Dread

This is going to be a sad one, fair warning.

We are getting kittens this week and next year we are planning on potentially adding some human mini-Johanna-and-Nathans to the family. These are both perfectly normal things for a 31 year old newlywed to be doing. These are even things that I should be very excited and happy about. But somehow, I’m a wreck over both things. When I look at my life with Nathan and the dogs as it is now, I would trade every unknown kitten or hypothetical baby to capture this little slice of my life forever. We have had the best time, we truly have. On weekend mornings when I wake up next to Nathan and those little wriggling pups clamber on top of us and frantically kiss our faces with their sleepy puppy breath because they missed us so much for those hours that we were asleep… that is heaven. I can’t imagine ever being happier than those mornings, I couldn’t even contain that much happiness, I’d just burst or die.

I’ve been terrified of Nathan dying for a while. A blogger I’ve followed for almost a decade lost her husband a couple of months ago to pancreatic cancer – he was healthy and young, then felt sick one day and was dead in a matter of weeks. Another blogger I used to follow lost her husband to melanoma a few years before, and her unimaginable grief has turned her life into a horror show ever since. And even before that, an uncle of mine was struck down by a brain aneurysm in his forties. It feels unfathomable that those little moments of heaven I just mentioned could be a mere hour away from one of these things, or any other number of countless ways a person can be snatched away before their time.

The dread of losing the dogs is more pressing though. Not because I love Nathan less, but because I know that statistically, all these terrible things that could befall him are unlikely. But with the dogs, it’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. Posie is nine years old and Rupert just turned thirteen. I don’t even know how to describe what these little dogs mean to me and how fiercely I love them, but the knowledge that I only have a handful more years with them… I just can’t. I don’t know how I could survive losing them. They have both been so much more than I thought possible, I have loved them more than I ever dreamed I could love anybody or anything. They are so perfect and precious, and I wish more than anything I could just pause them and love them like this for the rest of my life.

I was so excited about these little kittens we are getting at first, but it feels like they are signalling this next phase of my life where at least two terrible losses are inevitable. I am trying so hard to look on the bright side and let myself be open to the possibility of more love, more joy… but again, I just keep coming back to my weekend mornings in bed with my three loves. Maybe the problem is the limits of my imagination. I just can’t conceive of anything better than that, and life feels like it would never be as bright or colourful ever again once these days are over. And one day will be the last day ever that we’ll have together as a Fab Four, and I won’t even know until it’s gone.

It’s just so stupid. I am looking at Posie and Rupert right now, snoozing away after a day of playing and treats on tap. They have such wonderful lives, and when they die, the grand sum of their existence was that they were happy, safe and loved infinitely. I read something online that makes me feel a little better – a little braver or nobler, I guess – in the midst of all this dread:

I think about it this way– it makes me much much sadder to think about myself dying before my dog (for altruistic reasons, not for “I don’t wanna die” reasons)…
I have the faculties to process the concept of death, at least more than my dog does. I know she will die, and that I will die, so we’ll someday be parted. If she were to get terminally ill, I would be able to prepare for that. To her, though… I would just be not there one day.
So I think of it as something I’m willing to do for my dog, and probably the dog after her and probably after that: I’m willing to live their respective lives — their entire lives — with them, and try to make them as happy as I can for as long as I can. After she’s gone, I’m willing to bear the burden of being sad so that she doesn’t have to. And life goes on and soon all I’ll be able to remember are the happy times. I don’t know that a dog is capable of getting over something like that, so I’m glad that it happens this way.

It’s a nice thought, to know that even if my heart breaks, at least it will be mine and not theirs.

So, about these kittens. I was excited to get them until they became a symbol of all my existential dread. It makes sense to get them. We are hoping they will be enriching for the dogs, friends for Posie when Rupert goes, and then they will be a comfort to us when we have no dogs. The cats will be lower maintenance and require less attention when we are in our busiest parenting years. They will be easier to make arrangements for when we travel. There are a lot of good reasons for bringing them into our family, but it just hurts to be kicking off this kind of succession planning, because it forces me to acknowledge what is coming next.

