No signs yet

The five month anniversary of North’s dying came and went with a mention and fond remembering. We all experience a varying perception of elapsed time depending on what it was, when it is. This definitely felt more than the words five months evoked. After all, summer had arrived and left, fall was in its winding down glory. Early June leaves were just emerging at 8400ft. Now they had been gone for weeks. Two seasons, five full moon cycles. They each sound longer than the months.

Each night, as we go to bed, Zoey sits at the top of the stairs peering through the railing down into the dark abyss. We have arisen an hour later and she stands steady, gazing. Eventually, she leaves what ever watch she is sentry for and jumps to the bed to settle in. We only know she never did this 3 seasons or 4 seasons ago. I ask her if she sees or waits for North’s spirit or if she feels charged with protecting; she doesn’t say. It’s her secret to keep.

As a disclaimer, we aren’t in such mourning, that you need to feel, “Oh poor dogless, souls.” We are merely adjusting, observing the differences. North must be having so much fun running with a new pack, in an endless snowfield; there’s been no time to check in………..yet. Zoey will let us know.

Cricket Cat Camping

Most of my neighbors don’t know it, but my unknown vital task of finding nails on our dirt roads has saved them many trips to the tire store. I’d rarely walk North without finding a construction nail somewhere. Without North we do a quick lap around the block but not the long walks he required. He was a neighborhood hero and we never knew. Made my first trip for tire repair the other day.

Four months out and still get a little twinge walking past the dog treat aisle. When people tell their dog stories we can only recount the past. 😕 We are now in the realm of cat people. However, people we encounter on trails, now let us stop and pet their pooch vs fearfully clutching little Fifi to their chest or guiding their dog in a wide swath around North. That’s something I suppose.

Making the transition, much to her chagrin, Zoey is now the focus. She has adapted to being in the trailer, finds her blanket and settles in. We all slept in there with no escape attempts. That was Phase 1 of Cricket Trailer Cat Camping. Phase 2- Harness training… will take more time. This is a cat, who once upon a time got her pretty pink collar off and we later found it in a field- shredded.

Why bother you ask? I think we all need a project….or we do. Zoey alerts and searches when we play a North talking video. She misses him too. But mostly, she probably misses being left alone to live her cat life of coming and going and sleeping whenever, wherever she pleases. Harness training advice welcomed!


Zoey’s personal picture window.
“The weight is more than I can bear!”

He’s not totally gone yet.

3 months now since we lost North. Time is odd. Some things seem like yesterday, this seems much longer than 3 months. The sudden surging emotions have passed. We are settled into the day to day with our bird-brain-eating huntress cat (check the internet, it is actually a thing). Zoey knew it all along without checking.🐦 🧠

Jon hears the jingling of the collar; I didn’t until the other day. He is more tuned into those things. I keep waiting for some undeniable sign from North that he is in the spirit world just as any creature with a soul. If time passes differently in this linear world, I suppose it can be different in that realm too.

Travel has surely been easier since I was the one who scheduled and left voluminous notes about medications, walking patterns, in case of…for the house sitter; made sure they had essentials to be comfortable.

Now it’s the periodic acknowledgements like passing the pet aisle in the grocery. Knowing I am not spending 20 bucks on crack cocaine-like Ark Brushless Toothpaste chews. North didn’t communicate his wants a great deal but he let us know when it was time for one of those smelly green logs every evening.

Every now and then we get out for a walk. For 12 years we walked 363 days a year….arranging our day around the weather….couldn’t be too hot for a malamute, wanting to miss the smell of 130lbs of wet fur, avoided rain, and no blizzard could deter North.

There’s still the “What are we gonna do with the salmon skin?” moments. No calls from the neighbor about a visiting dog when the deck gate got left open. The fleeting ache driving up to the house with no need to plan for a dog rushing out. I am not particularly looking forward to when time has marched on long enough that we no longer have the panicked moments, don’t check behind our legs in the kitchen, or we merely toss the salmon skin without thought. Then North will really be gone.

North painting by Izzy Martin

There is No Headhumping in Heaven…whaaat?

North was never an every dog’s dog. We moved passed trying to figure out ‘where we went wrong’. The big guy had some embarrassing and not delightful habits.

