March 30, 2009

one more plug for prevention

I was wondering how to end the month of Colon Cancer Awareness when I received an email with this quote......

"Every time I meet a tree, if I am truly awake, I stand in awe before it. I listen to its voice, a silent sermon moving me to the depths, touching my heart, and stirring up within my soul a yearning to give my all."-Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels (1988)
This reminded me of my grandfather, probably because of his love of gardening and his land. I think whether he knew it or not this was how he tended his spirit. The author of the quote encourages us to look for spirituality in ordinary everyday things. I feel closest to my grandfather when I spend time in nature....and at the same time it touches my heart.

Being able to blog about Colon Cancer Prevention has also tended my spirit and hopefully, a few of you have been inspired to schedule a colonoscopy.

March 19, 2009

"I'll take some of that"

Hudson and Shadow eat together side by side, but Hudson usually becomes distracted by Shadow and his tall dish. He goes over and waits for Shadow to drop a few pieces of food and then eats them off the floor while standing directly underneath Shadow's belly. Hudson then stands and stares up at the dish. I wonder if he knows he will never be tall enough to steal Shadow's food?

March 16, 2009

Avalanche Pass

I wish I could bottle the feeling I get when I turn down the road to the Adirondack Loj and share it with people who think there needs to be a religious connection to spirituality. When I first see this view, and continue driving toward it's enormity, I take in it's awesome beauty, and actually experience an awakening of my spirit. If I could describe it I would say it is a rush of excitement and love and thankfulness all wrapped into one moment that is truly spritual. This feeling can last a second, a few minutes or longer if you allow yourself to be in it and focus on the powerful feeling that is greater than everything else...for that moment. Stress and strain of daily life is checked at the invisible door that opens into the peaceful easy feeling of the mountains as I leave route 73 in Lake Placid.

I hiked through Avalanche Pass and to the frozen shores of Avalanche Lake with my father on Sunday. We have talked about doing it for months and it appeared that we might not be able to get to it this winter. I recall standing on the top of Algonquin last September, looking down on the sparkling deep blue water of Avalanche Lake and feeling that it was a must do trip for the "list". My list. There is a mystical pull to this destination. It is one of the most unusual places in the Adirondacks. It is also one that is discernible from many of the summits.

The trail was packed down and icy from the parking area to Marcy Dam. We had yaktrax attached to our boots and did just fine with only their slight grip. There was no post holing and no slip sliding. We made it to the Dam in about an hour. It was so warm and sunny that we lingered here for about 15 minutes. It was Noon, so I ate one of my sandwiches. Totally against my better judgement~ I could not resist taking a picture and texting it to my friend Sheri who was busily working away this beautiful day in NYC. She quickly texted back that she wished she was with me. Me too, I told her. Off we went to make our way up the Marcy Brook Trail. The water was running, thanks to the thawing, and provided the nice babble of water that adds so much to the relaxation of hiking. We brought our weekend packs because they are big enough to hold our snowshoes. You are supposed to have them with you (read: on) during the winter months. However, the trail being so packed down enabled us to make an easy decision that we preferred not to use them. We made good time on this fairly level, smooth trail with it's rocks all snowed in. Apparently, there are ladders to0. We only saw the very top rungs of one ladder, a hint at how much snow there really still is on the trail. We made it the 2 miles past Marcy Dam to the Pass in less than 2 hours. The sky was indigo blue and cloudless. I hiked in fleece pants and a long sleeve underarmour t-shirt. No hat and no gloves the entire day. It was like early summer, but with snow still covering the ground, and no bugs. The first clue that you are at the Pass is that you break over the top of a long ascent and suddenly you are looking at one of the slides of Colden. Very Close up.

