A Little About Emma

1066296107813So far, I’ve written about Ellie, my dog of a lifetime. However, no story about her can be complete without a few words about her interesting daughter, Emma. Ellie and Emma were a team, and nothing happened to one without impact on the other. So, here are a few words about little Emma!

Life in a Box

Emma, Ellie and I moved into our apartment near The Quarry in San Antonio. I went to work for the San Antonio Express-News as their Direct Marketing Manager, and life was set, at least “on paper”.

Apartment living with two dogs was a challenge, with pressure on them not to really be dogs, and on me not to let them. To minimize the impact of bathroom incidents, I confined them to the kitchen, where there was a tile floor. They were both house trained, but I knew better than to expect that nothing would ever happen if I gave them the run of the place.

To accommodate their potty needs, I went home every day for lunch to take them on walks, and I went straight home after work to take them again. On one of those walks, they must’ve eaten something while I wasn’t watching…I recall the day when I arrived home after work and discovered that they’d come down with some kind of terrible dysentery at the same time. It was a scene from sick bay hell…fortunately, they were in the kitchen, and a tile floor. As I launched into a protracted and unpleasant cleanup, I don’t know if I felt worse for them or for me…it was pretty bad!

Don’t Fence Me In!

Apartment living also taught me that Emma hated confinement, which was made clear by the hole she dug in the sheetrock by the back door. That was another end-of-workday discovery that made nearly every day an adventure. She also dug a hole in the sheetrock at my brother’s house one day while I was visiting, and we had limited the dogs’ access only to a long hallway. I didn’t get the bill for that repair job, but I’ve never been allowed to forget it, either…of course, in only the most humorous family way!

After the dogs and I had enough of living in a small space, we moved into a house, and I had a doggy door installed. The doggy door and a fenced back yard equaled dog ownership nirvana for them and for me. We could all relax; they could go outside at their leisure and the house was safe from the consequences of illness and anxiety-related wall-digging. However, for Emma there was no escaping the panicked fallout from loud noises such as thunder and fireworks. While Ellie wasn’t fond of such clamor, it didn’t bother her nearly to the extent it did her neurotic daughter.

My house was located near Fort Sam Houston Army base and cemetery, and the San Antonio Country Club. At both locations, every year at Fiesta, the 4th of July, New Year’s, and other holidays requiring the exploding of fireworks, as well as military burials with 21-gun salutes and thunder storms, Emma had major meltdowns. While lightning doesn’t make noise, it is a sure harbinger that thunder was soon to follow…Emma figured that out quickly.

She reacted to big noises and lightning by falling into a shivering, panting mania, and attempting to dig a hole in me, and/or climb on my head. This was especially vexing in the middle of the night, when even the mere hint of a noise sent her into a frenzy. I finally figured out that administering Benadryl or melatonin would induce relative calm, so checking the weather forecast and anticipating loud noises – to include awareness of upcoming military burials – helped keep things on an even keel.

Dog Gone-it

One Monday, an unexpected thunderstorm rolled into San Antonio. I was at work; upon arriving home in the evening, I discovered that Emma was nowhere to be found. I put Ellie on a leash and walked every street in the neighborhood, to no avail. Ellie and I got into the car and drove streets farther away, hoping to spy my little crazy runaway. Nothing.

With dark descending, I had to call off my search for Emma. Returning home, I fell into an abyss of despair, a sense that might be at least somewhat akin to feeling that one of my children was missing. Not knowing if she was alive, injured, safe, scared, or what, was horrible. I had bathed Emma the day before, and failed to put her collar, with ID tags, back on her. The guilt I felt about this was sickening.

Knowing that one antidote to worry is action, I found a photo of her and made signs to post on trees and power poles, carefully putting each into a plastic bag so the image and wording would remain legible. That night, with a flashlight, tacks and a hammer, I went pole to pole, tree to tree, plastering signs with her cute face and my phone number all over the area. It was all I could do for the night. I went home and Ellie and I tried to sleep; it wasn’t easy.

I hoped that the next day, someone would see one of my signs, realize they’d spied my dog or maybe even had her, and call me. One of the longest days of my life came and went…and no calls. I returned home, again to only one dog. Since my signs hadn’t yet worked, and calls to local vets and shelters had turned up nothing, I thought I’d go back to the future and put a lost dog ad in the newspaper.

Maybelline

Emma’s most endearing physical characteristics were her long and luxurious eyelashes. Those got everyone’s attention and gave her cuteness even more pop! So, that was the feature I keyed in on as I composed and placed my ad. It was my last hope to find a puppy that in spite of, or maybe because of, her unique and complex personality, had found an abiding place in my heart. I just couldn’t lose her.

That evening, a call came from a man I didn’t know. He said he was calling from Floresville and had picked up a little grey dog during the storm on Monday. He was working on construction at a house that was five blocks away from my house, and saw a little dog walking down the street, chest-deep in running rainwater. He picked her up and took her home, and was taking care of her and checking the newspaper ads. When he saw one for a little grey dog with eyelashes, he knew that was the dog he’d found.

My ad had promised a reward. Wary that this could possibly be a scam, I arranged to meet this guy at a public location at 6:00 the next morning, armed with my .38 Smith & Wesson. I asked the man to produce the dog before getting out of my car. He did. To my great joy and immense relief, it was Emma! I took my dog from him, and gave him $100 cash, and thanked him for taking care of her.

I can only surmise that when the storm arrived and thunder began to boom, Emma panicked, ran out the doggy door and somehow escaped the fenced yard. I never did understand why that fear caused her to want to leave the safety of the house and flee to the dangers of the streets; however, so as to never repeat this event, I put barriers at every possible location where she could’ve squeezed out. It never happened again.

NEXT: Saying goodbye.

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The Soul of a Small Town

I don’t go to church very often, but the other day I felt a hunger to publicly connect with God, to be infused with and blessed by the Spirit. As a card-carrying Episcopalian, and with a new friendship with the local priest, I thought I’d darken the doors at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Beeville.

I took my place in the pew and began to review the program. When it came to the announcements, something stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. In the list of prayers for those with particular health and other needs, there was my name. It touched my heart that for probably almost two years, the Lord has been hearing my name as offered by the members of this congregation. I had no idea.logo

When I moved home to little bitty Beeville from big, dynamic San Antonio two years ago, I couldn’t know what the future held. My intuition told me that something big was going to happen…lo and behold, here came cancer. That’s big.

For the record, I ascribe intuition to the voice of God trying to talk to us…if we will only listen. Maybe one of these days I’ll write an entire blog on my beliefs; for now, let’s say that I listened, and every time I do it is never wrong. I think much of the human dilemma is somehow quieting the outer and inner harangue long enough to let the voice of God into our consciousness. It seems to be the least we can do for God, and for ourselves.

