Thursday, January 31, 2008

my handsome red dog, my comfort, my love

Do not weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die ....


Grief is such a strange thing. It ebbs and it flows, it fools you, it hides or it seems like it's gone, just a tiny speck on the horizon, things feels better, things are going to be OK. I catch myself laughing, smiling, even forgetting about it for a time ...maybe it's gone and then I wake at 3:47 and it's right there, back again, breathing it's hot stinky breath in my face and I can't believe any of this ... this can't be true, it's a very bad dream that I've just woken up to.

Funeral Blues the last two verses

He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

-- W. H. Auden

big ol' sweet, goofy beach bum


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

lulu in the background and my little buddha, Oliver

both somewhat oblivious to the sadness that lurks around this empty feeling house. The mornings, of course are the worst. I wake up still living in some other reality for those first few seconds, seconds which seem like minutes. That other world where everything is, as I want it. My long dead, adored grandmother smiles at me over tea, the scenery is bright and vivid and often exotic, my beautiful golden Emma races through pastures, and I feel weightless with ease. I wake up, and realize far too suddenly how it really is. I snuggle back down under the blankets wishing myself back to that place, back to sleep and then when I finally surrender to consciousness I try to bask in the warmth of those feelings and I cling to every memory and detail.

I still have yet to (consciously) dream about Jake. I used to dream about him often. A repetitive, reoccurring kind of dream where I was always losing him. A bad dream. Losing him, in any variety of locations. I guess I always worried more about him, partly because I did love him more and partly because he was so carefree and careless, he needed someone to watch out for him. If he got wind of an odour that tickled his fancy or had just a passing notion - off he'd go in a blinding gallop.

I remember many dreams of racing down narrow cobblestone streets in far away places like Copenhagen or Oslo, Winnie Dixon and Emma Jane racing along beside me, the three of us like some kind of Mod Squad catch that dog please and then always, just ahead, we'd spy a glimpse of a bushy red tail just disappearing around a corner and down an alley and off we'd go, the three of us, in hot pursuit.

Entire nights (or so it seemed) would be spent on this elusive chase, and then I'd wake up and he'd be right there, lying beside me, and my racing heart would slow down, I'd sigh with relief and I'd feel the weight of the world gently lift.
I love you Noodle.

in love

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jake & Susan

To some it may seem strange, I always did say that I was in love with my dog. And it's true - I was, I am ... I always will be.

some things that made me smile yesterday written at 7pm last evening

a telephone call out of the blue, from Marie in California, an artist friend from long ago who reads my blog and knew sweet Jake when he was just a youngin’ and she knew how devastated I must be and how sad I must be feeling. Instead of sadness & tears we had a happy, funny, busy, soaring, creative & inspiring chat ... just as if I’d seen her yesterday. She is a whirling sprite of good and bright and glee ... she is orange and bright pink and red ... and she completely made my day.

lying curled up on a large dog bed staring into the fire and drinking orange pekoe tea

picking up a condolence card at the post office addressed to both Susan & Winnie Dixon Black from our good friend Carol and her husband Gary, who knew and loved Jake. It made Winnie smile too

abandoning my customary defensive stance, I chose instead to walk away from the beginnings of a difficult familial conversation and situation, that inevitably would feel nothing but wearying, futile and hurtful. I smiled, surprised at strength I didn't know I had.

a best girl friend and I, through all of this recent sadness, have begun to say I love you when we talk on the phone, after all these years. It makes me smile to be so unabashedly honest with someone who I really do love. We human beings can be so uptight. Say it once, and I guarantee it will magically flit from your lips every chance that you get.

eating a toasted sesame bagel with butter & honey

I smiled, then cried, but good tears of gratefulness, as I gathering up all the bits of kindness and love that continued to arrive here at 29 Black Street yesterday by a variety of means. Across wires, and through waves, on paper and in thoughts. Jake smiled too, I know he did.

stopping to look out an upstairs window after dark last night and watching big snow removal tractors prowling the streets like giant beetles.

sweet dreams please

Monday, January 28, 2008

the all time favourite photo of Jake, Winnie & Em

Jake & Em

I found this little poem online, I changed a few words and totally screwed up the rhyming

It's me

I stood beside your bed last night. Then laid down on the floor. I could see that you were crying. That you found it hard to sleep.
I noodled to you softly as you brushed away a tear, "It's me, I haven't left you, I'm well, I'm fine, I'm here."
I was close to you at breakfast. I watched you pour your coffee. You were thinking of the many times, that you kneeled down to kiss me.
I followed you towards the cat food as you fumbled with the opener. I gently put my paw on you, I barked and said "gimme some of that" "Please"
You looked so very tired, as you sank down in your chair. I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
It's possible for me, to be so near you everyday. To say to you with certainty that, "I will never leave."
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew ... in the stillness of that evening, that I was there with you and that I will always be there.
The day is over... and I smile and watch you yawning and I say "goodnight, I love you ! just a little bit more than life itself, "and I'll see you in the dawning"

I'm still sleeping in the living room, on my sofa bed by the fire, with Sweet Winnie Dixon curled up at my feet and Oliver draped over some part of my body. For the last three nights, just after I've turned the light out, I've asked God to please let me dream about him, to dream about Jake, somehow that would be a sign to me that he's OK and that he understands why I had to do what I did. I haven't dreamt about him yet, or if I did I can't remember. It's probably that damn Ativan which gives you that kind of coma sleep, the sleep you want, the sleep you need to have when you don't want to wake up, especially not in the middle of the night - to lie there wide awake while reality tries to smother you with a big heavy blanket. I only want sweet dreams.

I want to be asleep in darkness and dream sweet dreams of my red dog.

