Category Archives: dogs

New Year 2014: Resolutions, Coffee and Donuts, The Mendoza Line and the Unknown Possibilities of Existence

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“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Mark Twain

New Year’s Day is typically one of the laziest days that I observe during the year and this year was no different. The reason for this is because I figure that there are another 364 days left in the year and I need to pace myself.

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Last night we were up a couple of hours after the ball fell in Times Square and thankfully our dogs Molly and Minnie let me sleep until eight-thirty. After I let them go out, take their morning constitutional and feed them breakfast I went back to bed and stayed there until after noon when Minnie told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to be up and that she needed another constitutional.

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After that it was time for a shower followed by a cup of coffee, and this morning in a fit of wild abandon I discovered that Krispy Kreme Chocolate Mini Donuts are great when dipped in coffee. It is amazing the chances I will take in a New Year, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.” But I digress.

Like I said yesterday I don’t do New Year resolutions. I find that I don’t do well with them and my reality is more in line with Mark Twain who so rightly observed:

“Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.”

That doesn’t mean that I will not seek to improve myself or do better. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions I am not a “Hall of Famer” in the game of life, I am a “Mendoza Line” guy when it comes to doing life. For those unfamiliar with the Mendoza Line it is named after Mario Mendoza a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other teams who was competent at defense but a marginal hitter, his batting average being just enough not to be sent to the minor leagues. The Mendoza Line is considered to be a batting average of .200 though Mendoza’s actual lifetime average was .215. Thus for me life is something that I manage to muddle through and if I do well I might muddle through a bit better than I have before.

That being said I do have some goals this year. I want to become a great teacher of Ethics and Military History and get started on a Ph.D. so that whenever I retire from the Navy I can be competitive in teaching at the college and university level. I want to get started on a book this year and maybe even find a publisher and I hope that a major media or commentary site will start publishing some of my blog articles.  So if you know someone that can help in that last category please give me a shout out.

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Other things I want to do apart from work and education. I want to make a trip to England, Ireland and Scotland with Judy this year. I want to go to a lot of Norfolk Tides baseball games at Harbor Park, see a Orioles game at Camden Yards, and maybe if possible see a game at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.

On a personal level I want to see more improvement in my PTSD recovery, to sleep better without nightmares and night terrors, to not be as anxious in crowded places or in bad traffic and to develop some better spiritual disciplines. Those are all things I have struggled with since coming back from Iraq and though I am have been doing better over the past year I want to see some more marked improvements in each area this year.

Likewise I want to be better at caring for those in my life, family, friends and those that I work with and those that I will teach and those who read this website.

Of course none of us know what the future brings, but thankful to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln “the future only comes one day at a time” so we should be good.

So a New Year is a hand, 364 more days in it and lots of possibilities. The past is now past, and though the past may still be with us and influence the present it does not have to bind us in its icy grip.

The new year presents me, and maybe all of us the chance to look at possibilities that we never imagined, to accept the past and all that is part of it without being trapped by it. It is as the entity Q told Captain Jean Luc Picard in the Star Trek the Next Generation episode Tapestry:

Captain Picard: I sincerely hope that this is the last time that I find myself here. 

Q: You just don’t get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did. 

Captain Picard: When I realized the paradox. 

Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence. 

Our trials will not end in the coming year. However, if we open ourselves to new possibilities and to options that we never before considered we just might find that at the end of 2014 things might go better. Even more important we might be different, better or changed. As T.S. Elliott wrote: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Work, Beer and a Ghost Dog Named Frieda

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Frieda, the Ghost Dog

The past couple of days have been busy. We have been working around the house making up for my three year absence and getting. Actually it is probably closer to a seven year absence if you count Iraq and me working ungodly hours plus overnight and weekend on-call duties at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

That being said, be it three, five or seven years we are working our asses off around the house taking care of so many things that in absence Judy could not do on her own. This is something that most people who do not live in this bubble of the military at war world really cannot understand. You have to live in the world of projects and hopes deferred.

