just before the amazing light disappeared.  And yippee!  They actually turned out!  You can see the progression from fiery gold, to deep rose and plum.

I think I shot these the same night Adirondack Naturalist blogger Ellen shot her sunset photos, seen here. Amazing that the sunset looked awfully similar way up in Newcomb, New York, which is more than 3 hours drive from my humble abode. So often we have very different weather in the Syracuse area from the Adirondack Park, (which generally means I leave bright sun and enter gloomy clouds and rain every time I hike in the Adirondacks - that's the way my luck always seems to run).  But these clouds I think were harbingers of the huge rain system that stretched along much of the East Coast, so Ellen and I were looking at similar sunsets that night.


The benefits of a spouse toting a camera too

>> Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My husband has been wanting to get more into photography.  We generally consider our Nikon D70 to be my camera, which essentially means that I hog it all the time.  But he's got a good eye for photography, too, and really loves the technical aspects of it.

He's considering keeping our D70 instead of trading it in when I finally upgrade, and has also been thinking about buying a Nikon F4 35 mm, which is the awesome camera he borrowed from our friend D last weekend.  The only trouble with shooting in 35 mm is how expensive it is to develop photos, but still, it's certainly fun.  There are things one can do with film that one cannot do with a digital camera.  He really likes doing everything manually, too - he has the patience to focus manually and select all the settings, whereas I tend to run out of patience just on the focusing part.  Being mechanically minded, he loves all the knobs and dials on the F4.  I'm curious which way he'll ultimately decide to go.

On our Adirondack photography trip, he spent a little time shooting with D's old D70 and captured these, which he particularly liked.  The first is water rushing into a dark cavern under some rocks, shot with flash.  You should have seen the contortions he put himself into trying to shoot it.  Super cool effect.

These ones of the spider in the web frankly irk me - I tried and tried to get shots of the spiders in their webs from the side, to demonstrate the way they were blowing in the wind.  As I said, he has more patience than I do, and actually succeeded where I failed.

I love the idea of my husband toting a camera around, too.  It's fun to spend time taking pictures together.  He teaches me technical stuff, I teach him more artistic things about composition.  We're a good pair.

This, however, is one of the reasons I think it's great to have him have a camera at all times too.  One never knows when a second camera will be able to capture an amusing moment.  I love this shot.  I wonder who the second photographer was.  (From

funny animal photos-ALA Photo Shoot: You're Doin' It Right!


Wordless tribute to an October afternoon

>> Sunday, October 3, 2010


Google Analytics ROCKS

>> Saturday, October 2, 2010

I am not a computer whiz, by any stretch of the imagination.  Just managing to cope with the little bit of HTML work I have to do to maintain the design of this blog is a huge challenge for me.  So when I discover the power of technology, sometimes it impresses the socks off me.  I just discovered the joys of Google Analytics.

How it started: a little while ago, I started taking photos at our friend M's baseball league games, just for the fun of it.  Once I'd taken a game's worth of photos, it dawned on me that I would like to be able to share them with M and his team, so I started hunting around for a good on-line photo sharing program.  I'm a big fan of Google, which is why I use Google's Blogspot as the host for this blog, and I also use it for gmail.  Thus, I decided to try the free Google photo sharing and editing program, Picasa. 

It was a big ol' hit.  Easy to use and free.  What more could I ask for?  By the way, if your blog is hosted on blogspot, you may already have a Picasa account and not realize it.  That's where my blog photos were getting stored.  Who knew?

So, because I'm me, I started poking around with all the settings on Picasa and stumbled upon something called Google Analytics.  It's a program that allows you to track hits to your web site.  I'd already installed a basic program for that for this blog, but found it remarkably unuseful.  Could Analytics do more?

Ooooh yeah, baby.  It does a whole lot more.

I figured out how to install it for my Picasa photo albums, and have been using it there for weeks.  But the viewers of my photo albums are just friends and family, so it wasn't telling me anything exciting.  It took me several more weeks to figure out how to install the HTML code on this blog's template - not through any fault of Google's instructions, but through my own sheer ineptitude. 

But I figured it out.  And on my first day of gathering information about visitors to this blog, I learned I had 47 visitors, who hailed from:

Italy (although that one sort of doesn't count since it's my mother)
Latvia (this is my favorite)
New Jersey
And lots of different places in New York.

I am certain I haven't yet understood the full power of Analytics.  My favorite feature, though, is the one that shows you maps of where all your visitors visited from.  Take this example of those maps, showing my visitors from within New York State:

Pretty wicked, huh?  If you move the mouse over those dots, it tells you what the town is.  (For my regular NY readers, can you find yourself on there?)  It also allows me to track how visitors find my site, how long they're on my site, and a whole lot more.

I'm guessing some of my readers long ago discovered the fun of Analytics, but for those of you who haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend it.  What a fun way to see who's reading what you post!!!


LED Frisbee

>> Friday, October 1, 2010

I mentioned that I played frisbee at night at last weekend's barbecue, with a frisbee that has 4 LED lights spaced around its perimeter.  It never occurred to me to try to photograph such a thing, but my friend M (a fellow photographer mentioned in various previous posts) had the inspiration to try.  I thought these turned out supremely cool, although M expressed dissatisfaction with them.  He acknowledged that "artists are always their own worst critics", which I grant him certainly holds true for me.  Regardless, he generously gave me permission to post them.

That faint gray blob on the right hand side is me, probably trying to decide if I want to dive for it or let it hit me in the shins:

I think this one looks like a UFO.  Who knew that's how a frisbee moves through the air?

I believe this is me trying to snag it on my finger tips, just before I dropped it over the fence behind me:
This one must be a shot of someone else's toss - that pattern is far too neat for any of my throws:
And here I am, tossing it:
These served as a reminder to me to keep thinking of unexpected things to photograph.  You just never know what will turn out to be an interesting photo.


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