The Star Patient


The patient in happier times (last week, in the garden)

I was just settling down to watch some playoff hockey* and eat dinner when the phone rang. It was Megan, telling me that Star had had a seizure and she wanted me to meet her at the vet’s office.

I changed out of my PJs and into a strange combo of work and play clothes, shoving my bare feet into a random pair of shoes (later I would regret not putting on a better pair after hours of standing) and set off for the Village.

On the way, I wondered why she had called me, since dealing with emergencies is her specialty and falling apart at emergencies is mine. I always say, Megan is the Schatzi (brave and bold) and I am the Star (worried and pretty sure the worst is going to happen).

Arriving at the vet’s office, I saw Megan’s little red car with the back door wide open, but no sign of dog or humans. I eventually located Megan, Dr. Karen, and Star in the surgery. They seemed to have it all pretty much in hand. They had shaved Star’s forepaw and inserted a catheter, through which they dosed her with enough drugs to drop a horse.

But Star’s Star-ness did not allow her to give into the drugs, so while being doped to the ears, she still fought it and was twitchy. If it comes to fight or flight, Star is going to fight to the death. I suggested that her inherent Star-ness would not allow her to give in to the drugs while still in an environment that made her fearful even with Megan there, but Dr. Karen and her assistant wanted to wait and see how she was doing. They ran every blood test, all of which came back normal. The general consensus seems to be that she ate something to cause the seizure, though the property has been investigated three times by Megan, Rob, and Jonathan without turning up the culprit.

After about three hours of doping and testing and IV hydration (them) and standing around (me), they rolled the patient up in a blanket and put her in Megan’s car to be transported home, along with a goodie bag of injectable drugs. Of course it was pitch black by then and so foggy that constant windshield wiping was required, just for extra fun.

I followed Megan and Star home, with the understanding that if something went wrong, she would pull over. We drove slowly, partly because of Star and partly because of the weather, and I stayed a respectful distance behind so my headlights wouldn’t bother Megan. Driving in the dark is the only time I dislike having a car behind me more than I dislike having one ahead of me.

Star was very glad to get home, and as I expected, she crashed and burned upon arrival in her safe place. She was probably exhausted from the seizure itself and the subsequent twitching, as well as the boatload of drugs, so she slept a lot the rest of that night and into the following day. She now seems to be just about back to normal, to the relief of all concerned. Let’s hope it stays that way. I still don’t think that I really helped or added much to the occasion, but Megan says she was glad I was there, and that’s all that really matters, besides Star being well again.

*I’m sorry to say Ottawa won. At this point, the best case scenario is Pittsburgh winning the Cup.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A really lousy birthday for my wonderful sis.

Jack

Are there time-released bad omens? If so, I think that Steller’s Jay was one…

It’s been another crazy week, and it’s far from over. It seems that no matter how hard I work, it’s not enough. I am fighting serious headwinds of feeling both overwhelmed and inadequate, which is a spectacularly unenjoyable combo platter, especially when garnished with a preview of (possibly inaccurate) old age and infirmity.

What I thought was a mere spat between my back and me has devolved into a lover’s quarrel at best and a complete breakdown in our formerly friendly relationship at the worst. Despite applications of ibuprofen, the heating pad, and unnecessarily long, hot, and drought-defying showers, it remains adamantly angry and is not afraid to express its annoyance, usually at the most annoying times. I don’t know whether to be proud or sad that no one at work seems to have noticed that I have been walking around in pain for a week.

In the midst of decrepitude and despair, I woke up to an email from my ex John, telling me that the last cat we had together, the irrepressible Jack, had died in his arms. She was almost 17.

August being the Official Month of Death, she died on the same day we lost Schatzi (three years ago! How is that possible?). And it was also three years ago that my divorce from John became final. Somehow, losing the last cat we had together makes the divorce seem more final.

Much like Jack came into our lives with a bang as the World’s Naughtiest Kitten, she shook it up when she left with a 5.1 earthquake.

Goodbye, little Jack. You will always be in my heart, where loved ones live and naughty kittens play.

A YEAR AGO: A hole in my head instead of my heart.

Birthday Boy

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My Baby Boy

I am pleased to say that Clyde’s birthday yesterday was also (mostly) uneventful. The same day my little guy turned 6 years old, I came home to find a mostly intact but decidedly ex baby bird on the carpet.

As I disposed sobbily of the sad little unfledged body (to be fair, he likely fell from the nest and Clyde just delivered him to the house) in the woods, it occurred to me that the body count has dropped severely since Roscoe disappeared. It’s been months since I came home to a deconstructed bird or a former squirrel, or was woken up by a midnight mouse chase.

I would happily clean up bodies with the regularity of a Manhattan morgue worker if it meant I got Roscoe back. Clyde’s birthday will always be bittersweet since Roscoe is no longer here to share it with him.

Six months after losing the Mysterious Mr. Roscoe, I still miss his stealthy but remarkable presence in my life. Slinking through the house, always taking the route under the stairs. Sleeping on my pillow. The unique and delicious scent of his rough, yet soft fur: cold woods, a touch of pine resin, fresh air and warm Roscoe. How he had a white heart pattern on his chest and loved to stretch out extravagantly and have his narrow little belly rubbed, the only undignified thing he ever did.

It does make me realize though that Roscoe had a wilder nature than Clyde. He spent a lot of time in the woods and his love of hunting probably led to his loss, but perhaps he died the way he lived, much like our beloved Schatzi when she decided to leave us.

As for the birthday boy, he too has been changed by the loss of his brother. He spends more time at home and needs more cuddling than ever. He can often be found sitting on my desk, staring off into the woods, even when the doors are wide open and he could go into the woods himself. I believe he saw what happened to Roscoe or somehow knows. At a minimum, he misses the twin he shared the first five years of his life with.

I am thankful that Clyde is staying closer to home, and thankful for his sweetness to balance Audrey’s spiciness. He will always be my baby boy.

A YEAR AGO: I was limpy.