All of a sudden, I realized why it is named "avalanche" pass. I got a little panicky thinking about the possibility of melting ice or snow giving way in this very narrow area of trail. I could hear dripping and popping and an occasional tumble of falling ice and snowballs. Needless to say, I moved quickly and snapped photos even quicker. About 5 minutes later, after a short descent, the narrow pass opens into Avalanche Lake. The temperature on the backpack thermometer registered 70 degrees in the sun as we ate lunch on some rocks facing the lake. We spent about 25 minutes soaking up the view and the warmth and appreciating the moment. There was no wind, no clouds and the 10 or so other people that we saw were very far across the lake from us. They were seen but not heard. Phew! I am not big on sharing conversation with the other hikers at this particular moment. Actually, it annoys me when I have to overhear conversations about current events or medical issues or anything else for that matter. I think it negates the calming feeling. Avalanche Lake doesn't care about the latest hype and that moment, neither do I. Don't get me wrong, I am all for being pleasant and even helpful....on the trail. Just don't walk 10 paces behind me and loudly examine the meaning of your life thus far. That HAS happened to me, no exaggeration.

We packed back up and reluctantly, as always started back for the parking area. Another quick trip through the narrow cliffs of the pass. We had seen a ranger who politely asked us to wear the snowshoes on our way out. He said they were trying to protect the trail in order to keep it ski-able. Since we chose to ignore him, I have to say, I spent a small amount of the return trip worrying about him jumping out of the woods and reprimanding me for not having them on. I think because if I were a ranger, I would totally do that to people. Good thing I am not a ranger.
On the way back we checked out 2 of the 3 lean to's. One had a journal and we spent some time reading the entries. We got our answer about the prevalance of bears in this area that is too- close-to-marcy-dam-to-not- have-problems. Sure enough several entries mentioned a bear with a tracking collar passing through, ripping apart their "bag", ignoring their "canisters", sniffing around, etc. NOPE, Corin and Mark will NOT be camping here.
The hot sun had further melted the ice on the trail between the dam and the lot. The last mile of the trek put us on slushy snow that made it seem like we were hiking in beach sand. I am sure that is what has lent itself to the strange soreness I have now felt for 2 days. Not to mention that this was our first, nearly 10 mile hike, in 4 months.

I very much liked seeing the flowed lands in summertime after our winter visit there. I feel the same about this area. Hopefully, I will be able to revisit Avalanche Lake to get the full effect of the cliffs meeting the water. Most likely it will occur on the day we plan to head up Mt. Colden. Which will be soon.

March 13, 2009

the real vet

We had our appointment this evening with our new vet (who will be referred to as the real vet from here on out). Hudson was the scheduled patient, but Dr. Jolie graciously saw Shadow as well. The reason for this is she thinks the conclusion that can be drawn from Hudson's terrible itching skin is that he has cheyletiella mites. These mites are commonly seen in 2-8 week old puppies and are often undiagnosed as a cause of itching. Of course, I am concerned that we obviously inherited this infection from his first home. I am wondering about the sibling puppies and if they are infected as well. Because Shadow was waiting in the car, the real vet was willing to see him to make sure he was not also infected. She doesn't think so, but ended up giving Shadow a FULL initial wellness visit while we were there.

She first wanted to know what food we were feeding Hudson and had print outs of ingredient lists of several types of food. She explained to us that any type of wheat gluten, corn meal and by-products were not present in any type of QUALITY food. She said the ingrediants in your dogs food should read like the food in supermarkets. We are sure the Orijen puppy food is good for Hudson. What we found out was that the Beneful we feed Shadow has the worst ingredients. We are in the process of switching him to "Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover" Food. It is about $7 more per bag than the Beneful. The Chicken Soup brand was one that the real vet used as an example of good ingredients.

