Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Losing Nicky



My Nicky wasn't just stories I got to watch and then loved to retell. He wasn't just a really big (think enormous--170 lbs) dog. He was also my child, and my husband's. He was our beloved boy.

He didn't start out that way. Our first child is also a great dane, a brindle named Trudy.


My husband took me to pick her out of a litter as a Valentine's Day present 9 years ago, and she was to fill the hole left in my heart by the loss of my Molly right after we married. Molly and his dog Princess had gotten into a real dog-fight and I adopted Molly out in an attempt to keep Paul's daughters from resenting our presence even more. But that's a whole other story, and a whole other heartbreak.

Paul didn't "get" my thing about Great Danes. So his intention was that I have Trudy to make up for Molly after the Dalmations had passed away. He was being kind, and fair. But she ended up sucking him into the world of Loving Great Danes. A year later we decided to add another dane to our family and, unfortunately, little darling Greta died 6 days later of parvo. More heartbreak. But my youngest son still believed our forever dog was out there. He scoured the paper every day and we went out a few times a week to meet prospective pups. One day he found one listed in Leming, a place I'd once lived in my distant past. We decided to swing by there on our way out to our place in Floresville. We took Trudy with us because she loves to run free out there.

While I was looking at puppies' markings, this teeny little runt dove for my husband and tucked his little head under his arm, and my husband called to me, "Tammy, it's this one. He chose me." And so he had.

This is Nicky that very first day, standing next to one of the 2 oak trees on our place, and under his new big sister.


We had our Nicky for nearly 8 years. We called him Nicky and Mud Puddle and Snuffle-upagus (also calling Trudy "Big Bird") and Bumble Butt and tons of other silly names. He was silly and sweet and LOUD and bossy and nearly always in the way. He took up the majority of the room on our king bed and for all these years we've just slept along the edges. He ran in his sleep which sometimes felt like being beaten up, at other times as though we were in a storm at sea being pummeled by waves. Once he fell OFF the bed and made a huge BOOM followed by a teeny scared whimper. There was a similar instance with a similar chain of sounds when he pushed PAUL off the bed one night. I have had small bruises on the tops of my feet forEVER, because he never failed to stomp on my feet on his way to or from somewhere. He ran to us for safety during thunderstorms and holiday fireworks displays. He barked so loudly at the doorbell (even the ones on television) that it echoed off the walls and ceiling and HURT my ears.

Nicky had had hip surgery (in which he incurred 3rd-degree burns along nearly the entire length of his back, down to muscle), then surgery for bloat, then plastic surgery for the burns. This all occurred 2 years ago, and for the entire pre-surgical to post-surgical period I slept with him on the sofa downstairs, as did Paul whenever he could (it's different for firemen, you know). He was the biggest little baby you ever met, but I always loved the opportunity to take care of a sick child (my kids can attest to this, as I smothered them with attention and fed them home-made soup until they could fairly float away). Nicky didn't mind my smothering... so for nearly 4 months he had my undivided attention. I did chores while he slept, and stayed next to him while he was awake. It was a lot like nursing a newborn.

Nick began having more trouble getting around last summer. We took him to the vet and were told he needed to lose weight and exercise, but it was also confirmed that he had extensive hip dysplasia and that he was, in dane years, the equivalent of an overweight 80-year-old man with terrible arthritis. He was put on meds and he did improve to a degree, but over the last few weeks we watched him deteriorate quickly, from developing a limp to becoming completely lame in one of his rear legs literally in just hours. He could no longer get up the stairs and there's no sofa bed downstairs anymore. Luckily it was bulky trash week in our neighborhood, so we hopped in the truck, drove down the block, and came home with a twin bed with pillow-top mattress that we set up for him downstairs. I slept on the recliner across the room, taking up Nicky-watch again.


The vet gave him meds again but, while this relieved his pain and lifted his spirits again, did nothing to improve the lameness. He had some sort of mass or bulge in his spine, cutting off nerves and muscle. We had to use a sling to help him maneuver up and down, and he couldn't clean himself (yup....lucky thing for all the baby wipes and rubber gloves I keep around for art). So we decided it was time to let him go.