It’s Official

starstella
Star & Stella

Megan pointed out a shocking oversight in my blog: I never told you that she and Rob officially adopted Stella!

You may remember that Stella came into our lives at the puppy tail end of 2013, when Monica heroically agreed to find homes for two year old Stella and her 11 (yes, 11) puppies. Being Monica, she somehow managed to finagle a free room at one of the loveliest resorts on the coast as a nursery, and also found homes for all of the babies.

Megan and Rob agreed to take Stella on a trial basis, partly because Star is, as Megan puts it, “dog selective”, and partly because their hearts were still broken over the loss of their beloved Schatzi. It turns out that Stella and Star are a great match, and it’s good for Star to have another dog around again. Star, like me, can be nervous and unsure, but Stella just barges right into life fearlessly. Nothing bothers her, and she does everything 110%, 110% of the time, whether it’s sleeping, eating, or playing.

The other day, Megan stopped by to see me at work while Rob was at a doctor’s appointment, and brought the dogs with her. Stella was almost as happy to see me as Star, and I’m convinced that I have extra credit with Star because I was there with Megan when Star was rescued from her bad old life. Stella is definitely part of the family now, and it just goes to show that dogs choose us, not the other way around.

Star turned seven on Cinco de Mayo this year, marking her fifth year with Megan and Rob. I bet she doesn’t even remember the bad old days, and it’s so nice to see her cuddle up with Stella, two happy dogs in a happy home.

A YEAR AGO: A field trip with Megan and Stella.

Animal Magnetism

While I was getting ready for work one morning this week, I was abruptly jolted from my makeup routine by the distinctive sound of a cat fight in progress. I knew the boys were inside (they like to eat some breakfast and then go back to bed lately), so I figured it was Audrey defending her realm.

I ran out the bathroom door, lip gloss in hand, and chased away a large white cat. Audrey appeared unharmed, but she wouldn’t come in the house so I could see up close and personal. But even my Worrier self knew that a cat who is the terror of the neighborhood dogs can take of herself. And after all, she is something of an evil genius. I was still glad to see Mark’s dog Luna on patrol as I left for work. I really think having Luna and Lupe around keeps us all safer, and I’m pretty sure they also keep the garden eating deer at bay.

In addition to their security duties, Lupe and Luna always come to meet me when I get home from home, merrily wagging their tails and enjoying the pets and attention. Nothing makes you feel more appreciated than a dog who is happy to see you. The other day, I saw Clyde messing around in the bushes near Megan’s house as I drove past, and as soon as he saw me, he scampered homewards, meeting me at the same time as the dogs.

Lupe has also taken to overseeing my jaunts on Mark’s treadmill. I try to get over there most mornings, and lately Lupe has been joining me. The treadmill is in a little building Mark originally intended to be his office, but has been taken over by his teenaged daughters as a hanging out spot, though not early in the morning.

While I hop on the treadmill, Lupe curls up on the floor and goes to sleep while I walk and read, reminding of the way Schatzi used to curl up on the bathmat when I took a bath while she visited me in the city, long ago. When I’m done, she follows me out of the building and then trots home to get on with her day while I get on with mine.

A YEAR AGO: the madness that is Covered California.

In Vein

Poor Change! No-one loves you, including Me.

Especially when it includes working eight five days a week. It’s been fifteen years or so since I did that, meaning that I was younger and, as Jessica put it when she herself was much younger, “fresher*”. I also did not have to drive more than an hour a day to do it (in fact, my car problem then consisted mostly of finding parking for my 1966 Mustang convertible, Josephine). And I had a wonderful cleaning lady who came every other week and cost a mere $50 a pop.

Alas, none of these things are still the case, so I’m leaving the house around 7 am and getting back around 5, if I’m lucky. Unfortunately, the person I now work for is a night owl and tends to get to work around 10, whereas my preference is to get in early and get it over with, so I’m hoping we can find something that works for both of us.

Having said that, though, she is very nice, and I actually have an office again, though it is a mess:

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I am hoping that I can bring some order to the chaos and prettify it soon.

One of the things about working at a medical facility, even in administration, is that you have to be up to date on your immunizations. They scheduled me for a series that is required for all women under 40, and when I revealed the Awful Truth, they revised it to a blood test to make sure that I was immune to whatever these things are.

So I went over to get my blood taken, but the Calamity Suzy Factor made sure that it did not go as planned. It turns out that my veins are the only things about me that are not shallow, so the poor nurse spent a lot of time prospecting for a useful one with no result, much like a botched execution. Also? Those tourniquet things hurt. I don’t know how junkies do it.

As the search continued, I began to feel a little light headed and then nauseous, so the search was called off. The nurse gave me juice and peanut butter crackers and sat me by an open window until I felt better. To be fair, I hadn’t eaten in about 16 hours, but it was still a little on the embarrassing side. She was really nice about it, and apparently we will try again another day. Wish me luck!

*When Jessica was small, she noticed the difference in the energy level between Schatzi and my mother’s much older dog. Megan explained that Schatzi was younger, and Jessica nodded, saying, “Schatzi is much fresher!”

A YEAR AGO: An evening at the theater.

Here & There

We ended up getting 3/4 inch of rain! My lazy side (is there any other?) was happy not to have to water the garden, though the rain did seem to revitalize the mosquitoes. Every silver lining has its cloud?

Wednesday required a follow up visit to the car spa in Santa Rosa. Apparently whatever they did last time needed a minor-ish adjustment, and since it was part of the warranty repair, all it cost was about five hours’ driving and a tank of gas. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to take the key out of the ignition on the first try, and to have the dashboard warning light- and beep-free. I’m hoping that this has finally solved all of Wednesday’s woes and that the car curse is broken.

A girl can dream.

The other day, I stopped on the Ridge on my way home and gave a lift to Michael. He is an older gentleman who can often be seen riding his bike around Hooterville. When Schatzi was missing, he was very helpful in searching for her, especially since he was not in a car but able to cover a good distance. As you know, we never did find our beloved girl, but it was comforting how our little community rallied around and did its best to help.

