Category Archives: Flock Stock and Barrel

Peanut Was Here

Joel started a bedtime routine with Peanut many years ago. He’d place her on her bed, pat her lovingly, tell her she was a good girl (whether or not she had been that day), reminded her of how much we love her, and to have sweet dreams. It made her perky little ears and forehead wrinkles go slack. Soon after she’d drift off to sleep. Signaling the official end of the day, she seemed genuinely soothed and relaxed by the whole process.

I adopted the routine when Joel had to be out of town. She always had one or both of us telling her every evening that she was a good girl, that she did a good job for the day, and that we loved her. At some point I added, “Thank you for being here,” because I wanted her to know, in whatever way an animal can know, how much she mattered to us and that we appreciated her being part of our family.joelardenpeanutfamilyportrait

As luck would have it, the very day we decided that we needed a little Peanut in our lives, there was a little Peanut out there who needed us, too. Paperwork from the sellers reflected that she hadn’t had an exam in a long time. As such, they told us that we could return her and get our money back if a checkup revealed any issues. A checkup revealed a bladder infection, an infection in both ears, and cloudy eyes that would require daily drops if we wanted to try to save her vision long-term. Returning her was not an option.

peanutcollection2As her third set of parents, we promised her that this was the last stop and that we’d take care of her forever. From that day forward, our family life evolved into discovering different ways that we could all enjoy spending time together. Bringing her into the fold gave me a sense of completeness. I’m sure it’s similar for any couple that adds to their family; it’s all about caring for, loving on, and spending time with one another. Even as a kid I always longed to be a dog mom and knew someday I’d have a furry little bundle of my own when the time was right. Our little family meant everything to me.

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Peanut gave me a Dog Mom shirt for Mother’s Day

She was my morning coffee buddy and office mate. She watched basketball with Joel. She kept my secrets. She passed messages between Joel and I when we were avoiding speaking directly to each other. She knew when we needed comic relief. She was the reason we discovered how much we love walking through forest preserves. She could also be fickle and adorably naughty which we found completely endearing. We were suckers in love with that little dog and she knew it.

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Peanut was always up for whatever, whenever. Naps, car rides, walks – she was in. 

We made accommodations for her when she started having some physical challenges due to neurological issues and age. Through trial and error, we found ways to help her that worked well. We made more accommodations as the challenges continued through the years. Despite those challenges, we made life work and we all hung in there, enjoying the gift of time together. It was our mission as her mom and dad to make sure that not only was she as comfortable as could be but that she knew she still mattered to us immeasurably as a member of this family.

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Then, we sensed that we were in a time-frame of last chances to appreciate being together, before those chances were gone. It’s bittersweet to have that time and yet hear the clock tick louder and louder. I knew that Peanut was not exempt from the circle of life, but still…

It’s impossible to articulate the agony of making the decision to free her from a body that had done its very best through the years but was failing faster and faster. I would have done anything not to let her go but she deserved to be free. We owed her that.

Even though she had a full, long life and was loved beyond measure, I was not remotely prepared for the intensity of the grief that began the moment we parted and the most unbearable ache that surrounded my heart. That little dog did more for me and meant more to me than she could ever know.

I actually spent more time with Peanut in those twelve-and-a-half years than I had with Joel. More of a homebody who has worked from home, we were hardly ever apart. From life’s happiest joys to the most painful sorrows and every little thing in between, she had always been there for me. I treasure so many wonderful memories and am grateful for the time we spent together, but the disbelief that our story is over and the degree to which her loss still crushes me varies by the day.

Coincidentally, Peanut and Joel shared a birthday. For the first time in 13 years he won’t have his birthday buddy sharing a celebratory dinner and desert. She would have been 15-years-old today.

Peanut, you were a good girl, you did a good job, and we will always love you. Thank you for being here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twelve-Year Pugiversary

Joel and I were seconds away from meeting the dog that was advertised for sale in the local paper. As soon as Joel opened the door to the apartment complex, a then two-and-a-half-year-old Peanut* came trotting from around the corner of an open door and down the hall. “CLOSETHEDOORSHE’SESCAPING!” I yelled. Joel replied, “She’s fine, she’s not going anywhere.”

