Wednesday, January 21, 2009

when we were tested we refused to let this journey end


My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

More "when we were tested we refused to let this journey end"

posted by lee on 01/21/09 at 04:36 AM

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Thursday, January 08, 2009


Finally, we were able to get Ruby and Bingo spayed and microchipped yesterday. I guess I didn’t really realize that spaying was such a major operation—it’s a hysterectomy. At any rate, they came through with flying colors, but we have to keep them quiet for 10-14 days.

When we picked them up at Strawberry Hill Animal Hospital (where Meredith Re, the best vet ever, did the operations), we had to wait a bit because they had to be fitted with cones because they immediately decided they’d remove their own stitches. And we’re supposed to keep the cones on for the entire recovery period. What do you think the pups think of their new headgear? See for yourself:

It was very difficult getting any sleep last night. Two very unhappy dogs with cones on the bed with us (plus an opportunistic cat—or is that redundant?), and it wasn’t like we could shove them around like we normally do because of their incisions. Ruby saved her poop for hours and then ran to the bathroom and just let it all out—took me 20 minutes to clean it up, poor thing. (Ruby, not me.) The Tramadol seems to be working (doggie pain meds) as they don’t seem to be in pain—they just hate the cones. Bingo managed to chew Ruby’s cone tie off—fortunately, Ruby didn’t return the favor.

Tomorrow, the kitties go in for the annual updates and checkups. Tonight, we’re headed to Pet Supplies Plus (because Jamie gave us a gift card to that pet store) to get a new collar for Ruby, who has pretty much trashed her current leather collar (pulling, mostly, we think). The vet’s office gave us training leashes so we can start doing some serious training, ala Cesar Millan, when they’re healed up. Then, maybe, we can walk them instead of vice versa.

posted by lee on 01/08/09 at 11:29 PM

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

a blizzard of emotions

A nor’easter dumped about seven inches of snow today. It would’ve been enchanting, the first real snowstorm of the season, if we hadn’t seen a lot more of it last week in Oscoda. The puppies loved it, though I didn’t take photos. I framed the shots in my mind and thought about the angles and the light, but I’m just so enervated I didn’t get the camera out.

We buried my Mother on December 9. Visitation was the day before. I held it together through most of the Mass, but cried when the Ave Maria was sung and then again at Our Lady of Hope, which is where it really hit me that my beautiful, brilliant, wickedly funny mother is gone. I know I really lost her two Christmases ago when she didn’t notice the irises we had placed in her room when she and Dad came to visit or the wonderful glass artworks we have hanging in the windows—flowers and art have always been our bond. But this was so final: I’ll never hear her laugh at Stanley having to chase a cat or wait anxiously for her rating of the meal I cooked.

When I rode with my father, sisters, and brother in the limo on the way to the cemetery, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that my parents raised six kids who are, despite time and distance and the occasional disagreement, close and loving and who pull together and want to take care for each other and Dad despite our enormous pain.

And I am so grateful to Stanley, who pulled me through and held me up and helped me despite the pain he was going through at the loss of his brother just days before Mom died. His brother’s memorial service was the same day my mother died—I tried hard to be there for him but was so numb I don’t know how much support I was for him.

We boarded the cats and took the pups with us and stayed with my brother Scott in Wyandotte. We invaded, rather. We probably drove Scott crazy, but we felt so comfortable there it was a relief. It was also so good to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins, nieces and nephews, family friends. I didn’t get enough time with any of them and I hope we can all get together again for a happy event, like we did for Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary party. (Maybe this spring with the birth of TWO great grandkids—I’ll be a great-aunt twice over!) We went with Dad to The Grind, a good coffeehouse on Biddle in downtown Wyandotte, and discovered it is the same storefront where Dad had a paint store in the late 1950s.

We went up to Oscoda to spend a couple of days with Dad and to begin sorting things out. Stanley got the flu, but was mostly better by the time we had to go home on Sunday (he won’t let me drive. Which is just as well because he is a maim-worthy passenger at best.) Then I got the flu on Monday. It was not pretty. I’m pretty much over it now. But we’re both just so tired—thinking about it, I realize it’s been three weeks since the first loss and no time to breathe since then. There are a lot of things I want to do, but recognize that I don’t have to do them right away.