Jake & Winnie Dixon sun porch

Thank you all so much for leaving such caring and thoughtful comments, for sending emails and for continuing to read about and admire the photos of my very handsome Noodle dog (and of course the rest of my happy gang of animals). Words really can't express how comforting it is for me to know that I have all of you out there, who've gotten to know us, and are helping us through this - you, who I know understand (many of you first hand) completely how horribly sad this all can be.

Winnie Dixon & Bleet are doing well. I think this whole month has been especially hard on Miss Dixon because she is such a sensitive soul and she's lost her big brother, her pal, and her best buddy and she's seen her mother a wreck. It's hard to tell with Bleet, but I'm sure he must wonder where his Mama's gone. He did love Jake so much, he adored him.

I want my dog back

Sunday, January 27, 2008

my Noodle

If I keep posting pictures of him it's like he's still here somehow. I didn't think about what the house would be like without him in it. Why would I do that, it just didn't occur to me because as far as I was concerned he wasn't going anywhere. It's worse today, it was worse yesterday. How do I get used to a home with no Jake? He was this home. How long will it take? and actually, I don't want to get used to it ... I just want him back. I feel like I'm 6 years old, that somehow now, I don't understand how the world works. Even though you think you know that this is one day going to happen - you don't really know, you kid yourself all along. I know now ... that I did.

That small part of me that actually recognized what was happening was teeny & tiny and tucked away in a hard to find place. I've been living and walking around these last few weeks in a semi stunned kind of way. If I wasn't wringing my hands with worry and praying, I was watching, listening, analyzing everything about him - maybe I could figure it out, maybe I could fix it or at least hold it at bay and when he was up, oh, when he was up and feeling good (big smile) and being his normal goofy, crazy, Noodle self then I was skipping and tra-la-la-ing around the house, I pushed it out the door, get outta here and good riddance and don't come back this time.

Life here has been extreme - for the past month. I was either feeling really up and euphoric because he was OK or I was feeling down & dreading, when he wasn't, worrying about what may be lurking just ahead of us. And now ... now it just feels like nothingness.

do you need my help ? is that cheese ?

He was everywhere, every time I turned around there he was I thought I better follow you, 'cause you might need my help he seemed to say or hey, what are ya doin, do you need me to lick out that bowl, that's a specialty of mine you know. He was my dog, I was his person and we had a bond that was incredible, that was meant to be, that was meant to last forever.

Bare with me ... all I want to think about is him, all I want to talk about is him, and all I want to see is him

the video below buffers very slowly if you wait patiently you will eventually see a very short clip of the Noodle dog, following Em's happy roll in the seaweed and Winnies' gallop.

a little video of les chiens

my sweet Noodle

Saturday, January 26, 2008

me and my boy Jake summer 04

Jake December 1994 - January 2008

I can't remember how he ever came to have that nick name, Noodle, but it certainly seemed to suit him. He's gone, I took him to the vet yesterday morning and she agreed that it was time. His mind was still alert and his heart kind and tender, as always, but his body was giving out and he could no longer stand or get himself up.

The whole event from beginning to end was as peaceful and gentle as I could have imagined. For the previous 24 hours I'd been dragging him around from room to room on a giant bath sheet sled so that he could be with us, wherever we were, Winnie & I, which he didn't seem to mind at all. I called a kind neighbour to enlist in the job of carrying him to the car. I readied the back of my wagon with layer upon layer of folded duvets and I found his favourite big stuffed alien or spaceman. Retrievers like to carry things in their mouth, to retrieve and when they're especially happy they must have something in their mouth. So when I'd come back home from a few hours shopping in town after greeting me at the door he would always rush into the living room, nose through the assortment of stuffed toys in their toy box and always select his big purple alien. So that was in the car with him and my scarf which I wear every day, and probably should have been washed ages ago but I was glad yesterday that I hadn't washed it, that it stunk, stunk of me.

love you

The back seats were folded down and I adjusted the rear view mirror so that I could see his gentle face looking at me the whole half hour drive. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and his face and body were lying in a big patch of sunlight the whole trip, and I could tell that he was very relaxed and comfortable. When we got to the vets, Diane (our vet) came out to examine him and to have a conversation confirming what I already knew in my heart - that yes it was time. She gave him a small shot of sedative and said that they would come back in 10 minutes to carry him inside for the next step.

And oh what a fine 10 minutes it was. I laid in the back curled up beside him on a mattress of duvets, reminding him of some of my favourite things about him. Remembering the first night over 12 years ago that he arrived at 29 Black Street, this crazy wound for sound handsome red boy, how Emma Jane fell in love with him at first sight, how he loved to sit in laps when he was young -all 73 lbs of him. How I could drag his head up onto the pillow beside me at night and curl up into him and he wouldn't move the whole night through. He was my comfort and my security.

We lay in the back of my wagon and I rubbed his soft velvet ears and gently stroked that space between his eyes and down his snout a kind of pat he's very used to and one that he loves and I scratched his neck, all over, top to bottom and in around his ears and he raised his head and softly groaned in pleasure. It was the most perfect 10 minutes.

They finally came out and took him inside and up on an examining table wrapped up in a quilt of ours, his alien and my scarf snugged in beside him. I held his head next to mine and covered his face with too many kisses I used to tease him and say - that maybe I was giving him too many kisses, and he would always answer me back (in my voice of course) no not too many, there's never, ever too many kisses, I told him again that I loved him, just a little bit more than life itself and they gave him the second needle. And then ... then it's just over, he's gone... just like that. I stayed with him for a few minutes, asked Diane again to reassure me that it was time and that I had done the right thing. I kissed his big beautiful paws and said goodbye ... until next week when I'll go back to pick up his ashes.

We're so sad, Winnie Dixon and I ... we just can't believe he's gone.