These would be the roles we would play as her parents for the next twelve years.

Peanut 5 4 04 Homecoming

Her first day on the job of being our best buddy.

I became the overly-protective fussy mother and Joel became the fun dad, the calming voice of reason and the guy she could count on for the “better” treats (certainly not healthier but generally better tasting).

Today we celebrate being a family of three for twelve years.

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First family photo.

Much of last year was rough; we didn’t know if we’d reach this milestone. Peanut became very ill. Specifically, she had a MRSA infection and she continues to struggle with those original symptoms from last February which include nasal congestion that still varies in its intensity. Those issues were masking the effects of age that were obviously continuing to happen in the background–the arthritis and trouble that has evolved over time with a wonky wrist and shoulder. Our attention has since turned back towards pain management and mobility support. Now, her vision and her hearing have become rather limited as well.

To say that it has all taken its toll on me emotionally would be an understatement; it’s hard for me to see Peanut this way. Joel handles it much better than I do. He doesn’t like it either, of course, but I’m glad he can be strong when I can’t be. He reminds me that none of us have been cheated out of any time. Quite the opposite; we’ve had more time together than we thought we’d have. I realize this is all part of the journey but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

Arden Peanut Office Mates Then Now

My coworker has been sleeping on the job for 12 years and counting…

I’d love nothing more than to keep this post totally upbeat and fun, but over the past year I haven’t been able to help but think about what we’ve had to say goodbye to and the precious things we’ll never do again. However, it has made me cherish the unique, quirky, and intimate opportunities that come with loving and caring for a senior. Hide-and-seek has become me banging on the ground, pointing to treats, and pretending that she found them first. She is now hand-fed her meals from a cart because she has a hard time standing bent over and seeing food in her dish. Not all of it has been precious though, a lot of learning how to navigate and roll with the changes has been frustrating and downright heartbreaking.

These milestones have become more and more bittersweet.

I could never write a post that truly captures what Peanut means to me because it would never be complete. Heck, I wasn’t able to write this post, which looks nothing like the first few attempts, without crying my eyes out. I’d forever be writing and editing.

From whether or not she needs a coat to go outside, might be getting sick and needs to see the doctor, or has had one too many treats already FUN DAD, she tends to be what Joel and I end up squabbling over the most. She is, after all, our baby.

At 8:00 this morning, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the pug was snoozing peacefully at my side having just finished her breakfast. Joel and I will both leave work early so we can take a group stroll. It is all just as it should be and I am grateful. Happy Anniversary to us.

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*The people selling her, the second set of owners, referred to her as Princess. According to some paperwork in her folder that we were given, the name on her registration papers is Pretty Pretty Princess. Joel and I both quickly agreed that we’d change it but keep it somewhat similar so as not to totally confuse her. She is peanut-colored, hence the name Peanut. Ironically, we found out shortly after giving her peanut butter-flavored treats that she was allergic to peanuts! Peanut and Pretty Pretty Princess are only two of the countless names we’ve called her over the years (most others being too silly or nonsensical to mention).

Peanut already had pups and was spayed before we got her. I suspect she was originally purchased and bred for a profit, then sold off to her second owners. Over the years I have tried to find our grandpugs with no luck. I’d simply be interested to see what they look like and learn more about them. Perhaps their parents would be interested to learn about Peanut’s health issues, too. Peanut is registered with America’s Pet Registry, Inc. Her mother (dam) is Accardi’s Blossom-Whynonna and her dad (sire) is Rowdy B. I believe the breeder was from Joliet, IL, first owner from Aurora, IL, and the second owners from Elgin, IL. Her date of birth is 12/24/01. If anyone has information on the offspring from a pug named Pretty Pretty Princess, PLEASE reach out.

A 30 Year Old Dream Comes True

As many times as I stared into those cool blue peepers on paper, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think they would stare back at me. 

It was the end of my birthday weekend extravaganza, and Joel and I were finishing up dinner at a restaurant. I spent the past few days doing exactly what I wanted to do and I had more fun than I could have imagined. I was in a fantastic mood.

