Circadian rhythm, James Cook, coyotes…in no particular order

Hugo got up to pee as bright light flooded into the bedroom and I was awake. 2:18 am. Who am I kidding, I am awake. Sunday funday turned into reminiscing about Kaiser over several glasses of wine and hence, I am up before 3am on Monday. I say hence because alcohol has always effected my sleep/wake cycle, otherwise known as my circadian rhythm. Since I was laying in bed thinking about that long, uniquely spelled word, I decided to get up, take Nala out to pee, and do a little research.

As I typed circadian rhythm into Google, my most recent inquiries hung just below the search bar, like footprints or old flames that just can’t let go. One of which happened to be James Cook, the noble explorer from the 18th century. During our voyage out of town and into the great abyss of Los Angeles yesterday, Hugo and I stumbled upon an extraordinary little collectibles shop. We decided to poke our heads in with Nala in tow. I was in a swell position to spend a little dough as I was freshly liquored (actually wined) up from just departing a tasting as the nearby winery. Anyways, we walked in, met the owner and perused the goods. The back display room was particularly interesting, filled with old medical equipment, including a dentist’s chair from 1910. In the next room over, I fell in love with a cartograph (big fancy word, look it up) of the Hawaiian Islands.  Otherwise known as the Sandwich Islands, after the Earl of Sandwich, this illustrated map includes the islands themselves as well as James Cook’s ship and a Hawaiian Chief setting sail to greet him.  It fascinated Hugo and I so we made the $40 purchase for the map and threw in a mummified piranha for our remodeled guest room (actually Hugo’s computer lair).

When we got home, we did a little more reading on James Cook and I was hooked.  Credited with providing the first accurate map of the Pacific, James Cook not only discovered and charted New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef but he also battled scurvy by feeding himself and his crew a diet of watercress, sauerkraut and orange extract.  Fascinating, incredible and humbling to say the least.  To think of what life must have been like just a couple hundred years ago.

Your 24-hour circadian rhythm sleep/wake cycle is no joke.  Mine happens to be on, or up, or a little skewed this morning as I am awake so early.  As I said earlier, the wine always does it.  After not having had any alcohol for many, many months, Hugo and I have indulged in a couple of adult beverages the past few days, really just to relax and take our minds off of our recent loss.  We opened an expensive bottle of blended red wine from Sunstone (excellent organic vineyard and winery) we had been saving and toasted to Tootie two days ago as well.

This weekend with Hugo has helped tremendously in my healing process.  I feel much more relaxed and clear-headed, after many days of endless crying and a melancholy, somber household.  We miss Kaiser tremendously.  We miss Kaiser more than I thought was possible.  Seeing and feeling how much I miss him makes me realize just how much I truly loved him.

With the sounds of yipping coyotes feasting on a fresh rabbit kill just outside my window, Nala and I are now off to bed, for the second time tonight.

 

Doing a little cooking in between tears

In between fighting the nauseous feeling in my belly and the ball in my throat, I made this yummy Herbed Gnocchi and Mushrooms recipe from The Kitchn last night (no, that is not a typo).  I know that intro didn’t sound very appetizing but believe me, that meal tastes better than I have felt over the past few days.

Hugo and I are venturing out to the beach tomorrow morning, for some sun and relaxation with Nala despite the sad events of the past week.  I am really looking forward to it.  Especially after the somber afternoon I just had.  I had a lengthy conversation with our gardener Jose, who is a staple in our small neck of the woods.  Jose has cared for the livestock, and the ranches they live on, in our corner of the canyon for many years, meaning he knows everyone’s story.  We are currently putting in some fresh new grass in our backyard citrus garden so he stopped by the house around 4pm today to drop off the organic topsoil and grass seed.  We stood in the shade of the house, within feet of my husband’s sleeping bass boat, and discussed the sadness in the air.  I told him about Kaiser.  He nodded and paused, acknowledging exactly what I was saying and feeling with his limited English.  He didn’t have to say much but yet I knew that he completely understood.

We had discussed Kaiser’s health last week, as Kaiser greeted Jose through the fence.  Jose has always been scared of our Rottweilers, based solely on his overwhelming fear of dogs in general, however, last week was different.  I don’t know if it was because Kaiser’s energy was deteriorating but there was a calm sense of understanding for the first time between the two.  Kaiser wasn’t flipping out at him through the fence and Jose wasn’t retreating in fear.  The three of us just stood and talked, enjoying the company and sunshine.

During the rest of my afternoon chat with Jose, we also talked about my ailing neighbor Mark as well as two additional cancer diagnoses in the surrounding hillsides and subsequent deaths.  It was sad, depressing and maddening.  Illnesses are far too common and devastating to everyone they touch.  I concluded the exchange by reminding my friend to count his blessings.  I am not sure if he understood what I said exactly but he felt my energy.

As I am sitting here solo on a Saturday night, as my husband works a sixteen hour shift, a Clear The Shelters show was on TV.  I just watched a few light-hearted videos of rescue animals, some of which were from The Dodo and all of which distracted me from the melancholy in the air.  Check out their videos, hopefully they will warm your heart as they did mine.

