Saturday, October 8, 2011

Baxter’s Gift

 This is one of the shots Dan got when we went to shoot the sunrise last week.   

The day after Baxter died, Wednesday, there was a pinprick feeling piercing the agony of loosing him. It was barely perceptible—just a wisp of a thought—but I did notice it. A glimmer of hope. 
During the night I woke at 2:30 feeling scared and alone without him. Heart racing, jaw-clenching, stomach churning. I can see him behind my closed eyes; feel him near me. I call out to him in fear, and he answers by giving me peaceful sleep.

Thursday morning dawns beautiful and hollow. I miss my boy terribly. My head aches as bad as my heart. At my husband’s suggestion, I lay on the couch all day and cry. Sleep. Watch the Oprah Network. 
The sun brings Friday morning and more thoughts of Baxter. But that pinprick feeling has slowly rolled over the agony, and created a sea change. This morning I feel a little more grown-up. I feel calm. Sure. I feel hopeful about the future. I know that I am a good writer and I know I will earn a good living by it. Adversity brings Dan and I closer. His work is picking up,he has a new website and we have Lucy. Everything is going to be okay.

I sneak out of bed to write. As I walk to the living room, I feel Baxter happily trotting beside me, and know he will always be by my side.
I remember his final hours, before the vet opened. As I laid down with him, his head on my chest and the pain evident in his eyes, I surrendered. I thought, “God, I don’t know what you have in store for this dog. If you take him from me, it’s your will. Today, I will wait to see what happens.”
We go to interview a chef and I find myself surrendering even more. Even though everything was prearranged a month ago, there is no food. Without a tasting and photos, there is no article. 
I write him an email. Explain my situation. I hear nothing. I let go. I figure it’ll work out.

There is an email from one of the of the island’s top chefs. He wants us to cover his sushi restaurant. The other chef calls, apologizes, and we reschedule.

Moments of happiness intertwine with sorrow. Lucy always makes me laugh. Since we took this risk, my life has been rewarded a thousand-fold. The relationship with my folks is better than ever. We talk more, we accept each other more, we miss one another. My mom and I are like old friends, but she still takes care of me. She looks out for me like great moms do.
In Colorado, I wouldn’t have been able to put my life on hold for a week to be with Baxter. Dan and I know we can weather any storm. Baxter’s passing seems to have softened our edges. We are kinder to each other, softer with our words. Not wanting to take each other for granted. 

Taking off the gold-plated handcuffs of the corporate American Dream has been worth it. Even though we make 90 times less money, we are 100 times richer. We have the room to let life in. 
I get to pursue my dream, not someone else's. The hard work is for me, not the President of Cuts and Dissolves. If I want to take a week to comfort my dying friend, I can. Hours dissolve as I pour passion into my work, because it is truly my work. 
Dan and I bet on ourselves, we thought the odds were pretty good.

Dan shot a Mixed Martial Arts competition last Saturday.

Baxter, I’ll see you in my dreams buddy. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


You would think I could write about losing my buddy, my sunshine, my dear four-legged friend. But I can’t. After a long night of watching him suffer, Dan and I took him to the vet this morning. I had found an internet group that is for dogs with renal disease. They sent me some kind words, so I’ll borrow them.

All I can say is that today dawned a beautiful pink sunrise, but it quickly turned grey and cloudy. It matches my mood. All the color has gone from my dream, especially brown. I don’t know what to do with myself, and I wonder how people choose to participate in life when they lose a loved one. 
'I'm Still Here'

Friend, please don't mourn me,
I'm still here, though you don't see.
I'm right by your side each night and day,
And within your heart I long to stay.

My body is gone but I'm always near,
I'm everything you feel, see or hear.
My spirit is free, but I'll never depart,
As long as you keep me alive in your heart.

I'll never wander out of your sight.
I'm the brightest star on a summer night.
I'll never be beyond your reach.
I'm the warm moist sand when you're at the beach.

 I'm the colorful leaves when fall comes around,
And the pure white snow that blankets the ground.
I'm the beautiful flowers of which you're so fond,
The clear cool water in a quiet pond.

I'm the first bright blossom you'll see in the spring,
The first warm raindrop that april will bring.
I'm the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine,
And you'll see that the face in the moon is mine.

When you start thinking there's no one to love you,
You can talk to me through the Lord above you.
I'll whisper my answer through the leaves on the the trees,
And you'll feel my presence in the soft summer breeze.

I'm the hot salty tears that flow when you weep,
And the beautiful dreams that come while you sleep.
I'm the smile you see on a baby's face
Just look for me, friend, I'm everyplace!