That’s where this story begins.

Towards the end of dinner, Joel said that there was one other thing he had in mind for my birthday but wanted to ask me about first before buying tickets since it was music-related. Ahhh…he knows me well; I’m not much for plays or musicals. “What’s that?” I asked, intrigued by where this was going. “Well, it’s a concert with a meet and greet after the show.” At that point I just didn’t know what to think. I started to assume that it was likely someone he wanted to meet and hoped I’d be his +1. “He’s English.” Hmmm…I started to wonder which English singer he liked. “Some guy named Adam…”

I froze.

“Ant” he finished.

I burst into tears right there at the table.

“Had I known this would be your reaction, I would have told you sooner!”

Adam Ant Flair 1984 and in 2009

On left: Displaying Ant pride with button flair on class picture day in 1984.
On right: Displaying Ant pride in a concert tee on grocery shopping day in 2009.

I had two months to consider my meet and greet strategy. A few times while thinking about scenarios of how our brief encounter would play out, my side of the conversation would go from charming and delightful to adoring which turned into desperation, until I had finally reduced myself into a sniveling mess of tears and panic. I called Joel a few times to say I couldn’t do this; it was stressing me out too much.

Arden Leather Pants Chanukah 2

I was the only kid at school who wanted leather pants for Chanukah so that I too could look like a Dandy Highwayman.

I was 10 years old when I first watched his “Stand and Deliver” video on MTV. I recall crying hysterically by the end of the video and deciding immediately that I must have an Adam Ant poster. In desperation, a poster was created that evening (probably well past my bedtime) using poster board and markers. They were the moments that I’d become a fanatic for many years.

Adam Ant Barbie Doll

I had quite the eye for detail, hmmm? This is the work of a twitterpated tween. Bite marks on the arm were from the dog. 

Every feeling I was experiencing in the present was the culmination of all those tween years worth of wishing, hoping, praying, and wondering if I’d ever get the chance to meet him. It was a dream that just slowly faded over time.

Wall of Adam Ant

Wall decor and accessories courtesy of Teen Beat, Bop, and The Alley at Woodfield Mall (Schaumburg, IL) procured in the ’80s.

There was already a small line formed outside the venue when we arrived. I couldn’t help but bounce and clap from my spot in line every few minutes from the sheer excitement. I looked like a grown-up but I was a kid again inside. Once we were let in, we found a spot just three people deep from the front of the stage. We were sure to get a great view and hopefully some direct eye contact.

Below are some pictures from the The Blueblack Hussar Tour concert in Chicago on August 1st. Adam Ant and his band did not disappoint. They gave it everything they had for two hours. They played new songs as well as many retro classics that had all of us singing loud and proud right along with him. It was an excellent concert and we all had a fANTastic time! I hope he comes to town again; I’d attend another concert in a heartbeat.

Adam Ant Concert 2 Adam Ant Concert 1

After Adam was situated for the meet and greet, I watched other fans go one by one up to meet him and get autographs. I felt an odd sense of calm right before it was my turn. It was going to be OK. I was going to be OK.

I was not OK. When I started to walk towards him to say hello, I didn’t realize I had my shaky hands covering my mouth as I started to mumble unintelligibly, so he leaned in to say he couldn’t hear me. It did somewhat work out in my favor, however, because I got an extra hug and a soft “there there.” Now, I can personally vouch for the gentleman’s comforting skills, too.

Arden at Adam Ant Meet and Greet

On left: This is what I look like trying to smile while in a state of shock.  

As he started to give me his autograph on what I had to sign (the new ticket stub, a 1984 ticket stub, and a photo of me in front of my Adam Ant posters) I thanked him for everything he has given to his fans through the years. It would have been great had I stopped there, but I think what I was saying sounded good in my head so I just kept going. And going. My nervous energy was unstoppable and I’d have loved to hear his thoughts but I never gave him the chance. I did, however, also mention that it was not a coincidence that I had the poster lined up “just so” and had likely kissed a hole right through the paper. That garnered a super-sweet smile in response.

