Monday, April 27, 2009


I was finally getting caught up visiting my blog friends' blogs, but my sister has taken a turn for the worse and had to go back into the hospital for a little bit.

So I'm driving back up to Toledo today.

One of Martha's friends has graciously invited me to stay, saving me beaucoups de hotel money. But she isn't a computer person, so I'll only have a few minutes of access if I find a coffee shop or something.

I'm leaving Bill with all nine dogs. He's a saint. Please send him and the dogs positive thoughts.

No Bill, no dogs, no computer. Oh boy. I am building some kickass character this year. (It feels like the old bra commercial: no visible means of support!)

hug your hounds

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Quilt Week Walk -or three - Come on Along! (and a treasure)

First, look at this lovely painting that a dear, dear reader sent of Giacomino and Maria!

Thank you Sharon, I absolutely treasure it!

Today marks the end of Quilt Week in Paducah.

30,000 quilters come to our city of 27,000 (they outnumber us!) to experience all that is the Annual Quilt Show and Contest of the American Quilter's Society. People from Australia, Japan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Sweden, France, Brazil, and all over this good world.

The Quilters love Paducah. And, dear readers, it is reciprocal. Paducah loves the quilters. We are the home of The Museum of the American Quilter's Society, and because of all of this, Paducah is known as Quilt City, USA.

These quilters aren't ho-hum, no, no, no. They are fiber artists. Take a look HERE. If you're new to quilting, check out Mountain Chapel, My Home Town, and Feather Story. HOLY SCHMOLY!!! Can you believe they do that with fabric!!!! Zounds.

But walks must go on, Quilt Week or no, they simply take on a new and exciting flavor. The first walk is Mama Pajama, Spice and Easy. We go collect Tracey and Francie and meet sweet neighbor Stefanie, who joins us. (Tracey said, "Don't you put me in this picture on your blog. Don't you do that!" So I didn't.)

L to R - Spice, Easy, Mama Pajama, Francie in the foreground, Stef holding the leads

Then we said hey to our sweet neighbor Kate, who was out working on her beautiful gardens.

Francie wondered what the heck all of these cars were doing in our little neighborhood. Hmmm?

The first walk completed, we headed off on the second walk.

L to R - Fat Charlie who really had to poop bad, Francie, Delia, and Luciano. Legs? Whose legs? What legs? Those are not Tracey's gorgeous long legs. They are not. I said "No your legs aren't in the photo. Don't worry about it. Nowhere near."

The third and final walk is the longest. We go all the way to the river with the young'uns, which takes us through downtown. There we can take pictures of ourselves, reflected in the store windows.

L to R - Francie, Tracey who appeared to be getting in this photo on purpose, uh-huh, sure looks to me, Swede William, Lindy Loo, your writer, Sam I Am.

Oh, yeah, now she's even posing!

Paducah's charming Renaissance District (downtown, and our adjoining neighborhood of Lowertown) was teeming with fun people. And so many of them were missing their dogs at home.

"Look! Greyhounds!"
Oh, dear readers, I would be one wealthy person if I had a ha'penny for every time I heard those words. And each time, ("Are they all rescued?") I have to decide whether to smile and walk on, or explain that these look like greyhounds, only they're smaller and they're actually their own whole breed. Whippets.

People don't like to be wrong.

Sometimes they try to convince me. "No, them are greyhounds."


But during Quilt Week, particularly the Brits and the Aussies chorus, "Lovely whippets! Lovely dogs!" Smilin' words.
After all that walking, Tracey and I had worked up a powerful hunger and it was lunch time and we noticed, lo and behold, that we had arrived back in our neighborhood at our favorite coffee house, Et Cetera.

The dogs checked the pretty flowers for huntable bumble bees, and we...

... PIGGED OUT! Homemade spinache quiche right out of the oven, fresh strawberries with yogurt and granola and a peach Izzie for me. YUMMMMMMM. Tracey started out with quiche and just strawberries, but she went back later and got the yogurt and granola too.

(Did I mention yumm? I think I did. In case I didn't: YUMMMMM.)

Et Cetera owner Allan is painting a labyrinth. It is way beyond cool, and another example of the magic of this place.

When we got home, we wallered on the porch. After all that pigging out, wallerin' was about all I was good for.
Easy is learning that folks who walk by our sidewalk are okay. Last evening, instead of barking at a group of home tour-ers, he ran and got the giant moose toy and brought it to them. He set to pulling Mr. Moose's mane off, which lodged in Easy's teeth, giving him the silliest beard!

