Thursday, July 29, 2010

Words, Words, Words from Charles Schulz

"Happiness is a warm puppy." Charles Schulz

...on your lap...

...licking your face...

...chewing an acceptable chew toy...

...playing with two acceptable chew toys...

...running way from the camera... (action shots of this warm puppy are tough to get in focus)

...sleeping on your lap...

...sleeping under your desk...

...sleeping on a park bench.

Happiness is NOT this...

I just threw in this last picture so those of you experiencing longing for warm puppy happiness understand the trade-offs. Many puppies are bought because they are cute and cuddly. Many are abandoned or dumped at shelters because they do stuff like this and because they shed fur. Lots of fur. As in, your dust bunnies will grow enormous, develop sentience, and hatch nefarious plots to take over your home. Complaining about dog fur is a bit like complaining that your frappuccino is cold. It's supposed to be cold. And dogs are supposed to be furry.

If the thought of a chewed chair leg upsets you, just imagine how upset you'll be engaging in guerrilla warfare with intelligent dust bunnies. Besides, you can live the warm puppy life vicariously right here. My blog will not result in chewed chair legs or killer dust bunnies. I also will not ask you to run around outside in bare feet through dew-covered grass in the middle of the night to retrieve a puppy who wants nothing so much as to eat the vomit she deposited next to the swing set when a little boy decided to see if she liked swinging with him.

You are ever so welcome.

Things on Thursday: Vintage Collar and Leash

Well, not exactly vintage. Thirteen years old. Another puppy. Another time and another place.

See the impish expression? The slightly crazy gleam in the eye? That was our Hoover, on a blisteringly hot day in Boise, Idaho, in 1997.

Last week, when we knew Daisy would be joining our family, George said, "We need to buy her a collar and leash." I thought, "Hey, no, we don't!" I descended into the scary bowels of our basement, straight to the oldest rubbermaid storage bin, nestled in a taken-apart airline crate and underneath a giant Cone of Shame.

That storage bin joined our family way back in 1989 when we got our first pup, Shemya. It's been in continuous use ever since as a repository for puppy and dog paraphernalia that doesn't get daily use, such as an old obedience clicker, a car harness we used with Shemya, four tiny puppy teeth, and dead spiders.

Don't worry. I threw out the dead spiders and kept the puppy teeth.

And there I found a small red collar and thin leash, perfect for a puppy. The first puppy who used it didn't like it much at first. See?

But then, the first puppy to use the red collar and leash was an unsensible imp. Daisy, the breeder assured us, would not be unsensible. She used that word when I asked about temperament and told her our first golden retriever had been hyper. "Oh, she won't be unsensible!" Unsensible. It was one of Hoover's most endearing traits.

And if I'd taken my camera on our walk last night, I'd have taken a picture that looks just like this one, only with a lighter-colored pup with sensible eyes.

I'll post more Daisy pictures tomorrow. Today, we're heading to the park for a meet-and-greet with our friends. And just so you know, Daisy was an angel last night. She didn't make her crazy chicken/hyena/wolf noises, went out only three times, and seemed to be perfectly at home in her new crate set-up.

Very sensible of her, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First Impressions

First of all, we're not exactly sure what sort of animal Daisy is. Oh, she looks like a well-bred golden retriever, but she sounds like a strange hybrid of chicken, hyena, and wolf. And she sounded like all three most of the night. At one point, George asked, "How can something so small be so loud?"

Nick and Jack slept through the cacophony last night so they will learn today what it means to take responsibility for a puppy because I plan on sleeping most of the day, but not until we go to the pet supply store and buy the right food and a smaller crate. The kids can't drive yet, so I'll have to do that much. After many mochas.

Second, Daisy is very inquisitive and not afraid of loud noises or new experiences. A motorcycle went by as we were taking her to our car, and she got alert and leaned toward the noise. When she tripped a doorstop at our house and made it twang, she didn't spook; she stared and sniffed. This is a very good thing.

