Forever, Eve

Our ‘best girl,’ Eve, passed away on December 19, 2013. This post and its follow-on, Christmas, EVE, were the two highest rated posts of the year. Both posts plus much more are in my new book: Forever, Eve.

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“Animal lovers are a special breed of human, generous of spirit, full of empathy, perhaps a little prone to sentimentality and with hearts as big as a cloudless sky.”

– John Grogan, Marley & Me

With Evie

Her name was Eve. And she was more “human” than most people.

Our first dog and the only other female in the family, “Eve” seemed a natural when considering names for our purebred yellow Labrador retriever. She came into our lives at age three, a “cast off” from a church friend who worked long hours and had “no time” for a dog who “needed people to be happy.” Eve stayed for more than eleven years.

My four sons grew up with her. Romped through the woods together. Splashed in the river. Swam in the lake. Hiked the hills. Played cowboys and Indians. Robin Hood and his Merry Men (it seemed Eve was inevitably assigned the role of Friar Tuck, which somehow seems fitting). We took her just about everywhere: camping trips, Mount Rainier, picnics, reunions, baseball games. Forest, field and vale. “Hi Evie!” I chirped every morning. “How’s my best girl?” She returned the salutation with a cheerful tail thump.

Dog marsh II

Forever, Eve

The color of toasted marshmallows with the personality of Pooh Bear, Eve thought everyone was her best friend. She loved everyone equally and well. Eve brought out the best in and thought the best of everyone. She was loyal, loving and generous. Protective. An eternal optimist. She couldn’t wait till I arrived home and danced a canine jig every time I walked in the door. She would quietly pad into my study and plop herself down on the carpet next to my desk, keeping me company as I read and wrote and worked. Even when every other family member scattered to the four winds with work, school, sports or other pursuits, I was never alone. There was always Eve. Forever, Eve.

My good dog seemed to know whenever I was stressed, ill, upset, or otherwise out of it. She stuck to me like crazy glue, refusing to leave my side. Eve also stuck with me through moves and new neighborhoods, injuries, surgeries, job losses, birthdays, and graduations. Funerals, weddings, Christmas parties and kid illnesses. She was my faithful companion over hundreds of miles of trails and hikes, with an uncomplaining, “just-happy-to-be-here, thanks-for-bringing-me-Mom” attitude.

Eve and Josiah 2

“Lady With The Lab”

I’m told that I was known around town as the “Lady with the Lab.” I suppose it’s true. When my boon companion was younger and more spry, I rarely went anywhere without her – either by vehicle or on foot. Eve was my faithful companion on long morning walks and strolls on the beach until increasing age and arthritis caught up with her. No longer able to climb the stairs to son Nathan’s upstairs bedroom, her preferred sleeping quarters, Eve settled for a warm blanket and a cozy dog bed near a living room heating vent.

The last year of her life, Eve was unable to navigate the thirteen steep steps in and out of our house. So she trained my teenage sons. Seriously. She barked whenever she needed to go out or come up. And they carried her.

Dog marsh 1

Not Long

When Eve’s fourteen-plus years caught up with her, she deteriorated quickly. It was shocking how fast she faded. She refused food, including her favorite doggie treats. Stopped barking altogether. Could barely manage a feeble tail thump when I entered the room.

“She’s an old dog” the vet said, demonstrating a masterful grasp of the obvious. “She doesn’t have much longer.”

“Is she in pain?” I asked.

“No. She’ll probably just go to sleep and not wake up. Or I could put her down.”

I shook my head, unable to bear the thought of artificially hastening the imminent. Husband Chris didn’t argue. Eve was always “my” dog more than she was anyone else’s. It was my decision.

“As long as she’s not suffering,” I murmured, “I want her to die at home, surrounded by everything and everyone she loves. Not in some impersonal, sterile vet clinic.”

J and Eve

We kept her as comfortable as possible, often waking in the wee hours to tip-toe out to her dog bed and check on her. Relieved at the shallow but rhythmic rise and fall of her chest, I crawled back into bed or sat and talked to her, scratching her ears and rubbing her belly the way she loved.

“We All Do”

The morning of December 19 yawned chill and charcoal gray. Frost feathered rooftops. Lawns wore ice pajamas. I spent most of the morning coaxing liquids into Eve. Adjusting her blanket. Stroking her tawny blond coat. I knew it wouldn’t be long. “You are a good girl, Evie, and I love you. We all do.”

Domestic duties called and I retired to the kitchen. Less than an hour later, son Nathan (21) came into the kitchen with, “I think Eve is gone.” I dashed to the living room, hoping against hope for any sign of life. A pulse. Breath. Anything. There was nothing. She was limp but still warm. And completely, undeniably gone.

The kindest, gentlest soul I’ve ever known, Eve passed away peacefully in her sleep a few days before Christmas.

