Would you believe I’ve written FIVE HUNDRED posts? The only interesting thing I found for 500 at Wikipedia is that’s about the year when they stopped burying people in catacombs.

I spent four minutes making that stellar chicken picture, too.

Some quick stats: I’ve had this domain (as website, since blogs weren’t invented yet!) for nine years. We had 1104 visitors in the last month. For the top 25 searches coming to my site, there were seven variations on my name. Other notable searches were vegetarian poop, cymbal-playing monkey, paperclips are more useful than, “happy chicken” indianapolis, and baby huts for guinea pigs from pet stores in glasgow. Visitors came from 65 countries, at least since I switched to the new stats service a couple months ago.

STOP THE PRESSES! It’s also four years to the day that I started blogging! This deserves another fine piece of art.

When is July over?

I feel like carp. I mean crap. That is an excellent illustration of one of my ailments, bizarre goings-on in my arms and hands that keep me from typing well. Sometimes it hurts to use the computer and that in combination with other crappy health stuff means not a lot of updating here. I have thousands of pictures to present but I can barely scroll through Facebook.

Vegas bunny is quite ill and is having a ridiculous surgery on Thursday. I’m worried about her.

This month sure sucks so far. Next!

1. The hydrangeas here can’t pick a color. I know they vary based on soil acidity, but the variety here is amazing and often occurs on the same plant.
2. I don’t think these were the intended diners when the pet store put out this dog food.
3. General Tso’s Tofu
4. The thing that trims the hedgerows
5. Stuffed portobellos and campers
6. Walter lounges

American Dream

I have to admit I’m rather enjoying a year’s vacation from yard work. It’s kind of strange to see the landlords out in the yard garden doing all the pruning and weeding, but I feel like I should close the curtains so I’m not watching them slave away for me. I was cooking dinner a couple nights ago while they were outside working and wondered again how I found myself living in another country, in a house I don’t pay for, driving a car I don’t pay for, while other people clean up my yard. (To be fair, David does the mowing here, and I don’t miss that either.)

The term “American Dream” came to mind; my dad used to say that a lot in the context of all sorts of things people want or do (not just manifest destiny/pulling up by your bootstraps stuff, more as irony or social commentary). It’s funny that working hard and getting lucky in the US led to my American Dream happening on another continent.

On that note, we are still working on David’s immigration stuff. Ireland is skeptical of our living in sin despite my employer’s benefits blessing (in case I dump him and he becomes a burden on the state, I guess), so his passport doesn’t allow him to be here more than a couple more weeks. Conveniently we have booked a trip to Iceland on the day his Irish stay expires and I wonder if we’ll get all the remaining paperwork sorted in time or if he’ll be living in Eyjafjallaj√∂kull for awhile.

P.S. Thanks, Grandma, for your letters!

A few pictures from day three in Dublin (I’ll catch up someday):

These are all from Kilmainham Gaol. The jail was built in 1796 and used until the 1920s. Men, women, and kids stayed in it, and many famous political prisoners passed through (or were executed on site). I found the jail very interesting. You may recognize it from several movies and a U2 video.

From the pictures: 1. monument to the 1916 Easter Rising leaders, blindfolded and with their charges listed at their feet
2-3. Front entrance, with closeup of the snakes and chains above the door
4. Intake ledger from the Great Famine years, with trespasses including “about to commit a felony,” “stealing three loaves of bread,” and “common prostitute annoying the public.”
5-7. Cell doors and halls. Prisoners would get work to do through holes in the walls, like pieces of rope to tear apart into strands. Other work at the jail included breaking rocks. #7 shows the three levels of prisoner areas.
8. A main hall and cell area, built in an oval and letting in a lot of light, which was supposed to improve criminals’ dispositions.

When we visited this jail/museum, I finally bought David and myself cards that get us in free to lots of state-operated heritage sites around the country. You have to sign your name and record the location of purchase on the back and then record the same information each time you use the cards at new places. I loaned our cards (tsk tsk) to my mom and her friend when they visited so they could save on admission fees. I was humored that someone actually looked at the card and asked my mom how she liked Kilmainham Gaol and how long she was in Dublin, which caused her to lie about it, and then her friend wasn’t in on it and said they’d never gone to Dublin… ah, the jig was up!

Moving on

It’s been a weird week, a combo of sad and reflective and sick of work and then doing ok until someone asks How are your dogs? I had been managing Casper’s terminal illness for months, but the last few weeks became more urgent and sad. She went from playing with Walter to having to be syringe fed in a matter of days. There was actually some relief when I made the appointment and spent the day with her last Monday, but counting down the hours and then being unable to explain to Walter where she went was gutting. Then when I finally got myself under control a few days later, I felt guilty for not being a wreck 24/7 and wondered how her life had been shortened by moving her to Ireland and changing her diet and even stuff I did five years ago. Despite knowing it was coming for months, it all seemed to happen so fast. Even cuddling with Walter just doesn’t measure up. Casper was my heart dog and he is not and as much as I love him, we don’t have that connection.

In the end David and I were with her, and I tried to make that decision when her days were more bad than good, and I know it was the right thing. Still sucks though. We are already remembering her quirks in a happy way, though. I wonder when I will see another doggy love nibble or nosing of the radiator or the fun police again.

I do want to thank everyone who sent kind words here, on Facebook, and through email… I appreciate them very much. Even if I’m a little more animal-focused than most people, I’m comforted that others recognize how important the bond can be (and so many of you are dog people that I know the feeling is understood).