Third, Daisy has a very soft mouth. Goldens are known for this, and perhaps as she starts teething this will change, but she attacked my hair last night while I lay on the floor and vigorously shook it...without hurting me at all. She also attacked my fingers without once making me yip. Of course, she did attack my slipper and the fringe on the small Persian rug in our bedroom, but neither of them complained very much either.

Fourth, George is already her favorite. After a few hours of chicken clucks, hyena laughs, and wolf howls last night, we inflated a mattress and George lay down right next to the crate. She was much quieter and calmer, but when George excused himself for a bit, she started making her unusual array of vocalizations and I lay down to comfort her. I hope I get my hearing back. She quieted as soon as George returned, though, and only got loud when she needed to go out or was hungry.

Fifth, she's too cute for words.

Sixth, she is capable of sleep, and one night in the future, she will sleep through the night.

That blissful night really can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Picking a Daisy

As soon as Hoover was diagnosed with cancer, the three boys in my life started talking about getting a puppy. My heart and head screamed "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" to this suggestion, both because my heart was breaking and because it's been 13 years since I had a puppy but I remember how much work it was and ohmygosh give me a break.

Then, when George took my Furry Golden Sunshine to the vet for the last time, my heart well and truly broke, and all I could do for days on end was cry. In the nadir of my own grief, I noticed how mopey George was, how he kept surfing the Internet for Burnese Mountain Dog and Great Pyrenees breeders in our area.


George has always wanted a huge dog. I believe this is a direct result of testosterone and I have vigorously fought his big-dog yearnings for years. I do not want a dog that weighs more than I do. I do not want to clean up horse-size piles of poo from my yard (or carpet). I do not want to buy the mega-size bags of Iams, or pay more expensive kennel and vet rates, either. But most of all, I don't want to have a dog whose life expectancy is shorter than the average dog.

Dogs don't live long enough as it is.

Fortunately, George pulled out all the golden-retriever-themed books we own and reread them in the week after Hoover left us, and having him in this vulnerable state, I decided to compromise. We could get a golden puppy after Ironman in September. Yeah, that would work.

But George kept moping. The boys kept talking about puppies. And George's training for Ironman, which had already taken on a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for root canals and April 15, started petering out. His heart just isn't in the race this year.

Then it dawned on George that if we didn't go to Madison this year, we could get a puppy NOW. His enthusiasm for the race became more or less nonexistent at that point. His enthusiasm for making a list of contacts for golden breeders, however, blossomed like the giant hybiscus in our neighbor's yard. It was beyond human power to contain.

To exercise some damage control, I said okay, we can get a puppy under two conditions. First it's got to be a girl. I wanted to rub a dog belly again (males have that furry penile sheath thingie that gets in the way of a good belly rub...ewwww). Plus, because females are in greater demand than males, I figured it would take a while to find a female at the right age to leave her mother, so I'd have a little time.

My second condition was that we name her Daisy. At that point, George's puppy lust was such that he would have agreed to naming her Doo-Doo Face if it got him what he wanted. George agreed to Daisy and sprang into action.

This is when Hoover exercised his influence with the angels, who, I am sure, would agree to anything the Furry Golden Sunshine wanted if he would just stop jumping up and licking their noses and knocking their halos askew.

The very first breeder George called, from a town 30 minutes north of ours, had one puppy left in a litter she co-owns in Michigan. A girl. Nine weeks old. Bred from a Westminster champion named Stormy. The breeder, who is married to a veterinarian, only breeds when she wants a new dog for conformation or agility shows. All the other pups are sold as pets with spay/neuter contracts to families with fenced yards who want a dog to live in the house with them as a member of the family.

Um. HELLO!?! Does that sound like a family you know?

I couldn't believe it. Three weeks and a day after Hoover left us, we're picking a Daisy.

The Michigan breeder sent us a picture of our Daisy yesterday. One look at her sweet puppy face and I was lost.

A goner.


Hopelessly yearning to smell frito paws and puppy breath.

And crying anew over the loss of my Hoover.

