Thursday, June 4, 2009

Of critters and veggies

My brain is filled with so much these days: hope for the future of our vegetable garden; wonder at the incubation and possible hatch of our next chicken flock; sorrow for the sudden and doom-laden illness of Paul's dog, Maggie; sluggishness from all this heat.

We have gotten a very late start on our vegetable garden this year. Last year we planted Memorial Day weekend and were largely unimpressed with our summer harvest; corn and cauliflower were nearly a total fail, tomatoes failed to ripen (except for those bountiful cherry tomatoes, bless their little red hearts), zucchini was a bomb (I know! How is that possible?!).

This year I was out of town the last weekend of May and we didn't get around to planting Memorial Day weekend, probably because the last frost didn't seem far enough behind us. Now I'm thinking it's probably a good thing we're behind, because Western Washington is at the end of a several-day massive heat wave, and I'm pretty sure tender seedlings couldn't have taken it. I made the probable mistake of accepting dug up strawberry and daylily plants from a neighbor and they're not looking so good. Paul got another yard and a half of mushroom compost last weekend and spent the hot evenings getting the raised beds under control. All we need to do now is buy our seeds and seedlings, decide where to put things, and plant! I have a dozen mixed tomato seedlings coming from a Tacoma friend tomorrow, and had to exercise some self control at the nursery today as the veggie starts looked fantastic. The veggie garden gives me hope, as does the thought of my 30 chicken eggs incubating a quarter mile away at a friend's house. Another six days and we'll hopefully have chicks...where did the time go??? We'll brood the babies in the insulated room in the garage, which will be a bit cooler than our inferno of a garage and will help me NOT have chicks in the house (yuck).

On the sadder side, Paul's dog, Maggie, a sweet nearly-12-year old brown mutt with a gray face and hangdog look, likely has a tumor in her bladder or elsewhere. She's going in for blood work and x-rays tomorrow morning. We had her at the vet's about a week ago and were treating her for a possible urinary tract infection, but instead of getting better on antibiotics, she got worse...much worse. She's now on pain medication three times per day to keep her comfortable and a little more mellow so she's not trying to pee every five minutes. She has occasional bursts of Maggie-ness, but overall she's gone downhill fast. I fear the end is imminent, but rather than assume the absolute worse from the get-go, we'll do the basic tests to see if there's anything we can actually treat that makes sense. It's very sad; she's lived a life of dog kennels and has only been indulged the last year, living here with us, up on the furniture, lazing outside in the grass, getting cookies daily and lots of love. Her dad, one of our other dogs, Gravy, also has a mass, diagnosed (vaguely) last year. A year ago we were told Maggie was a very "young eleven," while Gravy was a very "old twelve" who probably wouldn't make it to 14. Now they're both sick, and it feels very unfair. We'll do what we can for Maggs to keep her comfortable, knowing that we want to do right by her and not have her suffer.

I once read an essay in a farming magazine that folks who grow up on farms find the death of animals easier to swallow than those of us who didn't, and I can see the truth in that. Prior to last year I'd only ever lost two dogs, one when I was very young and the other after I'd moved away from home. In the past year I had to put my beloved Manx cat, Simon, to sleep after his lingering kidney failure (and my "city-folk" attempts to treat it, even when it was evident his daily IV fluids were no longer working), lost all my chickens in three bouts (one egg-bound, one disappeared, and then the murder of the rest of the flock), and now the mortality of Maggie and Gravy rears its head. I have no doubt this will be a hard time, but I also know I will get through it to the other side, and cannot imagine life without pets to love, even though they die. They each leave a mark on my life and in my heart that I would never replace, and, I believe, help me to love more deeply.


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