My brother is Wolverine

I watched “Logan” recently and I sobbed my heart out (no spoilers, don’t worry) and felt this terrible aching loss which was more than just the end of a legendary run by Hugh Jackman as “Wolverine/Logan” – something else was also there, at the edges of my awareness… and then in the wee hours of this  morning, I think I figured out what it was.

It made me think of my brother – I miss him. He is my Wolverine, my Old Man Logan. He’s grouchy, grumpy and like a bear on the outside, but his heart is huge, his compassion immeasurable. My brother has always (and will always, despite being taken advantage of too many times) stood up for the underdog. For the little guy (or gal) and for the downtrodden. This great, gentle heart makes him vulnerable, and of course when you are someone like that, you HAVE to build walls to keep out the pain and the bad people. I do too, to a certain extent, but I don’t have the level of compassion my brother does, or the solid walls, or the anger at unfair things happening to good people.

He is on my side, no matter what. He would do anything for me, without any questions asked. Anything in his power to help me in some way, if I asked, he would do or give or say or make. He never expects anything in return, either. We have a strange relationship – it’s hard to explain – but we are both extremely close and incredibly different. But we are like no other siblings you’ll find out there. Sometimes, we know what the other needs even if they don’t – without saying a word.

And the heart ache I felt watching Logan, was the pain I felt (and still feel) at leaving my brother behind when I left home.

 

No more sitting on the edge of his bed while he played games on his computer, sipping tea and munching chips, or watching QI and laughing until we cried. We could sit in silence for hours – it was never uncomfortable or awkward – or we could chat about deep things that we never spoke to other people about. We would talk about his inability to play evil/bad characters in games, despite his best efforts (they always ended up the roguish but kindhearted thief, the barbarian turned protector of the village). Or we could talk absolute crap about all sorts of silly things, and we laughed. He’s one of the few people who make me laugh without trying very hard. (My husband is another.) Despite being his annoying little sister who was never as smart as he was, he never ever made me feel unwelcome or uninteresting to him – my opinion always counted. He taught me so much, but also forced me to learn things on my own so that I could keep up with him – his mind is a maelstrom, but a beautiful one. It runs high – on a different level to most.

I understood his vulnerability and that boiling rage, just under the surface, at the injustice of life, and his huge heart, and I tried to never hurt him intentionally. He totally got my affinity for, and understanding of, the darkness in people, and the monsters in the darkness. I always wanted to know their stories. He always tried to help me find them. I never had monsters under my bed, I was never scared – I had monster friends who kept me safe. And he kept me safe too – always.

I miss him so much some days – even if he’s only a continent away and always available online to chat to – it’s not the same as being in his company, feeling his safe, calm, comforting presence, letting that brilliant mind of his flow free with words… or silence. There is nothing like the bond of siblings and ours is special, even if it’s difficult to explain.

 

 

Find Your Trail

To Find Your Trail

I am a firm believer in getting your dogs out in the area they are “living” (or even just staying for a short while) and getting to know it well, and finding good trails to follow. When a dog is stuck inside their home (or even if they have access to a yard) and never gets to go anywhere in their neighbourhood, they don’t know where they _are_ and if they ever get loose (and the chances of a dog escaping the confines of their prison – and it is a prison to a dog, as nice as it might be – at every opportunity are very high when they don’t get out at all) they get lost all the more quickly. If a dog knows where his or her home is, what all the landmarks and smells are around it, where the dogs are, where the roads are, they tend to be less panicked and fearful (sometimes it might take a little longer for them to calm down) and can find their way home on their own.

So, now wherever we live, I always get my dogs out into the area as soon as I can. We start small: Just a walk around the block, or around 2 blocks, or in different directions up and down the road we are on until we know the area very well. We then venture a little further, going 20 minutes in one direction and then turning back. We then look for loops and roads that return to ours. Big blocks, medium blocks, lots of small blocks.

Don’t be afraid to  turn around and go back the way you came – dogs don’t care. If you cross the road, it means even MORE new things to sniff!