It's all very complicated and sad and joyous at the same time. We're picking Daisy up tonight, and the madness of puppydom begins. But one thing is certain. We are a very lucky family to have the Furry Golden Sunshine watching out for us.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gratitude Journal #50

Today, I am grateful for two years of this blog, for those who have read and still read it, and for the life that has given me so much wonderful stuff to write about. It all started with this post on July 20, 2008.

Today, I am grateful for a sign from Hoover that he is fine and that we will be fine, too. (More on this later.)

Today, I am grateful for slightly cooler weather. I'm trying hard to be content with that and not long for October's crisp temperatures and brilliant blue sky.

Today, I am grateful for the latest installment in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. At the end, Precious Ramotswe sums up the lessons her father taught her. "Do not complain about your life. Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself. Be content with who you are and where you are, and do whatever you can do to bring to others such contentment, and joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself." Such good advice, yet sometimes so hard to follow, especially where weather is concerned. It's just so fashionable to complain.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Random Minnesota: Part 2

Here are the players in this post. Barb and Roger are the parents of George and Angela, Mike is married to Angela, Eli and Matt are Angela's children, I'm married to George, and Nick and Jack are our children. Don't worry. There are no quizzes on this blog.

Our visit to Minnesota began with a visit to the nursing home to visit Great-Grandma Angela. She turns 99 next month and had never met Jack.

After this visit, we headed to Pehrson's Resort. As soon as the whole family had arrived safely at the cabin after long, long drives, George’s father announced that this vacation was a trial run for Hawaii in two years. He and George’s mom would only invite us all to Hawaii to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary IF we behaved for the week at the lake.

This is an excellent way to bribe eight other people into behaving well while sharing a cabin for week.

The water of Lake Vermilion is cold, cold, cold. Neither Matt (above) or Jack (below) cared.

Nick, however, had a harder time adjusting to the cold. When swimming with George one day, he was easing into deeper water when the cold hit his privates. That’s when he suggested that, when he grows up, he wants to invent “’nad-heated swimwear.”

I’ve never heard the word “’nad” so much as on this vacation.

Eli (above, center), George’s nephew, didn’t feel well the first day and woke up the second with a fever. Of course, this meant a trip to the Cook Medical Center, along with lots of jokes about quality medical care in small-town emergency rooms from his mom, who works at a large and well-respected big-city medical center. Poor Eli. The ER doc took one look at his throat and said, “Well, that’s nasty.” Then the doctor prescribed antibiotics and narcotics. Woohoo! The drugs knocked Eli out until the fever came back, necessitating a return to the Cook Medical Center for more powerful antibiotics that included a shot in the butt. Not very dignified for a 20-year-old man, do you think? After another day of sleeping it off, Eli emerged with feeling much better and joined the fun, after enduring lots of jokes for his bare-butt medical adventure.

Bare butts and ‘nads. Can you tell the boys in the cabin out-numbered the girls 7 to 3?

Matt, George’s other nephew, spent hours every night up the hill behind the cabin to talk to his girlfriend on the phone. None of us but Angela had cell phone service in the cabin, which was in a bit of a dead zone. He proudly showed off his mosquito bites after the first night, until his mom started wiping him with bug wipes each night before he headed off to converse with his lady-love.

Most of us thought Matt’s young love was cute, but his brother found it revolting, which reminded me of how my sister felt when George and I were young and silly. Isn’t this the universal condition of siblings, who suddenly have to share their closest living relative with a virtual stranger?

Anyway, Matt’s girlfriend sent a text message to Angela (above, right) asking her to find out Matt’s ring size so she could give him a promise ring before he headed off to college in July. Angela, not surprisingly, was baffled by how she could surreptitiously find out her son’s ring size and discussed the request with me, Eli, and Barb while we sat at the table together. By lucky coincidence, Angela was playing with a twist-tie from a loaf of bread when Matt walked in. She said, “Matt, give me your hand. I want to put this on your finger.” Eli, Barb, and I started laughing hysterically at the subtlety of Angela’s tactic, which pretty much doomed it to failure because Matt got all suspicious and wanted to know why his mother needed to put a twist-tie on his finger.