I’ve written about my cancer experience quite a bit, but I haven’t named names as to who was there for me. To begin, my dear and lifelong friend Jimmy Jackson, from Beeville, took me to San Antonio the morning of my surgery, to be there with me before, during and after.

I recently found the hospital bracelet from that fateful day, with his name and phone number as the contact in case something was discovered during surgery that required some kind of permission to proceed. That was a big responsibility, and I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy to care for my best interests than JJ.

When cancer was found, he got the call from the surgeon. JJ said when that news came, he was stunned, speechless, and upset. It is true and loving friends who respond like that when they learn you’re in harm’s way.

His job was to call my family and let them know, which he did. He called my brother Tom, who was at his office that July morning. In turn, Tom let our brother John know, and then our other brother, Dickie. In short order, Tom and Dickie were on their way to San Antonio.

A few of you know, most do not, that in 1990 I was the victim of an aggravated sexual assault in San Antonio. It was a Friday night, and by the time I arrived at University Hospital to be treated for my wounds and talk to detectives, it was past midnight. Somehow the word of what had happened reached my brothers in Beeville. While receiving treatment at about 2 am, I was told that my family was in the waiting room. I was given a gown to wear to go see them; I will never forget the vision of them, huddled together, looking at me as I came around the corner, still in shock and in pain, melting into their arms as they took me into their hearts. It was as though I had gone from the grip of the most heinous evil to the embrace of the greatest good imaginable, and was the beginning of my recovery.

That was the first distress call bringing those valiant and loving siblings to my side. The next was the cancer call, some 23 years later.

At Methodist Hospital Stone Oak in July 2013, when I finally attained some level of consciousness after being unexpectedly heavily sedated for an aggressive surgery, I realized that there were some people I wasn’t expecting, namely, Tom and Dickie. Also there was my wonderful niece Beverly, and my dear friend Raymond Butler. I expected them, but not the brothers.

Even in my groggy state, I had a sense that something was wrong because they were there. I remember they all left to go eat dinner, and I went back to sleep. When they returned, both brothers kissed me goodbye before they left to go home to Beeville. That was a first. I still didn’t know about the cancer, and I thought those kisses meant something must really suck! Well, it did.

As soon as they left, through contacts they made, my name was added to prayer lists far and wide…including that at St. Philip’s in Beeville. As I’ve learned, the list of folks needing prayers for illness and other concerns either did or does contain my name at every church in Beeville.

I have a Post Office box where I receive a lot of my mail, and I wander down there a couple of times a week to check the box. Every single time I visit the PO, I am warmly greeted, and give and receive at least one hug and inquiry into how I’m doing. Same thing when I go to HEB, or go for a walk on my street out here in north Bee County.

My neighbors are my friends, and I am theirs. One day during chemotherapy, I decided to mow my yard. I was out front on my little tractor, and the neighbors walked by. When they saw me, the Hairless Wonder, sweating on the mower, they raced over and insisted that I allow them to finish the job. I loved them for that, but I really needed to do it, to know that even in my diminished state, I was capable of doing something demanding and physical. It wasn’t fun, but I did it; they cared enough for me to offer to help, and respected me enough to allow me to do it my way.

When I was too tired to go to the store, I had angels there at my call…sweet niece Laura Ottensman and her gallant husband, Nick, were there for me at all times, no matter what. Taking me to chemotherapy was another amazing niece, Shannon Juilleret and my dear friend Louise Cook, who has done battle with cancer and has been my most ardent cheerleader…many calls and messages came from Julie Burke, a fishing buddy who has become a real “catch” of a true friend! Much of this support has to do with Beeville; all of it has to do with love.

Beeville is just a little town, with limited resources of just about every description…especially compared to San Antonio, which was my residence for many years. But, when it comes to help in times of need, love in times of sorrow and worry, no other place can compare to the riches that awaited me, and that bless me here. What an awesome and humbling testament to the loving soul of a small town.

I wish you all a Christmas of love, warmth, caring, and abundance. For as much as you and so many other have prayed for me, I also pray for and thank God for you. I hope you will find the quiet that will allow the voice of guidance and peace to let you know where to find that which you seek. Merry Christmas!

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My Dog of a Lifetime, Part III: Ellie Becomes a Texan!

Of Ellie’s four puppies, I kept the female, named Emma, and the dad’s owner kept one of the boys. The two remaining males were sold, the one named Buckley going to a dear friend and co-worker of mine and her family, which included two young sons. I was delighted with that arrangement, as it allowed me to keep up with Buckley, who was a clone of his mother in both looks and temperament.

Emma, and her mother Ellie would make the trip home to Texas with me. My car was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, by Texas SUV standards not a roomy vehicle, even with rear seats folded down. Anything I didn’t entrust to the movers would go with me, including and especially these pups.

As I packed the car, the first thing accounted for was the crate that would hold my precious puppy cargo. I situated their crate directly behind my seat, with the door opening out to the back door, so that I could easily access them for potty and water breaks. After the crate, things were packed in an orderly and efficient manner, to include my overnight bag that would see me through until my arrival in San Antonio the following day.

In planning my journey, I used the Internet, which was barely getting cranking by this time in 1999. With it, I charted my long drive from Fort Lauderdale to San Antonio. As I would have those two dogs with me, and I knew I couldn’t make that drive in one day, I needed to time my fuel stops to coincide with the dogs’ bathroom breaks and drinks of water, and arrange to stay at a hotel along the way that accepted pets.

So, with our safety and well being at the forefront of my thinking, I planned a route that would take us from Fort Lauderdale up through Florida, and across the southern US to Texas…just over 1,350 miles. Every stop went just as planned, when and where. The first leg of the trip proceeded without event.

As I drove from tropical South Florida up through the state, I was amazed at the different personalities that Florida possessed. The farther north I got, the more “old South” Florida looked, with verdant pastures, and trees the likes of which I never saw in Broward County. I was glad I chose to drive vs. fly, so that I could take in all that I did about a state I clearly barely knew, but had called home for two years.

Mobile, Alabama: Half-way Home

At the end of the first day, we spent the night at a hotel I’d arranged for in Mobile, Alabama. I had to park the car a good distance away from the room, and as I’d arrived as dark settled in, I remember my concern as I carted first the dogs, and then my overnight bag to the room. As worried as I was during those two long walks between car and hotel back in 1999, I can only imagine the real danger I would be in today…not because it was Alabama, but anywhere it seems, at any time, anyone can be in danger…especially at night, alone.

