Tag Archives: dogs

What Is On My Mind Today: Blindness, Blood and Blessings

Just over a week ago my husband and I finally made plans to go on vacation this summer. For the first time in years, we plan to hike in the mountains of Montana.

So, last week was an eventful week. It all began on Monday morning when my husband called me from work to say the he had made an emergency eye doctor appointment. Driving to work that morning he noticed his vision was distorted. When he closed one eye, then the other, it was immediately apparent that he had lost vision in his left eye.

He came home from his doctor appointment with a severe headache, a diagnoses of a macular hole and an announcement that he will need surgery.

This is what his vision looks like now out of that eye.
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Normal vision                                               Distorted vision

Learning that he would not be able to drive home after his appointment with the surgeon was a bit unsettling….for my husband.  You see, I have not driven on a freeway in over five years. I have not driven, because I could not turn my head.  However, after my trip into the oncologist the Friday past and the physical therapist breaking down the scar tissue that had grown onto my skull,  I could move my head quite well. I was good to go.

The night before our expedition, I had the weirdest dream, which is not uncommon on my Chemo.  This dream, however, repeated itself over and over again.  It was of me driving. As I shoot down the on ramp my car ends up right in front of a big blue semi truck.  I guess it must have been on my mind some after all.

When I woke up, I said a prayer for God to watch over my husband and myself, got dressed and we were out the door.

The surgeon’s office was in a neighboring city and was not the easiest place to find. Eventually we were successful. We both chuckled as it was right next door to the animal emergency hospital.  With multiple resources readily available, our situation was obviously well under control. The surgeon checked my husband out and scheduled his surgery for April 9.

After meeting with the surgeon, my husband explained the good news is the surgery will be outpatient.  The procedure can restore between 40 and 90 percent of his vision.  The initial recovery should be a couple of days, followed by several weeks or months of restrictions.  Honestly, all I heard was he was going to get an eye patch!  I have asked him for almost 40 years to dress up like a pirate.

As my owl-eyed, severely pupil dilated husband headed for the car, he again asked if he could drive.  I showed him, that I had my own keys.  At that point, he got into the passenger seat. It took me forever to adjust the driver’s seat in our car.  My husband is six feet, four inches tall.  On a good day, I might be five feet, three inches tall.  I adjusted all the mirrors, put on my seat belt and proceeded to drive out of the parking lot.

I never even made it out of the parking lot before my husband provided advice on safe car length distances. Which he is an expert on.  It has been noted that at times he uses the age-old and well-practiced rational that the distance you are behind a car can help motivate the driver of the car in front of you to increase their speed.  The optimal distance required to perform this motivational maneuver is easily discerned. It is when you can read the bumper stickers on the car in front of your without using the glasses to correct your severely near-sighted eyes required by your drivers license.

After safely exiting the parking lot, it was time for the big test….entering the freeway.  The entrance to this freeway is at the end of a circular blind ramp.  As I accelerated to merge, I looked over my shoulder, which I had only been able to do for three days, and there he was…that big blue semi truck!

As the truck did not move over, I had to drive on the shoulder for a short way until the lane was safe to enter. Thank goodness by the time this baptism by fire occurred, my husband’s driving coaching skills had been rendered impotent by widely dilated eyes and a blinding headache.

We arrived home safely and the rest of the week was uneventful until Friday.  I woke up feeling seasick that morning and spent the majority of the day taking care of myself.  I was so proud of our pup Oliver.  Normally, he is Mr. Energy, but he had spent the whole day just resting with me.  German Shepherd’s are like that, they are great caregivers.

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He was pretty excited to see my husband come home from work. It was so cute to see him standing at the gate with his tail wagging, tongue hanging out, just waiting for dad.  My husband stepped into the yard and threw Oliver a stick to catch. That is where it all went so very horribly wrong.

Oliver caught the stick at a strange angle, as he came down with it, the end of the stick went into the ground.  The other end of the stick impaled Oliver in his mouth and became lodged.  HE NEVER EVEN YIPPED!   Both, the pup and my husband were sitting together in the backyard looking positively stunned.

