August 2017

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[personal profile] lindahoyland asked me to talk about my pets. I've had some pretty special animals in my life (but anyone with pet dogs and cats feels that way, no? :) so this will be a little bit on the memoirish side.

All the Critters I Have Known )
When I first purchased my video camera, I practiced using it by taking lots of little videos of the Goldens just being the Goldens. Now that Alex is gone, I am so glad that I did.

I pulled these videos off my school laptop the other day to save them on Dropbox. This one is probably my favorite. In 2013, the Ravens went to (and won) the Super Bowl. We took the Goldens to a party for the AFC Championships over my inlaws' house. I took this video the next morning, when I couldn't even get them off the couches to go outside.

Alex always had a very expressive face and a way of looking and acting that sometimes made you feel like he understood a lot of what you were saying. The dirty looks he gives me in this video as I immortalize his laziness are priceless.

Phil is in it too, curled in a tiny ball on the couch. Unlike Alex, Phil couldn't care less that I was filming him.
As I noted in my last post, we decided to bring Alex home and bury him in the yard. Bobby and I started digging the grave on Thursday. It was slow going because our soil is a mixture of clay and rock. Bobby picked, and I shoveled. We got about two feet down before the thunderstorm creeping up out of the west started throwing visible lightning, and we decided to call it a day.

Friday, we picked him up at the ER clinic. Read more... )
We had to put Alex down last night.

I know. We were just celebrating his biopsy results coming back negative for any cancerous cells. And the second opinion confirmed that.

Yesterday morning, when we woke up, Alex was a little under the weather. But he has never been a morning person, and he had played hard with Bobby the night before, so we chalked it up to him being a little worn out. But when we came home from work, he was very obviously lethargic, and when we checked his gums, they were gray, suggesting that he was bleeding again inside. (He had gotten his color back to the extent that even his grandparents commented on how pink his tongue was when he was panting at Mackey's last week!) His breathing was also a little labored, and he was using his abdominal muscles to draw breath.

We took him to the Pet ER, and the vet, suspecting that one of the lesions on his liver was hemorrhaging like his spleen had hemorrhaged, recommended an ultrasound. She found no free fluid in his belly, but on a hunch, took a look at his heart, and his pericardium was full of fluid. She explained that she was 95% certain that he had a hemangiosarcoma on his pericardium that had ruptured and was filling his pericardium with blood. The biopsy likely came back negative because the tissue in his spleen had deteriorated so badly that even the cancerous cells weren't able to live in it anymore. Basically, his whole body was riddled with cancer.

There is nothing--NOTHING--that can be done for hemangiosarcoma on the heart. There is no medical or surgical solution to prolong his life. Since he was hemorrhaging into his pericardium, his time was very limited, and as she explained, could quickly deteriorate to where he died badly during the night. (I asked if we could take him home for one last night and have Dr. Baker do his euthanasia the next day, but she said that there was a significant risk that he would deteriorate rapidly in just a few hours.) And we did see him deteriorate even in the two hours we were at the vet with him.

My parents were in Atlantic City, but my inlaws, Amiah, and Erin came to the ER, and he was so happy to see them. He lifted his head and wagged his tail each time, and he even stood up for his Aunt Erin. You could almost see in his face the surprised delight that everyone came unexpected to see him! So he was peaceful and happy when the time came. (Which is why I didn't want to euthanize him at the ER if we could avoid it, because he understandably hates it there, and I didn't want him to be distressed when he died.) We surrounded him for about a half-hour and petted him and laughed over our memories of him and how he used to walk Grandmom around the apartment complex when we lived in Ellicott City and try to eat napkins that he found on the ground and pull pieces off the Christmas tree, and all the other stuff he used to do that made him Alex.

This is really hard. I have loved and lost pets before, but I have never loved a pet like I loved Alex, and I don't know if I will again. He was not a typical Golden. He was very intelligent and willful, and he did things on his terms. I always felt like he and I were cut from the same cloth, like we were truly Wallses in our manners and personalities. There was always friction between us because he would intentionally do things to irritate me for attention (I definitely irritated him too, since I would tickle his ears and feet), or I would want him to do something one way, and he had to do it on his terms, but I understood and connected to him like I never have before with a pet. Three weeks ago, when he went in for his spleen, I began to prepare for this possibility, but now that it's come, I still find myself surprised by the spaces in my life where he should have been, where I never thought to miss him and now find him gone.

We are so grateful for the time we had with him. A lot of pets with hemangiosarcoma die so suddenly that their people come home to find them dead. Or the situation could have been reversed, and the tumor on his heart might have ruptured first, and we would not have had the last three wonderful weeks with him, in which he seemed like a dog half his age, if only for a short while.

