Dogs, grief and gratitude

sarah-greyOur year ended on a sad note as we said goodbye to our sweet old girl, Sarah. She was our coffee-loving, bean crunching girl. We got her in 1999, the same year we bought our house. Howie and I both grew up with dogs and loved them, but as renters we’d not been able to own one the first seven years we were married. So, with the new house came the decision to add a dog to our family.

The girls We found her by way of a classified ad offering her puppies. When we got to the house, Sarah greeted us enthusiastically, wagging her tail and rolling over for belly rubs. Her pups were four months old and still nursing her in addition to eating puppy food. Unlike their mother, however, they were shy and fearful. We asked if they were trying to find a home for Sarah and they said yes.

Her owners said she was born in 1997 or 1998, offspring of one of their beagles (which they raised for hunting) and a chow. The beagle genes were readily apparent, but the chow didn’t contribute much. If her daddy even was a chow.

She had a strong prey drive and a busy beagle nose. She was fine with our indoor cats, but woe to any animals she encountered outside! I think the only animal to ever stand her down was an opossum who turned to face her. Suddenly Sarah had other pressing business.

What she really lived for was squirrels. If she saw one, she’d chase it to a tree and sit at the tree’s base, staring up, as long as you’d let her. If you clicked your tongue in a vague mimicry of a squirrel, she’d perk up, whine and go to the nearest window to look for one. She never tired of this! She knew squirrels lived in trees, so when we’d go by trees while out driving, she would get very excited. Yes, she was just a little obsessed with them. 🙂

Cheeky squirrelWe even had one particularly cheeky squirrel who would come right up to the front window and tease her. At times, they’d be staring each other down, nose-to-nose, with only a double-paned window between them. She also loved to watch the fish in our pond. And she was very interested in the large pleco fish in our aquarium.

sarah-bw-patio-naps-1-wBut she was also the most obedient dog we’d ever had — and no thanks to us! From the day we brought her home, she stayed right by us and came when called. She routinely dashed out the back door and made a circle through the neighbor’s yard when we let her out (scouting for squirrels), but she came right back when we called her. We wished we could take credit for her manners!

She was our constant companion in the garden, our “moley dog” who burrowed beneath the covers every night, and our fearless watchdog. Actually, the only person she guarded us against was the mailman; she really hated the mail carriers and pitched a fit whenever one would come and dare to drop mail through the slot in our front door.

Sarah had her fifteen minutes of fame in this video:

She won second place in the contest. My photos of her and our other dogs were also pictured on Innova Pet’s line of Karma organic dog food promotional materials. That story is here.

Sarah had some sort of episode overnight and on the morning of December 28, she appeared to have had a stroke. Her head was cocked to one side and her eyes darted rapidly back and forth (nystagmus). She could not stand and walk, but stumbled as she tried to balance. From what I looked up, strokes are rare in dogs and she most likely had canine vestibular syndrome (also called peripheral vestibular syndrome), a common ailment of the inner ear and one which she might have recovered from.

Sarah woofs for her bean However, we had to look at the hard facts. She was fourteen years old and had recurring problems with her hind legs. No one in our household is physically capable of bending and carrying a 35-pound dog multiple times a day; considering the dizziness made her so she could barely stand, let alone walk, she would have to be carried outside to go potty. Dogs with this condition can take weeks to recover, and often must be given anti-nauseal drugs because the vertigo makes them sick to their stomachs (imagine being severely seasick all the time).

We couldn’t see putting our old girl through all of this. Our vet said it could also have been caused by a brain tumor. Given the many visible lumps and bumps all over our old girl, it well could have been a tumor causing the symptoms. It could also have been a stroke, though unlikely. Our vet advised that we’d likely be prolonging the inevitable if we tried waiting it out. So, with hearts brimming with sadness, we made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Sarah begs for her beanHopefully it will be many years before we have to face this heartache again. Those of you who have loved a pet deeply know how we feel, know that those who dismiss such grief with “it’s just a dog” don’t get it. Losing a pet is so painful, but they joy they bring to our lives fills me with gratefulness.

Our vet sent us a lovely sympathy card, one which our brindle girl Stella sniffed out of the pile of mail as soon as it hit the floor. She then tried to open for us. Having come from the vet’s office, the paper must be redolent with all kinds of interesting smells. We’re so glad we have our remaining girls to make us laugh!

This is a picture story that illustrates one such gift of laughter from Sarah:

DIY French Press Cozy

My favorite gift this Christmas was the French press coffee pot Howie gave me.

The reason is twofold. First, I’ve wanted a French press for years. They make a fantastic cup of coffee. Second, he got it for an insanely low price. I love a bargain, and he found this Bodum 12-cup model at the local Goodwill store for all of two bucks. TWO BUCKS!

They sell for almost $50 at Amazon, Target and other places I’ve looked, so this was a real bargain! As the cashier rang up the sale, she asked what the heck it was. He couldn’t wait to give it to me; to his credit, though, he made it all the way to Christmas Eve before letting me unwrap it. What a guy!

I use the French press almost every day. We’ve had to cut expenses and can’t make our beloved Caribou Coffee Obsidian Blend every day, but we find Eight O’Clock Coffee French Roast tastes pretty good when done in the French press. We still get Caribou, but just for special treats on the weekends.

He picked up a mini-me version of it at Meijer for $10, just to use at his office. Yeah, he’s gotten spoiled, too.

The one thing that’s bugged me is how quickly the coffee cools in the pot if it’s just me drinking it. At least French pressed coffee doesn’t develop the bitter edge that drip-brew does as it cools. It makes a nice iced coffee later on in the day if you make it stronger to begin with.