In the Bible it says that a child will not depart from the way it is raised and I was raised on a farm with animals.  Animals on a farm get injured, sick and sometimes die.  Now, when our animals needed help the old doc would come out.  Most farm veterinarians are laid back, but this guy could have sat and smoked his cigar in a tornado and not batted an eye. He also firmly believed that all veterinary procedures were performance art and a spectator sport.  Being a girl did not get you a pass from the old doc when there was neutering, wound draining, shot giving or dissecting to be done.

Oliver came into the house on his own.  It became quickly apparent that he was going into shock.  No sooner did I notice the changes in the pupils of his eyes, than Truman, our other German Shepherd, began to nudge the pup. Oliver came back.

By then, the bleeding had commenced in earnest.  The first thing I looked for was whether or not the blood had bubbles in it, was pinkish and foamy or was spurting.  Oliver passed that threshold, but there was just so very much blood. We could not see the injury.

If anyone has ever seen the mouth wound of a small child who has fallen, you know how how awful mouth wounds can look and much they can bleed. After the bleeding stops often there is just a small cut.  We waited for a few minutes to see if the bleeding would slow, but it did not. Soon, he was passing huge blood clots.

By God’s grace and my husband’s blind eye, we knew exactly where the closest animal hospital was.  Oliver went with us willingly and on his own steam.  Truman, our old white German Shepherd, for the first time in his life, fought with with my husband to stay with his puppy.  He was so shook up.

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By the time we got to the animal hospital, it looked like we had butchered a chicken in our car.  Blood everywhere. As Oliver pranced into the clinic like nothing was wrong, with blood dripping all over the floor, one tech took the dog and another one offered Doug and I scrubs, should we want to change out of our bloody clothes.

We quickly learned that Oliver wasn’t in danger from the blood loss, but would need emergency surgery.  Since he was stable there were several other pets in critical condition who would be taken in first.  By the time of his surgery, at about 1 a.m. Saturday morning, the bleeding had pretty much stopped on its own. The surgeon found that he had a “massive” puncture wound under his tongue.  He was sent home with two weeks of restrictions, antibiotics and other medication.

When we went to pick Oliver up the next morning, Truman howled the whole time we were gone.  My husband acknowledged, “There goes my new big screen TV” as he paid the bill. We got to meet the dog who had been attacked by a muskrat.  Then, we took a very groggy pup home.

As we were driving back, my husband made a comment about bad luck and things going wrong.  That man and I certainly have had some challenges. For so very many years he had to be the one who stayed positive and strong, it was my turn. So,  I told him that except for my cancer diagnoses and all of those years I was an invalid and sick, we really haven’t had that much go wrong. Besides what’s so bad? My cancer is in remission, the semi truck missed us, your eye will be fixed, the pup didn’t skewer himself in the windpipe, jugular or artery, by God’s grace we knew where to take him because of your faulty eye, we already own three T.V.’s and we are now officially the blind leading the lame.

Boy, did I get a look, and then, slowly a lopsided grin appeared.

My husband took Oliver right into the back yard when we got home. The first thing that pup did was pick up that very same bloodied stick and sit down to wait for it to be thrown. There is something admirable about getting right back on the horse…but, too soon, Oliver, too soon!

Moral of Story:  There will be many times when the only thing in life that you will be able to control is your attitude. Look for the blessings and count them instead of your troubles. And always remember that there is a fine line between bravery and foolishness.

WARNING FOR DOG OWNERS!!!!   It is not uncommon for veterinarians to see dogs come in with severe injuries from playing fetch with sticks.  DO NOT throw sticks for your dog!  They should never be used as a toy.  Oliver was lucky.   




Thor’s Stories: Leprechauns

There are eight different stories in this series about the ingenuity and adventures of a boy named Thor.  If you are looking for a few tales about Leprechauns to share on St. Patrick’s day,   Leprechauns tend to run amok in five of these stories.

Below are links to all of Thor’s adventures and a brief description of the story line.
I hope you and your children enjoy Thor’s Stories.

Morton the Squirrel and the Great Chicken Race.  Thor and Morton begin their battle for supremacy of the backyard when the rascally squirrel goes after the boy’s chickens.

