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Beauty, Patience, & Dog Food

This past weekend as I was working in the yard and exposing my oh-so-pasty legs to the sun for the first time since last summer, I thought about beauty, and the patience it often requires. Effort too, to a certain extent, but while I trimmed the rose bushes and maple saplings and cleared away last year’s weeds, it occurred to me that while in that moment it felt like a lot of effort to facilitate growth and eventual beauty, the effort on my part wasn’t actually necessary.

The thing is, despite the dead leaves and weeds and dead grasses, the roses were budding out (and in one case, growing new canes under the weeds), the trees were budding out, and geraniums were pushing up through the dead leaves. Nature really does “find a way”, no matter what we do for (or to) it. And even weeds can be beautiful if we’re not trying to keep them from strangling our favorite “domestic” plant or tree.

Beauty is a very subjective thing, of course. We used to have an apple tree in the backyard that I absolutely adored. Every spring, it would bloom with these huge clusters of single pink flowers that filled the yard with a divine scent – especially at night. It provided shade and privacy for the yard, and the apples it produced were small and tart and perfect for just eating or making all sorts of fun treats with. I found great joy in just watching the flowers in spring, picking the apples in the fall, and having shade from the hot afternoon sun.

My husband, on the other hand, hated that tree. The sprawling branches that I found intriguing and interesting just got in his way while he was trying to mow, the fallen apples made a mess all over the lawn and attracted yellow jackets, and the leaves were just one more thing that had to be cleaned up in the fall (along with any leftover apples).

Needless to say, the tree needed to be trimmed, and when we decided to replace the back fence it was growing by, hubby happily said the tree had to go. They could have worked around it, I think, but I knew hubby would never be happy with that tree in the yard, so I agreed to let it go.

Yes, I miss it. One day hopefully our maple trees will be as tall and provide their own kind of beauty to the back yard (without annoying the hubby). Will we put effort into supporting them with water and nutrients and pruning? Absolutely. But they’re tough, and I’m fairly certain that without any interference from us, they’d still leaf out and be beautiful every summer. It’s just the destiny of a tree. Or a rose bush, as it were.

In other, completely different news, I’m on the hunt for new dog food again. For the second time, a favorite dog food brand made in Canada has set up a plant somewhere in the southern US, and I hate to say this, but even though the ingredients list doesn’t change, the quality of the food goes way, way down when that happens. Murphy and Mica are both having problems with the food they’ve been on for several years now, so it’s time to find new foods for them both.

This sounds like it should be an easy task, but my dogs are never *that* easy. Murphy needs fish, and lots of it for the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega-3 oils. Too little omega-3’s, and he’s gimping around like he’s 80yrs old, due to the self-inflicted damage and resulting arthritis on his right front foreleg. Good omega-3’s, and he’s hopping around like a puppy. Magic.

Yes, we can supplement, but it’s a tough balance without a predominantly fish-based food to start with (too much fat alone is just as bad as not enough). There are few foods out there based solely on fish, and none raw that I could tell, so we’re going to try a dehydrated human-grade food instead. Hopefully that will work, otherwise it’ll be back to reading a million dog food labels again. Oh goodie! Said no one ever.

I’m going to try a dehydrated food for Mica too, though he’s hard to find food for too, because he’s allergic to pretty much any grain and…yes, he’s allergic to fish, too. Trying to find a kibble without added fish oil is next to impossible. The food he’s on right now used to be fish-free, but they added herring oil awhile back. He can tolerate it, but it’s pretty obviously not optimal for him. He’s an odd dog in that he doesn’t do well with raw feeding either (tried that back when I was making Lucy’s food from scratch), so raw is out too. I’ve considered cooking for him, but it’s a big time commitment (which is why I stopped making raw food…though I regret that, which is another story for another time).

I have to order the fish-based food in specially…our local pet shop carries The Honest Kitchen dehydrated line, but not that particular food. She’ll order it if I ask her too, but I want to have Murphy try it first, to make sure he’ll do okay with it. I got a box of a limited beef-based/grain free version for Mica to try, and gave some to both dogs last night with no ill effects, so I’m optimistic, but you just never know.