I am, as many know, getting ready to write my thesis in October. As those who work with me on fandom projects know, I am in the process of preparing those projects for my four months off. I feel like this is the moment when I am beginning to step back. I am probably not going to be around as much till my thesis is done. This does not mean that I am unavailable, and anyone who wants/needs to talk to me knows where to find me, and I am happy to hear from people, just not sure I'm quite up to being my usual hyper-energized self right now, at least socially. I hope you all know how much you mean to me and that my silence is not from lack of care or interest but because I'm coming up on an intense part of my life, and I feel very frail right now.

Alex is still at the ER. We have decided to bury him at home, so we are waiting to hear from Miss Utility so that we can choose a site and begin to dig, and the clinic will hold his body until then. He will be well provided with grave goods, and we are going to have a wake to celebrate his life. Anyone who lives in the area will be invited. I will post here when I have a date.
... but Alex's biopsy came back benign.

The pathology lab is seeking a second opinion, but they tested four 2-cm sections of his spleen and found nary an abnormal cell. They were supposed to call Monday, and we were wondering why we hadn't heard from them but unwilling to call while on vacation.

I got an email and a call from Bobby as soon as I arrived at work, while my students were drifting in to homeroom, and had to close myself in my closet because I was crying. I didn't dare hope for this.

Alex Is Home!

Jul. 29th, 2015 08:31 pm
dawn_felagund: (alex eek)
What it says on the tin!

We picked up Alex this afternoon at 5:30. He came out with the tech, straining at the leash, his four paws skidding on the floor in his eagerness to go with us. He looks 100 times better than even yesterday. He spent the whole ride home with his head stuck between the seats, watching the road in front of us, which is his favorite way to ride in the car, with prolonged sessions of resting his head on Bobby's or my shoulder, thus making him the world's coolest pirate!parrot.

In the car, right after leaving the hospital.

 photo home-from-er1_zpsk7aa33dn.jpg

At home, Phil was over the moon to see him. Poor Phil has been a little lost soul without his brother. He ran out into the yard yesterday to bark at someone in the street and then stopped halfway, like, "Where's my brother?? I can't do this without Alex!" (Alex does most of the barking.) He has mostly been laying on the patio, chewing on rocks, like he's not sure how to play without Alex, but he has not spent more than a few hours away from Alex since he we brought him home at nine weeks, so he really isn't sure how to play without Alex. Phil dislikes every other dog he's ever met except Alex, who is in a privileged Alex-only category.

It didn't take long after returning home, though, before Alex was sound asleep. This is him during dinnertime clean-up. He didn't even notice when I plopped a big spoonful of poached egg whites from the cookpot into his bowl. (Normally, that is his favorite, and he hangs around underfoot whenever eggs are being made.)

 photo home-from-er2_zpsp0usukzc.jpg

The little orange football and Phil are in the background. :)

So he is on limited activity for the next two weeks. (He already tried to take off after a squirrel once before being abruptly stopped by the leash.) That means leashed yard access only, and we will be watching Amazon videos on the computer upstairs rather than in the basement so that he avoids the steps.

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and thoughts over the past few [very rough] days. We are still very much in the woods, but we are happy to have Alex home again. I told Alex that he has a cheering section that stretches across the world. I think he knows. :)

Alex Update

Jul. 28th, 2015 07:14 pm
dawn_felagund: (alex loves)
After last night's very bleak post, I have some good news.

(You see, I cannot resist for long. For all my grousing and cynicism, in my heart of hearts, I remain an unrepentant pie-eyed optimist.)

Alex is still at the hospital. Bobby and I visited him for about an hour this afternoon. We were expecting that he would be doped up and perhaps immobile and we'd have to visit him in the kennel, but we were put in a room and a tech brought in a blanket, followed by Alex. We were told to take as long as we wanted.

When Bobby spoke to the vet this morning, Alex's red blood count had continued to drop, and they were on the verge of giving him a transfusion if it dropped any further. (During surgery last night, a liter of blood was removed from his abdominal cavity; even the vet expressed surprise that he'd bled so much.) He also hadn't eaten.

Thankfully, his blood count has stabilized, so he still has not required a transfusion. As soon as he came in ... well, he looked rough, but he just endured major abdominal surgery. He was mobile, though, and developed a small spring in his step when he saw us. Bobby hand-fed him some of the bland diet the tech left with us, and Alex ate it, although reluctantly. We took him out for a short walk, and he even cranked up his pace to a light trot. When we got back in, he ate more of his bland diet on his own and drank some water. He laid down and went to sleep while Bobby and I scratched him all over his body.

They had shaved his left foreleg all the way around to accommodate the IV, which meant that they shaved off part of his cowboy fringe! (The long feathers on the backs of his forelegs that look like the fringe on cowboy chaps.) His belly was shaved--they even shaved his penis!--and his incision runs from his groin to midway up his abdomen and is held closed with staples. I asked him what was worse: that they shaved his penis or his cowboy fringe. He was more upset about the cowboy fringe. I pointed out that he sometimes pees on his cowboy fringe. That, he pointed out, was his own choice of how to use his own cowboy fringe. The IV didn't go in the back of his leg, so the cowboy fringe could have been left untouched. Whatever, Alex!