It turns out that the real vet schedules her patients for half hour visits. She explained to us that many vets utilize a 15 minute patient schedule. She said there is no way she can do her job that quickly. She was not kidding. We happened to be the last appointment for the whole week and therefore, she spent 2 hours with us. Real Vet painstakingly went over Hudson's coat, taking samples of skin cells and debris from his coat and studying them under a microscope. All with us in the room. Her technician was just as knowledgeable and offered suggestions to the real vet from their past experiences with like cases. She decided to treat Hudson with Ivermectin orally, which after 6 weeks, cured another little guy in the past. She also provided a medicated shampoo for us to use. Hudson weighs 1 pound and 3 ounces now. His staples were removed while I held him in my arms and not a peep was made. Not from him and not from Reagan. This real vet included Reagan in the conversation and often spoke directly to her. She commented on how mature she was for 4th grade. Funny, we were about 40 minutes in and no one had been traumatized as of yet. Reagan and I joked that it would take 100 Hudsons to equal the 107 pounds of Shadow. Somebody needs to go hiking :)

When it was Shadow's turn, of course he was a bit hyper and vocal. The real vet didn't mind. She acted like she actually liked him. She wasn't rushing at all. She felt him all over. She talked to him. She asked lots of questions about his 9 year history of skin problems. The real vet decided to test his thyroid, as this could be reason for his very oily, flaky, reddened skin. Pretend vet never did anything except give him cortisone, benedryl or antibiotics. We left with a medicated shampoo for Shadow as well, which will take care of his oily coat for now, while we wait for the blood work results. Umm...get this....the tech was kneeling, hugging shadow around the neck and talking softly to him while the real vet was sitting on the floor in front of Shadow drawing his blood. It was quiet and uneventful. They took the time to clean his ears too because they were particularly gunky~ another sign of a thyroid condition. I am pretty sure seeing this done will prevent Reagan from pursuing a veterinary profession. We decided that Shadow had even more earwax than her brother (he asks every morning on the way to school if his ears are "fine").

Interestingly, she bills once per year for a wellness checkup and any other visit is free. You don't pay for other office visits, only the shots or medication that is given and prescribed. Dr. Jolie uses this system, because she doesn't want people to hesitate to bring their pets for re-checks and follow ups. They scheduled us for a two week appointment before we left. She will call with Shadow's blood work results prior to that.

Now that, people, is what I expect from a professional who is supposed to be in the business to take care of animals~not harm and traumatize them along with the littlest of yorkie owners. This has been a long time coming. I feel happiest that Shadow will be better taken care of by a real vet in his golden (no pun intended) years.

March 8, 2009

when i look to the sky

a friend of the family, Shawn Kelly, a DJ for 95.9 played this on the air for my grandfather. just before his funeral. it became a bit of a theme song over the year that followed. i like to listen to it every once in a while. especially today.

