Category Archives: nature

Doggy vacation

The ending of 2014 and start of 2015 have been both amazing and bittersweet for the husBen and I. One thing that sticks out the most is Curie’s diagnosis of cancer. Curie and Voltaire, our two mini schnauzers, have been with us since June and September 2010. They’ve pretty much been the love and fluff of our lives, opening our unexperienced eyes to all sorts of adventures and “Oh god, is this what it’s like to have kids?!” kind of moments.

We noticed a change in Curie’s movement and energy back in November. Just to preface, she is without a doubt the most spunky and OUTSPOKEN dog I’ve ever met with an appetite that rivals my own. With this grandma policing the grounds, not a single rice kernel or Dorito chip gets dropped unnoticed. Curie’s nose always appears out of nowhere only to touch the spot and…just like a Dyson…it’s gone. Sometimes even her bowl of kibbles is not enough. Voltaire, our more submissive boy, is always happy to move aside and let his sister finish his bowl (a lot like how I jab my fork at Ben’s bowl of panang curry while he’s still eating…) Anyways, in November we noticed she was eating less and less. Her movements were getting slower and, in December, there was a scary fluctuation in her body where one second she seemed find and then all of a sudden she would be hobbling in pain, practically immobile. Her entire belly was large and tender and we could no longer touch it or pick her up without her yelping.

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We went to the vet many, MANY times. Once or twice a week. The first blood work came back to confirm she had pancreatitis (very common amongst schnauzers). So every time she was struck down with pain, we assumed it was that and switched her to a low-fat prescription diet. But the belly aches always returned, leaving even her gums and tongue so pale (nearly white) which the doctors said was a sign of dehydration and possibly a leakage of blood somewhere internally. In January, we finally took an Xray as well as an ultrasound. The Xray showed that her lungs were free of cancer cells which was a huge relief (because by the time those reach the lungs, it’s usually too late) but her ultrasound showed huge masses in her spleen that somehow went unnoticed in previous vet visits (probably because when it did get large she would do something like jump on a couch too quickly and tear the mass, causing it to bleed and disappear for a short time only to return).

Curie went into surgery immediately and had a splenectomy after they found three masses. After the biopsy, we were told that it was indeed cancer. The really bad kind. Frankly we were shocked and I couldn’t hold back the tears while the surgeon explained what would happen. Canine hemangiosarcoma is a tumor that lines the blood vessels (essentially a tumor of the blood) which makes it extremely tricky and destructive because it travels quickly and usually hits the lungs, liver, heart or brain first. 1 out of 5 Golden Retrievers will battle this during their lifetime, and “1.5 to 2.5 million out of 72 million dogs will get hemangiosarcoma and succumb to it”. The cancer cells in our baby Curie were going to spread in the next 3-4 months and she would pass a few weeks after that. That was the hard fact and I panicked inside because we were almost out of time. 3 or 4 months? That’s it. That would give us until April or May. June if we were lucky. Curie might see us in our silly costumes for Emerald City Comicon and excitedly bark at all the episodes of Game of Thrones season 5 (she loves watching those horses run on screen) but there’s no guarantee. She most likely won’t make it to her 13th birthday in June (we adopted her on June 4th, 2010) and we’ll have to feed her a delicious box of canine cookies early.

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(Did someone say TREAT?!!)

 

But even with the grave news, there were so many things to be grateful for after the surgery. For one, Curie was no longer in excruciating pain like she was back in December. It was a night and day difference and it made the surgery worth every penny. After a week of bed rest, she was relinquished from the cone of shame, bouncing around and barking like her usual self. She was munching down on her food like the little piggy that I know, though her belly was tremendously smaller than it was before since there was no longer a spleen or three tumors. But the most heart warming thing was what our amazing friend, Erin, did on Curie’s behalf. After I told my friends and co-workers what had happened and about the financial expense of the surgery, Erin took it upon herself to set up a Tilt account. Basically it’s a campaign site where you set up a page that describes a goal you want to reach, and then you start collecting donations from family, friends and even strangers who wish to contribute. You set a minimum “tilt” goal (so no one’s credit card is charged until you hit that number) and you continue raising money towards the goal after you tilt. When Ben and I found out what Erin had done, we were just overcome with gratification and what can only be compared to as the best heartburn. Wow. Just WOW!!!! Our amazing friends (even my boss!) had pitched in on behalf of our baby girl and raised a whopping $1,779!!! Holy schnauzer!!! I can only cry (some more) and thank each and every person who sent us their love. We were overwhelmed, truly.