On this evening, he was on foot. I stopped and asked him if he would like a ride – he often says no when he is on his bike, but I keep asking anyway – and he was very happy to hop in. I asked where his bike was, and he said that he had hitchhiked to the Big Town that day and was on his way back.

I asked him where he lived, fairly confident that it wouldn’t be as far down the Ridge as I am, and it turned out that he lives on the same road as Lichen. Not just the same road, but on the same property! Not only that, but someone had just bought the property, which had been for sale for years, and he and Lichen have six weeks to find somewhere else.

As I was digesting this shocking news, Rob passed us and I waved and smiled. Michael said, “That’s Robert.” I said yes, he is married to my sister. Michael was surprised and pleased with this information, and spent a few minutes telling me that Rob is a good man, very smart and very funny. It was nice to hear that someone appreciates Rob as much as his family does.

I offered to drive Michael all the way home but he preferred to walk down his road. He said that he lives in a ten foot by ten foot cabin and wasn’t ready to be inside just yet. I told him I’d keep an eye open for a new place for him and went on my way.

I expect that whoever bought that property will tear down the little houses and build something new, and I don’t like the thought of people who would kick tenants out of their homes with inadequate time to find shelter moving into our little community. One of the nice things about living somewhere so isolated is that it tends not to attract people like this. I hope it’s not a harbinger of change. And it’s hard not to worry about it happening to me some day.

Yesterday, my little abode seemed more like Grand Central than a little hippie hovel deep in the woods.

Mark came by to borrow season two of “Dexter” – he and Citlali are both completely hooked on it, and while he was there, checked out the cupboard in the pantry/laundry room that came off about a year and a half ago and which he has been promising to fix since he got home from New Jersey last year. He thought he might have the right hinges somewhere, and went off to look.

He came back with them and they didn’t fit, so he made a note to look the next time he’s in town.

I started dinner – chili cashew chicken stir fry – and Rob knocked on the door. He was looking for Parmesan since the Gro was closed, and fortunately, I still had a piece left over from the pasta with pesto, chicken and artichokes which I had for dinner the night before.

I gave it to him along with a belated birthday hug – Rob turned 50 on Thursday and I hadn’t seen him to give him a birthday hug and kiss. We really need to get it together with our celebratory BBQs this year – I still haven’t had mine, nor has Jonathan. And note to Self: let Jonathan know that he has been promoted to my big brother. He and Megan are the only ones still hanging onto their 40s.

I had just sat down to dinner and “Murder In the First”, a very enjoyable policier set in San Francisco and actually filmed there, when Citlali came by to borrow some conditioner for her beautiful girls’ beautiful long hair. I gave her the rest of the bottle, knowing all too well what it’s like to try and detangle long hair without conditioner.

I love how we can all help each other out. We’re all in this together!

Update: Megan tells me that Lichen knows the guy who bought the property. Apparently the new owner’s vision is to make the little houses an “artists’ colony”, and since the new owner knows Lichen, has enlisted his services to find a contractor to renovate the houses. Lichen can stay in his house and be an on site caretaker, though everyone else has to move. They have sixty days to find new places, which is better than six weeks.

Birthday Girl


Birthday Garden

As you can see, my birthday dawned bright and beautiful. All the doors are open, and scent from the honeysuckle bush is wafting in. There seem to be more flowers than ever this year, and the hummingbirds are buzzing around it all day.

Yellow Dog came by, still looking for Schatzi after nearly a year. I wish I could tell him that his friend is no longer here to play with him. I should try and find his continued visits comforting rather than sad. I didn’t realize what an integral part of my day seeing Schatzi was until she was gone. She would trot by a few times a day, never coming in the house but always nearby. I could always count on seeing her smile and her distinctive prance. We all miss her so much.

Speaking of coming in the house, Yellow Cat just came a few steps into the hallway by the “front” door. It’s lucky for him that Audrey is Elsewhere. He certainly is a handsome boy. Even though I don’t live in Michigan, where they are considering a limit on the number of pets per household, I think I’ll self-impose a three cat limit for this household. I’m sure part-time cat staff Rob and Megan would agree.

While coffee perked, I waited for the ever-slow satellite interwebs to download my email, which was taking longer than usual. I was horrified by the number of messages until I realized that about 99% were birthday, not work, related. Huzzah! There was a really nice one from John and a text from my brother saying, “I’m so glad you were born. When do you want your party?”

I’m looking forward to champagne (already chilling) and Season Two of Orange Is the New Black, which will be released on Friday. It used to be that Sex & the City started their new seasons near my birthday, so OITNB is my new birthday present. I’m looking forward to watching it with my fellow fan Megan.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! It’s lovely to be loved!

Rain at Last


It’s raining petals

We got about six inches of rain since I last checked in with you. It was wonderful to hear the rain pattering against the roof/walls in my little house. You could practically hear the garden saying “Aaahhh….”, even though it still looks pretty terrible*. The power even stayed on!

The kitties were less delighted than I was, coming home soaked to the skin with their fur all spiky, except, of course, for Audrey, who has the ability to come in out of the pouring rain with magically dry fur. Roscoe got bored with the rain and napped, whereas Clyde perched on the porch and watched the weather for a while before giving up and joining his brother in a rainy day snooze.

The dogs hated the rain even more than the cats. And Stella finds the rain even more objectionable than Star does, which I didn’t think was possible. Megan literally had to drag them outside. As far as they were concerned, the call of nature could stay on hold or go straight to voicemail. I still remember how Schatzi actually pretended to pee once when I was taking care of her one stormy winter night in San Francisco so that she could go back inside.

Unlike the cats, the dogs were bored out of their minds, while refusing to go outside and play. Megan took advantage of breaks in the downpour to take them out, but another storm is slated to move in tonight or tomorrow and last for a few days. I don’t think Star and Stella will greet the next downpour with the same enthusiasm as their Staff.

