Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Broken

I’ve written posts of celebration for other dogs. Friends’ dogs, dogs I loved, some I’d met, some I only knew online. Those posts flowed from my heart through my finger tips, past my tears and onto the screen as if by magic.

But this is my girl.

And the pain, so deep, is creating a fortress wall high and wide, filled with hidden devises ready to ignite without warning as memories explode and fade in my mind like 4th of July fireworks.

The words in my heart, aching to be set free by my finger tips, are trapped.

This is the time to celebrate Katie, to sit and remember all fifteen years, five months and twenty-three days of her extraordinary life. To relive the adventures, the funny head tilts, the squirrel alerts, the soft tummy tickles.

And I will do that, am trying to do that.

Just not quite yet.


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Songs of Shiawasee

Ok, so maybe I won’t be singing in this post, but lots of birds were vocalizing when I visited the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge Friday morning. (And I should thank my friend Wendy for telling me about the Merlin phone app that helped me identify so many bird songs that morning!) Want to come along? You should probably be on a screen bigger than your phone for these images. Just to get the full effect, you know.

It was a beautiful sunny day. Perfect for basking.

I got a later than normal start, as I’m usually there at sunrise and this time I didn’t arrive until hours after the sun was up. But it was still morning! So that counts for something, right?

This might be a king bird. Or something else. I thought he was very elegant.

Still, there weren’t many cars in the parking lot, which now that I think about it, was irrelevant because I planned on doing the Wildlife Drive instead of doing my usual 4 mile hike through the woods.

This juvenile bald eagle startled me, coming off of a telephone pole just as I drove by.

I was curious about what I’d see from the car on the 6 mile route through the refuge. I’ve visited in late fall and early spring, but the wildlife drive is only open from June 1 through September 30 each year, so I’ve never driven it before.

Not all the pretty things are wildlife. At least this water lily stood still for me.

I have to say there are long stretches of the road that weren’t particularly interesting to me. But when I got a good image, it was a really good image.

I watched this blue heron scratch his chin for several minutes before he took off for parts unknown.

And it was fun to see the refuge from a different perspective. I could see, way across the wetlands, parts of the trails I usually walk.

Way over there is a tree that usually has eagles sitting in it. You can get closer if you’re walking, but they always see you and fly away.

But boy, you have to be ready for anything while driving, just like when you’re walking in the woods.

Mama wood duck and her brood. Not in focus, but way too cute to leave out.

You never know when a bunch of birds will fly up over your car, or be standing silently up to their knees in water. (Do birds have knees?)

Do you see the heron out there looking for lunch?

I lost lots of great shots because I couldn’t get a fast enough focus.

Look closely and you’ll see a bunch of wood ducks startled by me driving by. Not in focus, but cool anyway.

I was particularly disappointed by not getting a great shot of the pelicans. I caught a glimpse of them too late, when I was already past the perfect spot to stop.

Not in focus, but there was a car behind me and I didn’t take the time to check my shot. Darn.

I actually drove the road twice, just to get back to the pelicans to get a better shot, but they were gone when I came around the second time. But that’s OK, I got a great shot of a sleepy blue heron on my second trip around.

“Can’t get a lick of sleep around here.”

And I spent quite a long time watching an egret stalk his (or her) lunch on my second loop too. They are so white I’ve often had a hard time getting good images of them, but this one was close enough to notice the nuances in the tail feathers.

I think something wasn’t going down easily.

I don’t know what it was eating, something too small for me to see, but there seemed to be a lot of it and the bird was chowing down.

Notice the color on his tail feathers?

Once I got through the gate at the end of the road the second time I decided to park and go walk some small part of my typical hike. It’s just over 2 miles out to the overlook, and of course 2 miles back and I didn’t want to do all that. And I’d just driven by the overlook. Twice.

The light playing on the water caught my attention.

But you know how it goes. Once you get started you’re always finding something just around the next bend in the trail that sparks your interest. Plus there was this high school (or maybe college?) group that I passed and I wanted to keep ahead of them. Just because.

Out with a park ranger learning about cool stuff.

So I ended up doing almost the entire 4 mile loop. But that’s OK, because I got to see the eagles’ nest and at least one of the adults was sitting in it. I’m guessing there are babies up there, but I couldn’t tell.

On guard.