At this point, it is looking like he will be home tomorrow.

As for his long-term prognosis: A sample from the tumor on his spleen will, of course, be sent off for testing. So we will know whether it is malignant (I am almost certain it is) and whether it is the particularly aggressive form of cancer so common to Goldens. (Again: almost certain it is.) BUT--the glimmer of hope since yesterday--Bobby and I have since heard from several people whose dogs were diagnosed with the same cancer, who underwent chemotherapy, and went on to live for several years of good life. (Because that is always my caveat: the life must be worth living. I will not keep him sick and suffering because of our inability to let go. But chemo in dogs is apparently not awful like it is in people.) The hospital where he is now also has several oncologists on staff, so we will get a referral to see one of them once the results of the biopsy is back. We have already started talking with the ER vets about setting that up.

(Once again: I am so grateful that we have been paying all these years into good insurance for both Alex and Lance. Bobby called the insurance company this morning, and Alex's surgery and any further oncology treatments he needs will be fully covered. The vet we spoke to this afternoon was relieved to hear that he had insurance and said she wished more pets did. It is sad to think how many animals are put down for reasons of cost who might otherwise survive.)

When we left, he was distressed to see us go. That is the worst part: that you cannot explain to them that you will be back, that they are not being abandoned. They did let him take his orange football back to his kennel with him, so I hope that will be a little reminder of home and that he will be returning there with us, and soon.

Here he is, from our visit today, looking at a little rough but pretty good, all things considered:

 photo photo 2_zpsra3sol1a.jpg

 photo photo 1_zpsuw8my0fg.jpg
I started this cute entry about my students at work today and now find I cannot post it because I find myself 180 degrees from where I was those eight hours ago. We received some very bad news about Alex today. About two weeks ago, he woke up one morning, very lethargic and holding his body like he was sore in his tummy. Bobby called his vet and managed to get an afternoon appointment, but by the time the afternoon rolled around, Alex was fine again. Today, it happened again. Our vet didn't have any appointments available but referred us to a vet in Westminster, so we took him in as soon as I got home from work.

At first, she could find nothing wrong with him. But he was clearly exhausted and wouldn't even stand up when we pretended to leave and call him. She checked his gums and noticed they were a little pale, so she recommended bloodwork and some X-rays, just to be on the safe side and since he was clearly unwell. We usually can't get Alex to sit down at the vet; now we couldn't get him to stand up.

It's a good thing that she recommended the tests because the bloodwork showed he was slightly anemic, and the X-ray suggested internal bleeding. She inserted a needle into his abdomen, and it immediately filled with blood. She began calling around to emergency vet offices to get him in for more tests and observation. We ended up in Towson because the Carroll County Animal ER had already had one emergency surgery tonight and wasn't sure they had enough blood if he needed a transfusion.

Long story short, an ultrasound at the Towson ER showed a mass on his spleen that had ruptured, causing the internal bleeding. The ER vet explained that a particularly aggressive form of cancer, common in Goldens, often causes blood vessel-rich tumors to form on the liver and spleen. They rupture and cause internal bleeding. They also spread fast, and once they begin to metastasize, dogs generally have 3 to 6 months to live. Our two options were to have his spleen removed or put him down. The ultrasound showed no lesions on his liver or anywhere but his spleen, and his bloodwork was good aside from the slight anemia. He has insurance, so the cost of the surgery was no object, so we chose the first.

On our way home, the vet called from the OR: He had multiple masses on his spleen, and she also spotted two smaller lesions on his liver. She gave us the option to complete the surgery and see how things went, or we could have him put down in surgery. Of course, we chose the first.

I remember like it was yesterday when we first brought him home when he was a baby. I remember what he felt like when I held him in my arms. He was small--too small--and infested with fleas and sick with Lyme disease. He slept constantly, curled in my arms on next to me on the couch. This is too soon to think of his life ending when I still remember it beginning so vividly. You know you will very likely outlive your pets, but he is only eight years old. I thought of us only halfway through our journey together, and now it seems very likely we are at the end.

Throughout the night, Bobby and I looked for every glimmer of hope and kept it as our polestar. Now we are to the point of hoping he recovers quickly enough that we can keep him comfortable and happy and enjoy what time we have left with him. This is too effing soon. Please think good thoughts for my Alex and be patient and kind with me. We both need it.

ETA: The vet just called. Alex is awake after surgery. She said he was remarkably spry for a dog that just had major surgery. We will be able to visit him tomorrow. He will probably come home Wednesday.

Fight, Alex, fight.
We left Liberty at around 12:30 today. Bobby had been talking with our friend Dawn, who lives in town and was watching the Goldens, for the two days while we were gone. Last night, she informed him that the town had run out of salt and so wasn't able to salt the streets. We live within town limits (barely), so the town does our street. We also live at the top of a huge hill; continue up our street past our house, and you look out at the mountains from the highest point in Carroll County. So getting home with the Yaris if the roads were not salted could prove treacherous. Given that, we decided to wait till later in the day, to let the town hopefully get their hands on some salt and, at the very least, let the sun do its work.

