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Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Final Four (Months of 2015)

I've been writing about 2015 in four-month chunks, so it's time to finish things off with a recap of September through December.


I started off September by spending afternoons with Curly, the labradoodle puppy. His people were going to be gone all day, so I'd come around to feed him breakfast and play with him and take him out so that he wouldn't get too restless in his crate. He was going through his second naughty puppy phase (ages 7-9 months), so he was constantly, actively looking for trouble, especially the sort of trouble you could chew on! You couldn't take your eyes off of him for more than a moment! It was a considerable contrast to Mr. Gorgeous, who was then down to his final weeks of life. I went to visit him one afternoon in the middle of the month just to make sure I got to see him before he died and got to talk to his family about his impending passing. That was the same day that a woman backed into the side of my car in a parking lot, a simple low-speed fender bender that morphed into a nightmare when, after the fact, the person who hit my car accused me of hitting her! Despite being blatantly untrue (as the damage to our respective cars attested), it upset me to be accused of lying. If I had been to blame, I would have readily owned up to it. It was quite the learning experience. A few days later, I heard that Sandy passed away.

Curly the puppy, bouncy and lively and wanting to chew on everything!

Mr. Gorgeous.
You can see the blood on his hind foot from where he scraped open one of his nails while scuffing his paws because of his degenerative myelopathy. 

Goldie parted company with this life in mid-September.
You can read my tribute to her here.

Warm, sunny weather meant our garden continued to grow like crazy! Despite our vigilance, the occasional zucchini got away from us and grew into a monster. Here's a big one next to Abbey for comparison!

I took some nice photos of bees in September, like this tiny one about the size of a grain of rice...

...and these honey bees at Mr. Gorgeous' house, as well as...

....insects that mimic bees, such as this drone fly.

I observed a bald eagle observing me.

A nice photo of Abbey, who learned a number of hand signals that month.

And in the final days of September, I looked after Mr. Gorgeous for one last time and said goodbye.

He was gorgeous to the last.

One of the nights that I was there was when the full moon eclipse took place. This is what I wrote to my friends on that day:

I would have had a pretty great view of at least part of the eclipse if I'd made the effort, but I was putting that effort into Mr. Gorgeous And by "effort," I mean, "sitting on the couch in the TV room for a couple of hours and not going anywhere so he doesn't feel like he needs to get up and also to keep an eye on him to hopefully prevent him from having an accident in the house." Thanks to my efforts, Mr. Gorgeous got to spend three hours sleeping inside near me WITHOUT having an accident and now he's gone to bed. It may be years, but there will be another full moon eclipse. There will not be another Mr. Gorgeous.
My last photo of the one and only. You can read my tribute to him here.

And so both a month...

....and an era came to an end.


A variety of dog-related happenings went on in October, including time with Curly (ending 10/4), Mr. Gorgeous' death (10/6), Abbey's 11th adopt-a-versary (10/12), a short overnight stay with Pipsqueak (10/13-10/15), and Abbey's first and last experience trying on fairy wings (10/30). I also marked my 6th anniversary of living with chronic migraines (10/19) and made an especially cute veggie witch for Halloween (10/31), but October of 2015 was the Month of the Filling.

Curly was still busy chewing!

I took Curly to play with Cutie! They had a blast together and I was so proud of how Cutie modified the intensity of her play to match Curly's size.

Abbey's 11th Gotcha Day portrait.


While Abbey may like wearing shirts, she does NOT like wearing wings.

Every year, we put out a veggie witch for Halloween. It's been my job for some time now to do the decorating and this was one of my cuter efforts!

It had been a year and a half since I'd last been to the dentist because between the migraines and the allodynia and fatigue and bad weather and dog-sitting, I'd had to cancel and delay appointment after appointment. To my chagrin, my teeth had suffered during that time and I needed six fillings. It's been an ongoing source of discouragement that my health issues have been so hard on my teeth, but I'm lucking to have a very understanding dentist. An example:

Last night, my brain thought it would be amusing to torture me with both can't-fall-asleep AND can't-stay asleep insomnia. The result is that today I am exhausted and nauseated and my skin is burning and I am in no shape whatsoever to get three fillings this afternoon. So I called my dentist's office two hours before my appointment and said, "Hi, I have an appointment this afternoon but I'm not feeling well..." and the receptionist said, "Oh, is this Colleen?" You see, they know me there. They know I often have to cancel appointments with just a few hours' notice and they are not only accepting of this, but really care about my well-being and always treat me with understanding and compassion. Everyone at the dentist's office--from the receptionists to my hygienist to the dentist--know that I am doing the best I can. This means so much to me!

