Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


44 Comments

Reilly, my love

Katie here.

When mama said she was going to write a tribute to Reilly Cowspot Dog, my fiance, I asked if I could please do it. Because Reilly was, and always will be, my boyfriend, my soulmate.

My guy.

Mama wasn’t sure it was a good idea to let me write it. She said maybe it would be too hard for me, that I’d get all sad and stuff, and of course she’s right. I am truly heartbroken that I won’t see Mr. Reilly on this earth again.

I love him so.

My guy, Mr. Reilly.

But it is precisely because I love him that I want to tell you about him. And even though it makes me sad, it also helps me to remember him and all the good times he had when he was here.

Mama is right when she says you can smile and cry at the same time.

Reilly and me at one of his amazing parks.

Reilly was born an old soul with the deepest, darkest, most beautiful eyes. I’m told he was a good boy right from the start. He never got in trouble even when he was a puppy.

He was a color-headed white sheltie, which means most of him was white, but he had this marking on one side that mama thought looked just like a Micky Mouse head, especially noticeable when he was a little guy.

Mama ‘borrowed’ this picture from Reilly’s blog. Can you see the marking on his side?

Mama says one of the first things she remembers about him was a video where he was walking on a treadmill, getting his walk in when the weather was bad outside. He was so adorable.

When he was in one of his contemplative moods.

He grew into a tall guy, so dark and handsome, with a big, booming voice. Sometimes people were startled when he barked, but they shouldn’t have worried because Reilly loved everyone. His mom said he even liked to go to the vet, and would bark upon arrival to let them all know he was there. Can you imagine being happy to visit the vet?

Lounging on his sofa. (picture taken by his mom.)

And what an adventurer he was! He loved to explore parks, proclaiming each of them ‘his’ once he had visited. Why he and his brother Denny even earned honorary Park Ranger status! Reilly felt it was very important to visit as many of his parks as frequently as possible just to make sure everything was up to his very high standards.

A couple years ago, when a hurricane was threatening his home, he and his family got to go all the way to Alabama to stay at my lake house! I wasn’t there, which makes me sad now, but I was sure happy to see the pictures of Reilly enjoying the cooler Alabama weather out on my deck.

Reilly, happy on my deck in Alabama. (picture by his mom.)

I hear he especially loved the air conditioning vents that I had put in the floors there. They are perfect to cool off warm sheltie tummies and I’m so glad he got to enjoy them.

He climbed my mountain there in Alabama too! Just one more adventure in a life full of adventures for my Reilly.

Reilly on my mountain.  (picture by his mom)

For the last few years Reilly was lucky to live near the ocean, and oh my goodness, how my Reilly loved walking on the beach in the early mornings or late evenings. So many lovely smells. So many birds to chase!

Reilly and his birds.

He loved the salt air blowing in his fur, and the sand between his toes, even the toes of his bad foot. He had the most adorable little boots that he wore to help him walk easier. I thought he looked so sophisticated in them.

Reilly and his little brother Denny on their beach. (picture by their mom.)

And guess what? A couple years ago I got to actually meet the love of my life! I’m sure you all remember that. He was so welcoming, letting me spend time in his home. He shared his beaches and parks and family with me, and even let me eat out of his bowl without arguing!

My first time on a beach, Reilly made me feel a lot safer just because he was there.

My Reilly, he was such a gentleman.

When he wasn’t adventuring or exploring he loved to spend time at home with his folks, lounging on the deck in the winter sunlight, or hanging out in the air conditioned sun-porch during the warmer months. He did that more and more these last few weeks as he became weaker in his illness.

Reilly and his little brother Denny, best friends forever. (Picture by his mom.)

This past Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, his poor body just gave out and he crossed the rainbow bridge, only two weeks after his little brother Denny. Mama took me on a walk the next day and told me the sad news. Of course I wasn’t surprised, as she had warned me that he was very ill. But still.

During my last visit with Reilly and his brother. Isn’t he handsome?

Mama’s eyes are leaking at random times now, and this morning I crawled into bed to wake her up with kisses which I haven’t done in many years. She hugged me tight. She says she is so heartbroken for Reilly’s folks who have lost both their boys this month.

She says there are no words to make this better.

And she says she knows lots of people all over the world were sad to hear the news. Did I tell you my Reilly was famous and had his own blog? He had friends everywhere.

Reilly’s last visit to his beach.(Picture by his mom.)