One evening, George teased and tickled Jack, who pretended to be angry but kept going back for more. Then, suddenly, Jack stomped away and said, “I am walking crossly away!” The adults all laughed, but unfortunately, Jack’s imaginative play had transitioned to real and righteous anger in a flash none of us adults understood or even caught until it was too late. Our laughter suddenly seemed ill-timed and hurtful, and we all felt bad. But honestly, how can you NOT laugh when a child narrates his actions as if he were in a Thomas the Tank Engine story?

Extreme ping pong (that is, ping pong played without rules of any kind) is far more fun than regular ping pong. Mike and Nick (above) invented the game, and Angela and I joined them for extreme doubles play. The ball seemed to resent the lack of rules and kept escaping out the porch windows to hide in the shrubbery.

George and I really, really need a ping pong table in our basement. Extreme ping pong is a sport I can get excited about because you cannot lose or even do it badly.

Pontoon boats are just cool. Thanks to my father-in-law Roger (above) for giving us an awesome morning on one. The resort also had kayaks, paddle boats, and canoes which we took full advantage of. I love kayaking. It’s the most peaceful activity, unless, of course, you are out with a ten-year-old who decides that it’s a perfect opportunity for an epic whine-fest. I stayed with Nick while watching George and Jack, in the two-person kayak, go merrily off across the water. I finally convinced Nick to go back to the dock, escorted him there and handed him off to his kind aunt while I paddled back out to meet George and Jack. At least Nick tried.

My sister-in-law and I walked out on a dock. “Oh, look at the mallard!” I said. “Yes,” she replied. Then, a few seconds later, she noticed that it was bobbing oddly. “Uh, Susan, I don’t think it’s real. It’s a decoy.” I looked again, and felt stupid. Angela is so sweet…she didn’t even laugh at me. Fortunately, we did see many living, breathing birds, including several families of ducks—moms with their babies—that more than made up for my moment of stupidity.

Sometimes, transitioning Nick and Jack to a fun activity is a real challenge. I KNEW they would enjoy the kids’ nature cruise the resort offered, but both acted like all I was asking them to write a book report. I dragged them kicking and whining to the waiting pontoon boat where both of them were forced to have a good time entirely against their wills. Here's photographic proof of their initial reluctance.

How did I keep on living under the weight of their scorn?

Once they got over it, we learned how beavers affect the landscape over time, how loons are very territorial and bicker with each other (oh, we know about bickering!), and how Black Bay got its name. We saw herons, an eagle sitting in a nest, and a bunch of loons (including a baby on its mom's back). Nick even got to drive the boat. Twice. That certainly put a smile on his face. Both admitted that sometimes, mom is actually right.

Nick wanted to learn how to fish while on vacation.

George and Grandpa took him out and he was very enthusiastic, saying he would bring back dinner. After he caught a fish, however, he realized that to eat his catch, he would have to kill it. My son, bless him, discovered that he’s more of a catch-and-release kind of fisherman. Like me, he would much rather purchase his formerly-breathing food neatly prepared by someone else and packaged in nice, sterile Styrofoam trays. We would both starve in a survival situation.

We’re totally okay with that.

This was the first time Barb and Roger had all four of their grandsons in one place at the same time. Don't they look happy? Well, not Roger so much in this picture, but I assure you, he was happy as a golden retriever with a stick.

It was also the first time Great-Grandma Angela had all four of her great-grandsons in one place at the same time.

It was a great pleasure to spend time with George’s nephews. They are grown men now, and they reminded me what our goal is with our boys…to raise adults we want to spend time with. Plus, they were both really kind to their much younger cousins.

The sunset view out of our cabin was beautiful each night. A picture of it (taken by George) pretty much sums up the beauty of our whole vacation.

What most marked our week at Lake Vermilion was the laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Isn’t it great to be part of a family that knows how to laugh?

I’m happy to report we all passed Barb and Roger’s test for Hawaii. At least for now. Two years is such a long time for us all to be on our best behavior….

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things on Thursday: Daisies

The second Random Minnesota post has been written for days, but it's taking forever to get all the pictures loaded into it. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait. Until then, our Thing on Thursday is daisies.

