Sunday, May 29, 2011

sea without salt

Every morning Juniper wakes up and says, Daddy!  And then, Osa?  

I miss her terribly.  I miss her the way the sea would miss salt, the way mountains would miss snow, the way spring would miss rain.

Her absence is visceral, like I have a hole in my belly.

It breaks my heart to know that in a month or two we'll be moving into a house that has never known Osa.  No scratch marks on the door, no pee-stains on the carpet, no black hairs tucked under the furniture, no elk legs and rawhides strewn about the yard.  How will we remember?

I bury my face in her bed.  I open the lid to her dog food container just to take a whiff.  I keep her water bowl full.  During our night-night routine with Juniper we still end with, Goodnight Osa.    

Loosing a dog is like loosing your left arm.  The always-thereness, the always-needing--food, water, pills, walks, outside, inside, pets, kisses---and then not.  I've spent more time with Osa than I have with my own husband.  

Juniper is being so helpful.  When I start dry-heaving in the mornings, she hands me my puke bowl and starts imitating my sounds.  When I get weepy over Osa, she holds a handkerchief to my nose and tries to wipe away the tears.  

There are things I regret, there is guilt.  I wish I could have her last full-day back.  I wish I had known it was the last.  We knew she probably wouldn't make it through the summer but every time she was knocked down, she got back up.  We couldn't predict when she wouldn't rise again.

Last night we watched Marley & Me.  There is a scene towards the end where Owen Wilson's character and Marley are taking a slow walk through an autumn field.  They stop, sit down, and he says, "You're going to let me know, right?  You know, when it's time?  I don't want to make that decision on my own.  You let me know when you're ready, okay?"  

That's what Osa did for us.  That was her last gift to us.  We never thought she would; we thought we'd have to do the math, counting tail-wags and calculating good days versus bad.

That morning my husband awoke early, came to me and said, Osa can't get up.  He'd found her collapsed in a puddle of pee by the front door.  He got her outside, where she hobbled and fell down.  He carried her back inside, laid her on her bed.  From early morning until her heart stopped beating that afternoon, Osa stayed in the same position--not even twitching a leg--as though she were paralyzed from the neck down.  She was exhausted.  She wouldn't eat or drink until noon when Juniper was able to feed Osa her last meal, kibble by kibble.  Then, she ate happily, her ears flopping like a puppy, her gray muzzle searching out the next piece.

We made an appointment with the vet.  I brushed her, rubbed the inside of her ears, told her she'd get to see Nick and Rosie, play tug-of-war with Lepricon, that Jim would pour bacon drippings on an endless bowl of dog food.  I thanked her for everything she gave me, everything she taught me, for all of our years together.  I told her I was sorry for every time I got mad or frustrated with her.  I remembered her body before it was bony and bloated; the way I would fawn over her slick black coat, the tuft of gray on her butt, her perfect paws....the same way we fawn over Juniper now.  I kissed her and smoothed the bridge of her muzzle.  I told her she was the best, best dog.

My husband carried her, bed and all, into the vet's office.  A young woman read books to Juniper in the lobby.  We sat on the floor in a quiet back room.  I held Osa's head in my hands.  We told her it was okay, that she gets to go on one more trip.  The vet said she would just slip away.  I don't know when exactly her heart stopped, but I felt her head relax and become heavy in my hands.  She died in her bed, with four balsamroot flowers on her ribs, one for each of her family members.

We wanted her cremated.  That was the hardest part: leaving her alone on the floor of the vet's office, getting back in the car without her.      

One reader of my blog commented that it's hard loosing *that* dog.  The dog that has seen you through a coming-of-age, through dating and wedding your spouse, through several moves, through the birth of your first child.  Loosing her is like having to close the book on the first chapter of my adult life.      

But.  I am grateful.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Osa, you get to go

You've probably been expecting a post about our turkey hunting trip for weeks now.  I apologize, it's coming.  I have *still* been tired and--though less nauseas--vomiting more frequently.  This is not what I was intending to post tonight.  But sometimes, life chooses for us and we go with it.  

:: I rescued Osa from the pound in 2000.  We had one night home and by the second night we were tent partners.  She rode shotgun and slept in my sleeping bag.  Osa became badly epileptic at 2 and has since been a high-maintenance pain-in-the-ass.  And yet always, thoroughly, undeniably, loved.  She has been the best dog.
Osa started her life with me as a backpacker and when I look back through the photos of our life together, I realize that she has been more places and seen more things than your average American, let alone your average dog.  The words she's always perked her ears for: "Osa, you get to go!"   

Except a handful of trips overseas, Osa and I have gone everywhere together.  

Yet despite all our rugged outdoor adventures, Osa has always been soft, goofy, clumsy and a touch lazy.  It's the part of her that's kept us laughing.  