I’m trying to look on the bright side, I really am. I am trying to be like Posie and Rupert, and live wholeheartedly in the moment. But the dread remains, tainting all this love and joy with the possibility that it could be taken away at any moment. I’m reading the Rainbow Bridge poem over and over, trying to console myself that if there is a heaven, we’ll all be reunited and it will be those weekend mornings forever and ever. I’m thinking of Titanic where Rose ‘goes on and on’ and lives an amazing happy life, knowing that even eighty years is a relatively short time until she’ll be reunited with Jack in eternity. I’m really trying, and in the meantime, I feel like I’m so full of grief for the living that I won’t be able to enjoy the time that we do have together, or let myself love the kittens like they deserve.

Anybody out there have any tips, besides “try not to think about it”? If we have years left together as a pawsome foursome, or only a few weeks or months, I don’t want it to be poisoned by my sadness, because when I’m sad, Posie and Rupert are sad too. How can I just pull myself together for their sake?

I’m going to try harder tomorrow. I will take them for a walk. I will give them snacks and cuddles and rub their little bellies and tell them how precious and clever they are. I will take photos and videos of them so I can show my future children how lovely they were. I will read in bed after I wake up and before I go to sleep so that they can snooze curled up against me for a little longer. The time is short for me, but it’s everything for them, and I want it to be nothing but wonderful for them.

How P+R Got Their Names

Inspired by Taza’s post this morning, I wanted to share a little about how Posie and Rupert’s names came to be. I have been obsessed with names since I was a little girl, and I was always trying on different names and begging to be called something else like Danielle or Henrietta. Luckily, I’ve come round to being perfectly happy with Johanna Rose! These days, I have a huge and ever-growing list on Nameberry – I seriously have enough for twenty kids, so it will be a bittersweet task pruning it down for the much smaller number of children and pets that I do end up having in my life.

Anyway, Posie and Rupert.

Obviously, we got Posie first. I didn’t actually know that we were getting a puppy until the weekend that we got her, and I was so enchanted by her that at first I couldn’t think of anything to name her. As we sat in the car with her minutes after receiving her, we ran through a bunch of names but nothing seemed to suit her. She was Miso (because of her colour – like white miso paste) for about five minutes, and I also suggested Claudia and Gretel and Cinderella and Pixel. She was spunky and independent, even in those first moments, so I knew she needed something unique. She seemed like a Rosie, but I suddenly remembered the Noel Streatfeild books about the ballet sisters and had a vague memory that one of the sisters was called Posie (actually Posey).

So Posie it was! I liked the fact that we both have floral names, and that it lends itself very easily to a Chinese name – Xiaohua (literally ‘little flower’). I also liked that Posie is traditionally a nickname for Josephine, which is a nickname that I am often called. And Josephine was an Empress of France – we didn’t know it at the time, but Posie has definitely grown into her role as queen of the household.

Nathan wasn’t immediately sold on her name. Posie has him wrapped around her paw nowadays, but at the time I know he had some reservations about having such a dainty little white fluffy dog with such a cute name. But it suits her so perfectly now – I can’t imagine her being called anything else. It’s unusual and a bit sassy, but so classic and conjures up images of a perfect little cottage garden full of fairies. Posie is a relatively rare name these days, but it is always exciting when I encounter people called Posie/Posey/Poesy in the wild.

Rupert actually came with his name when we adopted him, but it ended up being perfect and it’s what I would have chosen for him anyway. It means ‘bright fame’, and was the name of a historical King of Germany as well as a cartoon character. When we had been searching for a second dog, we’d debated names for our future dog (I can’t remember what any of them were now), thinking we’d have to change their name. But when we got Rupert, his name suited him so perfectly that we dropped the idea and never revisited it. I love that his name is warm and soft, classic and cute.

Together, the dogs sound like an adorable old couple in an English country nursing home. We have toyed with the idea of them having middle names, but can’t agree or decide on anything, so I guess they are just Posie and Rupert. If we ever get another dog, we will continue the theme of cute, unusual but old fashioned names for our animals.