 

With a few precious months left, we decided in early February that we’d go on as many adventures as possible and at least one memorable trip (which we did just this past weekend!) With our dear friends Kelsi, Ryan and their puppy Bourbon, we drove down to Oregon and rented a cute little house only a walk away from Cannon Beach. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever set eyes on (that line kind of upsets me because it’s definitely an understatement…everyone says that psh). William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition once described this beach as “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…” back in 1806 (meh, basically what I just said). I’ve never seen the sky and giant rocks reflected in wet sand the way it is on the Oregon coast. Everything shines, and if you span the beach with your eyes, your left and right look misty and blue but the sunset in front of you is ablazed in pink and gold which makes the blue seem misplaced but hauntingly alluring. It’s what I imagine the coasts of England to look like.

 

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Those few days we spent frolicking in the sand, barking at other dogs, playing board games and just soaking in all the wonders around us.

 

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It was the most perfect trip and I think Curie had a blast :)

 

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Smell the thunder.

Even after 9 months, my backyard continues to amaze me. It’s our first spring (we bought our house last June) and I had no idea this beautiful pink tree was ever even there.
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After doing a little research (aka Googling “Tree with pink flowers, WA”) I learned that it’s called the Thundercloud Plum and it not only produces fragrant springtime flowers, but it’s followed by a heavy crop of edible, one-inch-diameter purple fruits. Whaaa, did someone say FOOD?!
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Also good weather permitted Ben to mow the lawn (yay!) and our yard looks fabulous again. Curie and Voltaire are thoroughly enjoying it.
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Why is Voltaire the only one that poses for the camera?!
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Also I just couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful pink plume so I cut some (along with this other pretty red flower) and put them into a tea pot. Makes a sweet centerpiece!
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Bloom

A few weeks ago I saw these exquisite flowers outside of University Village Mall and it made my heart yearn for summer. No other flower in this world makes me happier than the ranunculus (save the cabbage rose or an unbloomed peony). I heard amazing things about Seattle in July. I can not WAIT.

Adieu 2011

You know a new year is approaching when you walk into Barnes & Noble and half the bargain shelves are stacked with 2012 calendars featuring cats, astrology, vampires and plant life. But oh boy, what a year we have to look forward to: dragons, the presidential election, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit, London Summer Olympics, the end of the world, a total solar eclipse (visible only from northern Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean), lap tops that are even MORE super-thin than they currently are…

To be honest, I’m a little sad at how much people hated 2011 and how eager they are for it to end. There were definitely some momentous and devastating events like the tsunami in Japan, the Libyan civil war, the formal declaration to end the Iraq war, severe natural disasters and ongoing terrorist attacks around the world, and the still-sagging US economy. But hey…we’re still here! We’re ALIVE and have the privilege to reminisce about 2011. Plus we don’t live in North Korea :)

(The chance of a North Korean reading this? Minimal)

So here’s to surviving 2011 and for a great 2012! *the sound of glass clinking*

As some of you already know from reading my facebook, I actually have a New Years resolution this year…and a hefty one too. My husband proposed just last week that he is going to embark on a vegetarian diet and (I never thought I’d say this) but I will too. How did a carnivorous, meat-loving gal like me come to this conclusion? It happened very gradually yet very quickly (wha?) Gradually because I’ve thought about the issue since last year but didn’t make the decision until just yesterday after watching an eye-opening video called Earthlings. This movie…will absolutely blow your mind and change your world. It sheds light on the very depressing, gruesome and real nature of pet stores, puppy mills, animal shelters, factory farms, leather and fur trades, sports and entertainment industries, and the medical and scientific fields that experiment on animals. Even though I’ve grown up on violent, gory films all my life, I couldn’t watch this entire video with eyes wide open…not without looking away every 20 seconds (but I did finish it). I held my dog the entire time as I bawled and sat on the couch in horror, watching thousands of cows, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, foxes, sea creatures, etc. being tortured and murdered in unbelievable ways. I feel like I have to explain one particular scene that really got to me because that was the pivotal moment…it’s what made me decide “Okay, I’ve had enough of this…what can I do to help? How can I end their suffering even just a little bit?” This part might be graphic for some readers so don’t read the next two paragraphs.
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It was a scene showing the conditions that mink, fox and raccoons undergo in the leather and fur trade. Hundreds of wild fox are captured and put in wire cages so small that some experience cage madness where they continually pace in circles because they’re not used to extreme confinement. They’re left there to wither away and fester in infections until finally (if they’re not already dead) they’re strangled or bashed in the head and then skinned. But sometimes, the humans carrying it out don’t even have the decency to kill the poor creature. One particular scene showed a fox being skinned alive, kicking and squirming for its life (without any anesthetic of course) as its skin was gradually pealed off of its body. I could not believe what I was seeing. It showed the now-skinned fox tossed on the ground…experiencing so much pain that it didn’t even know what to do with itself. I’ve never seen a skinned animal alive before and I never want to again. Its eyes were wide open and you could still see the eyelashes on the poor creature as it blinked just sitting there…a red, bloody mess with no skin or fur. Unspeakable horror. I will never forget it because it looked right at me.