*Basically whatever the bitter cold snap didn’t ruin, the drought did. When the County is asking everyone to cut back on water usage by 20%, you can’t really justify watering your garden, no matter how sad it looks. I was planning to do more in the garden this year, but it looks like that will have to be on hold unless the weather changes dramatically.

Escapism


Who, Me?

The other day, I was driving home from the jobette, thinking great thoughts, as I tend to do in the shower and in the car. Or what passes for great thoughts when you only have two brain cells, both underachievers, and the inside of your mind looks like Miss Havisham’s attic. Or this lady’s place.

One thing about keeping track of the magic moments in my life last year is that it really taught me to appreciate the little things, like the sun setting in my rear view mirror (not that I can see it, with Wednesday’s dramatic after-market tan. So non Goth. It’s gotta go) and the golden afternoon light on the long and winding road that leads (eventually) to my door. On this particular evening, I was thinking about how Gene Clark of the Byrds, who lived right here in Hooterville on the same road as Lichen, drove this very road, and how if he could see it today, it would look exactly the same as he remembered it. The Little River Inn, where both Gene and I have enjoyed the view and the bar, is the same, too. It’s kind of cool to think that we have this in common. And that things change slowly in this neck of the woods.

I also remembered the long days Megan and I spent looking for our beloved Schatzi last summer on this road, and how she is probably resting somewhere we drive past every day, peacefully and I am pretty sure undisturbed. It took a long time before I stopped looking for her as I drove down the Ridge, and it took Megan even longer. Guess The Schatz out stubborned us all one last time.

I was thinking about the Saturday afternoon I was driving home from the jobette and came across Megan’s car parked by Lichen’s road. I pulled over and saw Megan, desperately seeking Schatzi. She and our friends Dave and Jennifer had spent the day combing the area. As I was thinking about this, I came around the same corner and…saw my sister’s car parked in the very same place.

I had a horrifying feeling of déjà vu and also “Little did Suzy realize she had entered…the Twilight Zone*”. I pulled over and once again saw my sister heading toward me. Once again, she was dogless. In this case, Stella the foster dog had wandered off the family property, where the boys were supposed to be baby sitting her. Megan was in her work scrubs and clearly just out of the shower, and didn’t have much time before she was due at the ER for her twelve hour night shift.

The boys were looking near the property, and Megan commissioned me to head back down to the store, which is the Hooterville equivalent of alerting the media, while she looked and called. At least this time we were looking for a dog who could hear, though one who is a little unclear on the concept of coming when called.

Wednesday and I had gone a mile or two when I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I hit the microphone button on the car console, but the call dropped – cell service, or the lack of it, is one of the major tourist complaints – so I pulled into the fire station. I saw the call was from Megan, so I headed back, thinking that I could go to the store later if she wasn’t calling me with good news.

She was. While calling for Stella, the grandson of the guy who owns the store came out and asked if she was looking for a dog. It turned out that Stella had sneaked away from her babysitters and found a house with other dogs, where she spent the next hour or so happily playing with her new friends, trying to get in the house, and trying to get a snack.

Megan bundled her into the car, took her home, and then went to work, undoubtedly wishing she could have a drink instead. I’m glad that all’s well that ended well.

*Fun fact: Rod Serling and I were both born in Syracuse, New York.

2013

I’m ending the year the same way I started it – in my beloved San Francisco. This was a banner year for trips to the City: 9, an all-time high since moving to Hooterville four years ago. There was a lot more travel this year, some less fun (Atlanta) than others (LA).

This was a year full of endings and beginnings. I finally got divorced after almost a decade of being separated. While it was good to get the formalities out of the way after a long separation, it was still sad to put “The End” on our story. I am grateful that John and I are still friends and have many happy memories of our many years together. I did not manage to stay out of court, though on an unrelated matter. Summertime subpoenas have to stop! New year’s resolution: a subpoena- and court-free year.

The loss of our beloved Schatzi cast a shadow over the latter part of the year, a loss that resonates through every day, though I am thankful she was in our lives as long as she was. She was an unforgettable gift.

A new dog found her way into our lives (temporarily) at the Christmas season, when we were least looking for one, in the form of Stella the foster dog. There is no better way to honor our Schatzi than by rescuing another dog.

I said goodbye to my battered old car Miss Scarlett and said hello to a newer, fancier one, which took some getting used to.

I started my moments. This was inspired by a friend who writes down something funny or beautiful or delightful that happens to her each day on a slip of paper and then puts it in a jar. At the end of the year she reads all the slips of paper and remembers all the great things that happened.

This was fun to do for a year and a good exercise in much needed-discipline. It really made me appreciate the small moments every day: cuddling with the cats; the sun setting over the Pacific; a spider web jeweled with dew.

Favorite books of the year: Ann Leary’s The Good House, a great portrait of small town life; and the utterly poetic Ordinary Grace. I also read two outstanding books about Detroit, a place near and dear to my heart – Detroit: An American Autopsy and Detroit City Is the Place to Be. The charasmatic Charlie LeDuff, the author of “Autopsy”, also showed the equally charasmatic Anthony Bourdain around Detroit on an episode of “Parts Unknown”, which is well worth watching.

I only read 83 books this year, a significant drop from last year’s 103, a continuing decline which I attribute to the more work, less fun aspect of the new (though not improved) economy.

Rainfall for the season: 5.14 inches. Last year at this time: 24.20. The drought is getting alarming. January and February of 2013 were the driest in recorded history in California. People in the Village are having water delivered!

No power outages so far this season. None! There were 6 at this time last year.

Here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January:

Started the year off right by heading to San Francisco. Got a new look for my old car and a new iPhone (which has yet to ruin and/or take over my life, possibly due to the lack of cell service here). Wednesday was also Weirdsday. However, Friday was Funday. Yet another trip to San Francisco, this time for (mostly) professional reasons. Royal Treasures of the Louvre at the Legion of Honor. An epic day to get my photo taken for my work website. Spoiler alert: I hated the finished product, although my hair looked awesome.