Neighbor Auntie Karen had her iPhone and got these precious shots (you can click to enlarge, use your back button to return):

hug your hounds

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easy and Spice



It give me the greatest pleasure, Dear Readers, to introduce you to Easy and Spice. Easy is officially Wistwind's Easy Livin CD, ARX, CR, LCM, CanFCh, TRP, CGC, AV. (When a dog has that many titles, we call it alphabet soup!) Spice is Wistwind's Spice Twice, FCh, TRP. I think that she has her Canadian Field Championship, too. And she might have her Lure Courser of Merit (LCM), but I'm not sure.
They were born on October 29, 1997. And, as you know, they were bred and loved and treasured by my friends Greg and Carolyn Mountan, both of whom recently passed away.

So Spice and Easy now live at our house.

The blending of the canine family has been as smooth as the skin on a baby whippet belly. (That's smooth!) I can't imagine - still - what the last year was like for these two eleven and a half year old siblings. Though their tails wagged and they sat on laps and begged at the dinner table during their first week here, they also had moments of looking lost. They stayed right next to me. Spice tried to bury some of her food instead of eating. If I moved while they were napping, they jumped right up. Wagging, but a little worried.

I must brag a bit on the Warburton Waggle. They have been so generous and gracious! No arguments over toys, treats, beds, couches, anything. Easy and Spice were very close to Greg as well as Carolyn, and they want to snuggle with Bill, especially Spice. Delia has shared her personal manservant. And even her chair! Amazing.

Spice in Delia's chair!

Now, after onlytwelve days, Spice is eating all her food. Easy has a favorite stuffie squirrel. Yesterday he was bouncing around the yard with it, Tigger style. Shaking it dead, tossing it in the air and pouncing on it, bucking up and down. Wagging and rahring. My heart was beaming so hard, I think the rays must have shot out of my butt and toes and nose and hairs. And oh how those two enjoy their city walks! They come and tell me if I'm tardy.

They're no longer glued to me. The curl up with their new housemates on couches and beds. If I'm doing something boring downstairs they'll go on upstairs and claim the prime spots. They are settling in.

Easy and Sam I Am

But I can't call them my dogs. Even though I love them as such, when people say, "Are these your new dogs?" I say, "They are my friends' dogs. They've come to stay with us."

And that's just it: Easy and Spice will forever be Greg and Carolyn's dogs. I simply have the lovely privilege of taking care of them for a while.

hug your hounds

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great Hairy Support Socks!

Last Friday, our (meaning Paducah's, not the Royal "our") gorgeous Performing Arts Center held a fundraising luncheon. Our gorgeous Performing Arts Center is officially The Luther F. Carson Four Rivers (Performing Arts) Center because they couldn't decide what name to give it so they used all they had. I did not add the (Performing Arts) part. That's the official name. Anyway it is a beautiful facility and we get to see Broadway touring shows and our own Paducah Symphony and more.

The fundraiser was a Vintner's luncheon. Wine tasting. I write a weekly column for our most AWESOME community e-calendar iList Paducah dot com, the iPet of the Week. iList Paducah bought a table, and I was invited as a guest. I'm the best guest to invite to a wine tasting luncheon, because I don't drink wine. Anymore. I miss drinking wine, oh yes I do. But with a not so great family history, and a personal history of looking forward to five o'clock starting at, oh, ten in the morning, I decided three years ago to quit while I was ahead. Dammit.

I was doing something Friday morning, I don't know what, (I'm sure it wasn't visiting blogs or playing Wordscraper on Facebook) but next thing I knew it was eleven and I was supposed to be there between 11:30 and 12:00.

Now, I know people with better priorities would have had an outfit all picked out and jewelry and shoes and maybe they would have had their hair done. I figured I had those hanging clothes I had forgotten to take to the National. Yup there they were. And that would go okay with my only pair of dress shoes, which aren't so dressy after two, three years of dog shows in the mud, dusty buildings, wet grass, etc. They are black flats with a little ballet slipper sort of faux bow. They were black once. Now they are blackish with lots of scuff marks on the toes and heels that let the gray leather show through. Stylin'!
Oh, who looks at shoes, I say.