It’s been really hard getting back into my work—I did get quite a bit done despite being sick, but I’ve been feeling like a stranger in a strange land. The loss sucker punches me at least a couple of times a day—Stanley said he went through this too when his mother died. Though I miss my mother, I am also glad that she didn’t have to suffer through the end states of frontotemporal dementia because she was so terrified of the indignity of it all after having watched her own mother’s terrible end from the same disease.

Dad is due in Natick in a few days—I am really happy we’ll get to see him this winter and I would worry way too much if he spent the winter in Oscoda. I think he’ll like spending time with Maureen and family and maybe even getting to know Boston well. Jamie is coming out with him—a chance for us to spend Christmas with her before she’s in the land of Grandmahood!

I want to thank my friends, too, for your cards and emails and phone calls of support—all with such compassion and each of you with the uncanny ability to use the words I most need to hear at just the right time.

posted by lee on 12/20/08 at 04:59 AM

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Alice Fleming, August 25, 1934 - December 5, 2008

Alice Elaine Fleming, May 10, 2008
Alice Fleming, taken by James Fleming, on May 10, 2008. (click to enlarge)

Mom died this morning. She got up at some point while Dad was still sleeping and left the house, wandering outside in the snow in 10-degree weather. By the time Dad found her, she had collapsed. They tried to revive her in the ER, but it was too late. We’ll never know why she left the house like that because she was never a wanderer like so many dementia patients are and even before her dementia rarely left the house and would never have thought of walking up the road.

Stanley and I are going to Michigan tomorrow morning. I don’t yet know what the arrangements are. I am so numb.

Update: Visitation will be on Monday at Czopek Funeral Home, 2157 Oak Street, Wyandotte, Michigan 48192. Mom’s funeral will be on Tuesday morning at St. Patrick’s in Wyandotte. Burial will be at Our Lady of Hope Cemetery in Brownstown, where her parents are buried.

posted by lee on 12/05/08 at 07:46 PM

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

pies so good you want to weep

Last summer, I read about Michele’s Pies somewhere, how good they are and all that. So we decided to stop by and pick up a pie or two to take home to Michigan on our annual trek. But, alas, Michele’s Pies had gone on vacation. We had to wait.

We had to “settle” for pies and oatmeal raisin cookies from Judy’s Famous Pies in Linwood, Michigan. The oatmeal cookies are the best I’ve ever had in my whole life—even better than home made. The pies are wonderful, too, especially the strawberry rhubarb and the apple crumb pies.

But I digress. As luck would have it, we ended up at the Westport Farmer’s Market one Sunday afternoon. We usually don’t go there because the vendors jack up the prices because it’s Westport and instead try to go to the farmer’s market at Fodor Farm in Norwalk, but Fodor’s was closed, so we ended up in Westport. Michele’s Pies had a booth there, and Stanley and I bought some pecan pie. Oh damn it was so good.

So, on Sunday, we were out with Helene (happy birthday Helene!) looking for SoNo Bakery so she could get some of their olive bread, which she loves. Only, she didn’t remember where it was. We wandered around South Norwalk and found it on Water Street, but she said it didn’t look like the place she remembered going with her son-in-law (she said she talked to him and didn’t pay attention to where they were) so didn’t want to go in (it is SoNo Bakery, but maybe it was another bakery—it happens). So we decided to give all of Main Street another look and as we were approaching Wilton, I suggested we try Michele’s Pies and see if they were open.

We did. They were! We picked out some of the little pies rather than the big ones so we could taste a variety. The chocolate walnut pie is amazing. The key lime pie is wonderful, though it needs to be eaten the same day you buy it as the leftover pie doesn’t hold up very well. The apple cranberry crumb pie, ohmygod. But that chocolate walnut pie ... I never ate anything so slowly! I really like the crusts, too—I’ve never in my life have been able to make a decent pie crust, it’s magic, I think, and they know the trick to making terrific pie crust.

Also, I spotted some pumpkin-looking things. Pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting. I absolutely love pumpkin anything (except eating pumpkin like squash), so I got some. They are so good.