I'm so happy that you have all gotten to know Jake, he is an exceptional dog and my absolute best friend.

rhymes with suck

Friday, January 25, 2008


I wanted to call today's post F&ck I try not to use that word too often, but to save it for when there just doesn't seem to be a word more appropriate. Damn, is too proper sounding and has no real clout and Shit is also far too insignificant for this particular situation. I just really want to walk around my house, pacing and saying F&ck ! and occasionally stopping myself, sitting down in front of the fire, breathing deeply a few times and asking God to Please help me to know what to do - because I feel desperate, confused, panicked, angry and very sad.

My boy's still down, lying down that is. At noon today it will be 48hrs. That's a very long time. He did make several wobbly attempts to get up yesterday, but really couldn't get any distance before collapsing again. We did manage to get outside once, where he had a long, long (must have felt like one of those drank too many beers) pees. He has been drinking lots of water. I had to drag him back into the house, holding him under his arm pits with his back legs dragging behind him, up a step and into the sun porch, very undignified and very stressful for me. Winnie Dixon somehow interpreted this as some new game we must be playing (sigh) and she stood in the sun porch in front of us, paws down on the floor, bum in the air, tail wagging furiously. Now before any one begins thinking Good God Girl, say goodbye, euthanize that poor dog, please continue on ...

The thing is - he's bright and alert, he doesn't seem to be in any real discomfort or distress. He's drinking water and still has an appetite, he's wagging his tail when I sing noodle, noodle, noodle, no I'm not a poodle to him. His tongue and gums remain pink and healthy looking and believe me I've been curling his lips back to check, way too often. He had a big perfect poop yesterday (colour shape etc ...). His pee was not fluorescent orange or funny smelling, and trust me, I've become quite an expert at examining emissions of all varieties and, and, here's the kicker, thus far in this sad saga, he has eventually just risen again, up out of these terrible bouts, seemingly as good as new. Dusted himself off and barked at the cat food dishes. What's to say that's not gonna happen again, at any minute now. F&ck ... can you see my point.

Jut last Thursday at 4pm he came out of a 31 hr episode just like this, honestly right back to normal. We had a vet appointment the next morning at 9am and at the vet's he was Noodle, he was Mr. Howdy Doody my name's Jake. Curious and active - bordering on being a pest and no one there could believe that he'd been sick.

So F&ck, F&ck, F&ck is what I have to say today. I'm mad, I'm frustrated, I'd like to disappear, stow away on a ship, except the harbour's filled with ice, I'm stuck in the anger phase and I don't seem to see a way out. And I also do know, in a little place in my heart, that the end is likely much nearer than not. I'm in denial and yet I've come to terms.

* I do apologize to any who find that word offensive and I hope that the beautiful ampersand has softens it's sting

another spell

Thursday, January 24, 2008

a noodle in the snow

spell n a period of bodily or mental distress or disorder

My boy's had another spell, just a few hours short of a week since the last episode (which I'm feeling is pretty good). And a healthy and energetic, back-to-normal 7 days it's been. It's funny how I've become so incredibly attuned to his every move, facial expression and all the subtle nuances in the qualities and characteristics of the Jake personality. Early yesterday morning he was just not quite himself. Not the usual exuberant early morning Noodle dog, there was no big dramatic demanding of cat food, and he actually slept in (which he never does - if I'm up he's up) on his bed by the fire.

We did pile into the car to go for a walk in the big field next to the cottage lane but we didn't stay long. Both Winnie Dixon and Jake seemed to find it cold (although the temperatures were fairly seasonal to mild yesterday) holding their little paws up and looking at me as if to say ... do something, fix this please and I've become paranoid about taking Jake anywhere too far from the car or from home, especially on a day like yesterday when my spider senses were definitely tingling.

Sure enough around lunch time he followed me into the kitchen and when I turned to look at him he was staring off into space, his body stiffened slightly, tail wagging and I held onto him around his middle as he sunk to the floor, suddenly too weak to stand up. This morning he's still resting and doesn't seem to want to get up yet, he's bright and alert and drinking water, but sadly, declined a few spoonfuls of cat food - a sure sign that he's not feeling well.

It's baffling, I guess I'm supposed to stop trying to figure it out ... but that's really difficult to do and it's very upsetting to see him like this, to be wondering if he's suffering and to be wishing that I could just lift him up like a cat and take him outside to sit in the snow for a minute and breath in that fresh cold air. It's just so strange (strange in a good way) that he has so many days of normal-ness in between these spells. If he had some very serious senior dog illness these symptoms should not retreat for days at a time, but remain more constant. There should be more symptoms, a variety of things beginning to show up. It's totally baffling and frustrating, and I'm really trying to just be calm & positive thinking, to comfort him and remind him of how much I love him ... a million, zillion times.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Stuff your eyes with wonder,
live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds.
See the world.
It's more fantastic than any dream.

Ray Bradbury

courtesy of quote maven, Brin at messy thrilling life

ficus leaf

lil man & ver

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

daily kitten love

Gus & Oliver. Gussie Gus (Mr. Mr. or Lil' Man) my sleek, long and lean, perfect tabby cat. The cat who doesn't like to be picked up, doesn't want to be patted, his idea of affection is smacking his little purring body into you and then flopping down on the floor dramatically, sprawled out like a wee lion in a tree in the Serengeti. He's a strange cat. Mr. Aloof, the cat who we hardly ever see, although since installing the big kitten flat screen in the kitchen he's been hangin' with us much more. He lies on that pillow almost all day, his little body squished as flat as possible, little ears flattened to his head. He's stalking those birds, just inches away, with eyes as wide as saucers ... all day.