However, in relative safety, my dogs and I settled into our room after a long day of driving and riding. To this day, I am grateful to and for those good girls, who tolerated their confinement and never made a peep. Had I not known better, I’d never have guessed that there were two dogs in the car with me. They were truly my heroes!

After a good night’s sleep, we arose, ready to continue our journey. Before it was all said and done, I’m pretty sure Emma had an accident in the corner of the room; however, since the hotel was pet friendly I imagine that wasn’t the first or last pet accident they’d ever dealt with. Besides, I was fairly confident I’d never stay there again, so we basically did the “pee and run” routine, and got back on the road early…I was ready to set foot on Texas soil!

From the hotel in Mobile, we got back on I-10 headed through Mississippi, then Louisiana, and to Texas – through Houston, and then on to San Antonio. That leg of the trip went as planned, except for a little issue in Louisiana. Traffic on I-10 slowed to a crawl, and then to a stop. Both lanes heading west were at a standstill, to the point where people were getting out of their cars to see what the holdup was.

There was construction ahead, and it seemed that a trailer or machine that had been hoisted up by a crane had fallen, and crashed to the ground on our side of the interstate, blocking both lanes. From our place in the long line of cars, it was apparent that we’d happened upon the scene some time after the incident occurred. That gave me hope that we wouldn’t be sitting there for long, with Houston traffic becoming a concern as the minutes ticked by.

Even though it was April, the weather was pretty warm. I had taken two gallons of water with me for the dogs, and had about 2/3 of a gallon left. Worried that my car would overheat if I sat there idling to run the air conditioner, I rolled down the windows, turned off the car and opened the doors. My first concern was making sure the dogs were OK. Ellie was fine, but Emma was getting hot. At one point, she threw up in the crate, turning the whole thing into quite a mess.

I got her and her mother out of there and put them on the grass with leashes attached to the car. I dumped out the crate and cleaned it as well as I could considering my short supply of water, which I rationed to the dogs so they would remain as hydrated as possible. Soon, thankfully, it appeared that the problem up the road was resolved, and traffic began to move! I got the dogs settled back in the crate, started the car, turned on the air conditioner and got back on the road to Texas.

The rest of the trip was uneventful; the best moment of those two days was passing the sign at the Texas-Louisiana boundary that proclaimed, “Welcome To Texas!” With that I gave out a big “Yee-HA” – I was finally on hallowed Texas soil! I rolled on toward home, my years in Houston making navigating through there a snap, and then there was the relatively short, easy drive to San Antonio.

Waiting for my girls and me in San Antonio was my best friend of all time, who offered me her home as a place to land until I got squared away. Having been employed in the apartment management business, I knew my way around the nicer apartment communities in San Antonio and had already arranged for a spot before ever getting back to Texas. It was just a matter of the movers delivering my stuff before life in San Antonio went on, almost like it was never interrupted…except for the welcome addition of sweet Emma and and my amazing Ellie.

NEXT: Life with, and without, Ellie

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Bootcamp is Not for Wimps

Screenshot 2014-12-08 22.05.45I interrupt my regularly scheduled blog posts to report on my latest inadvertent attempt to kill myself: bootcamp.

All my life, I’ve been in great condition, starting with playing loads of tennis on the club level (and winning my share of tournaments, I must add with all due humility), along with playing hundreds of holes of golf per month, walking the course and carrying my clubs. Then, after moving to San Antonio, I took up road cycling, where I was riding an average of about 100 miles a week all over the city’s hilly streets.

Oreo

My normal cycling route led me through one neighborhood where, for a while, there was a nasty little black and white dog named Oreo. I found out about Oreo one day when, while riding along in a zen state, was startled by the dreaded sound of a snarling mutt on my heels. I looked down, and sure enough, that little rat was running right along side me, trying to bite my feet.

I knew his name was Oreo when, after he ran after me, his owner shrieked, “O R E O ! !” so loudly that people in homes three streets over could hear. But no matter to Oreo, he would have no part in being obedient, not when the tantalizing sight of moving feet was so close by!

When you are on a bicycle, and your feet are clipped into the pedals, you have only seconds to pull out of the pedals if you must suddenly need to stop…or you fall over. I knew if I continued riding in this area, I ran the risk of tangling with Oreo and perhaps being knocked off my bike. But, to heck with that…I wasn’t about to give up my wonderful, beautiful route to a bullying pipsqueak!!

So, that first day I outran Oreo, but the encounter made an impression on me. I determined that the next time I went down that street, I’d keep an eye out for him, and make a note of where he came from, and get ready to put on the afterburner to get out of there. I realized this was risky business, but I was willing to go there to settle the score with Oreo.

Two defensive measures came to me: 1. Use my air pump to smack Oreo as he tried to bite me, or 2. Squirt him with my water bottle. I had to weigh the odds of one tactic or the other causing me to lose my balance and crash. I decided that the water bottle would be the least likely to jeopardize me, and if I hit Oreo with a good dousing, perhaps that would be a memorable deterrent.

So, as I rounded the corner leading to the house of Oreo, I pulled my water bottle from its cage and got ready. As I cycled by, sure enough the little black and white devil came shooting out of his yard. I’m sure he thought he had me, as I slowed down to take aim, with him bearing down on my foot. However, with a good strong squirt, he caught a face full of water, stopping him dead in his tracks. I had vanquished the enemy!

Back on Track

A few difficult life events came along and sidetracked me from my athletic pursuits, but I got back on top of things and joined a club in San Antonio, the floors of which were dotted by my falling drops of sweat on a regular basis. I was in better shape than ever and feeling great. I remember one evening running into David Robinson there at the club. A normal person can’t really appreciate just how tall a basketball player is until you see them in real life. Just astounding.

So, in more recent years, with a keen focus on working hard and moving, and then dealing with cancer and chemotherapy, fitness fell by the wayside. It was replaced with overcoming a difficult disease and an onerous, toxic course of treatment.

Today, a year later, with cancer and chemo behind me, I’m feeling really good and ready to get back on top of my physical condition. With that, I found something I didn’t know existed in Beeville – BTX Crossfit. I visited their Facebook page, and their web site, and learned what I could about their facility and services. In spite of that, I never could really discern how to get started with a workout regimen. So, I met with the owner and thought I heard something about an OnRamp program; sounded good, but he gave me a schedule and it happened that there was a bootcamp going this evening at seven. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a go.

Burpee is Not Just a Seed Company!