February:

The cats react to a visiting chicken. An update on Archi, The World’s Cutest Puppy. Beautiful woodworking. Scout’s vet adventure. My intrepid brother takes a Polar Plunge.

March:

Schatzi gets a check-up. Little did we know it would be her last one and that we only had five months left with our beloved girl. Divorce and taxes. Why not? Dad’s birthday. First day of spring. Working on the endless divorce paperwork. A lovely trip to the South Coast.

April:

A late season storm. Haiku. Jessica turns ten! In San Francisco. Breakfast at Swan Oyster Depot. There isn’t a better start to the day. My welcome home included a screen door on the sleeping loft balcony, which has made life about 1,000% better. Thank you, Rob! Jessica’s birthday BBQ. More divorce paperwork, with moral support from my sister. An evening at the theatah.

My blog also turned twelve on April 20, though I failed to note the fact. Sorry, little blog!

May:

Amazing woodworking show. A walk with Star and drinks with Monica in Little River. Birth of an orchard. An early birthday celebration for Megan. A delightful dinner with delightful friends. The end (almost) of the decayed old hot tub. Needless to say, the motor is still there. Megan’s actual birthday, complete with a hand-made picnic table and a daring cliff rescue, both courtesy of our intrepid brother.

June:

Birthday baseball in beautiful San Francisco. Impressionists on the Water at the Legion of Honor. Back home for my birthday BBQ. Monica’s birthday party.

July:

A cavalcade of health problems: Megan’s flu; Jessica’s broken leg; Clyde’s mystery illness. Everyone on the mend. Thinking about summers past. The truth about Schatzi. Wedding plans and peaches.

August:

A lovely stroll with Star and my sister. A frantic Friday. Clyde meets the mysterious Slobber Monster. Megan takes care of the patient. The devastating loss of our much loved Schatzi. A day at the beach with Star. The twelfth anniversary of our adored father’s sudden death. I will never stop missing him until I catch up with him. How to make a really expensive peach pie. A beautiful, joyous wedding. A surprise in the mail – and at the door.

September:

Celebrating our incredible brother’s birthday. A long drive to Reno. Enjoying the spa. Back home in the fresh air! Megan’s last gift to her beloved girl. The County fair. The wonder of a south coast safari. A look around a delightfully eccentric local town.

October:

Last minute car repair before heading to San Francisco. My divorce becomes final as I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. A soirée in the Village. Audrey does not enjoy her visit to the vet. A local landmark reopens. An epic journey to Los Angeles. The delights of Santa Monica. The glamor of Hollywood. A fascinating tour of downtown LA. A virtual walk with Megan and Star at Big River.

November:

A happy Halloween. A quick trip to Atlanta. The delights of Hockney and Bulgari at the De Young – not to mention the view from the top. A late season barbecue with family and friends. The beginning of the end of Miss Scarlett. Thanksgiving preparations.

December:

Thanksgiving recap. A conference starring my boss. So proud! A long and busy day. The end of the road for Miss Scarlett. ~sob~ Of frozen pipes and Christmas trees. Puppies! And meeting Stella. A surprise dinner and a play for our nephew, Jarrett. A brand new (well, to me) car! Working hard – or hardly working? A merry Christmas.

Thanks for coming along with me on another year of adventures, great and small. I wish you all a joyful and healthy new year!

One of Those Days

Oh, it’s been quite the morning so far.

The little heater I use in my uninsulated and otherwise unheated bathroom crapped out on me before my shower – hello, 50 degrees! – which was not quite warm enough despite only using hot water. On emerging from the warmish shower, I reached, glassesless, for the pink towel turban I use for my hair, discovering that a spider was in residence.

Now, I’ve pretty much learned to peacefully co-exist with my arachnid roommates, but this was unexpected and somewhat horrifying as the spider skittered down my face.

Imagine how the spider felt.

I got into the 1986 Honda that I’ve been driving during Miss Scarlett’s hospital stay. It’s creaky and rattles and sounds a lot like the Waltons’ old truck that was always breaking down. I can barely hear the rattles and creaks over the sonic boom of the engine, however. There’s a hole in the exhaust pipe or similar, so it sounds like a plane taking off even when you’re only going 20. It also doesn’t have any kind of power assist for steering or brakes, with the result that I am now driving like the old lady I am, or, dare I say it, a tourist.

Good thing, too, since as I came around a curve on the ridge on my way to the jobette this morning, there was a dog dancing happily in the middle of the road. I slammed on the unassisted brakes while the dog bounced around happily. He reminded me of the good old days when Schatzi used to prance around in front of my car on the driveway, necessitating getting out of the car and making sure she was safe before heading on my way. I’d do anything to have to check on her safety now. I sure miss that girl.

I stopped off at the mechanic’s on my way to work and they were still working on estimates, but the numbers under discussion were alarming. We’ll see what happens. I may be the only girl in America who is less stressed by Thanksgiving than the rest of my life. I wish I was running up a tab at a bar instead of at the mechanic’s.

Soiree


Sunset over the Pacific

You may not have visited our little corner of the world, but you’ve probably seen it.

The Village was the setting for the long-running series “Murder She Wrote” (fun fact: Jessica Fletcher’s house in the TV show is now a B&B), even though it was supposedly set in Maine, on the other side of the country. Our rocky, wild coast often stands in for New England in the magical world of movies and television. Most of our early settlers back in the 1850s were from the east coast, and built houses that would look right at home in a New England village.

“Same Time Next Year”, a movie starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn as lovers who meet up once a year for many years, was filmed at a lovely resort just south of the Village. This property was closed for five years, but never lost its cult following. People always called to ask when it would re-open and to say how much they loved and missed it.

A couple of weeks ago, their prayers were answered and the hotel opened their doors once again after a lengthy repair and renovation process. I was invited to the opening celebration (though I missed the complimentary overnight stay the rest of my jobette co-workers enjoyed while I was spaing it up in Reno).