I feel very honored to be his girl and I know when I go across that bridge he’ll be waiting for me. Cause that’s the kind of gentle boy he is and always will be.

So Mr. Reilly. My love. I will miss you forever and ever. Thank you for being my guy and sharing your space with me and putting up with my princess-ness. Thank you for all the gifts you’ve sent me over the years. Thanks for sleeping next to me when I visited, and taking me to your special places. I loved all of it. And I loved you.

No, that last bit shouldn’t be in past tense. I love you Reilly, and always will. Till we meet again sweetie, run on those beaches up there, and sniff through the woods. Chase a bird and a squirrel for me while you’re waiting. And eat the good treats, just save a few for me.

Your feet, all four of them, are good now, and your legs are strong. Your bark is as loud and as deep as ever; I’m sure you announced yourself when you got over the bridge. Run and bark and keep a watch over Denny and I’ll see you again. One way or another.

Run pain free, my love!

Love forever,

Your girl Katie.

Reilly and Denny, together forever. (picture by their mom.)


33 Comments

Tribute to Mr. Denny

Mr. Denny was a quirky little dog with a huge heart. He didn’t trust just anyone, and was always on guard against anything scary. Even if it was only in his imagination.

Denny (the redhead) and his brother Reilly.

I met Denny a few years ago, but I’d watched him grow up on his big brother Reilly’s Cowspot Dog blog since he was an adorable puppy.

Denny loved to hang out with his brother.

When I first stayed at his house he wasn’t sure about me, barking every morning when I left the guest room, as if it was the first time he’d ever seen me. But eventually he sauntered by and sniffed the hand I’d left dangling for him. And during my next visit months later he didn’t bark at me quite as much. By our third visit he was actually letting me tickle his tummy.

Keeping track of those scary birds.

When we all went out he was ever vigilant, making sure there was nothing dangerous, ready to warn us if need be. But, just to be safe, he liked to stick close to his brother, Reilly, and to his mom and dad.

Still, even though they could be scary, he loved a good walk.

Keeping en eye on me while walking the beach with his mom and brother.

The last time I saw him was this past April. We were good buddies by then, but you could tell he wasn’t feeling very well.

Spending time on his sofa with me.

He’s had health issues, allergies, and even surgery on his knee. But the latest problem were his kidneys. And two days ago they gave out; Denny crossed the rainbow bridge in the arms of his devastated mom.

He had to leave and make the journey on his own and I can’t help but wonder if he’s scared over there without his family. But then I remember that across the bridge all things are possible, so I know that now he’s healthy and happy and curious and brave.

One of my favorite images of Reilly, Denny and Katie

And I know, for sure, that his heart is just as big as it always was.

We always imagine a dog running free when it travels over the bridge, but for Denny I want to say “run brave” little one. Be happy, find all the best things, the best food, the best tummy rubs, the best places to nap, the best beaches to run on.

On his own.

Oh, and definitely find the ice cream, sweetie…there has to be ice cream over the bridge!

Ice cream makes everything better.

More ice cream please?

So, until we meet again Mr. Denny, thanks for the cuddles, I am honored that you trusted me. Your family and I will miss you forever. You were a very very special little boy.

Watch over your brother sweetheart.


9 Comments

Nobody asked me if I wanted to go

Katie here.

You’re going to think I’m being repetitive if every time you hear from me it’s to complain about mama. Yet here I am once again having to deal with a mama that obviously doesn’t think about me before she goes off and has a good time.

This time it was even worse because she came home after being gone a whole week and she smelled like my boyfriend Reilly! Can you believe that?

Denny and Reilly my boyfriend at the beach.

She went to visit Reilly and his little brother Denny and she didn’t take me!

OK. So yes she flew and yes I would not like flying. And yes I didn’t have to go to camp and yes my daddy was with me and yes daddy and I had a great time.

So maybe it wasn’t all that bad. I guess.

She came home Wednesday night and I made sure to get her up very early Thursday so that we could spend lots and lots of quality minutes together.

She was very appreciative.

Red skies early in the morning.

She did get to see the sunrise because of me. She said it was pretty. I guess it probably was, I don’t know because I went back to sleep as soon as she was up and moving around.

She did take me to my favorite park Thursday afternoon and we even got to watch some guys do a managed burn at one of my other parks!

This was at one of my parks!

