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A sad but wonderful day

Today we watched Maggie May, who came to us in the spring of 2006 near death and then blossomed into a beautiful dog, leave with her new ‘mom’ to go to a home where she will be the only dog. She even has her own room complete with her own chair waiting for her, two children who are beside themselves with excitement at her joining the family, and a bright future where she will have a whole family to herself. She left earlier today (I cried) and we’ve already gotten an update that she’s settling in well so far.

If we were meant to save her life and heal her so that she would eventually go on to make another family’s lives complete, then it was well worth it. For us, it feels as if a tremendous weight has been lifted. It wasn’t fair for her to have to live the constrained life we forced upon her, and for us, besides the burden of one more mouth to feed, there was constant anxiety and guilt for not providing the right home for her. One less dog means that the next time we move, it will be easier to find a good place to live and we can afford to downsize even further to pay off bills.

Along with Maggie went her ‘party collars’ (of course) and jacket, but also Mojo’s superman costume, Lilly’s bunny ears, and assorted other toys and items that we had in our memento box. We hadn’t been sure what to do with these items, and it raises our spirits to know that Maggie and her new human siblings will enjoy them together.

So here’s a toast to a wonderful new life for Maggie, and the beginning of a new path for us which we hope will eventually lead to us being debt free and owning a home of our own!

First big snow of the year

Keeping in mind that in NC, ‘big’ is anything over a half inch. Click on the pic below for a small album of the day’s fun.

Snowscape

We let Simon out and he stomped his way around the perimeter of the house yelling, until he had to be retrieved from under the porch. Winter was unimpressed. The big dogs had fun, and Cricket had to be thrown under a bush where the snow hadn’t reached in order to get her to go potty. She has spent most of the day in her bed in snow denial.

Animals always throw up on our rainbows

The other morning I looked into the living room from the kitchen and saw Simon staring down at at the rug in front of him, apparently mesmerized by something colorful and glittery there. A quick mental inventory of all our cat toys, dog toys, and other things in that size and color range yielded no match, so I approached for a closer look. I stared in disbelief: he had actually managed to throw up into a rainbow. We recently bought a large, beautiful crystal and hung it over our patio door; it generates wonderful baseball-sized rainbow spots in the morning sun, and the shimmery, colorful mound I had seen was a pile of hastily gulped and regurgitated dry cat food which Simon had managed to center perfectly within one of these spots. The vomit was dyed vivid hues of red, gold, blue, green, and violet, by the light. As I reported to Joy that “Simon just threw up into a rainbow,” I realized that this incident seemed like an appropriate metaphor for the direction our lives seem to have taken lately, hence the title of this post.

I should clarify here that I fully realize that the position we are in is entirely of our own making, and that I don’t really blame the animals themselves at all; they didn’t ask to be here and no one twisted our arms to take them. Granted, they are all rescues, and for some of them, our intervention was the only other choice other than euthanasia, but it was still a choice we made to take on each one — and we’re the ones responsible for the results. It’s just that after spending our entire adult lives sacrificing financial stability, better places to live, most of our waking moments at home, and (at least it seems this way sometimes) our mental well-being, caring for an endless string of damaged and needy animals, I think we’ve reached a point where we are just really burned out. And we’re trying to determine how best to cope with it…

I honestly wonder, sometimes, if we somehow make them crazy. Mojo was a nightmare. We just passed the second anniversary of his death and I still haven’t been able to find the strength within me to try and tell his story. It came to the point where we just had to move on, and not think about it at all, in order to heal. Olive is neurotic, in a perfect world we’d find her a home where she could have more attention and be away from Winter’s tormenting, but perfect homes for ten year old cats are not exactly overflowing out there. Winter brings us a lot of happiness, but it also causes us a great deal of stress to see her stalk and torture Olive and we haven’t found a good way to manage that situation. And we can’t get angry with her over this behavior, because it’s a case of Olive reaping what she has sown… the terrified, innocent little kitten she attacked over and over grew up and said, “it’s payback time, bitch.”

Maggie is frustrated because we no longer have a fenced yard to let her energy out in, nor do we have a safe place to walk with her, and then she gets in trouble when she tries to bounce and play and inevitably steps on one of the other five bodies crowded into the living room. Cricket sometimes eats, sometimes doesn’t, we have to coax her and simultaneously fend off Olive and Simon — who can’t understand why they aren’t offered tasty treats on a plate in the living room.