Joel’s portion of the meet and greet is simply a blur to me, but he later filled me in on telling Adam that I would not be the person I am today had it not been for his influence through my formative years.

I left the building with the feeling of disbelief and the scent of his cologne in my hair. Isn’t it funny how someone you hardly know except for what you listen to and read about can be so influential? How impactful it can be to be seen and acknowledged by someone who really strikes your fancy?

I find myself as intrigued by Adam Ant now as I was back then. In the past, I was quite captivated by his visually pleasing features, the full regalia, and lyrics that were a bit too mature for me. Now, I completely admire his candor about his personal life and his efforts in moving forward in his career. He has taught us once again that “ridicule is nothing to be scared of.” 

Arden 1983 Adam Ant Posters

I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, “Hang on kid, it will happen. It WILL happen. Just give it a few decades.”

Intake Bird #106

Joel called me some time after lunch to ask what he should do about a little robin that was hopping around a parking lot where he was working. I asked him why he was asking. He explained that he was in a large parking lot hosting an outdoor event and had been watching a little robin that had been running around the lot for some time.

“It has been aimlessly hopping against the brick building and against windows for a few hours, gaping at anything that comes near it.”
“Hours?”
“Yes.”
“Has any parent been trying to feed it?”
“No.”
“You haven’t seen any bigger robin hovering around it?”
“No.”
“Does it seem like he’s trying to feed himself?”
“No.”
“Do you see a nest?”
“Yes.”
“Can you place him in or by the nest?”

This is when I got a very detailed description of the setting, represented by the graphic below. The screen shot is the lot where Joel was working. The arrows represent everywhere the bird was hopping, including making his way towards a busy four lane road. The dashed yellow line represents 10 foot-tall fencing around spindly trees at least 30 feet high where Joel saw two nests. He said that placing the bird at the bottom of the trees would mean thrusting it through the fence and leaving it on trash-littered gravel.

where baby bird was found

I asked Joel to place him in a box by the trees (represented by the red box) where he could keep watch for the parents just in case they found all those scary big blue stick figures too intimidating. Another hour came and went with no parental care.

“Bring him home.”

Around 7:00 that evening, Joel walked quietly through the kitchen from the garage and gently handed over the box. I pulled back two of the four flaps and saw an older nestling/young fledgling-aged American robin on a branch snoozing away with his head tucked under his wing. I fixed up a nice little nest for our new house guest by lining a small plastic bowl with tissues and placing him in a towel-covered enclosure so that he could rest safely, comfortably, and quietly for the evening.

orphaned baby robin guest

Our little guest’s next trip was to the wildlife center. In three years, this was my first time bringing in a patient. He became bird intake #106. Not only did I get to care for him during my shift, it hadn’t been more than a few hours before he was joined by another orphaned robin that also needed a little extra time before braving the world on his own.

Over time, he was joined by several more robins and I got to continue caring for them all on my shifts. I was happy for him because it meant that he and the other birds were learning how to be robins.

I was able to be there and take photos on the day of release. “Our” robin was released with six others on a beautiful, sunny day to an area thick with trees and vegetation.

robin release peeking out

They were hesitant at first to make a move when the door was opened. Within about a minute, one robin jumped up and took flight while the others cautiously peered out. Slowly but surely, one by one, the others came out of the cage and took flight up and in to the nearby trees.

robin release peeking around a little further

The American robin is a common bird across the North American continent. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “…only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.”

Were the car trips, daily feedings, and daily cage cleanings for this one little common bird that odds say won’t live that long even worth the effort?

Robins show us how to enjoy a bath like it is Christmas morning. They assure us that winter is  over and spring has once again arrived. They tell us that it’s time to wake up with their dawn song. Some of their hearty and spirited calls sound like laughter, as if they just heard a really good joke. They pump their tails in time to their chirping, and that’s just kind of cool.

