Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


The thing about Katie

Dearest Katie,

The thing is, I thought you’d live forever. For so many months during your last year we thought we had it figured out. We were a great team, you, me and your daddy, on a strict schedule of meals and pills and head rubs. You were so good about eating the food you didn’t love, taking your pills in peanut butter, going outside to do your jobs so we could photograph and analyze your poo, even coming out of the bedroom in the middle of each night on your own to get your blue pill from your dad, right on schedule.

Until suddenly it didn’t work anymore.

And now when I wake up in the early morning, not because you’re huffing at me to go outside, but because the morning light shines in my eyes, my face is wet with tears and my very first thought is of you. And when I go to sleep at night, not because you insist it’s time to go to bed, but because I’ve worn myself out, my face is damp with tears and my last thought is of you.

And all through the day, when I glance out into our yard, where you lay on a blanket in the shade of a tree under blue skies with white puffy clouds and a soft early summer breeze, my eyes fill again. Sometimes I go stand out there, the place you left us, and silently call for you. I want you to come home. My head is filled with your lasts. Last walk, last time sleeping in the tent, last time at your park, last….everything.

But that’s not what I want to remember.

I want to remember all the wonderful things you did, we did together. I want to remember your days of running with a big grin on your face, and all the thousands of times you posed for a picture, and your joy in meals and ice cubes, and how you loved to catch snowballs and frisbees and run through tunnels and leap over legs and jumps and just how joyful you were, how very ready to go on the next adventure. Always ready.

You remember, don’t you, Katie-girl, how you weren’t sure you wanted to come home with daddy and me when we first met you? How you hid behind a chair when you were left alone with us for a moment that day we went to pick you up? How I came and got you and held you and you snuggled your head into my neck and in that instant you were ours. And we were yours.

Do you remember that first night at home? When you were so exhausted by all the change that you fell asleep upside down on the sofa? You were so tiny. But when you woke up you were a little tornado, always into something. If I didn’t know where you were, if you were quiet, I knew for certain that you were doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing. And loving every sneaky moment of it.

I was in graduate school and you didn’t allow me to read. Your entire life I called you my anti-reading dog because you always felt that if I sat down I should be focused on you. You napped while I did chores, washed dishes, clothes, or cleaned. If I was moving then all was right with your world and you’d settle in on one of your many beds and watch me until you fell asleep. But if I sat down, then all bets were off and I should be playing with you. No reading allowed.

And when you were young, if you really wanted attention and I was ignoring you, perhaps reading on the sofa, you’d leap up, walk up my body, stand with your little feet on my chest and bark at me. The only thing that kept you from continuing to bark was if I massaged your shoulders. You loved that. Your little feet would begin to hurt me, and I’d move you slightly as I massaged, but you’d move your feet right back, insisting on more attention.

As you got older we did more things together. Remember how much you loved doggie school? Even when we were doing obedience and you got bored with all the heeling and sitting and standing and waiting and coming, you still loved school. Mostly because of the treats. And, of course, all the attention you got because you were so beautiful. Everybody loved you. Everybody wanted to give you treats, but you’d only take treats from me. You’d sniff their offerings and then, as a true Princess, you’d turn your head away. You broke so many hearts, little girl.

You got your CD title in AKC and your Rally Excellent, and then we both retired. You weren’t excited about competing, all that waiting around, and your mom couldn’t get those rally signs down anyway. Your job was to follow mama around the ring, not your fault if mama couldn’t read. You tried a bit of agility, but didn’t like waiting for your turn. A princess, should, always go first, right? Plus there was the scary teeter, and don’t even talk about that chute thing!

And then your mama introduced you to scent work. Man, you loved that game! Sniff a box, get a treat! How perfect was that. You loved, loved, LOVED going to scent work school! You couldn’t wait for it to be your turn, you pulled on your leash the entire evening, begging your mama to let you get into the ring and find the right box! I felt bad that we didn’t pursue it further, little girl, you loved it so. But we were traveling more, remember? That made up for missing classes, right?