The season isn’t the same without her. Those who’ve never lost a pet can’t understand. Those who have need no explanation.

Josiah and Evie

Too Deep

I called Chris at work. “I need you to come home. Now.”  He did.

“She was always your dog,” Chris said as we gently lifted Eve’s lifeless body into our van for transport to the pet cemetery. “Good girl” I whispered upon arrival, stroking the noble golden head and back in a final goodbye. I removed Eve’s collar and tags and slipped them into my pocket. It was some time before I could bear to leave her.

Some losses are too deep for tears.

Silent Night

An anemic sun dumped dull rays out of a flannel-gray sky as we arrived home to an Eve-less house – for the first time in more than a decade. Thick as a chocolate milkshake, memories poured out of every corner. The house seemed eerily empty and unnaturally quiet without the welcoming bark of my ‘best girl,’ the jangle of her dog tags. The ears pricked at the sound of my voice. The warm amber eyes following my every move. Her black licorice nose gently butting me for attention.

Holy Night

A frosted moon necklaced the Olympic Mountains as I offered a quiet prayer of thanks for the truest friend I’ve ever known.  A few hours later, a thin white fleece of snow jacketed the foothills.

I still can’t stand to see or hear dog commercials. I avoid the pet care and dog food aisles. I woke more than once in the pre-dawn gloaming today, thinking I heard her voice. Sometimes I catch myself straining for a “good morning” bark, the flash of a tawny tail.

with Eve

Evie is gone. And so is a large chunk of my heart.

It’s hard to describe the heart-hole left by the loss of a well-loved pet. But then, Eve wasn’t a pet. She was never “just a dog.” Compassionate, patient, loyal, and selfless to the end, Eve was a palomino sirocco on four legs. A member of the family.

All is Calm

Shortly before her death, I knelt next to her and told her the truth, Marley-esque style. “Eve,” I whispered, “You are a GREAT dog. You are The Best There Ever Was.”

John Grogan put it this way:

“A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.”

All is…

I did and Eve did. Her heart was indeed “as big as a cloudless sky.”   Eve was more “human” than most people – and our lives are better and brighter  for having held her in our hearts. Forever.  She truly was The Best.

Good night, sweet girl.

Sleep in heav’nly peace.

Evie's stuff 1

Read Eve’s full story at Forever, Eve the book.

Stille Nacht – Just in Time for Christmas

Solitude can be hard to find in our rush-rush, hurry up, instant everything society. Grabbing a few quiet moments to refresh and recharge can be a challenge any time, but it’s particularly tough  during the holidays, huh?

If holiday merry-making has you ready to tear your hair out or your festive feathers are a bit ruffled, this is for you.

Slow down. Sit down with this old favorite for about five minutes. Give Manheim Steamroller’s Stille Nacht (Silent Night) a listen. You’ll be glad you did.

Know anyone else who could use a yuletide boost? Don’t forget to share!

WATCH: Soaring Rendition of Christmas Classic

There’s only one voice that does my #1 favorite Christmas carol justice: Andrea Bocelli. Aka: La Voce. Why? Cuz there’s nothing like hearing a world-class Italian tenor render O Holy Night like a world-class tenor. In the original French.

But, alas. Andrea has been dethroned by the Home Free vocal band. Watch their stunning a capella version of O Holy Night:

Now. Can someone please tell Mr. Black Hat to kindly lose his Stetson while inside a church?

Find out more about the country a capella quintet Home Free here.

What’s your favorite Christmas carol? Let us know with a comment.

Christmas ‘In the Corner’

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Candles in the window. Lights up on the tree. Sleigh bells. Mistletoe. Apple-cheeked kids rushing in from a snowy sled run. Hot chocolate and marshmallows. Carols and cantatas. Family. Friends. And…  loneliness so thick and heavy, it could crush a camel.

Yes, friends. The holidays aren’t full of fa-la-la-la-la-ing for everyone. In fact, this can be an especially tough time of year for some. Those facing a job loss or a cut in income. A divorce. An involuntary move. The frostiness of an unresolved conflict. Bad news from the doctor. Betrayal. Feeling utterly alone in the middle of a crowd. Too much money at the end of the month. Distance. One less place set at the table. One less gift under the tree.

If you’ve been there or are there, you know what I mean. And how difficult the holidays can be. Especially if you’re Alone. Or feel that way.

I hear you. It’s one reason I wrote Man in the Corner: A Holiday Story. About newly divorced Mae Taylor and her son Josiah. Their plans to start over solo are jostled when they move next door to Mr. Tom, a lonely widower and retired school teacher. Together, the unlikely trio finds a second chance at faith, hope and love with help from Gettysburg, cookbooks, an attic secret and two ‘Christmas ghosts.’

But I’m also doing something I rarely do here: recommending another author’s novel. With three thumbs up.

