color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Shreds

Well, the day is fast approaching, a mere handful of said days away when…

… you leave for Thailand?
… you move out of your house?
… you sell your car?

No.  It is none of these things…

I apologize now if this post is long and becomes a downer to you, but for me it is something very real.  Very close.  And very much not-looked-forward-to.  At all… and I need to get it out.

In about a week and a half, I will be giving up a piece of my heart, never to be returned.  I will have to take my furry little companion to someone else’s home, someone else’s family… and leave her.  Now, I know some of you out there are thinking “oh, she’s just a dog. Get over it.”  But, have you ever met Lily?  She’s not just an animal I can “get over.”  Let me tell you…

Lily

Lily

Lily came into our lives the day after Thanksgiving, 11/30/07.  We had been researching and researching and researching all different breeds of dogs and their characteristics, personalities and traits – as well as their suitability and adaptability to moving with us to Thailand in what we knew would be our future.  That was a HUGE factor in our decision to add a small creature to our family.  We had thought and prayed and really considered the feasibility of bringing a pup with us overseas, because if it was not possible, I (a complete animal lover) was utterly opposed to the idea of getting a pet to begin with.  After all, what would be the point in raising an animal, having it become a part of your every day life, only to leave it in a couple of years?  Useless and almost cruel, right?

So, after spending a month or so checking into what seemed like 100’s of breeds, as well as all documentation and processes necessary to move a canine across the world, the decision was made to get our first dog.  We first visited a bulldog breeder about 45 minutes from us.  Wow.  Those lil buggers were like little white bricks running around the room, knocking into any and everything that they wouldn’t bust right through.  Thay were adorable! …until we saw the parents and just how HUGE and imposing they were, as well as how much work to maintain they would be.  An English Bulldog would not be right for us (or our checking account…).

We paused our search for the Thanksgiving holiday and made a trip to see my family in Illinois, but I just could not get this one breeder out of my head.  I kept seeing pictures of their pups online.  I couldn’t stop thinking about these little dogs called “puggles.”  We drove back Thanksgiving night to Indiana, and it was the very next day that changed our lives forever… that’s when we met our little pup named Lily.

Brook had called a breeder a few hours south and found out that they were willing to let us come that very evening and check out the pups they had left from their most recent litter.  So, we jumped in the car, full of excitement, after supper and made the trek out to see what these “puggles” were like.  We had no idea if we were going to choose one to take home or if we were just going to see some cute pups as we had before with the bulldogs… but when we saw Lily, we fell in love.

Lily and 2 of her brothers were the only ones left.  The 2 boys were rowdy and wrassling, jumping all over her to get at each other.  When I walked over to their pen to greet the pups, Lily was at first timid, but then she walked right through her brothers to greet me with a sniff and a lick.  She was kind, quiet, and well-behaved.  After we’d been there a short while, she came over to my side of the pen and silenly pawed at the gate for me to come play with her.  So, of course I did.  From that point on, she had to be near me.  Whatever side of the pen I walked to, she went there as well, and whenever I stopped, she sat down.  We had an instant connection, and I knew she was mine.

I held her close, and she right away just snuggled into my arms.  She fit just right.  She was so tiny at barely 9 weeks old, so wrinkly, and so soft.  She literally could fit in just my hands.  After a good amount of chattter, when the breeders realized which of the pups had chosen us (yes I said it that way on purpose), they at first tried to make us “test out” the other pups again.  They knew she was special.  They knew she was one of a kind.  They had become connected to her, too… and weren’t sure anymore that they wanted to let her go.  But, the wife of the couple saw that Lily had, in fact, chosen us… and that meant a lot.  She took the wee pup, gave her a final bath, and said her goodbyes.  She actually cried when we left, and I am now finally starting to understand why…

We took Lily to the car, proud new parents we were, and couldn’t wait to get her home with us.  She actually snuggled right into my winter coat, wrapping her head around my neck and under my chin, and fell asleep.  She wanted to be close, and once safe, rest.  Halfway home, we realized we had nothing for her – no bowls, no bed, no toys, no collar, no leash! Consequently, the next WalMart sign that shone bright against that past-midnight sky would be our destination.

Brook, theone who used to make fun of others for doing the same thing, eagerly left Lily and I in the car to go splurge on his new canine daughter.  In what seemed like 5 hours to me (in all actuality only about 35 minutes), he had picked out a pink leash, some pink toys, a little collar with pink and blue bones on it, and some other little things for the pup.  I can’t tell you how adorable it was to see him caring for her like that, and how concerned he was about us when he came back out to the car…  J

We brought her home and stayed up most of the night acquainting Lily with her new home and playing.  She immediately took to us and tuckered herself out getting to know us.  She slept on a folded up bathtowel between our pillows (yes, she was that small!) for the firs few weeks, as we would be gone during the daytimes at work – the breeder had suggested this for bonding.  We took pictures and videos, Brook bought her a little sweater so her hairless tummy wouldn’t drag on the frozen ground, bought her real bowls, food, toys, a bed, and all a little dog would need… she was ours.

As she grew, she eventually slept in her crate at night… but that didn’t last long.  We missed her being close.  So, back to the bed she came.  She never got up at night, woke us gently in the morning with a nudge of her nose, and never ever barked.  Honestly, we didn’t know if she even could bark for the first few months she lived with us.  The only peep I’d heard out of her was a little woof while she was asleep and dreaming!