So I quickly showered, no need to shave legs since I'd be wearing black pantyhose, and realized that I need to cut my hair. (Haven't made time for a real haircut for three or four years. I just use my big sewing scissors and hack away at it.) No time now. I needed to be at the Carson Center in twenty minutes and still had to dress, put on make up - that would entail my 3 year old mascara and 8 year old blush, do I get my money's worth or what - let the dogs out and put them up with their treats.

I couldn't find the pantyhose. I knew I had a pair. I saw the photos of the black pantyhose oh so inappropriately paired with the pale peach pants I showed Swede William in at the National. I checked the laundry (clean and dirty), the suitcase, the drawer, the closet, inside the pale peach pants in the dry cleaning basket, and then, defining insanity, I checked the same places all over again. And again. One more time for luck.

During these searches I happened upon my (formerly Bill's) trusty old black ribbed support socks. While I was gone, sweet Bill had washed them. Apparently he had washed them with dog bedding, because they were bristling with little white dog hairs. I mean every square inch of the socks had 647 little white dog hairs sticking out.

I searched again for the panty hose.

Tick, tick, tick.

Tempted to can the whole luncheon thing. Not feeling so festive. Wanting to cry. Again.
Oh Patience! You silly twit! You are a 55 year old, thoroughly married woman. Bill was in Chicago. (I don't know how that pertains, but he was.) You need to get out and laugh.
Right. On go the hairy support socks and the ancient dog show shoes. Under the lower-calf-length skirt. Out went the dogs, in went the dogs with their biscuits, Easy and Spice loose in the kitchen/dining room because that's where they are happiest, and off I drove to the Carson Center in the Warburton Whippet Wagon, sitting forward hunched against the steering wheel because I had a black blazer on and the seat back is covered with little white hairs, too.

The The Luther F. Carson Four Rivers (Performing Arts) Center is huge. They had thoughtfully stationed a volunteer outside the appropriate set of doors to direct wine tasting guests. I could see her reflection in the glass doors after I passed her. I saw her pleasant expression contort in shock and then register abject horror as her eyes swept down my retreating backside and arrived, unwillingly at the shabby shoes and hairy ribbed support socks.
So, me being me, as I greeted friends, acquaintances and complete strangers, I felt compelled to show them my hairy ribbed support socks and dog show shoes. "I couldn't find my pantyhose," I explained. As if this was a common occurrence to ladies everywhere dressing for vintner's luncheons.

As if.

But after all it was a charitable bunch of good souls. Everyone laughed good naturedly. And everyone felt better about their own appearance!

I aim to please.

hug your hairy hounds

Monday, April 20, 2009

Swede William at the National

The Board meeting started at 6:30. In the morning. When the meeting time was announced, I asked if 6:30 a.m. is an actual time? Does it exist in reality? Apparently, yes, it does.

Swede William stayed in bed with his brand new friends Lavender and Colin and his human friend Crystal while I showered. I've gotten so incredibly techno that I can set a wake up alarm on my cell phone. Yes, I am impressed with myself, as I'm sure you are as well. It's silly, because if I set an alarm, I wake up minutes before it goes off anyway, but there you go.

I dressed (remember I had cleverly left my hanging clothes on the back of the bedroom door in Western Kentucky) in the only pair of non-khaki, non-denim pants I had. A pale peach silk pair of oldies but goodies, with a cotton camel turtleneck sweater - a recent hand-me-down gift from a generous friend (had you recognised it, Deb?) - that didn't really match, oh well. It was warm and comfy. I took a good-natured little Swedish whippet out for a walk around the hotel grounds as the sun groaned over the smoggy horizon, plopped him in his crate in the van with breakfast, and kissed him.

Did he protest the early hour? Being alone in the van? Dining solo? He did not. He was snugly in his Wistwind Goretex and shearling coat and he gave me a Scandinavian wink and a nod: I'm cool! Life is grand! Go do your silly human thing; I'm going back to sleep.

The Board meeting was not finished by the time Board members had to show their puppies, so we would reconvene during the lunch break. I honestly can't remember what I did. I'm sure I immediately got William and went for another good walk. We must have watched for a while. Oh! The conversation about the borrowed skirt and the butt sweats occurred. I avoided the booths as much as I could, only I had to buy some liver for bait. (See Swede William's adoringly attentive expression in the top photo? Liver.)

The meeting concluded at lunch. We would reconvene once more after the votes had been counted to elect Board officers.

