Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Y's" and Smiles for YOU

ABC Wednesday is Yielding up the letter "Y" today.  A big Yes to Mrs. Nesbitt for starting a meme that continues to thrive eight Years later.  Many thanks as well to the volunteers who visit our blogs, leave comments, and encourage us to spin our Yarns about the various letters of the alphabet.  I Yearned to post for all 26 letters this past session, and did better than ever before, so won't Yowl too loudly over the fact that I missed the letter "X" last week.

This happy video "You Make Me Smile" feels like a great thought to take us from 2014 to 2015.  Making someone smile never hurts, no matter how serious life gets. YOU, the bloggers, friends and loved ones in my life, have brought a lot of smiles over the past Year.  So, here's right back at YOU :)
Here are some photos from the past few days, with as many accompanying "Y" thoughts as I can squeeze in. Those words were harder than usual to find, this week, so when they don't show up, I'll do my best to make you smile as an alternative. These shoes left by the bin in the school Yard triggered a hope that the feet most in need of them came across them.
Racoon's feasting on..  
digestive cookies..
Yabbered for more as they lined up at the junk food bar.  The signs in the park asking people not to feed the wildlife seem to be a failure.  No smiles about that one..  
But, to make up for the lack of a smile about feeding wildlife, here's a lovely little video that you could share with any children around Your house.  Grieg's "Morning" from the Peer gYnt Suite is just delightful, and the animation pleased me as much as it would any child.
I think this was a Lesser Scaup..  
and if I stretch my imagination, see a "Y" along its back.
A little less imagination is needed to see the "Y" in this American Wigeon.
The mallards Yacked (closest I could get to Quack) as they clambered over each other..
 but the Wood Duck disassociated himself from the melee, while creating, I feel sure, some "Y" patterns in the water.
These Youngsters, two of my best smile instigators, waited while I took photos.  Black Jack was too excited to feel the (considerable) cold.  She was busy watching for those pesky racoons on the other side of the bushes.
My first Common Merganser sighting in a long time.  Yes!
Watch the one at the end race..
feverishly to catch number 3 in line,

pass number 2,
and put on a super-duper push..
to go to the front, all, most likely in hopes of impressing Mrs. Merganser (who was nowhere in sight).  Perhaps, there was at least a Yummy treat to reward his effort.
It's a good thing smiles and "Y" shapes are fairly easy to find because I'm wanting to fit in as many good moments in the past days as I can before signing off for 2014.  Bill and Black Jack's reflection.. 
in False Creek,
bird houses surrounded by city and nature sights, pointed out by Bill, ,
 a new drawing by Jennifer on the sign outside our favourite Harrison Galleries,
a little Kermit critter sitting on a fence top on Homer Street,
holiday lights with extra glow,
moon suspended in blue night-sky,
a rock with a doggie face framed with a "Y" shape,
some stars in a window (Yes, I can pick out some "Y's" in there as well),
 creating many smiles..
with his music over False Creek water (his head and guitar form the top of the Y), 
and leaving us with one more smile to brighten a walk..
 that took us to some more "Y" shapes as we walked a bit further on.
We both smiled again when we realized the little "Kermitty" fellow hadn't been removed though many walked by and could easily have knocked him off his perch.
As for the gentleman below, he and his dog brought great big smiles to my face.  He is the artist-photographer responsible for some of our favourite pieces at Harrison Galleries and he just happened to be visiting during our coffee-and-crossword time.  His "Spotted Aspens" was the very first work to catch Bill's eye when we began our afternoon visits to Harrison's. 
As if that wasn't enough, Steven Friedman's dog, Indiana Jones, was utterly charming too.  I loved Steven's Yarn describing how Indiana sleeps on top of him (not beside him but fully on top of him) when he camps out for extended photography expeditions.
I mean, just look at that smile!  Steven "travels to remote locations around the world with his wife Joni, hiking sometimes 20 kilometres to an inaccessible region and working with.. 
impossible patience. He has visited a location for eight days to capture just the right light, waiting long periods for the rain to stop, the wind to still, the fog to lift. For his current tree series, Steven visited the same stands of trees in autumn four consecutive years." (quote taken from his write-up at Harrison Galleries).    
And, just a few more recent photos I enjoyed taking.  This crow stared intently at me during Black Jack's first walk of the day.  Since I missed the letter "X" in this series, perhaps those branches at the left of the photo could stand in.  
And maybe, just one more "X" reference.  I came across a combination of xylophone and marimba that is called a Xylorimba.  This video shows two Young gentlemen doing an admirable job of playing a Bach Partita.  It's not absolutely perfect, but these Youth are talented and disciplined and I loved listening to them.  So there, a sort of "X" post after all :) 
We stopped to catch a view of the mountains as we biked down Heather Street after visiting the Pet Shop Boys on Monday.  Talk about bringing smiles.  David and Christopher spread a lot of happiness around their shop and beyond.  David has done all Black Jack's nail clipping for the past few years and I have never heard a whimper out of her yet.  She goes into his arms calmly and she returns to me, eager and happy to get her treat.  But the best is that the money they make on the nail clippings (they are very reasonable!) goes to a different rescue every month.  This December, they gave several hundred dollars (I've forgotten the exact total but it was impressive) to SAINTS, a rescue that accepts elderly animals of all descriptions (cows, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, donkeys to name just a few species), giving them a joyful place to end their days when their humans cannot (or do not want to) see them through their end stages of life.  The work is backbreaking and one of continual loss but Carol and her team find a lot of joy in it as well.

