Saturday, May 29, 2004

Friday was a hard day. Not a bad day, but a hard day.

Devon, our dog, had a rough morning. I was awakened by her having a choking fit that lasted close to twenty minutes. This seemed to be a signal that she had suffered enough with her failing health. It was time to have her put down.

I'd been to the vet with her about a month ago, and he gently suggested that it was time to have her euthanized back then. Now, she was trying to tell me the same message in her own way. It was going to be so hard, saying goodbye to someone that I loved so much. To think that I was the one that had to make the decision to proceed with such an action was going to tear me up inside, too.

I called and booked the appointment that morning. I called Jenn at 1 pm and told her what was going on. At 2 pm she came and picked me up from work. Jenn had tears in her eyes as she opened the back door of the van and showed that she had brought Devon along. Devon sat in the back, a shadow of the dog she had once been. The grey hair on her face and the cloudiness in her eyes spoke to a constant fatigue and dimming of her once-sharp senses; her fur had pretty much all fallen out due to an adrenal gland problem; her body had mostly wasted away due to inactivity (bad hips) and the pain that must have been caused by eating anything that required chewing (periodontitis and infected gums). She was weak from malnutrition and looked tired. The fact that she sat listlessly on the seat when I saw her told me that her health had failed in so many ways. I know that had she been a healthy dog (as she was when she was young), she would be hyperactive, pawing at the door and window upon seeing a recognizable face. Having us, her pack, around wasn't much comfort compared to all that was wrong with her.

It was time.

We went and got the girls out of school 1/2 an hour early. McMonk was very perceptive - she immediately asked what was wrong. We waited until we got out of the school building before we told her what was up and where we were going. Banana was brave and tried hard not to let her sorrow show. Weeks before, Jenn and I had discussed this with the girls and spoke of the inevitability of it. There had even been a date set once that we didn't have the courage to follow through with. The girls knew, and they had told us that they wanted to be with her when she went to sleep for the final time.

We had 45 minutes until the appointment, so we stopped at the park behind our house. We all (Devon included) sat in the grass as we talked about how much fun we had with Devon as a family. We talked of our favorite memories of her as a young dog. Devon had walked over from the van with us, but at a slower pace. She didn't find pleasure in exploring the field like she might have - perhaps she sensed the sorrow that we all felt and for that reason wanted to be physically close to us. She always was good to cuddle when you were feeling down. We all took our turns crying and telling funny stories until finally, it was time to get going.

We piled into the van, Devon coming along slower than the rest, as we had come to expect of her these days. We drove to the vet clinic and all went inside. I took care of the payment details as I knew I would be in no shape to do this on the way out. Jenn had been thoughtful enough to bring Devon's blanket that she slept on, so when we went into the examination room, she wouldn't have to sit on the steel table. We all gathered around Devon and petted her. The doctor explained that he would give her two injections - the first would tranquilize her and would take about 15 minutes; the second would quickly make her heart stop beating and she would fade away without any pain or awareness. We told him we were ready, and stood and cried softly as Devon was given the first injection. After the initial pinch of the first needle, she just lay down like she usually did and became comfortable on her blanket. We all petted her and showed our love for her as her consciousness faded.


I have Devon to thank for so many things. Comfort when I was feeling blue. A playmate for me when she was a puppy and I had too much energy. A reason for Jenn and I to come back to the house in the days before we had children. A constant source of material for my banter with the girls, as she did normal dog things and I put human emotions and ulterior motives to them. Boundless energy in her role (in younger days) as a portable alarm and exercise device for Banana and McMonk on our trips to the playground. Patience with my daughters as they carried, dressed, chauffeured and ordered her through all of the things that they needed a canine pal for.

Finally, I have Devon to thank for seeing my two daughters, holding and comforting each other as their best friend (apart from each other) gently drifted away from them.

Devon, your presence was a blessing to us. We promise to keep you dear in our hearts.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

There's a statue downtown that I really like. It's of a big farmhorse, and it's built to be larger than life. The statue is made of rusty, well-worn metal that's been welded together, and the pieces are all things that you would find on a farm here in Alberta. Plow pieces, metal tractor seats, bolts, scythes, barbed wire, ... that sort of stuff.

It's a beautiful statue and I enjoy examining the detail of the work. The size of it speaks to the bigger-than-life-ness of the horse, and how important this strong-backed animal was to a pre-mechanical farm. I like that the horse is made of bits of the farm, as the farm was created (partially) due to the existence of the horse.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Victorious, I return from my very first Masters' National swim competition.

Well, not quite victorious, but I did put in a good showing. Second place in the 50 breaststroke, 3rd in the 50 fly and a somewhat respectable 7th on 200 freestyle. Very good, considering the meet was representing all of Canada.