At any rate, Michele’s Pies (Michele Albano is the genius’s name) is one of the four finalists in Good Morning America’s “GMA Weekend Best Slice Challenge Recipe”—for their Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie. You can find the recipe and vote for Michele’s pie on the GMA website. Maybe I’ll try the recipe, sans bourbon—or maybe we should just go back there and get more pie ... writing this makes me hungry for the chocolate walnut pie, I have one quarter left and I’m saving for tonight ... for tonight, I swear!

Fortunately, the puppies are demanding a trip outside.

posted by lee on 11/18/08 at 02:24 PM

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

mike mocciae said he will fix the mess he authorized

Mike called this morning to tell Stanley that indeed, the tree was on our property and that the city will replace the tree and hedge next week. We are a little stunned at the speed at which this was resolved—but glad. Don’t have any details yet about what, exactly, they are going to replace a mature maple with or what the plan is, but I’m really happy that they are planning on fixing the problem. Getting the sound buffer and privacy back is what we’re after and if this is restored, and restored properly, we’ll be satisfied.

Mary Roman, the City Clerk, said she sent our claim to the insurance company already. Thank you, Ms. Roman!

Most of the tree stumps were picked up yesterday—I called to ask when this was going to be done as the other days the precious kiddies of Nathan Hale Middle School were clambering all over the stumps and I envisioned one of them getting a sliver up his butt and his parents suing us over it. Mayor Moccia helped light a fire under the cleanup, according to Jeffrey Spahr, a city attorney who called yesterday and today. Moccia said, we were told, that regardless of whether the tree was on city property or private property, Almstead had no business leaving a dangerous mess like that.

Spahr also told Stanley that we have to trim our front hedge back to the sidewalk line. It’s petty crap that we knew we’d be asked to do sooner or later—there’s plenty of room on the sidewalk—but we’ll do it anyway. According to Mocciae, people have been complaining about the hedge overhanging the sidewalk. Of course no one ever let us know that it was a problem, and it was never an issue until recently when someone decided that it would be a good thing if the kiddies walk to school instead of being picked up and dropped off by mommies with their SUV prams. For their health. Hence the sudden urgency to kill a tree that might potentially someday drop a branch on Suzy’s head (I thought trees are a big part of the plan for healthy living, but what do I know?)

If they’re so concerned about the safety of the kiddies walking to school on Strawberry Hill Avenue, does this mean the city is going to do something about the speeding and maybe even put a traffic light it at the corner of Tierney Street? If they don’t, this “get the kids to walk” campaign will probably result in kids getting maimed or killed crossing the street. Would love to see the speeding problem fixed on this street—that would be the best way to promote health around here, for everyone, not just the kiddies.

So I’m hopeful that the city will make good on their mistake. Trying not to be cynical, trying not to assume they’ll plant a twig and say that it’s an appropriate replacement for a mature tree, or twigs to replace a 40-year-old hedge. I so want to be wrong about my expectations.

posted by lee on 09/18/08 at 03:13 PM

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

mike mocciae authorized the vandalization of our property

He is the director of Recreation and Parks here in Norwalk and, as such, is the guy in charge of trees on school property. You know, the guy responsible for making sure Norwalk keeps its “Tree City” designation. The guy who couldn’t be bothered to check to see if cutting down a 60-year-plus maple tree was the right thing to do, or be bothered actually going to see the tree he subjected to a chainsaw. Hardly the guy that should be in charge of Norwalk’s trees—he’s more interested in installing a putt putt golf course and other sports facilities—I doubt he gives a rat’s ass about the city’s trees.

If he had bothered to take a look at a tree he was killing, he might have noticed the tree was located in a border hedge, that the tree was alive and fully leafed and healthy, and was not located on city property. But he couldn’t be bothered. He told Stanley that there was some kind of tree report that said the tree was dead, but no, he doesn’t have the report. He claims that “the school” (we assume someone at Nathan Hale Middle School) complained that dead branches were ready to fall on students’ heads—though “the school” never asked us to get any dead branches removed (there were some, the result of Connecticut Light & Power’s tree butchering jobs), which we would have done. He claims he drove by and saw that it was dead—why he felt the need to make this up, I don’t know.