Morton the Squirrel and the Mighty Explosion.  Grandpa Walter saves Thor from an overwhelming squirrel attack.

Thor and Grandpa Walter Find Blueberries and Bigfoot.  Thor and Grandpa Walter find more than just blueberries in the woods on Minnesota’s North Shore.

Thor and the Rooster Pirate King. This story tells about how leprechauns came to own the magic feather they keep in their hats.

The Midnight Dinosaur Rhubarb Rampage. Do your children know how to write in secret leprechaun code?  Thor will show you how in this tale of ingenuity and backyard mayhem.

The Dog with Magical Eyes.  Leprechauns sometimes can be just plain handy, especially when your dog is suffering from magical eyes.

Thor and the Troll Toll.  The King of the Leprechauns has no tolerance for bullies, especially troll ones.

Thor Saves Christmas.  Thor and the leprechauns come to the rescue when Santa’s elves all come down with Blue Snot Flu, 

Just saying….All’s Well That Ends Well

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Oliver the German Shepherd Puppy at 9 months old…94 pounds. 

Oliver has been having itchy ears. So we took him to the vet and he did not have an infection or anything. So night before last, after I had lost several nights sleep for various reasons and Doug was so tired I could not wake him, I got up with Oliver and his itchy ears.

In a sleep deprived stupor, I dragged myself to the bathroom to put some hydrocortisone cream in his ears. As it was very early in the morning and as I did not want to wake Doug, I did not put on my glasses or turn on a lot of lights.

I woke up yesterday morning to discover that I grabbed the wrong tube of medicine from the cabinet and had rubbed Preparation H into Oliver’s ears. My first thought was I am not telling my husband, quickly followed by thank God it wasn’t the estrogen and my third was…..well….it stopped his itchy ears and they have been fine ever since.  All’s well that ends well….just saying.

Recipes: An Old-Fashioned Halloween and The Great Pumpkin Bar




Halloween when I was young on the farm was so different than now…

First of all there were never any of those fancy haunted houses that people flock to today for an expensive scare. We did not need them, we lived in one. On a daily basis in our old farm house we had to deal with squeaky stairs, cobwebs, black cats, bats, lizards and the ghosts of ancestors who had died in the house from generations past.

Many a dare was made and accepted, just to see if you were brave enough to go upstairs alone in a old farm house. Going into an attic alone after dark was a feat accomplished by only a few of the most stout-hearted.  If memory serves me correctly, I believe success in this quest required a beard and that folk songs have been penned to herald such bravery. No one descended into the dark basement alone.  Not since the skunk outbreak in the large pickling crock incident.

Then, there were the vampires.  The vampires in our family story was often shared by older cousins when all of the adults had left the room.  It was just too scary of a situation to be shared with grown-ups who seemly found reasons to get upset about just about every thing.

Our family’s vampires came in the form of two old anemic aunties, with dirty hankies poking out from between emaciated eighty-year-old breasts while bare bony shoulders protruded from over-sized faded 1930’s silk flapper dresses, who may have been real red-heads in their youth.

Coloring your hair or being a natural red head in our dark-haired Swedish family would have been fuel enough to generate a rumor or two.  However, that had nothing do with the vampire story.  Nor, was it that these ladies lived in the scariest old house in town that had its own tower with a witches hat that great grandpa Ole had purchased cheap because the previous owner had committed suicide by hanging himself in the garage.  Or that they had dead people and tornado pictures hung on the walls of their sunlight deprived home.  It wasn’t because they lived in the dark and kept all of their window curtains closed. Nor was it because of the mournful sounds made by the pump organ located in their front entry hall.  It was not from the spooky stairs that led to upstairs rooms that no child had ever been brave enough to explore. Or the doorways in the house that led to nowhere. It, also, wasn’t because their cafe was a personal favorite of a democrat named Hubert H. Humphrey. No these ladies were tagged as vampires, because of their fur coats.

