Mo Bloggin'

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Archive for the tag “Setter”

Catching up, Part 1

I’ve done very little writing in the last year, and my goal to get back to blogging regularly in 2021 was not met, obvs. But I’m okay with it. In the past I’ve flogged myself, feeling I’ve somehow failed for not pursuing this more aggressively. I don’t do that any more. Well, not in this arena. Too much. I do think I can do better, and still have a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment when I write. I just haven’t been. Hmm. As usual, I’ve been busy, and as usual, have a couple posts that never made it off my laptop. I’m going to use them to catch up now. Because ya, I still have something to say.

Catching up, loss and grieving

Only 5 10 months gap this time. I’m doing good! {kidding} As usual I’ve started/not finished a couple blog posts in the meantime, and a few more never made it out of my head. Life’s been good, and busy. I’m winding up a week off work now – my annual Thanksgiving week break, taking advantage of the two days of holiday pay and adding only three days of vacation pay for a full 9 days in a row off – blissful, yet not too damaging to my paid time off (PTO) bank. Since I’m not actually vacationing or traveling, the ding to PTO seems more painful for these staycations, even though time off is delicious no matter what, and so very needed. But it takes so damn long to build up the PTO that I’m a little miserly about using too much of it. I try and keep my bank of PTO over 100 hours, but am not always successful in that. I’m going to do this again in a month, so I can ring in the New Year completely rested. (4/30/22 note: I did this, and I loved it, and am going to do it again every year.)

A lot of little things happen that I think about posting on, but I don’t always document well. Instagram tends to be my go-to, but even that has slacked off. COVID, farm doings, and the usual assortment of sundry events, some more impactful than others.

Another 8 months of COVID restrictions has passed but it is getting a little better as vaccinations have become more and more available.  But we’ll get to those little things in another post. Because life has changed here at MacFinn. And in my little world, the earth has tilted on its axis. 

And the elephant in the room (for me)… It happened. I’m down to two dogs. After 15 ½ years together, Farley has left the building.

We’d had our ups and downs in the past 18 months, to be sure. Some health issues and bad days where I questioned what I was doing, my own integrity as a dog owner. Yet he never seemed ready; he always rallied back. A bad day was always bookended by at least one or two good days, and we rarely had more than one questionable (is this it?) bad day a week. Hell, even at the end, I’m questioning – should I have waited? Maybe he would have rallied again… The insidiousness of magical thinking. But he was an old dog – at least 16, maybe close to 17 years old. And the decline was steady. Still, I got more than a year longer than I’d prayed for in the spring of 2020, when I’d asked for “just one more summer. Please.” with my boy. I got that, and a whole year more. An embarrassment of riches, this time with this incredible, life changing dog.

The memories, so many memories, all of them clear, if brief, as the day they were made, flooded me for that first day after, and I felt lost without him for a few days. Not only the daily rhythm of the day, where I revolved around his needs, doted on him, hand fed him (something I swore I would never do for a dog – but he was eager for food and just had a hard time eating because of his GOLPP). But it was more than that. He defined my life for so very long. FIFTEEN YEARS with him. He came at a time when I didn’t know I even needed him, and changed my whole outlook on dogs. All of them change you, all of them leave indelible marks, but some… some are game changers. He was a huge help in the grey cloud that hung over us (me, Dinah, and Cutter) because of Cutter’s worsening epilepsy.

He was full of so much spirit. My first Setter, he was as different from the serious Rottweilers I’d had for 20+ years as a dog could be, and certainly the spriteliness he brought to our lives broke up those dreary clouds, so heavy at times. He escaped the yard to run down the street with glee, his bird dog instincts driving him in following his bliss, and in the house he snuggled up like a cat. I fell so hard, there was no going back. I fell so hard I felt guilty, as if I was caught cheating on a lover, about my love for the Rottweilers. The road trips… he was so fun to travel with (although he was Cujo in the car, and big trucks set him off, which made me and the truckers laugh). He had such joy, and it was infectious. He lived life to the fullest: a walk became The Best Thing Ever, a hike was a grand adventure, and he was so fun to hike with. He had such character – his dislike of male strangers (up to and including biting them, to my horror), his love of his toys. Coming home with a new toy for him was like a kid on Christmas morning. He was SO fun to buy toys for, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have another dog who loves toys as much as Farley loved his. The siren song of the honking ones was something he couldn’t resist, and when he ripped out honk mechanism in one of them (or maybe that was Dinah – she was the toy destroyer) I used it as his emergency recall. He’d come to me at a dead run if he heard it. Even when his eyes got milky with age, and his sight diminished, his hearing poor to nonexistent, he still loved his toys. He got too frail to chase them very far, but still brought them to me to toss.