Once we were off Route 140, the roads weren't great: still snow-covered in places and a slushy mess in others. This seems to be the MO lately. I don't know what's going on and why it is lately taking so long to clear big roads after a snowfall. Bobby saw something online where a lot of plow drivers were commenting that they hadn't even been called out for this storm; apparently, the state is trying to save money. Wonderful ... because Marylanders aren't perilous enough on the roads when it snows. Ironically, for all of our worry about Manchester, once we crossed into town, the roads were beautiful. I guess they got a hold of some salt. They always do a good job on the roads, and this is definitely one of the perks of living in town. (They also vacuum up the leaves in the fall and pick up Christmas trees, brush, and bulk trash for free.)

Our driveway was, of course, completely inaccessible, since it had a foot of snow as well as a nice pile from the plow at the bottom of it. We parked in Neighbor Bob's driveway while Bobby went to get the snowblower going. And guess what wouldn't start? It is not our luck, it seems, to have motorized things start as they should when we need them in inclement weather. Bah. So we both grabbed shovels and went to work. Luckily, it was a light, powdery snow, and we quickly cleared enough space to park the car and a path to the front door.

Of course, once we were inside, Bobby went to start the truck, and naturally, now that we don't need it, it started right away. And today is much colder than it was on Wednesday; my only hypothesis is that it wouldn't start because of the rain. I don't know enough about cars to know what might be affected by rain that would cause a car not to start, but it's the only thing different between Wednesday and today that makes any inkling of sense.

The official snowfall for Manchester was 11.8 inches/30 cm. Bobby showed me a chart from the National Weather Service last night that ranked the reported snowfall in various locations. Check out who's sitting pretty at #6.

 photo March5snowfallNWS_zpsuzrbuw2s.png

Boo-yah, Manchester, in the top ten! I did see an unofficial report from the NWS with a report of 12.5" from Lineboro, which is the next town east of us, although they share our zip code. I'm not sure if they weren't included because of that or because the report came via CoCoRaHS and not from an NWS-trained spotter. (I am an NWS-trained spotter, yo. Although I haven't actually done anything with that for a couple of years now. After my MA, yaddayadda.) But then there's our friends in Westminster in eighth place! (I don't know where Funkstown is except that it is west of us--in Frederick or Washington County, I think; I used to know when I still assigned parole retake warrants and could tell you where every one-horse town in Maryland was located but that knowledge faded pretty fast--but I always imagine everyone there walks around in bellbottoms and platform shoes.)

My dad swears that Manchester is the coldest place in central Maryland. He insists that when Manchester [rarely] gets a spot on the evening news' weather map, it is always the coldest. I don't watch the evening news, but Manchester does have something of a microclimate. It is colder here, and we do get (and keep) more snow as a result. Not only are we pretty much as far north as one can go in Maryland--I like to joke that I can stand on my front porch and spit into PA--but we have a high elevation relative to the surrounding area. Our house stands at 1040 feet/317 meters above sea level. As noted above, the highest point in Carroll County is just up the road from us; to offer a point of comparison, my parents also live adjacent to the highest point in Baltimore County (the next county east of us), which is 505 feet/154 meters above sea level. Driving west on I-70, you have to go quite a ways into the mountains before the elevation signs show that you're above where our house sits. So it is not unusual, when driving from the bottom of the hill to our house near the top, to watch the thermometer in the car click down 2-3 degrees F as we drive.

With the driveway clear, we enjoyed the nicely cleared town roads as we drove into town to pick up the Goldens. We had a pristine backyard to let them out into; I took a video because they're funny in the snow. Apologies for the jiggly camera work; I was very often looking at something other than the camera.

In summary, these past two days have been awesome, despite first the truck and then the snowblower not starting. I was a good girl the other day and did download the syllabus for my next class, and I got one book read (Frankenstein) and two pages of notes typed up on it. I also got to play around a lot online, so it has not been all work and no play (for which I would get in trouble with a few people around these parts). And Bobby snowboarded for literally 15 hours, which seems ridiculous to me but makes him so very happy.
Bobby and I and my parents decided a few weeks ago that we wanted to go to Ocean City for the holiday weekend. It was a short trip--we left Friday around noon and came home today--but was very, very nice; I wish I was still there. Friday morning, Bobby left for Liberty Mountain to get first chair on their opening day of the season, which was--like last year--unusually early. (The Western resorts like Jackson Hole and Vale also opened this weekend.) He returned ecstatic, having spent the morning on snow that he said was more like January snow than November.

While he was gone, I rushed around getting things ready so that we could leave as soon as he came home. The Goldens knew that something was up as soon as the suitcase came out. As soon as their leashes and seatbelts followed, I had Alex on my heels for the rest of the morning. Despite having been thoroughly exhausted by the Thanksgiving festivities the day before, they managed to ratchet up some excitement for what they knew was an impending trip. Phil went to sleep in the car but Alex stayed awake for the whole three-hour ride.