Daisies are my favorite flower (well, tied for first with pansies). When we get a new golden retriever AND if she's a female, we're naming her Daisy. Well, if I get my way, that'll be her name. George is campaigning for Molly.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mason Kids' Triathlon Race Report

There is a saying in triathlon (though I imagine it applies to any athletic competition) that you should train like you're going to race. This means that George goes on really long runs without his iPod because you can't wear an iPod during a race, he practices open water swims in a wetsuit, and he tries to figure out nutrition for the long, long bike ride by going on long, long bike rides.

Two months ago, George asked Nick if he wanted to do the Mason Kids' Triathlon again this year. Nick's answer: YES! But he only really trained for the bike portion. This showed in his race, where he placed 28th out of 82 participants in the bike. His average pace was almost 15 miles per hour. Go, Nick! The swim and run, however, were not so much fun.

And here he is, waiting his turn to jump into the water, full of excitement and hope and energy:

Cool action shot:

Sometimes, swimming looks like floating. Sometimes, it looks like no fun at all.

"Thank heaven THAT is over!"

"I like to ride my bicycle, my bicycle, my bicycle...."

"I have to RUN?!? A half mile?!?! No way, dude. I'm strolling. That's all I got. Besides, it's hot. Africa hot."

"I'm relaxed. I'm loose. I'm tired."

He actually did start running at some point and sprinted across the finish line looking quite strong. When asked if he wants to race next year (at double the distance since he will age up), he said yes. When asked if he will train for all three events, he said, emphatically, yes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weekly Giggle #19

July is Tour de France month, and Radio Shack is a sponsor. They're airing commercials featuring Lance Armstrong. My favorite is HERE. Click on "watch commercials" and then on the "Microphone" commercial.

L.O.L. And true.

Gratitude Journal #49

Today, I am grateful for volunteers who work triathlons. Nick did his third triathlon yesterday, and the volunteers endured hot, humid conditions to make it a special event for all the kids. (Race report with pictures coming up soon.)

Today, I am grateful for the Noodle Dream my husband cooked last night. He made enough to feed us for days. With the addition of the leftovers of the pizza he and Jack made Saturday night, this means I won't have to cook all week!

Today, I am grateful for the time to clean my very messy house.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Words, Words, Words from Trixie...Again

"Here's something dogs like to do. Lie on lawn, on back, stare at stars. Think how big universe is, how small is me. Think how long is time, how short is life here. Makes you feel good because you realize cannot change the world, only brighten corner where you are." Trixie Koontz, golden retriever

Update: Hopefully I will be able to resume regular posting next week with Part 2 of Random Minnesota. We're still sad around here, missing our Furry Golden Sunshine, and also busy with camp and summer school. Thank you all for your patience!

I'll leave you with my favorite picture of Hoover because it so perfectly captures his personality: goofy, silly, and happy. I'll bet the angels are having a blast with him.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gratitude Journal #48

Today, I am grateful for a peaceful weekend.

Today, I am grateful for sunshine following rain...even though my air conditioning went out yesterday and it's already boiling in my house of many windows.

Today, I am grateful for chocolate and coffee and homemade pizza and whole grilled chickens.

I guess today is a day to be grateful for the basic pleasures of life: rest, sun, rain, and food.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Words, Words, Words about Dogs

"If there is a heaven, it's certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them." Pam Brown

"If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness." Marjorie Garber

"For the soul of every living thing is in the hand of God." Job 12:10

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thank You

This is today's second post. Please scroll down to the first post.

Many, many thanks for all the kind comments on the In Memoriam post and in emails. Really, you have no idea what your kindness means to me.

A friend emailed me today, admitting that she had grieved for her childhood cat more than for her grandparents, whom she loved very much. When I read that, I remembered an article I read years ago, long before we even brought Hoover into our lives. The article stated that often the grief is more intense when we lose pets because our relationships with them are MUCH less complicated than our relationships with people. It's not really that we love our animals more than we love the people we lose. It's the simplicity of our relationship with animals that makes the loss more traumatic.

