Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And Then There Were Three

I had 3 dogs before I got married. That was all my city would allow me to have. Anyone who knows me knows I would have more if I could. It's strange to think that only 2 summers ago, we had 7 dogs here on the farm. 7 was AWESOME! 7 felt like my limit, like that was a good number to have around. Now I am back to three. Three in the city would be fine. 3 on the farm, just feels like there could be more.

And it just feels empty. It's just a reminder of what we have lost. Now, don't get me wrong. I have loved every one of my dogs with all of my heart. I love the three we still have. I still love the 3 we lost, and I love the one we fostered. Heck, I love just about every dog I meet!

But it's never easy to say goodbye. We had months to spend with Ditka and Grish. They weren't necessarily good months, we watched those dogs decline, knowing that their day was coming, and keeping them comfortable until the end. Cleaning up after them, feeding them soft food, carrying them outside when we needed to. We had months.

With Hobbes, I had a week. You are never ever prepared to say goodbye to a dog. NEVER. But a week, it feels like I was robbed. robbed of the 4 years I thought he had left. Robbed of the memories we should have shared. Now, my daughter will never remember him.

So last night, I shared a steak with him. We took him for a walk through the neighborhood. I snuggled with him on the bed, knowing it was the last time he would keep my feet warm at night. This morning, I took him for a long hike at Rabbit Mountain. It was a lot different than Ditka's last hike (which was the slowest walk I've ever been on). Then he came with me into town to run some errands, because he always liked car rides. We shared a pint of ice cream, and we sat out on the back porch, in the shade, just watching, and listening, and being together.

And then my favorite vet came over. And he fell asleep in my arms. He just quietly slipped away - nothing like how he came to me, all fireballs and lightning bolts. He didn't resist. He didn't question. Goliath sat near me for a while, to comfort me. And then we laid him to rest next to Grish. And now my bear is gone. As I shoveled the dirt into his grave, all I could think, when I tossed that last bit that covered his face and ears, was that I would never get to see him again. I still don't understand what that means. To never see Hobbes again. I just hope he knows how much I love him.


February 17, 1998 - August 25, 2010

Hobbes, with Ally. Singing along to something! Only Ally could get Hobbes to sing. Circa 2002

Hobbes sleeping with Puppy at a party at Larry's house. Circa 2004

Hobbes in full hiking gear, the Homestead Hike, 2006
Hobbes in full doggy happiness, after we moved to the farm, he thought we bought him his own dog park! 2007

Chewing on a bone in the front yard, 2009

Last night, watching the sun set one last time. Don't worry Hobbes, I am always with you in spirit. Wherever you go, I am always at your side. Because you were always at mine.
August 24, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It never gets any easier

I've been spoiled in my life. I have had a few dogs. I grew up with grandparents and friends who had dogs. I remember my grandparents dogs all lived until they were very old. My friends dogs also lived until they were very old. To me, it's almost normal for dogs to be16 or even 18 when they pass away - from old age. Things start to fail, and you do the merciful thing. That's what we did for Ditka and for Grish.

It's not easy, no matter the situation. But after we lost Grish last fall, and at the time, Athena and Hobbes were just 11, we thought we had at least another 4 years before we had to go through this again. But Larry as another hole to dig in the backyard. I'm not ready for this.

He's not old yet, but he's suddenly sick. Hobbes has a tumor in his lower jaw. I thought it was a tooth infection. And what's the first stage of grief? Denial, right? I asked the vet to do a biopsy. I should have known, as soon as she stuck the needle of Lidocaine in his mouth - it wasn't an infection. Certainly after she removed some tissue, if I was in the right frame of mind. But then it quickly moved to Bargaining, right? Instead of admitting to myself that an infection would have drained, I'm still hoping that the test results come back Monday with something other than cancer. Something treatable. I don't know what the third stage of grief is, but Exhaustion is in there somewhere. Which is where I am.

Assuming this is a tumor, his only option is a very expensive surgery to remove part of his lower jaw, to remove the tumor. That leaves me with an old dog, missing part of his mouth. Some people may judge me for choosing to put him out of his misery, instead of doing everything in my power to keep him alive. but I'd only be doing it for me. I'd be deforming my dog, simply because I can not bear to part with him.

And I can't. But i can not put into words what this dog means to me. My good friend, and former roommate actually put it succinctly; "He was an asshole in the beginning, but turned into such a good boy."

Anyone who did NOT know him when I first got him has NO idea. I can't even describe. And me, the crazy dog lady, I used to sit on the carpet, hugging him, telling him that if I was at the end of my rope, if I couldn't keep him, than no one would. I knew if I gave up on him, he'd bounce from shelter to shelter. So I HAD to figure it out. I had to make it work.

It took 3 solid, torturous years, many chewed up CDs, shoes, and many other items. It was nights wearing ear plugs, it was 5 mile runs just to tire him out, it was obedience training, crate training, and then one day, he just changed. After 3 years, he realized life was a lot easier if we all just got along.