As for future human names, I will never tell until it’s written on a birth certificate – seen way too many people with way too many opinions about this kind of thing, so it’s better to lock everybody out of the decision-making process until it’s already said and done, and there’s nothing they can do about it. But it’s going to be agonizing to decide one day. Though I suppose that whatever I don’t use, I always have the opportunity to use all these gorgeous names on characters in my writing. Or I can get chickens. And then more chickens, and more, and more. 🙂

Only the Best Boys

Yesterday was such a hard day – Rupert saw the vet on Tuesday who found that he had a cracked tooth, so he was booked in for dental surgery in less than 24 hours. Yesterday, all we could do was sit at home keeping all our fingers crossed for him. It’s a big ask for an almost thirteen year old dog, especially one with pre-existing health issues.

But he did really well. He ended up needing four teeth out – we were horrified and felt like the worst owners in the world, but apparently the vet worked on a dog the day before who needed twenty seven teeth out and was only nine years old… so we felt slightly better. Aside from the cracked tooth, one of the other ones actually had an embedded/infected ring of shark cartilage causing some problems around it (one of his former favourite snacks). I felt so bad that he’s been in pain and we haven’t even realized.

Since he got home, he has been up and down. Extremely floppy and miserable, sometimes crying and needing to be held all the time. Being strange in that he wants me to be close to him and look at him at all times, but also feeling vulnerable and growling at me. However, I went into the kitchen to get him a snack when he first got home, and he immediately leaped out of bed and came trotting in to see what I was doing. He ate some tinned oysters (only the best boys get tinned oysters), wet dog food and half a soft bread roll, and he has seemed very interested in anything that I am eating. The vet told us that he could be a whole new dog after these extractions, because after the initial recovery, it won’t hurt anymore. I hope so! It would be really good if he could gain about a kilogram.

I’m just so ridiculously grateful that we’ve cleared this hurdle with Rupert and can get back to him living his best life. He has had struggles that would have seen most dogs in his position being put down, but he’s still here, and aside from what he’s going through right now, he has a pretty great life. He is still spritely and can be as zany and hyper as a puppy. I really hope he’s around for a long time yet.

Rupert’s 2018 Hospital Adventure

Here we are again! Rupert has aspiration pneumonia.

Being transported in his oxygen tent.

The story of why: in 2012, Rupert had a mysterious muscle wasting disease take hold in his jaw, head, throat and shoulders. He lost the ability to swallow properly almost overnight, and aspirated his food. It was a rough time in intensive care and we thought we would lose him, but the wasting suddenly stopped and hasn’t returned. That doesn’t mean that he regained those muscles, it just means that it hasn’t gotten worse. As a result of all of this, he still can’t swallow properly and is thus always at risk of aspirating when he eats or drinks, and he has scar tissue in his lungs that makes him sound like he permanently has a cold. So he gets aspiration pneumonia sometimes. It’s always scary, but usually easily fixed with some oxygen, IV fluids and antibiotics.

So impressed that Nathan came to pick him up.

That’s where we are right now. Rupert spent a day and a half chilling on oxygen at the vet hospital, but he’s home now. Extremely sleepy though. Last night, he was so tired that he collapsed to the ground after having a drink. But this morning he heard the mailman’s bike and leapt off the couch and went running to the door. So, it’s up and down.

Right now, he’s asleep. Probably dreaming about the smoked chicken that he got to eat yesterday. Hopefully doing some heavy duty healing!

Dog Decisions

I’m doing some writing prompts by Ann Dee Ellis – eight minutes, unprompted and unrehearsed. Here’s today’s effort – decisions.

We didn’t really have a plan when we got Posie, but by the time she turned one, I had come to the realization that she needed a friend. I was already her friend, but I couldn’t be there all the time, and we worried about the idea that she had nobody to romp around with and indulge her inner dogginess. She was so communicative with us in surprisingly human ways, we didn’t want her to lose her ability to relate to other dogs altogether.