The nest is a long way away from the trail, really too far for my lens, but you get the idea. I was thrilled it was in a dead tree. When I first saw this nest last winter I assumed that leaves would obscure the view come summer. I grinned when I turned a corner in the trail and the nest was right there. Plus the eagle, a bonus, made me smile even wider.

So, two driving loops, 12 miles, on the Wildlife Road, and a 4 mile hike through the woods. I’d say that’s a pretty good day.

The milkweed is just about ready to burst into summer.

And I got some nice photos to prove it.

I hope you enjoyed the ride and walk!


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Father’s Day again

Today is the eighteenth Father’s Day without Dad. Well. That’s not really true, we’re not without him exactly, he just isn’t physically here.

But he’s around. There’s not a day I don’t think of him.

He was definitely taken from us too soon, but he still had a wonderful life full of the people and adventures he loved.

I think he’d be 92 now and that would have been fun to see. I bet he’d be a dynamic 92 year old, still full of funny stories and handyman skills.

Miss you, Dad, on Father’s Day and every day.


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Distraction

Two days after Katie flew free we had company. My brother and sister arrived for a visit that was planned weeks before we knew Katie wouldn’t be here to greet them.

It was a good distraction, to have additional people here in the house. The days were filled with activities and meal preparation. I told stories about my girl, and cried when I needed to. It was nice to have extra people around who knew and loved her.

I don’t suppose you have a peanut for me?

Of course we went out to Kensington to see the birds. The heron rookery was filled with teenagers waiting for their parents to show up with food. They’ll soon be off on their own.

Do you see the delivery guy? He said he’d be here in 20 minutes and that was an hour ago!

And then we wandered a few of the trails looking for hungry little birds to come down for a treat.

You know I won’t come to your hand, but I’d appreciate it if you drop a few treats for me along your way.

We were later in the day than I generally visit, and I wasn’t sure what we’d find. Little did I know the park would be teeming with wildlife. At the beginning of our walk we came across an assertive raccoon.

Looking for lunch, people, give up your seed and no one gets hurt.

Another walker told us she had been fed by people (against the rules) and was now stalking guests. We tried to run her off, because there were small children present. But it was difficult to get away from her.

Finally we took a different path away from the other people and not far down that path we witnessed a great battle. We first heard the sound of a wound up sandhill crane very close.

Then we saw the action begin.

Mama stands over in the tall grass as the battle began.

We think the crane couple had a nest, or perhaps a young one, and the turkey was intent on getting too close. The crane was intent on not letting that happen.

The crane was relentless.

As we stood there, me with a camera lens that was too long because they were so close to us, the battle moved from the field to the path we stood on, and then into the woods. And back again.

You can’t hide from me, Turkey!

It was very loud, mostly the crane screaming at the turkey.

“Get moving out of here, you turkey!”

But the turkey was stubborn too. Each time the crane thought he had banished the turkey, and began to walk calmly back to his family, the turkey followed him, and the battle began again.

Yep, took care of him, he won’t come back this way again.”

It got quite brutal.

“Get back, I say!”

There were the three of us and one other woman essentially trapped on the path, snapping pictures. I never took time to reset my camera settings for the low light and activity, so lots of images are out of focus.

“Take that!”

Still you get the idea of the epic battle we witnessed. It was amazing.

“Darn turkey. Can’t let your guard down a moment around here.”

When they finally settled down, we moved on.

“I’ll be back.”

Turns out even in the middle of the day there were lots of hungry littles out in the woods. Especially since we were on a less traveled path.

“Hey! Don’t forget about me!”

We had a few little birds follow us, and one larger male red-bellied that came down to visit us multiple times. That’s very unlike my typical experience where they usually act quite shy.

“HI!!! I put on my best outfit to show up for a meal! What did you bring me?”

We had a lovely walk, the weather was perfect with dappled sun deep in the woods, and a slight breeze keeping the bugs at bay.

My artsy-fartsy shot for the day.

This park never fails to entertain. When I’m feeling blue I can always count on finding a smile out among the trees.

Nature is amazing.

I hope you each have a place like this that mends your soul. I feel lucky to have mine.


65 Comments

Still

A week ago today you left me, baby-girl. I know it wasn’t entirely your idea, at least not the particular day and time, but you’d been telling me, subtlety, for weeks that you weren’t feeling well. So I made the decision to set you free.