And that we did. He sleeps on my feet in the winter, and keeps me warm. He follows me everywhere. Now that I am married, I know that Hobbes will be the last of "my" dogs. That No matter what, Larry will be the alpha, and all dogs will look to him, instead of me. Don't get me wrong, all the dogs love me. But Hobbes is MINE. My buddy. He sticks with ME. He's laying by the couch right now.

SO, all the rules change when a dog is facing his last days. They get to eat whatever they want. They get to break the rules. Hobbes is eating chicken and rice, but mostly because it hurts to much to eat regular food. Like Ditka, he'll probably split a pint of ice cream with me before he goes. We'll have a last day together, we'll go hiking, we'll snuggle. I'll cry, he'll know.

I told Ditka, in his last moments, to save a spot on the couch for me and Hobbes, that we would join him again one day. I had no idea Hobbes would be there so soon. So they'll keep that couch good and warmed up for me.

This is Hobbes and I, back in his asshole days. Looks like I am squeezing the life out of him, but I like hugging my baby bear. He was a pain, but it was all worth it.

I'm surprised at how many serious pictures I have of Hobbes. He's such a goof, but he could be so serious at time. He's still pretty young in this pic, as most of his face hasn't started to grey yet, just his little chin.

This is Hobbes trying to love on our cat, Schroediger. When Larry moved in with the cat, Hobbes thought this was his new toy, and he wanted to hug and squeeze is and name it George. He still loves Schroed to this day.

For soem reason, I have a lot of pictures of the back of Hobbes' head. But really... how many people take a picture of the back of dog heads? I do, I want to remember this side of him too!

Here he is more recently, hanging out on the back porch with me. He's squinting into the sunshine. You can see his fuzzy black muzzle is mostly grey now, as well as around his ears. I don't know what to do without my buddy. He goes into the cellar with me, when it creeps me out, he does farm chores in the dark with me, sometimes when I get a little freaked out at night. He's my shadow when I want one, a pillow when I need one, and just a loyal friend. My Hobbes, my Baby Bear.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Farm update

We've been so busy trying to keep our heads above water, that I haven't had a chance to update the blog. SO many fun (and frustrating) things going on on the farm!

First, here is a picture of some of our young turkeys. These guys are pretty little, and are still relegated to the barn. The brooder lamp is off and they get a whole sheep stall to themselves. The bigger turks get to roam outside during the day, but still come in and sleep in the barn at night. we were hoping to have a turkey house built for them by now, but at about 80% complete, a wind storm came along, and blew it to bits. So maybe the barn is the best place for them.

Two of our little guys and Blue Slates, and they are just beautiful little birds. I can hope that one is a hen, and one is a tom, so maybe I can breed some of my own!

I recently went to our local 4H fair, and went into the bird room to see all the chickens and turkeys. I promptly wanted to bring them all home. BUT, I saw a roo there that made me realize that I had one! What I thought, all along, was an Araucana rooster, is actually a Salmon Faverolle. It's easy to see how I could make that mistake, if you look at the coloring of some of our 'Canas. However, now I know I can't breed any 'Canas, myself. But I guess that is OK...

Here is a picture of Bridget. She's getting so big! We are trying to find another Belted Galloway to get. We love her so much! And since we bottle fed her, she's pretty gentle, and let's us pet her. She doesn't come looking for attention, like Marlow does. But unfortunately for Marlow, his days are numbered. Sigh. Nicest steer ever, but he won't be with us past the fall...
Here are my latest little chickies! I hatched these three last weekend. I have no idea what they are. At one point in time, I knew if I grabbed white eggs, I would get Ancona chicks. We have since mixed up all my hens and roos. I now have a Leghorn roo, Polish, a Salmon faverolle, a Barred Rock, some Lakenvelder and an Ancona rooster. However, when it comes to hens, I have Barred Rocks, Comets, Aracaunas, leghorns, Black stars, Production Reds, Rhode Island Reds,Lakenvelders, Hamburgs, Astralorps, Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons.... you name it! So who KNOWS what kinds of chicks I am hatching.

So these 3 are a week old, and in a brooder box in the house. In the barn, I have a single hen that is 4 weeks old, 2 hens that are 7 weeks old, a rooster that is 10 weeks old, and a roo and a hen that are 13 weeks old. That's a pretty good batch for hatching my own little chicks! I love it!!

In no way does it replace all the birds we have lost to predators, but it's kind of fun to raise our own!

I was out hanging laundry the other day, in the company of our big turkeys, who like to hang out with me. All of a sudden, all the turks scatter, and I see a bird fly up into a tree. Something had dive-bombed my turkeys. We have hawks and eagles around here, but this was no big eagle. I looked into the tree and found this little hawk. He is half the size of the turkeys he was trying to attack. Good luck there, little buddy! Why don't you chase after the field mice, they are more your size!!