Time for Swede William's class, Open Dogs. All of the dogs entered the ring in the Atlanta Hilton ballroom with the wild carpet. The class was so large that, after having a first impression look at the entire entry, the judge split the class into thirds, keeping only the first third in the ring. William was in the second third. Again (this is a little scary) I can't recall what I did in the meantime, but when the judge had chosen his 'keepers' from the first third, and the second third went back into the ring for their turn, Swede William and I were among them.

The dog loves, loves, loves to show. He can get a little persnickety about the judge examining his bite (well, who knows where those hands have been) and I was worried. Seemed like just about everyone at the National wanted a close up view of William's eyes. (The American whippet standard calls for a dark, "nearly black" eye. This is a genetic impossibility in dogs of William's color - which is why you don't see many showing in this country. William's eyes are as dark as genetically possible, but people want to see for themselves.) A handy way to look at a whippet's eyes is to grab his nose and turn his face up to you. And about 236 people had done that so far that day outside the ring. So I worried that William had had enough of strangers' hands on his muzzle.

Oh and a word about the judge. He's oh my God handsome. Cary Grant handsome only better. Oh how I wished I could have shown him Lindy Loo, and her handsome brother Emmett. And I wished I could have shown Sam I Am in agility and rally, and Looch and Delia in Veteran's, but it was not to be. I was going to fulfill my promise to William's breeder Lisa, and William would show in the National. Dammit.

He was a Very Good Dog. He didn't mind hunka hunka judge's hands in his mouth one bit. He did everything right. And he made the cut!!! Woohoooo! That's a big deal to make the cut at the National. He would come back in with the other keepers.

Only now the Board had to gather to elect officers. We discussed. I said, "I have to keep track of time, because my Open dog made the cut." We discussed more. I tried to see what was going on in the ball room, but couldn't. More discussion. "I think I better go now. Whatever you decide is fine with me."

William and I dashed back into the ballroom, to a chorus of "Patience, get IN there! They're back in already! Hurry UP!" from the spectators. The dogs were all lined up in the middle of the ring, facing the crowd. We had missed the grand entrance and first go around. I found an opening in the middle and squoze in. Redfaced.

William was just happy to be playing again.

And he finished third in Open Dogs at the National.

Good boy. Congratulations, Lisa. Not only did you breed a handsome, correct, fast whippet who floats around the ring with ease. You bred a dog with the best temperament in the world, and a shining, wonderful heart! Well done and thank you.

hug your hounds

(photos by William's friend Joe Stewart, who kindly held a jealous screaming William ringside at shows when he was a pup and I was in the ring with Lindy Loo and Emmett)

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Yes, Dear Readers, you have been kind and more through this rant. I will share a few important or funny details and then get back to being a good blogger - sticking to stories of the good stuff (like poop picking up techniques) and the joys of living with these wonderful, amazing animals.

I remember at the National a very generous Canadienne offering to lend me a skirt to show Swede William in, since I had left my show clothes hanging on my bedroom door in Kentucky. Oh, Dear Readers. I recalled that conversation, lying in bed the other night. It went like this:

Kind Canadienne: Oh I have a skirt that would be perfect! It's very cute.
Brown houndstooth, and it's flippy and has pockets. It would look really
with your dog.

Patience: Really? That would be

KC: Okay, just come up to my room anytime.


KC: What?

P: Well, I still get nervous when I
show... and...

KC: You don't!

P: I do. And
when I get nervous, I get the butt sweats. I don't want to get
the butt
sweats in your cute flippy skirt!

KC: (laughing)

But thanks anyway.

KC: (Still laughing) Who doesn't get the butt
sweats! Don't worry about

P: No, really. But thanks.

Sigh. Thank goodness the Kind Canadienne has a gentle heart and a great sense of humor.

Carolyn's Friend Number One (hereafter known as Saint Friend Number One) drove Easy and Spice all the way to TOLEDO. (I had driven to Toledo from Atlanta to see my sister.) There was a park adjacent to the hospital parking lot with a nice place to walk, and lots of squirrels. Easy and Spice got to sleep in bed with me and Swede William. It worked out just fine. They were very excited to see me, and I them, and William was glad to make their acquaintence. We had a couple of days to bond before heading back to Paducah.

I was worried about incorporating them into the waggle, especially since I had been gone so long. I stopped about a half hour out and pottied and fed them. When we got home first, I went in and oh did I hug my hounds! And I hugged my Bill. I had to face the house without a Very Old Voice welcoming me home. After greetings were thoroughly exchanged, I put up the waggle and brought in Easy and Spice.