One of my teammates broke a Canadian record and of course the whole team was thrilled for her. She was floored - she had no idea her times were even close to the record. It got me to thinking, "Maybe I have a chance at one of these records for my age group." I was quickly brought down to earth.

One of the competitors in my age category has a natural gift for swimming. At age thirty-seven, he is going to compete against 18 and 19 year-olds at the Canadian Olympic trials in July. He got into swimming on a lark, starting when he was 18 years old. When I was eighteen, I had been training for five years, doing 11 two-hour practices a week. Yet this fella, after just four months of fairly low-key training, set a city record that stands to this day, twenty years later, for 100 metre butterfly (1:01.32). After all the training I had done when I swam age-group, I was barely able to go 1 minute and 12 seconds for that race.


I have to be at peace with the fact that I will never be a record holder in swimming. That's not why I swim. I swim because it is a healthy thing to do while I spend time with my buddies. It's not too expensive equipment-wise, you don't get all sweaty while you're doing it, and it's a gentle sport on your body (especially your joints). I sleep well after hard workouts. Swimming can be done at your own pace and no one gets left behind on the trail or road becuase they're not as fast as the others. Those that swim tend to be comfortable with their bodies. You can't help it after standing face-to-face with each other, hour after hour, in nothing but lycra.

I admit that a competitive fire burns within me when I am in motion. When I am swimming a length and I look over to the next lane and see someone swimming at the same pace (or a bit faster), I'm compelled to beat them to the end of the length. That little spark makes me train better and work harder. It also makes me appreciate having teammates, as I wouldn't be pushed to the same degree if I swam alone, even if it is me doing the pushing.

I am at peace with my performance when I am done. I see others setting records and reaching other great personal achievements due to natural talent, or perhaps just dedication and drive. I know I balance all the other important things in my life (including goofing-off time for myself) and give what I can to swimming. One of my teammates noticed that I seemed happy with my reasonable showing at the meet and commented on it this weekend. They said that I seem to always be accepting of my swims, be them great or not-so-great. I took that as a wonderful complement.

Monday, May 17, 2004

After a busy, busy day on Sunday, I decided to kick back and watch a mindless film. Preusing our collection brought me to a videotape of Dana Carvey's Master of Disguise - perfect for the involving task of sorting odd socks. The first fifteen minutes of the film almost turned me right off. I thought it was insipid comedy, but watched on. After an hour I was enjoying the goofy antics, strangely drawn in by the predictable gags and slapstick.

Goes to show, you need to be in the right frame of mind to watch certain types of shows. You gotta be ready to laugh at a guy quizzing a waiter to see if he's got "a leee-tle weener and some tiny nuts."

Friday, May 14, 2004

Summer feels like it is here. We've dispensed with what we hope will be the last of the spring snowfalls and the grass and trees are greening up quite nicely here in Calgary. I'm making plans to replace the fence between Mr. G and my house, but the project is experiencing feature-creep.

As well as replacing the fence, I'm considering building a new garden shed. The tired, old metal shed is just not cutting it for a place to store all our sports equipment, gardening supplies, Christmas stuff and other, outside junk we seem to have. It is the sports equipment that seems to be accumulating. Jennifer has been pining for a greenhouse, ever since we moved from a place that had one. I'm looking at the condition of the lawn and considering putting a walkway between shed and house, too. Our once-thick-and-luscious lawn has become pretty beaten-up under the feet of many playing children. Having a concrete walkway at the entrance to the garden shed would change it from its present grassless mudbath state. Also, what kind of foundation is this new shed going to sit on, in our soft, sinky-soil back yard?

All of this has left me felling overwhelmed, and I am trying to collect the enthusiasm necessary to tackle planning for this, never mind actually doing the work.

To compound things, I've been struggling with some personal issues as of late and I'm finding it hard to focus on moving forward. I am pinning my hopes on some deep thought, some soul-searching, some time (which I never seem to be able to find) spent journaling and perhaps a divine signal or two.

Wish me luck.

Monday, May 10, 2004

As we are all learning, I'll share two tidbits I picked up today.

You don't have to be just like someone to like them.

The word "chinook" is derived from a Native American word meaning "snow eater."

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Yo, mama. Happy Mothers Day. You deserve it.

Thanks for having me, too.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I should know better than to eat salami for lunch if I know I am going to be around other people.

I had the farts all afternoon. The fact that I have no sense of smell means that I have no way to gauge if farting squarely into the foam of my office chair was actually muffling the smell. I understand that this ploy works.

I pity the foo' dat work in my office space.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Before and After:

Sweet, innocent little girlAni deFranco, eat your heart out!

OK, ok, there is a bit of age discrepancy between these two photos, but you get the idea that a big change of appearnace took place. This weekend included a fund-raising event where my eldest daughter ran 5 kms AND shaved her head to raise money for equipment for a cancer ward at a local hospital.

This kid has no fear.