We arrived in OC at around 3:30, only a couple minutes after my parents arrived. We were staying at the Fenwick Inn, which allows dogs in the wintertime. I took the Goldens to pee; they were both acting like wild animals and drove me crazy in just the short walk to the grassy spot where we take them and back to the hotel. We dropped them off in the room, knowing they were thoroughly exhausted enough to go right to sleep, and headed off to get a late lunch.

More and pictures below the cut! Including the tale of the old creaky hinge ... )
This weekend was fairly mild with another dip in temperatures and potentially our first snowfall due for later in the week, so Bobby finished cleaning up the leaves in the yard. Yesterday, I was able to help him: raking up the last of the leaves and putting a good, thick covering on all the garden beds.

Golden Retrievers pretty much know how to do anything handy that you might find yourself doing around the house, and they are always right there and eager to help. Cleaning up the leaves was no exception. For example, it is very helpful if, when you rake up a pile of leaves, a Golden Retriever lays in the middle of that pile because it keeps the leaves from blowing away.

When Phil did that the first time, I responded by raking the next batch of leaves over top of him. He became indignant and got up from the pile. Later, Alex did the same thing, so I thought, "Well, it worked with Phil, so it'll probably work with him too."

Photos beneath the Cut )
Yesterday was a very fun day: "Midmoot," or a gathering organized at the midway points between Mythmoots for local Tolkien fans affiliated with the Mythgard Institute. Bobby and I both went; participants pooled money to fly Professor Olsen down for a day-long seminar and dinner. (Professor Olsen is awesome: so down-to-earth and hilarious and brilliant.) It was in Alexandria, Virginia, which is not that far but manages to be that far: almost three hours from Manchester by the time all was said and done! Yikes. Just over an hour in the car and the rest of the time on the Metro. (Although, as Bobby put it, we did cross a state and all of DC in one of the busiest parts of the country.)

But it was worth the trip: The seminar was a series of informal talks and discussions but touched on several intriguing topics related to Tolkien and speculative fiction more generally. I thought about signing up to present something but sat on my hands, being overwhelmed generally at this point with academic stuff. Best of all, I got to hang out again with MithLuin, whom I've known online for many years and knew lived in Maryland and somehow managed to never meet in person till last Mythmoot when I complimented a woman on her Curufin costume and the rest is history. (I should have known. I mean Curufin? Really?? She had to be one of my own kind.) We had a great supper at the Bilbo Baggin's restaurant in Alexandria, in which Bobby, MithLuin, and I managed to talk about pretty much everything but Middle-earth (although we did talk about Tolkien's Beowulf a bit and MithLuin humored me by letting me yammer about my thesis a bit).

6:30 came too soon! The party went on for a while after that, but Bobby and I had that almost three-hour trip to make again, plus animals waiting at home to go out and pee, plus work the next day with planning still undone (for me). It sucked, though, having to leave; we've decided we are definitely staying on-site for Mythmoot this year because, however nice it is to live in the hinterlands most of the time, it isn't cool when you're having fun with friends and have to leave early. We had to leave Pub Trivia early this year at Mythmoot in an attempt to beat a snowstorm home (and we barely made it).

The drive home (or the "home drive" as I just typed it) was less painful until we reached Westminster and drove into a storm. So the poor Goldens had to hold their pee even longer because, when the rain subsided enough for me to let them out, they pretty much did a U-turn on the patio and gave me ugly looks like I was crazy for sending them out in the first place.

Speaking of Goldens ... today is Phil's birthday. He is seven. They're aging too fast ... So, for the next two months, until Alex turns eight, they will not be the Goldens but the Sevens.*

*They are Goldens and not dogs in the first place because, in the wilds of my imagination where most of the beings and objects of importance in my life are not only personified but characterized, then the Goldens take great umbrage at being known as dogs, a species they regularly rail against (sometimes including threats involving antifreeze).

I just downloaded a bunch of pictures of the Sevens off of our camera, but Photobucket is being a witch-with-a-capital-B and took just about forever to upload just two pictures of Phil. So those two pictures will have to suffice for now. They are really cute pictures, though.

The Little One on His Birthday! )
Welp, it's been a busy past few weekends, hence my relative silence here. Bobby and I have been spending most of our time outside, getting ready for planting season. Everything was crunched into April and the first few weeks of May (versus beginning in March) since we were under a blanket of snow for just about all of March. And last year, what with Bobby taking his Outdoor Emergency Care class for ski patrol and me physically unable to do much beyond moan and groan, we slacked off on things like weeding, so we have extra to do this year, since one thing weeds do very well is make more weeds and survive conditions that kills just about everything else living. (The latter attested by the number of plants we lost this winter: both blueberries, a holly bush, both rose trees, and the arborvitae, of course. We also have broadleaf evergreen shrub that is trying hard to live with some modest success after all the foliage on it dying this winter. But the dandelions are doing great! :)

Anyway, Mother's Day is the traditional planting day in central Maryland for tender plants, so true to tradition, we started to put our plants into the ground a week ago, which means that this week has been a lot of weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; and so on. But everything is now in the ground and doing great.