After a year and a half of inactivity, multiple surgeries, and healing, I knew I was probably in pretty bad shape, but I was willing to start somewhere to get going. The experience was both humbling and gratifying; however, I say this not knowing how much I’ll hurt tomorrow! My body went from doing very little exercise except for long walks with the dogs and exercises at home, to *BAM* this vigorous and rapid course of one thing after another at this evening’s session.

Tonight I learned that there are a few acronyms that are part of the crossfit vernacular, such as EMOM (every minute on the minute) and AMRAP (as many reps as possible). Tonight, I was in EMOM hell. The leader had us doing a set of exercises, each for one minute, then on to the next, for a minute, and so on. If you got finished before a minute was up, which thankfully I did over and over, you got to rest for the remaining seconds. This fun went on for an hour.

Even though this was my first foray into crossfit/bootcamp, I actually did pretty well, though I also felt pretty weak. I didn’t like that one bit. So, I’m going to get a personal trainer to help me build a strong foundation and then we will see what’s next. It did feel good to be out there, working and feeling my body. I’ve always believed we think with our minds, but we feel with and in our bodies. I want my body to be, and feel, its very best!

Meanwhile, there were a few times tonight, especially doing this torturous thing called a burpee, that I thought of my cycling days, and kind of actually missed mean old Oreo. After I get in shape, I’m thinking there’s another bike in my future, and most certainly, another little dog wanting to bite my feet. I’ll be ready!

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My Dog of a Lifetime, Part II: Smart, Sassy Ellie!

The New Baby Gets a Name!

1712626905679I took my little girl home, and life with her began. She seemed mature for her young age, was calm, curious, and very sweet. As we got to know each other, one day and for no real reason, “Ellie” came to me for her.

She was very smart, so it wasn’t long before she started responding to her new name. I taught her the basic commands, which she learned almost instantly. I was so proud of her! House training was completed almost overnight, another sign that I had a smart pup on my hands. I even began to be aware that she had a moral code of sorts, a strong sense of right and wrong without even having to do wrong to figure it out. And, she had a strong playful side, which I loved.

As she grew into an amazing young dog, demonstrating intelligence and character, it continued to be apparent to me that she was a something special. Hoping to replicate her traits, I decided to breed her to my friend’s male, so off she went on an arranged marriage. The consummation worked, and her proportions began to swell. With that, her nickname became “Ellie Belly”.

Reluctant Midwife

Just in time for the birth of Ellie’s puppies, I had to go on a business trip. So, as luck would have it, in the middle of the night, while I was gone, she went into labor. My friend, the reluctant midwife, was keeping her and thus, had the honor of presiding over the births. I hated not being there! In what was a pretty routine whelping, Ellie gave birth to four pups – three boys and one girl – and all were healthy, boisterous and adorable…and loud! Those days, and nights, between birth and bestowing those puppies on new owners got pretty long.

Ellie was an excellent mother, fiercely protective and vigilant about making sure her brood was well fed and always clean. I was quite proud of her, and in awe of the instinctive drive that dictated her behavior toward her babies. However, the very instant that those puppies were weaned, and she could get them off of her, she washed her paws of those little dogs and went on her way!

Ellie’s Dark Side…!

As the puppies matured, and got their legs underneath them, Ellie’s mischievous persona emerged. I hadn’t known that aspect of her, but she became quite a scamp. As is customary in Florida, the back porch of my house was completely screened; the puppies could go out there, but to get to the grass, they had to be let out of a door… that is, until somehow there got to be a hole in the screen.

Ellie found that hole, and like the Pied Piper, led her puppies through it and off on a grand adventure. I saw this happen the first time; I flew out of the house and was somehow able to round up the little ones, but Ellie refused to come home and wouldn’t let me near her with a leash. Exasperated, I took the puppies home and figured Ellie would follow me. She did not.

Fortunately, my little enclave was situated on a golf course, which was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Ellie was pretty much safe out there, with no traffic except golf carts; on the other, she had acres and acres of space to run and get away. I knew finding her would be a crapshoot.

I went out there and walked and walked, and yelled for her. It was fruitless, and I felt sick to think that she might be gone. Dejected, and running out of daylight, I walked home; to my immense relief, I found none other than Ellie, waiting for me at the screen porch door. I opened the door to let her in; she stood there about 10 feet away, looking at me. She wouldn’t let me get near her to pick her up, and she wouldn’t come in. That game went on for a while, and weary of it, I finally propped the door open so she could come in when she was good and ready. I went in the house.

You’re Not the Boss of Me!!

Ellie appeared, looking both a little ashamed of herself, but also, triumphant that she had won in some respects. It was then that I had an idea of who this dog really was. Yes, she was a “who” and not a dog in the conventional sense of “dog”. She wasn’t going to serve me, or obey me, unless we had an agreement, which was…as much as she was going to be my dog, I was going to be her human. At that early point, I wasn’t sure how that was going to play out, but I knew that the creature I knew as Ellie was an extraordinary soul.

There would be other adventures where Ellie would again lead her puppies through the allegedly repaired hole in the screen, I’d go round them up; Ellie would dare me to leave her behind and then later, she’d come home. And another where the little female puppy, Emma, got lost for days and finally turned up at the home of a neighbor, with dozens of people helping search for her. But no matter what, for me, the star of the show was always Ellie.

Florida to Texas

I had made a two-year commitment to the Fort Lauderdale newspaper. I loved my job but had an intense dislike for South Florida. The only thing that saved me was golf, and I played all the time, and I had forged strong bonds with my co-workers…a couple of silver linings in a South Florida cloud.

As opposed to Texas, where most people you run into are from here or somewhere nearby, and might even know your kinfolks, hardly anyone was a native South Floridian. When I lived there, the economy was booming, bringing people in from all over looking to reap the rewards of the good times. In addition, there were people of all sorts of nationalities in South Florida, including Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Haitians, as well as seasonal residents from the northeastern US and Canada.

As a result of a lack of roots or connectedness to the area, the population was what you might call transient. It seemed that factor led to people not really making an effort to be friendly or create relationships, not like here in Texas. I didn’t like that.

Even though Ellie was born in Florida, she was my dog and I her human, and her human was a Texas gal. After I’d fulfilled my commitment to the newspaper, it was time to go home.

NEXT: The Move Home, and After

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My Dog of a Lifetime, Part I

NOTE: I am writing this blog entry in several parts, first because it is a very long story, and secondly it is a very emotionally draining one for me to tell; there is only so much I can handle at any one time. However, the effort is well worth it.

This is an account of my relationship with the most extraordinary dog I could’ve ever imagined having in my life, a bond with whom, even after her death, cannot be broken. So, I write this to honor my Ellie, who died Dec. 8, 2010. I miss her every day, and I am certain she misses me, too.