March 6, 2009

gentle on my mind

I have a sort of love hate relationship with the months of February and March because they denote the last few weeks of time spent with my grandfather before he slipped peacefully away from us at the end of his courageous tour of duty (more than a battle) with cancer. He was first diagnosed with Colon Cancer in 2003. He had surgery to remove a very large tumor and then took two courses of chemotherapy to reduce the risk of recurrence in the colon and elsewhere. He didn't like the way it made him feel. Not that he ever complained or appeared sickened by it. He just decided that he would not take a third round, explaining to us that the doctors had told him "they got it".
We all spent the next two years sharing his enthusiasm for gardening and the plain old family time that no one took for granted anymore. Rarely did we give the cancer a second thought. By this time both he and my grandmother had licked different types of cancer. We were home free. Not.So.Fast. In early January 2005 he began having severe pain in his side. Ironically, it was identical to the pain his sister in law was experiencing. Shortly after her diagnosis of liver cancer, it was confirmed that he too had liver cancer that was a result of the colon cancer metastasizing there. He quickly became jaundice and the pain was severe enough to send the strongest 81 year old I've ever known, to the hospital. That was February 4th of 2005. The cancer doctors jumped into full swing, however the cancer was blocking a duct of his liver. They could not operate and they could not give chemo until his bilirubin levels were at a much lower level because his liver would not be able to metabolize the chemo and it would do a lot of harm and no good. So, my grandfather spent 3 weeks in the hospital WAITING for the levels to come down. We spent together time and alone time with him at the hospital. My family literally took over the hospital family room for 3 consecutive sundays in order to continue our traditional coffee and donuts. My sister's little girl was 4 weeks old and he was more interested in her than the donuts. She learned to "talk" to her old gramp way ahead of she knew if she was going to get her chance she had better get at it. The writing on the wall became more and more obvious. He was not getting better. Nor was he going to. The doctors kept plugging away, keeping hope alive in all of us. The nurses (read~angels) were the brave souls who finally confirmed our fears and encouraged us to talk to the doctors. We found that the doctors who battle cancer WILL NOT STOP the battle until the patient or the family suggests that possibly they've done all they can. And why wouldn't they. Who wants to be the one who extinguishes hope and instills the reality of a NO WIN, truly life or death situation for people who love each other. The only way you can wrap your head around believing such an awful truth is if you come to the conclusion on your own or as a family. And this cannot happen, until you have watched an entire staff of specialists work what you hope is going to end in a miracle. In our case, my grandfather's case, the miracle was in the gifts we were given after he decided he wanted to be home. Before he left the hospital, he asked each of his nurses to sit with him while he told them how important their work is and how amazing each of them was to him during his prolonged hospital stay. He quietly grieved his own impending death and outwardly gave the most graceful end of life performance. His home was filled with brave visitors, who all knew they were coming to say goodbye. They prayed with him, made amends if they needed to and all heard positive messages from the man who had always seen and praised the good in all of us. Our last week with him was no different. He was the kind and gentle man he had been his whole life. We watched mets baseball spring training, my sister's basketball game tapes, cooked good food, searched out vanilla peanut butter ice cream of which he ate just enough to taste, he talked about regular stuff and he talked about the really important stuff, mostly with his daughters. Three of them. He told my grandmother how beautiful she was each time she walked in the room and made a fuss over the kids just as he always did. We listened to his old records and he told us which were his favorites and why. We played dice while he still could. He encouraged everyone to have a colonoscopy. He commented on the beauty of the early morning sun rising over his fields. I was lucky enough to be one of the people holding his hand as he passed on...I can't think of a better gift from god. As my mother urged him to run to greet his mother, a warm, peaceful feeling swept through me and remained an entity in that room for a measurable amount of time. It was real and precious. I can still feel it if I sit quietly enough and really remember. Cancer is A LOT of things sad. But it did allow a perfect, seemingly orchestrated, good-bye. Grampa began his next journey, absolutely knowing how loved and important he was to all of us. We'll be looking for him on Sunday...the 4th anniversary of his passing and my grandmother's 84th birthday.

March 5, 2009

New Vet

I made the switch today. The new vet clinic first told me they have a waiting list, but when I mentioned my breeder friend by name, they got Hudson and Shadow immediately in as patients. Hudson will get his staples out at the new vet on March 13th. They tried to calm me by saying that sometimes these things happen, because puppies are so squirmy. Their opinion was that the vet should have had a tech in the room helping to hold the puppy rather than the owner (dan). They agreed that Hudson should continue on the antibiotics now that he has a wound. The receptionist explained that when I arrive for the first appointment they will have me sign releases for the records from the previous vet. Upon further consideration and urging from my people (blogger friends etc), I have decided to stop in at the vet and pick up shadow's medical records and whatever couple of pages they now have on Hudson. While I am there, I am going to demand that they refund me at least what it will now cost me at the new vet for them to remove the staples. Probably $40.00. How that goes will determine............. how large a can of whup-ass I open up on them. Stay tuned.