I followed the slow line of cars down the precipitous driveway. When I checked in with one of the uniformed attendants, he stopped me when I started to spell my last name and asked me if I was Jonathan’s sister. He was a fellow firefighter, and it was another wonderful small town moment. I parked the car and made my way up to the main building.

Outside the building, there were waiters circulating with trays of nibbles and wine. Inside, there was a table entirely devoted to a mountain of bite-sized desserts, another with cheese, crackers and accoutrements, and an open bar (two of the most beautiful words in the English language, besides “room service” and “taxi”). The views were breathtaking:

I met quite a few people I knew, as well as co-workers, and everyone was delighted to see this landmark welcoming guests again. Dr. Karen was there, and I thanked her for her very kind gesture. She brought flowers and a card to Megan at work one night. Dr. Karen was very saddened by Schatzi’s loss, and once again said what a remarkable animals she was. Karen reassured me that when dogs take their own path like Schatzi did, that it is peaceful. They know what they’re doing.

I took a moment to look out over the endless sea and think about those I have loved and lost, and to be grateful that they were part of my life, I was part of theirs, and that they live on in my heart.

The Impatient Patient


The (Im)Patient

Little Miss Audrey was at it again…

Not closing herself in the dresser drawer all night, or madly clawing at the door to go out, or refusing to come in at night, or terrifying the neighborhood dogs*, though she does all that. After all, she is Audrey. She was allergic to fleas again, just like she was around the same time last year.

She was scratching all the time, losing her fur, and all scabalicious again. The boys were fine and I didn’t have any bites (other than this year’s plague of mosquitoes), but a flea must have hopped onto Audrey or breathed on her or something, so a trip to the vet was in order.

I was prepared for the evil ways of the Evil Genius, so I had extra towels and a garbage bag to carry the towels that would inevitably bear the poop of wrath back home to wash. However, Audrey surprised me by not pooping, though she did howl the entire way to the Village. Not even Springsteen could cheer her up, or cover up her dolorous chorus.

I think we all know who the real Boss is.

She had a ZZ Top style foam beard when I arrived at the vet’s, and the bars of the carrier were festooned with extra foam, just for extra fun. I made quite the entrance with a howling, foamy, balding, scabby demon cat. Exorcist, anyone?

The kind technician cleaned Audrey up and did the initial check up (Audrey is the exact same feathery weight as last year). She told me how very sorry the entire staff was about Schatzi, and added that they were glad that they had not had to do the deed. She said she would not have been able to hold back tears, and thought that Dr. Karen might not have been able to, either. They care for all their patients, but some are special. Schatzi, she said, was beloved by all of them.

Dr. Carl once again worked his magic on Audrey. I don’t think he believes my tales of the Evil Genius, who is fuzzy putty in his capable hands. He gave her a steroid shot and some antibiotics, and did a blood panel to make sure there was nothing else wrong with her. Fortunately, she is fine other than her flea intolerance – why not, she’s intolerant of everything else – and that was a relief.

Needless to say, she howled all the way home. A few miles from home, on a particularly curvy stretch of road, we came across an accident scene**, and were stopped in our tracks for so long that I almost turned the car off. Audrey did not turn off the entire time we were sitting there, and when we got home, I discovered that she had thrown up in the carrier. Still better than poop, though. She was also foamy again, but before I could wipe it off, she ran away, not to be seen until dinner time, when she acted like nothing had happened.

*Schatzi’s boyfriend Yellow Dog still comes around looking for her after two months. He always gives me this pleading look like, “Where is she? Where are you hiding her?” He’s such a nice dog. It is heart-breaking, but it’s also really sweet.

**I later learned that someone had swerved to avoid an animal and their car ended up on its side, as often happens in these cases. The people inside were OK, the car less so.

Last Things

Megan decided that the time had come to give away Schatzi’s remaining meds. They were very expensive, and some of them were liquid and wouldn’t keep. Dr. Karen gives these donated meds to clients who can’t afford them. We did the same thing when our mother died. At least something good can come out of something really sad.

I offered to take the drugs in for Megan, but she wanted to do it. Perhaps she felt it was the last thing she could do for her beloved old friend. Needless to say, I could not let her go alone, so we packed up Star and headed to the Village.

Despite our sad errand, I couldn’t help smiling at the sign in the vet’s parking lot:

In the office, the lovely receptionist accepted Megan’s gift and gave her a huge, affectionate hug. She remarked that Schatzi was very much beloved among the entire staff and that she was missed. I am proud to say that my sister maintained her dignity and poise – at least, on the outside. We are lucky to have such genuinely caring people taking care of the animals in our lives.

I think that it was actually a relief to my sister to get this final thing done.

With this over, we turned our attention to the remaining dog, little Miss Star, who was more than ready for a walk on the headlands. On our way there, she was very good about meeting new dogs, though a little less good on the “heel” side of things.

In keeping with the mood of the day, it was overcast, but I still think the Village is beautiful no matter what the weather:

I never get tired of watching the waves crash against the rocks:

We came across the remains of a pier clinging to the rocky cliffs:

It is still a somewhat isolated place, requiring a long drive to get here and with limited cell phone service and no big box stores when you do, but visitors in the 1800s had to be especially intrepid, coming ashore in a perilous manner (scroll down the page to see). Not for the first time, I reflected on the courage and fortitude of pioneers, especially women. And of my sister’s brave act that day, and the difficult steps she has taken to move forward, despite her heavy heart. I wish there was something I could do to ease her burden, but I know that only time can do that – and not fast enough.

Recap

Here’s a quick recap of what happened around here lately besides the Great Schatzi Search. I have to admit that I still drive our part of the Ridge really slowly, scanning the roadside, even though I know perfectly well that Schatzi is gone. My heart is even more underachieving than my head (and that’s saying something).

Clyde:

Even though my heart-broken sister was spending almost every hour of every day looking for Schatzi, she managed to find time to tend to Clyde and check on his progress. After a week of house arrest while the horrifying Slobber Monster wound drained and finally healed (he still has a bald spot the size of a quarter on his neck), I let him out before taking Star to the beach, with stern warnings to pace himself. There’s no need to use up all nine lives at once. Don’t fill up on bread before the entrée arrives! He really put me through the mill with the Mystery Illness and the Attack of the Slobber Monster occurring within a three week period.