Of course the other sections were just as abhorrent. Pigs were boiled alive while screaming and thrashing, conscious cows had their heads chopped off, chickens were de-beaked (their beaks cut off with a metal machine) to prevent them from pecking each other, cows were de-horned with rusty pliers (blood squirting out while the cows screamed in pain, no anesthetic), etc. After finishing the film, I couldn’t help but feel disgusted with man. I know that not all farms mistreat their animals and this should NOT represent the entire meat industry. But it DOES happen and it happens to an alarming rate of animals each year. Just to be clear, I am not opposed to eating meat from animals that are raised on free-roaming farms – animals that can eat food natural to their diet before coming to a quick, painless demise. But I am entirely and utterly opposed to torturing and murdering animals even for the sake of “food.”
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SO. How does me being a vegetarian help prevent this madness?

1) By not supporting large factories (discluding local farms that actually follow regulations) I’m making a statement that says I have respect for sentient life. I don’t wish any cow, pig, chicken, whale, dolphin, etc. to suffer on my behalf. If I find a local farm that upholds these values, great! I can eat meat! But I choose to be skeptical of mass-packaged grocery meat because there’s a big chance that an animal suffered.

2) Love of animals. I’m a mother to two dogs and I can’t imagine anything like this happening to them. Their level of intelligence is NOT much different than these animals (especially pigs and dolphins) so how can I be okay with this happening to some animals and not others?

3) By going vegetarian, I save the lives of approximately 50 animals per year. This especially helps large factories because they’re already performing at max capacity (i.e. chickens can not even open their wings in their cages). Freeing up space allows animals to be more comfortable.

4) There are vegetable-based substitutes for every meat product imaginable (beans, nuts, fruits) and instead of eating a hot dog because I’m “bored”, I can now munch on a bag of trail mix and feel MUCH better conscientiously and nutritionally.

So there it is folks. My very long and emotional explanation as to why I’m going vegetarian. Sorry if this post started out all New Years Eve-y and then turned animal rightsy. Let me reiterate that I’m not against eating meat per say and I don’t hate anyone who does eat meat! This is an ethical decision I’m making for myself ;) And just so I can end on a somewhat happy note, here is a photo from thefancy.com showing Lego characters reenacting a scene from Inception. Haha, good night!

Motivational Monday: Green Living

Lately I’ve been feeling like I have a responsibility as an artist to create purposeful art (i.e. eco-friendly propaganda that encourages us to conserve energy and heal the earth, things like that). Yesterday I stumbled across a website called The Victory Garden of Tomorrow which provided just the motivation I needed. Joe Wirtheim has been creating garden and chicken posters since 2005 that educates us on resourcefulness and “America’s ambition to enter a better future.” It’s truly amazing how Joe does pro-bono work for organizations that wouldn’t normally be able to afford good design. And let me tell ya, good design is so important especially in situations like this because we all know that people are naturally drawn towards beautiful things and the effectiveness of these posters ride on aesthetics (yeah yeah, I tried to make a pun just now).

So I created some environmental posters of my own (starring Hipster Joe, a character I made up in honor of Joe Wirtheim) highlighting six things that each of us can do to reduce global warming. I derived all of the text and information from here. I had SO much fun with this project and I feel like I finally created something that broadcasts a strong message. These are things that I want to apply to my own life (easier said than done as we all know) but I’m glad I can at least use this art as a launching pad for improving my bad human habits.

I may or may not create more for this series since About.com lists ten. Enjoy!

Fall

Not to sound all “punny”, but I’m falling for this season. It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year and I can’t get over how red the leaves are. I was curious as to why they turn so red; apparently, glucose gets trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops, and the sunlight and the cool autumn nights cause the leaves to turn this glucose into a red color.

Well it’s settled then. Sugar is awesome and we celebrate it by passing candy out to children once a year. Yay!

Home sweet home

Well whaddya know. I found…the camera cord! To be more specific, it’s a USB cord that belonged to an older camera that just happens to work with mine. This is what I wanted to do to it.

But first thing’s first. The 14 hour drive from Utah to Washington wasn’t that bad (boring but bearable). At least it was scenic!

The hill that leads down to our home overlooks a beautiful lake. It’s weird but so far, I’ve lived in three very different climates: an island, a desert and now essentially a rain forest.

This is Mr. Rabbit. He was sitting in front of our house, ready to greet us upon our arrival. Creepy, no?

Curie and Voltaire exploring the new backyard. And an unsuspecting visitor.

There’s also an enormously fat cat that visits our yard every so often. I love watching cats waddle away :)