Keeping my perspective, as difficult as it may be

I think one of the few reasons I am able to pull my head up, out of the water, and look into the clear blue sky today is that tragedy strikes us all and connects us in a way that we should be more conscious of.  As I turn on the news today, the accused killer of Mollie Tibbetts is in court.  That poor family who lost their vibrant, beautiful daughter in such a violent manner.  The world is cruel.

Perspective is important.  My small world, consisting of Hugo, my parents and family, our other dog Nala, and a few select friends, is just that, small.  We get trapped in our own bubble, for good reason.  But I think it’s important to take a moment to actually open your eyes to the other bubbles floating by you.  Across the street on our quiet dirt road, our neighbor is slowly dying in front of his wife.  Diagnosed with advanced multiple myeloma cancer about two years ago, he first found out about his illness while walking casually through his bedroom mid-morning on a random Sunday.  Out of nowhere, what felt like a shotgun shell to his left rib cage struck, causing him to fall to the floor and rile in pain.  That feeling was his rib breaking in half, as his first signs of cancer snapped his once strong bone in half.  He is not doing well and the slow decline into the great fade is starting to happen.  Another bubble is one of my coworkers, Garrett, who was in a bad motorcycle versus vehicle accident about last month.  Garret was riding his motorcycle into work, when a moronic vehicle driver cut him off, causing them to collide.  Garrett had his foot amputated on Tuesday afternoon.  Breathe that reality in for a second.

Even writing about all of the other circumstances I see is helping.  And this is just in my little world.  I am not a very social person as Hugo and I tend to keep to ourselves and lean on each other.  With that said, imagine the heartache occurring every day worldwide.  I implore you to look outside of your bubble, have a little compassion and put a smile on your face.  Because maybe, just maybe, it’s not that bad.

Love and loss

It finally happened.  The sweet, old man who Hugo and I loved so dearly passed away just before midnight last night.  It was about 11:50pm on August 22nd to be exact.  I couldn’t help but check the time when we walked back into the lobby of the emergency vet hospital, both of us sobbing and holding each other.  We loved him like family, as most pet owners do.

We brought Kaiser into our life just after getting married in the Spring of 2009.  Our first baby together, if you will.  He was our second Rottweiler that we shared, our first, Marley, having passed away while we were out of the country for our wedding celebration.  Kaiser’s recalcitrant attitude and strong-will tested me many times throughout the years.  Rottweilers are dominant, outspoken dogs that require equally assertive and alpha owners.  He proved ever portion of the latter sentence to be true.  He would bark shout in outrage if he was told to leave the room and angrily huff if he was forced to go outside to urinate, after sleeping all night and clearly needing to go pee.  He had a bold, lovable personality that everyone who met him adored.  During vet trips or road trips, Kaiser could often be found sitting between someone’s legs, whether it was Hugo, myself, the vet or a complete stranger, with a big smile on his face, his legs flopped open and his wiener touching the ground due to his relaxed, happy state.  As funny and crude as that may sound, we could always tell he was at ease and enjoying life in that position.  Hugo and I would have a little laugh every time we saw him like that.

Whenever we’d play fight in front of Kaiser, we would always joke that he was like our referee or a police officer because we would jump into action by jamming his body in between ours in an attempt to separate both parties.  He always knew it was in good fun but he equally got a kick out of joining in on the play fight.  I will be looking over my shoulder for a charging Rottweiler next time I tickle or pinch my husband, hoping he will bound across the room to stop it all.

From his grumpiest to silliest times, Kaiser taught me a lot about life.  I began to realize this a couple of months ago when he first got sick.  You become so accustomed to certain things in your life.  Waking up to the same person in bed every morning and kissing them goodnight sixteen hours later.  The sound of the coffee maker percolating to conclusion and enough money in the bank to buy the quality grounds.  Dogs greeting you at the door, almost causing you to trip as you walk in from a long day or vacation away from home.  It’s these things that we sometimes take for granted but when any of them come to a screeching halt, even momentarily, it makes us surrender to the truth that nothing is forever and none of this is guaranteed.

The house feels so empty without him here.  At his final weight, after being sick for months and slowly withering away to just bones, he clocked in at sixty-nine pounds.  He was a ghost compared to the svelte, masculine 109 pound canine that prowled our backyard for nuisance crows or a rogue rabbit.  It was madness to hear that weight number fall out of the vet tech’s mouth last night, just minutes before his catheter was inserted.  About an hour before that, Hugo had come home early from work because we knew it was time.  We both genuinely knew in our hearts that he was suffering and it was time to give him some peace.  But even with that said, we stood in the threshold of our laundry room, hovering over our sick dog, debating if it was the right thing to do.  We love each other and him so much that we had to just stand there, cry together and talk it out.  And we did.