And Oliver (Ver), he's just the opposite. Mr. Personality, Mr. Social, Mr. Nosy, Mr. hey what's going on here? Oliver, who's on my lap as I type this, purring and rubbing his soft little head against my face. Sweet Ver, who insists on sleeping draped over me every night like a small, soft, calico blanket. He's my comfort cat.

It's still bitter cold here this morning, far too cold to go for our morning walk and everything here at 29 Black continues to be fine ... very fine.

ps. the beach treasure packets were mailed yesterday afternoon.

a little bit blessed

Monday, January 21, 2008

hey Handsome ! yesterday morning's walk

This morning there's a giant full moon, high up in the sky, shining down and lighting up the dog's yard like a sports stadium. They've both been out to take care of some business and I stood in the sun porch doorway and waited for them to come back in. I stood in the frosty air with my housecoat snuggled in close and listening to their paws crunch across the snow. We're having a few days of bitter cold here in Nova Scotia (this morning the temperature is -19C but because of the wind chill it will feel like -31C). But so what, what do I care. My boy's OK ! My boy's OK. Shhhhhhh ! I mustn't talk about the fact that it's been 3 days and 14 hrs since the last badness. Shush and delight ! shush and look up in the sky, with the big full moon and the twinkling stars, and say thank you. Thank you !

Yesterday, Sunday, was an absolutely perfect day. And I don't toss that word around loosely. Les chiens and I had a lovely morning walk with Carol and Deb and Maggy Sue (the golden retriever). Winnie & Maggie raced and did spins in the pasture, they're usual greeting, Winn looking up at me, tongue hanging out and a smile on her face, as if to say Isn't this great! and my boy barked at the girls Come on, gimme some of those cookies please! Back home again and we all puttered. I had my Sunday morning chat with my sister while making Shepherd's Pie (comfort food) and doing up dishes. I smeared peanut butter in all the cracks & crevices of raw hide knotted treats for the dogs and off they'd trot, content for a while, to their beds by the fire. I spent the afternoon getting my beach treasure packages ready for the post on Monday (having decided that the packages themselves must also be beautiful and thrilling to receive) and I put the final touches on my first Etsy shop wares, and did all the registering, re-sizing of photos & uploading them. Later in the evening I tidied up my giant living room desk, made a list of to-dos for Monday, and readied my cozy bed on the sofa (I'm still sleeping downstairs, just in case, and secretly loving it). I put a few more logs on the fire, snuggled in under the covers, breathed in deeply and felt truly blessed.

a pink kerchief & Gwen Stefani

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Miss Dixon with her new pink kerchief

Two walks yesterday, the second short, but in glorious, melting, warm sunshine, 2 days and 13 hrs since my boy got up from his last episode of badness, (shook himself off and barked for some cat food - he comes out of these spells just as suddenly as he goes down), and counting. Of course I'm hoping, (praying, and wishing) that all this badness will just one day not come back, just disappear as suddenly as it appeared, all the while trying not to think about it at all, for fear of (in this case) the dreaded laws of attraction.

SO ... onto Sunday news. Yesterday was phone chat day, not something I regularly do a lot of but both calls were from people I hadn't spoken to in a very long time. First my cousin Joni at about wool which was great and I hope that she and I make a tradition of these phone calls. She and I have just recently been back in touch with each other, via blogs and emails - and I do believe that she is a kindred spirit, and I can always use more kindred spirits in my life. The second call was from my Uncle Derek, my father's brother and another fantastic, long catch up chat while mildly multi-tasking with my cordless phone. I love my cordless phone and could not gab at any length unless I was free to walk around and do things while talking.

I made a batch of dog cookies, beef n' bacon, my boy and Miss Dixon love them. They are so easy to make and each batch makes a good size tin full of cookies. I cut mine into very small little squares, training size. All I have to do is whistle and put my hand in my pocket and my boy will turn around and come to me, instead of following his nose and launching off through the pastures or into the woods and out of sight on another of his big excellent adventures - which he does love to do. See ya later guys, he says I think I smell something rotten, that's my Noodle dog. Carefree & careless. These little training cookies have been working some magic in keeping my 13 year old lug on our beaten path.

Had great plans to Etsy-it all afternoon yesterday (prepare my wares for my shop opening this week)- and I'm afraid that just didn't ever happen. I was still, I think, returning to normal from our mid week crisis day, when I honestly was convinced that Jake was dying right here in my living room. And since then, our trip to the vet, and oh so much angst and tears and fit full sofa sleeps, it's really been exhausting. That little machine in my head was just pooped. This morning I feel well rested and it all seems long ago and far away, and just maybe a very bad dream. I feel thankful and more thankful ... while not thinking, too much, about it. (wink, wink)

Yesterday afternoon, les chiens and I cruised around the village in our teal blue 97' Ford Escort wagon, apres our walk in sunshine, doing a few errands and pretending it was summer. We had the windows rolled down and American Top 4o with Ryan Seacrest turned up on the radio and we were all singing and bopping, me and the dogs, along with Gwen Stefani. We love Gwen.


1:30 update -After a brief consultation with Miss Dixon, slightly influenced by Miss Vee's pleading comment re: not being a winner in the beach treasure give away on our blog Saturday, we have decided to add a 4th prize -a prolific commenter prize - and that prize could only go to Miss Vee whose always here with us at 29 Black Street for a daily visit, please hotmail me your postal address Vee and we'll get your package ready. I do appreciate your offer to trade for origami ornaments but since my life's quest is to have less stuff, combined with my almost complete lack of Christmas spirit, I do believe those ornaments would be better saved for your own give away, for those elfs who will do them holiday decorating justice.