He seems to be staying closer to the house lately, and I’m hoping that he is avoiding the Slobber Monster’s lair. I thought that the constant spraying and medicining would damage our relationship, but he is as cuddly as ever with both Megan and me. Last night he fell asleep on me while I was watching the final couple of grueling* (yet gripping) episodes of The Killing and I could hear him snoring.

Megan:

Besides getting a pay cut, the hospital no longer allows its employees to cash out their accrued vacation time, which Megan used to do every year. To make it more fun, they are so understaffed that it’s really difficult to take the time off that you can no longer cash out.

However, Megan managed to take two weeks off, during which Schatzi disappeared and her car was out of commission until a couple of days before she had to go back to work. She spent most of her hard-won time off looking for her lost dog and borrowing rides. As she said, “Worst staycation ever!”

Friends:

Our friends (and my sibs’ land partners) Jennifer and Dave came for a visit. They are planning to start building a house on their part of the property and are slowly working toward that goal. They brought their horses:

and two miniature ponies with them. That’s a lot of weight to haul on our narrow, curvy roads!

Megan was able to spend some time riding Bella, the spotted horse on the right.

We had a really nice dinner down at their place, admiring the view:

They are such wonderful people.

After dinner, we played Bananagrams, a sort of free-form Scrabble without a board. I discovered a hidden talent for this game. Like most of the things I’m good at (accurately guessing the price of antique estate jewelry in The New Yorker, for example), it has no practical application, but fun all the same. I never said I was practical.

*******

Megan and I ventured to lovely Anderson Valley on a lovely summer day:

We meandered past vineyards and farms, stopped in at the farm stand looking for Megan’s favorite Pink Lady apples (not ready yet), and poked around the cute little shops. We met up with Erica and Jessica at Libby’s for dinner:

I finally gave Jessica her Secret Society of Paper Cuts book as well as a copy of the cult classic Pee Wee’s Playhouse, just what a girl needs when recovering from limb breakage. As it happened, Jessica had just gotten a walking cast, which looks something like a giant ski boot, that very day. She prided herself in her ability to get around with crutches and accomplish things like getting in and out of the car by herself – no easy feat.

It was great to see them. Erica was a great comfort to Megan in her time of loss, and Jessica was as delightful as ever:

We are planning to go to the County Fair in mid September. I’m hoping to switch my work schedule so I can go to the Sheep Dog trials on the Sunday – it’s the most exciting part of the fair!

****

Mark and his family are back home after a year in New Jersey for Mark’s job, dismantling a factory and shipping it to Mexico. He said if he ever gets offered a job like that again, he won’t move his whole family to do it.

While in New Jersey, they survived Hurricane Sandy and an epic winter. They took Route 66 home, and had lots of adventures along the way. They went to Toronto so the girls could see Justin Bieber, and fell in love with the city, its diversity, culture, friendliness, and energy.

They stopped in Flint, Michigan and a Good Samaritan, eying Mark’s out of state plates and family of women, advised him to stop elsewhere for the night. Later they learned that Flint is the most dangerous city in America. They settled for the less hazardous Detroit that night.

The highlight of the trip was the Grand (or as Mark called it, the “Great”) Canyon. When they described it, you could see the look of awe on their faces.

We sat in my garden and had some wine and caught up. I’m glad they’re home.

I love our friends. What would we do without them?

*Episode ten was the most harrowing thing I’ve ever seen on TV.

Starring

On Saturday, I took Star to the beach. Megan felt that her remaining dog was being neglected during the Great Schatzi Search and was overdue for some fun.

Star hopped happily into Miss Scarlett – I remain convinced that she remembers this is the car that rescued her – and sat beside me in the passenger seat. It was great to have a living, breathing dog beside me after so many days desperately searching for one who wasn’t, and Star was wonderful company. The only drawback was her tendency to lick my face, which can be hazardous while driving.

We stopped at the hardware store to see if they could copy the flyer I had made. They could, but only in black and white. Better than nothing, though, so I asked for 20 copies. The cashier had had the same experience with her own dog many years ago and sympathized with what we were all going through. I have to say that this crisis has really made me appreciate our neighbors and little community more.

Back in the parking lot, our postmistress – who brings her own brindled pit bull Ginger* to work every day – was washing the post office windows, even though they are officially closed on Saturdays. She said, “I think I have a package for you” and went in to get it. She returned with my package and a cookie for Star. I said that she probably wouldn’t eat it, but to go ahead and try. As predicted, Star rejected it, being used to a much higher caliber of treats (I kept this comment to myself). A neighbor came by and petted Star through the open car window, and I could tell she was enjoying the attention.

We headed to Big River beach, the site of my brother’s fearlessly frigid Polar Plunge a few months ago. It was early enough that we had the beach almost to ourselves. Star was incredibly excited when we turned off the road toward the beach. She wasted no time in exploring:

leaving Star prints in the sand:

She happily sniffed the beach flowers:

We admired the tide pools as we headed toward the bridge:

This is where the river meets the ocean, and the water is so clear you can see all the pebbles and seaweed:

Star avoided the water itself, but she was definitely happy to be at the beach. I really enjoyed my time with her. I should do it more often.

*Ginger may well be Hooterville’s most popular resident. Megan and I often stop in just to pet Ginger, and we are far from the only ones.

Gone Girl


Megan and Schatzi at Little River Inn, December 2012

Schatzi disappeared two days before the eighth anniversary of our mother’s death. Is there significance to her leaving on the 8th day of the 8th month near the 8th anniversary of Mom’s death? Or that the 8th plus the 10th equals the 18th, when we lost our father?

Or is it all meaningless?

That day dawned like any other. I was on a conference call when I heard Megan clapping for Schatzi, the best method of summoning a nearly deaf dog from the quiet woods. When she was still clapping after the call, I went over to Megan’s house. Schatzi was conspicuous by her absence, and Megan had a bad feeling.