Tried to keep ourselves busy the last few days… we went to a surprisingly well-attended concert in the pouring rain last week, Chicago brothers Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who were opened by a Nigerian group. They played at Charles Fort just up from our house. I think most of the people there had bought their expensive tickets ahead of time or they wouldn’t have braved the ridiculous weather. We were given free tickets so it was more of an adventure to us! David gave up before I did; we had all our fancy technical rain gear on, but mine’s all new and his seems to have lost some of its waterproofness over the years. Rain pants FTW! I love them.

Kinsale in better weather this week

Yesterday the weather was better than at the concert (though not exactly good), and we reattempted a hike in Co. Tipperary in the Galtees to Lake Muskry. We took Walter there a few weeks back and discovered it was mostly through sheep country and dogs aren’t allowed. Would have been nice for my fancy Hiking in Ireland book to have mentioned this fact… at least now I know to expect dogs not being allowed just about anywhere we want to trek. He’s a good dog but I can see why farmers wouldn’t want a dog among their livestock, plus they might shoot him or leave out poison, and that’s just not fair to chance.

Anyway, the wind howling through the valley hurt our ears but we trudged through the sheep paths and made our way up a ridge where there was a corrie (lake) suspended in the hills. It was a neat hike and we’re glad we went, but we didn’t do the whole mountain loop because it was just rather crummy out. The sheep were skittish when we got near and some of them can really run fast! David got to play with his backpacking GPS for the first time. The maps are too expensive but at least it can keep a trail of breadcrumbs running so you know how to get back.

Broken heart

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.
Anatole France

Rest in peace my sweet sweet girl. I couldn’t have been blessed with a better friend.

Casper, July 2000 – 12 July 2010

Slow weekend

Casper’s not having a very good day, but she ate a little and is resting. I’m spending as much time as I can with her. I went on a mission to Cork today to find some supplements for her but I’m striking out so far. I did find an Asian grocery and I think I finally have something similar to the Szechuan sauce I cooked with at home! They also had hot chilies, which are very hard to find here. Irish cuisine is indeed bland. I was at a home improvement store today that had a package of “hot and spicy” seeds to grow at home: mustard greens, spicy lettuce, and three other plants that aren’t hot or spicy either. The sixth item was a chili pepper which seems to qualify, but wasn’t a hot variety anyway.

Last night was David’s band’s first gig. They alternated with a couple other guys at the Bulman, a pub down on the water in Summercove, a few blocks from home. One of the other performers was an ass but David seemed to enjoy the event and it was a nice evening out with good music. A friend from home recently arrived to work here for awhile so she and I met up with a couple other expats and drank a lot of beer on empty stomachs (kitchen was closed!).

Second full day of wind and rain… everyone at work says “summer is here!” We’re hoping for a little better weather tomorrow. It’s like a constant mist that comes in all directions at the same time, making it difficult to stay dry. Today was somewhat unusual in that it actually rained hard in a general direction for awhile like at home. Never thunder, though! I heard it once a couple months ago. Instead we get the wind howling down the chimneys.

Hanging in there

Casper is hanging in there. She has many hours where she’s just tired, some where she won’t eat, some where she’s vomiting, but she is still able to get around on her own and sometimes seems like her old self. The vets don’t seem hopeful at all but are willing to work with me. I am learning what I can online (fortunately I found a helpful group when she was diagnosed) and requesting medications, but a lot of things just aren’t available here. A couple of European members of the online group have given me some tips but it sure would be easier (not to mention cheaper) to get supplements and supplies in the U.S. Customs restrictions prevent shipping a lot of items.

Her blood values continued to decline even on IV at the vet for almost four days. This was the first time her phosphorus went high, and her creatinine is four times the upper limit of normal. I chose to bring her home because she couldn’t stay there indefinitely, she wasn’t getting better, and the scariness of being away from home is of course a significant factor for my old, shy dog. Quality of life can’t really be great when she’s in an e-collar after chewing on her IV line (leaving her with a swollen, painful leg) and she can only see me for an hour a day, not at all on Sunday, and I don’t believe anyone is at the clinic overnight when they don’t have emergency cases. If her numbers can stay where they are, she might limp along for awhile now that we’re cooking for her and giving medicines and subcutaneous fluids. (Pretty much no one does that themselves here but they were willing to sell me the stuff to let me try. I’m glad I’ve done it before! Plus one of the vets here is from Michigan so she’s sympathetic to American-style vet care.) She could still crash in a couple days, but others with dogs this sick take it one day at a time, so I’ll try.

I was also referred to a holistic vet and I’m considering that approach. I’m a little afraid to jump right in and I wish he were more available for the supplements I’m familiar with rather than going through the entire process, partly because I feel I’m desperate for certain items I can’t get on my own, just to see if there’s a chance she will make it for awhile, and I just can’t concentrate enough to answer a bunch of questions about her background when I fear that dog left last week anyway when her condition worsened. Maybe I just can’t get the analytical side of my brain (that might be the only side) to shut off. Focusing at work has been a challenge but I’m thankful David is at home to keep an eye on her and help during the day.

She hasn’t played with Walter since she came home but she did do her wag-and-bark at David and Walter wrestling, so that’s something, and she’s barking at the doorbell and meeting me when I come home. Walter is being gentle with her, mostly.

I’ve nursed a lot of rabbits and guinea pigs through illnesses, but I feel rather novice now. I’m glad I learned to take charge with vet care and make decisions comfortable for my situation and wishes. The vet reviewed quality of life markers as well and those basics are helpful when things look bleak. It still surprises me how much her ups and downs can affect how I feel all day.

Good thoughts needed

Casper has been in the hospital since Thursday and is only getting worse. I’m bringing her home tonight but I don’t know how long she will be with us. Please send good thoughts for her and that I’ll get through it.