 

Once you have walked completely around your neighbourhood (as far as you can go safely, of course) and you know it very well, head to Google Maps

I have found MANY wonderful trails and greenbelts by doing this. I’ve discovered secret lakes and ponds, wide open fields in the middle of a city, forest trails that start at the end of my street! Even if you find one and walk there and then discover there’s a fence in the way that you couldn’t see on the map – it’s ok! Follow the fence, or check the map later for places you can see a path emerging from the trees.

You can also start looking further afield: I start in my ‘hood, but I always end up finding places and trails about 5 or 10 minutes drive away. I then look for places to park safely, and hopefully a shady spot if it’s spring/summer (especially here in Georgia) and the entrance to a trail. Also – find OTHER small neighbourhoods and go check those out. Park in a public area (a park, or a playground area) and head off around the ‘hood. Your dogs will LOVE the chance to sniff and piddle on these new hunting grounds. You can even take a drive around the new area first, with windows down, nice and slowly, so you can check it out before you start walking – check for loose dogs, bad fences, chained dogs, “no dogs” signs, glass on the sidewalk, thorny patches etc.

If you’re tired of the street, go check Google Maps for green areas, forests, parks.  These are for daily walks, mostly.

If you have more time on a weekend, research places during the week and head off on a Saturday or Sunday morning, nice and early. We discovered a dam and a lake and a beautiful beach this way! You can also look up the local nature parks and hiking/biking trails – look at alltrails.com (you don’t have to get the pro version to find awesome places to walk, and they all come with comments and helpful information about water access, toilet access, and if dogs are allowed) or look for the State Parks website for your state.

Check out forums for local hikers/mountain bikers and you will find loads of information there too.

When I go walking anywhere new (street or forest or trail or farm) I carry a small backpack with the following necessities: Poop bags. A 2 liter water canteen and large collapsible water bowl for the dogs (winter or summer, they are thirsty fluffs). If it’s hot weather, I will bring a 500 ml bottle of water for myself. Wipes for paws/hands/etc. A small first aid kit. A toy – preferably squeaky, but that’s my dogs’ personal choice. A spare lead. Treats! Very important! I also carry my phone, a torch/headlamp, a tick twister, a whistle, and some para-cord. You never know. Might sound like a lot, but I like to be prepared, and you get used to the weight of it. We stop for a water break and a rest every 1 km when it’s hot, and maybe every 2 km when it’s nice and cold out – I go by the dogs and how they are feeling. Odin will ask for water if he wants it, and Azzie just flops down and won’t go any further if she is too tired or hot and wants water.

 

Do some research before you head out on a trail or forest walk: Know what snakes are in the area, and any predators you might encounter. Be aware and alert at all times, but try not to work yourself up into an anxious state, as this is a real downer to dogs because they spend the walk LOOKING for something to be scared of or react to. Simply be aware of your surroundings, learn what types of places to avoid (fallen trees – snakes love hiding under them) and never do anything too extreme if you are on your own (don’t climb down a ravine, unless you can see an appropriate exit path that you AND your dogs can get up without too much hassle). Be as quiet as you can – that way you can hear anything out of the ordinary, AND you get to enjoy the sounds of nature around you. Dogs also like silence, by the way – but the occasional recall for a treat and a “good dog” when they do, makes a world of difference to them as well. Be respectful – you are walking among living things: not just the trees, but animals call this their home. Don’t destroy things, or pick things that you shouldn’t. Leave tracks, not trash. If you can REACH the spot your dog pooped (especially on or next to the trail you are walking) please pick it up. I normally take my dogs to the dog park first, so they can poop etc, and I can pick up and throw it away and I don’t have to carry poop bags around for the entire walk. Sometimes, though, one or two of my dogs will go a second time if the walk is long enough to warrant it. If I can get to it easily, I will pick it up. If it’s in brambles, or thorn trees, or thick undergrowth (snakes!) then I tend to leave it. I do try, but I’m not getting my hand torn up by thorns, or bitten by a snake, or covered in poison ivy, just to pick up a poop that nobody is going to be going anywhere near anyway. Just being honest.

