A Dog’s Winter

I like to look at my pets lives as having seasons.  In the Spring of their lives, they are pups, everything is fresh, new and vibrant.  sc000a896cThey are doe-eyed and ready to take on the world. In the Summer of their lives they’re settling into doggy teenage years.  Still running around with a great amount of energy, but with more assurance and strength as they grow.  Stepping into the Autumn of their lives – they begin to settle down.  They’ve matured beautifully and live mindfully.  Now, as I look at my sweet old gray-faced, Boxer-girl, Maya, I know she has moved into the Winter of her life.  Her days are shorter, her body more delicate, and her demeanor more gentle.

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The past few months have been mostly dedicated to caring for Maya.  Maya is the last pet we have around from the 3 Amigos.  She’ll be 13 in August.

From the beginning of her life, she has battled a laundry list of ailments, and always found her own clever way to work with whatever illness she had. She has been one heck of a trooper through it all.

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  • Several debilitating bouts with pancreatitis,
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Food allergies
  • Removal of a giant tumor in her belly (among others)
  • Eating garbage bags and many pairs of Reef flip-flops
  • Stepping on broken glass
  • Eating aspirin (almost didn’t make it out of that one)
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Beating Mast Cell Cancer
  • Getting attacked by another dog while she was sleeping
  • Countless other vet visits that meant we were not going to be putting money towards a down payment on a house – but rather a down payment on unconditional love.

Last October, we headed to the mountains for our 3rd anniversary.   Of course, our Maya-bear was with us, but when we got there, we noticed something was off.  She began walking like a drunken sailor and tilting her head to the left.  She also had become totally deaf.  Gone were the days of having to spell out T-R-E-A-T, W-A-L-K, or C-O-O-K-I-E.  We did however miss being able to say certain things to her that she would wiggle in excitement with. We attributed it to her lack of sleep, maybe an ear infection gone wrong… just getting old.

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In December, we noticed this happening again, and with more frequency.  She not only was off-kilter walking, but was having a hard time remembering how to get back in the house, disoriented – as our vet said, “like a curtain had been placed over her eyes” during these episodes.  She would circle over and over to the left, and just seemed to be less Maya-like.  Her eyes began to droop some, and her tongue wasn’t working as well as it used to.  She went through good days and bad days. and neither outnumbered the other.

Over the holidays, we took her to visit the in-laws in Florida, and again she worsened. She’d occasionally start to fall over from losing her balance, have a harder time laying down and getting up, and her dizziness/ balance issues seemed to progress with more frequency.  We’d use her harness to help keep her steady when she needed it. Her vet (and one of our heroes) called in a motion sickness pill, and we hoped that would help her. After much research and a few vet visits, her symptoms look like a vestibular disease in the brain, and possibly a cancer that has spread to the brain or tumor in the brain.

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Because of her age and list of other health issues, we made the choice to give her palliative care at home, along with an increased dose of steroids to help reduce/ slow any inflammation.

She has had a tougher time eating, and I try to hand feed her when she needs help.  I use the food processor to add organic carrots and celery to mix into her food.  I also make her organic eggs, blueberries, sweet potatoes and brown rice to help her get the food down, since she can’t chew very well.  I am lucky enough to be able to work from home most of the time, and be there to watch her, love on her, or help her get around the house and yard if needed.

DSC_0523 It’s a tough thing to experience, watching the decline of something you love so much.  I know that we are on borrowed time with her, and that soon the bad days will outnumber the good. So, for now, I’m cherishing each day we have left, here in the Winter of her life.

No Mas Powdery Mildew – Take 1

This summer here in the south, we have gotten so much rain, I feel like my backyard could be a tropical rain forest. While it’s kept me from really having to water the garden, it has also brought it’s challenges. Not only has the deluge of rain caused my garden problems, but the humidity of summer and overall cloudiness has created the perfect storm for Powdery Mildew.  It’s the biggest issue in my garden right now.

Howden Pumpkin Vine Powdery Mildew It looks like white fuzzy circular powder, or mold-like substance on the leaves of my squash/ zucchini, cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins and watermelon.  (Probably sounds like I have a big ol’ farm – but I only have 2-3 of each of each of these plants growing).  The spores are airborne and can spread with a quickness. If you catch it early – you can remove affected leaves, seal them in a bag and throw ’em away. Some sites even say you can compost them in a hot compost pile – but I haven’t tried it, so don’t take my word for it.

Gourd vine with powdery mildewI tried to use an old bottle of Safer brand spray to control the powdery mildew. Honestly – the bottle was probably 4-5 years old, sitting in my garden shed, heating up in summer and cooling down in winter. I knew it may not work… but it kinda did okay – until we didn’t see the sun again for like 3 days.  (Powdery mildew control is an ongoing effort).

