Monday, February 28, 2011

My Friend Wren

The Madster and I are out for a walk. It's a windy, snowy day on the last day of February, my Dad's birthday to be exact. The snow is blowing off the trees in sheets and periodically I pull my hood up to fend of the bursts of wind. Still, we both are enjoying the freedom of the countryside and continue on up the road. Up ahead I can hear the snowplow coming back down the Irish Line and beyond that, our neighbor Wren is out in his tractor plowing snow. Maddie eyes the tractor with interest and glances back at me now and then to make sure all was safe. Wren see's us and pulls the tractor off to the side and shuts down his tractor in order to chew the fat like we've done on many occasion as I've passed by his house on a walk. We've talked about everything from the weather, animals, our families and especially how the trainings going with the dog. Today as he shoves open his tractor door, he starts out the the conversation the same old way. "Well how are ya today Liz?" "Good Wren!" I reply, then I ask him how his heart is because in the fall he said he was waiting for a valve replacement. They were taking one of his out and replaceing it with a pig's valve. "Oh nothing wrong with my heart." he replies. But the next thing out of his mouth puts me in a state of shock. "Doc says I got the lung cancer and I got 6 months to live." Now what in Hell is a person supposed to say about that! "Geez Wren, that's too bad, how's Rose keeping?" My stomach drops like a stone, I want to say "Jokes on me right Wren?" But his liquid blue eyes are serious and the only thing I could think of to say was, "And there you are still smoking a cigarrette I see!" "Yep," says Wren, "Ain't nothing they can do for me, so I gots to enjoy something. I am 80 years old ya know!" "I guess so eh Wren?" I answer quietly. He's lost weight now that I look closer, and his skin looks thinner and I think to myself that he looks like my dad did before he passed away. But under his worn out old cap his eyes are still bright and the same twinkling blue as always and that comforts me. " I just gotta get out and get some fresh air." he says, "Or ya just give up. Well, gotta get back to my plowing. Have a good walk Liz." "Ok Wren, you take care and say Hi to Rose for me!" "Will do." He shoves the cigarrette back between his teeth, reaches out and pulls the tractor door shut and starts up the tractor. I give him a wave and then tell Maddie to come along and we head up the road to finish our walk. But the light step I was walking has now become heavy as I walk away from Wren's tractor in disbelief. I can't imagine walking up the road in the future and not seeing Wren out in his garden, or driving his tractor, or getting his winters wood ready for next winter. Not being able to stop and shoot the shit with him or him insisting I take home some fresh picked potatoes or beans from his lovely garden. But for now I'm going to not think about that and every chance I get, I'm going to make sure I stop and pass the time of day with my old friend. It's news like this that makes a person think. Lifes too short and this fact seems to be proven to us over and over again. So take it from Wren. Enjoy every day you have!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


She was never far from my side. My husband Don used to say she'd crawl up my ass is she was given half the chance. I used to laugh at this but somehow I do believe its true. Funny thing was I wanted a black and tan pup. Yep, not a blonde pup, the nice little female black and tan. But Don over rode me. "I want the blonde." he said. Maybe this is because he got stuck with a brunette for a wife and wanted to at least have a blonde bitch out of the deal! So I looked back longingly at the little black and tan and got in the car and drove home with Don's blonde.

I remember how tiny she was. Hailey had a little purple coat with a hood on it and when they were playing outside the pup would crawl into Hailey's hood to try and keep warm. We had to decide on a name. Hailey wanted Strawberry. No way in Hell was I going to lean out the door yelling "Here Stawberry, come girl!" I always wanted to name a dog Quill, but Don thought that was just as bad as Strawberry, so I came up with the name Kinley. I used to like the country singers the McKinley sisters so I shortened it up a bit and voila. Kinley, and it stuck. Except it was such a strange name people would call her Kingsly, Kinnlin, Margula, (not sure where that one came from) and of course I had to have a nick name so most of the time she was called Bin Bin. It suited her, what can I say!