March 4, 2009

Unnecessary Roughness

This little guy had his second vet appointment today. We were establishing him as a patient with the vet we have always used for shadow. Note that I said the vet we have always used for shadow, not the vet we LOVE for shadow. There is a husband/wife team of doctors at our vet clinic (which will remain nameless, but not because I want to protect it). We like the wife but the husband usually has NO bedside manner with the pets and we try to avoid him. Having quickly made the appointment during my workday, I failed to request the wife. Dan and Reagan were on duty today to bring Hudson for his appointment, which was to include his second round of shots and a look at his itchy skin. The breeder had taken him with his siblings to their first appointment for the initial shots and had previously had their flaky skin tested for anything more problematic that just plain dryness. 3 weeks ago the skin condition was nothing and today upon recheck.....the vet SLICED our puppy open trying to obtain a "scraping" of the dryness. Hudson required 2 STAPLES to close the doctor inflicted wound...STAPLES..because his skin is so thin that regular stitches wouldn't hold the cut closed. Needless to say, Reagan is completely traumatized by SEEING this as it occurred to her precious baby and then apparently witnessing the vet stapling him closed which prompted much yelping from him. In case you are wondering the doctor did give the crying Reagan a half hearted apology for what he had done. The breeder happened to call our house about an hour after this ordeal to remind us about a party this weekend that we are attending and Reagan could barely explain to her what had happened. When I got on the phone with her she was LIVID. She had tried desperately to encourage us to switch to the vet she uses, but we were hesitant because of the distance and therefore inconvenience. She asked what the heck this guy was thinking, using any kind of scalpel next to a little yorkie to scrape skin. She explained that her vet had merely parted the puppy's skin and used a piece of tape to remove skin cells which she then viewed under a microscope to determine that he did not have a skin disease or illness that required medication. Our so called "vet" has recently given up his equine practice....I think he thought he was still working on a horse rather than a 1.4 pound dog. Where is the common sense when you are working on a fidgety, little, fragile yorkie. This idiot is never getting his hands on Hudson again. Oh, yeah....we left with a wounded animal and PAID $67.00 for the pain and suffering of Hudson and a completely hysterical Reagan. At the very least he could have comp'd the visit. A longer drive to Saratoga is in order and the breeder even offered to help us in a pinch if we ever needed her to drive him there. Now we can just hope that he heals without issue. He is on antibiotics and is supposed to return in 10 days to have the staples removed. The new Vet will remove the staples....I'll be calling them in the morning. Shadow's coming too.

March 2, 2009

The BodyGuard

The tough girl in the brown leather is Sherilee, the blonde is her boss.
"I thought she was a stripper," said Costa, a helicopter pilot from Tulare, Calif., before he found out that the woman was Lynn Tilton, the owner of one of the nation's largest helicopter makers."Very cool," Costa said in disbelief. "You know she brought that company back from the brink of destruction. She's our rock star."
My friend Sherilee wears alot of hats for the company she works for, but this takes the cake. Here she is on the front page of the LA Times Business Section. She does EVERYTHING for this woman, including hair and makeup (not the extensions!!) when they travel and now it appears she is adding Body Guard to the job description. Go easy on that poor old guy, Sheri!
They have been at a helicopter show in California, they were recently in the Dominican Republic (where they had real bodyguards and met Sammy Sosa) and they are due to go to the middle east soon. As we were laughing about this photo she quickly said she had to go. Apparently there was a 9:00pm staff meeting. Yeah, she said the full office was still there at work. NOT because of the snow they got in NYC today either. No wonder reality show producers are calling from LA. My 8x10 autographed glossy is in the mail.