If you are someone like me who can sometimes get turned around if the trail has many offshoots or crossroads, then use your phone to take a photo at each junction, of the direction you came and the direction you are going. If you don’t want to use your phone, then find a few pieces of wood or sticks/branches, and make a double arrow – pointing the way you came, and the way you went. It’s saved me a few times when I thought I knew where I was, but ended up going in a circle… If there are no sticks around, find a pile of leaves and place those at the entrances to the path you are leaving and the path you are entering. That also works.

Main and final point: Get outside! Find adventure! Your dogs will love it – you bond so much more with your dogs if you walk together, and the longer the walk the better. Tired dogs are happy dogs. Dirty dogs are even happier 😀 Also – don’t be afraid to get dirty, wear good shoes that are appropriate to the ground you will be covering, and sunscreen if it’s hot, and lots of insect repellent. Pack a spare light jacket if you are walking in winter or if it’s undecided whether it will rain or not.

Get over it

I will probably “lose friends” once again because of this opinion, but I am SO TIRED of keeping my mouth shut about this RIDICULOUSNESS! So if you take “offense” at me having an opinion – feel free to remove me from your list (whatever that list may be) and if you have a CONSTRUCTIVE response that you would like to share, feel free. I am always willing to listen to a considered, eloquent argument against my rant. And yes, it’s a rant. I was reacting (and yes, I know that’s never a good idea!) to the news my husband shared with me about the story below, after a long week of similar stories and incidents of pointlessness:

Karlie Kloss having to APOLOGISE for  “cultural appropriation” in a “racist” PHOTO SHOOT?!?!?!?! WTF? For BEING DRESSED (as a model, she doesn’t  even have a bloody say in the shoot parameters or ideas) as a Japanese Geisha in a shoot. THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND SHOOT COORDINATOR should apologise (if there WAS ANYTHING TO APOLOGISE FOR!!!) if anyone should… not the model! The model does her job, she gets dressed and set up in a shot and she poses, she puts her stamp on it with her looks and her attitude and sometimes, with some models, with their personal touch. THAT’S IT. How is that RACIST?

I am SO TIRED of this “cultural appropriation” crap! As long as it’s not done to DEGRADE or malign or KNOWINGLY offend a “people” WHY DOES IT MATTER if you wear your hair in two braids, wear fringed clothing, wear a Stetson, cowboy boots, a sarong or a sari, or dress up as a Japanese Geisha?!?! The photos were BEAUTIFUL – classy, simple, elegant, Vogue at their usual – they weren’t making fun of, or “sexualising” the image of the geisha or Japanese women! They were showing the simple beauty and classic imagery of these iconic women. Nothing more! Yes, perhaps they didn’t get the make up PERFECT (it takes years of dedication by a true geisha to do that) and the clothes were not TRUE kimono (which are also an intricate process and ceremony in themselves!) but their simplicity and elegance were meant to be an HOMAGE to their craft and incredibly dedicated lives, not a BAD COPY.

I am SO BLOODY TIRED of “internet crusader people” jumping on ANY LITTLE THING that they DEEM is “OFFENSIVE” to SOMEONE – most of the time the people who are supposedly meant to be offended DON’T GIVE A SHIT! It means nothing to them! If it’s not making them look stupid, or backward, or hurting their culture in some way…. GET OVER IT – THEY DO!

Just LET IT GO, people! If it doesn’t DIRECTLY AFFECT YOU or CAUSE YOU PERSONAL HARM or mental anguish… JUST LEAVE IT THE F**K ALONE!

Stop jumping on a CAUSE that DOES NOT EXIST!