And she's hung in there through our greatest adventure of all: 

:: Today, Osa took her last trip.  We laid a bouquet of balsamroot flowers on her chest and whispered in her ear,  It's okay.  You get to go.  You get to go.

I think we gave her a good life.  And I know we loved the hell out of her.

See you on the other side, old girl.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

lion in my belly

Did you miss us?  Oh, we missed coming here but it just wasn't happening.  For the last month I have been so exhausted.  When Juniper naps, I nap.  When Juniper goes to bed, I go to bed.  There is no extra hour.  To top it off, I've been all vomity and nauseas, making regular yet spontaneous visits to the porcelain queen (or whatever is closest--usually the kitchen sink, much to my husband's chagrin).  Turns out, I've got a little lion in my belly.
Okay, so maybe it looks more like a peanut with limb buds.  Still, it feels like a lion.  Despite the extra ten pounds I'm already carrying, it makes me feel small and weak to know something the size of an inchworm can completely overtake a full grown woman's body.  Holy shit.  It's tough work, making a new human.

When I peed on the little pink stick at the end of March, my first thought was: No way!  That was fast.  Then Juniper tottered into the bathroom and my second thought was: Oh my god!  Juniper!  I am so, so sorry.  You only have eight more months of being our one and only, then you have to share.  I am so sorry.  I truly felt like a horrible, irresponsible parent and to this day I am still having to convince myself with reason that Juniper will have way more fun with a sibling than without.  Right now, I still can't imagine that there is enough room in my heart for two--Juniper seems to fill it beyond capacity already.
Rolling around and getting tickled in Osa's bed is a favorite pastime lately.  

:: So anyway, that's what we've been up to this last month.  I spend most of the day in pursuit of food, puking, eating more and trying really hard not to puke again.  The first few times I threw up, Juniper cried (my husband says I sound like a prehistoric animal giving birth), but now she doesn't bat an eye and just asks for more blueberries.

Today we are leaving for our annual turkey hunting trip and upon our return I hope to have clove's corner back up to her normal programming.  In the meantime, here are some tidbits from the last month:

:: Back when we still had a ton of snow on the ground, we headed to the other side of the mountains to bask in the warm, desert rainshadow.

And hang with Juniper's geographically closest surrogate grandparents (my husband's brother's wife's parents).  Really, they treat Juniper like their very own granddaughter.  We are truly blessed to have them so close!
Look, no stocking cap!  Juniper was a happy bee, walking all around without getting hung up in several feet of snow.  

:: Back home, we closed on our house(!) and Juniper learned to identify elk poop.  She'd pick it up and walk around saying, Boop boop boop boop.  

:: My man left for 2 weeks at the height of my vomiting spells for work-related training.  Somehow, we managed despite several phone calls to my parents with me trying to remember the last time I was ever this miserable.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited to be pregnant, but I'm also very excited for the nausea and vomiting to vanish!  I am counting down the weeks until the second trimester.  

So while I was home sounding like a prehistoric animal giving birth and Juniper was walking around our house rattling off her new favorite words ("dirty" and "garbage"), my man had one day off back in Georgia and he didn't waste it:

He caught 4 sharks that day.  I am not jealous; at least one of us was having fun.  I asked him, "How do you get the hook out to release a shark?"  "Very carefully."  That one there ^ is a little baby hammerhead.  (He didn't get a photo of the biggest shark due to the de-hooking factor.)  

:: Juniper turned a year and a half.  I remember this time last year, when turning six months old was such a huge step.  18 months still feels huge but in a different way.  We no longer have a baby, we have a really smart little kid.  When I told the doctor she has well over a hundred words and her favorite activity is to walk around and name things he said, "Wow.  You are very blessed.  Enjoy her."  That said, Juniper still shuns eating utensils and prefers to shovel in food like a little cave-girl.   
Also, she likes to hold as much stuff as possible in one hand.  Here she has two diapers, pants and a sweater.  

Juniper was my bright ray of sunshine during our two weeks of home-alone nausea.  (I know I keep complaining...but imagine having the stomach flu all day, every would you feel?)  She is so fun, funny, smiley and happy.  I was this sick carrying her too (funny how we forget these things) and she reminds me it's a small, short-lived sacrifice to make for something amazing and wonderful. 
  Believe it baby, our snow melted!  And once it started, it went fast.  

I'm glad I captured that ^ face on film.  That's her super-concentrated, I'm-on-a-mission face.  (Note the elk trail to the left: they've moved out and up to higher ground.)

:: Things are greening up around here.  Though slow as a turtle this year, spring is here and summer is around the corner.  The changes are most notable in the weekly variety of birdsong outside our window.  Robins, juncos, canada geese, sandhill cranes, redwing blackbirds.  Ahhh, I'm so excited to spend the next ten days outside.