Many dogs butt sniff but North found crotch sniffing women far more appealing. Age was not a criteria…40, 70 no matter. 😳 Probably most face palming was his extreme humping habit… humping a dog’s head. 🤦‍♀️ Way to make friends, huh? With even that, this big guy was memorable and extremely lovable. Humans who met him over the past 5 years thought he was a fluffy toy, a gentle giant. Those who knew him the first years knew he had crazy in his eyes. He seemed to exude some pheromone or aura most dogs steered away from. There were a handful of dog friends over the years. Dogs that played hard, that didn’t tolerate his bluster. As my sister in law, who raises poodles once said, “North doesn’t do anything other dogs don’t do. He’s just so big his impact is harsher. He was our big baby. Our misunderstood baby.

I wanted to write a haiku with the middle 7-syllable line being- NO headhumping in heaven. The first and last kind of suck. Open to suggestions.

Gentle giant gone….no headhumping in heaven…follow Coco’s lead.

We went through all the motions and emotions others have. We had to make the decision when everything from the last post amplified and his back legs only carried him 10 ft on a good day. Our vet assured us it was time, saying, “A good day does not a life make.” As we spent our final moments with him, once gone, we saw a peaceful look we realized we hadn’t seen in awhile making us wonder if he was more uncomfortable than we had known. North was an adventurer…camping, hiking, long car rides, and definitely hotel beds, queen sized please. ☺️.

We have markers, a tiny shrine, a paw print, and memories, so many memories and photos. We are starting to adjust to saving leftovers vs sharing. We once again eat close to the counter vs pushed back because he liked to be at our feet. We are adjusting to no flap of the dog door when the cheese wrapper crackles. There’s no more fleeting panic if the deck gate is left open. We are adjusting to not needing a treat in hand when we head out the door.

We are acknowledging a release of worry and care-taking. We are acknowledging we can return to the kind of adventure he so loved. Releasing the-day-to-day adaptations to which we had grown accustom and yeah…were growing weary of. We also acknowledge the moments of tears and sadness of his absence, his muppet ear hair, his Grinch-like hairy paws, his head leaned up on my thigh in. We watch ourselves in moments of staring into the empty dog pen or just sitting in there and watching the paths he’d worn returning to the wild.

We have both of these, sadness and release, sometimes simultaneously. It’s good to remember, it’s good to cry, it’s also good to move into re-enjoyment in life.

Northstar

Our 12.5 year old, 130lb malamute is declining. There are good hours interspersed in his day and moderately good days smattered in a week of difficulty. I know time is nearing I am getting close to feeling we should preempt an accident or real discomfort.

It’s the gathering of issues. Incontinence, which for the past few months only occurred every couple of weeks, now only a couple of days each week go by. Stair issues are increasing and adaptions have been made. However, if you ever tried to help a 130lb fiercely independent animal up or downstairs, not an easy task. He can’t easily or comfortably travel with us anymore. He still delights in his short, daily meditative stroll and sniff. He still eats his wild caught salmon. (Only the best right?) The hardest is probably his hind legs. One day they work and the next he’s scooting on his butt because they won’t carry him. Enter the harness attempts….We have loved a 130 pound beast that we can not carry upstairs or scoop up when he collapses.

I have laid dogs to rest before. I have spread ashes, buried tufts of hair in sacred boxes. I know it’s hard for everyone that does and everyone has suggestions that worked for them. Everyone selects what thread of assistance they can follow to their pet’s end. We must remember exactly that. Pets are part of a family unit. People must act out of what is best for their family. Not another’s.

As much as we wish he would blissfully pass away in his sleep while dreaming of bounding through two feet of snow, I don’t think that is in our stars. We are left to watch the slow demise, using the best we have in our hearts to choose when we believe he’s had enough; along with somehow sifting out the feelings of when it’s us having enough. Maybe it needs to be a blend.

My ailing dad, having had enough, prayed for his own death, (for God to let him come home, he’d say). At least 2-3 more weeks passed before he died. He didn’t get to, our society could not let him decide that….at least not where he resided. Our society tasks us with that decision for our pets. Some get/send clear messages but this proud boy isn’t. 😔

Pushing Limits

I discovered today one should not operate machinery on a book release celebration day. I didn’t try to so no stitches were needed. However, when putting on boots to walk my dog, I kept putting my shoes back on instead. Head in book-thought, preoccupied…whatever….machinery would have ended badly.

I am so very good at over thinking-anything. Vacillating, turning it over, repositioning it, and analyzing from all sides. I am guilty of then wondering if I really considered well enough. I am an eternal optimist except when it comes to acts that put me in the spotlight. Then it is a struggle to remain positive about outcomes. My rarely accessed but acute alter ego savagely rears up spitting thoughts meant to have me step back. I recently created mantras to stop the circle of doom thinking. Every time the negative comes up, I force myself to repeat the positive at least twice.