Ellie Beasley

HAPPY

Nowadays, with cyber security driving the design of web sites, we are often required to provide answers to security questions, to confirm our identity should we need to reset a password or make some other change to personal information. On many web sites that require answers to security questions, one of the choices is often, “Name of your first pet”.

So – the first pet I can remember as a little kid was Happy. Happy was a stout, muscular male boxer that let us dress him up in sunglasses, costumes and hats, and in his amazing patience, allowed us to hitch our little wagon to his collar so he could pull us around the yard. And he did, whenever we wanted.

Boxers look mean and therefore, are prone to classification as aggressive dogs. Happy never showed one ounce of aggression toward anyone in our family; however, he was well known around the neighborhood as a killing machine. Often at night, he’d jump the six-foot fence around our yard and kill other dogs, cats, and whatever else he could find. Then, he’d jump the fence again, leaping back into the yard, and return to being a sweet slobbery slave to us kids.

Happy was the first pet I remember. There were many more over the years, but none that captured and, to this day, have held my heart like my sweet Ellie.

TEXAS TO FLORIDA

When Ellie came into my life, I was living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, having moved there for a work opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Prior to that, I had been living in Houston, working for the Chronicle newspaper. A group from the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale had come to meet with us to discuss a marketing strategy we were developing; I was quite involved with that strategy and had interesting discussions with our Florida colleagues about their plans to emulate our program.

There was excellent chemistry between the Florida folks and me, and we sensed that a partnership could be mutually beneficial. So, ready for a change of scenery, I accepted a job offer from the Fort Lauderdale paper, and moved to South Florida. I knew only one person there, and arranged to live with her for a while until I got settled. It so happened that she had a male Schnauzer that I fell in love with, and when it was time for me to get my own place, I wanted a dog.

Checking the newspaper ads, I found a new litter of Schnauzer puppies at a home in one of Fort Lauderdale’s many suburbs. So, I contacted the owners and made plans to visit their home one evening after work to see the puppies. I arrived at the appointed hour to find a bustling and hectic household full of kids of all ages. This was an Italian family, and seemed there had to have been at least six or more kids, starting with a baby, then a toddler in diapers, to a first grader, and stair-steps up from there.

PUPPY LOVE

With all those kids, there was all the chattering and noise you might expect, along with toys scattered wall to wall. Right in the middle of all that mayhem were two adult miniature Schnauzers, positioned stoically like Sphinxes in the middle of the crowded and loud living room, with the most poise and dignity you could ever imagine from two dogs. Their hair was combed over their eyes, giving them an aura of mystery.

I was in awe of how those two dogs could not only tolerate all those kids, but also be so calm in the midst of utter chaos! Turned out those were the parents of the new litter. I was impressed! As I was eager to see the puppies, the adults of the household guided me to the sunroom, where the babies were hanging out. In contrast to the human household, I found a quiet and orderly scene, with little wiggly fur balls contained in a large enclosure with short plywood walls, situated in the middle of the floor.

SHE PICKED ME!

I gazed at this irresistible jumble of puppy joy, and wondered how in the world I was going to choose just one! Then I noticed that there was a single puppy sitting with her back to the wall, simply observing everything. She very quietly watched me, as well as her siblings. I went over to her, and squatted down; I put my face down near hers and she licked my nose, as if to say, “I pick you”. And so, she did.

At only four weeks, she was too young to take home that night. I had to wait two weeks for the honor of making this sweet girl my new baby. During that time, I figured I’d think of names for her. It was getting close to Christmas, so names like “Holly” and such flickered through my head. Nothing stuck, though, so I thought I’d just wait until I got to know her a little and something certainly would come to me.

The time came to return to the crazy household full of kids so I could get my little girl! I paid for her, got her veterinary records and registration information, and she was all mine. I was with a friend that evening, and from there we had errands to run. It was a cool night by Florida standards, so I had on a coat. My darling little cutie pie fit right in the bend of my arm, and I held her closely so she wouldn’t get cold. As I held her there, and as she fell peacefully asleep in my arms, it seemed there was nowhere else she’d rather be. The natural way she and I bonded that evening would set the pace for us, connected together as pet and human, for the rest of her life.

NEXT TIME: SMART, SASSY ELLIE!

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“Dear Cancer.gov: You Dropped the Ball. Now, Pick it Up!”

On August 13, 2013, I posted to this blog about going to the web site cancer.gov, the web site of the National Cancer Institutes, to learn what I could about the cancer with which I was diagnosed in July: fallopian tube cancer. It is the most rare form of female reproductive cancer, but still, I expected that of all the web sites that offer cancer information, this would be one of the most informative.

Unbelievably, I found no listing for fallopian tube cancer. With that, I was immediately activated, and launched into researching who headed this outfit. In my experience in the business world, it’s easy to find lieutenants who can say, “no”. It’s always much better to go to the general who can say, “yes”, and make it stick. So, I went hunting for the big guy or gal.

I found that the director of the National Cancer Institutes was and is Dr. Harold Varmus. I obtained his e-mail address and, on Aug. 16, 2013, wrote him this message:

Dr. Varmus: 

As a newly diagnosed patient with fallopian tube cancer, I was quite dismayed to see that this type of cancer is not listed on the web site of the National Cancer Institutes. I am writing to respectfully request that it be added as soon as is practicable.

In the research I’ve conducted on fallopian tube cancer, I have learned of its comparative rarity; however, I have also learned that in some cases, cancer that was incorrectly labeled as ovarian cancer originated in the fallopian tube and thus, should’ve been categorized as fallopian tube cancer. Therefore, the incidence of FTC may be more common than once thought. Please refer to this press release appearing on your own web site, cancer.gov:

http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/cancerresearchnews/2012/OvarianCancerInKnockoutMice

You are probably (hopefully) aware that, unlike ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer presents with symptoms that can lead to early detection. In my case, as a post-menopausal woman, “spotting” led me to see my gynecologist, then to a series of tests, then to a gynecologic oncologist, and then to the operating room, where FTC was ultimately confirmed. 

Awareness of my own body and a proactive attitude were my allies; other women might not be so fortunate, but if your web site even mentioned FTC as a women’s cancer, information about this disease and it symptoms might raise awareness and save lives. 

Inasmuch as cancer.gov is a vital, national source of information about cancer, that fallopian tube cancer is not listed as a cancer type is inexcusable. I await your response to this message containing assurances that fallopian tube cancer will be listed, and the time frame in which such will occur. 

Thank you for the life-saving work you are doing through your web site; I hope you will agree that adding this type of cancer will only save more lives.