Now for my attempt at an organic remedy found online using milk and water. They even say there’s scientific studies to support it’s effectiveness.  I’ll be using 2% Organic Milk – cause that’s what is in my fridge.  I upcycled an old windex bottle and sprayer that has been thoroughly cleaned (and made a show-stopping label from leftover scrapbook paper, a Sharpie and some packing tape).

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It’s debatable on the ratio of milk to water to use, so I’m gonna just wing it – with around 30% milk and 70% water mixture. They say the less fat content in the milk the better, and there’s supposed to be no foul odor. Spray both sides of the leaves and vines, and apply weekly.

I also wondered if I could eat the harvested veggies from plants that have powdery mildew, and everywhere I looked – it said yes (just don’t eat the leaves or blossoms). It may affect the yield and the flavor, but you can eat it (as long as you haven’t used chemical sprays).
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Check back next week to see if this milk & water combo is working in my garden. 


NO MAS POWDERY MILDEW!

The 3 Amigos

These are my babies. Angel the Cat, Mason the Mister, and the Maya-Bear. Since the Esposo and I don’t have human little ones, these are ours. Image

I found Angel when I was just a freshman in college in Tallahasee. It was spring semester, and I heard the news of my childhood cat, Friski passing away.  I was living in an apartment, and figured I was ready for a kitten of my own. I called the local shelter, and they had only 1 kitten available.  When I got there, I knew she was meant for me – a gorgeous 8 week-old gray tabby, with big green eyes.  I named her Angel. She was affectionate, comical, and sweet (and loved to mess with the Esposo when he least expected it).Image

A few years later Maya & Mason and I found each other.  When I saw the 2 of them together, I had no choice at all – they were coming home with me.  I debated on names for WAYYY too long. One afternoon, we were out for a walk – if you can call it that with 9 week old puppies – and it just came to me… Maya & Mason, a.k.a. the m&m’s.  They are the first dogs I’ve ever had, and have taught me how to be selfless, silly, and to really appreciate the little things in life.  I can’t say enough about the Boxer breed and how amazing they are. They connected me to both FL and Atlanta Boxer Rescues, and I have met the most amazing people and their dogs because of them.  Image

Within the past year, we sadly had to say goodbye to our sweet Boxer boy Mason at the age of 11 and our Queen Bee – Angel the Cat at 15 years old.  We lost Mason after a 6 month battle with bone cancer. Angel unfortunately passed away 6 months later to the day after Mason, due to what looked kidney failure. Saying goodbye to Mason and Angel has been some of the toughest experiences for me, but it’s shown me how lucky I am to have had such great animals in my life.

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My sweet baby Maya will celebrate her 12th birthday on August 1st.  She’s had quite the year, losing her siblings – but she is still enjoying life – and following my every step. She gets around pretty slow, and has her own set of health problems – so every extra day we get with her is a blessing.
Today I toast my 3 amigos – and I am sure the stories of their hilarious adventures from the last 12-15 years will come up on here soon. Cheers!
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Cast Iron Brussel Sprouts

Do you ever go through food phases?  I am going through a brussel sprouts phase right now.  I LOVE the brussels, and when they are roasted – delicious! For the veggies in this, I always recommend, local, organic, or sustainably grown if possible.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lb bag of fresh brussel sprouts, rinsed, ends trimmed (any gnarly leaves removed), and halved
  • 1 small/ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 gloves of garlic (depending on how much you like), minced
  • 2 teaspoons virgin organic coconut oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons organic extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste20130311-211727.jpg

Preheat the Oven to 425 degrees. 

  • While the oven heats up, rinse your brussels. Then trim the ends, and halve them.
    (Remove any nasty or loose outer leaves. There shouldn’t be a huge amount – and you can compost the unused leaves)20130311-211753.jpg

Heat the cast iron skillet on medium heat on your stove. (I have an older electric stove that sometimes cooks on the hotter side.)

  • Add the Coconut and Olive oil to the skillet.
  • Once the oil is heated add the chopped onion and garlic.
  • Sautee the onions and garlic until translucent (I like mine to get a bit of brown).20130311-211740.jpg
  • Add in the halved brussel sprouts and if you need an extra bit of oil (coconut or olive) here, you can add another half teaspoon or teaspoon.  Turn heat to medium – medium high
  • Stir the sprouts while letting them brown up a bit, about 5-6 minutes, until they start to become tender.20130311-211805.jpg
  • Next, put on your oven mitt, so you don’t burn the crap out of your hand on the skillet, and place the skillet on one of the upper 2 shelves in the oven. Cook another 10 -15 minutes (stir them up half way through to get a good even coating of onions, garlic and goodness in the skillet), or until desired texture and crispiness is reached.

Remove from Oven and Serve! 20130311-211814.jpg

These never last long in our house.  I sometimes add in crispy local bacon or prosciutto, and it’s also amazing to drizzle a balsamic or fig glaze over the top before serving. There are many wonderful variations to this recipe, but this is mine, and I hope you enjoy it!