Aside from my own selfish ideas about their value (read: entertainment), I can only assume that if the birds got a vote, they too would raise a wing to say, “Yes, it’s worth the effort.”

released robin in the tree

If Mama Sparrow Ain’t Happy Ain’t Nobody Happy

The title of the recent article “The More Feathers a Male Sparrow Carries to the Nest, the More Eggs the Female Will Lay” from Science Daily, sums up the very point of the news piece. While not too surprised that a good provider would generally encourage more offspring from a mate, it was still interesting to me to learn that female house sparrows (very good customers of ours) will spend more energy in laying eggs in a nest lined with an abundance of feathers supplied by the male. The more feathers there are, the more insulation from cold for the chicks, increasing their survival rate.

I like the lady birds thinking.

What I found completely endearing though was the description of the female’s reaction to an experiment of removing some feathers. It reads, “They also observed that when the females noticed there were feathers missing they animatedly called the males and the male sparrows responded by bringing more feathers and dancing around the female on his return to the nest.”

So even in the bird world, when a female sounds the alarm “Hon? HON! What happened to the feathers? We need more feathers! NOW!” Her faithful male hops to it and not only gets her her feathers, but calms her and makes a show of having fulfilled the request and prancing about as if to ask, “Is m’lady happy now?”

What a good guy!

male sparrow

If you’re not the biggest bird fan or maybe just not a fan of house sparrows, consider what these bird couples do that are not so unlike us.

A Dear John Letter to My Women’s Lifestyle Magazine

Dear Popular Women’s Lifestyle Magazine,

I regret to inform you that I am officially breaking up with you. After almost two decades together, I’ve come to realize that it is me, not you, who has changed. You are who you’ve always been, but I am no longer in your target demographic. I need to move on.

Arden at the office 1996

About the time when we first got together in the mid-90s.

I fondly remember when we met, back when I had very different goals and expectations from life. I had an idea of who I wanted to be, and at the time, I’m sure it was right. We had so much in common back then. From fashion and skin care to dating advice and general women’s  issues, we just clicked. Stories were new, educating, thought-provoking, and life-affirming. You introduced me to new products with clever marketing that (somewhat) promised to make me feel special and happy. We spent lazy Sundays catching up over coffee. Getting together was a real treat.  

Now, I find myself quickly skimming articles that simply no longer interest me. We’ve been discussing these exact same topics for years. I’m all set with what I deem to be very common sense office etiquette. Our concept of fun couldn’t be more different. I grow concerned each time I see models displaying clothes on hunched frames that seem to scream out for orthopedic intervention. With expressions often so sullen, so vacant, not only do I not want to buy the clothes, I want to take them out for coffee and ask them what I can do to help. I balk at your “price upon request” items that I wouldn’t purchase at the county flea market. Is that really how we want to spend extra money after bills are paid? I can’t help but roll my eyes at styles you show me that I unfortunately found myself in decades earlier that don’t exactly compliment the figure of the average woman. I can now afford those pricey products but often choose to buy from the just-as-good, if not better, less expensive competition, especially because I’ve learned that those things are not what make me feel special and happy. Last but not least, I genuinely hope that I’ll never need dating advice ever again.

I can only imagine how hard it is to keep so many of the same topics fresh and exciting. Every once in a while I do come across an article I find appealing, but it’s just not enough to stay together. I want you to know that you still have so much to offer…someone else.

I acknowledge that you’ve worked hard to get me back several times, and while I do appreciate the attractive “We want you back!” rate and free tote bag, if it’s not right then it’s not right. We can’t keep going back and forth. I’ve already started seeing other publications specific to birds and home decorating, and I’m having a lot of fun.

Not to rub it in your face but there have been a few other lifestyle magazines watching our relationship fall apart that are trying to capitalize on the opportunity. I’ve been courted with a free six-month subscription from a new publication targeted more towards my current demographic. I was excited as I went through that first issue in the hopes that this one would “get me.” By the time I reached the end however, I already had misgivings about making any kind of commitment. Not to be hasty, I went ahead and read the second issue. While I admire their efforts, we just didn’t have enough in common. I can’t blame them for trying but there won’t be a new subscription there either.

Thank you for all you’ve given to me through the years. I wish you the best.

-Arden