But still.

I saw some really cute French press wraps at this site, but couldn’t see spending the money on one right now. Besides, the pattern I really like — this sort of celestial pattern — is sold out in the 12-cup model we’d need.

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands today.

I had hanging in my closet an old fleece jacket that was pilling pretty badly. I haven’t worn it for a couple of years. So, out came the pinking shears! I cut one of the sleeves off up near where it joined the body of the jacket.

Then, I slipped the sleeve over the French press, wide-end-first and held the sleeve upright. Snip! One more cut about two inches above the top of the pot and my sleeve was nearly done. I turned the sleeve around so the seam was lined up with the spout of the press (opposite the handle), then made a small cut in the fabric directly over the handle. I expanded that cut just enough so the handle could slip through the hole.

It might not be very pretty, nor lined with nifty Thinsulate, but it does the job for now and it’s nicer than wrapping a towel around the pot. If I get really adventurous, I could put some grommets around the top and add a drawstring. Nah!

Nothing says Christmas like turquoise owls, right?

I normally love Caribou’s Christmas displays and merchandise. But this year I really think they blew it. Turqoise, red and purple mice, rabbits and owls? They went for this “nature” themed stuff, which could be cute if done right. But these? I can’t think of the name of this style of comic art. Maybe someone can help me out. It puts me in mind of poorly drawn Flash animations that pop up all over the web.

Not. Christmas. Not. Holidays. I didn’t take pictures of the ornaments, but they’re either big styrofoam balls covered with knitted yarn or woodland creatures made from plant materials. The latter were actually kind of cute, but they were gone by the time everything was marked half off. There are knitted and presumably recycled coffee cup clutches for sale, too, but judging from how many I still see on the racks, customers didn’t much like them, either. Very little of it has any kind of holiday feel to it. I know they were trying to go for designs that didn’t necessarily bespeak a certain season, but they went too far and the result is shelves still full of merchandise that would, I think, be gone by now normally.

C’mon, you guys can do better than this! Past seasons’ POP and merchandise has been great! Please, don’t jump on the whole “go green” bandwagon just for marketing. It really fell flat this year. Other customers we know felt the same way. It’s just not up to past years’ standards.

RCP, Baby! Yeah!

Gimme an R! Gimme a C! Gimme a P! What’s that spell? Are Seepy! (Are you? I are seepy, myself). RCP stands for Regular Cold Press, or iced coffee; decaf is abbreviated DCP. It’s just how we label them when we leave the pitchers of cold water and ground coffee to steep. But I’m a goofball and can’t just leave it at RCP.

Coffee week at Dave’s Garden

WARNING: Do not read this post after 2:00pm or you may not sleep well tonight!

Recently, the writers at Dave’s Garden percolated and came up with these coffee-related articles . Enjoy!

September 22:
The Truth about Chicory
by Sharon Brown

We first tried coffee with chicory in 2001, when we met our friend Lisa. She loves Community Coffee with Chicory. We’ve never become fans of the taste, but many people love that unique flavor. It also has less caffeine since it’s cut with chicory.

September 23:
Save your money: Delicious cups of wonder from the world of COFFEE
by April Campbell

I don’t want to pay out the nose for coffee treats, either, and this article gave me some ideas that will be especially nice come holiday time when we entertain. Most are too fattening to enjoy regularly here.

September 24:
Coffee tasting on the Big Island of Hawaii
by Jill M. Nicolaus

I tried Kona Coffee for the first time last year, when a customer brought some in for us to grind for him at the store. He’d been to Hawaii and visited the plantation and brought some home. He gave us enough to make a batch French pressed. It was sweet, smooth and delicious! I can see why people rave about it, but I can’t see us spending that much on coffee beans.

September 25:
Happy, Hunting Grounds
by Jeremy Wayne Lucas

I wish Caribou Coffee would offer a grounds recycling program like Charbucks Starbucks does. Several times this summer, I brought grounds home when I worked, but there is nothing in place for customers. I am not a Starbucks fan as far as their coffee goes, but they’re doing a good thing in their “Grounds for your garden” service.

September 26:
Cowboy coffee: Keeping it real
by Summer Walla

I do not like percolated coffee, but when you’re camping even the nastiest coffee tastes pretty good first thing in the morning.

September 27:
Bird Lovers, Wake Up and Smell the Shade Coffee!
by Marna Towne

Many people have never seen what coffee looks like before its beans are dried and roasted. This article is a nice overview of how coffee is grown.

September 28:
Diana’s Anise Biscotti
by Diana Wind

I so love crunchy biscotti! We even have bronze fennel growing in our birdfeeder bed, but have I harvested it for use in cooking? I need to! Diana’s directions are so clear, I think I could manage this recipe.

So, there you go. There’s plenty of good coffee reading for you, so grab a cuppa Joe and settle in for some armchair traveling (and drooling).

Last chance to vote in Mutt Madness

Coffee cupThere’s just 24 hours left to vote for your favorite of Sarahbou in the Furry Four! Heh.

Ask yourself, “who haven’t I told yet about this coffee-loving dog?”

Do it for the children.

Hey, our mothers are still alive – we’re children, right?

The only thing I won’t do here is try and guilt you into it by saying you don’t love Jesus if you don’t help and forward this post to everyone in your address book. But every other appeal is fair game:

If you love coffee…
If you love dogs…
If you love hotdogs…
If you love the underdog…
If you love your fellow man…
If you believe in the power of the blogosphere…

If you love goofballs and their pathetic appeals…

It is your moment to make a difference before midnight tonight. Vote now!