So we decided to get her a dog, and this time, we were going to do the right thing and adopt. We searched around until we found Rupert – free to a good home in the classifieds. I had to seriously beg to take him on. His previous owners were convinced that he just could not be homed with another dog because of fighting. What we later found out was that he’d had an owner before those ones, who had thrown him in an overgrown junkyard backyard with a bunch of muscular bully-type dogs. Rupert is such a teddy bear, it’s no wonder he felt threatened. Anyway, I convinced them in the end, we drove to Leongatha and took him home with us.

Things were rough for months. Posie was absolutely bereft, and acted like we had broken her heart. She kept hiding and staring at us, wondering when he was going to go home. They had their little turf wars, and Rupert made a habit of escaping for a while. We didn’t realize it could get worse, but it did. He started peeing on the furniture as soon as we left the house. Not the leg of the sofa, but actually soaking the whole cushion, or our bed, or his bed. A few trips to the dog psychologist got these things more or less under control, but it was not a fun time.

So many times, I went back and forth on our decision. I cared a lot about Rupert in those early months, but I certainly didn’t like him. I resented the havoc he’d brought into our lives and the unhappiness he’d caused Posie. I wondered if we would ever be able to sit on furniture without feeling if it was wet first, if Posie would ever be happy again. He didn’t feel comfortable enough to come out of his shell for months, so we still had no idea of his personality – he was a stranger to us, and it was very hard to love him at first. That’s what is so difficult about decisions… they can be right and wrong, at different times, for various reasons. There is nothing you can choose that doesn’t run a risk of regret, and sometimes arriving at a state of graceful acceptance about the whole thing can be slippery and elusive. But I suppose you have to make a lot of careful considerations, but ultimately jump off into the unknown and hope for the best.

Seven years later, I don’t have a single doubt about the decision to bring him into our family. He’s still having turf wars with Posie, but it’s so sweet to see how they rely on each other so much, especially when being reunited after the brief times they are separated. He has grown into the most excellent dog with a little bit of nurturing and I’m so grateful that we got lucky enough to have him.

Hey Fluffer-munch

A letter to my little darling (because I’m sure that she reads this blog).

Dear Posie,

You are eight! Such an achievement. We are very proud of the dog that you have become, but I can never be sure which parts are nature and which are nurture. I’d like to wish that every delightful bit of you is due to our efforts, but it’s not true – you were spritely, sassy and spirited already on the day we met.

Lately you’ve been on a super affectionate streak (I am not complaining at all). You trot along after us, sneaking little licks on our shins so that we’ll praise and pat you. You figured out this little trick all by yourself, and we’re both amazed that you trained us this way. You also have made a habit of just sitting and staring at us, projecting the biggest amount of telepathic love that your little body can manage. Then no amount of kisses is enough.

You still bark at the mailman, you still love asparagus, you still get huffy if you don’t get to go visit Granny and Poppy every weekend. You have a few more lumps and bumps than last year, but it happens to us all. It’s hard to believe that you are a senior dog, not when you still act so much like a puppy. You and I have incredibly high level communication – I always know exactly what your little noises, your gestures, your pointing and your facial expressions mean, even if it is something like “I want you to open the door to the kitchen then lift me up so I can survey the counter tops to make sure you didn’t leave any leftovers uncovered”.

You are not ‘just a dog’, you’re the shining star of my life, the princess of my heart, the reason for being (along with Rupert, of course). Happy birthday Miss Munch!

Love from Mummy xx

Best Dogs

Posie and Rupert are the best little dogs. We took them to the rehabilitation hospital to visit Patrick and we all sat on the shady lawns together – P+R were so well behaved and everybody adored them. I always thought that Rupert would make a good therapy dog if he could just grasp basic commands and learn to not pee on anything resembling a pole. Posie loved jumping all over Patrick’s bed. How great is it that dogs are allowed in the hospital? I wish they were allowed in every hospital.