I know part of the reason I bought my farm was because of him. The house (property) in Sammamish suddenly became too small, too claustrophobic, the neighbors too clueless, and I had to get out. We ended up here, on our almost six acres, and before I got the fence up he was out on the road more than once, and up into the woods on the hill behind the house, running, running, running. He was poetry in motion. It’s weird being here without him – he permeated every inch of this property, every day I’ve been here for 11 years. Even the last months, and last weeks, last days, he still toddled around, and would come down the driveway with me, which gave me inordinate joy (that he wanted to), then back to the house via the sheep pasture. He was weak in the rear, and would sometimes lose traction and crumple on the hillside, but he was game until the end. He would go out in the mornings or evenings and do his business, walking around the house, into the brush behind the chicken coop, sniffing his way slowly along the route he’d done for years at breakneck speeds. He would bark at the bottom of the steps when he was ready to come in and I would dutifully come out and spot him (he knew he might fall, so he barked to let me know, and I was there to catch him and assist if he needed it). Now he is no more. Who am I without him? What am I to do without him? But life goes on, and a week becomes two weeks, and soon it will be a month (4/30/22 – 6 months now). I knew it would be hard, but I figured since he’d been declining that I was somewhat prepared (never ready). But had no idea how hard it would be. How much his presence had come to define me. How it soothed me. Saved me.

Each dog has a song; I’ve forgotten Hannah, Will, and Trinah’s songs off the top of my head (although collectively it was “Simply the Best”). Little Pal is the only one that hasn’t a song of his own, as I’m thinking of it (gotta work on that!), but Daisy’s is “My Girl.” Farley’s was “You are my sunshine” – I would sing it to him occasionally, which he dutifully put up with. I sang it to him that last day, though tears, and sang it to him as I drove home, his body so still and quiet in the back of my car. I sang it to him the next day, crying, as I drove him to the crematorium. The words are modified now, and when I sing it I cry, of course. My bright, bright shining boy, my game changer, my sprite, my joy in dog form, is gone, and so is the little old man who replaced him the past few years too. He’s racing along the cloudbanks now (thank you, Laurie, dearest of friends, for that perfect image), his spirits high and the joy palpable. Oh how I miss him so.

You made me happy, when skies were gray. You’ll never know dear, how much I loved you. I miss my sunshine every day. 

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Seven swans a swimming

I was out driving this past Sunday, doing some drive-bys on homes listed I thought I might be interested in.  As part of the process I’ve learned that you can pull up the pictures – hopefully there’s  a nice balance of indoor and outdoor shots – and check out the aerial view (look for power transmission lines adjacent or on the property, other property features (wet? flood plain? flat? steep hillside?), and neighborhood features–what’s that down the street?  A junkyard?), and map it, and if all systems look good, it’s time for a drive.  I put the bird dog in the car and took off, feeling glum about my “maybe” house (short sale that’s been vacant…and unheated during our recent week long artic freeze; I was worried about the frozen pipes bursting and causing damage to the home), and thinking I needed to step things up. 

We drove to the first property, the one I was most hopeful about, and found that although the land was quite nice (six acres), the home was much too close to the rather busy road, and worse, the neighbors home was on the property line as stone’s throw from the front door.  Six acres and no privacy?  No thanks.  Next! 

We drove by three more I had targeted – a couple of maybes, but nothing that blew my hair back.  Farley was climbing back and forth from the front seat to the back and starting to irritate me.  He was excited, with no outlet (I’d promised a hike, but the drive-bys were first) and I scolded him to either stay in the front seat or get in the back.   Finally he laid down in the back, evidently giving up on any release.  (“Hike, my tail feathers.”)  Few dogs can do pathetic better than a Setter.  So now we were both glum.

I was feeling discouraged and wondering if I should put moving out of the area completely back on the front burner.  Oregon’s pinot noir wine country, or Bellingham by Mt. Baker (where there was what may have been a grizzly bear sighted in recent years – a huge plus for me), or to my beloved Okanogan Highlands.  As I drove through the Sunday snowflakes (it looked like dandruff, though was accumulating in some areas) and mulled these ideas, I saw them.  Trumpeters, a formation of six or…seven, flying low overhead.  I looked over and could see dozens more in a fallow corn field back from the busy road.  There were plenty of adults and youngsters mixed, the immature swans a sooty brown color in comparison to the adults’ pure white plumage.

