Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dear Kitai, It's been a year since you left me. . .

Sometimes at night I dream about you. It happens quite often. Usually I'm looking for you because you're lost and I can't find you. I wake in a panic because I'm desperately worried something bad will happen to you if I don't find you. Other times we're doing something or going somewhere, you know, happy together the way we used to be.

And then I wake up and a moment later the realization hits, you're gone. I lie in the dark and let the reality sink in. Again. it was only a dream. We're not together. You're gone and I'm still here, heartbroken, without you. Then I feel even more sad and upset than the dreams where I couldn't find you.

The realization that you're not at the foot of the bed or snuggled up beside me in The Glampette and the gut-wrenching feeling of loss hits me all over again. It's like that movie Goundhog's Day, but in a bad way. Apparently this is how I've chosen to grieve you. . . Night by night, dream by dream, bit by bit, hoping against hope that losing you was just a bad dream.

These pictures were from your last truly good day before the cancer began to take your strength. Do you remember? We met up with Bennie and Anja at Vasona park and our friend and neighbor Rob (from our old neighborhood), you know, Murphy's dad, came and met us there to take pictures of you. I think your smile in this picture says it all. You were on top of the world that day.



You sat on the big rock and on the tiny railroad train tracks for pictures. You were such a good boy. Always. Truly the best dog ever. Grandma said the other day she'd never have a dog again because they're just too much work. I reminded her how perfect you were and she agreed, if she could have a dog just like you she said she would have one again.

Sometimes I see you on the internet. Your Halloween costumes continue to go viral online. Sometimes I'm on Pinterest or Facebook and there you are, someone sharing your picture because you were so adorable! I guess the costumes are part of your legacy, helping to show people how wonderful your personality was and that there isn't necessarily anything wrong with a dog in a kill-shelter except that he or she needs a home.

You seemed fine in January, became sick in February, and in almost no time at all you were gone. There are days when I still can't believe it. Or don't want to believe it. And days when I wonder when I'll ever have another dog again. If anyone had ever told me I'd go a whole year without one I would have said they were wrong. But, it's been a year now and I still don't feel ready. I pet other dogs and for a moment they fill that doggie-shaped hole in my heart but they aren't you and it's not the same.

You were truly a once in a lifetime dog and I was incredibly lucky to find you.

A lot has happened and changed since we parted ways and through it all I've missed you. When I'm sad I wish you were here to hug. When I've been happy I always realize I could have been even happier if you were still beside me.

My new friend Brian McNulty, a very talented songwriter I met at ArtPrize last year, sent me a song titled "You Stole My Heart" when I told him about losing you. It's a love song. . . But you don't realize it's a human-dog love song until you listen to the lyrics in the verses. He wrote it for his dog Molly but I think it will resonate with most dog lovers. This is the chorus. . . "You stole my heart in so many moments. You made me love you. You stole my heart. And forever I will be Better because you loved me. You stole my heart"

For now I'm taking it one day at a time. I truly do believe that somehow, someday, some way we'll be reunited. Kisses and hugs to you my little fuzzalumpa and thank you for being one of the best parts of my life. I will always be grateful that I found you in the shelter, that I was able to give you a second chance when nobody else wanted you, and most of all for the very special 11 years we had together.

Each day I look at the surprise painting our friend Cheryl made of you. It makes it feel like you're still here with me and heals my heart bit by bit to see your smiling face.

To learn more about Kitai you can visit his website www.CutestDogEver.com

Photos of Kitai by: Murphy Dog Studios Rob, I can't thank you enough for the pictures I was able to share here. Thank you for your time and for realizing how important it would be for me to have some special images taken in what little time Kitai and I had left last year. They are precious to me and I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to have had you as a neighbor and a friend.

Thank you Cheryl for Kitai's portrait. Your talent is only equal to the kindness and empathy in your heart. I am very lucky to have you as a friend and will treasure this painting always.

The album "Country Alright" contains the song "You Stole My Heart" by Brian McNulty and Friends CLICK HERE to purchase on iTunes Or CLICK HERE to purchase on Broadjam.com Brian your song touches my heart each time I listen to it. Even though you never knew Kitai I know the feelings of joy and loss we have for our pets are shared by all who have had their heart stolen by their pups.

Previous posts on Kitai's Condition:

What was left of my heart is being put to the test - February 10, 2014

Kitai Update: Lymphoma and Prednisone - February 13, 2014

True Love: A girl and her dog - February 21, 2014

Kitai Update: Looking for signs - February 26, 2014

Kitai Update: Hanging in there - March 9, 2014

Kitai is almost out of time - March 17, 2014

A once in a lifetime dog. . . RIP Kitai - March 19, 2014

It's been four weeks since you left me - April 15, 2014

Monday, March 16, 2015

When your car makes weird noises. . . Pull over!