March 1, 2009

Bald Mountain * Rondaxe Fire Tower Hike

With only the promise of a mostly cloudy sky, my father and I set out to snowshoe up Bald Mountain to bag another fire tower. We got on the road at 9:30am for the 2 hour drive northwest to Rondaxe Road which is situated about 5 miles out of Eagle Bay but before Old Forge on Route 28. The road is on the right and very easily identified as there are several new and easy to read signs on route 28. Very unlike most of the other trailhead signs that are scattered along the route above Warrensburg. We slowed down and sometimes stopped at each brown and yellow trailhead sign on the way in order to read the destination of each. This took only a little extra time and it is nice to know where all these places are for future reference. With one stop at the Indian Lake Stewart's Shop, we made it to the large parking area at 12:10pm. The sign in register has a nice depiction of the history of the fire tower and the observers. We quickly decided that the trail, beaten down enough that it looked like a sidewalk, would allow us to hike with bare boots again! I was happy to be able to wear my regular hiking boots rather than my snowshoe winter boots. The roundtrip is only 2 miles. It seemed that the gentle up and down nature of the hike, coupled with about three areas that were semi-steep, went quickly. It really is an easy, quick hike. You are treated to open views at 3 locations on the way up, giving a beautiful reward for very little effort. For us, the unseasonable warmth was like heaven. The sun was HOT and it was 51 degrees in the sun at the summit. I stripped layers off until I was wearing only an underarmour long sleeve shirt along with my snowpants. For most of the hike I didn't wear my hat in order to further regulate my temperature. It was amazingly warm and felt great! The snow was slushy in spots which helped because had it been cold, there probably would have been more tricky ice to navigate. We reached the fire tower almost too quickly. I've never said that on Hadley Mountain. At the summit, there was NO wind and more SUN. It could not have been any more perfect. I wanted to climb the firetower before we ate our lunch. The tower is completely restored and felt very safe to climb. When I reached the cabin, I excitedly noticed a round table like map. Sure beats trying to hold a paper map that is flapping in the wind while you try to name the peaks and bodies of water you are looking at. After seeing this tower, I am all for donating to restoration projects. From the summit you have a 180 degree view from Southeast to Southwest. Nothing North. But from the tower obviously North is visible. Even though we had a clear cloudless day, none of the high peaks were distinguishable (not even Marcy which is supposed to be 55 miles North of the tower). Our unhurried pace got us to the summit in roughly 50 minutes. We spent at least 45 minutes soaking up the awesomeness of our Sunday (read:church service) hike. Back to the parking area in about 30 minutes. My father mentioned also climbing Bear Mountain, which was just down the road. However, that would have been an additional 3 hours of hiking and we still had the 2 hour drive home. We opted instead to take a drive up the Big Moose Road in Eagle Bay to take a peak at the snowed in Chapel that my father's parents and my sister got married in. Rarely do we get to see it in the winter except during a special trip such as this. All of the trailheads on the Big Moose Road offer large parking areas and again, very well maintained register booths with information or maps.

We saw lots of deer today. In fact, very near the summit today we saw a couple of deer tracks. It is unusual to see them so near the TOP of a mountain. We also saw evidence of rabbits on the summit. On the way home, when we got to Indian Lake and the Cedar River Road (which leads to the Wakely Mountain trailhead) we drove down it a ways to see if there were deer being fed. There were not. Which is good because you aren't supposed to, but bad because we wanted to see some that would not run away when we stopped to take their picture. We lost track after seeing 25 deer that were dining on bushes near the main roads rather than on our side trip. This was a special day. My family has a lot of roots in the Old Forge, Eagle Bay, Inlet, Stillwater and Beaver River area. My father's mother taught in Beaver River before transferring to the Inlet Common School. Like I said my grandparents and sister got married in the Big Moose Chapel, my grandfather played clarinet in a jazz band at the long gone Eagle Bay Hotel where they met. My family owned 1,000 acres of land in Eagle Bay and around Big Moose Lake but gave it up when property tax was instituted. They didn't believe in paying rent for property they already owned. Another great-great aunt married a man who was an Adirondack guide and they lived in a cabin in the woods, taking in boarders in the summer/fall, earning enough money to live all winter back there. Their name was Higby and the Cabin was off the now Higby Road, which intersects with Big Moose Road. These were the stories my father was sharing with me. I know only the very minimum of this family history. I do know that it can be easily found in the books God's Country and Big Moose Lake. Trips to this neck of the Adirondacks have a very nostalgic feeling for us. It was one of the best days yet. Course, there's no place I'd rather be, than hiking in the Adirondacks so they all rate pretty high.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Having a Colonoscopy prevents Colon Cancer.