Tag Archives: Fiona

Revisiting grief unexpectedly

2 Mar

After a great day at school, an exciting first day of the Slice of Life Challenge, and a quick and uneventful drive home, tears welled in my eyes. I had just opened the mail to this:


Fiona’s license renewal.

You think your heart has had enough time to heal and then this arrives in the mail and the wound in your heart opens again.

Fiona went to the Rainbow Bridge on November 10, 2015 – two and a half years ago. She was a sickly girl with chronic ear infections and skin issues, but she left a huge hole in my heart when she left.

Tomorrow I will write something happy or funny. Today, I will just remember my lovely girl.




Of dogs and adventure

11 May

Fiona went to the Bridge 6 months ago today.


I don’t cry any more, but I still miss her. Sometimes I call Lucy by the wrong name, or nickname. Not often, but it is the little things that make me remember. Lucy gets a lot more attention these days and I worry about her welfare. She has a better life than many people in the world.

That’s why Dan Gemeinhart’s The Honest Truth  made me so angry.


Mark, the main character is sick and runs away from home with his dog. He is a hard kid to like because of his anger, but it is his reckless endangerment of his dog that had me throwing the book across the room. I almost didn’t finish it because I was terrified about his dog’s welfare. Fortunately, Mark learns the lesson he needs to learn and that made persevering to the end worthwhile, but it was really touch and go for a while. Honestly, the dog was my favorite character.


Publisher’s Summary:In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day. But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier — even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

The Honest Truth  is a 2017 OBOB book, which is why I am reading it. I’ve started my prep for next year’s OBOB season. I also have an arc of his newer book, Some Kind of Courage, which came out in January. I hope I like that main character better.

Coming out from the shadow

15 Nov

It’s been a hard week. Saying goodbye to Fiona left me exhausted.

It’s a good thing Lucy is here.

Lucy_sideview  LucySandwich

She doesn’t seem sad that Fiona is gone and, surprisingly, that doesn’t make me angry. It is actually a relief. I always like to say that Lucy was Laurel to Fiona’s Hardy, and she has continued so. She has been very playful and seems to be coming into her own, now that she’s out from Fiona’s shadow.

It has also been a week where we have ramped up our Morris Committee discussions. ALA will announce our 5 finalists on December 1st, so we have some decisions to make before then. During those discussions, I’d noticed a couple of references to Sarah Dessen. It was usually a comment like “This would be a great book for fans of Sarah Dessen.”


I’d noticed her latest novel, Saint Anything,  was hugely popular, so I decided to listen to it in the car during my, now longer, commute.

Publisher’s Summary:Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Just like Lucy, Sydney is a good girl in the shadow of an older sibling who takes up a lot more of her parents’ attention. Saint Anything is a quiet contemporary YA that are about friendships, family and ordinary girls (although Sydney is somewhat affluent). This was the perfect read for this week. If you are looking for a great book to read during a rainy weekend that evolves subtly and creates a rich emotional landscape full of small changes, this would be a good choice.

Last ride

10 Nov


Later today, Fiona and I will probably take our last ride together. She’s been failing slowly over that last few months, more quickly the last few weeks, rapidly this week.

I’ve been looking for a “sign”, the sign they always tell you about. The one Clara gave me when she was ready to go. Louie gave no sign. We came home from a walk one day and, while I was getting ready for school, I heard a “thunk” in the living room. He was gone before I got there.

But, Fiona is a fighter. She’s fought cancer, bounced back from the surgery to remove a rock in her intestines, suffered my ministrations as I cleaned her ears every other day to fend off  chronic ear infections. She’s fighting now, too, but this time, I can see that she isn’t winning. For the last week at bedtime, I’ve been telling her it’s OK if she doesn’t wake up. I’d understand. But she is a fighter.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And so, after school today, we will drive to the vet. I am expecting that she won’t be coming home, but I don’t know that for sure. Vets won’t euthanize a dog that shouldn’t be euthanized, but I think he will.

Here she is in 2009, a year after I got her. This has always been my favorite picture of her.


Funny how it is so much easier to write about this than it is to talk about it.

In and out of fashion: A Slice of Life Story

13 Oct


What’s a girl to wear?

Poor Fiona had surgery last Tuesday to remove two rather large fatty tumors that were protruding from her chest and dangling like two sweater puppies, if you catch my meaning. At her age, 14, I wouldn’t have considered the surgery but for the fact that they drooped off her chest so far that one was getting perilously close to the ground. I feared if I did nothing, those low hanging fruit would eventually begin dragging along the ground, becoming infected, unless I found a bra to fit her Rubenesque physique.