But to get back to the view of the North Shore Mountains as we biked down Heather Street.

The sun had come out, and brought out every Y-shaped tendril in this tree.

The last three photos, taken Yesterday as we walked downtown, are of trees.. 
as well.  I guess you could say they do a good job of bringing "Y's" and.. 
smiles so I've stayed somewhat true to today's theme.
There's Bill, wishing you all a safe and fulfilled New Year as he waves good-bYe :)
And Black Jack?  Just keep the treats and the love coming and the smiles will follow :)
As Carol, of SAINTS rescue, said on her blog, "I won’t wish us a very happy new year because who knows what 2015 will bring? I wish us, animal and human, the strength to get thru the hard days, the joyful heart to fully appreciate the good days, and the hope to find true value and purpose in living the next 365 days."  Such wise words!  Thank you, all, for taking time to visit.  If you've never checked out ABC Wednesday, a new series beginning with the letter "A" begins in two weeks.  I'd love to see you there.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Celebrating Zoe's Life

I am sharing Zoe's story with Eileen's Saturday's Critters.  Many thanks, Eileen.  I couldn't be with my sister, Sherrill, when she had to say good-bye to Zoe, but wanted to do what I could to help record this life that left such a mark on Sherrill's and my heart and on everyone who came to know her.  What follows is an account of Zoe's life put together over the past eight days but open to further additions, should Sherrill want to share other memories of her in the future.  Direct quotes from Sherrill's emails are all in a blue font.  My memories and thoughts about Zoe are all in a black font.
On Friday, December 19th, Sherrill wrote these heartbreaking words: "Zoe has had a very tough day. She had a seizure tonight and can no longer stand without help. I think it's time to say good-bye to my gentle, trusting friend. I will call the vet in the morning and I just pray that she can get through the night without another fall."  She included the picture below.  So many thoughts were in my heart, not least of which was the wish that I could spare my sister and her family this pain.
The next day, Saturday, she wrote: "As you predicted, Zoe is much better this morning. After about two hours of recovery last night during which we just patted and reassured her she was able to get up with help. She settled on her bed in the living room and went into a very deep sleep. I slept on the couch near her. She was able to get up once during the night just to change positions but she slept very soundly for many hours. I know her time has come and I called our vet this morning. If not today, it will be Monday because her seizure was awful and I don't want to have her go through that again. It wasn't just a fall. It was as if something knocked her off her feet and then the leg flailing and head shaking began. She went down so hard but fortunately just hit the floor and nothing else." Bill and I visited Sherrill in February, 2012.  I took this photo on February 9th, our last day before returning to Vancouver.  Zoe loved to greet each one of us when we woke up in the mornings and she always invited us to play.  I think you can see a glimpse of the toy she offered us behind her head in the photo above. No stuffed toy ever lasted more than a few days with Black Jack, but Zoe was different. 
On Sunday, things were calm.  "Everything is fine here. Zoe has slept almost non stop since Friday night. She's had lots of pats and love so she's quite content as long as she doesn't lose sight of me."  "Gentle Giant" is a clichĂ© that happens to be absolutely true in Zoe's case.  The only thing about her that was larger than her impressive frame was her heart.  She enjoyed and was kind with everyone she met (except for a couple of exceptions to be described by my sister), but Sherrill was claimed as her own from the day she arrived.  I am grateful that I asked a professional photographer (Neville Black Photography) to do a photo-shoot of my sister and her husband to celebrate their 41st anniversary.  He at first insisted they exclude Zoe because he wanted the focus to be on Sherrill and her husband.  It took a lot of convincing to get him to change his mind.  I'm so glad he did.