We laid on the floor with him at the vet's office and he fell asleep with his head on my arm, and we buried him under the very tree where we took his first picture. In an enormous hole dug by a backhoe (thanks to the good people of J & B Drilling in Floresville) and in a casket made for him by his dad, who built it with wood and nails and glue and tears, with a make-shift A-frame and hoist, finally covered over by 2 crying parents with shovels and the veritable mountain of dirt that sat beside the hole. I know that the moment he slipped away he woke up heaven-side running and leaping and chasing things. But mostly we just cry when we notice his absence here. No heart-stopping barks or foot-stomping or just plain laying across the kitchen floor while we step over and around him to make dinner. Nope. It's quiet and there's room on our bed to sleep. And FAR less poop to clean out of the back yard.

I'd trade it all for another year with him.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

An Old Workhorse

About 4 years ago I found an old Kenmore sewing machine, the kind that folds in and out of its own table, at a thrift store. Like $30 or 40, can't remember which. I had planned to alter it later when we move, but for the time being it's served as a computer table.

This Christmas I had the bright idea of making reading pillows for everyone. I found a great DIY pattern here and loved the pillows pictured in the tutorial. I had bought a HUGE stack of fun fabric while working at Hancock Fabrics and my intentions were grand indeed. But when I sat down at my Bernina to begin, it quit working after just a few stitches. Not fair! Since my Bernina is a computerized model it had to go in for service at a place that specializes in Berninas, and would not be ready until after Christmas.

Kinda discouraged and desperate, I pulled the computer off the old Kenmore and took it to a repair shop my mother recommended (Raul's Sewing Machine Repair) who did really fast work.




Sure enough, Raul had it running in just a couple of days and I was able to put it to work! And this shop was SO cool. Full of old personal as well as industrial sewing machines and sergers, all different models, even an old treadle machine like my great-great Aunt Jo had in her bedroom. I wish I had taken pictures inside... oh well, next time I visit.

Finally I was able to sit down and sew. I only got one pillow finished in time for Christmas, but that one pillow was a hit, and my granddaughter Claire quickly took it over from her mom.



I do have fabric to make her one of her very own, but before that I made one for myself using one of my late grandmother's pillowcases for the focal pattern. And when she's here, she loves it for face-diving into, reading, naptime...on New Year's Eve we propped it up by the window and she fell asleep on it watching the fireworks.



I have my Bernina back now, set back up on its table in my office upstairs, but the Kenmore sits downstairs in the living room, ready to work anytime I have just a few minutes to sit down at it and throw some scraps together for a quilt that will go on our bed when we move to Floresville.





Peace out!
Tam


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Happy New Year!

Less than a week after my last post, I found myself quitting a job I liked very much for various reasons....but life called for me to be home regularly and that's where I am.

Right before Thanksgiving I found this little doggie wandering my mom's neighborhood in fairly poor shape. The neighbors had been putting food and water out for her, and thinking she must be nursing a litter of puppies they hesitated to call animal control. She came up to me when I got out of my pickup and leaned into me, and when I knelt down to comfort her, her need for relief was palpable. Just feeling her weight against me put a lump in my throat. When I came back outside after visiting with my mom and stepdad, she was waiting for me, and I didn't disappoint her... I "felt her up" and found no milk in her teats (I've cared for a LOT of dogs in my life....this was no biggie--not for me, anyway; maybe for her LOL) so I put her in the front seat of my truck and brought her home.


My mom and I had had a bit of a discussion about the Dixie Chicks, whom she likes very much and I could not care much less for. Yes...I'm one of those who quit listening to them when they made their famous remark about our president while performing in a foreign country. Yes... they were exercising their freedom of speech, but I felt it was irresponsible speech and I would have been just as upset if they'd been speaking of a president I do not like.

In any case, my mom was pretty upset so I decided to call the dog Dixie. Simply because I got her at mom's and my mom likes the Dixie Chicks. And I like my mom.



