Wednesday, October 22, 2008

12 years is a Long Time

Already the heartbreak is fading, and that feels like a betrayal. But the celebration continues. My mom sent me Dog Heaven, which is a beautiful book. More tears there, of course, on the first read. A few more reads on and I have read it and smiled. Empty, but smiling. Right or wrong, she is now writ large in the stars.

Here are a couple more fun photos.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More on that Good Old Hound

I don't have photos from before Alex on my computer, but from the beginning of that time I have many. So I picked out a few favorites to highlight our family transition. This is Lucky just after Alex was born in 2003, we had had her for seven years and she was 8 or 9 years old. Always a good girl, and always game, she went with the flow. She is pictured with the monster squash we harvested that September. We were all afraid it might eat someone, but it made wonderful soup.

Here Lucky is contemplating this new addition. It didn't throw sticks, but had interesting smells.

She decided, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

"Besides, my parents sure are having fun with him. "

"I might as well have fun too..."

And then Lucky inspired Beeswax to get in on the fun...

That may have been part of an evil plot.

But no, Lucky loved her Beeswax, and didn't want him to miss anything.

I can't really believe that she was already at least seven by the time Alex came along. I always saw her as such a puppy. Wagging, happy, wanting to go for a run in the woods. Chasing chipmunks in the garage (she even caught one once), barking at strangers, hiding from deer. She was stood down by a baby dove one day. She was really a softie, but she was very proud that she was mistaken for a Rottweiller once. Well, okay she had some help with that one. She was on my bed back in '97, she never left it when I was not home at the rental, and my roommate Jay had a friend over. He was walking by my dark room and heard the dog growling as she defended my futon. It was dark in my room and light in the hall, and Jay was winding him up. The poor guy thought he was going to get eaten. Of course she never left the bed, and he never saw how short her legs were. Ah, the golden moments of her life. She also caught a pigeon once, but I think it ran into something before she grabbed it. She had such a soft mouth that she did not crush it, but I did have to pry her jaws open to get her to drop it. She was great in a canoe, after her first trip. Once she realized that escape was not an option, and dang those Boundary Waters lakes are cold. After one dive and swim near a portage she let us lift her into the boat without protest forevermore. In fact she evetually self loaded, enjoyed her trips, and had one memorable night at a camp site with a whole troop of mice. It was an island and she ran after those little critters to her hearts content. Never caught one. Other highlights included a stint as a sled dog, and a few skijouring tours. She chased a kayak into Superior bay once, but never did like the surf. In fact she never liked to swim and would not go deeper than her chest if she could avoid it. And that was only about four inches deep. But snow, she loved it. She'd go into a four foot drift, no problem. Only occasionally had to get rescued. Mud, also no problem to her. And as for things worse than mud, well she liked those too. When she was younger, faster, and went further afield she rolled in some absolutely nasty things. And boy was she proud when she did that. Could not understand what all the fuss was about from the humans either. Oh, Lucky Dog. She had her own sleeping bag, and several of her own quilts. Even had her own tent for awhile. We wont talk about the toys, she had every one that she'd ever been given that had not been lost or stolen by another dog. We even gave her a fence (a joint gift to Alex too), but she really didn't appreciate that one. Prefered to range the hood on her own terms. Fortunately as she got older she became a bit of a Houdini and got in many unauthorized wanders this past summer. Several heart attacks were had when we realized she had disappeared AGAIN from the yard but all those stories turned out good. On a family outing she met her first bear on the trails last spring, although I don't think she actually saw it, and that is probably a good thing.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Twelve years is a very long time and there are so many good memories racked up. The yard is empty now. The house is quiet. I am tired from crying so much. The cat is louder than usual today, looking for his companion. We are coming to terms with her death, and celebrating her life. It was a great one, and we are so blessed that it was my truck that she ran in front of so many years ago.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Very Good Dog

Lucky in '07

Stop the clocks. Cover the windows. Put on your black. A very good dog has died. Lucky Dog, who was between 13-14 years old, passed on yesterday at 4pm. She was in kidney failure, and had been slowly and quietly declining for several months. When she stopped eating last week we realized something more than old age was wrong. When she could not eat without throwing up, or go on a simple walk with any pleasure, we knew it was time. She had not let us know how sick she was. She only wanted to please us. As always.

I found Lucky August summer of 1996. She was running loose on the streets, dodging cars, and ran across four lanes of traffic and right in front of my truck. I did not hit her, and thus she got her name. But it turned out I was the Lucky one. She had been neglected, abused, did not know what the inside of a house was. Probably left in a back yard on a chain her whole life. She did have a collar on, but it was so tight I had to cut it off. No one claimed her, thank goodness. After a few weeks of being fed and loved her personality came out. She started to shine, and even though no one would take her originally, and I had to move to accommodate her, I knew I had done the right thing. She got trained up in a snap, loved runs in the woods, and always came when called. After a month or two she even started to play, she was no longer the beaten down and neglected pooch I had found. Kevin was living his last months in Colorado and he flew in for a visit. I will never forget when she jumped out of my truck at the airport. She was very happy to meet him and he just laughed and laughed. She did look pretty funny with her big dog body and short legs. She sat on his lap for the three hour ride up to the North Shore, just happy as a clam getting her neck scritched.