Regards,

Cissy Beasley

On the same day, Aug. 16, 2013, I received this response from Dr. Varmus:

Thanks, we agree.   FTC is mentioned in the PDQ entry for ovarian cancer but warrants its own. My colleagues at the NCI will take care of it ASAP.  Thanks for drawing our attention to this.

I wrote him immediately and thanked him for his speedy reply and for his commitment to adding this information to cancer.gov.

Over the months after receiving his positive response, I checked cancer.gov and never found the listing. I excused this by thinking that this was a very large organization and such changes don’t happen overnight. Moreover, by this time, I was fully engulfed in chemotherapy, and my attentions were trained on coping with the rigors and challenges of treatment. While the listing for fallopian tube cancer has remained in my consciousness, I had not been checking the site for a listing. Today I went there.

To my dismay, I discovered no listing for fallopian tube cancer. Now, almost a year after my final treatment, and in full possession of my energy and determination, I hopped right on e-mail and wrote Dr. Varmus the following message, with his response following:

Dear Dr. Varmus: 

I am replying to you via your message to me on 8-16-13 regarding your assent that fallopian tube cancer should be added as a separate type of cancer on your web site, cancer.gov.

Since our correspondence last year, I have undergone and completed chemotherapy and as of today, I am doing very well. With treatment occupying all of my attention and energy since I contacted you, I put the matter of whether or not fallopian tube cancer really had been added, per your assurance, to the back of my mind.

Today I checked cancer.gov, and, to my great disappointment, I do not find it listed. Either I’m looking in the wrong place, or it has not been added. If you can direct me to where I can find it, if it is there, I would appreciate it. 

In the interest of helping alert and inform other women about this type of cancer, I will remain vigilant in checking that your site lists fallopian tube cancer as a separate type. The web site of the American Cancer Society lists fallopian tube cancer as its own type; even though that is hugely helpful, where cancer is concerned, there is no such thing as too much information.

I hope your plan to add fallopian tube cancer to cancer.gov will come to fruition very soon!

Thanks and regards,

Cissy Beasley

From Dr. Varmus, 12-1-14:

Ms. Beasley,

I appreciate your drawing my attention to this issue again; I hadn’t checked to see if the promised changes were made.   I have asked Dr. Barry Kramer, the director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention and a leader of PDQ, to work with his staff to make appropriate adjustments and to keep you abreast of the changes.

Many thanks for your advice and constructive comments. 

Harold Varmus

Even though they’ve dropped the ball on implementing the requested and promised addition, I can only imagine the volume of e-mails Dr. Varmus receives. That he has responded to my messages so quickly is pretty amazing! I’m glad to have the name of the go-to person on this, interesting that he is a leader of “PDQ”. I can only hope that means they’ll get this done PDQ!

From July to December 2013, I lived in the world of cancer as a patient, actively receiving treatment. When they removed my port at the end of last December, my fourth surgery of the year, I felt I’d left cancer behind.

With the blessing of what might be called just a glancing blow, and with all my personal resources intact, I feel I must use my skills, abilities and strength to act on behalf of women whose future may hold a diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer. They need to know what I know, and web sites like cancer.gov need to step up and work harder to help them to know if fallopian tube cancer is knocking on their door.

We’re not always, if ever, supposed to know why things happen in our lives…why people come along, why we have losses and gains, and why we get cancer. For me, it seems that I should use my experience as a cancer patient to try to help others. As mentioned in a previous blog post, I have felt chosen for this mission, and with that, I must turn a challenge into an opportunity to learn, grow, and help. To do anything else would, for me, let cancer win. That is not happening on my watch!

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Of Failures, Successes, Love and Thanksgiving

Everyone who knows me knows that fishing is part of my DNA, and owning a boat runs a close second. Boat ownership is something of a family legacy for me, with generations before me having either bought or built many boats over the years. In my family, boats speak to us, and God knows we answer with our checkbooks! Case in point: confronted with the need to move furniture some years ago, rather than get a trailer, my legendary Aunt Betty opted to buy a big Mako for the job. Guess she figured she’d have a nice boat when the move was over.

MAIDEN VOYAGE

I bought my first boat somewhere around 2003. I knew zippo about boats and put my trust in my brother Dickie. He guided me to Ronnie’s Marine in Aransas Pass, where they had a Majek 20V on consignment. This used boat had promise as a learning vessel, and the price was right. Never mind that on our test run with the salesman, the water pump went out.

That shrill whistle indicating an overheated motor sent chills up my spine. The salesman raised the motor to let it cool off, and we idled back to the boat ramp. As a freshman boat owner, I thought a shot water pump spelled doomsday. I didn’t know it was nothing more than a little plastic pinwheel thing that is easy and sort of cheap to replace.

SINKING FEELING

Ronnie’s replaced the water pump, and I bought the boat. It was with some degree of determined trepidation that I began to actually use it. On one of my first outings, my brother Tom and I launched the boat and not long after we got underway, I looked back and to my abject horror, the transom was just about under water. Yep, we didn’t put the plugs in. With my stomach in knots over what I just knew was our imminent sinking, Tom started the motor, opened the throttle wide, and we sped across the bay so that at least some of the water would work its way out of the hull.

I got the two plugs that were rolling around in one of the hatches, and readied myself for a rescue at sea. Tom slowed the boat down, and I lay on my belly with my head and arms hanging over the back of the boat. I found the receptacles for the plugs and screwed the rubber stoppers securely in. The hull still had plenty of water in it, and we were still listing pretty significantly, but at least the situation was under control. I was suddenly a much smarter boat owner: that was a fiasco that would never happen again, and by God it hasn’t.

I sold that boat and bought a brand new Majek 20V. I found that model to be a pretty good all-around boat, able to capably handle both rough chop and fairly shallow water. I got started with Yamaha boat motors, and haven’t strayed from that brand. Other than the water pump issue, they’ve never failed me…as a friend would say, “They start before they start”.

WHEN (WO)MAN PLANS, GOD LAUGHS

So, one day when I had a house on the Laguna Madre, my wonderful friend and fishing buddy and I took off in search of big fish down at a super spot known as the Meadows, near the mouth of Baffin Bay. We were loaded with great bait, cold beer, fried chicken, had blue skies and gentle winds. We were anticipating a magnificent day. Well…not so fast.

The Meadows is a good 45-minute boat ride, maybe even an hour, from our little canal. We’d gotten nearly all the way down there, when my trusty Yamaha suddenly shut down from my cruising speed of somewhere around 3800 rpm, to more like 1600. Yet, the throttle was in the same position as when we were underway.