I came home on Friday, rested Saturday and began to work on our house Sunday afternoon. Since then both of us have been working hard. For me it has also involved doing my best imitation of Thor wreaking havoc on old and massive wooden furniture than cannot be moved otherwise. The funny thing is our little Papillon Minnie is totally unperturbed by the loud noise and violence of the hammer destroying heavy duty wood. She is even more unflappable than Molly. I have to admire that, it makes we want to take her out on a tank range or 155mm gun line. She would love it.

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Today I got up early to transport close to 3/4 ton of debris to the local landfill mad to take three loads of goods to the local thrift shop. Tomorrow will be similar, getting to do the Thorthing again and making more runs to the landfill and thrift shop. By Thursday and Friday we will be receiving a new bed and mattress to replace our nearly 30 year old Ikea queen size bed that we have had since 1984 and a mattress that my late grandmother bought us almost 20 years ago. We will also be receiving what is being shipped back from North Carolina on Thursday or Friday.

Today I went through books again, and another stack of books awaits the thrift shop as does a bunch of other stuff. It is amazing what you can accumulate without even trying.

To make matters even more interesting our long dead Wire Hair Dachshund Frieda decided to come home with me. Frieda had been put down at Brigadoon Animal Hospital in 2001. After that she paid visits to Judy and me both, I was deployed in Korea and Frieda visited me, but more interesting was that she visited Judy. When she did she was dragging a new blue robe that Judy had never seen. Judy told me about it when I called her to be expecting a package, I had just purchased her a blue robe which I was shipping back to her. After that visit Frieda went away until last year. Judy always guessed that Frieda was running Purgatory making people wish that they had loved Jesus and people more in this life, but evidently Frieda must have gotten bored with that.

When Molly decided to come to live with me in January 2012 Brigadoon was where whee went. On one of those visits Frieda came home with us. I started seeing shadow figures and sensing a presence, Molly started alerting on things that were not there and when she went blind in the winter of 2012 she still continued to alert whenever I sensed Frieda.

When it was time to move home Judy told me to make sure that I invited Frieda. I did. Yesterday after working hard I went upstairs to shower and change clothes. I stopped and felt something furry bump my leg, I looked down thinking Molly had followed me upstairs and saw a dark figure. I looked around called for Molly and she wasn’t there. Then I called for Minnie, likewise she wasn’t there. Clad only in my shorts I walked downstairs. I peered around the stairwell and saw both Molly and Minnie with Judy. When I saw this called out to Judy: “Frieda is here.”

So life is interesting. Maybe even more than interesting. I do think that Frieda will like Minnie as Minnie has a lot of personality traits that we associated with Frieda. Minnie, like Frieda seems to be an old soul, when she looks at you it is almost like she is looking through your soul.

Tonight after dinner I had Judy take me back to Gordon Biersch to hang out with my buddies John and Freddy. Tomorrow will be a long day of work as will the next two days at least.

Pray for me a sinner,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Unflappable Moll E Fur: A Courageous and Happy Dog Adjusts to Blindness

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At first I didn’t notice it but one night while walking Molly she ran into a neighbor’s car in the pitch black of the night. It surprised me. Molly had been chasing squirrels, deer and grabbing butterflies and dragonflies out of the air but I had noticed that she had become more tentative when walking at night and when going into my apartment during the daytime, but I didn’t think much of it, until she ran into that car. By late November and early December she was having more problems.

She was been seen by a local vet who had removed a benign tumor from her shoulder which had been causing her pain and hampering her mobility. I mentioned the vision loss and they did a look in the eyes and noticed small cataracts in each, but nothing that should cause that kind of loss. So we were referred to a veterinary eye care specialist.

We saw that doctor today and after a thorough examination she was diagnosed with Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This is a genetic and inherited disorder much like Macular Degeneration. Due to how fast it came on there was nothing we could do to even slow it down.