More words written Sunday: "I have cleaned frantically because that's what I do when I need to distract myself. Our front vestibule, cupboard, stairs and woodwork all sparkle. Now heading to scrub bathrooms. Zoe's areas remain untouched."  As you can see, Zoe was thrilled with the photo-shoot.  A walk at Experimental Farms with two of her favourite people and a nice new gentleman paying lots of attention to her.  Well, that's what Zoe called the good life!
And on Monday, "Your parcel arrived late this morning. Zoe barked and scared the mailman but that was the last of her energy. Sadly, I am firm about the appointment today. I think it was confirmed for me yesterday when Barb arrived with her little dog Lily and Zoe refused to go for a walk with us. Barb and Lily went for a short walk to the park but Zoe and I stayed home. I think she knew that she couldn't do it. She's deaf, totally blind in one eye, has trouble eating and walking. She's defenseless and anxious. I know she could last longer but with the threat of another seizure looming, I feel that it's kinder to let her go. I've struggled with this decision but if I kept her with me longer it would be for me, not for her and I would never be able to leave her without feeling terrible guilt. Even when she is being cuddled by K (Sherrill's son), she is craning to find me with her better eye. Strangely, she has stopped pooping and peeing on the "blue grass" in the last month or so. Can't explain why, but she seems finally to be housetrained. :) We're quite proud of that. 😄"
"K is having the most difficulty dealing with this decision. He asked if we could try to keep her through Christmas at least. Truth is though, that Zoe is happiest when the house is quiet and peaceful and she has me to herself. Right up until Friday she was thrilled to have W (4-year-old grandson) arrive and be here with us. On Saturday mornings she has always bustled into his room with me in the morning as he wakes up. She would often lie outside his door waiting for him to get up. This Saturday, she just ignored him and slept. He brought her her toys but she didn't even raise her head. For very brief moments she gets up and looks almost normal. But five minutes later, she has to sleep again because her energy level is so low."
"I will try to take Zoe out to the park this morning to visit her favourite haunts. I'm hoping that she will have the energy and will to go with me even if we just make it to the first park bench. Otherwise, her day will be filled with peace, love and treats although she has refused to eat he breakfast again this morning. My heart is heavy but not broken. I know she had a good life with us."
"Just got home to a very empty house. Zoe left us willingly and gently with three of us beside her and holding her (Sherrill, her husband and her son). She had another smaller seizure late this morning and she was quite agitated here at home. She didn't want treats and I couldn't take her to the park. She didn't want to go. She did have an amble in the back yard earlier today and did her best to stare down a squirrel. But by late this morning there was no question that it was time for her to go. She didn't even put up the least fuss at the vets. A first for Zoe! We all cried and had a hard time leaving her there but the vet was wonderful and promised that she would not be left alone. Her remains will come back to us and be placed on the mantle with those of our Katy. Someday perhaps I might be able to let them go."  