So, the other day I was on a quest zipping along in Grand Rapids in my now 21 year old Acura Integra. In the over two decades that I've owned it I can only think of two times it had broken down and failed me over the years. Each time it needed a fairly minor repair. So there I was, driving down the street when all of a sudden I heard a strange rattling noise.

I thought: Hmmmm, that doesn't sound right. I was just a few blocks from my destination so I stopped at the store and when I came out the rattling noise was gone. I thought I better have that looked at ASAP. I drove just a few more blocks and was parked at a red light in a turn lane of a fairly busy intersection when all of a sudden the rattling started again only this time it was louder. . . And then my engine died. And that was that.

It's always good to know what to do when something goes wrong, like have a plan. I knew to:
  1. Turn on my emergency flashers
  2. Get out of the car and raise my hood to signal to other drivers my car was broken down
  3. Get to a safe place to call and wait for help. I chose the sidewalk and called AAA.
In the meantime a nice man offered to help me push the car out of the intersection. If AAA was just around the corner I figured I'd let them deal with it because I often read about Good Samaritans being run over while doing a good deed so I thanked him and he left. But while I was on the phone with AAA another man, Thomas, came over and offered his help as well. AAA said it would be 30 minutes until they could make it there so after promising me he wouldn't get run over while helping me we pushed my car out of the intersection and into a nearby parking lot.

I took what little cash I had on hand and split it into two piles: One for Thomas to treat him to lunch (if he eats at Subway or part of a lunch anywhere else) and one for my tow driver. I know not everyone tips tow drivers but I like to since they're out there doing hard labor often in risky circumstances.

My tow driver was also really nice. Rick first exclaimed that he thought I had a great car. So great he almost never gets to see Acura's because they rarely breakdown. On the drive to my garage he was worried I'd broken my timing belt. This is the thing you need to know if you know nothing about timing belts: If your water pump breaks it will cause your timing belt to break and if you have the wrong kind of engine it can cause the engine to be damaged and instead of a moderate repair you're looking at a thousands of dollars repair bill.

I gave myself a Google crash course on broken timing belts, water pumps, valves, cylinders, pistons, and interference engines. By the time I was done I was certain that my engine had been damaged because almost everything I read said a broken timing belt while the engine was running, with an interference engine, will always damage the engine. Always.

Imagine my relief when the garage called and said after replacing my broken water pump (that caused my timing belt to break), and the broken timing belt, my car missed me and wanted to come home. What? The engine was ok? Yes! They said I'd dodged a bullet.

Now I have another list of actions to follow while driving, two actually.

Regarding car maintainance:
  1. If you have an interference engine be sure to replace both your water pump and timing belt every 70,000 miles. Yes, it's a pricy replacement/labor charge but it will be a fraction of what it costs to fix your engine if things go wrong.
And when I'm driving in the future instead of the list I shared at the beginning of the post the first item on it will now be:
  1. If I hear a strange noise park the car safely on the side of the road or in a parking lot.
  2. Call AAA and have the car towed to my garage
All I could think was I'd taken a really stupid risk. Because I pay AAA for a year's coverage in advance the tow didn't cost me a cent so I didn't save any money by letting the car breakdown before being towed. I was also fortunate that I have the Premiere package because it gives me a free tow for 200 miles instead of the 5 mile range the Classic plan offers. I was 30 miles from my garage so instead of 5 free miles and $4 per additional mile (that's the going rate here) for the extra 25 (which would have cost me $100) I can say my membership has already paid for itself this year and it's only March. And it covers towing my trailer too!

The moral of this story is the next time I hear my car making a really weird noise I have a new and better plan than driving till it dies. You should have a plan too!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Winter Cardio Workout

In an effort to stay sane I've made myself look maybe just a wee bit crazy for the past few months. A lot of stress had been piling up on me for, oh, about a year or so. My doctor suggested doing a cardio workout 4 times a week. He said it would help me feel better to work off the stress. The thing is I've never gone to a gym. I don't think it's where I'd feel comfortable. I really prefer being on my own.

Then it dawned on me. . . There's a ton of snow in the yard, why don't I shovel it? So I did. I started shoveling and heave-ho'ing snow several days a week for 30 minutes. The looking crazy part is because the only snow I could shovel was on the lawn. LOL. My impression is that most people, or possibly nobody else, in Michigan shovels snow off their lawn into a gigantic mound for exercise. But hey, it was convenient, free, and it worked. My resting pulse of 70-72 went up to 102-107 beats per minute after just 30 minutes of shoveling and on sunny days it helped me make Vitamin D!

I mentioned to friends I was creating a "Snow Mountain." Not sure if they realized how big it was so here's a picture. I cut steps into the back of my pile and asked Fred to take a picture of me. The weather has gone over 50ยบ (F) the past two days and will continue being warm next week so I figured now was the time to capture an image of possibly my favorite part of my first winter in Michigan.

I think when the weather really warms up I may start digging ditches that I can use to expand last year's garden. It's another great way for me to work out, cheap, and on my own so I'm looking forward to it :)