Trigeminal nerve branches.
I had three cavities on each side of my mouth, so we decided to do the three on the right first and the the three on the left one week later. This seemed like a decent plan, but it turned out to be overly ambitious. Dental work and migraines do not get along in general, and while fillings are not usually a big deal, the lower branches of my trigeminal nerve (the upper branch is in a perpetual state of inflammation, thanks to my migraines) got irritated and hypersensitive. I couldn't tolerate heat or cold (and not just food--going outside when the air was cool was a problem!) and chewing anything firmer than a soft piece of bread was painful. Worse yet, the weather started impacting the sites! Any of these irritating factors could trigger a deep, sharp ache, usually deep down in my jaw but sometimes encompassing much of my face, that lasted for hours. I went back to the dentist multiple times to get my bite adjusted and to discuss this pain, but there was not much to do except to wait to see if the nerves would calm down. They did, eventually, after two months, but during the first four weeks or so in particular, I was miserable and had to spend most of my time in bed because the pain was eating up all of my energy.


Thanks to the filling-induced nerve pain, November didn't start off very pleasantly. There was a bright spot, though. One day, while getting out of my car as he was passing by on a walk, Curly recognized me! And not only did he recognize me, he went bananas with excitement! I liked that he knew it was me even though I was completely out of context and it was very affirming to have him be so happy to see me, especially when I hadn't been feeling well. In other health news, I restarted physical therapy on my neck at long last and received an official fibromyalgia diagnosis. This wasn't a big shocker, just a confirmation of something I'd suspected for a while after it dawned on me that most people don't get weird aching and stiffness and pain that come sand goes without any actual injury. It has been a background issue for years, ever since it was triggered by tapering off a medication a decade ago. It was constant and agonizing back then, but fortunately, it's typically only a minor irritation now, though sometimes it makes it hard for me to sleep and when I don't sleep well, all of my health suffers. In other notes, I finally had my car examined by the insurance company after more than a month of arguing with the person who'd hit my car and their insurance immediately decided that they would accept my claim (and my insurance denied theirs) because the physical evidence backed up my story that I was not at fault. It was a relief to finally have that contentious issue resolved.

Abbey enjoys some late-fall sunshine.

Sable and Goldie were best friends.
I spent the third week of November in the company of Sable and friends. Sable, a border collie-black lab mix, was Goldie's best friend and next-door neighbor. She also lives with a Yorkie mix I'll call Scruffy and a calico cat, Beanie. Their owner used to be a set designer, so their house is incredibly cool, full of art and plants and whimsical details. The dogs are very friendly and a lot of fun, so despite my dental work still giving me pain, I enjoyed my time with them. I spent most of my hours there reading and snuggling with the dogs on the couch. I couldn't ask for a more pleasant way of passing the hours!

Sable and Scruffy.

Sable likes to demonstrate her affection by mashing her face against yours.

One of her many endearing traits is that she likes to sprawl upside-down on your lap.

We all spent a lot of time on the couch!

This ceramic dog's head knob on the cupboard containing the dog food is one of the house's many delightful details.

Sable can be a whirlwind of motion one minute...

...and sound asleep the next.

She and Scruffy are good friends who enjoy a bit of wrestling from time to time.

Scruffy is sweet, quiet, and rather timid. He needs a fair amount of reassurance from the people around him, but he's a formidable hunter when it comes to small animals.

Beanie regarded me with a great deal of suspicion. I do not believe I was able to pet her on this first stay.

After a quiet Thanksgiving with only my parents, I settled in for a long stay with Pipsqueak. There was only one major issue to mar this beginning: Abbey, in my absence, got up in the middle of the night, got into the trash, and had a severe case of wandering intestinal remorse all over the downstairs of our house. Prior to her experience with prednisone in February, Abbey had never once gotten into the trash, but she found it a fitting way to express her displeasure at my absence. Oh, Abbey!