It’s called The Mistletoe Secret. By Richard Paul Evans, a perennial favorite. Without giving too much away, it’s a touching, moving story about two lonely people, Alex and Aria, who brave rejection and loss to find love. Exquisitely written as only Evans can, The Mistletoe Secret is vintage Richard Paul: Honest without being preachy. Hopeful without being sappy. Uplifting and fine. About 306 pages. I read it cover-to-cover in about five hours.

While we’re on the subject, I also want to offer a video to those who may be struggling this time of year. You’re not alone. Give this Mark Schultz piece a listen:

Grace. And Merry Christmas!

 

Book Brontosaurus, Mobile Devices, and Pizza

View from Fremont TrailI had to laugh. Not because the situation was funny, but because there wasn’t much else to do.

Yours truly exercised executive privilege the other day and took the kiddos swimming at the local YMCA. Along with half the population of the Free World.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: a warm, blue, postcard-perfect summer day. An open afternoon. A recently renewed Y membership. A heated indoor pool. Almost-clean towels. (Nobody’s perfect.)

Continue reading

A Note of Thanks

Pumpkins in wagon

I wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who’ve recently joined our little Roads Diverged family. There have been quite a few. Glad to have you. Welcome aboard!

A few house-keeping items:

  1. The holidays are just around the corner. I traditionally focus on the holidays during the holidays. I’m just funny that way. So stay tuned for further flashes of seasonal brilliance and frivolity.
  2. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see addressed on the blog, holler. Never did get that mind reader thing down very well. You have to speak up. As in, leave a comment.
  3. Writing-themed guest posts are encouraged. More on this soon. Keep an eye peeled.
  4. You can also find me on Facebook. Drop in and set a spell. Love to have you join us.

Thanks again. Don’t be a stranger!

Stormaggedon, A Kimber, and Frances  

It started Friday morning.

Stabs of lightning slit the pre-dawn gloaming. Rain falls in sheets. A late afternoon voice mail from the Grays Harbor Emergency Management in coastal southwest Washington confirms the worst: A powerful storm is on its way. A severe weather watch in effect. Heavy rains. Possible coastal flooding. (That can include us.) Hurricane force winds expected. Batten down the hatches. Start scouting supplies of gopher wood.

Stormaggedon is on its way.

So we act. Neat rows of canned goods and non-perishable items are stacked in the basement in snap-to precision. Bottled water, sundry items and other staples? Check. Check. And check. Husband Chris ventures out for more water. More canned goods. Extra puppy chow. Batteries. Sand bags. Laundry and dishes are all caught up. Plans in place. The basement is at ground level. Living quarters on the second floor.

We are ready.

So I finger an old favorite, crack its spine and dive in.Under the Tuscan Sun seems incongruous today. But a favorite is a favorite, regardless of weather. Two hundred and eighty pages redolent with France Mayes’ delicious descriptions of her restoration of an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. Incandescent, the text drips with the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Under the Tuscan Sun is the kind of tome you tuck into a summer picnic basket. Or wrap yourself around during what’s forecast to be one of the ten worst storms ever in Northwest experience.

It’s mid-morning. We decide to augment our emergency supplies. Husband Chris heads out to do so. I keep an eye on the rising river a block away, watching at the window for his return. Forty-five minutes tick by with the speed of a growing redwood.

After unloading the additional supplies, I rejoin Frances. Moments later I am adrift in a sea of Italian terra cotta, palazzi, gelato, padrones and Chianti. Puppy Kimber sleeps soundly at my feet. She rolls over and stretches, chest gently rising and falling in contented slumber.

By 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Grays Harbor Emergency Management issues an update:

VERY STRONG STORM SYSTEM APPROACHING QUICKLY

HIGH WIND WARNING

HUNTING ALERT – CLAM DIG ALERT

Updated at 11:30AM     Saturday, October 15, 2016

The National Weather Service in Seattle has indicated a powerful storm is approaching and will affect the region Saturday afternoon into Sunday. The system brings significant wind, rain and potential coastal flood issues. Power outages of significant duration could affect numerous areas throughout the county during this storm.

Residents are urged to prepare for this Storm immediately.  Grays Harbor County Emergency Management and county public safety agencies are recommending residents to stay home and not go out unless they absolutely have to. Residents are urged to make sure they have adequate supplies for possible power outages; this includes drinking water and food on hand.

Mindful of the clock, I take the puppy out around 2:00 in the afternoon. Whipped by the wind, the junipers bow to the ground. Part Golden Retriever, part Lab and part Border collie, Kimber is a black and white blur. She dislikes getting wet and regards rain as a personal affront. Her collie ears flap in the wind like the Wright Flyer. She’s in a hurry, shaking off itinerant raindrops in a rush to get back inside.