I can still see Zoe running happily towards me when Bill and I walked with Sherrill, her daughter, her new grandson and Zoe. It is the image I will hold in my mind of her, just happy, happy, happy to be with her family.

"Must go Carol. I knew you were with me today.  D (her husband) and K (her son) came too so Zoe had most of her people with her. KA (her daughter) called and came by after work. Zoe was the bravest of all of us. The vet couldn't have been kinder and the room was prepared for us when we arrived. We brought her favourite blankie. I had cooked bacon for her but she didn't want treats today. Even though bacon was a rare and special treat she just didn't want it today. Right now I am exhausted but am having trouble even thinking about going to bed without her beside me snoring. I'll manage but as you know, it won't be easy for quite some time."
"We are all very sad at losing such a sweet girl. I whispered your good-byes along with my own. And now I need to just go and cry."  

This was taken on our first outing with Black Jack after our arrival in Ottawa that February, 2012.  Zoe accommodated the whims and commands of her housemates with a generosity that Black Jack took for granted (but I didn't).

We did a lot of walking in those few days.  Zoe would step out on her own briefly but she preferred to be right behind Sherrill.  Bill and Black Jack followed them, and I usually brought up the rear, camera in hand.
"I'm OK and you're right, tears don't help much. But Zoe did help. I am convinced, as was the vet, that she knew and was ready to go."
"I will send you one photo tonight and more tomorrow. Tonight's will make you cry as it does me, but in time I will see it as the comfort that she offered right until the end. That photo was taken last night as I sat beside her in the floor."
On Boxing Day, Sherrill wrote: 
"I'm OK but certainly missing my Zoe. I see her everywhere I turn and will for quite some time. I am very grateful to have had her for as long as I did. I will say that I still step carefully along her "pee path" having ended up with wet socks many times."
Zoe's story is a beautiful story, one to celebrate and one that brings smiles amidst the tears.
"Zoe chose me in 2006. We had been without a dog for several years when I decided that I would go to the Humane Society and just see if they had a small dog in need of a home. I read the profiles of several dogs and when I came to Zoe's I thought I would just ask to meet her and then give adoption of any dog another thought. I knew she wasn't small, but had no idea quite how large she would be."
"I was taken to a small box-like visiting room that had a long bench attached to a wall and nothing else. Zoe arrived dangling an attendant on the end of a leash and she launched herself onto my lap. There she remained shaking in fear and anxiety until the attendant dragged her away to a cage."
 "I did go home, but only to let D (and Mom who was staying with us) know that there was a dog in need of adoption fast. The next day we went through the adoption process and brought our 3 year old, boxer/rottweiller/mastiff home. At first she was delighted to be here, but soon Mom came down the hallway using the wall to steady herself and Zoe was terrified. With her tail tucked firmly between her legs she lunged at Mom over and over while barking furiously. She didn't touch her, but if you remember how unsteady Mom was by that time, you will understand my fear that she would fall. She did this every time she saw Mom and Mom really disliked her. ('I don't know what's the matter with that dog. I never did a thing to her.')"
I had to go to work and Zoe would have been left alone with Mom. After several days of trying unsuccessfully to confine Zoe to a room or a crate while we were away, (the marks on the doors are still quite evident, and Zoe's nose took a beating from the crate that she escaped) I gave up and decided that she would have to go back to the Humane Society.
 D and I took her back on a Friday. We brought her in with all her worldly possessions, (leash, collar, blanket and food) all newly purchased. Don sat with her while I stood at the counter and wrote an epistle about her behaviour and reason for her return all the while doing my best to be sure she would be appealing enough to be adoptable. That entire time Zoe sat patiently with Don watching people and animals come and go. Not a whimper or bark out of her. I left her there and returned home crying all the way.
Zoe running between Sherrill and KA
"When we arrived home, Mom announced that she wanted to go back to her apartment so on Saturday Don loaded the car and off he went with Mom. I sat and bawled. K arrived home and still chuckles when he retells the story. Apparently all he could make out between my sniffles and gibberish was that Zoe thought she was going to the park (true enough) and now she was back in a cage and no one would ever adopt her. End result, I called first thing Monday morning to try to get her back. I was told that they would interview me and the family (I can understand the need to be cautious) and charge us the adoption fee again. The piece de resistance was that I had to agree to hire a dog behaviour expert to do an assessment of Zoe and follow her instructions. (She told us that she was a lovely dog but very juvenile.) None of her belongings were returned so they had to be replaced. On top of the adoption fee there was the $200.00 fee for the behaviourist so we were by then the proud "owners" of a very expensive anxiety ridden dog with bad teeth and a delicate stomach. She was undernourished and terribly skinny but she still weighed in at almost 80 pounds. The rest is history."