Silly Miss Abbey.

The final days of November were notable for the freezing fog that created beautiful frost on every surface. We don't often have stretches of weather below freezing, so it was a cool opportunity to get some unusual photographs.


Because Pipsqueak's family had never left her before and she's a sensitive little dog, we'd spent the better part of a year working up to the point where she was totally comfortable with me being there and her family being gone. All that hard work paid off: Pipsqueak adjusted to living with me without any apparent distress. She ate her meals without issue and took to sleeping under the covers with me. Pipsqueak's house is very calm and quiet, so it was a good place for continuing to recover from my fillings, though I missed seeing Abbey on a daily basis and she most certainly missed me. According to my parents, Abbey panted and paced and cried and barked and was constantly demanding to go outside and was not her usual mellow self at all. One day, my mother came home but couldn't find Abbey, but she could hear Abbey banging on something. She finally found Abbey in my closet. Abbey had managed to somehow squeeze in through a small opening, but then knocked the sliding doors off the track so she couldn't get back out again! She was very glad when I came home after two weeks away.

She may be tiny, but she's also mighty!

All snuggled up.

Pipsqueak and I spent most of our days in front of the fire.

Miss Abbey, happy now that I was home again.

December was notable for the record-breaking rain. It wasn't the usual Seattle drizzle, either. It poured and poured and poured, hour after hour. Pipsqueak was not a fan and refused to go out and I didn't blame her! Many of these rainstorms were accompanied by very low barometric pressure, which made me miserable. As a result, even when my facial nerves started to calm down around the third week of December, I continued to feel unwell. Also, I managed to really hurt my back while mailing out this year's c.creativity calendars. Not, as you might think, from packing or lifting, but by stumbling into a hole in the dark when walking out of the post office! I had a very hard time sitting and rising for several days and had to enlist help to move all of my things back home from Pipsqueak's.

It was my most successful year for calendars ever!

One bright spot was the fact for the first time in years, I was not dog-sitting for Christmas. This meant that I had more energy than usual and was better to enjoy the festivities. Also, I got jeggings. This may seem like a funny thing to be excited about, but I have had a terrible time wearing denim in recent years because the texture of the fabric triggers sensory overload for me. Therefore, dressing like a normal person (and not one in pajamas covered in dog hair) is usually stressful and exhausting. However, these jeggings are soft and stretchy enough that I can wear them without being overstimulated and are loose and stylish enough that I look like I'm wearing ordinary jeans.

Abbey posing (unhappily) by the Christmas tree.

Abbey gave me one more bit of trouble in December: I'd vowed, after our traumatic experience back in July (which I still haven't written about!) where she didn't recover properly from being sedaed, that I would not have her anesthetized unless absolutely necessary. I'd hoped it would be a long time before any such need should arise, but Abbey, being an old dog, decided to manufacture a new growth. A funny pinkish patch on her belly, it quadrupled in size within a matter of weeks. The vet didn't care for the feel of it, so off it came on the 30th, along with the large lipoma directly underneath it, just in case some cells had strayed from one to the other. It was a good thing we removed it, because it was a Level One mast cell tumor (but because it was removed completely, it shouldn't come back), and thankfully she suffered no ill effects whatsoever from the surgery. She was ready to walk herself out of the clinic and jump into the car under her own power to go home and didn't even seem to notice that she'd had surgery. As usual, I didn't need to put a cone on her because she left the stitches alone, though she did enjoy wearing the shirts I used to keep the stitches covered. The vet could tell that she hadn't licked them even once! I was proud of my girl! I was also very pleased that Abbey, now fully deaf, happily slept through the New Year's Eve fireworks without a single shake, pant, or whimper.

From surgery to sunbathing in a matter of hours!

That brings us to the end of 2015 and my attempt to write about it in four-month chunks, a practice I think I will have to abandon in 2016, seeing as it is already April and I have more interesting things to write about than just about what I've been doing. If you missed the earlier installments on 2015, you can find them here:

Even if I'm not able to write as much as I like, I do regularly share photos on my Facebook photography page.

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