I’ve never seen that before, it would have been scary if I hadn’t been in my car with my mom right by me. Mom thought it was very interesting even though emotionally she has a hard time with something burning up right in front of her eyes.

Me at my park, with the burned area right across the creek.

Mama said she liked the bits of spring she found better than all the smoke and flames across the way.

Hope buds eternal.

And she says we better enjoy it while we can because those weather people are predicting snow this weekend.

So anyway…I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on mama. My Mr. Reilly wanted her to visit for a few days and she went to take care of him, and I’m thankful she could do that, cause Mr. Reilly is a very very special guy.

I hear the boys are very good at asking for treats too.

The fact that mama got to walk on the beach without me is something I will just have to forgive. Forgiving will be easier if there are treats involved. You, my faithful readers, may want to remind mama of that important detail.

Guess who forgot to bring treats on this walk?

She seems to have forgotten that part of our contract.

Talk later,

Your gal Katie, patience is my middle name.

Yea. Right.

You can’t hide treats from me mama!


10 Comments

Dutton Island Preserve

On my last full day in Florida my friend took me to another sort of park. Not on the ocean, no waves pounding the shore, no shells to collect.

I loved the subtle color of the grass curving into the brilliant blue of the water.

No, Dutton Island Preserve is quieter, more reflective and sits among the salt marshes, an entirely different world.

The water was so still.

We walked among tall pines and over boardwalks. We listened to the birds calling, and watched for fish to jump.

So much texture and color!

It was a small park compared to the vastness of the ocean, but it was beautiful. Though we only saw one woodpecker, we heard plenty of things rustling in the grass or hopping about overhead.

Hungry bird.

It was a wonderful way to wind down a lovely week spent in the warm sun with good friends and good dogs.

Great day for a paddle.


10 Comments

Little Talbot Island State Park

Monday my friend took me out to Little Talbot Island State Park where we wandered on a beach totally different from the beach at Mayport Naval Base.

Wide sandy beaches meet the turquoise ocean.

Instead of a beach covered in shells crunching under foot there was a wide span of white sand stretching as far as the eye could see.

And hardly anyone was out there aside from a few people fishing from the shore.

More birds than people at the beach on Monday.

We walked a long way. I kept noticing how the sand changed the further we went. The tide was out and the hard packed sand showed evidence of how the water had massaged the sand into fascinating shapes, then left it to bake in the Florida sun.

Memories of the last tide etched in the sand.

I kept taking pictures of the sand, thinking to myself…who does this? Who focuses on the sand and not the beautiful vistas?

Don’t you wonder how this pattern was made?

Well…I do.

And you’ve already seen beautiful beaches with turquoise water reflecting brilliant blue skies. I wanted you to see something different.

The colors of the water close to shore were spectacular.

Next time you’re out on a beach somewhere look down and pay attention to what you see. There’s all sorts of color and patterns there, mostly taken for granted.

The last bit of water flows back to the ocean.

Interesting things live there too, like this ghost crab that we found far from his home on dry land where he would typically live.

Don’t mess with me people!

We think a bird picked him up and dropped him out near the water. He was in rare fighting form, always facing us and waving his claws. I thought he looked a bit like a Lego robot myself.

This looked like the badlands of South Dakota as seen from a plane.

Most of all we just walked and enjoyed the beauty of the water and the beauty of the sand and sun.

Sunshine, palm trees, sand and water.

And we enjoyed the fact that we are retired and can spend a Monday afternoon doing nothing more than appreciating the world around us.

A lonely beach didn’t feel lonely at all.

I hope you can all take a moment to do the same, no matter where you are.

Driftwood looks like angel wings flying into the sky.

And Katie-girl….I’ll be home soon.

Definitely not in Michigan.


29 Comments

Sunshine and smiles

This week I’m in Florida taking care of a pair of sweet dogs so their folks can take a short vacation. The boys and I are getting along great, though I know they miss their mom and dad.

No more pictures Aunt Dawn! Let’s play!

Sometimes they seem a bit confused, but most of the time they’re happy as long as they get fed. Sounds just like a little girl I know.

Being in Florida I wanted to spend at least a little time wandering the beach. This morning I drove over to the Atlantic to see how the beach fared in yesterday’s storm.

The beach is just down there.

There are miles and miles of beaches to walk, and I only explored a small part of one. It was windy and a bit cool, not exactly beach weather. Still plenty of people were out enjoying the sun after a yesterday’s thunder, rain and tornadic winds.