Still…I wonder if I was too early, if you wanted to stick around for a little more time. You were mostly happy on Monday and Tuesday. I almost changed my mind.

Just before the vet arrived.

Still…you weren’t eating. Every day you ate less. On Sunday you ate hardly anything at all and buried your face in the cool grass when we went outside. We didn’t want you to starve. Food was always your favorite thing.

Still…I miss you so much. I don’t know how to be without you. I can’t seem to catch my breath. I know I should write a tribute to you but I can’t. Not just yet. As long as I don’t write that piece I can fool myself into thinking you’re just in the other room, or at camp.

Always waiting on her mama, she’ll wait for me across the bridge now.

I will miss you forever, sweetie.


75 Comments

An update on me.

Katie here.

I thought I’d jump on my mama’s blog real quick while she’s not paying attention and bring you up to speed on the most important Princess in your her life – me!

Mama says I shouldn’t cry wolf all the time cause people aren’t gonna believe me later on, but seriously, this past week has been a roller coaster of emotions and feelings and stomach aches for all of us here.

Me taking mama for a walk this week.

The stomach aches were mostly mine, but luckily I have meds for that!

You all know I have kidney disease, and I’m stage 4. That’s bad enough, but in the past couple weeks I’ve decided I’m not going to eat my Royal Canin food, the stuff I’ve been eating happily for months. Mama and daddy had a routine down and we all knew exactly what I was going to eat and which pills I was getting at any particular time.

We were a well oiled machine, I tell you.

One of my happy walks.

And then one morning I turned my nose up at the food in my bowl and walked away. Mama was perplexed. And it got worse. Every day I randomly decided what I would eat. And what I would not. In the beginning they coaxed me into continuing to eat my prescription food, but now days even the smell of it makes me feel nauseous.

I’ve had lots of good days.

So mom is cooking for me again. Daddy took me to the vet on Wednesday and she said I could eat whatever I wanted! I thought it was the best day in my life! Chicken! Green beans! Boiled carrots! Brown rice! Pasta! Whatever I wanted mama prepared for me!

Wednesday night it was like she was my personal chef!

I’d like to order a filet with some peanut butter on the side please.

But now I’m turning my nose up at chicken, though I still like the ground turkey. Mama made pasta for me last night and I thought that was pretty good, though she only gave me one macaroni noodle. She said she was testing to see if I’d eat it before she made a whole bunch. You see I had loved the brown rice when she first cooked it on Thursday but now I think it’s disgusting.

I’m kinda fickle.

Another walk yesterday, I was starting to feel not so good.

Yesterday morning while mama was making her oatmeal (she gets to cook for herself too!) I was looking at her intently. I wanted my piece of apple, like I get whenever she makes oatmeal. Just a tiny bit of apple, no skin. It’s my morning treat, and I’m all about routines, so I was waiting expectedly for it. She casually handed it to me, figuring I’d snap it out of her fingers like normal but I just sniffed it, then took it from her and spit it out on the floor and walked away.

Mama knew right then that something more than usual was not right.

By late afternoon I was restless and just wanted to be outside in my cool grass, so we were sitting out there a lot, but I kept moving around. I looked very sad. Daddy came out with us and I got up to move away and they were discussing giving me an extra pain pill when I started to shake.

I just want to lay here in the grass, mama.

They looked at each other and scooped me up and the next thing I know I’m in the car and I don’t feel good and mama and daddy are stressing.

So we got to the emergency vet and they don’t seem that busy and mama does the paperwork and a tech comes out to look at my gums (pale pink) and they say they will get to me. But they never did. I finally fell asleep on their nice cool floor.

I wasn’t shaking anymore and had spent most of the two hours we waited visiting with other people who all, by the way, said I was adorable and beautiful and cute.

Which of course is true.

We finally left the emergency vet place and went home where I refused to take a pain pill and everyone got frustrated and then mama said we should just go to bed and see what tomorrow would bring.

So we did.

This morning I was very lethargic, sleeping on my bed out in the living room, instead of in the bedroom with her. Mama was worried cause I was sleeping with my head hanging off the bed.

Looks like I had too much to drink last night!

She petted me and I woke up and we went to get weighed (I still weigh the same) and then she made my pills which I took no problem, and my yogurt, with my special powder in it, which I loved, and my special breakfast, of ground turkey and a little pasta and one green bean, which I ate without arguing. Though I left 4 pasta noodles, cause really? Pasta??