My husband was very upset (not about the Dixie Chicks--he agrees with my mom about them--), but because I brought yet another dog into our lives. It did not help that we quickly discovered Dixie can easily climb a 6-foot fence, which scares the living SHIT out of anyone on the other side of it. Like neighbors, people waiting at the bus stop beside our house, or PEOPLE AT THE SCHOOL across the street from our house. She is, after all, a pit bull. People are naturally afraid of the breed, especially around their kids. A few years back, I myself made one of my kids quit playing in one of our neighbors' yards because they had 2 pit bulls. For her, jumping the fence and exploring is just social...she's like, "What's over there? Sounds like playing. I'll just hop over and see." The other day she did it because Paul took Nicky out for a walk and she wanted to go, too.

I started out buying a Sporn anti-jump harness. It attached originally from chest across the belly, but because of her slopey back it would slide down and she'd just walk out of it. It's not safe to leave her in something she could jump and get hung up on. So I added the strap across the back that holds the leg loops up. I have made at least a dozen adjustments to accommodate for her body shape and movements.



Notice how completely at home she seems. My intention was never to keep her. I thought it would be fairly easy to find a rescue to take her in and find an adoptive home for her. But nobody I contacted even bothered to get back to me. So guess what? She adopted us. I'm still waiting for a call back from a local program to get her spayed. And micro-chipped. And shots. And OMG how she SMELLS!! I put her in the shower with me and scrub her down good, which helps for about 3 days. Thank heaven she's pretty complacent. She won't willingly go into the shower but she doesn't try to get out, just stands there until it's all over. She's SUCH a good dog. She's far better behaved than our Danes or Holly, the Chihuahua I adopted from a rescue 2 years ago.

I'm so thankful to the show "Pit Bulls and Parolees" on Animal Planet on for giving me about a year's insight into these misrepresented animals. I was able to approach with compassion and some knowledge rather than blind fear. Dixie's thankful too...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Out of the House


With the house in such a chaotic condition I thought it might be fun to get out of the house. On impulse, I picked up an application at Hancock Fabrics and then was nearly horrified that they hired me! Last night was my second shift and I have to say, I am having a lot of fun. I spend my time  being inspired by the creative people bringing me bolts of lovely fabric to cut.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Plans and Wrenches

So at some point we decided to bite the bullet, and begin plans to repair and sell this house, and move to and build on our land in Floresville. The first work done on the house will be plumbing, followed almost immediately by leveling. Both will put us out of the house so we decided we needed a small travel trailer to move into for the few days each will take.


We ended up with this lovely baby. My brilliant husband built this fence section that bolts in, can be unbolted and popped off and rolled aside to back the trailer in.






Yeah that's an old TV on the bed...it came with 2 of them, which we will replace with wall-mounted smart TV's when we can afford it. Later...

Of course my truck, a 19-year-old Dodge 1500, complained the whole way home from the RV lot, and almost gave up before the job was completely done. So guess what? We knew we'd need a new truck before we could move it back out again. We put that several items down on our list. 

Enter the homeowners association, who quickly fired off 2 letters following an "inspection" of our property...one, power wash the garage door back to white, and two, remove the RV from the property. So yeah....we picked up our new-ish Dodge Ram 3500 6.7L diesel engine today. In Georgetown. And drove home through torrential and scary rain. But we made it! And here she is...my stepdaughter called her Big Bertha.



So while our plan is to move out of the city and live small in the country.... the steps from here to there have not been cheap so far!!!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lots of dates

Last night my husband and I attended one of many great dates my husband arranged for us last year. I had grown frustrated that, due to his very limited diet, our date life just plummeted, because we used to go out to eat frequently. So he got us into several memberships and signed us up to see several shows in the performing arts. Last night we saw the Peking Acrobats, which was such fun!!




We've also been to see the Spanish Harlem orchestra, a mariachi troupe, "Frogz," an Irish dance troupe, and my favorite, Merle Haggard!!! Although running a close second to Merle was a wine and food tasting at the Pearl.... yeah, we've had a lot of fun. My husband really knows how to take a girl on a date!!!