Fiona, age 7 (2008)

When I picked her up after the surgery, she was wrapped in a sleeveless sweatshirt that was tied up in two places in topknots held together with stretch bandaging. The location of the staples, about 50 in total, was such that the cone of shame could be avoided, but, she still needed to keep her wounds covered.

I had reached out earlier to the online basset hound community asking for advice. I got several good answers, the best seemed to be children’s undershirts. I’d picked up some cute little girl’s camis thinking they would be perfect.Colossal failure. Even though I tried them frontwards and backwards, they fit not cover the staples.  I tried cutting the straps and tying them better cover the incisions, but this, too, failed. So I fashioned a covering out of one of my t-shirts.


This required a large knot at the back, and pinned sleeves, but it worked. The next shirt was a much better color for Fiona.It, too required a knot and sleeve pinning, but it brought out the color in her fur that is much grayer than it used to be.


I finally found the perfect solution: boys small undershirts. The sleeves need no pinning. The middle is still a little big, but that problem can be easily resolved with a few more pins.


Fortunately, Fiona has been a good sport about wearing the shirts. Even so, I;m not planning on getting her a Hallowe’en costume.

Fiona’s 7th Gotcha Day

9 Aug


Seven years ago today, I drove down to the rest area south of Wilsonville where I met a volunteer with Oregon Basset Hound Rescue who would introduce me to Fiona for the very first time and then let me take her home.

It wasn’t an immediate match made in heaven moment. Fiona didn’t make eye contact. She didn’t try to run away and she wasn’t aggressive; she was just pretending it wasn’t happening. She paid attention to a flower stem nearby, but totally ignored me. She gave a little more attention to Louie, who I’d brought along to make sure they’d get along. They didn’t romp and play, but they were civil.

So, I packed both dogs into the backseat of my car and drove home.

Fiona spent the first three days sitting behind a chair in the living room. She peed, but didn’t poop. I was starting to worry.

And then magic happened on the third day.

At some point that day, she pooped. I’d already sent off a worried email to the OBHR folks wondering if I should take her to the vet. She pooped before I got a response. The real magic happened at bedtime. Although she had followed Louie & I into the bedroom for the first two nights, she chose to sleep on the floor. On the third night she jumped up into bed with us and I cried tears of joy. I knew everything was going to work out just fine.

So, here we are, seven years later. Fiona sleeps on the floor most nights now. She is arthritic and likes to stretch out and sleeping on my bed doesn’t allow for that.  We spend days on the sofa together, though. There is enough room there for her to stretch out on my left and Lucy to curl up on my right. Sometimes the space in between for me is tight, but I take it.

She is old now: 14-1/2. That is very old for a basset hound, whose average lifespan is about 9-12 years. Her back end is wobbly and most walks are only around the block. If she is really perky, we’ll go two blocks. She sleeps a lot and sometimes she sleeps so deeply, I check to make sure she is still breathing. So far, so good.



She was at the vet yesterday because she has a bit of a skin issue right now and I was worried it might be ringworm. It was a new vet because Fiona’s vet of seven years has moved. Dr Klau did a thorough exam, since it was his first time seeing her. She was down a few more pounds. One eye is cloudy, but she can still see out of it. Her heart and lungs sounded good and her abdomen felt just like it should. Fortunately, the skin thing isn’t ringworm, but a bacterial skin infection, so she is on an antibiotic that I hope does the trick to make her feel a little less itchy.

I often joke that she is so stubborn and so expensive that she will live to be 20. May it be so.

Happy Gotcha Day, Miss Fiona!




Waking the Neighbors

14 Jul


My normal summer routine begins by getting up around 4 a. m. to air the house out and cool it down. The girls, Fiona and Lucy, both basset hounds, usually get up with me. They get potted and have breakfast, then go back to sleep while I read or knit and watch the internal temperature of the house drop.

Somewhere between 6 and 7 a.m., the girls will wake up and we go for a walk. Fiona is old,  slow and sometimes tippy, so, depending on how well she is walking that morning, we will either do the one block loop or the two block loop.

We are a comical  sight to behold. Each girl is on 6 foot leash. Lucy, younger by 6 years,  is usually way out front. I call Fiona my back seat driver because she is stretched way out back of me. I am in the middle, arms outstretched, scanning the ground. You would be surprised, and possibly horrified, at what two bassets can find to eat on a walk around one or two blocks.

