Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dogs and endings

It was a happy weekend for many reasons, not the least of which was the matching of a rescued foster dog with a really nice family who give every sign of being a great forever match. Callie (the spelling is actually "Caleigh" but since it always trips me up I've given you the phonetic, easy version) is a sweet female about 2 years old, who was clearly used as a puppy mill and just as clearly spent most of her life before she came to Boxer Aid & Rescue in a crate. She was a challenge for us, not because she wasn't housebroken (she is). Not because she wasn't eager to please (she is), and not because she was badly-behaved (she wasn't). No, poor Callie came to us with A TAIL, and as people used to Boxers, it took us by surprise. It banged into things. It knocked tables over. On many hilarious occasions, it whipped into the faces of the other dogs, so that Calvin, our charming, wide-bodied male, averted his head when she came too close, blinking his eyes cautiously. But some very nice people saw her online, came to meet her, and took her home this weekend. Happy people, happy Callie, and I dearly hope, happy ending.

Coincidentally, I heard from April's adoptive family this week, too. I've written about April here; you may recall. She is a canine survivor of breast cancer, and one of our favorite foster dogs, ever. Her family informed me a few weeks back that she has a recurrence of cancer, inoperable, and they will continue to love and care for her now, while she feels great, and through the onset of symptoms to the end of her life. Here's some of what her adoptive family said:
"We are very, very blessed to have April. She is doing very well and has spoiled us tremendously. April is exactly what we were looking for and is our perfect dog. We will send pictures from the cancer walk where April wore a cancer survivor shirt! ...we especially like it when she GRUNTS as she is talking to us! And LORD, some days she “talks” more than some humans! Thanks for all the prayers being said for April...we understand the issues April has, but we try not to dwell on them each day...as long as she is happy, we are happy..." I had to laugh out loud reading this, because April is one of the most vocal dogs I've known, making a determined, grumbling sound when communicating with her people. And though she has inoperable cancer, she'll have a great life until she can't, any longer. She's a great dog, and she'll be give the love and dignity of a great ending.

Often I talked to Rodney's dad about dying. He couldn't remember he had Alzheimer's, but he said over and over again, "People should have an off switch; I should be able to say I'm finished, There should be a CHOICE". I talked to my dear old friend Carrie about death. Her perspective was more of the "Live strong and live long" variety, though she embraced the notion of living well and living at home when she knew the fight had ended. There are more examples, but I always end by thinking about the high standards with which we treat pets (dogs, in my case). I always think of standing shoulder to shoulder with the vet; I always think about crying my eyes out but being grateful for the joyful release from suffering.

And I think now how shamefully small the comparison of a dog's life is to that of any human, and do not AT ALL presume to draw a parallel. I am grateful for Carrie's life, for Lynn's life, for Helen's life, for Charley's life, and for so many others, lived with grace and humor and breathtaking courage and grace. For me, the lives of dogs and in some ways, the death of dogs, have made the loss of each of those humans just a tiny, tiny bit more bearable.

And so: here's to you April, and your darling family. Here's to you, Callie, and your delightful family and future. And here's to all of you who have gone before, human or canine. Love, love, love.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Welcome to the sea turtle nursery at GTMMER

So I return from my long sojourn in the French countryside of my TV screen, and immediately annoy everyone with yet another sea turtle lecture, but this is BIG, people. Although you probably can't see it in my bad photos, this nest is labeled "N (north) 112", meaning it's the 112th sea turtle nest marked in the northern half of Guana Tolomato Matanzas Marine Estuarine Reserve in 2010. There are an additional 85 nests in the southern section of the park, meaning that so far there are nearly 200 sea turtle nests along this 8-mile stretch of Atlantic beach. An average year sees a total of around 90 nests in the whole season, which runs from May to October. And, as one of the turtle volunteers told us this morning, no one really knows why.