Oh man, if everyone who should SUPPOSEDLY be offended by things that MIGHT be deemed (by the EVER WISE INTERNET  CAPED CRUSADERS) “cultural appropriation” was to get all up in arms about every little thing “stolen” from their culture.. the world would be SILENT AND NAKED. And that would probably bloody offend some TWAT somewhere who it had NOTHING TO DO WITH!

*deep breath*

YE GODS PEOPLE. GET OVER IT!

End of rant.

Gina Is Well

Gina is well.

We have returned from the vet and Gina was given an “all clear” on her ultrasound – liver, kidneys, bladder, gallbladder, spleen, and everything in between are all good and in fact in “excellent” condition, according to the vet who did the ultrasound. Gina is well!

She did mention that because Gina is a “big girl” (although, “quite petite for a Bernese”) the scope only reaches 10cm or 5in in depth, so could there be issues, yes.. but she said that looking at the other organs and the surrounding tissues, she says it seems that it is unlikely (at the moment) that anything is lurking beyond the range of the ultrasound scope.

She handled the procedure well – she’s a pro, having had many ultrasounds in our quest to figure out her tummy issues etc – and the vet and techs were all enamored with her, of course. Even one of the resident vet office cats came to check her out.

So, after discussion and a quick research on my phone, we have found the generic (US-based) form of the Forekor 28 that we were giving Gina in Germany, and we have started her on that. It’s also LOADS cheaper, so when (not if!) her levels drop on this, we can easily keep it up without breaking the bank – not that it would ever stop us from getting her medication, of course, we love our Ginabear to the moon and back.

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Weather out there was gloomy and dark and stormy – a good day to be inside, snuggled and warm with a nice cup of tea.

Gina concurs.

Steps Forward – An Update

Steps Forward

I felt it was time to have a little update on life in the “milburbs” and things happening.

First off – Odin has made some remarkable progress with meeting new dogs and making friends. Besides our friend Max, who is his absolute BEST BUDDY EVER, he has now made friends with some other dogs – including some WHITE dogs (which he had issue with before) and some very excitable dogs (which he also had issue with before) and while we are still careful with the meet-and-greet process (Even at the dog park) he has made some really awesome steps forward in his behaviour. Dealing with dogs on our walks has also become more manageable (not totally great yet, but getting there) now that he’s got Max in his life, and we often meet them and walk with them (walk bonding is the best way to get dogs to calm and become friends) on long walks and he used to get silly about seeing a dog in the distance, now he wiggles his butt and barks (but that’s also the influence of Azzie and Gina, who bark even when they know the dog as well!) and when he knows it’s Max he is SO HAPPY he leaps about and wiggles and smiles and pokes all his friends with his nose.

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My husband got to see how far he had come (because he’s not there for the day-to-day work that I do with them) on 2 occasions now – once at the beach when he met a couple of VERY energetic and noisy dogs for the first time (a friend of his from work brought her two) and again at the dog park (when he met another dog for the first time, who belonged to a friend of my husband’s)

The dogs had an absolute BLAST at the beach, as well – their first ever time. They ran and ran and dug in the sand and swam and were utterly exhausted by the end of the morning. They made new friends, and found a new place to be wild and free and happy. It was a magical morning.

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In other, slightly more worrying news.

Ever since we got Gina, she has had a slightly elevated protein level – kidneys/liver were the main culprits. In Germany, one of the reasons the vets suggested she be spayed (She was still intact when we adopted her, age 3) was because the levels climbed and she started having hormonal issues and multiple “heats” in a row and they were scared it would lead to pyometra or something cancerous (Bernese are prone to cancers, unfortunately) so we had that done and while the levels dropped, they were still just SLIGHTLY above average.

We went to various vets in Germany (due to moving, not due to any issues) and each one gave us the same diagnosis and suggested a medication that could help. In the EU it is called “Fortekor 28” and it was very expensive, but we put her on it and it helped a great deal to keep her levels regulated. Still slightly above average, but never dangerous.