"After a few difficult months I began taking Zoe to Tina. Her Mom was the office manager at a building that I was managing and we got talking one day. She told me that Tina was virtually bedridden after a serious car accident several years earlier and that she had just lost her second dog. We came up with a plan to bring Zoe for a visit and see if they would hit it off. Tina didn't want to hear about another dog after her loss, but she agreed to the visit. For the next two or three years until they moved to the country I took Zoe to Tina every morning and picked her up after work at night. If we had to be away overnight Zoe had a sleepover with Tina. Zoe developed some confidence and Tina had a sweet dog for company during some very lonely days. Her love of animals and gift for training them made life with Zoe so much better.

When I messaged Tina on facebook to ask if she could send me this photo for the blog, this was her response: "Zoe has been an angel is my life, so has Sherrill. They came into my life at a dire time & both gave me so much hope & love. To share my days with Zoe was such a blessing She'll always be my angel." Beautiful words, Tina!  Looks like this was a win-win relationship.  And thank you for visiting Zoe just a couple of weeks before she died.  She loved you.  That kiss speaks volumes. 
"She never was good at being left alone, a fact that through my tears I carefully explained to the vet when we left her in their office for the very last time. Eventually she learned that we would be coming home and that good things would happen when we did. She learned that a dog park is not a scary place although she never did leave my side when we were out with her and she was off leash. There was never a danger of having her wander off."
That's the beginning of Zoe's story. There are so many others (including the need for living room window and door replacement) but I have rambled long enough. I miss her so much hence the rambling.
These next photos were taken in 2006. I was just getting to know Zoe.  
She made funny faces and cuddled..
 and snuggled..
 and worked her way into my heart. I took this picture because Zoe was trying to lie on a small towel, the only thing she could find since  Black Jack had set up camp in Zoe's bed.
Zoe had some wonderful play sessions with Black Jack.  What really impressed me is how she tried to make herself as small as possible.  (You can see that in the video at the end of this post.)
That Christmas, there were four dogs in the house.  Black Jack, Zoe, Tova (my sister's daughter (KA)'s dog and Ella (KA's fiancĂ©'s dog).  Black Jack took Zoe's bed, and Zoe didn't want to take Tova's bed.
I was not there to see Penny, a visitor, 
but size was never an issue for Zoe or her playmates.
KA's dog, Tova, had been rescued while KA had been at university, and though she no longer lived at my sister's home, felt a great responsibility to keep things running smoothly in this place that she still considered hers.  One of her "duties" was to inspect Zoe's ears regularly.  Zoe thought that was just fine.  
As much as Zoe adored Sherrill, she was willing to share her with Tova.
This was the only shot I managed of all four dogs more or less holding their position.  Zoe was happy but exhausted, having entertained her guests and accommodated their every need throughout the holiday.
I really love this video and hope you will find a little time to watch Zoe and Black Jack playing.  This concludes my post for now, but more Zoe stories may be added on in the future.  Even from Vancouver, I miss you, sweet girl.  You were a keeper for sure!