As small as she was it didn't take her long to grow. She soon became very tall and lanky with the weirdest ears you'd ever see! They sort of stuck out like wings. Mom often thought she had greyhound in her but apparently she was just shepherd, lab, and collie. Somehow though, I think a hound got tangled up with her momma at some point cuz she sure had the attention span of a hound. Very short! And she trotted like a hound too. She had the most beautiful side stepping gait! Her and I used to walk. Up and down the Irish line we'd go daily which would be about 6 km's in total. She used to love to walk. She'd be outside mucking about and if I was getting ready to go for a walk she would know this and start running from door to door crying and prancing about until I came out the door. Man she'd drive me crazy with her foolishness, prancing and whining and jumping around till we got going. Then of course she'd be flying ahead because she was on the trail of something but she'd always come running back to make sure I was still with her.

I don't know how she survived as long as she did because my Dad ran her over with his golf cart one day, and if you've ever noticed, there's not much room under a golf cart. "God damned stupid dog" Dad would say. My son Randy also ran her over with the snowmobile. She'd run forever chasing us on the machines and one day she cut across in front of Randy and over her he went! He said it wasn't on purpose, but sometimes I wonder! Her and I have encountered many a critter on our walks. Many a bear, a deer, a racoon or two, but her favorites were the squirrels. She'd sit for hours under a tree waiting for a squirrel to come down it. Then the chase was on! My husband Don was working in the garage one summer day and the dog was barking and going crazy running around the garage. Don not having a long fuse temper wise promptly stuck his head out the door to tell her to shutup only to have a squirrel almost run across his face. Kinley was chasing the damned thing around and around the garage and it was running sideways on the garage doing laps!

One of my favorite memories of Kinley is when we used to have a sand pile in the back yard. The kids had all their trucks and toy horses out there and would play for hours. Kinley loved to dig and if you said Digadigadig, she'd go crazy digging in either the snow or the sand. This one day both Randy and Hailey were digging holes in the sand and right between them was Kinley. She'd be digging away, stop in mid dig to lean over and look to see how the kids holes were coming! Then she'd continure gleefully digging hers! But don't touch her hole or she'd show you every tooth in her head! Which had many! She'd never bite, but Randy used to like to tease her by sticking his foot near her hole and she'd bite warningly at his shoes! This is mine! Step back from the hole! She never got many car rides because she was so big , when a truck used to go by she'd leap menacingly at the window to get the truck and you could literally feel the car sway.

Her and I used to love to spend time at the pond below the house. She could swim in the summer and explore all over it in the winter. On a warm winter day we would sit on Cakers Island, basking in the warm rays of the sun, letting the world go by. Sometimes we'd be accompanied by the cats Willy and Lilly but usually it was just me and Binnie.

She was hard on herself. After years of chasing snowmobiles in deep powder at full speed, her hips started to give out. We stopped letting her out when the snowmobiles were running because you couldn't make her stop chasing them, sore hips or not. Our walks started to get shorter as she started to hurt. And I started to get fatter. But we did manage to go on short walks , mostly to the pond just to sniff around and enjoy the peace together. She surprisingly tolerated the new pup Maddie we brought home. I don't think she liked us much for it but she took it in stride like everything else. Not long after we got the pup, I was sitting on the couch petting the two of them because you couldn't pet one without petting the other, and I found a lump on Kinley's side. I slid my hand up to her neck and found a huge mass of lumps from one side of her neck to the other. I felt sick! When the hell did these appear! But we decided not to take her out to the vet because by now her hips were really bad and she was starting to show her illness. We decided to try to nurse her through the winter best we could. But this was not to be. About a month after Christmas the weight started falling off her and her bowels were giving out on her. We came to the decision we weren't being fair to her anymore.

I made the awful phone call out to the vets and my friend Deb made the appointment. She's been a big help thru the whole ordeal may I add. I wasn't able to take Kinley that awful day. I had to work and couldn't get out of it. So poor Don had to do it. The night before though, I took her for a walk down to the pond. The silly old goof was in the lead the whole way to the pond. Trotting along, tongue lolling out, sniffing at all the good scents a dog loves to smell. We walked across the pond in the moonlight. It was cold and the stars were shining down on us. And we just let her do her thing which was sticking her head under the fresh snow, sniffing under sticks, checking out the deer and coyote tracks left behind.. and then we headed back up the trail together for the last time. I'll miss you Kinley! Be good old girl.