Whenever the old gals ventured out to our farm to call on my folks and grand folks, they would come into the house clutching, with a death grip, their fox furs. Their hold was so tight, that I never knew if they expected someone to steal those things right off of their bony shoulders, or if the animals weren’t quite dead yet and would spring to life and just run away. You see, the animals in those stoles were completely in tact, just flat and sewn together.  Heads, feet and tails just bounced when those old gals strutted their stuff.

It was the hollow dead eyes and bared snarling sharp yellow teeth of those fashion forward foxes that led to the vampire rumors.  As you were pulled into a tight bear hug by the aunties, many a child was convinced it was just a ruse so that those yellow teeth could get one more taste of kid flesh. Yup, at our house it was practically impossible to distinguish a Sunday dinner from a Halloween scare.

Halloween decorations in those days consisted of carved pumpkins.  Oh sure, on occasion someone would get all high and mighty and buy scary pictures at the store to tape in the windows of their home. There was a fine line between acceptable Halloween activities and tongue cluckers. Those scary pictures displayed as bold as brass for all the world to see merely indicated which folks required more prayer and in cases of extraordinary bad taste and judgement public shaming in the church parking lot after the conclusion of Sunday services. Pumpkin carving…yes…scary pictures…not so much.

Pumpkin carving was an art form based on geometry…triangle eyes, square teeth and oval mouths. Nobody bought pumpkins. If you did not grow pumpkins, a family member or neighbor usually had plenty of extras. If they had extra pumpkins, they always had extra squash. The only really scary thing about our carved pumpkins was having to eat so much squash and the thrill of feeding the seeds and pumpkin guts to over-excited hogs.

Costuming was a creative exercise in recycling.  What you had on the farm and could put together with a sewing machine or duct tape became your costume. On rare occasions, as a really big treat, us farm kids, just like those fancy town kids, purchased a Halloween mask at Nelson brothers, our town’s main grocery and dry goods store.  While those special masks only cost a few cents, they often turned out to be more pain than gain.

Store purchased masks in those days were not like the rubber ones that are sold today. Our masks were made from some type of semi-rigid sharp plastic whose edges could produce tears, blood and band aides.  The masks were held on with a white elastic cord with two sharp metal ends that went through small holes in the mask.  Should you want to try on or “pretend” with your mask before the big night, you could count on a sibling pulling back on the elastic string and giving you painful, “snap!”

After a couple of those “snaps” the metal pieces that flew past your unprotected eyes would rip holes so big into your mask that the elastic string could no longer be reattached.

This situation required a decision on the part of the child.   You could either hold your mask up with your mittened hand or you could use tons of scotch tape to try and reattach the plastic band. The tape option, while always tried first,  never worked as the metal pieces just slid right out from under the tape as soon as you stretched the band to go around your head.  You quickly learned that the mittened hand option was a mandate. Your next move was to search for a treat collection bag with handles that you could hold with your one free hand, that was free of toxic farm chemicals and that had not been worn on anyone’s feet.

Then, too, no matter if you chose to be a princess, prince, clown or cat someone would take the time to make sure that the nose of your mask was poked in before the big night.  Once a nose was poked in, your only option was going forth on your Halloween quest with a wrinkly snout.

After you had your costume ready and your pumpkins carved it would not be long before the big night arrived.  Not long at all. Our family’s motto for Halloween preparation was, “There’s no time like the present.” On a busy farm in the middle of harvest, Halloween preparations were commenced and concluded about a hour before you got into the car to go trick or treating.

Off you would go to visit neighbors and relatives in the dark of the night.  Excitement  and trepidation were your close companions as your car drove down those long, dark, tree-draped, rural driveways dressed up in unrecognizable outfits to scare the unwary….farm dogs.

Farm dogs, as a rule, do not take to strange varmints or characters invading their territory. Thwarting invaders is in their job description. For them, Halloween had to be a special kind of nightmare.  In fact, I think the only scares given on Halloween in the country were to and from farm dogs.

As soon as you opened your car door, you could hear them snarling as they frenziedly hurled themselves against rickety barn doors held shut by century old latches mended many times with rusty wire.  If loose, those fired-up watch dogs chased you to the front steps of a home as the owner yelled from the porch steps, “If you run fast, he won’t catch you!”  Or, the ever popular “Just swing your candy bag at em, that should keep em away!” Or, my personal favorite, “Don’t worry, he’s had his rabies shots, I had him done when doc was out to castrate the calves a couple of weeks back, just make a run for it, it’ll turn out all right!”