Moral of the story - it pays to plead. Wink.

sea treasure

Saturday, January 19, 2008

beach glass in sunlight, summer 07

Good morning. Miss Winnie Dixon, with her new pink floral cotton kerchief on, would like to announce the winners of our little beach treasure packets:

Anya West
Mary D

please email me your postal address to [sablack77 (at sign)] and we'll get these off in the post to you at the beginning of the week. Thank you to all who left a comment (we really love when you leave a comment, we bloggers).

And thank you for all the kind thoughts, hugs, prayers, good vibes and well wishes being sent this way for me and my boy Jake. You have no idea how much it means to us, and a special thanks to Mlou who I know is always just a phone call away.

Hope to have Etsy shop product photos up by tomorrow, and some new photos of les chiens. Smile. Happy weekend to all.

we're up again

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blair Witch - Jake & Susan

Taken last spring while on an early morning walk at the golf course.

He's up again, after being down for 31 hrs, uh huh lying down, basically in the same spot, zonked out, no peeing, no pooping, just resting and sleeping for 31 hrs straight. That can't be good. But this morning, and last evening from 4pm on, he's been up, hungry and fairly normal. We're off at 8am for an early morning appointment with our vet Diane, and I feel quite confident that we'll both be returning home. One last ditch attempt, I guess, to try and call this something else, something concrete and fixable, something that requires a prescription, something to call it other than gradual death. My gut instincts are telling me that there is a very remote chance that this might be something treatable, but mostly I'm thinking we will be lucky to have weeks left and perhaps the time left is much less than that. Hopeful realism. I'm hoping to bring home some pain medication maybe, or some tranquilizer of some sort so that when he does have the, seemingly stressful & painful, initial stages of these episodes (the first hour or so), I can help to make him more comfortable.

I'm sorry that you've been swept up and down this roller coaster ride with me ... but trust me the extremes really have been extreme. The badness when it happens has been very bad, and very scary but thankfully, the good, healthy, up times in between have also been very great. I am so grateful for the overall slowness and gradualness of all of this and for the fact that he's continued to have ups. And I'm grateful for the potential truth to be so gradually and gently taking hold.

I'm off to have a lovely smelly bubble bath, and will write up my detailed report of all Jake's episodes, symptoms, time frames, etc - to try and give the vet as much information as possible. Will update when we return home shortly past lunch. Fingers crossed and prayers are said.

I'm sending artwork off to the printer to pick up today while we're in town. Hope to have my first product (12 Valentines greeting cards and two teeny tiny framed Valentines gouache paintings) in my Etsy shop by Monday.

11:45 am My boy is so fine today he's having a really good day. We're back from the vet and basically she didn't tell me anything that I didn't already know or suspect. The only true way to know anything conclusive would be to do exploratory surgery, she doesn't want to put him through that and I've never had any interest in going that route. She asked if he was having more good days than bad, and yes, I was able to tell her, at this point he is. I guess that'll be the real kicker. When the badness surpasses the good, the kooky, the gimme some of that cat food or I'm just gonna keep on barkin' at ya.

So I'm happy, I'm deliriously happy. Other people would get home and pour themselves a big ol' glass of wine or smoke a cigarette, but me I'm eating a big ol' slab of three layer, white, trans fat cake, with whipped, edible oil product, frosting and filled with strawberry gel (?). A large single serving slab that I picked up at the Sobey's bakery. It tastes like airy, sweet, slightly chemical fluff - but it seems to be doing the trick. It's much too early for an Ativan & ginger.

I will now continue to gather the courage, to wrap my mind around saying good-bye on a good day. On a day when it can just be he and I, on a day when he's feeling fine. We'll drive to town (30-45mins) together, no BFF's, no cavalry, just he and I. I know, my plan keeps changing, but I think it's becoming more refined and more perfect - it is, after all, a very important plan. Maybe we'll stop on the way at Dairy Queen and split a double bacon cheeseburger in the car (my boy loves a cheeseburger) before we go to the vet and we'll say good bye, together. Courage I think. And we have no idea when that day may be ... I'm allowing myself that glimmer of hope, and of chance that if we're lucky, it's not a day real soon.

ps I'm exhausted.

almond eyes

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I love you - just a little bit more than life itself

I know it sounds corny, but that's what I've been telling him all these years.

Things are not very good here this morning. After having a fairly long, energetic, full of beans walk with our gang yesterday morning, he collapsed as soon as we got home. He spent the morning on his bed in the living room with his head in my lap and I honestly thought he might die right there & then. This morning he's still too weak to get up although he seems bright and alert. Winnie Dixon's feeling worried, I'm sad and nauseous feeling and the cats ... well of course they're oblivious. Except Bleet, who has always believed Jake was his mother. Bleet is concerned, and wants to lie curled up on Jake (draped over a paw or curled up in that space between his neck and chest) as he does love to do, but he seems to know that Jake's not feeling well. So instead he sits near him and purrs that deep, loud Bleetness purr.

Jake's not going to get better, I realize that. I'm faced with the decision to try and do the right thing. Do I wait until things are really, really bad - desperate ? Or do I nip this in the bud and say goodbye while he has some quality of life left ? I feel somewhat paralyzed by this decision, and it's making me feel sick to my stomach.

It's very dramatic, the change that comes over him. In almost an instant he goes from healthy, hungry, goofy Jake to an incapacitated, sick and distant dog. These spells do seem more frequent and have become more long lasting. Today is our vet's day off but I will call her tomorrow and have a conversation with her, hear her thoughts and ready the wagon. Just in case.

Just my opinion ... but, a few things to not say to someone in my position as I don't need or want truisms

• you gave him such a long & wonderful life - I know that already
• you're so lucky that he has lived to be 13 - I know that too
• you'd be doing the best, most kind thing for him- uh huh, know that too

what I'd much rather hear, what I need and would prefer, what anyone grieving needs, I think ... is validation & comfort

• you must be feeling so terribly sad - I feel like I'm going to die of sadness
• is there anything I can do to help - thank you so much for asking
• do you need a hug - yes please
• he's an amazing dog - he sure is!