Working with the throttle, I realized that it would only move a little bit, and wouldn’t allow me to shift into neutral or reverse. Thank goodness I didn’t turn off the motor! I couldn’t have gotten it started without being in neutral, and we would’ve been marooned way down there, at the mercy of whatever poor soul would come by and then have to tow us all the way back to Padre Isles.

With the motor still running, and the throttle stuck in forward, not only could we not go into neutral or reverse, we couldn’t stop. We were stuck in slow motion, and we certainly couldn’t fish.

PUTT-PUTT

So, we did the only thing we could do, and that was start the long, slow trip back to home base. Feeling defeated, what else could we do but open a beer and eat some fried chicken. What little throttle I did have allowed me to ooch into being on plane, so at least we could get some momentum. Still, we had a long way to go!

We had plenty of time to visit and relax, and enjoy the scenery along the Laguna Madre, which is lovely. Over and over, the fishing gods toyed with us, as we went past what looked to be really fishy spots, with bait and moving water, and all the ingredients for catching. Wondering what we might do if we did stop to fish, I took a look at our bait…it was dead!! Slapping my hand to my forehead in exasperation, I wondered what else would go wrong that day…one thing was for sure – we were NOT meant to fish!

Re-focusing back on the situation at hand, I knew we had to do some thinking about how to handle our dilemma. I knew the boat would need to go in for service after this failure, so the challenge was getting it onto the trailer. We had departed from the lift behind my house, and the trailer was parked in the driveway. So, here was the plan.

RAMP UP

As soon as I was close enough to the bulkhead and cleat at the boat ramp, I’d turn off the motor and coast up to where I could tie the boat off. Once the motor was off, there was no starting it back up, so we would have to get the boat onto the trailer the old-fashioned way…with muscle and determination!

My friend left and walked to my house, which thankfully was just a few blocks away. She returned with the trailer hooked to my Suburban, and she backed the trailer in, extra far, so we could float the boat onto it and then, winch the boat the rest of the way up.

Knee-deep in water at the boat ramp, and miraculously avoiding slipping and falling, we eventually loaded the boat and winched it totally up on the trailer. We were very pleased with ourselves! We pulled the boat back over to my house, and then I called the mechanic at Ronnie’s, whose cell number I had in my phone.

THE FIX

He knew right away what the problem was. He instructed me to remove the cowling, and to go to the location of two rods that are controlled by the throttle, and that modulate the speed and spin of the prop.

It was clear that there were specific places for those rods, one of which was seated properly. The other had come out of its seat, likely on a somewhat rough ride south, and was jammed. It was a simple matter of bringing the jammed rod back up and replacing it in its bracket. Then, the throttle went up and back, just like it is supposed to. My confidence in my Yamaha motor was restored!

Feeling triumphant, and now with a fully functioning boat and daylight to burn, we decided we hadn’t had enough abuse. So we put the boat back in the water and went to a local spot to fish with lures. Predictably, and in line with the overall karma of the day, we caught nothing. We didn’t care. We were happy to have overcome our challenge and conclude the day on a positive note.

THE SILVER LINING

When you’ve had a day that starts out with fishing as the objective and some issue or another pops up, you look for the silver lining in the cloud of apparent misfortune. Yes, our plans were foiled because of a mechanical failure. But, we two ladies managed the situation, fixed the problem, and returned the boat to the lift. No we didn’t catch any fish, but then, we didn’t have to clean any fish, either. Nobody got hurt and above all, we had an abundance of laughs, enriched our friendship and made memories that will forever be part of the mosaic of our lives as individuals and as friends. My fishing trips with my brother Tom – my hero – have brought us even closer as big brother and little sister.

Fishing is like golf, or going out to eat, or any other activity that brings people together. While the activity may be why you gather, at the end of the day it’s really about being with people you care about. My journey as a cancer patient has crystallized for me the importance of relationships, and putting energy into being with others.

We are remembered not for what we did for a living, or how many fish we catch, but for how much we love, how loved we are, and how we make others feel. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the love in my life, both that which I receive and am blessed to give. My heart is full and my cup of blessings overflows. To each of you, Happy Thanksgiving, and may your days be filled with loaves, AND fishes!

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The Cotton Bowl

When I was a little kid, our family doctor would say, “Never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow.” Now I know why.

I, as many ladies do, have a little travel kit containing makeup items. In my kit, those items include Q-tips. My Q-tips have been traveling around with me for so long that they have almost reached fossil status. What’s worse, if memory serves, they are the cheapest generic, sorriest Q-tips known to man.

As has been my habit for years, after showering, I Q-tip out my ears to get rid of water and anything else that’s in there that shouldn’t be. I mean, what else are Q-tips for?? A few weeks ago, I had occasion to travel and stay in a hotel. After I showered, I got a Q-tip out of my little makeup kit and twirled it around in each ear.

As I reamed out my left ear, the phone rang and I removed the Q-tip and answered the call. After that, I finished my get-ready routine and left the room, going about my day, and life went forward as, thankfully, it does.

The other day, while showering, water trickled into my left ear. We have all experienced the sensation while swimming of water going into your ear, and a familiar “swooshing” sound as water fills your ear, and then the opening of your ear when the water leaves. Well, I got the “swoosh”, but not the clearing. It felt like the water went in but never went back out. I was deaf as a post in my left ear!

We were leaving for the ranch shortly, so I didn’t have a lot of time to fiddle around with a clogged-up ear. I got a – yes – Q-tip and ran it around in there, to no avail. I poured alcohol into my ear, twice – nothing. Thinking I would benefit from taking a decongestant, I popped a Sudafed. Time was growing short, and I had much to do to get ready to leave town. So, with a clogged ear and growing frustration, I forged ahead.

It didn’t take long for my frustration to transition into desperation. So, one of my stops on my way out of town was Walgreens, to purchase something, anything, that would provide relief. The pharmacist recommended an ear wax cleaning kit. My first thought was, “I have so little wax in my ears, I’d have to live two lifetimes to make one candle!” But, I bought it, hoping that whatever was in there would open my ear.

While driving, I opened the kit. With one eye on the road and one hand on the wheel, I opened the first bottle, tilted my head to the side, and squeezed. I immediately felt the sensation that can only be delivered by hydrogen peroxide, a mildly pleasant foaming action that allegedly was going to loosen that nasty wax in preparation for irrigation.

Next, I got out the aerosol can that had a pointed tip, stuck it in my ear and pulled the trigger. The chilly spray delivered a high-velocity stream rivaled only by hornet spray, right into my deaf ear. Then, it spilled out of my ear and ran in cold streams down my neck and across my face, down my chest and back, and wherever else gravity would take it. To add insult to injury, I was soaking wet…and still deaf.