Easy (you can see his tumors)


Easy, bottom in the black bed, Spice on the bench, with Sam, Lindy Loo and Swede William

Easy and Spice walking with our friend Francie

I let Fat Charlie and Mama Pajama in first, and they sniffed for a second until their eyes and tails showed their recognition of their old pals. They hadn't seen each other in four or five years. And one by one the rest of the waggle came in. Easy and Spice were gracious, and I was really proud of my guys and gals. There wasn't a raised whisker. Not a hackle to be seen. Just lots of wags and sniffs and life was grand.

I showed Easy and Spice their new digs. Easy and Spice showed that they belonged here by peeing on every bed, chair, doorframe, expanse of floor or carpet, wall, you name it. It was rather comical, me following them around with a bottle of woolite oxy in one hand and a clorox rag in the other, occasionally shrieking "Oh please! Oops! Oh well. Ack! Oh Not THERE! Woopsie!".
The good news is that after that initial marking spree (which only lasted as long as the home tour did) there has been not one accident. You may recall that Easy had surgery for thyroid cancer in January of '08. That was supposed to give him a good quality ten months to a year. We prayed that he would spare Carolyn the heartache of losing him, and good boy he did! The cancer is back, and wearing a collar was causing bruising, so, he is breaking my cardinal rule of wearing a tag collar at all times. He goes naked. I am using a front attaching harness on him for his walks and it works just GREAT!

Fat Charlie by rights should be the bed dog now. He's letting his friend Easy have that priviledge, and Easy, who's been a couch dog but never a bed dog before is a natural at it!

I see Carolyn every time I look at her sweet dogs' faces. And that's good. I'm grateful for fifteen wonderful years with a once in a lifetime dog and that's good. I have the most courageous big sister in the world. And I ask your prayers for her.

hug your hounds
and thank you for your amazing kindness, understanding, and generosity

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We're Home/Thank You/Figuring Things Out - part 4

(Carolyn's Early doesn't know he's missing a hind leg. He's a whippet.)

Swede William got in the van on Tuesday and we headed for Atlanta. Sort of. Sam I Am was not happy at being left home, and I sure wasn't happy about leaving him; he figured if ever there was a human in need of his special gifts, I was it. I worried that William would freak being the only canine occupant of the Warburton Whippet Wagon.

I should not have worried. Swede William was a s.t.a.r. No, he was a S.T.A.R. And the trip was longer than the seven hours it should have been. I drove the 2.5 hours to Nashville, and headed east on route 40, like I always do. Kind, dear friends kept me company on the phone, talking about everything and nothing. They talked, I croaked. I had done some serious harm to my vocal chords.

And then Heather called from Paducah.

"How's the trip going?" she asked.

"Great," I croaked. "I'm almost to Knoxville already."

[pause] "... Knoxville?"

As soon as she said it, I knew.

"Oh NOOOOOO," I groaned. "Oh, Heather, I'm on the whole wrong road, aren't I? I'm on I-40 and I should be on I-24. I'm heading home to Maryland instead of down to Atlanta."

Thank goodness she had called. I had gone about 150 miles out of my way. I got off, and studied my atlas and found a perfectly nice route south to reconnect me with I-24. It was snowing. Bill called. I told him what had happened, but tried to put a good spin on it. "Great blog material. And the sun has come out. It's a beautiful drive."

Susan called. I explained my navigational error which would significantly delay my arrival. I would miss seeing her and Early, to my bitter disappointment. She made my heart sing. She and Early had bonded magically. Jenna, her Queen-Whippet-Who-Never-Let-Another-Lowly-Dog-Touch-Her-Person was curling up with her head draped over Early's middle and sharing the hotel bed happily. Early seemed to know that Susan was his person. "If my friend held him for a minute and I went somewhere, his eyes never left me. Right away! It was amazing. I adore him. I feel like he's been a part of my life forever. It's a perfect fit, Patience!"

(Susan and Early at the hotel in Atlanta)

Ah, now these were welcome happy tears.

Swede William had ridden the whole way, including the extra hours in lost land, without a squeak. He also hadn't closed his eyes. He had been lying down, either flat on his side, or sphinx-like, but every time I snuck a glance, his eyes were open. Strange doings, this business of being the only whippet in the whippet wagon. But he wagged and danced at the potty stops, and happily jumped back in the number one crate, right behind the driver's seat. And he was so polite. He never even mentioned the duh detour we had taken.