Stanley asked him why we were never notified that they were going to cut down the tree—and Mocciae smugly replied that he didn’t have to since the tree was located on city property. Stanley pointed out more than once to him that the tree was located on our property and even if the tree were on city property, our hedge was still destroyed and Almstead trespassed on our land. We have the survey map prepared when Stanley subdivided his acre back in 1995—the tree was on our land.

Mocciae claims that he didn’t know Almstead Tree & Shrub Company left a dangerous mess behind, and destroyed our hedge as they were taking down a healthy tree (which they claim, on their website, they don’t do).

Mike Mocciae's murder of a tree
the view from the school side—the mess left by Almstead when they murdered our maple at the request of Mike Mocciae (click to enlarge)

We noticed that Mocciae doesn’t seem to give a damn that he destroyed our property—did he come by to see the damage? Not to our knowledge—and I was home all day. He told us to file a claim with Mary Roman, the Norwalk City Clerk. Which we did.

Mary Roman told us that we needed to send her a letter, with photos if we have them, and she would get in touch with the city’s insurance company, who will need to send out a claims adjuster. We sent the letter this afternoon, via email (she said this is fine), along with several photos. I don’t know if she received it or not (or the mayor or city counsel or even Mocciae—I cc’d them all) because she didn’t reply yet or OK the return receipt.

Meanwhile, the mess remains.

The tree and the hedge served as a pretty effective sound barrier—our house is a lot noisier without them as there is nothing blocking the noise and pollution from traffic speeding down Strawberry Hill Avenue nor the noise from the kids when they’re outside the school. We need our hedge replaced, and another tree—but how is the city going to make us whole again when I doubt we’ll be able to get a mature maple to replace the one Mocciae killed or have the hedge grow fast enough to do us any good for at least four or five years? Not to mention the mess—we can’t even think about fixing the problem until the wood is removed and the stump is removed.

the view of the destruction from our land
the view from our driveway—Almstead destroyed our privet hedge when they murdered our maple at the request of Mike Mocciae (click to enlarge)

If the city really did give a damn about the safety of Nathan Hale students, they would’ve been out today to remove the mess, which kids were clambering all over today as they waited for their mommies to pick them up from school (a line of SUVs idling on the street that runs in front of our house—gas isn’t expensive enough yet since, for some reason, these kids aren’t walking the half mile or less to get home. No wonder so many of Nathan Hale’s students are so out of shape.)

What puzzles me the most is this: two dead trees fell on Nathan Hale property and lay there for YEARS before they were finally removed. What prompted the sudden need to remove a healthy tree so fast? The tree was fine on August 23 when we left for Michigan, it didn’t suffer any storm damage or lightening strike, so what really happened?

I hope the City is fair about this. It was Mocciae’s mistake—but if his attitude is any indication of the way this city treats its taxpayers, I have my doubts that we will get the problem resolved without a battle. I hope I’m wrong—we need the problem fixed as soon as possible—preferably while we can still plant things so things are in place by next spring. It breaks my heart to see the tree and hedge gone.

posted by lee on 09/17/08 at 03:59 AM

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

slink & einstein having hissy fits (literally)

Well, we adopted two puppies. Twitch is his usual mellow self about them: “Well, whatever.” More curious about them than anything. Einstein’s tail puffed out and he growls and hisses at them. And Slink—well Slink turned into one of those Halloween cats, jaggedy fur along his spine sticking straight up, arched back, tail about three times its normal size, mouth open, fire eyes, hissing. The pair are starting to calm down a little.

The pups? Well, they just want to play with them. Einstein growls at Ruby, and Ruby barks at her.

We went out to Turner, Michigan to see the puppies a dog rescue woman had available. The ASPCA in Lincoln didn’t have any young pups, and I kept going back to the pictures of the puppies (on from Shirl. So we decided to try there and if there were no pups there, we’d stop at the ASPCA in Tawas. It took a while to connect, but we finally made it. Mom and Dad went with us.

We got to Shirl’s and indeed there were dogs. All kinds, all sizes, all ages. There are three “sets” of puppies: one a litter of lab mixes, one a litter of German shepherd and Australian shepherd mixes, and one a bunch of puppies: beagles, total mutts, more. And there were some older dogs. But we wanted puppies.