Yes, participating in Halloween activities in those days was so much different than today. Our costumes and decorations for the most part came at no cost, the quest for frights was delivered by dogs, not costumes or strangers and the search for sweets often ended up with your bag filled with homemade cookies, popcorn balls, shelled peanuts, apples, lots of candy corn and a little bit of chocolate…and, you were thrilled with your haul.

An old-fashioned farm Halloween is best described like the old folks used to say in the social section of  “The Independent Review,” our local newspaper that published our neighborhood’s doings, “A good time was had by all!”

This recipe for Pumpkin Bars comes from my hometown church cookbook. This is the only pumpkin bar recipe that I ever make or share with my friends.  It is quite simply the best and has always been a Halloween and Thanksgiving treat favorite at my home.

Pumpkin Bars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease two 9 X 13 pans or one large 10 X 15 bar pan

In a large mixing bowl beat together:
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups sugar

Add the following dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat with hand mixer until well combined and smooth.

2 cups pumpkin (#2 can)

Spread evenly in baking pans.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool.

3 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup butter, softened
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar

In a medium-sized mixing bowl beat ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth.

Frost the bars.  Cut and serve.

Blogger’s Note:  If you want a very good moist pumpkin cake, put all of the batter into one 9 X 13 pan.  Bake for 40-45 minutes. I always add 1 cup of raisins when making a cake.  Dried cranberries are also an excellent addition.

May everyone have a safe and happy Halloween! 





Recipe: Oliver the Apple of My Eye and Frosted Apple Pie Bars

I am thoroughly enjoying raising a puppy.  Oliver is such a character and his daily antics bring joy, laughter and usually a big mess.  I just never know what the day will bring.

Oliver is a large German Shepherd puppy of fluff, muscle and mayhem who is now almost seven months old and weighs well over eighty pounds.

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Oliver learning to protect the yard with his mentor Truman.  Truman’s mentor Walter (deceased) taught Truman to patrol the yard perimeter when he was a pup. 

Oliver always wakes up at first light…literally.  On week days that is fine as my husband gets up early to go to work, but it would be nice if he would sleep in on weekends.  His morning routine usually begins in one of two ways…either sitting quietly beside my side of the bed staring at me until I wake up or trying his best to be good and stay quiet until my husband wakes up.

Oliver’s post-dawn quiet requires an extraordinary effort of puppy self control and usually ends up taking the form of either loud chewing on a bone, digging in his kennel or gently chewing on a shrill squeaky toy.

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Trying so very hard to be quiet and good. 

As soon as my husband awakes puppy petting commences and Oliver goes over.  Belly scratches are his favorite morning, noon and night. I have learned that his need for belly affection is an inherited trait passed from his mother to her offspring.  Then, too, belly scratches have be specifically approved by household management as a safe early morning activity for a puppy with a full bladder.

Oliver has been to puppy training classes and has the graduation certificates to prove it. He can sit, stay and come.  Oh, he can do a lot of things…when he wants to. There are still times when he forgets how much he has learned. Such as when he tries to chew on his people like they are fellow puppies or chew toys.  Out comes the lemon juice and a quick squirt on his tongue immediately reinstates his memory.  Getting juiced is something to be avoided by man or beast.

Magic dog words are important for both the owner and puppy to learn. Oliver’s magic words are treats and squirrel!  He really loves to chase squirrels, but seems to think they always run to the same tree when they never do. In addition to squirrels, he expends great effort chasing rabbits, birds and butterflies.  He scared the heck out of a large ferocious Monarch Butterfly just yesterday.  Oliver is a lightening fast chaser who never catches anything…with one exception.  Oliver has moved on from his earlier passion for bee chasing.

On occasion Oliver wakes up in a rip and tear mood.  The look on his face immediately gives him away and I know that his German Shepherd brain has shut off and the puppy brain has taken control.

                                German Shepherd brain day.                              Puppy brain day. 