I wish I could say the same for our bees. Bee-Talk Cut for Those Who Prefer to Avoid Bee-Talk :) )

We've also been busy socially, seeing friends on the weekend (sometimes accidentally! We went out for Indian on Friday, and I usually email our friends Tristan and Don to see if they want to meet us over there, but we decided to go so late that I didn't this time. But when we arrived, who had arrived only just shortly before us? So we got permission to combine our tables.) Last night, we hosted dinner for our parents as a belated Mother's Day dinner. We had a green salad, teriyaki chicken (asparagus quesadilla for me!), Bobby's incredible "island rice," grilled asparagus seasoned with that ubiquitous Maryland seasoning of Old Bay, and tres leche cake for dessert, topped with fresh strawberries and mango. Bobby made piña coladas and got the moms pretty soused. I was supposed to make strawberry ice cream, but every place we checked this weekend was sold out of local strawberries (Bobby had bought his for the cake earlier in the week), so I had to do vanilla instead.

We are dogsitting for our friend Dawn this weekend, so in addition to our two big dogs, we have her big black dog Duffy. And my inlaws, of course, brought their Great Pyrenees Bella, so the house was overrun with dogs. Big dogs.

More & Pictures below the Cut )
Alex had his vet appointment this afternoon for his sore leg. He's been favoring his right hind leg a lot lately; when he first gets up, he'll limp and hold the leg off the ground. He is sometimes slow to get up, and once when we pushed him over on the bed, he showed his teeth, like we'd hurt him. We assumed that, since he's seven, he maybe had a touch of arthritis, a theory compounded by the fact that my sister's dog--who is around his age--was just diagnosed with the same.

But the vet checked his leg and pronounced that he has injured his ACL: not torn it, which would require surgery, but just strained it. So instead of having an old man's arthritis, he has an athlete's injury! (He is named after Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.) It's not surprising given the way he plays. He's on anti-inflammatories for two weeks and not allowed to run, play, or do anything more strenuous than a 5- to 10-minute walk on-lead or go outside to use the bathroom. The proscription on running and playing is going to be the hardest part, since he tears around the yard on his own and plays hard with his brother both in and out of the house. (They get in trouble pretty much every night during dinner for playing tug with inappropriate toys or the famous "ad hominem attack," when they wrestle in the house, which they are not allowed to do, with their combined weight of 150 lbs. They go into the living room where we can't see them, but I can hear their mouths snapping open and closed at each other and will holler, "No ad hominem attack!" at which point they'll come back into the dining room all wide-eyed and innocent to be reminded to "Attack the toy, not the man.") Dr. Baker is worried that he could tear his ACL, which would require an expensive surgery to fix. So we have to endure the two-week torture of keeping him from running and playing, she said, to avoid the much worse torture of paying for an expensive surgery. (Alex has health insurance, so presumably that would cover all or most of it, but we'd still rather avoid it altogether if we can.) He'll go back for a re-evaluation in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Phil was sitting on the floor next to me and let out this squeaky fart, which scared him enough to propel him to his feet and partway across the room, looking behind himself like, "WTF was that??!"

Phil went with us to the vet because, when we opened the door to let Alex out, Phil ran out too and to the car. Alex had his leash on, so that was the logical conclusion! Since we got Phil at 9 weeks, I can probably count on one hand the number of times he's been separated from Alex, and he seems incapable of wrapping his brain around the idea of Alex going somewhere separate from him. So we just let him have the ride in the car.

Completely unrelated, but today is the first full day of spring break! \0/ It's pretty nice outside, in the mid-50s and sunny. We only ended up with a dusting of snow the other day, thank goodness, and all the plants that looked damaged by the deep freeze have pretty much sprung back. It's supposed to get progressively nicer during the weekend. Tomorrow, we're planning to go to Gettysburg for a late lunch or early dinner at the French restaurant and then to see The Grand Budapest Hotel at the Majestic. Saturday, we are going back into Baltimore (twice in a week, which might be a record!) on the lightrail for lunch at a highly rated Indian restaurant, a visit to the Walters Art Museum for a bookbinding exhibit, back on the lightrail to the Inner Harbor, where we plan to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore, then take the water taxi across to Fells Point to meet Pat and Chanel for a beer festival at Max's Bar and a slice of pizza at the legendary BOP (Brick Oven Pizzeria). And Sunday, continuing what we both have decided is a nice tradition of enjoying nature on the day of Easter for us (since we don't celebrate Easter but most things are closed that day), that we started last year when we went to the Grand Canyon, we are going to ride our bikes and have a picnic lunch along the North Central Railroad Trail. I guess an upside to us being out of the house is that Alex will be forced to stay in!
Every few days, I think, "I should write in my journal about that!" but then never actually do. Although I'm not taking any classes right now, it's a busy time of the year in the House of Felagund, and I've been staying very loyal to my gym schedule. And I've been busy at work, with a large senior class this year and all of them in some form of jeopardy (usually related to HSAs), plus the after-school program. And trying to get the B2MeM ebook together. Anyway, I've been photographing things, so I'll at least share my photos and some updates will likely straggle along with those photos.