There were so many great puppies to choose from—it was really difficult to narrow our choices down to five, let alone one. Shirl had placed one of the shepherd/Aussie pups in my arms and she, of course, came home with us. Then Stanley took a shine to one of the chocolate labs, so she came home with us too. This makes it sound like an easy decision—but it wasn’t. We were planning on getting just one and then getting another pup when we returned to Connecticut, but there were so many choices how could we not take advantage of the opportunity?

Stanley wanted the spunky little female lab mix, the one with the eyebrows and socks: (click to enlarge)

Ruby, Lab mix, August 27, 2008

He named her Ruby because it’s his favorite gem and she’s a gem of a dog. I swear, that’s what he said. It suits her quite well and she loves listening to Dad singing “Ruby” to her. She is about three months old—Shirl doesn’t know the exact birth date of this litter but said they were 9.5 weeks when she got them on July 17, so we settled on May 13 as her birthday (it’s Ben’s birthday). She’s liver colored, and looks like the mix in the lab mix might be weimaraner. She’s lighter that a true chocolate lab, and appears be a Dudley, though she’s too young to be sure about this. She is sweet and already affectionate and like most labs, she does love her food. This photo shows her coloration better: (click to enlarge)

Ruby, mixture of light and medium browns, august 27, 2008

Before we even found the pups, Dad said we should name it Bingo, that way it would have a song. I had a dog named Bingo once in the early 80s, but he was stolen quite young so I didn’t have him for very long. I think Dad’s idea is excellent, so that what I named my new baby girl puppy. Here she is, sound asleep: (click to enlarge)

Bingo, German Shepherd, Australian Shepherd mix

Bingo is six weeks old—she was born on July 14th. She and the rest of the litter were really too young to leave their mother, but the mother’s owners told Shirl if she didn’t take them, they were going to “throw them away.” Shirl could not convince them to keep them just another week or two, so she ended up rescuing them from the idiots who don’t know enough to get their dog spayed. She is tiny, and so young. I am really nervous about her being so young and am trying really hard not to get too attached to her yet, but it’s not working. She eats well, and drinks well, so she’s fully weaned, but she’s still nuzzling my neck looking for a teat so she was definitely weaned too early.

Tomorrow I will try to get a photo of her face—she looks like one of the band members from Kiss, with big black stars over her eyes. I suspect she has some lab in her too because of her tail, which is neither an Aussie tail nor a shepherd tail, and her ears are more like a lab’s ears. But she is so young it’s too early to tell if the tail and ears will have feathers. Here’s a closer look at my sleeping baby: (click to enlarge)

Bingo 8/27/08

Already we’ve had to wage a huge battle with fleas. Rescue pups will have fleas, and they are too young for flea treatments or it’s too close to when they were vaccinated to have a flea treatment. So we looked up what to do about the fleas and discovered that the best thing to do is saturate the pup with water, use lots of baby shampoo and work up a good foam over every square inch of their little bodies, let the shampoo sit for 10-15 minutes, rinse the pooch and then use a flea comb while the coat is still damp to get rid of the now-dead fleas and eggs. We were just appalled at how many fleas they each had. We’re also supposed to rub our hands with Skin So Soft and then rub our hands on our pups and that will help keep the fleas away—we had to order some SSS online because we couldn’t find it here in Oscoda. We also ordered some Frontline Plus to put on the cats just as a precaution—I know dog fleas and cat fleas are different but I don’t want to take any chances.

The potty training is also painful. I’d forgotten how patient you have to be with that, particularly with the baby pup. So tomorrow we’re off to Wal-Mart for some piddle pads, which I’d also forgotten about. The one thing about potty training the puppies is that Mom laughs and laughs when we have to clean up dog poop—and when Dad stepped in it, I thought she would go into an asthma attack she was laughing so hard. Mom loves the puppies and they like to cuddle with her.

Today I made some tuna macaroni salad for Mom and started crying because Ginger wasn’t there waiting for me to give her the water from the canned tuna. Damn I miss her so much. I know that’s why I’m resisting getting attached to the pups—I’m so nervous that something will go wrong and we’ll lose them. I know that resistance will crumble pretty soon.