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The news was hard. We were hoping that it was simply cataracts that could be removed and her vision restored. The disease is progressive and we understand that she will probably go completely blind. However, the disease is painless for the dog, except maybe for when they run into a wall, but most dogs adjust and Molly has been doing that in a most amazing manner.

I think that the diagnosis was harder on us than her. She is adjusting and we are glad that it is not neurological condition or a brain tumor causing it. I have been worried about her because as Judy will testify, Molly has helped bring me back from the abyss of PTSD and helped bring me back to humanity. In a sense she helped save my life. She is daddy’s girl, she loves being around me and is good for me. I have never had a daddy’s girl before. Of our first two dogs, Frieda a Wire Hair Dachshund was her own dog, a dog unto herself and we were just the woefully inept hired help, and Greta a smooth hair Dachshund was mommy’s co-dependent baby.

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Her blindness is worse at night and she still does pretty well during the day. To help her at night I shine a flashlight on the ground behind me and she follows with confidence. During the day she trots along happily and does uses her other senses to avoid things and will run with me.

I have written about Molly before. She is scary smart and exceptionally good tempered. She has learned her way around, carefully at first and as she becomes adjusted to her surroundings becomes more confident. We have two steps in that lead to our living room and it is fascinating to watch her feel for them and then carefully take each step.

She savors all of life. She still gets excited to go for walks, she still plays and she loves to ride in the car and absolutely loves it when I spend time brushing her brilliant red and wavy fur. Not much has really changed for her.

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She also continues to push the envelope, doing things that she never did before. We have had a dog gate at the foot of our stairs for a long time. The reason for it was because Molly had had a spinal infection when she was seven years old and we didn’t want to take any chances on her hurting her back. It also helped keep her out of trouble, especially her perusing our closets for things to destroy when she was unhappy at being left home alone.

When she could see she never messed with the gate. Now however, she will push the gate open and then carefully go up the 13 steps to get upstairs. She has stopped trying to jump on the furniture and now is perfectly content with our bean bag chairs.

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She is using her senses in ways we never thought, carefully listening to everything and using her sense of smell as well as touch to get around and function. She will still chase after and play with our now one year old Papillon puppy Minnie, who I think figured out that Molly was having vision problems before us. Minnie seems to be doing what she can to help Molly around keep her going.

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We got Minnie shortly after Molly demanded to move to North Carolina with me and left Judy alone at home. Molly had been part of Judy’s alarm system and Minnie has become Judy’s guard dog. Minnie is mommy’s puppy and she is happiest and most secure with Judy.  She is also really sweet to Molly and as I said seems to be doing what she can to help Molly out when she is not annoying her. They are funny together.

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Molly seems to be going the extra mile to remind us that she is still relevant and capable. She will lay or sit by our front door and do guard duty, occasionally alerting and barking to let us know of whatever danger is out there. I was walking her at my North Carolina apartment at night and she sensed deer near us and gave chase and she will chase Minnie around the house.

What is cool about Molly is how unflappable she is. She is confident and determined and above all happy. I don’t think that I have ever seen a dog as happy and she is still extremely sweet and affectionate.

Dean Koontz wrote:

“One of the greatest gifts we receive from dogs is the tenderness they evoke in us. The disappointments of life, the injustices, the battering events that are beyond our control, and the betrayals we endure, from those we befriended and loved, can make us cynical and turn our hearts into flint – on which only the matches of anger and bitterness can be struck into flame. By their delight in being with us, the reliable sunniness of their disposition, the joy they bring to playtime, the curiosity with which they embrace each new experience, dogs can melt cynicism,and sweeten the bitter heart.”

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Despite her blindness the Mighty Miss Molly continues to enjoy life and adds a lot of joy to our lives. It hurts to see her go blind but at the same time she is such an inspiration to us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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