As we spoke and came to the inevitable conclusion that he was in pain and it wasn’t humane to make him slowly continue dying through the night, Kaiser looked up at both of us repeatedly with his sunken eyes and nearly hollowed skull.  He had lost so much weight that the outline of his body was like a sketch artist had drawn a skeleton of a dog and pasted some hair on it.  It pained both of us to see him like that and the look in his eyes gave us the answers we needed.  Hugo took out his collar and leash, to which he wagged his tail to one last time.  Nala, our other dog, said her final goodbye at the trunk of my Jeep and we descended the driveway one last time with our little puppy in tow.

Grief is a strange thing.  I am not sure what stage I am in or when I will come out the other side.  One thing I do know is that I have never seen my husband cry, out of the fourteen years we have been inseparable.  But I saw him cry on and off several times since the events of last night unfolded.  Kaiser touched his and my heart in such a way that only the unbiased, non-judgemental, unconditional love of a gentle giant can.

So for now I will continue cleaning up the house and gathering his toys for our local animal shelter.  I will continue randomly crying as I remember the good times we had as a family of four.  I will comfort Nala and Hugo, as they both need me in similar yet different ways.  And I will keep a little place in my heart reserved for the beast that was Tootie, his nickname for all those years.

As a final note, Kaiser actually brought Hugo and I a tad bit closer these past couple of days.  We have been bickering a little and mildly getting under each other’s skin, most likely due to the fact that I am like a loaded gun that has been grounded at the house in excess of six weeks due to my knee surgery.  We have bonded and united as a team as we cared for our sick family member and ultimately laid him to rest.  Life has a funny way of coming full circle in that sense.  Maybe some times it takes a little bit of sadness to make you cling just a bit harder to the ones you love.

 

Better late than never

After a short four-day hiatus from writing, here I am!  Back and better than ever.  I didn’t really go anywhere, just didn’t have too much to say.  That’s fair, right?

So after my lengthy, 96-hour break, some of which I spent debating whether or not to return to school, transcripts have been ordered, degree programs have been explored and decisions have now been made.  My final decision is to enroll in an online bachelor’s degree program in the very near future.  I have wasted the past fourteen years debating it so I decided, enough is enough.  There is no better time than now.  Plus, I found an outstanding online degree program through National University that works very well for working professionals.  It is 100% online and you only take one intensive class at a time, with classes only lasting a month.  I like the sound of it so I am getting pumped to begin.  As of right now I intend to major in Homeland Security (that just sounds bad ass, right?), but that may change as I iron out the final details this week.

As the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards are about to start, this little scholar is typing away as Hugo makes sausage and shrimp paella.  Another outstanding Chef John recipe that is worth checking out.  Needless to say, the house smells amazing.  He has made this recipe before and it never fails to impress.  What a lovely man he is.  Feeding someone you love is a beautiful expression of selfless caring.  I am a lucky girl.

 

Still got it in him

Despite being nearly seventy years old in dog years and being mortally ill with throat cancer, Kaiser still has it in him.  And by “it”, I mean the will to fight.  He has always been a scrapper; never a fan of other dogs, he has fought with all breeds, ages and sizes since he reached adolescence.  In addition, he gets rather feisty with Nala from time to time, whether it is over food or random dominance battles.  That is exactly what happened moments ago in our kitchen…over an ice cube.  Every time that I scoop ice from our freezer, both dogs frantically run into the kitchen, in hopes of acquiring a fat-free frozen treat on these hot summer days.  Although I didn’t give them one today, which may have lent itself as to why they were upset, as they turned to leave the kitchen, it was on.  Either Nala looked at Kaiser sideways or Kaiser didn’t appreciate the side eye that Nala was handing out because as they both took a step forward, they simultaneously turned and began battling.  It is normally mostly bark and minimal bite but two large Rotties getting crazy is always enough to get me yelling as loud as possible and stomping my feet, in an effort to break their attention away from one another.  Since they are both aging and quite frankly not in the mood for craziness like they used to “back in the day”, the brawl was brief and short-lived.  No injuries reported and both parties retreated to separate corners of the house, as they normally do for a short period of sulking and licking their wounds, if you will.

Although I don’t want to see my dogs fight, or any cross feelings between anyone in my midst, it is still nice to see that his soul is alive and well.  He can’t fight his instincts which is both real and raw.  Dogs can’t lie or fake it so it warmed my heart to see him want to get wild with his kid sister.  It will be rather telling when he does slow down to the point that a quick ice cube brawl is too much for him to sustain.  I know that day will come eventually but let’s hope it is later than sooner.

Afterword:  About twenty minutes later, as I continued thinking about this post, I couldn’t help but consider the similar behaviors that humans engage in.  The main difference is that as humans, we have the self-awareness and knowledge of our condition, which is both a blessing and a curse in my opinion.  For instance, if we have knowledge of a terminal illness, some of us may shelter ourselves or limit our energy exertion, which goes completely against acting purely on instinct.  If we are aware that we are sick, we may not solely act on how we actually feel but we factor the knowledge of our sickness and all of the negative attributes in when we make decisions or assess ourselves.  

I have said it before and I will say it again – we have a lot to learn from the animals in our lives.  Now I am off to refill Kaiser’s food bowl, so his belly can be full and his heart can be happy.