Soon after, the winds kick up another notch. Debris rains down from alders and big leaf maples, skipping merrily out to God-only-knows-where. The Wi-Fi connection flutters in and out like a drunken butterfly. Kimber shifts in her sleep but doesn’t wake unless I cantilever myself out of the recliner.

I envy Frances Mayes and her villa’s fireplace, large enough to sit in. “I think most Italians have a longer sense of time than we do,” she writes. “What’s the hurry? Once up, a building will stand a long, long time, perhaps a thousand years. Two weeks, two months, big deal.”

A severe storm? Two hours, two days, two weeks, big deal. I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

The winds picks up around 3:00 p.m. Saturday. Nipping at the eaves, its insect whine increases to a howl an hour later.  Out of state friends and family phone and text. Are you okay? What’s it like along the coast? We are fine. High and dry. So far. So good.

Hunkered down in the living room, we watch the USC Trojans clobber the Arizona Sun Devils. In Arizona. It’s sunny, clear and blue on the gridiron. Temperatures in the eighties. I look outside at the waterlogged lawn, the gutters spitting out rain, and laugh.

The NOAA weather radio informs us, in tenor monotone, that the Columbia River Bar has closed. No boats in or out. He drones on about nautical miles. High surf advisories. Severe weather warnings and “sneaker” waves. And oh yes, don’t go out on the beach in this weather unless you’re a complete idiot (he doesn’t use those exact words, but that’s what he means).

The wind howls like a banshee. Frogg-Toggged, I take Kimber out again, snatching a few minutes from the elements.  Frances and Ed Mayes try to decide on what to renovate/upgrade first – the leaky roof or central heating.

The Trojans trounce the Sun Devils. Then it’s Stanford vs. Notre Dame. At South Bend, Indiana. The five o’clock hour presents a dilemma: more football or Dodger vs. Cubs chasing the National League pennant at Wrigley Field. Maeda takes the mound for the Blue Crew. The umpires prayer huddle before the first pitch. I love this game.

We eat baked chicken with a White Zinfandel. There’s a break in the rain. The wind subsides. It’s expected to run like a three year-old at the Kentucky Derby later. After four and half innings, it’s not looking good for Team Los Angeles.

The weather scanner reports a “100 percent chance of precipitation” for Saturday and Sunday. Possible thunderstorms. High winds expected through 11:00 p.m. Saturday. Storm warnings. Fog. He drones on. Rain lashes the house like a mad buggy driver.

By 6:30 p.m., passing cars have switched their windshield wipers off. Somber prognostications of Stormaggedon seem far-fetched. The Dodgers catch up with the Cubs. I head to the kitchen. Kimber follows. Chris and I drain steaming mugs of hot cocoa, mini-marshmallows floating like white islands. And wait. At this point the grim prognostications seem like Much Ado About Nothing.

My sister calls from California. Yes, we’re okay. Eighty-plus degrees there? Nice.

Two and a half hours after Game One of the NL pennant race began, it’s the top of the seventh. Chicago is up by two. The winds are kicking up again, tossing buckets of rain from gray-cement skies.

Suddenly it’s the top of the eighth. Dodgers have tied it up, 3 to 3. Hope springs eternal! Bottom of the eighth. The Cubs’ Miguel Montero drills a grand slam homer over the right field wall, putting the game out of reach for the Dodgers. Seconds later, before he’s rounded the bases, we lose the satellite feed.

Dang it!

Not long after, I receive this email message from the Grays Harbor Emergency Management:

The Grays Harbor County Emergency Coordination Center will be closing at 8:00 pm tonight. The National Weather Service in Seattle has indicated that the storm has passed.

Luckily this very strong storm passed farther out to sea than expected and had very little impact upon the county.

We will always prepare for the worst, yet hope for the best. Luckily, we had little impact from the storm this time. Next time we may not be as fortunate.

Thank you for your cooperation and diligence throughout these two storm events. Your preparation efforts and confidence in our alert messaging would have limited any impact the storm might have caused if it passed closer to our county.

The winds pick up. Rain tumbles down in sheets. We wonder about the National Weather Service.

Baseball-less, we pop in Gettysburg on disc. Again. Winds blow in around 10:00 p.m.. But they are toothless and hollow.

Suddenly it’s Sunday. The lights are still on. The basement is high and dry. Emergency supplies untouched. The winds have settled down. Rain subsides to a soggy threat.

Image result for tuscan countryside

The Dodgers lose. Kimber chomps her breakfast. The Etruscan wall necklacing Frances’ villa is rebuilt. The weed-choked cistern cleaned. The roof fixed. Central heating in place. Aging interior polished to its former patina and newly planted herb gardens blooming, Frances’ restored villa gleams in the Tuscan sun. Blue and gray, overhead skies here clash like troops at Gettysburg. But the worst, it seems, is over.