Bill called when we were only about ten minutes from the hotel. "Honey, I hate to even mention this... Um... There are some clothes hanging on the bedroom door. Did you forget... ?"
"Oh my GAWD..." I croaked. Those were all my good clothes. My show outfit for showing William. A decent outfit for the Board meeting. A suit to wear to the hospital. I felt like turning around and going home. Seriously.

When we first arrived at the National I thought, "This was a big mistake." Everyone was missing Carolyn, and each kind expression from friends who understood, who knew about Giacomino, was just the spark to get a bonfire of screams burning in my throat. Couldn't you just see me walking my beige whippet through the Atlanta Hilton, with my eyes bugging out all mystified, and instead of saying hi how have you been, man your puppy is beautiful, opening my mouth and screaming AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA like the shower scene in Psycho??? I kept my mouth SHUT and nodded silent hellos. The booths - Carolyn and I had set up next to each other every year since 1997. It was coming a big whopper of a scream.... Not cool, Patience. Not cool! I went back outside and walked William around the grounds.

It all worked out. I managed not to scream, not once. And surrounded by dog people, dogs, friends, knowing that Early was doing so well, and comforted by Swede William who was just being SUCH a good boy, and staying in a room with the most generous kind people in the WORLD, the screams went away. For good.

I left Atlanta and pointed the Whippet Wagon with one little saintly beige whippet toward Toledo.

hug your hounds and your sisters

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We're Home/Thank You/Figuring Things Out - part 3

I woke up Sunday morning knowing what I had to do, but not accepting it. It wasn't light out, and one southern mocking bird was singing away in the dark at the top of his lungs, as if life were something to sing about. Giacomino was curled up against me and Bill was awake. Both of us were crying.

I got to talk to my sister. They extubated her in the afternoon. I talked to the ICU nurse. Martha's pain was well controlled by the morphine drip. I'm coming, I said. I don't know when yet, but I'm coming. "Okie dokie," Martha said in a hoarse whisper. That morphine is good stuff.
My friend, Swede William's dear breeder Lisa in Sweden called. She listened to me ramble. And then she echoed Bill's exact words: "A week, a month, a day means nothing to a dog. It means everything to us, but nothing to a dog. Do not wait too late. That is where we can be cruel; that is where we can be selfish." Words I myself had spoken in the past to another dear friend.

We had a lovely walk around the block in the warm sun. He started to fall several times but I caught him. It didn't dampen his enthusiasm. I spent the day scanning photos. Oh and Lisa in Sweden had reminded me that I needed to trim William's neck fuzz for the National. This is not an activity to attempt through swollen tears, I later realized. I thought I had done a fine job. William's neck looked like he had encountered a maniacal, fuzz buzzing, fur-craving beaver badly in need of orthodontia.

I can't go into the next hours, except to say that I am blessed with the most wonderful, compassionate vets in the world. When I left them, something snapped in me on the forty minute drive to the crematorium. On the way there, I started to keen. Sounds just came from me. And on the way home the keening became screaming. Can you imagine? There I was driving on Lone Oak Road, in my big old Warburton Whippet van, with my unshowered bed hair, just screaming. I've never screamed as loud and it kept coming. I couldn't make it stop. I got frightened and I called Bill. "Talk to me," I screamed. "I need to hear your voice. I can't stop screaming." I scared him and he wanted to come get me. "No," I screamed. "I'm almost home."

Somewhere a plan had taken shape. I would drive to Atlanta the next morning. Carolyn had been on the Board of the American Whippet Club. Another board member was having health issues and would not be able to make it. If I didn't go, I didn't think there would even be a quorum, and nothing would be voted on, new officers wouldn't be elected and it would be a mess. I would show Swede William, go to the meetings, deliver the Willow Award, and then head up to Toledo, meeting Friend One with Spice and Easy on the way. That night the bed was so damn empty.