This operation, clearly an epic failure, left me dejected.

After I dried off as much as I could, all the while driving down the highway, I instinctively turned on the radio. What the hell, I couldn’t hear it, so I turned it off. My only alternative for my good ear, to while away the time in the car, was to call people. So, I caught up with friends near and far, as a way to find the silver lining in a hideous cloud.

En route to the ranch, I took more decongestant. Then, I decided to “phone a friend”, and put a post on Facebook asking if anyone had a solution to a clogged up ear. The caring responses were wonderfully sympathetic; some were offered in jest, but most were tried and true attempts to help. I love my Facebook friends!

One response, delivered via private message, suggested that the situation was potentially serious and my hearing might be at stake and I should talk to my doctor ASAP. So I spoke to her, and she suggested taking a decongestant…so I did. I took a lot of decongestant that day; I’m sure my blood pressure resembled an EKG, or a reading off a Geiger counter. I was both jittery and sleepy, and still deaf.

While continuing to read the responses offered on Facebook, one piqued my interest. It contained a story about having a clogged ear and going to the doctor, who extracted a piece of cotton that had gotten trapped inside. Suddenly, the light bulb came on! I remembered the old Q-tip I’d used in the hotel room weeks before, which I’d hurriedly pulled out of my ear and thinking it might’ve come apart. There was suddenly hope!!

Thinking that if there really was an old Q-tip remnant in my ear, I might be able to fish it out. So, I got the only “fishing rod” I could find at the ranch house – a toothpick. I carefully inserted the toothpick into my ear, and moved it around. And lo and behold, I felt something soft and mushy. As I worked with it, I could feel it getting closer to the opening of my ear, and suddenly, as I extracted the toothpick, the wet, nasty blob of cotton that had vexed me all day came out with it! I could hear!! Hallelujah!!

The relief I experienced was nothing short of glorious. Everyone at the house was aware of my dilemma and joined in the celebration by toasting to success, relief and being able to hear. With all the decongestant I’d taken during the day, and then a glass of wine, I was ready to hibernate. I went to bed early and slept hard, awakened in the night by the sound of snoring. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard!

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The Circle of Life

LITTLE ANNIE OAKLEY

I’ve been hunting since I was about six. My first gun was a single-shot .410 from Sears & Roebuck; with it, I learned how to hunt quail. From there, my next gun was a Sako .222, equipping me to join my father and brothers on deer hunts at the family ranch in South Texas, and elsewhere.

Our parents taught us to take responsibility for anything we killed, so early on I learned to clean quail and prepare them for the skillet or the freezer. As well, taking care of bigger game, to include field dressing, skinning and butchering deer, became part of my ranch skill set. That I was a girl not only made no difference in my level of responsibility versus the boys, but was even celebrated at the hunting camp and at the family deer packaging sessions. Those were fun times to be a girl!

THE BUCK STOPPED THERE

Being capable in matters of deer disposition recently came in handy, when at the country home of my niece and her husband, dogs chased a young buck into and through a barbed wire fence. The deer hit the fence hard, and fell to the ground. He was observed for several hours, during which time he raised his head and even got up and walked. There was hope that he would survive, but it was not to be. He went back down and never got up again.

I received a message from my niece that the deer had likely died. I knew that if he hadn’t sustained internal injuries, there was a good chance that the meat could be harvested, which would be the best thing that could come of this unfortunate incident.

Anyone who’s ever field dressed a deer, or helped, knows that you often learn what you need by not having it…as with many things. If you’re smart, that only happens once. Thereafter, you make darn sure that you never don’t have exactly what the job demands. Out in the field, you need the appropriate instruments. It seems disrespectful to the deer not to do it correctly.

CINDY LOPPER

So, I have all the right stuff, to include a knife set that has a blade for every field dressing need, a sharpener, and a pair of loppers. Loppers are marvelously handy and useful. I keep some in my Suburban for photography outings, when I might need to remove a branch from a setting, or make cuttings to create a nice scene where birds land for attractive photos. Everyone should have loppers in their car. Just sayin’!

One might wonder why loppers are needed in field dressing a deer. To get all of the entrails out without cutting into things like intestines and the bladder, the contents of which can ruin the meat, you must open the pelvic bone. Loppers get it done quickly, easily and cleanly.

CLOSURE

My niece took the deer’s fate very hard, so when she let me know about the animal’s injury and then, its death, I knew what to do. I needed to have her work with me to transform the animal into something that would feed others, to give value to this loss. On the surface of it, I was heading over there to gut, skin and butcher a dead deer. But in truth, I was there to provide closure.

I arrived at the location and my niece showed me where the deer was. First order of business was confirming that the deer truly had expired. A traumatized deer can leap up and charge, and inflict much damage to a human being! But he was gone, no leaping. I got him properly situated and began the process of opening him up and removing his entrails, to include heart and lungs. I first wanted to make sure his injuries didn’t taint the meat. It appeared that the cause of death was a ruptured artery in his neck, so the meat would be fine.

BUCKSKIN

With my niece’s help, we got that part done. The little buck was ready to be skinned and quartered, meaning that I would remove the shoulders and hams and the back straps. I hadn’t skinned a deer in many moons; since the last time, I’ve put on a few years…the old back didn’t give out on me, but I sure felt the strain! As with part one of this endeavor, part two was a team sport, my niece and I working together to take the meat.

We packaged up everything to take to the deer processor, and then sat on the front porch and had a beer. We’d worked hard and needed to relax for a bit. She and I chatted about everything except the deer, saying without saying it that life needs to go on. Her husband arrived home from work, we visited for a few minutes and then I left for the processor.

SYNCHRONICITY

Many people today are against hunting. With some of the buffoons and jerks who hunt, and by their attitudes and actions that do damage to nature and to the reputations of ethical hunters, I can see how people believe hunting is barbaric. I get both sides of the argument.

The outcome of what happened on that day last week, however, is a testament to the value of knowledge gained through hunting. Had I not spent all the time I have in the field, learning what I know about what to do when a deer dies, our young casualty might have gone to waste.

Also, had this happened one year ago, there’s no way I could’ve exerted myself the way I did in taking care of that deer. By this time last year, I’d had most of the chemo I was to receive; I was weak and weary, barely able to lift a leg, much less a deer. We are, in this life, exactly where we are supposed to be.

The processor just called and said the meat is ready. After I pick it up tomorrow, I’ll head out to the South Texas Children’s Home, a wonderful charity not far from Beeville. It seems appropriate that one young life lost will go to benefit many other young lives that are just getting started. The circle of life is complete once more.

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