Author Unknown
Message from Angel Baxter
I stood beside your bed last night,
I came to have a peak. 
I could see that you were crying, 
You found it hard to sleep. 

I whined to you softly 
as you brushed away a tear. 
"It's me, I haven't left you.  
I'm fine and well and here." 

I was close to you at breakfast 
I watched you pour your tea. 
You were thinking of the many times 
Your hand reached down to me. 

I was with you at my grave today 
You tend it with such care. 
I want to reassure you 
That I'm not lying there. 

I walked with you back to the house 
As you fumbled for your key. 
I gently put my paw on you 
And barked to say "It's me!" 

You looked so very tired 
As you sank into your chair. 
I tried so hard to let you know 
That I was standing there. 

It's possible for me to be 
so near you every day, 
And to say to you with certainty 
"I never went away." 

You sat there very quietly, 
Then smiled, I think you knew 
In the stillness of that evening, 
I was very close to you. 

And when the time is right for you 
To cross the brief divide, 
I'll rush across to greet you 
And stand there by your side. 

I have many things to show you yet, 
There is much for you to see. 
Be patient, live your journey out 
Then come to be with me. 
                   -Author Unknown
And if you’re not feeling my pain yet, watch this.
I miss you Baxter Brown, I’ll see you in my dreams.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Best Friend is in Trouble

Last Sunday we went to a ranch to interview and photograph a local rancher who raises grass-fed beef. It was a beautiful day, just big blue skies and endless emerald mountain ranges. The rancher invited us to his weekly family BBQ later that afternoon, so we went to interview a local sprout grower before heading over to eat cow’s tongue and Rocky Mountain oysters.  
Wednesday I took Baxter and Lucy for a walk. Baxter seemed kind of down, and I figured he needed to get out and run along the beach. He did what he normally does, with as much vigor as usual. He retrieved the padded frisbee from the ocean for about 15 minutes before we took a 45 minute walk along the shore. 

As I drank in the view; big blue skies, puffy clouds, crystal clear water the color of lapis and turquoise, the long expanse of white beach, Baxter and Lucy frolicking in the sand and surf, I thought, "I am living my dream. This is it. Right here, right now, I am living my dream." And I felt my stomach do a summersault.

Baxter usually runs about 20 feet ahead of me, runs back to make sure I’m ok, and then runs back out. He probably walks three times more than I do. He started to look back at me pretty frequently, something I learned to recognize as his way of wanting to turn back, but at the same time, not wanting to. So we turned around.
On the way home, he yacked. Not unusual, I thought it was because he drank sea water. He slept when we got home, not unusual. But he wouldn’t eat and yacked up foam in the middle of the night and first thing Thursday morning. I made an appointment at the vet. I had one for a week later, because he was being really finicky about food. I thought his teeth hurt, plus, his breath was awful.
I was working on my computer before my workout with Paula. Baxter rested his head on my chest and passed out. Normally when he does this he’s awake and moaning, wanting me to pet him. He doesn’t ever fall asleep there.
Tears streamed silently down my face when the vet said he had chronic renal disease. They were coming so fast I couldn’t look at her. My tears dripped onto Baxter laying by my side. They wanted to keep him, and put him on an IV, to try to flush the toxins out. They wanted to keep him until Saturday.
The disease is common in dogs and cats. It slowly destroys the kidneys until they are close to failure. The symptoms are so subtle, that some folks don’t notice until it’s too late. Symptoms are nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, bad breath, and drinking lots of water.
I have never cried so much in my life. In retrospect, at 45, I guess that’s a good thing. But, all I could do that night was cry. I couldn’t help myself. A simple thought or image of him would pop into my mind and I was wracked with tears. After a couple hours of sleep I woke with eyes that were swollen and puffy.
I got up and made some lemon-ginger muffins. This is a purely selfish but nifty trick. People love baked goods, and I don’t think our doctors and dentists get enough love. Several years ago, before my eye surgery, I brought the staff big fat chocolate chip cookies I made the night before. 
The lemon-ginger muffins were delivered with a note that said, “Baxter and his family thank you for all of your TLC. Please enjoy these lemon-ginger muffins.” The staff was thrilled, the muffins disappeared, and Baxter was not going to be forgotten about!
Friday was my cooking day for Larry and I was thankful for the day-long distraction. Dan, Lucy and I went to see his B-ness first thing in the morning, then Dan took us home so I could get cooking, while he drove to Kilauea to meet with a new client. We went for another visit that night before they closed. 
The plan was to get his “blood levels” (whatever they are supposed to be at) normal. If we can stabilize him with a special diet, he may live one more month or one more year. Roxanne, our vet tech and daughter of a friend, printed several pages from a book she just got (she has a book for everything). The copies contained recipes for the new diet Baxter needs to be on. Of course they have dog food for sale there, but hey, I’m cookin for my dog!
From now on Baxter needs to be on a low protein diet with simple carbs like white rice, tapioca, and potatoes. This will make it easier for his kidneys to process the food, which is what he needs since he’s running on about 25 percent of his kidney’s normal 100 percent.
Saturday morning I woke at 1:30. The house felt empty without him. He was not snoring softly by my side. He was not laying on the ground for me to trip over on my way to the bathroom in the dark. I went outside to smoke my e-cig and cry without waking Dan. 