Remember all the camping trips in northern Michigan sweetie? All those walks under towering pines at Hartwick Pines, or along the beaches of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron? I never got you up the Lake Superior, but those waves might have made you nervous anyway. You weren’t sure about waves at all the first time we walked on the beach, and they were just tiny waves. Your ears went flat and you turned your back on them. Your face told me that my fantasies of walking my dog on the beach at sunset were not likely to happen. But later on, when you got more brave, you ran on the beach and barked at those old waves. You were set on protecting your mama from the danger they presented. Mama tried not to laugh.

And remember when we traveled to Alabama and you ran up and down the dock barking at the waves? You were so cute. You loved the Alabama house, with the air conditioning vents in the floor, perfect for cooling a sheltie tummy. You loved exploring Smith Mountain and the boat rides with your Uncle and Aunt. You loved sleeping on the deck overlooking your lake and napping in grandma’s chair by the big window. And you loved visiting friends, especially the farm with all the horses.

Remember visiting your Aunt’s house? She made you a special bed and you slept on it along with your new toy Mr. Porcupine. We went on long walks in brand new parks, and you got to sniff new smells in downtown Columbus along the riverfront. Why that walk was so long you got to walk in Georgia and Alabama before you made it back to the car!

And you loved running on the beach with your boyfriend Reilly and his dweeby brother Denny down in Florida, remember? You visited them more than once and you always had a wonderful time with them and their parents. The special treats you got while you were there were unrivaled! Let’s just say doggy ice cream was a hit. It was a special time in your adventurous life wasn’t it, girl.

You were lucky you got to meet so many people. Remember Ricky and Callie and their folks? How you had such a good time walking in the ravine, though you wouldn’t walk across that little stream, even after watching Ricky and his mom do it? You made me go back and carry you across, though the rocks were little more than damp. I guess it’s true a princess does not get her feet wet. And you made me carry you up the stairs at their house too. Repeatedly. You figured out how to go down stairs there, when Ricky showed you how, but you refused to go up. Silly little girl.

Sometimes we had adventures closer to home, remember? We’d meet people and go for walks in all sorts of parks. Remember your friend Deuce? We went for plenty of walks with him and his mom. We even went on one walk with him and his brand new little brother Ace. Ace was just a tiny bundle of fur and you were a mature girl of 13 or 14. You told him in no uncertain terms to back off, and he did. By then you were turning into quite the diva, but we figured you’d earned it.

You loved your walks with Queen Abby too. She was sedate like you, and the two of you ignored each other most of the time, except when the moms made you sit for a picture. Even then you didn’t want to sit too close together, you both knew about royal space requirements. But you sure enjoyed some wonderful walks together.

You had good walks with your friend, Peep, too. Lots of long walks in the woods, in all kinds of weather. Peep introduced you to one of your favorite parks in Holly Recreation, where we ended up camping so many times. We wouldn’t have even known about it if it weren’t for Peep explaining how great the park was.

And let’s not forget your time with your sister Payton! Two peas in a pod, you two. You only got to meet twice, but you both loved your walks together. In fact it was with Payton that you walked around Katie’s Park for the last time. You guys were so cute together, I’m glad we were able to spend time with Payton and her folks. I think they loved you too.

In fact, sweetie, I think that’s your legacy. Love. Everybody loved you. You had a huge fan club filled with people, most who never got to meet you. They all feel like they know you, they all loved you, and they all miss you. I know you’ve seen all the cards we’ve received in the mail, all the emails, all the comments on your blog, all the neighbors expressing their sadness.

We all thought you’d live forever, little girl. And I guess you will, just in another way. It’s been a month now. The longest month of my life. The shortest month of my life. I saw you out of the corner of my eye a couple nights ago, heading down the hall to the bedroom as the evening light dimmed. Just like normal, heading off to bed when it got dark, looking over your shoulder to see if I was coming. It was just a shadow, not really you. Or was it?

Come visit me again, sweetie. I take comfort in knowing you are up there with so many that love you, lots of your doggie friends, and members of our families. I know you’re just fine sweetie, no more achy hips, no more upset tummy. You’ve got all sorts of great treats to munch on, and snowballs and frisbees to catch, wonderful beaches to run on, and lovely woods to walk in with so many great smells it’s beyond description.