Lily has also come close to death twice in her short life.  Once on New Year’s Eve 2008, due to a bad reaction to a booster vaccine given earlier that day.  The second time,  this past winter when we discovered the pancreatic condition that would soon prevent her from being a part of our family forever, as I had planned… and each time, she struggled quietly.  She just stood and looked at me until I scooped her in my arms and prayed.  Both times, I held her close, calming her, soaking her with my tears, and praying to God that he wouldn’t take my little “rock” away from me.  And each time, she came through.

She has kept me company many nights when Brook has been outon hospital calls.  She has licked away my tears when I’ve been alone, upset, or hurt.  She has been my little walking buddy when no one else would go.  She longs to be near us at any given moment – laying with one part of her touching each of us if she can make it work! – safe, secure, and loved.  She is expressive with her little ears that shoot up at the mention of certain key words, such as outside, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and daddy.  She has a little underbite that causes her bottom teeth to stick out.  She has big eyes that seem to always be fixed on one of us.  She is well-behaved.  She is good with small children.  She enjoys when company comes over.  She is decidedly playful.  She is very loving.  She adores people…

… and soon I will lose her.  We’ve left her for a week or two at a time before, and with every trip she is always there to greet us at the door when we get home.  Tail wagging so vibrantly, her whole back half seems to be warped.  But this time, she won’t be there when I get home.  That will be hard to accept, hard to get used to, and I have no idea how long it will take me to adjust.

This is, perhaps, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.  I’ve had dogs before, all through my growing years, but never have I had one so loving, so personable, so connective, so expressive, and so completely mine.  This time, it’s different.  All dogs are different, and maybe you’ve only experienced those who are more “just an animal” living in your home… and that’s okay. That’s what you know.  Lily is not one of those, nor do I think she ever will be.

There are times I think God placed her in my life, in our lives, for a reason… and I can think of so many.  But, what I can’t figure out is why He now wants to take her from me.  Why did He create her to develop this condition that would make her travel and survival in Thailand no longer feasible?  Why is it that He created such a bond between us only to have it soon broken?  Why is it that He brought us through intense trauma not once, but twice, only to separate us?

I don’t know the answer to so many things and that’s okay, but this is one thing I wish I knew…

Pretty soon she will become part of a new family.  A great couple with grown and growing children.  People who fully understand her illness and are comitted to caring for her in the best way possible.  People who I believe will love her… but it still won’t be me.  Brook has to constantly remind me, it’s better to give her the chance of living a longer and healthier life in the States than risk her not surviving the trip and spending her last few hours alone in a crate in the cargo hold of an airplane, simply because I couldn’t let go of her…

I don’t know if her canine mind will really be able understand what’s going on or not, why she won’t see us again, but if she ever could understand any of the words I’ve spoken to her, I would hope Lily knows that I’m only leaving her because I love her…

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , | 2 Comments

I’m back…and I’m planning to stay!

Alright, alright.  I know it’s been some time since my last post…

and the fact that it’s been nuts with leaving our jobs, going on a cruise with family, travelling all over the eastern part of the US, finishing up our ministry at the church, beginning packing and cleaning out our house, finding a good home for our puppy Lily, getting ready for a family wedding, visiting family, seeing people, and speaking in numerous churches, and more, all within just the last few weeks…

… is no excuse.  😉

Now, anyone who knows me, knows I love food.  I love to eat it, love to make it, love to invent it, and most of all LOVE to serve it to hungry bellies.  So, I thought it proper and fitting for me to re-enter the (consistently fom now on, I promise!) blogging world with a piece about one of my favorite consumables.  Salsa.  But, not just ANY salsa.  Noooo.  A fruit salsa.  Pineapple, to be exact.

Ever since our first official BBQ (hosted by us, in our own home – a big event to someone like me), this has been requested whenever we get together with people.  Seriously, it’s just that good.

This scrumptious topping for chips, crackers, tortillas and the like, was adapted from a meal I found in a magazine a few years ago.  It was originally supposed to be cooked down a bit and used as a sauce for chicken fingers, but I decided to use it otherwise.  Omitting a few ingredients, changing the ratios of a few others, and serving it cold, I introduced a cool pineapple salsa to our BBQ world…

… and now I’m going to share it with you.  I mean, after all, I’m not going to be around for every party here in the States amymore, and somebody is going to have to keep the tradition going in my absence, right?  And maybe – just maybe – every time you make it or eat it, you’ll think of me.  You’ll think of us in Thailand and perhaps offer up a prayer.  You have any idea how great that would be?  Well, it would be great.

So, without any further delay, here it is.  My colorful and refreshing pineapple salsa.

1          20 oz. can crushed pineapple, in juice
1          large red sweet pepper, chopped –
1/2      large red onion, chopped
1          small handful fresh cilantro, chopped *
1          large jalapeno, chopped **
1 – 2    Tbsp lime juice (to taste; I prefer Key Lime juice)
1/4      tsp salt
1/2      tsp ground cumin ***
Dash fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adding last 4 ingredients in list at the end.  Chill for at least an hour before serving for best taste.

* I like to hold the bunch in my hand and snip it with kitchen scissors.  It’s nice and fresh, easy and keeps from crushing the leaves.

** Jarred jalapenos work just as well, and actually help the flavor spread through the salsa quicker if you’re in a pinch.

*** I never really know how much I put in, I just start with this much, taste it after a half hour, and add more if I want.  But, be careful!  You can over-add this ingredient if you go by taste when first mixing.  Wait until it has time to soak in before deciding if you want more… if you add too much, your salsa will become bitter.

So, go now and make this.  Mix it up with different colors of bell peppers.  Serve it up with pork chops.  Just eat a giant bowl with blue corn chips (like me!) while you enjoy the spring breeze.  But, whatever you do, don’t eat it all by your lonesome.  This food likes company…

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Food, Personal | , , | Leave a comment