I’ve been so preoccupied with Ginger’s cancer and her death, then getting ready for the trip and finishing up a store, then traveling, then looking for a puppy and then taking caring of them that I haven’t paid much attention at all to the news—very little has sunk in. Not the convention, not Tropical Storm Gustav (Stanley mentioned it to me today and I, weather junkie that I am, didn’t even know it had formed), almost nothing has penetrated. It’s probably a good thing for now. I’m also a politics junkie but don’t need the added stress right now—I’ve plenty to last for a couple more weeks.

Here is one more photo of our new pups: (click to enlarge)

Bingo and Ruby, 8/27/08

posted by lee on 08/28/08 at 03:59 AM

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

black cat hiding in the dead of night

On Friday nights, we usually just unwind, watch Countdown, Monk, Psych whatever. Just let work slip away. Last night was no different than most—Stanley was getting ready to grill a couple of buffalo burgers, our favorite player won on Jeopardy’s champ tournament, pleasant mood. Until.

Our very naughty black cat, Slink, slipped out the door when Stanley went to turn on the grill. Now, we’re always vigilant about making sure Twitch doesn’t get out—he’s quite good at it and tries nearly every time. But Slink! Slink had never, ever tried to get outside, not since his great escape with Twitch and Einstein in Oscoda last summer when the Great Outdoors so terrified him he found a hole next to the house and cowered until Stanley dragged him back into my parents’ house. Slink is terrified when we just carry him from the house to the car. The world outside the house just overwhelms him—he hates being outside. So it was quite a shock to us that he even tried to get out of the house.

Stanley tried to catch him as soon as he spotted Slink headed across the porch. But Slink, who is very fast, shot past him toward the front corner of the yard, next to the street. All Stanley saw was a black blur rushing past. It was, of course, full dark as it was after 9 p.m. Slink is pure black, except for his yellow eyes.

So Stanley comes in cursing, looking for a flashlight (of which we have several, but can never seem to find them when we need one), telling me what happened. We figured we’d spot him cowering next to the house, visible only because he’s a devil cat and his yellow eyes look like the fires of Lucifer in the dark.

No such luck. We searched for hours, the whole neighborhood, into back yards, across the street, up trees, everywhere. Searched for a black cat in the dark. Stanley was in despair, concluding Slink was gone for good. I wasn’t too happy, either, but had a little more hope since all of the cats I’ve ever owned until Twitch and Slink were outdoor cats and cats are pretty decent at surviving a night outside.

We left the porch door open, and Stanley opened the hatch to the cellar, and we left food and water out for him, and decided that if we couldn’t find him in the morning, we’d do the flyers and door-to-door search and call animal control, the works. Stanley slept some, but not very well. I ended up reading all night, finishing a book I’d wanted to read for quite some time (A Thousand Splendid Suns, an extraordinary novel). When it started to get light out, I wanted to go look again, but I didn’t want Ginger to follow me downstairs because she is having trouble with the stairs because she’s having some trouble with her hind leg, so I waited.

Stanley got up at around 6:30 a.m., checked the cat food and came back up to get dressed and look outside since, he said, the cat food was gone. He walked around the house and when he got to the cellar door, the stupid cat poked his head out the hatch—he’d made it inside! So Stanley closed the hatch and went inside to make sure the stupid cat was okay (we have skunks and raccoons here). He was. He even brought a dead mole in with him. At least it was dead by the time we saw it. We thought the cat was a bit traumatized since he kept yowling, but looking back, he was just bragging about his kill, I think.

Slink, the prodigal cat, is safe
Slink wonders why Stanley is fussing so much ...

posted by lee on 08/09/08 at 10:58 PM

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

another journey i didn’t ever want to make

Right now, I’m kind of numb. On Thursday, Dr. Re, Ginger’s vet, called. Ginger has lymphoma:

The lymph system is the body’s “other” circulatory system, circulating white blood cells and most importantly, lymphocytes. These are specialized cells involved in immune function found throughout the body. In normal healthy dogs, these cells are manufactured in the bone marrow, go through a life span of around 30 days, and then die off and are re-absorbed into the body or eliminated through the waste channels. In Lymphoma, the regulation of production is lost and these cells proliferate in large number, or they lose their programed life cycle and continue to live on, overwhelming the other blood cells. High white blood cell count and swollen lymph glands are the characteristic signs of this disease, followed by lethargy, loss of appetite and leading eventually to death unless treated.