9:48 am That last bit sounds bitchy, for me. I think I'm feeling pissed off- I'm not sure what step or stage that is ... I think it's time for an Ativan, time for some blotting.

Bleet & Jake


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Miss Dixon feeling a bit like chopped liver lately

My sweet Winnie Dixon, feeling worried and a bit left out lately. She's quite insecure as it is, because of early life trauma, and this Jake business has her a little out of sorts.

And me ... well, between crying and praying and hoping. And humming and skipping and thanking. And patting and hugging and breathing in the smell of his neck and adoring. And painting my 4 full colour paintings for customer No. 1, with gouache and fine red sable and tinkling brushes in water, it's been a busy, time flying by, while time stands still, last few days.

I must say it does seem that every minute that I grow older it becomes a little easier for me to truly live in just the moment that I'm in ... and I am very thankful for that, if I've learned any lesson in my life, I think that's a very good one. No matter what kind of moment it is - to just be in it.

CBC radio, my second cup of coffee, Winnie Dixon curled up beside me on the sofa, the cats are all lurking about and stretching while sharpening their claws on the sofa arms, and Jake has just licked the cat food plate clean, pushing it with his tongue, all the way from the kitchen past us into the living room. Smile. I need to get bundled up to go outside and shovel us out, in darkness and quiet and get that wagon warmed up.

feeling fine

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jake & Maggie Sue

There's my boy with his friend and Golden girl, and Miss Dixon's best girlfriend, Maggie Sue - this photo was taken early Sunday morning. I'm afraid by lunch time Sunday, when we'd normally be piling back into the car to meet our friends for our second walk, Jake had begun to show, what are now becoming the tell tale, signs of another spell (three and a half days since the last one). So I called and let Deb & Maggy Sue know that we wouldn't be coming and gradually sure enough Jake fell into one of those I'm convinced that he must be dying episodes. This one lasted a very long time, nearly 24 hrs before he was back up and att-em and barking at the cat food dishes (my new benchmark for a healthy, happy Noodle dog).

I've been keeping a diary of the symptoms, dates and length of each spell. Sunday was the 4th spell and by far the worst in length but not necessarily in severity ??? Yesterday through a steady stream of tears, while my boy lie prone and zonked out in his bed near by, I organized our affairs.

I have been feeling anxious, each time these spells occur and I'm faced with the possibility that the end may be drawing near, that I don't have a plan of what I would do if it suddenly became clear that the time was here. He's a big dog and I cannot lift him by myself, and I honestly am not convinced that I have the emotional strength, either, to deal with what must be done, by myself. Yesterday I called in the cavalry (actually I emailed the cavalry) with a detailed description of plan A & a plan B (just in case). The cavalry being a good friend's husband, a big, burly man who can handle anything, and who drives a big, red pick up truck with a cab on the back and tires that will make it through most any weather. He emailed me back - I promise. More tears, this time of relief and gratitude. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I can now put those worries and concerns on my back burner.

And for today, and for right now, in this moment (while humming under my breath, and with a skip to my step)... outside there's a fresh new perfect blanket of snow, I just hung up the phone from a lovely long chat with a good friend who was up early and still on Bangkok time (she's just returned home from a month long visit in the southern hemisphere), we're just about to get bundled up for our early morning walk ... and my boy is feeling fine.

treasures for you

Monday, January 14, 2008

a little bundle of sea treasures from Nova Scotia

I love the idea of paying it forward or offering up a gift to a few of you who've been hanging out for awhile here with us at 29 Black Street. A way to say thanks !

Even though the act of blogging is ultimately a personal activity for me, I've realized that I do also enjoy the company, I love the sense of community and I do love it (as I'm sure all bloggers do) when someone leaves a comment. This blog has become incredibly important to me, and for so many reasons. It's been a wonderful creative outlet and its helped to inspire me, as I plan the growth of my little design & illustration company Susan Black Design. It's become a fantastic visual documentation & diary of my day to day life in this little seaside village, and it's been a place for me to introduce you to my family of 2 dogs Jake & Winnie Dixon and 4 cats Lulu, Bleet, Gus & Oliver, and I feel now, that you've gotten to know them as well - which is very comforting (especially lately with my boy's weird episodic badness).

I've seen this idea on many other blogs and I've since been scheming and pondering what would I offer up as a sweet little gift, for my first give away? Of course most of the bloggers that I peruse are giving away some lovely little item that they've made themselves, and that idea is certainly in the future for me as well, as I did take the handmade pledge, and I hope to have my own Etsy shop, 29 Black Street, up & running by the end of this month. I would love to make this give away post a fairly regular occurrence here at 29 Black Street.

So here's the deal, between today Jan 14 and Friday Jan 18 all you have to do is leave a comment, say hello, on this post. Saturday I'll put all the names in a bowl and see if I can't convince Miss Dixon to draw for 3 winners of these little miniature packages of beach treasure. The beginning of next week I'll bundle these packages up and we'll mail them out to you, wherever you may be, by Canada Post.

Each package will contain a tiny natural envelope with a printed 29 Black Street label. Inside a miniature parcel, wrapped in white tissue and tied with sea blue floss, will contain 20 small polished pieces of sea glass in assorted colours, 7 tiny orange or striped periwinkle shells and 1 smoothed shard of patterned china or crockery and you can be sure that each and every piece was lovingly & carefully collected, by me and les chiens, on our daily walks on the beach.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

pink carnations

Sunday morning - and today is the 4th day. The 4th day since Thursday morning (early) which is when my boy Jake had his last gastro badness attack. He's been increasingly fantastic since then, way back to his normal silly self. Plenty of begging of treats and of food of any kind, on our walks he's been full of energy & vigor, everything seems back to normal again. He's lying here on the floor near me, snoring softly.

