A sincere thank you to all of you who take the time to leave a comment. I read and appreciate each one.

Friday, April 24, 2015

An Odyssey

     Two of my friends lost their dog companions last month. Those who have gone through this experience can understand the pain of this kind of loss. It got me thinking of the many dogs and cats we have had over the years. Each one unique and special in their own way.

     When our children were little and we bought our first house we felt we could get a dog. So my husband took our son and daughter to the local animal shelter. When they came back they had a little poodle mix puppy; we named him Ulysses. We also had two cats at the time. They all managed to adjust to each other, mostly through indifference, and Ulysses became a part of our family.

     When Ulyssess was 13 years old, although housebroken for many years, he started having urination accidents in the house. Where before he was able to go all night, he now could barely go four hours without going out to pee. We were at a loss to understand this change. My husband made the comment one day, "he sure has been drinking a lot of water lately." The light went on in my nurse brain, 'frequent urination', 'great thirst', Bingo! Diabetes. I took him into the vet and sure enough his blood sugar was sky high. Diabetes can be managed in dogs as in people, by checking sugar levels and giving insulin. 
     With Ulysses we had to check his sugar level in his urine twice daily and give him an insulin injection based on the results. Being a male dog made it a little easier to collect his urine. I had a pan I used when he lifted his leg. I would have to get the morning sample first thing when we got up. Most of the time he was pretty fast about going, but once in awhile he would take off running around the yard. On those occasions I'm glad we had a high fence around our yard. I'm sure the neighbors would have wondered about the crazy lady in her nightclothes, and a pan in her hand, chasing a dog around the yard. 

Ulysses wins a prize for best dressed

     Getting an injection twice a day wasn't Ulysses favorite thing, so he tried ways to get me to stop. When I would come toward him with the syringe he would turn over on his back. Since I gave the injection in his neck area I would have to turn him over. When he realized turning over wasn't going to stop me, he started yelping every time I gave him the injection. I felt badly but we were using regular insulin needles which are quite thin. One day when getting ready to give him his insulin I wiped the area with an alcohol swab and just before I gave the shot he yelped. I looked at him and said, "You big faker, I haven't even done anything yet." He eventually accepted the inevitable. He lived for another three years and did fine until the very end of his life at 16 years.

     If you decide to get an animal companion, then it is a commitment not to be taken lightly. For us they become part of our family for better or worse, in sickness and health. Some people seem to think if an animal becomes a nuisance then just get rid of them. When my husband was at work and talking about Ulysses and what we needed to do for him, one of his colleagues voiced this sentiment. He thought it sounded like a lot of trouble and why didn't we just put the dog down. I found this very upsetting when my husband told me what was said. It took us maybe 10-15 minutes twice a day, not much of a hardship as far as I was concerned. I asked Al what he said to the man. In his usual straight forward and blunt way, he told him he was a bigger pain in the ass then the dog, so maybe we should get rid of him.
     To love anyone, whether person or animal, opens you up to the possibility of being hurt. For the most part we are probably going to out live our animal companions. But that could be true of a person also.  So do we shut ourselves off from all love so we won't have to feel the pain of loss? Yes, it has hurt terribly every time I've had to say goodbye to one of our animals. Would I change having had them in my life. Never. The happiness I receive from my animal companions out weighs any heartache. I can never regret loving anyone in my life. Each one, person or animal, has added something special and enriched my life. It is very sad to loose someone you love, but it is tragic to have never loved.

A thought to ponder: "Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what                                       makes the ride worth while."          Franklin P. Jones


Monday, April 6, 2015

Garden Therapy: Certifiable

     Spring arrived on the calendar several weeks ago. But now I know it's really here because everyday the grass is a little greener, the leaves on the trees are a little bigger and my daffodils are starting to bloom. I love watching my garden emerge from it's winter slumber. I've been thinking about how far our garden has come in the last 20 years. How we took it from nothing to a certified wildlife habitat and beyond.

     It's easy to become certified through the National Wildlife Federation. It doesn't matter the size of your garden, all you need to do is provide food, water, cover and a place to raise young in a healthy habitat.  We didn't start with the intention of making a backyard habitat. We just had a bare piece of property that needed to be landscaped. 

1993  Looking toward back of property before we put up a fence.

     We started by planting 5 trees and a few shrubs, and trying to decide what would be hardscape; what would be grass; where to put a vegetable garden, etc. After several years we had a nice start and things were growing well.

same view  2002

     I don't remember how I discovered the National Wildlife Federation backyard habitat program. But when I read about it I realized we could qualify. Because our yard is large (1/2 acre) I had been keeping a record of what and where we planted things. So I already had a list of plants to send them. I just needed to take a few photos and fill out their form.


     There are about 200,000 certified backyard habitats. They have found that "certified habitats attracted and sustained nearly four times as many native bird, mammal and beneficial insect species as did nearby noncertified properties." We have certainly seen an increase in the number and variety of wildlife in our yard. See this post for a look at our wildlife:Who's in Your Garden?   I bet there are many gardens out there that could qualify if only the gardeners were aware of this program.

1993  back of yard 

     We now have over thirty trees (10 are fruit) and over a hundred different perennials, shrubs, herbs and roses. Many things have changed in our garden over the years. But I believe that is what makes gardening so enjoyable. My husband learned early that when I stand looking out at our backyard and say, "I've been thinking", he goes and gets his shovel. We do feel pride in our garden because the majority of what is here we did ourselves.

2014  a more recent shot looking toward back of house

     I will cover individual projects in up coming Garden Therapy posts. I hope this one will encourage you to take the first step to become a certified backyard habitat. That step starts with visiting this site: Garden for Wildlife

A thought to ponder: "A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust."              Gertrude Jekyll