Then, upon moving to the USA, the new vets (both military and civilian) said they wouldn’t put her on the medication (which we eventually found had a nice well-priced generic version) until they had done their own tests… so when she had to have blood tests done to check that the Lyme disease (which she had picked up in Germany thanks to the diabolical ticks there) was all cleared out of her system, they indicated higher levels than she had previously, because she had not been on the tablets since we left Germany. The vet (who we settled on) said not to worry and we could wait and see until her annual heartworm tests were done. So, a few months ago when the heartworm tests were done (negative!) they also drew extra to test her levels.. they were quite high (in the 800’s when they SHOULD be under 100 – as that’s where her levels had been before, when I checked on her previous labs from Germany) but unfortunately the vet who we were working with had a family emergency and left the practice where he worked! A few weeks later, we knew we had to bring her in for her “senior” panel (As she is now over 7 years old) and asked them to test again. They did and this time her levels in her liver were dangerously high (over 1000…. ) so tomorrow we go to the vet to get an ultrasound of her liver/kidneys to check for masses.

I am trying to be calm, trying to be positive – hoping they find nothing and we can just put her back on the fortekor (or generic alternative) and it will bring them back down to good levels again.

She’s our First Fur Kid, and to lose her would be devastating on so many levels.

Reflection and listening

Ok. I am not someone who is too proud to admit that I was not wrong but perhaps too hasty in my reactions.

So, I won’t apologise for my disappointment, but I will apologise for my soap box rant about it. I’m allowed my opinion, and so are you.

Upon reflection, and listening to arguments and comments from ALL sides of this whole discussion – I am starting to understand why this happened. I still don’t LIKE the outcome, and I am still very disappointed… but I am really starting to see the reasons and reasoning for what has happened.

I’m still anxious about things in the future – environmental issues especially, because there is no denying that the progress made is definitely going to be threatened under this new rule – but I am going to try and open my mind a bit more to understand the sad steps and PC bullshit that has led this country to this point.

There’s no right side in this, both sides are to blame for this.

Let’s move on.

I am so disappointed.

At this point I don’t really care if this post loses me “friends” – if you can’t allow me to have an opinion other than your own then I’m afraid we can’t be friends anyway.

I’m not one for political rants or even conversations about it as I am usually totally apathetic when it comes to politics. I tend to err on the side of “I don’t like politicians and I don’t see their point.” but really, USA? You chose Trump? Even after everything he has said and done? Even after all the warnings and red flags? Even knowing what will happen when he steps up to that big white house on the hill? He’s in it for himself, USA. He does not CARE about the “people” – unless they are the wealthy people that can fund his idiotic and terrible projects.

I am so disappointed.

All I can hear is, “Electrolytes! It’s what plants need!” and I hear the doom of your once great nation.

Doom

Doom.

 

I am so disappointed.

My heart is actually sore. Seriously.

You go from Obama – no scandals in 8 years, intelligent, compassionate, highly amusing and intellectual – to that  soft, orange, butter-faced, small-handed, ignorant, misogynist, racist, bigoted, low-IQ, money-grabbing, power-hungry, backward-thinking BUFFOON! Really?

Have you seen “Idiocracy” yet? If you haven’t, do yourself a favour and go find it. Watch it. Weep for your country, because it’s coming. Even Wall-E was a kind of portent of the future.

It’s coming.

 

I am so utterly disappointed I feel sick to my stomach, and so sad.

 

Two Sides

Heading into winter, my favourite season of the year, there are two sides to it and I embrace both equally passionately: The Cold and Dark, and the Warm and Comfy. 6583f3cef53ea929e1811bebcaa8c560e387072a63b739b34c1cc3ba6666e50e

I am just as happy to be out in the cold air, in a dark forest, silence thick as the snow, looking for tracks and places where the deer sleep with my dogs around me sniffing the trail and leaping about in the snow, as I am to be in thick, warm socks, snug and warm clothing and a big soft jersey, with a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate, enjoying good music or some tv shows or a movie, with my dogs snoring around my feet.