Watch for us at the bridge, baby-girl, because we’ll be looking for you, our beautiful Katie, when we get there someday. Your daddy and I miss you so much, we will always and forever be yours.

Run fast and free sweet Katie-girl, we’ll see you again one day.


A conversation with Katie

Hey baby-girl, where are you?

Right here, mama, inside your heart. I’m always right here, just like I was before, only then I was mostly under your feet. Remember?

Oh yes, sweetie, I remember always being careful where I stepped, especially after you went deaf.

I wasn’t really deaf mama, I just chose not to pay attention.

I thought so, little girl. Well, now that you’re hearing again, keep track of us, OK?

I will, mama. I know you’ll always need me. And when you do, I’ll be right there. Cause we’re a team forever.

Thanks sweetie. Love you.

Love you too, mama.


Starlit solace

I went on a little adventure this week, two nights spent near Lake Michigan shooting images of the Milky Way. It didn’t escape my attention that I went without my girl. Or that I went in part because it was too hard to be here without her.

And it worked. For two glorious nights I stood in silky sand with my lens pointed at the sky and I was happy.

Last night, after I was finished shooting while waiting for my photographer friend to finish her work, I sat alone in the sand, gazed up at the Big Dipper and talked to my dad, a warm breeze drying the tears on my face.

Pt. Betsie lighthouse on a warm summer night.

Hey Dad. I know you and Mom never met Katie but she’s up there now. Take care of her for me, will you? She might be scared to be so far away from her mama and daddy. I don’t want her to be scared, so please reassure her. And she likes her shoulders to be massaged. If you could do that for me, I’d appreciate it.

Tell her we love her, and miss her, and we’ll see her again someday.

PS: I’ll have more images to show you from the past two nights once I get them all sorted. It was pretty amazing, millions of stars crowding the sky, the Milky Way glowing.

I felt lucky to be there. Even without my girl.



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.



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.


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,



I’m the neighborhood Mrs. Kravitz

There’s an older widow living across the street. I swear her adult kids must think I’m the nosiest person around. Seems like any time one or another of them pulls in to check on their mom I’m out front.

Walking my dog in her ditch. Letting Katie sniff her mailbox. Wandering in my own yard or down my driveway.

What’s going on over there?

Yep. Always out there.

Other neighbors might think the same. For example I know that the newish neighbors next door got a sofa, loveseat and big plush chair delivered a couple days ago around 7 a.m. I was walking my dog across their lawn when the truck backed into their driveway. Katie insisted on watching the guys unload the truck.

The new furniture is beige.

What are YOU doing?

The people that live three houses away haven’t been there for a very long time. The adult son is still living there, and I wonder where his folks went. He and I wave as I’m walking the dog early mornings and he’s headed to work.

Got to keep an eye on everything around here.

Next door to him is a house that just sold. I saw a steady stream of cars head down their driveway the weekend it was put on the market. I figured it would sell fast; it’s on a lake and there’s no real estate inventory around here. About 5 days later I watched as a young man in a black jeep drove slowing past me as I was walking the dog, then back up and head down the driveway. An appraiser or maybe a home inspector. The house must have sold.

Bet they got full price, or more.

If you want to keep track of things you need to sit way up high.

I knew the people on the other side of me were back from an extended trip when I saw, as I was walking the dog, the husband put the garbage out. That’s how I know when they’re home or when they’re traveling, by the garbage cans waiting to be sniffed by a little sheltie-girl.

I watch another neighbor pull out each morning, towing his work trailer behind him. He doesn’t work every day, but I’m usually walking the road with a short fuzzy furball when he does. We wave.

So I’m thinking, when Katie crosses the bridge I’m not going to know anything about what’s happening in the neighborhood! No more sitting in the front yard watching everybody’s comings and goings. No more wandering slowly up to the third driveway and turning around to sniff our way home multiple times a day.

Always note what’s above too.

No more sticking our heads in places they don’t belong. Mrs. Kravitz will fade away.

Apologies to those of you too young to know who she is. You can google her.

All this watching people is exhausting.