Pictures below the Cut ... )
We didn't think that we were going to make it to Ocean City this weekend. We got dug out from the big snow just fine (one of the good things about living in town limits: that we don't have to wait for county plows to make it to the side streets!), but the "snow showers" that were supposed to leave us with a dusting on Friday night got bumped up to a "winter weather advisory" with the possibility of another 6 inches/15 cm through Saturday afternoon. *headwall* Then, to add injury to insult, Bobby came down with this weird 24-hour virus that has been going around the school and had chills and fever for much of Friday. We didn't want to trust that it would run its course in 24 hours with him, so we held off on making reservations.

But Saturday morning, we woke up and Bobby was not only feeling better but the winter weather was actually downgraded for probably the first time this winter. (The winter weather advisory was cancelled everywhere but ... Carroll and northern Baltimore Counties. *sigh*) So Bobby made us a reservation, we grabbed some leftovers for lunch, and packed ourselves and the Goldens into the car. It started snowing lightly in the early afternoon and snowed the entire way down, until we were within a few miles of Ocean City, but the temperatures were several degrees above freezing, so it didn't stick to the roads. I had some final revisions to do on my paper, so these were done at 60 mph, while cruising down the highway. (Bobby was driving, not me. I can read and write just about anywhere, but not while driving!)

When we arrived, the weather was awful. It was raining with a fierce wind and about 38F/3C. We ended up staying at the Fenwick Inn because it was the only place Bobby could get a pet accommodation at the last minute. (The last time we stayed here, someone died in the pool, among other horrors!) We swore we wouldn't stay here again but such is the desperation to get away from the almost three feet of snow we have at home and see the ocean. And it's been nice; they've put a literal and figurative coat of paint on the place.

We went for a delicious and HUGE supper at Tequila Mockingbird, then headed back to the hotel to hang out in the pool and hot tub (which no one has died in this time, to the best of my knowledge). We went to bed ridiculously early; we were both exhausted. We woke in the small hours of the morning to Phil sitting on the other bed and barking at the air, then again a short while later when something went rolling across the floor overhead. (The restaurant is above us, so for all I know, someone dropped a cantaloupe.)

As miserable as was yesterday's weather was as beautiful as was today's. The skies were clear and the sun was beaming; it was a balmy 40F/4.5C but felt more like 50F/10C in the sun. Bliss. And there is no snow down here. It's like being on another planet.

We had lunch at The Shark on the Habor, which is an incredible restaurant in West OC set alongside the commercial harbor. They serve all local foods. I had southwestern sweet potato soup and a cauliflower "steak"; Bobby had the fisherman's stew and a crabcake sandwich. We stopped at the inlet on the way back and blew $10 in quarters in Marty's Playland, playing pinball and the two-player Deadstorm Pirates game that includes such lovely English translations as "Shoot that burly monster!" (Not as good as the infamous--but turned off this time--Ocean Hunters game, in which one is encouraged to "Aim the throat!" and "Aim the eye!" whilst fighting various monsters.) Then, back to the room to get the Goldens and take them for a turn on the Boardwalk.

At this point, we started taking pictures, so the rest goes below the cut. More and Pictures below the Cut! )
Well, the predicted snowstorm has hit with a vengeance. We are currently in a lull (Bobby told me the technical meteorological term for it but I forgot what it was), but it is expected to pick back up tonight. (ETA ... it is actually freezing rain again out, which SUCKS.) Bobby estimates that we have gotten about 16 inches (41 cm) so far. We could get 6 additional inches (15 cm) tonight. It is hard to estimate the depth because it has also been very windy, so the snow is drifted quite high in places. We also had quite a bit on the ground from the storm last week. I'll be interested to see what the NWS reports as our official snowfall totals.

Thank goodness the ice was finally out of the trees before this hit. That could have been a disaster. Or maybe I spoke too soon! The power just flickered. It is really windy outside right now.

Bobby took some pictures out in the yard when he went out to clear the front steps.

Pictures Featuring Goldens and Freyja and Snow beneath the Cut )
Today is Imbolc, which is the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. To all who observe Imbolc as part of your spiritual or cultural tradition, I wish you a good day and spring to come!