I’ve been looking for them for a few weeks, ever since I saw about ten  flying low over the river by home when I was out with Farley over Thanksgiving weekend.  I’d heard them first, their trumpet-like call causing me to crane my neck looking for them.  They’re back!

Sunday’s group was a little farther from our usual haunts, and  I pulled off on the first side road I could find.  These farm roads are a series of els, and I zigzagged along, hoping I could find some swans to view a little closer.  I pulled down one road with an old dairy barn (no cows seen), and watched an immature Red tail hawk swoop on something in a plowed field.  It didn’t look like a killing dive, but he stood on the ground next to something.  I stopped the car across the road and watched him.  And he watched me.  Finally I pulled the car away a little.  That’s when he grabbed the meal; it looked like a mole, perhaps turned up by the plowing, and flew off to a nearby tree with it. 

I rounded another sharp turn and saw them then.  Dozens of swans a few dozen yards from the road in a cut corn field.  By now Farley was practically singing, whining with excitement at all the birds.  I rolled down my window and snapped a few photos, careful to keep him from leaping out the window or making enough noise to scare them.  After we’d been watching them for a few minutes they visibly relaxed, the sentry swan even foraging for leftover corn.  As we sat there – no more than five minutes total – dozens more flew in, mostly in small groups of four or five, or sometimes just one or two.  The noise was as thrilling as the sight; they called to one another constantly, sounding like an orchestra of trumpets tuning up before the concert.

Seeing them brightened my whole day, and my worries and woes disappeared.  And of course it  reinforced my emotional bond to this area, and my desire to find my peaceful little farm somewhere close.  Maybe all is not lost.  The promised hike with Farley was a treat for both of us.

Waking up with flying squirrels

I make no secret that I sleep with dogs.  My running joke–though no one seems to enjoy it as much as I–is that every night is a three dog night.  Often the three cats will join us, for a snug six-pack of furry warmth next to me, on top of me, pushing me out.  I’ve awoken in all sorts of horizontal “Twister”-style contortions, with all of them surrounding me in a jigsaw puzzle of beating hearts.

Bedtop real estate is rarely contested, though there are grumbles and discussions, usually between Farley and Cutter.  While Farley always concedes, moving away in a scuttling rush, he does so with his warbling complaining growl (he wouldn’t dare growl for real) that elicits a talking response from Cutter.  Once The Monster (Cutter) is settled, always perpendicular to me, his head on my hip or leg, Farley leaps up to curl up next to /on my shoulder. 

Farley is the baby of the family.  Somewhere around 3 1/2 or 4 years old, he joined the pack three years ago.  The Rottweilers accepted him and his always wagging tail, and his insane energy and drives.  And I learned about the vast differences between a working breed and a sporting breed.  Far is all birddogbird dog, all the time.  During the long winter months, when the weather is lousy and the back yard is a soupy mire of mud, Farley finds ways to entertain himself, and in the process, me. 

My bird dog is all about his toys, and his delight with each one is such that I can’t help buying him new ones frequently.  He has a toy box that’s brimmng with stuffed squeakys and chew ropes, bones and balls.  Not to mention the sea turtles that are living under the bed, the pheasants lying around the house, the dimply honky ball (now in the wash), soft squeaky balls in every corner, a honking duck, a honking heart-shape (the honking sound is a siren song to Farley, so many of his toys have this) and the latest, a flying squirrel.  The toys are ever present, being tossed seductively to entice me to play.  As soon as I look at the item dropped by my feet he goes into a classic Setter crouch, poised for the feeble indoor throw, then the mad scramble for it as if there were even a remote chance of any competition for its retrieval.  He flips and tosses with delight (more than one toy has ended up in a pot of soup or sauce on the stove) and honks or squeaks incessantly.  And at the end of the night, one or more toys will have made it into the bed with us.  Thus, waking up bleary eyed and rolling over, I encounter this in the morning:

The squirrel

Yes, this flying squirrel is cousin to Rocky, of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame.  The chinstrap of his starred “helmet” turns into a slingshot, so one can launch him by pulling back on the tail and letting go.  The thing makes (er, made) a squirrelly chattering noise as it flies through the air, little red cape fluttering, eyes goggling out of its felt goggles.  The flying squirrel was pretty much anFarley instant hit. 

 I know it will only be a matter of time before another toy comes home with me to join the squadron.  And really, with a face like this, who could resist?

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