Tuesday morning I checked my email one last time before packing and heading to Atlanta. (Remember the Comcast outage? This LINK will take you to Comcast's official explanation.) Some of the lost emails had dribbled in during the night. And then my breath caught. There was an email from Carolyn. The subject line said "Re: Easy." I thought perhaps her brother or sister-in-law had emailed me some info from her computer. But it was an actual email from Carolyn, which I had gotten back in December. It must have been stuck on some server somewhere, and when Comcast's glitch got fixed... I had been trying to figure out when Easy's cancer surgery had been. I couldn't remember if it had been in January of '08 or November of '07. The email said,

I thought it was his lymph nodes but Greg took Easy to see ROn today
and we are pretty sure that his thyroid tumor is back - it has been
almost a year. Right NOW , he is eating, drinking, playing, barking, and
basically acting , eating normally but I am not sure how long it will
last. Ron X rayed his chest today and said it is perfectly clear so at
least that is good for now............. The surgeon thought it would
coms back in his chest first ....... I do not plan to put him through
surgery again....

And with that miracle electronic glitch, Carolyn was able to answer so many questions for me. The surgery had been in January. No more surgery for Easy. I had done right by my own Very Old Dog. I got out my suitcase, relieved that this would no longer cause worry for a Dear Old Soul, and I stopped screaming, and began a good old-fashioned cry. I miss Carolyn. I miss my Giacomino. Oh my poor sister.

Hug your hounds

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We're Home/Thank You/Figuring Things Out - part 2

Carolyn's will offered no surprises. She had left the dogs to her three friends, and each of the three of us had numerous concurring independent conversations with her about her wishes. [I would encourage all of you, Dear Readers, whether you have one dog or ten, whether you are twenty years old or seventy, to clearly spell out your wishes for your dog(s) in your will. TODAY. It makes one less thing for people who are grieving to deal with, and it is the last gift you can give your dogs.] I told the other two friends of the miracle home that had materialized for Early, and they agreed: it was perfect.

Friend One would be driving from western Pennsylvania to the National in Atlanta on Saturday and could take Early along. Susan (Early's angel) would arrive in Atlanta on Sunday. Friend One would leave Atlanta on Tuesday, and I would arrive. Susan and Early would go home on Tuesday. Early would get to meet Susan's other two whippets in the neutral territory of the Atlanta hotel. If for any reason things didn't work, Earl could go back with Friend One or with me. I had then the privilege of calling Susan and telling her all systems were go. We cried. Then I called my dear friend Rhonda, who loved Carolyn, knew Early, and knows Susan. My left ear is still ringing from her squeals of delight. "OH it's PERFECT!!!" she cried. "Susan is PERFECT!!! Oh I'm SOOOO HAPPY!!!! It's PERFECT!!!!"

I went to bed happy that night. I wanted to tell Greg and Carolyn that it was all coming together. That their sweet dogs were all going to be in the right place. That they would be pleased.

On Saturday morning (this is important for later) Comcast email went down. I put a note on my Facebook page that I couldn't get any Comcast email, and I heard from friends from Massachusetts to I don't know where on Facebook that their Comcast email wasn't working either.

A week or so before all of this, I had been out working at a Kennel Club Show and Go (or at some board meeting downtown or something... I can't remember, but I was gone for a couple of hours). Bill was home with the dogs. Giacomino had lost his footing right in front of Bill's eyes and had fallen out in the grass. And he couldn't get up. Poor Bill was beyond distraught. He gently lifted him, but Beans' four legs just didn't work. Bill carried him into the house and covered him up on his bed in the kitchen and sat by him. He knew that when I got home, we would have to make that awful phone call. I walked in, saw Bill's ashen face, and knew something was terribly wrong.

Only Giacomino didn't know, and when he saw me he jumped - okay, wobbled - onto his feet and said, "Hi! You're home!" Bill nearly fainted with relief. My Very Old Dog - who would have been fifteen on April 17th - had spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the spinal column in his neck made his legs numb. With this last fall, things worsened dramatically. He couldn't tell if his front feet were right-side-up or knuckled down. We tried some steroids, which maybe helped a little. Not really. But he was eating and happy, and could still enjoy his walk around the block, albeit with much more help from me.

So, where the plans stood, this year I would only go to the National for the day of the Board and General Membership meetings. Usually I set up a booth to sell my collars and book, enter all the dogs and am gone for nine days. But if I drove Tuesday, did the meetings on Wednesday, and drove home on Thursday, Bill would only have to worry over Beans for two nights. I entered Swede William, whose class would be on Wednesday afternoon, since I would be there anyway. I would meet saintly Friend One in Lexington on the way home to collect Easy and Spice. (It wouldn't have been fair to Bill, or Easy and Spice, to bring them into this house and then have me leave for the National.)