We spent the rest of that day and all of the next literally and figuratively beating the bushes, clapping and calling until our hands were sore and our voices rough. Schatzi was never gone for more than an hour, and she normally made a loop from Meg’s house to mine and through the haul road behind my house and back. We soon discovered that the other people on our property rarely saw her.

The next day, a clerk at the store told us that she had seen Schatzi about 9 am on Thursday morning, trotting down the Ridge heading toward our brother’s place. Another person said a friend of his had seen a dog matching her description that morning. We went back and searched the area again, and I made a flyer which we posted at the store and post office.

Megan and our friends Jennifer and Dave searched all day on Saturday. All we found was that our neighbors are super nice and helpful. Everyone took a flyer, and everyone called their local friends, relations, and neighbors to put out the word. The kindness of our little community was a ray of sunshine on these dark days.

The search goes on today, but after so many days with no food and no meds since Wednesday night, it’s only because our hearts can’t catch up with our heads. That’s going to take a long time, if it ever happens.

We hope that she chose to leave us rather than thinking that she got lost. She rarely left the property, and she has lived here for 12 of her 15+ years. She knew it like the back of her paw. And she was always a very stubborn dog, as well as one who was always more of a wild animal after her difficult start in life, abandoned in the desert, so it makes sense that she would follow her instincts to die alone, however hard it is for us to accept. The lack of crows and other such birds leads me to believe that she is resting peacefully in a little nest under brush so dense that no-one can find her. She knew those woods so well.

The first night she was missing, Megan dreamed of her all night, and Schatzi was happy in every dream. I think it was her way of telling Megan she is happy where she is. It reminded me of how I dreamed of my grandfather laughing after he died, glad to be reunited with his adored wife of more than half a century. John always said that dreams were visits.

The Envelope, Please


Schatzi in a field of clover, Spring 2010

Gordie: All right, all right, Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog. What’s Goofy?

Teddy: Goofy’s a dog. He’s definitely a dog.

Chris: He can’t be a dog. He drives a car and wears a hat.

Vern: Oh, God. That’s weird. What the hell is Goofy?

Stand by Me, 1986

Megan has always wondered what the hell Schatzi is. When our mother pulled the princess to be out of a dumpster in Southern California, she thought Schatzi was a black dog. After a bath, her beautiful brindle coat appeared. Mom already had two dogs, so she took Schatzi to the local shelter, where they informed her that Schatzi was a pit bull and would therefore be euthanized. No chance of adoption, no nothing. Canine racism in action. The death penalty just for the crime of being a certain breed struck our mother as unjust and intolerable, so she took Schatzi home. She named her Schatzi, which means “treasure” in German, because one man’s trash is another man (or woman’s) treasure*.

Schatzi turned out to be at least two women’s treasure. Mom and Schazti moved in with Megan shortly after this, so Schatzi has been part of Megan’s life for most of her 15 years. And I think we can all agree that Schatzi owns Megan rather than the other way around.

I gave Megan a DNA testing kit for her birthday so she would finally know what Schatzi is (besides one of the most beloved and spoiled dogs in America). She got the results back, and….

….drumroll, please….

Our Schatzi is at least 50% pit bull. As Megan observed, the Evils that Be at the SoCal shelter were correct in their identification of her as a pit bull, or at least a pit bull mix. The remaining 50% is unknown, though some of their suggestions seemed odd to me. White German Shepherd? Chow? Really?

Megan is dying to know about the mystery 50% and is thinking of getting a blood DNA test, which has a wider database and more accuracy. I don’t think she’ll have much trouble taking Schatzi’s blood. When Megan was thirteen, our father had Megan dissect a bird in front of his scientist colleagues at the University of Siena in Italy. They were all impressed. Dad just took it in stride. Hardly surprising that his youngest child is looking for scientific answers to a mystery.

*It can also mean “sweetheart”. When Dr. Carl, who is German, first met her, he exclaimed, “She is a Schatzi!”

Birthday Wrapup

When I got home, it was clear the kitties missed me. Clyde came running up to me meowing, and climbed up my (always) left arm to bury his little head against my neck, purring*. Roscoe slunk into the house and let me pet him before stalking off, and Audrey sat on my lap and went to sleep, relieved of being in charge. All three cats slept on the bed that night.

It’s not only the cats who missed me. Luna came running up, wagging her tail and rolling around on the ground in welcome, and Megan told me that Schatzi patrols my house more than usual when I’m gone. Both Megan and Rob found Schatzi hanging out in my garden, which she doesn’t usually do when I’m here. She prances by several times a day, but she never stays. I think I have honorary pack privileges in her eyes, since I often try to get her to eat and/or take her medicine. It’s nice to know that there’s extra protection while I’m gone, and it’s surprising that Audrey didn’t chase Schazti away.

On Saturday, I had my slightly delayed birthday BBQ (or, as my brother called it, my Suzy Q). My sister spent hours making chicken tikka masala and grill bread, as well as the magic Lu salad. My brother made cherry crumble from scratch – not from their trees, but that day will be here in a couple of years. The peach trees already have teeny, fuzzy peach-ettes on them, and some of the apple trees have mini apples. They gave me a ceramic chef’s knife, which is supposed to be diamond hard and not need sharpening (hopefully I will be able to avoid Calamity Suzy episodes with it). The handle is a lovely, translucent turquoise. Apparently I have yet another present which Erica has. Megan and I are trying to plan a sleepover at Erica’s this month, though it’s been challenging with our crazy schedules.

Back at the jobette, my desk was covered with cards and presents, among them a Hello Kitty magnet set and glittery Hello Kitty socks. Megan took one look and said, “Do they know you, or what?” Nothing like feeling appreciated, is there?

*Also his signature move when I first saw the boys. He did that while Roscoe watched aloofly, such things being beneath his dignity even at two months of age. Sometimes I tell Clyde the story of how he convinced me to take them both home, and I swear he purrs louder.