A peaceful place to read.

There was color out in the water too, and waves tipped with spray under brilliant blue skies.

Wind whipped the waves into froth.

The shore birds were bouncing around.

Hey Fred, is the restaurant open yet?

The waves were spreading out over the sand…

Such a pretty day after stormy yesterday.

It was a good day for a run.

Hurry up dad!

Not that I ran, but it was a good day for one.

And this little guy came out to talk to me on my way back to the car.

Nice day, isn’t it lady!

All and all it was a morning filled with smiles.


19 Comments

The greening

Taking a walk in the Jacksonville arboretum.

There’s nothing more special than watching your world transform from winter brown to brilliant spring green. But sometimes those of us in the north get impatient while Mother Nature takes one step toward sunlight and falls two steps back into sloppy slushy cold.

Peeking out to see the sun.

So you can’t blame a person for skipping all of those last moments of winter and retreating to warmer climes. Like Florida. And that’s what I’ve done.

Magnolias are in bloom here.

A friend in Florida wanted to take a short vacation, but her two dogs couldn’t go with her, and she wasn’t comfortable putting them in a kennel.

Whimsical tree.

And on a whim she asked me if I’d consider coming down to house sit with her lovely pooches. My calendar was open for the proposed dates. Hmmmm… let me think…would I like to stay in the cold north and continue to watch winter fighting it out with spring?

Cedar stumps create sculpture covered in moss.

Or would I like to walk barefoot on a sunny beach, watch palm trees sway against blue skies.

Pops of color everywhere if you look.

Let me think about that.

Spiderwort grows wild here.

So here I am, hanging out with two sweet boys, enjoying the sunshine and the warmer temperatures. Sure tomorrow is going to be stormy and we’ll be stuck inside all day.

Pretty shell-like fungus hides in the shade.

But that’s OK. It’s almost guaranteed not to snow.

It’s called Christmas licen, bright red on tree trunks.


24 Comments

Beaches, beaches everywhere!

I think it would be hard to visit Florida and not walk at least one beach. We got lucky and visited four.

After Bok Gardens we made a beeline for Honeymoon Island State Park in hopes of seeing the sunset. Traffic through Tampa was brutal.

I’m glad we got to see this.

We barely made it, paying our $4.00 entry fee and rushing to find a parking place as the sun was beginning it’s rapid decline into the Gulf of Mexico.

Time to pack it up and head home.

Lots of people had obviously spent the day at the beach and were packing up for the evening. We didn’t look like beach goers in our shorts and running shoes, but I didn’t care.

Even after the sun was gone these umbrellas glowed.

It just felt good to be near the water.

We had to head north for a bit to find a hotel, but the next morning we went in search of more beaches and a chance for me to put my feet in the water.

We started at Fred Howard County Park in Tarpon Springs. We thought maybe it wouldn’t have a fee. Silly us. I think it was $5.00 to park in their lot all day.

Busy day at the beach!

It was a Sunday and the beach was already crowded when we arrived. Luckily we found a parking space, then wandered down to the water, weaving between umbrellas and blankets. I was a bit disappointed, the shore was filled with old weeds and the beach was overwhelmed with people.

Just ignore all those people over there.

Still, some found their own bit of peace with their toes in the water.

On the other side of the small island there were a whole lot of toys to be rented. I’d never seen the big bicycles before. They were sort of like paddle boats.

Work those quad muscles!

The island was at the end of a long causeway which we walked a bit to see what the fisherpeople out there were catching. Along the way we saw more than one group of people sunning on blankets in parking spaces.

Future dermatologist patients.

Not my idea of a great way to enjoy the beach! By the time we walked back to the car the parking lot on the island was teaming with vehicles circling, looking for a space. We gave our space and ticket to a grateful family and left, looking for longer beaches, softer sand, more space.

We found all that at my favorite beach of the day, Clearwater’s Sand Key Beach.

My first glimpse of the beach made me smile.

It was crowded too, but there was a long white beach with a clean sandy shore just begging to be walked.

The water was so enticing that I was out of my shoes as soon as we arrived.

And the further you walked the less crowded the beach was. Down a ways was a place where people were flying kites. We had to walk at least that far!

I woldn’t mind living in a condo on this beach. As long as I didn’t have to drive anywhere.