She was always there after that. For every outing, every road trip, every friend coming over. She traveled the country many times. We were convinced that most of the people who traveled to our wedding came to see Lucky. And we did not disappoint. She was part of the ceremony, and she went on our honeymoon too. 12 years she lived with us. I will not lie and say she loved Alex. She was bumped as primary child and she knew it. But we gave her as much priority time as we could, and she never had a mean thing to say to the little intruder. In fact, once he started dropping food she saw his value, and even came to appreciate him. But she was always our dog, mine and Kevin's. Even though the cat came first, she was more of a child. She ventured into the world with us, and was always more dependent.

It has been hard. So hard to lose her. We chose to put her down, once we knew what everything added up to. We could have put her on IV's, and pain meds, and had more blood draws, tests, and procedures. She would have suffered it all, she would have continued to try to please us. But she could not eat. And she could not walk in the woods. And she just wanted to sleep. We did the best we could for her- there were no good answers since we could not turn back time. We were both there with her in the end. She went peacefully and in my arms with Kevin holding her paw. Alex had said good-bye and excuded himself to play. We buried her in the woods at Camp Bark in the Dark, next to another doggy friend.

We already miss her so much it is unbelieveable. She was the best kind of dog anyone could ever wish for. Please say a toast to Lucky, the Very Good Dog.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Big Event

Kevin and I renewing our vows (10th anniversary)...did you know they expire?? And yes, that is a gold strapless dress. I knew I could not beat my boys (in fashion) but figured I could join them. Hope I didn't look too dorky. Or old!

Alex held up very well in part II, his baptism. He was very shy but didn't mind the water too much.

With bow tie, "fox" sporran (former beannie baby), mini-Prince Charlie jacket (with real silver buttons), and fly plaid (the over the shoulder bit), Alex was dressed to meet the Queen. And yes, those were girls shoes, at least before Kevin added an extra buckle on the toe. He swears they are to proper shoe. Look out therapy bills...
And here the Kinney men are, actually in their Douglas tartans, as well as me and Grandma Becky. Granddad's mother was a Douglas, so they can wear Douglas or Mackenzie tartan ("Mackenzie" being the derivation "Kinney" came from). They all have such wonderful gear because Kevin sewed all the kilts and everything he and Alex are wearing. Yes, it is tough to live with such genius! Note that Alex and Kevin both have matching tartan vests, Kevin is trying to start a trend...

So, enough about the outfits. The event was exactly what it needed to be. Pastor Kathy was a wonderful officiant and it was lovely. We did not get outside due to threatening weather and various challenges with standing for long periods. So we were inside the foyer of our church, which is being remodeled. Other than the echos, which Alex didn't like, it was marvelous. These photos are the first we got to cyberspace, ones with better lighting may follow. I wish we had a photo of all family and friends and pets...maybe in the next batch. We kept it nice and small, but now I wish we had planned like a wedding! Oh well. Grandma's Becky, Jean, and Marty came, Grandfathers Chaz and Bruce, Uncle Craig, Alex's godparents, and a small crew of friends were in attendance. The whole week was a bit of a blur, with lots of visiting, food, and catching up. We wish we would have had many hours more with everyone. Alex was a trooper and even had a good amount of fun.

Now we are renewed, I forgot to check the next expiration date. Alex is well baptized and ready for confirmation. Well, maybe not just yet. Peace Church is a wonderful community and we are glad to have him grow up with a nice solid spiritual foundation. Fall is moving on here in the Northland and we are truly at Peak color now, with rain coming down. In two weeks all the color will be gone, but not forgotten. I am in the middle of my work week, first one back after vacation and not so bad. I knew I'd better get this post in before Fall gets away from me. On Monday I have my final shoulder surgery, just a little one to take out my Gore-tex strap, but I don't know if I will be able to type much for awhile. Now I am off to work, and will hopefully squeeze in a hike tomorrow with Alex and Lucky.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Don't Ask Questions

Once again I have been blown away by our SLP. Speech and Language Pathologist. I have felt very stuck lately with communication with Alex and frustration has been rising like the tide. When she handed me a Little People play set of a wedding and asked me to play with Alex while she watched behind the glass I knew I was in trouble. In fact I blanked. Froze up and really wanted to cry and throw up the white flag yelling, "I can't!". I can't play with him in front of Her. She always knows how to connect, and lately I have been at a total loss. Well, I muddled through and it was extremely painful. She did not yell at me, or correct me, or even hit the nail on the head just then. She simply said I was aiming too high. I was thinking "wedding" (actually: recent-renewal-of-vows-how-did-she-know-and-how-do-I translate-this?????) and she was thinking "sit on chair, have girl sit on chair". Alex tuned right in when it was sitting a Little Person on a chair. In our next session she busted me for asking questions. Big time. I have fallen back in the habit of asking lots of questions of Alex, which is a big No-no. Basically it is the most stressful thing you can do to a kid with communication difficulties. Or it is simply quizzing him on things he already knows, which is not productive. And back to those communication difficulties, it has really hit me that although Alex knows a ton, and is very smart, general conversation and long sentances are completely foriegn languages to him. Unintelligable. Which is why he repeats odd things that don't make sense. It is like hearing a great cool french phrase and repeating it, but not understanding it. So, even though I know he is really smart, I have to remind myself that he is not yet fluent in English. By toning my verbasity down considerably in the last day I have increased communication with my little bug 90%. Hallelujiah.

So, if you want to know more about how to communicate with kids with autism and language delays check out and Tahirihs recent posts. Her insights are amazing.

ps More on the big weekend wing ding soon...