Today was a rather appropriate Imbolc for us. Today is the warmest it's been in weeks. Read more... )
  • Every now and then, I have one of those social butterfly weekends. This was one of those weekends. Bobby and I met our friends Tristan and Don for Indian food on Friday night. On Saturday, we hosted a Burns supper for six of our friends in the SCA. It was so, so much fun. The food, prepared by Bobby (except vanilla ice cream by moi), was fabulous and plentiful. We had some big eaters at the party and still put away leftovers. There was beer and Scotch. Lots of empty bottles, and four different kinds of Scotch to pass around. (I indulged in my favorite, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, and ended up quite happy.)

  • Sunday was less good. Bobby was at Ski Patrol training, taking the sled down a double black diamond run with moguls (apparently the most challenging run to do with the sled on a snowboard) when some ass on skis cut in front of him. To avoid hitting the guy, Bobby put on the brakes hard and ended up wiping out and reinjuring the shoulder he separated last year. So he's back in the sling. It's not as bad as the injury last year, thankfully. Two of the senior patrolers took off after the guy who caused the accident and gave him a piece of their minds at the bottom of the hill.

  • It's been ridiculously cold now for over a week. It is presently 12F/-11C. Yesterday, it got above freezing here for the first time since last week. When I woke up in the morning, it was 33F/1C and actually felt warm outside when I went out to care for the chickens. It was short-lived, though, and by going-home time that afternoon, was back down below freezing again.

  • I am almost done with my current grad school class. The class is on the Enlightenment and is the one where I am the only student in the class. It has been ... okay. It is just not the time period that I am most interested in, and the reading has been lengthy and intense, with a paper due for each work.

    • The Memoirs of Princess Dashkova

    • The Confessions of J.J. Rousseau (this guy is fucking crazy and the book is about as long as Don Quixote*)

    • Pride and Prejudice (this week felt like vacation!!)

    • the major works of Thomas Paine (totaling to DQ length again)

    • The Journals of Lewis and Clark (not the whole thing thank god)

    It has been hard to motivate myself. I have my final paper left and a multimedia presentation of my abstract, and that's it. I finished the Lewis and Clark paper this weekend. I think the final paper is going to be on idealistic depictions of Nature in Rousseau and Paine and how each author uses the concept of the "natural man" in developing his ideas of the ideal government and civilization. Doesn't that sound exciting? The good thing is that I have most of my sources already from the papers I already had to write on these authors.

    *Don Quixote has long been my standard for what counts as a long book, ever since middle-school Spanish class when the length of DQ was the subject of hushed awe by my teacher. I had to read DQ for my last class on the Renaissance so it is on my Kindle now, and it is easy to compare its length to that of other books by the number of little dots below it on the listing.

  • I am taking March off from school. I can do crazy things like that now that I'm no longer on financial aid.

  • The Goldens got into a fight yesterday. I had taken some overcooked, stale wontons out to the chickens. The wind caught them and blew a few of them and a lot of crumbs past the fence and onto the snow. Phil gobbled up the whole wontons right away. I didn't think much of it. Bobby and I were eating breakfast when we heard one of the Goldens start crying outside. We both ran to the door since there is a possum living in the shed, and we were afraid one of them had gotten to it. But no ... Phil had his jaws closed on Alex's head and was pinning him to the ground while Alex screamed. Alex has a small puncture over his right eye. As far as we can tell, they were fighting over the wonton crumbs, as though they don't have ample meat-based food constantly available in the house.

  • And I think that's all.
For the past two years, every time some sort of winter weather is forecast, either 1) nothing happens or 2) the temperature is just shy of freezing and all we get is dumb rain. This time, they actually got it right--in fact, we got more snow than predicted! When Bobby went out around sunset, he measured 9 inches (27 cm). That's the most we've had in a couple of years.

We went out to Westminster this morning at around 8:30 because we had a couple of things that we needed pre-storm. We had four quick stops and then planned to get breakfast while we were out. When we pulled into Goodwill to drop off a bag of donations, it was snowing lightly. Three minutes later, it was starting to stick to the road. We decided to skip breakfast, and it's a good thing we did, because by the time we were back to Manchester (about a 12-minute drive), the roads were coated in snow, and it was difficult to get up the hill to our street.

The storm is supposed to continue tonight, with sleet and freezing rain; since the winter storm warning is in effect until 10 AM tomorrow, I think it's very likely we won't have school tomorrow. In fact, my cousin (also a teacher in this family of pedagogues!) just posted to Facebook that her district just closed. Bobby's dream is that 1) schools will be closed tomorrow, 2) Liberty will be open, and 3) we will be able to get out by late morning/early afternoon so that he can go snowboarding. He's been up there several times so far, but only for work or for training.

Okay, so I was about to write about the [lack of] salting and plowing in Carroll County today, but who cares about that crap, right? Bobby took an adorable picture of the Goldens early in the snowstorm, when the flakes were light and fluffy and easily stuck to their hair. Now that's the kind of content that matters!

 photo Goldensinthesnowdec13_zps3c01da04.jpg

You can tell we've had a dearth of snow these past two years by the amount of time I've spent talking about it.

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