We walked a long way, me in the water as much as I could be.

Turquoise water, blue sky, white sand. Can’t get much better.

Eventually we went to find lunch, and then on to our last beach of the day, on our last evening of our trip, to see what the sunset might bring at Madeira Beach a bit further south.

An interesting breakwater caught my attention right away.

We had a longer wait for the sunset than the night before, and it was windier and getting chilly. I looked for things to photograph to keep myself busy. There’s always something.

It was kind of chilly but that didn’t stop these two from having fun in the waves.

The sun was hiding most of that last hour behind clouds. But once in awhile it would break free and light up the buildings further south of us.

The colorful buildings warmed in the evening light for a few moments.

A few other people waited on the beach for the sun to set too. And the balconies of the condos and hotels behind us began to fill up with people, some with cameras, some just watching.

I kind of wish I’d gotten an email for this couple so I could send them the picture.

Everyone waiting for the evening ritual.

And finally it happened. The sun dropped below the band of clouds and lit the sky and beach and water with a golden glow.

For a few minutes everything turned pinky gold.

It wasn’t as pretty as the night before up on Honeymoon Beach, but it was worth the wait.

A little explosion of joy.

And when the sun had sunk beneath the waves we turned and slowly made our way back to the car. The trip was over, nothing left to do but prepare for our flight home.

Another day closes it’s eyes.

It was a good trip, this time in Florida, but we were ready, almost ready, to face the snow and cold in Michigan, knowing that flowers were blooming somewhere, and spring couldn’t hold out forever even up there.

Bye bye Florida, see you next time.

Besides, Katie-girl was waiting. Time to go home.

I’m WAITING people!


18 Comments

Let’s explore Bok Gardens and Pinewood Estate

We’re back home in snowy, cold, shades of white Michigan this evening. But I have so much more to show you from sunny, warm, colorful Florida, so let’s pretend we’re still there, shall we?

The front of Pinewood Estate.

I last left you with a tease about Bok Gardens, a wonderful place full of magical gardens, a winter mansion and an amazing bell tower. I don’t want to leave you hanging, so here we go!

We wandered under huge trees enjoying the azalea bushes that were in full bloom.

Bok Gardens is a 7 acre slice of heaven, including several types of gardens designed by Olmstead brothers landscaping company (the same that designed the gardens at Biltmore in North Carolina, and Central Park in New York City), a new children’s play and educational area, what seems like acres of azaleas, a Florida desert trail, and towering live oaks covered in lichen and ferns.

I’ve never seen red sugar cane before.

The home, built in the center of all of this beauty, was the winter home of industrialist Charles Buck (not Bok, I know, it’s confusing) from 1932 to 1945. After that it was purchased by a couple of families before being acquired by Bok Gardens in 1970.

The house from the back.

The house, with over 12,000 square feet, feels much more intimate than many of the seasonal homes of the wealthy back in those days.

Dining with color everywhere.


The rooms were smaller, and many had lower ceilings.

One of several bedrooms.

There wasn’t gold gilding, unlike many homes of this vintage, but there were plenty of wonderful details.

An ibis acts as a doorstop, holding up the heavy and intricate door.

Tilework acted as wainscoting throughout the first floor, and ran up the stairs to the less public rooms.

Beautiful tile covers the risers on the front stairs.

The floors on the main level were covered in handmade red tiles, each room with it’s own pattern.

One of many patterns of these tiles.

The docents told us the gardens were put in first, and then the house was built so that each area had a different garden view. Pretty spectacular.

Magnolias, azaleas and camellias were all in bloom.

And then there’s the bell tower, with it’s huge carillon and sixty tons of bells which are played regularly. It is absolutely stunning.

Glimpsing the tower through the trees.

There were two concerts the day we were there, one we heard as we wandered the garden, and another that we purposely sat and listened to.

Details of the top, the colors are beautiful.

Bok Tower Gardens is located between Tampa and Orlando, and I think time spent there is well worth the admission for you and your family. Kids can play in the kid garden and run on the lawns up by the tower.

Stonework at the entrance to the childrens’ garden and play space.

Parents can let the beauty wash over them…and I guarantee everyone will smile.

And after all that, we made it over to the Gulf for the sunset.

A pretty ending to a very good day.

I’ll post more about the beaches in another post. We did spend a bit of time walking those white sands. After all…it’s Flordia.

Door knob detail.