Archive for March, 2014

First, the exciting news- David and I finally bought a house after about a year of increasingly intense searching. It’s down in Highland Park in West Seattle and has a big yard that will be perfect for gardening…. once it dries out! Last week’s rains left the downhill side of the lawn a totally soggy mess (the bad news).

The rains might be fine if we already had garden beds set up- I would just start transplants under the grow light and plunk them in the raised beds at three weeks old. Raised beds tend to dry out faster in the spring than in-ground beds, and planting transplants removes the chance of the seeds rotting in the wet soil before they can sprout.

Sadly, as we just acquired the house last week, we need to do a fair amount of work tearing up lawn, bringing in sand and compost, sculpting raised beds, etc before we can start planting, and the yard needs to dry out substantially before we do those things, lest all the digging destroy the soil structure and turn the entire plot to cement.

So… What to do? Wait? But I have asparagus roots coming in the mail from Territorial this week!! Add dry soil on top of the lawn to form garden beds? Hmmm… That doesn’t really solve the drainage problem. We are thinking of digging a big trench in the soggiest area, filling the bottom with gravel and filling in the top with sandy soil, but will the digging create impenetrable walls of dirt cement that worms won’t be able to navigate through? Sigh… If only we had found the house last fall…

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I wrote about my family’s Australian shepherd Oscar a few years ago when he developed kidney disease and was no longer strong enough to perform his legendary frisbee-catching leaps. Now I write to say adios, Oscar, and to thank my parents for taking care of him so extraordinarily for so long.

I thought each visit to Boise might be the last time I got to see him and scratch his massive head, but he kept on trucking through a stroke, incontinence, and near-hind end paralysis- playing fetch and leaning in (and then collapsing) for scritches until he could no longer move. For the last couple years, upon coming home for Christmas or summer vacation, we were greeted by Oscar’s eager, increasingly Joker-esque face- the stroke had weakened one side of his body and now his head was permanently cocked to the side with a half-crazed smile. He could only eat and drink out of the right side of his mouth, could only turn right, and often got stuck in corners or amongst the table legs until someone rescued him (much like i imagine a disfunctioning Roomba would, if a Roomba could handle the massive amounts of dog hair present in every house i’ve ever lived in.)

Near the end, his back legs were fairly useless and he supported his increasingly frail frame on his front legs. My parents had covered the tiled kitchen floor (where he had to stay after he became incontinent) with rugs to give him enough traction to get around. Watching him pad around the back yard from my bedroom window, i was reminded of a horse costume worn by two people- the person wearing the head and front legs directs where the body goes- the hind end stumbles along blindly, out of step with the front.

After his stroke, Oscar really enjoyed being outside, even when it was cold and snowing. My parents built him several little forts in the back yard- under a picnic table, under the porch swing- where he could stay dry and warm. He still enjoyed playing fetch even when his body wouldn’t do what he asked, and would still scramble up the back stairs to the lawn when my mom got the frisbees out every day, little poops falling out of his butt on the way up- i guess he had to choose between controlling legs or sphincter!

One benefit to Oscar’s weakness was that it was much easier for my parents to groom him. No longer did my dad have to put him in a headlock between his legs in order to brush his fur or his teeth. He used to snap ferociously when we tried to detangle his fluffy haunches, chomping his nubby canines that were worn down by the time he was one year old. Before we adopted him, he had spent the first year of his life stuck in a barn, gnawing frantically on the wooden door because he wasn’t allowed out to chase the horses. When Oscar was 10 and it was no longer good for him to do agility trials, my mom tried him out herding sheep. He bolted into the pen and began tearing large chunks of wool off of the sheep. The instructor told my mom to bring him back when he was 14. She stuck with frisbees and stuffed toys.

The last time i saw Oscar was this past holiday vacation. We had invited the entire clan of in-laws over for dinner a couple days after Christmas. The younger, non-kid-friendly aussies were in their crates upstairs, Oscar was chillin’ outside, and we had cleared all the rugs from the kitchen so that the many people helping us cook and serve could navigate more easily without tripping. Our niece Leila is quite the mobile toddler now and absolutely loves dogs. She caught a glimpse of Oscar leering through the window from outside and let him into the house. He leaned heavily as we brought him into the kitchen, where he collapsed in a happy heap to be smothered with kisses and hugs from Leila. She cooed and wrapped her tiny arms around his neck, burying her fingers in the large amounts of fur that hid his fragile body, and he seemed unfazed to be kissed between the eyes so many times.

Gawd. What a fantastic, wonderful dog. Just the epitome of a good dog. I hope every person is lucky enough to adopt at least one dog like Oscar, and I hope every Oscar out there finds a good home.

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