Saturday morning (the same Saturday that my email was down) the phone rang. Or maybe it was Friday night. I didn't recognize the number. The grandmotherly voice on the other end asked in a Midwestern accent if I were Patience. Yes, I am. Then the voice told me that she was sorry, but my sister Martha had undergone emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction last night, only when they opened her up they found massive ovarian cancer everywhere. The tumors were too large and involved to remove, so they had done an iliostomy to relieve the obstruction, left the tumors, and Martha was in the ICU in Toledo.

I can't even remember my end of the conversation. I couldn't talk to Martha because she was still on a ventilator. I needed to get to my friend's house as I was dog sitting. I felt dizzy. It was a beautiful day. I went to Heather's house and walked Emmett and Edgar. Heather lives in a gorgeous old neighborhood, and I'm not sure I had brushed my teeth. I needed a new plan. I couldn't make my brain work. I had just studied in my RN review course that the brain processes emotions and events while you sleep. It prioritizes and compartmentalizes stuff during REM sleep. I would sleep on it and try for a plan Sunday morning.

I was at Heather's from around 11:30 to 4:30, when the next shift of dog sitters arrived. When I got home, though Giacomino had been safe and quiet, he couldn't stand without help. He was tired, because he had worried while I was out. A horrible, burning realization crept into my gut, and bile spilled up into my throat. I had to go to Atlanta and to Toledo. I would be gone for a lot longer than five hours or two days.

I looked at my darling Very Old Dog and felt that my world was closing in on us.

Oh, God. Oh, God, no.

Monday, April 13, 2009

We're home/Thank you/Figuring things out

Oh, friends.

Your amazing outpouring of kindness makes my fragile heart smile.

Thank you for understanding.

I probably shouldn't be blogging. What I write will be neither cheery nor entertaining. Dear Readers, please do feel free to go to the next blog and check back in a little bit. Writing (next to hugging my hounds) is the best way I know to process "stuff" and I need to do that.

Carolyn and Greg had years ago named three friends in their will to take care of placing their dogs, should something happen to both of them. I was one of those three. (Never in our wildest dreams did we think... ) About four weeks before she died, Carolyn asked me to keep her oldest two, eleven year old siblings Easy and Spice. Easy had been a great good buddy of my Fat Charlie's, and Spice was Maria's mirror image. (Actually, Carolyn said - tearfully - that she was worried about where they would go. I said they were welcome to move in here, and she said that would be good.) Easy had surgery to remove his cancerous thyroid last year. It was supposed to give him a good quality ten months to a year. We prayed that Easy would outlive Carolyn. And bless him, he did.

Carolyn had helped us immensely, by letting some of the dogs go "visit" friends in the fall, knowing that they would stay. She couldn't bear to place Easy and Spice, Early, Beauty, or Jack, and trusted us to do that for her.

We had homes for the others, except Early. Early had lost a hind leg in a freak accident (actually after two surgeries to repair a fracture) as a six month old puppy. Carolyn had taken him through all his training and gotten him certified as a Therapy Dog. It was important to her to find a home for him where he could be a whippet and run and play, and where he could work miracles as a therapy dog.

I was on a mission. Not that generous people who would adore him hadn't volunteered to give him a loving home. But I felt a strong, personal burdon. I put out some quiet feelers. And then God, or the Universe, or a higher power, or whatever you believe in took over. Susan had two whippets. Her aged greyhound had just recently died. She had been active in greyhound rescue for years. She had been active in Animal Assisted Therapy and still does visits regularly. She has a perfect whippet yard, and goes to the beach. She trains obedience. She has a happy heart.

Even getting Early to Susan - from western Pennsylvania to southern South Carolina - was a breeze. We would all meet in Atlanta. I would be there just a day for the board and general membership meetings. Another friend (one of the three) was driving down and could bring Early. Susan had entered her whippets in Obedience and would be there. It worked.

We had to wait for the reading of the will, and though I knew that the dogs were getting excellent care, it haunted me to think of them sleeping in the house alone. It haunted me.

And then all hell broke loose.

[But the sun just broke through and I'm going to walk now. I hope I can hang on to Easy and Spice when they see all the Stupid City Squirrels around here.]

hug your hounds

Monday, April 6, 2009


His legs gave out.

His heart, his magnificent wise generous old heart

Never did.

hug your hounds with all your might

while your arms still have them.