A recent example of puppy brain includes a marigold massacre.

First he brought me the flowers, then he massacred them while Truman was napping and I was doing dishes.  Truman barked Oliver out for this display of terrier behavior. Truman continually tries to instill the concept that some German Shepherd decorum must be maintained.

Of course that just makes Truman a target. One of Oliver’s favorite games is to pester that huge 110 pound white German Shepherd while he is napping by purposely sniffing the inside of Truman’s ears, then smacking the old dog on the head with his huge bear-sized puppy paws. Surprisingly, this is not always as well tolerated by Truman.  Sometimes its best just to let nature take it course and accept, like with the bees, experience can be a great teacher. Eventually, Truman gives the pup a lesson in respecting one’s betters if not his elders.

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Truman the good and gorgeous! 

And, then, of course there was yesterday when Oliver confused his green tennis balls with my green tomatoes.

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I was rather proud of Oliver’s attention to detail and his work ethic. Must be the German in him. He picked all but two of my green tomatoes.

I must admit to sharing in his disappointment as I watched him test whether his shining green tomatoes would bounce on the patio.   Oh, the sadness on that puppy face! However, his melancholy was quickly abated by a new mission. Struck with instant inspiration after the tomato bounce test failed, he carried them off to be buried under the pine tree in the back of the yard.  Hole digging is cure all for almost any puppy life disappointment…well, except for neutering.

All that digging in the hard Centerville clay must have worked up quite an appetite for the lad, as he returned to the garden one last time to feast on the remaining ripe cherry tomatoes.

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Oliver was tired after his industrious morning and spent the rest of his day napping, eating, drinking, bird watching, squeaking his rubber chicken, squirrel and rabbit chasing, wrestling with Truman, splashing in the big metal water trough, playing fishing for puppies with mom and the garden hose and retrieving Frisbee.

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The very last thing Oliver did last night, when I was one the phone with my daughter, was he picked up his entire laundry basket of toys and dumped them out. Finding the toy he wanted, Oliver gently brought it to me. What a thoughtful sweetie!  He got lots of petting, a treat, and we played.  Oh, how I love my puppy.

He starts obedience classes again next week.

Green tomatoes look a lot like green apples when they are laying in the grass and what would the first day of September be without a great apple recipe.  This recipe for apple bars is outstanding for two reasons they taste like apple pie and they keep well.

Whether a great treat option for a school child’s lunchbox or as tasty snack on while working out on a treadmill these bars hold together and do not disappoint.

Frosted Apple Pie Bars


2-1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
2 egg yolks, plus enough milk to measure 2/3 cup

1 -1/2 cups of crumbled cornflakes cereal
10 medium apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1-1/2  cups of sugar
1-1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 egg whites

1 cup of powdered sugar
3-4 teaspoons of water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, 1 Tablespoon of sugar and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Cut in shortening. Stir in egg yolk mixture until dough forms.

Divide the dough into two pieces.  On a lightly floured surface roll out one piece of dough. It will be thin. Place into a 15 X 10 X 1-inch jelly roll baking sheet.

Sprinkle cornflakes over the dough. Spread apple slices evenly over the cornflakes.

In a small dish combine sugar and cinnamon.  Spread over the apples.

Roll out the other 1/2 of dough and place on top of apples. Pinch edges of the dough together like you would for a pie.

In small mixing bowl, beat egg whites together until frothy.  Spread over the crust.

Bake for one hour.  Remove from oven.

In small mixing bowl combine powdered sugar and water.  Drizzle the glaze over the hot crust.





















Update on My Dog Truman–No Cancer

Truman after surgery

After waiting for over a week, yesterday evening we received the news of Truman, our nine-year-old German Shepherd’s pathology results from the very large tumor that was removed from his abdomen a week ago Wednesday.  It was all very good news….there was no cancer.

He has another week to wear the cone of shame, then the stitches will come out.  I cannot believe that dog ran around with a tumor as large as a baseball in his stomach and never so much as limped, whined or cried.  What a guy!

I bet he will seem and feel like a new dog when he gets all healed up.

Thanks for your well-wishes during this time.