I'm sure there are theories, and certainly there's interest. As we walked along the beach last weekend, we encountered a 6-man golf cart filled to capacity with turtle volunteers and, we discovered, turtle experts. We asked about the numbers, since we've noticed what seemed like an unusually high number of nests this year. They confirmed what we suspected but had no real evidence for: an unusually busy turtle nesting season. So here are the plain, rather dull photos, without glamour or fast-moving drama; just the awareness of this simple, prolific goodness to warm your hearts. Whatever bad or sad or uninspiring news you saw or read or heard today, this is its happy counterbalance. Enjoy, my dears.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Postcards from le Tour

It's been a long, hot, delightful 2-1/2 weeks, capped by a cold and rainy climb of the largest peak in the Pyrenees, but I am making my way back to la vie ordinaire (my friend Jayne can correct my appalling French later), which includes my blog.

The charming country roads and villages, tiny cities, elegant chateaux and crumbling Norman ruins were wonderful. The bike racing was an interesting sideline, and during the early part of the race, provided frequent glimpses of my TV boyfriend (or more accurately, my Tour de France TV boyfriend), Fabian Cancellara. Yes, that's him in the photo, pedalling his head off. And here are the rest of my vacation photos, carefully shot for your viewing pleasure. (Oh, that frame in the background is just the outside of our TV - you can ignore that.)

It seems surprising, but it was actually rather like a series of miniature vacations, watching the action taped by my long-suffering and indulgent husband in 3-hour blocks every evening after work. I'd work a normal day, come home, pour a glass of wine, and immerse myself in the scenery and, almost as an afterthought, the racing. Even if you don't dive into (or off the) deep end as I do, you may want to drop in for a few episodes next year. The roads through the Alps are narrow and winding, with sheer drops down some sides and patches of bright snow down others, and all are lined with positively crazy people who've clearly camped out for days or maybe even weeks to be in position. Some of them run alongside the riders, waving - or wearing - flags, bizarre wigs and even more bizarre costumes. There are signs, most of which my limited French prevented me from translating, though the British cycling expert who has very good French was able to hint at the meaning of one that was particularly uncomplimentary to President Sarcosi. The roads twisting through the flatlands are gloriously brightened by fields - acre upon astonishing acre - of sunflowers, and beautifully flowing fields of lavender...one can hardly imagine what it must be to breathe the fragrant air. And when the race rises into the heights of the Pyrenees, history seems to come alive. Every historical novel I've ever read suddenly seems to have touched on the endless Medieval struggles for primacy between France and Spain, with powers like England and the lowland countries playing their own roles. In more modern times, the voice of the Basque people in Spain is ever more audible. Watching the racing, it's clear that the EU has in no way dimished national or regional loyalty, and it has removed not one single nutty supporter of this or that flag or cause. It's lovely.

And all kidding aside, I MISSED you guys. Though I've only been writing this blog since the beginning of the year, the return to disciplined writing has been more satisfying than I ever imagined. The generosity of your reading, sharing thoughts and comments, and most unexpected of all, development of new and nurturing of long-treasured friendships has been breathtaking.

And while I've been away I've kept notes of all the things I want to share with you. There's big news on the turtle nest front. I've been helping with the concept of a "Best of Our Blogs" collection with The Surly Writer (whose editorial skills are considerable) and our pal Suldog. My dear friend Katie is bound for Africa (again) and this time, my young son is going along, too...so. There is much to discuss, and I promise to dive in as soon as Le Tour passes under L'Arc de Triomphe.

Thank you for being patient, for staying tuned, for reading, and for sending your affectionate greetings.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What I'm (Virtually) Doing on My (Virtual) Summer Vacation

You may not even have noticed the quiet sounds of distant crickets chirping, coming from Eat Here over the past week or so. Just in case you did, I thought I'd let you know the quiet will continue for a couple of weeks, while I indulge my guilty pleasure and watch the Tour de France obsessively on TV through the month of July. A couple of years ago I discovered that I could immerse myself in villages, chateaux, cathedrals: the beauty of Europe in the form of a high def travelogue and best of all, it included a race compelling enough to be entertaining to Rodney. This was Before the Blog, of course.

Sadly, as I have to work and sleep and stuff while watching 3 hours of The Tour every evening, there's not much time for the blog. Happily, it's mindless and relaxing and makes for an excellent virtual vacation. And the ideas for writing continue to flow in and I continue to keep notes of things I want to tell you. I'll be back with lots of new photos and notes on the beach (I saw a turtle nest labeled "N 71" this week, which means at least 71 turtle nests in Guana State Park so far) and every other thing we talk about here. Keep well, keep writing, and keep in touch.