After 5 days in the hospital, I’ll be getting sprung today!

A visit somewhere away from home is always hard for me, even a vacation.  I’m a Virgo, I love my home SO MUCH that when I’m forced to be away I feel oddly dislocated, not connected to my strength.  My strength IS my home, my family, my pets and all of the familiar things that make my life so rich.

So today, depending on whether the doctor comes to see me and give me the all clear, I’ll be heading home and I’m SO DAMNED GLAD!

It’s not just because I’ve been here having chemo, although that’s a huge reason.  Being someplace where fate compels you to experience pain and nausea isn’t fun, knowing I’ll have to return here at least twice more for two more sessions of my CODOX chemo is daunting.  At least it’ll be happening in the autumn, my favorite time of the year, and I think that may make things a bit easier.

The fact that this visit hasn’t been pure hell is due entirely to the chemo nurses here at St. Johns.  They are such a wonderful bunch of folks, so caring and so careful!  I hear how they interact with other patients who are in various states of comprehension and confusion, and of course I see how they deal with me, which is lovingly, as if I’m a family member!

So this is my shout out to the nurses I’ve had the joy of dealing with this week, especially Abby and Liz, Jenn and Dale, who all had dealt with me when I was here in July with my original diagnosis and recognized me, even in my swollen, hairless state!

It’s actually amazing to me how many folks remember me, the food service folks, the cleaners, the nurse’s aids (Hi, Josh!) and the auxiliary folks who make this place tick.

When you think about it, I am so fortunate to have such a first class facility as St. John’s just 6 miles from my home, and THIS is the part of the cancer journey where I was happier to be back up in Maplewood than in Rochester. Mayo is amazing, but the ability to pick up the phone and see Gerry or Andy in 15 minutes if I REALLY need to is pretty amazing.

Yarn can’t assuage Jasper’s longing for his people.

I only wish I could see Jasper, I think that would be good for both of us.

Jasper is struggling with something right now, he’s been poorly, and he’s due for his rabies booster so we need to get him to the vets.  His ears have been giving him problems for a while, he tends to get build-up in his left ear, for which we use medicated pads every day, and for the most part that tends to keep his distress under control.

But now he’s just —off — and that is worrying to a pet owner, especially one who is not at home.  And that is especially worrying when that pet owner tends to be the main person in that pet’s life, and I am that.

Jasper is beloved by everyone now, but for the first few years we had him he was a difficult doggie.  He was a rescue who was terrified of tall men, and broom, and had obviously been mistreated in some way.  When a tall man would appear at our home for any reason, Jasper would stop, paralyzed with fear, and just pee.  We became well versed in doggie diapers, he wore them off and on for almost 2 years, but S L O W L Y  began to trust us more and more.

The Three Kids, “The Pack”

As Max grew taller and more responsible we put him in charge of Jasper’s meals and walks, which made Jasper LOVE Max with a focus no one else in the family got from him!  So Max being away from college and me being missing has got to be difficult for a dog who NEVER 100% settles down until all of his pack is at home!

Well, boy, today one of your pack will be home to hug and love you, and get you to the vet for a check up and your boosters!

A Most Joyful Post

I wanted to wait until a month had passed before sharing our good news (which some of you already know) but we have a new addition to our family!

IMG_0385Meet JASPER!

He’s a Standard Poodle, a rescue, his background is sketchy but what we know is that he was with a breeder who may not have been as kind to him as they should have. He’s 3 years old, and when we first met him before Christmas he was calm but a little uneasy, he had kind eyes, but he wasn’t connecting in a joyful way with Gerry or myself.

IMG_0288I saw him on a rescue website, and on a fluke his foster mom happened to be in our neighborhood the day before we left for Southern CA and brought him by. We had to make our decision kind of quickly, I think I was more definite than Gerry was (although he wasn’t against the adoption, just not as certain as I was)

Jasper’s foster mom told us that he had been a bit nervous, had a few peeing accidents when he was scared or startled, and of course that was a concern. He even had a little ‘doggie-depends’ contraption to wear when I picked him up from the foster home on 1/4/13.

IMG_0346But what really sold me on Jasper were his eyes. He had incredibly kind and empathetic eyes. I feel that you can tell a lot from an animal if you listen with your heart (that sentence was a little maudlin, I apologize) and Jasper – who was called Chase by his foster family – seemed like a dog in search of someone to trust.

The kids reacted differently; Hannah was pretty upset that she learned about the possible adoption when I facebooked about it (totally understandable) and Max was neutral about the possibility.

IMG_0400During our 2 weeks away we discussed the dog a lot, and one thing that made the kids feel more engaged with the process was renaming him. Hannah hated the name Chase for some reason, we all have likes and dislikes that are hard to explain. Max suggested Jasper, and we all liked it. I felt it was close enough to Chase that it wouldn’t be too confusing, and as far as we knew he’d only been “Chase” for a few months.

I picked up Jasper alone, so it would be a calm situation. When I got home we realized that Jasper was scared of tall men and growled at Max when he first met him. It took about a week, but slowly Jasper and Max befriended each other (Max became “Mr. Walk” and “Mr. Food”, and that helped Jasper trust him).

IMG_0001 Hannah didn’t immediately bond with Jasper, I think she still felt a bit alienated from him because the process happened outside of her time at home, but slowly she, too, has come around and is loving Jasper.

The cats weren’t thrilled after having the run of the house for a few months, but it only took Ginger a little over a week to climb into bed and sleep next to Jasper. Nitro is longer coming around, but she’s definitely not afraid of him, and he’s not bothering her, so the path ahead looks clear.

IMG_2040Jasper is trusting us so much now, loving us, really becoming one of the family. One of the great joys of this dog is actually SEEING how his love for his new family is growing; it’s both touching and delightful. We are VERY lucky!

My friend London came over and Jasper fell head-over-heels in love with her! He wouldn’t get off her lap, just loving her, acting like a tiny poodle instead of a huge Standard. He also loves my friend Kathleen, he acts so excited and happy when she comes over. Loving our friends is a huge mark in Jasper’s favor!

We took Jasper to the vet and she gave him a clean bill of health. He was only fixed over New Year’s holiday, so he has a LOT more muscle mass than our last poodle, who was fixed as a pup.

He’s an unusual silvery-grey color with brown marks, really quite beautiful. His eyes are so soulful, he speaks volumes when he looks at us. We’ve trained him to do some small, silly tricks and also some helpful stuff like HEEL and STAY. He’s GREAT on walks, and never pulls when walking over ice (which is very important for both Gerry and I).

Obviously he loves this corner of the sofa...

Obviously he loves this corner of the sofa…

We took him for a family trip to our local dog run at Battle Creek Park and he was SO HAPPY! That really was a momentous event for all of us, it sealed the deal – emotionally – for both kids, and was the most joyful we’d seen our previously sad pup. We all felt very lucky to be part of that day, when Jasper let loose and showed how much he loves us.

So welcome to Jasper, our new love.