Lindsy, ironically, is less neurotic than she used to be, owing to the fact that she can no longer hear us yelling at any of the animals. But since she now likes to bounce around and bark loudly when we come home, it adds to the chaos. We try to be understanding but it’s hard when you are trying to hurry and feed six animals in the dark, and there’s a sixty-five pound dog bouncing on the other animals like a pogo stick booming “WOOF! WOOF!” at the top of her lungs. Today we had to run to the store and we thought it would be nice for the dogs to go for a car ride. Cricket wasn’t feeling well and stayed home, but Maggie and Lindsy were beside themselves with excitement at the opportunity. We opened the car doors and Lindsy tried to leap into the back seat like she always does… except her near 13-year old back end just couldn’t hold her up and instead she did a back flip onto the driveway. So now she’s sore and we’re worried… so much for trying to do a good thing. 🙁

We come home from work and it feels like they descend upon us in a horde from all directions, each one screaming (in Simon’s case, quite literally) “Me! Me! Me!” and we just feel like we are drowning in the flood of neediness. Again, we are fully cognizant of the fact that this is all the result of decisions we ourselves have made… it’s hard not to kick ourselves when we look back at all the vet bills, the places we’ve lived that we wouldn’t have if not for the struggle to find a place where the animals would be permitted, the trips we never took because we couldn’t get away (we lived less than eight hours from the Grand Canyon for four years and never saw it) and the stress and grief we endured because of those decisions.

This past year, seeking ways to alleviate stress, we learned about the concept of ‘mindfulness.’ We realized that we were spending most of our time divided between agonizing over the past and worrying about the future, while the present — the only part of our lives where we were interactively present, just drifted past unnoticed while we immersed ourselves in an endless cycle of guilt, frustration, and worry. Once we realized this, we could see clearly the senselessness of this way of living, and began trying to move forward positively from that point. We have made some significant changes towards living more in the moment; the problem we now face is that “the moment” is often a stressful and frustrating place too — we need to fix that somehow.

I think one of our big steps for the new year will be for us to find a way to balance the needs of our furry family, who are dependent on us, with our need to have some peace to ourselves. We’re not really sure how to do this, but hoping that recognizing the need is the first step on that path. Suggestions are very welcome. 🙂

The end of yet another year fast approaches

We took down our few holiday decorations today (actually just a few holly branches, a string of purple lights, and our cards) and I was struck again how quickly this entire year has just flown by. Each one seems to go faster than the last. We’ve had a lot of changes this year and lost a member of our critter family when we put Wednesday down. Chances are that we will probably lose Cricket some time soon (honestly we expected her not to last until the end of the year but she’s hanging in there) and we are also looking for a better home for Maggie. It’s not fair to her to live such a constrained life because she came into a house already full of broken pets, and we just can’t afford to keep going further and further into debt to take care of everyone.

Not having a fenced yard with a dog who likes to run like a gazelle is nerve-wracking but there’s no way we can justify spending money to fence yet another place that isn’t ours. The fact that some of the neighbors don’t take the care that we do in keeping their animals in their own yards causes us a great deal of stress. We don’t necessarily think that Maggie would start a fight, but she would certainly be able to finish one and would get the blame for it regardless. Especially at this time of year, when we get up in darkness and come home to darkness, it’s scary letting the dogs out the door when we can’t see what is out there. We just have to hope that there isn’t a cat, or a 100 lb German Shepherd standing outside the house somewhere.

So 2008 is rushing towards us and we have this feeling that this is going to be another year of changes for us. Partly because of the animal stuff mentioned above, but maybe more than that as well. We’ve cut down so much on the clutter around here and are still working to clear out even more. There’s no reason to lug around all this junk that we have no attachment to. This year we made even more of a point of recycling everything we can and we now take our own bags into the grocery store, and are buying much less processed food. We’re trying very hard not to buy cheap “made in China” products but quickly discovered that this is harder than it seems. The important thing is that we are trying, and over time it gets easier.

We aren’t sure what the future will bring with our jobs; the small-town computer shop where we work has had to contend with a brand-new Staples store opening in town, with a super Wal-Mart and a Best-Buy soon to come… at the very least, the shop will have to change the way things are done to stay afloat. I’ve had this growing feeling that I am perhaps not quite on the path that I am supposed to be on, that there are talents of mine that are going to waste spending all day running here and there and fixing computer catastrophes, and being in a perpetual state of having to be reactive without ever having the time to think proactively and put my creativity to use is just wearing me down. By the end of the day we are so beat we just come home, feed ourselves and the critters, and go to bed. There doesn’t seem to be any time for ourselves, let alone for writing, working on the website or all the other little projects I used to do. I guess we’ll see what the new year brings.

We’ve settled in comfortably into the house… we’ve made it a very homey, cozy place and really enjoy having the big living room with those patio doors overlooking the mountains. The landlord had a screen door put on the patio and we put up a crystal that makes rainbows dance all over the room when the sun hits it. We have a huge assortment of wildlife that comes to visit every day, titmice and chickadees and cardinals, several squirrels that give the cats a fit by coming up on the deck, and our resident pair of wrens that like too hop around on the deck and peer in the windows. There’s also blue jays, crows, doves, and tons of assorted finches and sparrows. Nadine the chipmunk has been absent for a few weeks, we assume she is hibernating.

We hope that this new year brings good things for everyone and some needed positive changes in the world.

Hiking album

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We’ve added an album for the pictures we’ve taken on our various hikes up along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the past month or so. There aren’t a lot of pictures in it so far, just a few that we thought were interesting or fun. Maggie’s been coming along with us but the last time out the heat seemed to really bother her so we might start going out on our own until it cools off again.