Bleet is picking at my pajama bottoms, with his little claws as I type which means that I must get up and follow him, and he will surely show me what he wants. He just came in from his early morning go out the front door, circle the house and come back in with the dog's through their door early morning ritual - so I don't think that he wants out, maybe he needs the dish of crunchy cat food topped up ? Lulu and Winnie are both curled up here on the sofa with me and the kittens Gussie & Oliver are getting geared up for their morning high speed, squealing, skittle action, up and down the stairs as fast as they can go, pinging off arm chairs and basically burning off some of that early morning kitten steam.

Yesterday afternoon, we walked in sunshine and incredibly warm temperatures, with friends Deb & Maggy Sue and it felt so much like spring. Back along the beach, which has once again been revealed, gone and melted is the huge layer of ice that had covered it. Up the red clay cliff (which is now red clay muck), trying to step only on grassy bits so that we don't slip and fall, up to the lighthouse and back down the cottage lane to the car. The ground is very mucky, wet and smells only of melting & thaw.

Life is good at 29 Black St. this second Sunday in January, life is very good.

heart's desire

Saturday, January 12, 2008

two colour palettes of a botanical patterned pitcher

Saturday, again already, it's mild and wet this morning. Jake's feeling good, it seems 4 days will be the new test of time. Can he go 4 days or more without having one of his terrible spells. Fingers crossed, talked with God, we'll wait & see and hope.

I had a meeting yesterday with a person from our regional Business Development Association - I'm applying for a small business loan to purchase Adobe Creative Suite 3 (software) and a new Apple imac, a beaut with a 24" (gasp!) screen. My current laptop has begun to show signs of age and I keep expecting it to suddenly go poof ! and for smoke to pour out of the mike jack.
For my mother board to blow or something else just as horrific. And as far as software goes, (sshhhhhh), all these years, all nearly seven of them, let's just say I have not legitimately owned the programs that make my life possible as a designer. When I bought this second hand computer (in the fall of 2004) it was all ready loaded up with the software that I use on a daily basis. I plan to grow my business, in 2008, in leaps and bounds and I want a beautiful studio, a well stocked reference library and supply cabinet, and the equipment and tools to accomplish anything that my little heart desires ... and it is desiring SO much!

Goals for 2008

• get my little Etsy shop up and running - will sell greeting cards and art prints
• finally submit (and be chosen) my greeting card designs to Great Arrow
• begin dabbling in block printing - very exciting
• continue to impress and WOW the pants of new big fish customer - Enesco
• submit concept boards to Demdaco for their bi-annual call for product concepts

I feel excited, invigorated and once again ... invincible. I love what I do, and it's so amazing to make your living from something that never really seems like work. I attribute much of this renewed creative spirit to the many, many stimulating and inspiring blogs that I visit each day. It's hard to believe just how many amazing women are out there in the world, also making a living, doing something that they love, from a room in their home.

spells & gnats

Friday, January 11, 2008

more illustration inspiration, a fold out map calender for 2008

purchased from little otsu yesterday and map calender illustrated by Lart C. Berliner I love maps, and I love wonky, whimsical illustrations and this was a steal at 11.00 US (I bought two so I could pin up or frame both the front and the back).

I slept in by a whole hour this morning, practically unheard of, and when my eyes finally opened and I glanced at the clock it was 5:30. Thankfully I had forgotten to set my coffee maker's timer which normally comes on at 4:45 (I know, it's crazy)- so no stale old coffee. yuck! We were up at 1:00am, 'cause the boy had to go outside to take care of some business (very normal), and Miss Dixon decided that she needed to accompany him. By the time they both returned from their middle of the night scoot around their large fenced in yard I was very wide awake. Back to bed, into the flannel and down nest, to lie there and chase away the frets and worries, which soon began circling the bed.

It's the first time in ages that I've been SO wide awake in the middle of the night - and I'm a bit out of practice at dealing with my demons of the darkness. Why is it that everything can seem so much worse when you're lying awake in the wee hours of the morning. It is about retraining your mind, it sounds so simple, but worrying is really just a bad habit. You have to not allow those thoughts to get a hold, let them flit around like gnats, if they like, but shew them away if they try to alight. And like everything, practice makes perfect.

Winnie soon came up on the bed and snuggled in, big fat Bleetness was curled up at my feet and then sweet Oliver, the softest cat ever, curled up on my chest and began to purr. I let my mind go blank and focused only on the softness of Ver's fur and the sound of his sweet purrs. Pet love meditation - it's the best. I slept so soundly I woke up an hour late and from the midst of one of those great, crazy movie dreams with an incredible cast and amazing sets.

The boy, Jake had another spell earlier yesterday morning (at 4:30am) nearly 12 hours after eating anything (?). And these spells are awful and they completely put him out of commission for hours. He's not hungry at all (that's always a shock - when my boy's not hungry) and he just wants to lie in one place until this badness passes. That was the fourth spell, with anywhere from 4 days to a week in between and in between, no symptoms at all and back really to his normal self. This is all terribly perplexing. I have googled and searched and read and studied and I cannot come up with anything, especially anything grave and big and bad (with thanks!), because with all of those really serious ailments and diseases the symptoms should not retreat ... phew! (I think, I hope, I pray). My best guess, although I have found no absolute, sure documentation to back this up, is that his (mildly) immune suppressed system (low dose Prednisone for a time), specifically his digestive system, has been totally messed up by November's bad viral or bacterial I ate some dead thing or some poop episode- garbagitis (yup there is an official term for it and Retrievers are particularly prone). And my boy, he loves to eat the crap, he can smell some crap a mile away.

sweet cheeks

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the other dog - Noodlette, or Miss Winnie Dixon

A photo of my sweet Winn with her scruffy frosted snout. She's been feeling a little left out lately with so much concern and attention being paid to her brother, her best buddy, Jake.