When we found Ginger at the Westport Connecticut Humane Society in October 2001, they said she is a Golden Retriever, but had no papers. Whether she’s a purebred or not doesn’t really matter to us—we chose the dog, not the background. But we’ve discovered that goldies face some problems that most other breeds and mutts don’t, and one of them is a 1 in 8 chance of developing lymphoma. As I said to Stanley, that’s why, when we brought her to Dr. Re last week, she just knew what was wrong. We could see it in her face.

We saw Dr. Re Friday at noon, Ginger in tow. She briefly laid out our options, ranging from making her comfortable until she dies to treating it aggressively and seeing if we could get her into remission. Without treatment, she’ll die in a couple of months. With treatment, we can give her a year to two years of life—a good quality of life.


Ginger appears to be a good candidate for aggressive treatment since she’s not yet sick from the cancer. We caught it very, very early—she didn’t have the lumps, or if she did they weren’t noticeable, when Stanley bathed her on February 23 (before heading to Natick to watch the Oscars). The only way she wouldn’t be is if she has, I think, the T-cell form instead of the B-cell form, as the T-cell form is particularly virulent and does not respond to chemotherapy. Mostly, we don’t want Ginger to be in pain. There would be no point to prolonging her life if she is going to be miserable. But from everything we’ve read, from what the vet said, most dogs respond very well to chemotherapy and have an excellent quality of life. She’s a good dog and we love her, so of course we want to keep her alive as long as possible. She makes our lives fuller and I, for one, couldn’t have gotten through Stanley’s surgeries and other problems without her. She kept me sane. We owe her life for all she’s given us. Yes, it’s going to be expensive—thousands of dollars, from what we’ve been able to discover. We can’t really afford it, but what else can we do? So we’re going ahead with treating her—if we can give her at least one more summer on the beach in Oscoda, it will be worth it for all she’s given us. We have an appointment at 10 a.m. Monday with the oncology vet, at the Veterinary Oncology & Hematology Center here in Norwalk. It is headed by Dr. Gerald Post, whom Dr. Re praises highly. There Ginger’s cancer will be staged and they will outline treatment options and we’ll get started. I already know I will have to document this whole journey in order to get through it—writing it all out here helped me get through Stanley’s operations and his near-death brushes. Also, I read a lot about diet and immunotherapy (I’ve read a lot already—bless the Internets ... ). Ginger needs a high-protein, high-fat diet, low in carbs since carbs, apparently, feed the cancer. We got some IAMs puppy chow for her, as that is one of the brands recommended on—it’s first ingredient is chicken vs. a grain or corn. We also purchased a month’s worth of K-9 Immunity (painfully expensive)—the one-month kit. It came this morning. Giving her the pills is fairly easy—I just poked them in the middle of a piece of string cheese and Ginger gobbled them down. I have to give her nine of these per day. The fish oil capsules were a problem—she ate the cheese and spit out the capsules. Stanley said to put them in her wet dog food—that worked just fine. The immune factor tablet is supposed to taste like liver—after hesitating, she finally chomped it down. I gave her half this morning and will do the other half this evening—but the instructions say they can all be done at once so that’s what I’ll do starting tomorrow. A new daily ritual. If it helps, it’s worth it. I will ask her vet about it on Monday—they also offer immunotherapy as one of the treatments so they’ll know more about it. I want to try everything that works—I’m shooting for a two-year remission at least. Why not? She’s only seven years old and other than the cancer, very healthy. I’m going to put a donation button up—if readers want to contribute to her treatment, I welcome the donations. In exchange I promise to faithfully document everything, including costs, so that others facing this will know what to expect, what works for us, what doesn’t, pitfalls and victories, everything. I don’t expect any donations, but they sure would help. We’ll find out more on Monday how much this is going to cost us—the estimate, anyway. So my ten-year, get-out-of-debt-including-the-mortgage-plan takes eleven years—Ginger is worth it.

posted by lee on 03/08/08 at 09:27 PM

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