It’s expensive, but health always is, it seems. I haven’t always been able to afford specialized diets, and I did the best I could (especially with Lucy’s very specialized needs). That’s all any of us can really do. But I do feel like I need to make the best choice I can at the time, which generally involves a lot of label-reading and googling and gnashing of teeth until I find something that “might” work. And then there’s testing, and trying again, and maybe trying something different….

Crazy process, that, but if I’m patient *and* put in a lot of effort, I should be rewarded with beautiful dogs in good health for however many years they have left (too few, at this point).

Except they’re already beautiful, without any effort *or* patience on my part. Which is exactly as it should be.

What kind of beauty have you noticed recently? Did you put any effort into it, or was it just…there?

On New Audio, Maple Trees & Blind Dogs…

For those of you who like/prefer audiobooks, I’m happy to announce that MacKenzie Saves the World is now available in audio! You could grab a copy on Audible¬†at the regular price, or…you could comment on this post (here, FB, twitter, wherever), and I’ll gift you a copy for free. It’s a comic-shop themed contemporary romance (hence the title and cover), and I found it both incredibly difficult and personally satisfying to write.

In other news, my husband and I spent a good chunk of our weekend planting new trees, and doing yardwork/cleaning up our patio. Last November, we had some crazy freeze-thaw cycles that knocked half the trees/shrubs in the whole city out or back several years, and two of the three baby trees we planted didn’t survive. The lone survivor was a maple tree I didn’t even order, but just got for free with the other two.

So when I found some nice, bigger maple saplings while shopping at one of the local hardware stores, hubby and I decided maples were the way to go. We both love them, and they’re pretty hardy/fast growing, so we planted both an Amur maple and a Crimson King (Norway) maple. Hopefully within a couple of years they’ll provide good shade for our west-facing backyard and patio so they’ll be usable in the summer again. Our shade grass might pop back again too – the sun is just too, too hot back there right now!

As for the rest, we have a few landscaping projects on the go for this year, just to make the yard and patio nicer, but we also had to start getting the patio cleaned up and rearranging some things due to the Lucy-dog suddenly going blind last week.

She was fine Sunday/Monday, and by Tuesday, she could barely see. By this past Saturday, she was running into things, missing stairs and getting lost in the yard. I’m taking her to the vet Tuesday morning to see if there’s an underlying cause, or if there’s anything we can do for her, but I think we have to realistically expect that this is a permanent condition. So we’ve been trying to make things safer for her, one thing at a time (because every little change is very disorienting for her now), and working with her to learn where things are as well as new commands to help her navigate things like stairs and new obstacles.

She has some other symptoms that possibly indicate either Cushings disease or diabetes. Personally, if it’s one or the other, I’d rather deal with Cushings. Lucy already has Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), which means her body doesn’t make the enzymes needed to digest food. So I pre-treat/pre-mix her food, feed her three times a day, and supplement her with B12 and a few other things that help her get nutrients from her food. I’m constantly watching how she looks & acts to see if adjustments are necessary. It took me a good 6 -8 months just to figure out how to feed her when she was first diagnosed, because these dogs all respond differently to the different nutrient profiles of foods (for instance, Lucy does better on higher animal fats, and doesn’t do well on lean meats, so beef is important, and at least some raw is vital for her). Of course she can’t digest anything that hasn’t been treated with enzymes, so we have to be careful with between-meal treats (and she’s luckier than other EPI dogs in that she can handle some treats okay).

Lucy’s 8 years old, which is considered a senior dog, but she’s still very active and incredibly smart – she doesn’t act old at all (German Shepherd/Lab mix). I’m sure she’ll adjust to the blindness eventually (and so will we), and we’ll just have to see what the vet says about the rest. I’m doing my best not to worry too much about the diagnosis (and hoping it’s neither of the two most likely), but it’s easier said than done. And then there’s the whole issue of getting a newly-blind 95lb dog into a car, out of a car, into a “strange” building, and back home again after fasting for 12 hours (which is incredibly hard both physically and mentally on a dog who quite literally starves without the correct food at routine intervals).

It’s going to be an interesting week…


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