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Winter, for me, is a time of reflection and silence, and also a time of comfort and care for oneself, two sides as to everything. I become even more of a hermit in the dark months, than I am normally in the summer and spring. This winter will be different, as it doesn’t get very cold here and there is minimal snow (or so it seemed last year when we first got here – but there are mutterings from locals that “this one” could be a harsh one… I won’t hold my breath, but I would be pleasantly surprised) and I will also (once again) have my husband with me for a change.

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Halloween, Samhain, is the start of MY time of the year, when I truly become “myself”, and I will relish every crisp morning, and cold evening and downpour and icy wind for the next couple of months. I will try and “store” the cold feelings in my head, so I can remember them when I’m sweltering in the Georgia summer yet again.

I still remember every single winter I saw in Germany. Each one was different, and each place we lived was different as well. The forests and fields will stay with me for the rest of my life – there is nothing like Germany in the deep winter, and I clung to the memory of those icy, dark days when our first summer rolled in here in the South. It helped a little bit. A smidgen.

The time has come for warm gloves and hats and scarves and winter boots and good jackets, and I cannot wait for it!

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And one day soon, when our dreams come true (and, oh, they will come true) we will live in Colorado and I’ll get my snow and the dogs will learn to pull a sled and we’ll have a fireplace and a little cabin in the woods.

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Poor little Azzie

My poor little Azzie monster, she got herself another hot spot AND an ear infection at the same time, in BOTH ears. Thanks, Georgia summer.

This hot spot was so enormous that the vet was astounded at the size of it.

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They had to sedate her to shave the area, and to apply all the ointments and shots and the medication to her ears. The vet said that she would be a bit “strange” after the sedation, for at least 24 hours. Bernese Mountain Dogs are very sensitive to the effects of anesthetic and sedation, and generally need less to get them “out” than most other breeds, so it’s more than 24 hours since she came round from the sedation and she’s still not quite “herself” yet.

I am very grateful that this was nothing malignant, or difficult to treat. So we’ll get through this post-sedation funk with my poor little Azzie, and hope the hotspot clears up as quickly as the last one did.

As20161026_145844 I write this, she is sitting close by my chair, resting against my legs. When she is … lucid… she has become even more of my big fluffy black shadow dog than she was before. When she’s in sleep mode (which is about 90% of the time at the moment, due to the sedation after effects) she plops down anywhere and tries to find a comfy position. The first night was the worst – she could NOT get comfortable. She cried and whimpered and whined from the moment she saw me down the end of the passage at the vet office and came running – wobbling is more descriptive – to me, until about 4 am the next morning. It was a difficult few days as my husband had to be up incredibly early in the morning and neither of us got any sleep in our worry and care of her, but she is feeling much better, thankfully. The other two dogs were very worried about her, and they didn’t sleep so well either. Weirdly, Gina has been much more her “old self” (before we got Azzie) while this has been going on. It’s like as Azzie’s loud, proud and crazy personality lulled, Miss Gina’s personality rose to fill the “gap” created. She’s been playing with Odin in the mornings (and at the dog park) and is very feisty and silly and runs around outside and does her own thing – investigating bushes and rushing forward on the walks to walk next to Odin, who is always in the lead… while Azzie has fallen right back behind me, and sometimes just stops and stands there thinking about things. It’s a strange phenomenon, and one I should speak to my friend Nicole about at some point – is it normal? I know Gina kinda went into an aloof state when we got Azzie – I think she thought she would always be an “only child” as she had been for the first 3 years of her life before we adopted her.

In a way, I’m hoping that this will help Azzie slow down just a little and grow up just a little, so that her personality can balance with Gina’s, and Odin’s, and they can become a balanced “pack” and be happier in their interactions with the world and other dogs. But if the “old” Azzie comes back I am still just as happy – I just want her to be herself again. This quiet, non reacting version of my poor little Azzie bear is just downright WEIRD, and she barely wags her tail – but that’s getting a little better now. She stares off into space a little bit, but not as bad as yesterday, and she at least responds to her name now.

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