I recently re-found a book by Bruce Lipton called The Biology of Belief. In it there’s a statement, “Consequently, programmed misperceptions in our subconscious mind are not ‘monitored’ and will habitually engage us in inappropriate and limiting behaviors.” I am choosing to re-program my feeling everything that moves me a step closer to being prominent, must end badly.

Let’s hope it works>it is working>but is it really>yes>but>no buts………you get the idea.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Book Release

E-book releasing 4-22-2019; Print available early May.

I am excited this Book Release day is truly approaching. Although I didn’t cry quite as much as Frodo in LotR, there were some tears, many aaarghs, and ughs, and words I won’t type here. Who gets anywhere important without a few Sam Wise’s by along on the journey. Many had be on belay. Whispers for Terra is a light hearted read about some serious issues. Enjoy!

Find your Voice but Never say Never

I keep trying to get my sister in law to write her own blog because hers would be so funny and beautifully raw. Until then, I hope you will keep hanging out with thought-filled, sometimes insightful, journal-ey, me.

When I started this blog back in October or so of 2019, I had NO idea I would be writing a book. I always said I could never write one, “I suck at dialogue”. Crazy but once started, dialogue flowed. Question those limiting statements! Never say never. Now in a month’s time…… Whispers for Terra will be released. http://nancyhouserbluhm.com

Getting comfortable with self promotion, turning the light on me, was painstakingly hard. The hardest part of writing the book wasn’t the writing of it; it was all the parts that required me to ‘find my voice’. I have helped others learn, re-learn communication for 40 years as a speech pathologist. It was damn hard to use my voice to promote author me, or to merely explain the book. Not just metaphorically but physically, my voice would suddenly become hoarse, crack as soon as I spoke. Support others, stay behind the scenes, you can’t go big, lift others. A friend reminded me, it is good to let others lift me! I finally told those old messages to sit down and shut the f*#k up! I can be those AND be out front.

Watch for Whispers for Terra on April 22. That’s Earth Day. 🙂

There are so many ways to reach me….Instagram (jnbpine), newsletter (sign up through my website), Email (n.houserbluhm@gmail.com), and here.

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Thanks for visiting. Keep using your voice for truth, for good, to lift others. The world needs all those.

Design by Claudia Edwards-Houser; Photo by Mo Dedrick

What Matters?

I don’t think President Biden would mind my taking his words…..

Words Matter, tone matters, civility matters.

These are basic tenets that are used most days in the life of a young person with autism. Doesn’t seem they should have to be spoken at such a level of our government, alas, there’s a need for a ‘friendly reminder’. Another phrase which can often be heard in a 1st and 2nd grade classroom.

That’s all, just that….let’s all go practice.

Short and sweet. Let your words be kind, your tone caring, and don’t punch anyone. LOL.

Representation does matter

Ears are now tuning into the concept of representation matters whether it’s for employment, sports, TV and movies, advertisements, education or government. It was introduced to me by Antero Garcia, a speaker at a diversity conference through my school system. Adolescents needing to have their experiences reflected, see their faces in school, YA novels, was my take away message. Whenever I integrate a new concept I feel sheepish it didn’t occur to me sooner, but some tiny corner of me must have known its absence because it resonated so strongly.

All these toys were placed in a Toy Hall of Fame sometime late fall 2020. I played with most of these, but was struck by the Baby Nancy. I no idea she existed. Pathetically, I was first struck by the fact a doll was named Nancy; my first name. Growing up I knew few people with my name. Nancy was rarely used in TV shows or songs; only Frank Sinatra’s song about his daughter of the same name. Oh yes, there’s a mention in a Beatles song. I can not begin to project how people of color may have felt seeing Baby Nancy on the shelves. It wasn’t the first doll of color but this one apparently rocked the toy world. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-baby-nancy-black-doll-shindana-20190312-story.html%3f_amp=true

Fast forward to 2020, I know a 6 year old, who when given all the possibilities, requested diverse dolls this Christmas. It wasn’t about diversity, but what she liked, what the dolls represented to her. Even better.

Know a person’s name, say it often, are basic sales tenants. People want to hear their name, they want to see their color, their sexual identity; representation matters. ****I do not imply, in the least, hearing my name in a song shares equal footing as having substantial representation in workplace, government, or movies. In fact I propose the opposite. If someone in the Covid ‘at risk’ age group, felt a little thrill discovering a doll from 50 years ago held my name, imagine the treasure of seeing a like face on the screen or as… vice president of the United States, or as Transportation Secretary. Representation can imply our value. Lack of, dismisses our value.

Until next time- Nancy