Last Sunday, we were out for a typical mosey. It was earlier, closer to six that to seven, and we were doing the two block walk. We hadn’t done it for a few days, so I was being very attentive to what was on the ground. Fiona was way back, but Lucy was rather close to me, snuffling along the sidewalk as if she were on the trail of something.

My mind often wanders as I walk, and this morning was no exception, so, when I saw the tabby camouflaged in the brown grass, I was surprised and screamed, “AGH!” It was loud enough to wake neighbors sleeping with their windows open, but not so shrill they would get up and call the police. I pulled the girls hard to the left and we successfully circumnavigated the tabby. The funny thing is, both girls usually go crazy when they see a cat and bark and lunge. This time, I was the only one to react. I guess I was loud enough for the three of  us.

The Ups & Downs of a Senior Pet #SOL15

4 Mar


A month ago, I celebrated Fiona’s 14th birthday.

Two weeks ago she had a successful surgery to remove a bloody lump. When I picked her up afterwards, the vet tech said the whole staff commented on how much younger she seemed.

Friday, her stitches were supposed to come out, but the vet tech felt they needed to stay in a few more days and I scheduled a new appointment for the following Tuesday.

Saturday, Fiona was weak on her feet and didn’t seem herself. She was clearly having trouble with her back end and walking was difficult. She slept most of the day and night.

By Sunday morning, she was herself again.

Yesterday, Tuesday, was stitch removal day. She was great in the morning and I left work a little early to make it to the appointment. When I got home, I could see she was having trouble walking again. I carried her down the stairs to the car and got her to the vet, where the staples were removed. Once we were home she pretty much stopped walking.

This morning, she seems to be about the same and I am very worried. Is this IT? She still seems perky and her appetite is good, but she can’t get around. My vet doesn’t work Wednesdays or Thursdays so the earliest I can get her in is Friday. I hate not knowing what to do.

Two birthdays

3 Feb


Fiona shares a birthday with one of my students. V turned 10 on Sunday and Fiona turned 14. I was excited to celebrate Fiona’s birthday, but worried about V’s.

V was excited all last week. He’s been talking about his party and his birthday. I do a birthday poster for each student who has a poster. Just a piece of white butcher paper with “Happy Birthday _______” in a bubble in the center. Throughout the day classmates can write on it. V and I had talked about his poster and he decided he’d rather have it on Friday than Monday.

V has had a tough life and has difficulty with some of his peers at times. He’s the kid you have to put a lot of time and effort into but you both end up being better people at the end of it. So, as his classmates went over to sign the poster. I reminded them that if they had nothing nice to say, they should just sign their name. By the end of the day V was pleasantly surprised at how full his poster was. I was, too.

As we left the room to go to the buses at the end of the day, V asked one of his best friends if he’d be able to come to his party. The friend replied that he wasn’t sure because of the Superbowl. That’s when I started to worry. I felt really sad for him, worried he’d be that kid, the one who hosts a birthday party and no one shows up.

Fiona, on the other hand, seemed unaffected by her birthday.


I made turkey cakes, with sweet potato frosting, which were the hit of the party. Fiona, as the birthday girl had hers served on Royal Albert china.


Yesterday morning, V came in happy and excited, claiming he was a little wired because he ate too much cake. He was thrilled because he got drawing pads and now had a pad to draw on at home and a separate one for school. He made a few funny comments about how much harder it is to be 10, but talked very little about the party. I didn’t press it. I was just relieved that it went well enough that he came to school happy.

14, 15, 16

30 Jan

Sunday is February 1st, 2015 and Fiona will turn 14.


 There were some points last year when I worried she wouldn’t make it to this auspicious day. I worry a little, too, because both Clara and Louie died when they were 14. Fiona has a tumorous lump on her back that is now bleeding. Fortunately, she just had bloodwork  done and it came back good. Dr. Davies, our vet, has given the green light for the surgery that will remove it. I’ve scheduled that for President’s Day.


Sunday, February 1st is also my first official day as a member of  ALA’s 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award committee. I’ve read a few debut novels and the committee has had some initial e-mails back & forth, but today it all becomes official. I’ve already booked my flight & hotel for the ALA Annual meeting in San Francisco, where I will meet the committee members for the first time and we’ll really dig into the job. But, for now, I am simply reading. Unfortunately, I cannot write about any of them, not until Feb 1, 2016 when my term ends. I am keeping careful track, so, when the time comes, I can share things I think you will like.


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