Dan was awake by the time I came in, and we had a good cry together. It was 4 a.m. and he thought we should go shoot a sunrise. The client he met with yesterday wants him to do realty photography for a 20 million dollar home she is the property manager of. The photos include ariels from a helicopter, I told him to put an assistant in the budget! We decided to "test shoot" the sunrise there. I brought Lucy, and we watched the sun rise over the ocean as Dan took pictures. 

On the way back we stopped at a coffee shop for a bagel. Roxanne was there getting breakfast before she went in to draw Baxter’s blood to make sure he could come home later that afternoon.

While Dan processed his photos, I haunted the east side of the island for the necessary ingredients. I needed chicken fat, and a lot of it. About three tablespoons a day. I asked the meat guy at the grocery store if I could have the rendered fat from the rotisserie chickens. Once I explained why, he did his best to get me some. But, he was overruled by the store manager because she didn’t want anyone getting in trouble. So, I bought a $12 whole chicken to rotisserie myself.

I got jasmine rice, tapioca, potatoes, ground beef and multi vitamins. A side effect of this disease, drinking a lot of water, means he is trying and compensate for what his kidneys can’t do. Since he’s going to be peeing a lot more he needs vitamins. 

In the checkout line, I saw a friend. She was there with her assistant who said, “What’s wrong? You look sick.” I’m sure I did. Tired, puffy-eyed, sleepless and put together just enough to not get arrested for streaking in public.

When I told her what happened, and of my search for chicken fat, she took matters into her own hands. She knew the store manager and went to ask her. The manager was a little miffed because she already said no. My friend’s persistence and reminder that, “It's going to pig farmers, why not a dog?” and “Come on, just a little, please? It’s for her sick dig.” Won the manager over, but my big mouth made her turn back. 

The manager said she was going to go and see what the meat guy had. In my state of mind, I didn’t notice she was going to break her rule. Probably just to get my friend out of her store. As she walked away, I said, “He doesn’t have anything for sale. I asked. He only has the rotisserie fat.” With that, she turned around and walked behind her desk, and without another word, went back to work. My friend gave me the stink eye.

It was raining, and she and her assistant had walked over, so I drove them to the bakery across the street, which my friend owns. In the parking lot, her assistant—who is still in high school—felt compelled to help. She said she didn’t like chicken fat, and had some chicken breasts in her freezer. She said she would bring them to the bakery for me on Monday.
I went to the health food store because another thing Baxter needs is calcium carbonate. The girl in the vitamin section is a friend of Dan’s, from when he worked there. I relayed my mission, and she had such compassion, her eyes teared up. 
They didn’t have the calcium but they did have tapioca—4 oz for 5 bucks, he needs 2 oz 2x a day!—so I went to the vitamin store. 
Armed with all the ingredients I came home, got the rotisserie out of the shed and the chicken in it before putting the potatoes on to boil. And I went to pick him up! They pumped the rest of his IV fluids under his skin, and we came home.
He is home now. He still hasn’t eaten, but he will drink. This morning (Sunday) he walked out by himself and sniffed around the yard for 15 minutes before coming back up. I take this as an excellent sign. Although, he turned his nose up at my home made meal.
The vet said he could live for another month, or another year. I found a website dedicated to people who will go to great lengths to keep their best friend around a little while longer. This includes making home cooked meals, and putting fluid under their skin every day.

I have promised him I will take care of him. I will hold him so he doesn’t feel as scared, so he doesn’t feel lonely, so he remembers he is loved. I will cook him meals and bug him to eat. I will wake him with the water bowl placed under his nose. And, when he is suffering too much, and I can see in his eyes that he is ready to go, I will let him go.