That makes sense to me.

My Aunt Sylvia also sent a lovely email, which she closed with the following:

"And finally, from Carly Simon, 'Don't mind if I fall apart - there's more room in a broken heart.' And from me....even after it heals...that extra room remains to love more fully again."

Thank you all for not minding that I fall apart. I toyed with the idea of a Things for Thursday post with a photo of Hoover's collar but decided that was just too maudlin and felt that the old boy wouldn't have approved. I have pulled it together enough to write a post about our recent vacation to Minnesota. Most of it was simply transcribed from notes I wrote during the trip. It's a good thing life is so rich and wonderful, even in the midst of sadness.

Random Minnesota, Part One

George is annoyed that I haven’t blogged about our wonderful vacation to Northern Minnesota, the land of his heritage, of pine trees, of “ya,” of cold-water lakes and iron mines and lutefisk and saunas and hot dishes. Our stay at Pehrson’s Lodge was arranged by my brilliant sister-in-law, who dreams one day of leaving her high-powered job as a hospital administrator to be a travel agent.

And no, we didn’t eat lutefisk. I choose life, thank you very much.

Today’s post contains Totally Random Musings from the two-day drive up north. I took detailed notes on our drive because, frankly, what else can you do while sitting in the car for about 890 miles.

A white-tail deer leaping through misty young corn fields in Ohio is a lovely sight, especially in the early morning sun.

George, the USAF navigator, cannot trust the Garmin, which we have named Garmy. I would go wherever she told me to go. Isn’t that the point? But no, George yelled at her and did his own thing through Chicago. The silence as she recalculates the route is moody and dripping with implied criticism.

After 11 hours on the road, all the blood in my body has pooled into my butt and ankles. It’s a miracle my brain is getting enough oxygen to keep me breathing.

Hotels with clean indoor pools make traveling with small boys much more pleasant.

Northern Wisconsin is beautiful, with gently rolling hills and small farms with picturesque barns and silos and undulating green fields surrounded by patches of trees. Such a contrast to the super-sized, flat corn farms in southern Wisconsin. Cheap food costs us a lot in heritage and dignity.

For George, getting Garmy wasn’t about getting directions. It was all about the data. Garmy gives us altitude readings, and George is keeping track of the highest point we reach in Wisconsin. 1,176 feet so far. Somebody get the oxygen.

I would like to shake the hand of whoever invented the portable DVD player. Oh. My. Gosh. Advice to parents of small children: under no circumstances allow your children to watch movies in the car EXCEPT on long road trips. The novelty will wear off and the players will not be nearly as effective when you REALLY need them. Trust me on this.

Old, collapsed homes have stories to tell. It makes me sad that I don’t know them. I hope when they were abandoned, it was because the families moved on to better digs.

As we drive through the land of large wood-piles, I am reminded that George’s grandfather was obsessed with wood. He chopped so much firewood that a lot of it rotted before it could be used. Now, for people living in the Great White North, obsessing about firewood isn’t necessarily a bad thing…certainly more useful than, say, obsessing about rubber stamps. But knowing all that wood rotted makes me sad.

1261, new record altitude. George missed the peak, though, and wanted to double back. I said no, and he replied, “Some people just have no interest in science.”


Billboards are ugly. Q.: Why would a health care clinic use an image of wolf and the slogan “We Stand Alone” on its billboard? A.: Because their marketing person is AN IDIOT. I don't want a lone wolf practicing medicine on me.


George made a CD for our wedding anniversary of songs that were popular in 1986. It’s impossible to walk like an Egyptian while sitting in a station wagon. Bummer. You also can’t Wang Chung. Or perhaps you can. Does anyone know what wang chunging is? I’ve always thought it was a euphemism for sex, but that may just my dirty-minded English major mind at work. Again.

1367 over Duluth. As we drove over the huge bridge into Duluth, Nick asked, “What’s Dulŭth?” For the rest of the vacation, we will refer to Duluth (pronounced Dulooth) as Dulŭth. George and I noticed that Duluth has a Barnes and Noble and a Starbucks. George suggested that I could live happily there. I countered that it was currently SUMMER, and therefore lovely. But long, long winters with lots of snow and cold and dark are NOT my idea of an ideal place to live. Nanook of the North disagreed and felt I was being unnecessarily picky.