Aside from that, it’s back to the grindstone. I’ve switched my thesis from a creative piece + exegesis to a straight critical thesis, which feels like a cop out, but it’s kind of a relief. I just couldn’t find a bridge between the two parts I was working on, and neither of them was willing to compromise. The new thesis is basically an extension of the exegesis I was working on, but now I have to figure out ways to make it have finesse and be fleshy. It can be lonely devoting so much brain power to something that you can never talk about in any great depth with anybody else. Like when you are planning a wedding or having a baby or starting a new job, nobody cares about your wedding/baby/job/thesis as much as you do. That doesn’t mean they don’t care at all, but nobody is going to be as intimate with and invested in the details as you, and it can be isolating. Which is why it’s so important to stay interested in other things. I need to get my skates on and read more this year. I want to cook my way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cookinga la Julie Powell. I want to take a painting class. I want to teach myself how to use my big camera, once and for all, and I want to get some special lenses for it. I want to start running again and be one of those annoying people that brags about times. Lots of things to do. If only I had a few more lifetimes to do everything.

There is some bad news too – it looks like we will be postponing our super exciting European adventure for twelve months. I’ve mentioned it before, but this year is an absolute killer. In the next six months, I have to plan a wedding, finish my thesis, figure out my PhD application, do major renovations on the house, and a number of other things. I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to planning something amazing right now. If I’m only going to have one honeymoon, I don’t want to end up regretting not having worked harder on it. It’s a big trip, it costs so much just to fly there from Australia, so I really want to make the trip worthwhile once we actually get there. So the new plan is that next year on our 1+11 year anniversary, we’ll do it. And having had an entire year to plan it properly, it will be everything it deserves to be. And we might skulk around Bali for a little bit at the end of the year to console ourselves in the meantime! 🙂

Three’s a Crowd

Today, we have three dogs.

Rupert:

Posie:

[Missing, last seen scurrying under the sofa]

And Decima:

I’m babysitting, so it’s a little crazy around here. Deci will not stop crying, Rupert must be sitting on me at all times in a display of dominance, and poor little Posie is so out of sorts that she is hiding under the furniture. P+R are not exactly ‘doggy’ dogs and prefer their own company or to be with humans, whereas Decima has pretty bad attachment anxiety so she cries constantly and follows you like a shadow. Posie is so unsettled by Deci’s big swinging tail because it’s at the exact height to hit her in the face, and Rupert’s little internal turf wars always result in some growling. Deci cannot relax until Nathan is home, because she really relies on an ‘alpha’ male figure to feel secure. It’s not ideal. They all tend to get along a thousand times better when they are together at Mum’s house, but not here.

I would love a house filled with dogs, but even three is so stressful. Maybe it’s just this particular mix and how sporadically they are thrown together, but it’s hard work. Feeding them is like the scene from Jurassic World where Chris Pratt takes on the trio of velociraptors. I can’t even go to the bathroom without at least two of them tagging along or crying outside the door if I dare shut it. I can’t even walk around my own house without everybody getting unsettled and panicking about whether I’m going somewhere. Deci is great, but I’m really looking forward to handing her back at the end of the night and getting to snuggle my own dogs again.

Little Bits + Posie in the Gardens

I was baking my own tortilla chips earlier today (curse this horrid diet). They had to be cooked in several batches because our oven is awful and wrecks every baking tray we put in it. Now, I can’t shake this edgy feeling that something is still in the oven that I have to babysit or else it will burn.

Aside from that, 2017 reading is not going very well. My particular brain chemistry situation is a blessing and a curse; if a book catches me at the right moment, I will devour it in a day and not stop for anything. The rest of the time, I will start a page with good intentions then find myself flying right over paragraphs without picking up a hint of meaning – then I backtrack and the same thing happens all over again. All while suddenly wondering about whether the word ‘dandelion’ refers to different species of plant in different regions, or daydreaming about delicious Alsatian (the region, not the dog) cuisine that I read about the other day, feeling the urge to google why I always get eczema on my left foot but never my right. ANYWAY.