Yesterday felt like spring, it was mild, mucky and wet. The air even smelled of spring and already I can notice that the days are getting longer. Our snow is nearly gone and this lovely stretch of mild weather has suited me just fine. Another spike on Saturday with a forecast of +10C, wow, if the Noodle's feeling up to it we'll be back at the golf course this weekend with our friends Deb & Maggie Sue (another golden girl). Lots of sniffing and roaming and the chasing of squirrels.

the view from the top of the snow covered golf course

yogurt, sardines & pineapple please

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

another from the illustration archives of SBD

It's +10 already this morning, and wind and even some rain in the forecast. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Means more melting snow and perhaps we can soon get back to our walks through pastures or at the golf course. The snow still too deep for dog legs.

Well we're up, we're down, we're fine, we're not so fine. Yesterday Jake went from feeling pretty good, to I think he must be surely dying, and then back to feeling really good again. I'm exhausted from trying to figure it out, from begging & pleading, with God or whoever, to let him please be healthy, to let him live a few more years. Each time I see him SO sick, in such discomfort, SO not himself - his kooky, crazy, hungry-all-the-time Noodle self, I get a little bit closer to a kind of peace with it all. Because I cannot bear to see him suffer like that. Our vet and I had a telephone conversation yesterday about the likelihood of it being pancreatitis - and she thinks not. Apparently when a dog is suffering from that, they're just sick, really sick, and they don't have these rebounds of normal, energetic, healthy self again. He slept well last night and I in my own bed, tucked in with a Bill Bryson book*, and yes he has been up already barking at the cat food dishes. Big Smile. We're still watching what we eat and I'm feeding him smaller portions, and more often, of healthy foods that he loves. Yogurt & sardines, lean hamburger, rice & squash. Cauliflower, broccoli and fresh pineapple please. Smile.

I have a challenging full colour paintings x 4 project on the go this week. So nice to work in colour for a change again as most of what I do is just black & white technical drawings. Would love to have these 4 paintings wrapped up by the end of the weekend and a healthy happy Noodle would help so much in reaching that goal. Fingers crossed & prayers said.

* I'm re-reading Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There - he decides in middle age to re-trace his footprints and re-do the European backpacking trip of his youth. It's laugh out loud funny. Just what I needed and thanks to Joni for reminding me about Bill in an email.

treated myself to this book

ordered & shipped yesterday from Chapters/Indigo, it's been on my wish list for awhile now
. A book of hand drawn and found typography by graphic designer Michael Perry

double chocolate

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

double chocolate crunch cereal ? and triple chocolate chunk cookies

or things you buy when you're skipping down the aisles of the Superstore singing to yourself at the top of your lungs - hey Noodle you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Noodle ... hey Noodle. Foods that seemed appealing after spending the previous 24 hrs with a big ol' knot in my stomach and a catch in my throat - comfort food I guess. I must say also, in my defense, I was quite captivated by the beauty of the Double Chocolate Crunch Cereal box - for a cereal box you gotta admit it's pretty spectacular. Helvetica at it's finest (actually I've been corrected, it's Avant Garde - the perfectly round O's should have been a dead give away to me as they were, clearly, for Miss Patti - now I'm wondering about the differences between Futura and Avant Garde ?). But hey, don't you love it when everyday things come in beautiful, well designed packages.

I spent a good part of last evening googling abdominal discomfort dog - and kept coming up with pancreatitis, over and over again. I'm not sure why it didn't come up yesterday, at the vets, as a possibility, but after thoroughly researching the disorder myself I've decided to treat Jake as if he may have pancreatitis. Possible causes of this disorder include Hypothyroidism (check),
Corticosteroids (Prednisone) medications (check) he frequently has been on a very low dose of Prednisone to combat his extreme itchiness & allergies, Bacterial & Viral infections - let's not forget the infamous poop fest of November in which we decided that his terrible bout of diarrhea was likely caused by eating some dead thing, or some bad poop (possible check), and High Fat Foods (sheepish check).

I'll confess, right here and now, that as soon as we left the vet yesterday, I parked the car at Walmart and skipped & danced my way into the store, to pick up a new retractable lead for Miss Dixon and I made a stop at the golden arches, uh huh, MacDonalds. A sausage egg McMuffin pour moi (a secret guilty pleasure of mine), and a sausage McMuffin for the boy. Well, he hadn't had his breakfast and he is 13 - you think to yourself how much could it hurt to feed him crap, at his age ? and he loved every bite (all 22 gms of fat). 4 hours later he was having one of those episodes. Related ? Who knows, but it's certainly worth a try to treat him as if he does have pancreatitis.

This morning as I drink my coffee and ponder yesterday, I'm remembering and reviewing my lengthy conversations with God, there was much wheeling & dealing prior to our appointment and then lots of praising & thanking apr├ęs the vet. I'm remembering that I did cut a deal with God, or was it the devil, that if Jake could please be healthy, then I would promise to quit, finally, eating all crap, junk & comfort food and walk the straight and narrow nutrition path that I do long to walk. To finally lose those pounds, that sit on each years list of resolutions, finally and for good.

So ... now when the boy is pleading with me to share some of my loot with him, as I sit watching TV curled up on the sofa, I will no longer share a potato chip or 2 or 3 with him (head hung in shame) but I will share cauliflower chunks or pineapple tidbits (two foods thankfully, we both love). We'll do this together, Jake & I, we'll both begin our low fat, no crap regime today.

Love him.