We arrived in Virginia and met George's parents at the nursing home where his grandmother now lives. She finally met Jack, who was unhatched during our last visit to Minnesota. (Note: Being hugely pregnant in July in muggy, mosquito-infested Minnesota is not fun, especially when there isn't any air conditioning in the house you're visiting.) The meeting with Grandma went very well. She was pretty alert and oriented, especially for an almost 99-year-old woman. She appeared to enjoy watching the boys bounce off the walls with their pent-up energy bursting out their seams.

Then we went to the liquor store to stock up for the week.

On our last stretch of road just south of Cook, we were terrified by a golden retriever who ran across the highway and came within inches of being hit by a car in front of us. It was a beautiful dog, running faster than any dog I’ve ever seen, with an amazing expression of joy on its face that I’ve seen on Hoover’s face thousands of times. I missed my own dog and prayed he was doing okay at the kennel.

We arrived safe and sound and so happy to be done with driving for a while.

Part Two of Random Minnesota will include such fun stories as two visits to the Cook Medical Center emergency room, gonad jokes, and how bribery makes family vacations happier. You won’t want to miss a word of it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

In Memoriam: Hoover

In her book Bliss to You, Trixie Koontz, a golden retriever who is waiting for her human parents at the Rainbow Bridge, shares her secrets for achieving bliss. She quotes Josh Billings, who said, "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." Then, Trixie writes,

"Dogs give unconditional love so you will be teensy bit prepared for God's love when you die and meet Him. Otherwise, God's love would knock you flat."

Trixie is a wise soul, as are all golden retrievers. Hoover, our furry golden sunshine, went ahead to wait for us today. Our sadness is in direct proportion to the love he gave us. He knocked us flat.

I have more pictures than words.

His puppy picture, taken the day we picked him out at the breeders. They called him Waggy because his tail was always moving.

George with his puppy that same sunny summer day in 1997.

At his first play date at a friend's house. His friend was a black lab puppy named Boise.

George with a sacked-out Hoover. Play dates are hard work!

Hoover was the quintessential annoying little brother to his big sister, Shemya.

See what I mean? When he got a bit older and bigger, he would jump on top of her head. Shemya had a perfect response...she would whip her head around and unerringly catch his lip in her teeth and nip. Hoover never learned.

Family portrait before children.

Off on a hike in the foothills around Boise, Idaho.

Hoover, a.k.a Crazy Whisker Boy. His whiskers totally reflected his goofy, wacky, happy personality.

We humiliated him in our house in Ohio. His claws scratched the hardwood floors, so we made him wear dog booties inside. We eventually gave up, though. The floor has that "a big hyper dog lived here" look. I can live with that. George calls it "distressed."

Eating an orange creamcicle. Hoover loved human food, and got a lot of it in the last four months of his life.

Wriggling with unrestrained dog joy. He wriggled every day. There's a lesson in that, don't you think?

Hiking at a nearby state park. Like all goldens, he loved being outside with his peeps.

Giving us Hoover kisses. He felt we needed our daily dose of dog spit and was conscientious in administering it.

Me with Hoover last Thursday. One of the last pictures George took of him. Also the day of his last walk.

A theme of Trixie's book is to keep from mourning excessively. Trixie's human parents, Dean and Gerda Koontz, were doing just that when Trixie sent them a sign, in the form of an unusual golden butterfly, that she was okay and they needed to let her go. We informed Hoover he needed to do the same for us, just so we'd know he was okay, too.

I'll keep you posted.

Trixie makes another observation I am sure Hoover would agree with, so I'll leave you with it.

"Fame means nothing. Time erases fame. Great power doesn't last. Time erases the powerful. Your anger dies with you. What love you give lives on. Cynic will sneer at this truth. Time erases cynics."

Time won't erase our memories of our Furry Golden Sunshine.