We took the pups to Ballarat on the weekend and it was an experience. We may need to just concede defeat that they are never going to sit nicely with their seatbelts on when there is an alternative of jumping all over me. Also, the air conditioner refused to work the whole time except for the last five minutes, so I turned up sweaty, windblown and covered in dog hair to an extended family picnic. That was great. Posie loved the Botanical Gardens – she is a dog that must smell every flower.

I’m so glad we finally have a working air conditioner in our house. Last night, we set up an inflatable mattress in the living room because it was seriously like 28°C outside at midnight, and our bedroom would have been much hotter. I watched Martha Stewart’s Cooking School until 2am, drooling over things that I don’t even like. Why do eggs always look so delicious, even though I know I don’t like them? They are so sensual in their silkiness, the way that the yolk oozes and coats everything like a perfect sauce. Even scrambled, Martha Stewart managed to make something that looked cheesy-without-cheese, fluffy and gorgeous. I kind of hate that I don’t like eggs. It’s so ridiculous and I will confess that I think it’s silly when people write off an entire food category not for an allergy but simply because they don’t like it. Eggs look so good, but I know that as soon as that texture gets in my mouth, I will gag. It’s an irrational, uncontrollable response. Sometimes I can trick myself by making scrambled eggs with so much cheese, bacon and herbs that I can’t even really taste the egg, but egg by itself, I will always gag or throw up. I can dip soldiers into egg yolk, I can eat Hollandaise and meringue, but there is something about eggs by themselves (probably the whites) that I just can’t handle. But that’s going to change. 2017 will be the year that I eat an egg, all by itself. And I will enjoy it. Baby steps though – I’m going to start with frittatas and omelettes first. But I’m determined to be a person that likes eggs, especially since I am hassling Nathan to get some backyard chickens.

Something is Wrong on the Internet + Rupert’s Hospital Adventure

As you might have noticed, I have a weird little secondary sidebar menu that has popped up on my site out of nowhere after my last update. It’s annoying and I can’t figure out how on earth to get rid of it. Never mind that though – I’m planning a bit of a revamp around here sometime in the next month or so, so expect much bigger changes!

Apart from that, we’ve had some mixed news this week. Rupert had surgery on Monday to remove a tumour from the inside of his eyelid. It was originally slated to be a major ordeal – they were going to cut an upside-down house shaped wedge out of his lower eyelid and stitch the sides back together. But once they examined him, they realized they could just freeze it off. He came home and was completely normal within 24 hours, seriously acting like nothing had ever happened. We had been told to expect swelling, but there has been nothing. It’s as though he never even went to hospital.

Anyway, the complicated part of all this is that we got a call last night to let us know that the tumour was in fact cancerous. We were not expecting this at all. But there is a silver lining in all of this. It was definitely cancer, but the type is not a cancer that can spread or create secondaries in any of his other systems or organs. And there is only a tiny chance that it will ever come back; and if it does, it will be in exactly the same spot and will just need to be frozen off again. Which is extremely good news.

But then there is the guilt factor. We originally found out about this tumour in November. The vets assured us that it was extremely unlikely to be cancerous. It was too close to our Japan trip and we didn’t want to put the responsibility of his surgery recovery time onto my family, so we decided with the vets that it would be fine to wait until we got back. Then there was back and forth about whether we should opt for the invasive surgery that the vet could provide, or whether to take him to the specialist vet opthamologist. We eventually picked the specialist and had to wait another two weeks for an appointment. I just feel so terrible that our little boy had cancer this whole time and we let him wait nearly two months for treatment while we went on a freaking holiday. Worst owners ever. I realize that we didn’t know and we made the best choice we could based on the information we had at the time, but I still feel terrible about what our actions and choices boiled down to.

But if I can take any solace from this, at least he’s well now. He’s currently asleep on top of a pile of clean laundry, snoring quietly. Later, I’m sure somebody will give him a bit of lamb chop (it is Australia Day, after all). He is completely back to normal and I’m so glad that he’s alright. I know this is just part of having a senior dog and that we have to prepare ourselves for all the other little (or big) things that are going to pop up in the future. But for now, he’s alright – he’s happy, so I’m happy.