This morning’s walk.

And then we went for a tiny walk, just down to the corner, and I did my business and then we went out back and filled the birdfeeders like we do every morning, and now I’m settled in for a nap, waiting for breakfast #2.

Watching mama, cause she has grape jelly and I want some!

So, as you can see things are normal, at least for us, but I think you should know that I’m slowing down and not feeling as happy all the time as I used to be, and mama and daddy and I are discussing the possibility of me going on my next big adventure. Mama says I’ll have to do that one without her, though she says she and daddy will be there to see me off.

I don’t know if I want to do an adventure without her, she and I have always shared everything. But she says I’m a strong girl and that I’ll love it across that bridge once I get there cause lots of my friends are already there. She says I won’t be sad or lonely there at all.

Earlier this week when I was a happy girl.

We’ll see. I’m pretty sure I’m not going over that bridge today. I told her that too….”not today, mama, not today.” Mama smiles but her eyes are leaking and she gave me an extra hug when we were outside this morning.

Not today, mama.

I don’t really like to be hugged, but I let her this time.

Seemed the least I could do.

Love to you all,

Katie-girl


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Besides the night sky

Sometimes when I go north to camp it’s with the sole purpose of getting night sky images. Those trips I don’t care much about the campground, it’s just a place to nap during the day. Mostly I care if there’s a dark sky park nearby, or at least some open sky with something interesting in the foreground.

Our campsite, tucked up on a knoll, deep in the woods.

Those trips I usually spend the days sitting around at the campground reading and nibbling on snacks that aren’t good for me. When I begin to fall asleep over my book I tuck myself into my sleeping bag and take a nap.

It was spring in the woods, with the pine trees in ‘bloom.’

Sometimes that’s the best part about camping…eating, reading, napping. Repeat. I’m usually impatient for the sun to set, eager to try again for the shot I can see in my head but rarely get captured on my camera.

This trip, planned months ago, just happened to coincide with clear dark skies and no moon. So I got lucky.

I had my stove and my friend brought most of the food.

During last week’s camping adventure I had company, and a more varied agenda. We were camped in a walk-in site, we were the only people camping on our loop which was wonderful and so quiet we could hear owls at night as we sat around the campfire.

Thank goodness we were able to buy dry firewood!

OK, full disclosure. Mostly we sat around the campfire to get warm because it was stinking cold out there! Last year, on our camping trip the exact same week, we were wearing shorts. This year we were wearing long underwear, layers of sweatshirts, jackets and winter coats. I slept, the first night, wearing gloves and a hat, as well as my winter coat while in a sleeping bag and under multiple layers of blankets.

Not your typical sleeping attire.

But the next day, after a night of shivering and then squealing over the Milky Way, the sun came out and we paddled down the Platt River, almost all the way out to Lake Michigan. We got out of the river at the exact location I shot the Milky Way the night before.

Grateful for the sun while we were on the river.

That made me smile.

Lake Michigan is right on the other side of those dunes.

We had the site reserved for three nights, Monday through Wednesday, but though the second night wasn’t quite as cold as the first, I still slept in all my clothes and piled towels on top of the blankets on top of the sleeping bag.

Being cold all the time can wear a camper out.

Looks warm. Wasn’t.

Plus the weather people said it would get warmer but we were going to get rain Wednesday afternoon, and that it would rain all day Thursday, the day we were scheduled to leave.

Time to pack things up.

We decided to pack up on Wednesday morning and hightail it out of there. There’s nothing worse than packing up camp after a night of rain. Wait. In truth it’s worse to pack up camp after a full night of rain, while it continues to rain. Trust me on this.

The sun just tipping the trees above us made me want to stay….for a moment.

So we abandoned ship a day early. I think I did that almost every camping trip I took last summer, and always because of rain. Rain while camping in a small tent is not that fun after the first few hours of listening to it drum on the rainfly. Rain accompanied by wind and thunder can be pretty terrifying.

This could be another good spot to shoot the Milky Way, don’t you think?

Anyway, we chose to bail, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go back. Camping in the woods without big RVs next to you is a delight.

I stopped at Pt. Betsie on my way home, but the lilacs weren’t open yet. And the storm was coming in.

I just hope next time it’s warm enough that I can sleep without wearing my hat and parka.

On the beach waiting for the sun to set on our last night.