Thursday, October 29, 2009

Changes by Margaret Ullrich

The next morning at Mass our friends were a great comfort. Some had met my parents. Many are also neighbors and will miss seeing BoBo during his walks, too.

BoBo had had a good week, full of turkey, Burger King, long walks, a chance to 'threaten' the Bathfitter guy and a ride to Portage la Prairie.

We're slowly changing the schedule we've had for quite a few years.

Instead of taking the dog(s) for a walk individually, Paul and I are taking a walk together. We still need our exercise.

Life will be simpler, but we didn't think we'd become total empty nesters for another 7 years or so. We suddenly feel like we're in our mid 60s. Well, life is full of changes.

As they say, embrace the change.

We're slowly getting used to our new lifestyle.

Last Thursday we went to Gimli. For the first time in about 37 years we were able to walk on a beach together (dogs are usually not allowed). We were also able to browse in different places together instead of taking turns.

It's a whole new way of living.

It doesn't take much for us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy by Margaret Ullrich

On the evening of October 16 Paul went to the Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute to set up his trains. His exhibit of larger scale trains was usually very popular with the younger children. He came home shortly before 10:00 pm.

Bobo was his old self, rushing to see him and barking his head off. I gave Paul a marrow bone to give to BoBo.

"Why'd you give me this?" Paul asked.
"Just for the hell of it."

It was the last thing BoBo ever ate.

Saturday, October 17, was the first day of the Train Club's Open House. I went to the Safeway at 7:00 am to pick up some fruit for Paul to eat at the show.

BoBo seemed comfortable but wasn't interested in eating or going for a walk. We just thought he was tired. Paul went to the Open House while I did some chores. BoBo moved around the main floor quite a bit.

First he was on his chair in the kitchen. He pulled his old trick on me. He was the only dog we ever had that liked to lie on his back. I always wanted to get a picture of him doing that. But, whenever he heard a camera focusing he would roll onto his stomach. So, I took a picture of him at 10 am just laying on his stomach on the chair.

BoBo also napped behind the chair, by the sink, in the powder room, by the front closet and, finally, by the desk (another favourite for him - he liked to lay by the desk with his head between the desk and the chair). He had his little quirks.

When I checked BoBo around 4:00 pm he was breathing steadily. Paul got home a little after 5:00 pm. Bobo didn't greet him. I thought he was sleeping. I asked Paul about the number of people attending. Paul answered, while keeping an eye on Bobo. Paul went over to the desk and put his hand on our dog. BoBo wasn't breathing, and his body was already getting cold.

BoBo had gone in his sleep.

Another roller coaster... The Winnipeg Model Railroad Club's Great Canadian Train Show and Flea Market had 600 people. Last year it was 400. I was the new public relations person for the train club. Success.

Big Deal.

BoBo was gone.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life on a Roller Coaster by Margaret Ullrich

Paul's animated cartoon 'The Bicycle Lesson' has been accepted for screening at 'The 2009 Silver Wave Film Festival' in New Brunswick. Also, Dustin Anderson of 'International Bike Shorts' which were screened last week. They might use it in next year's 'International Shorts 2010' and be included in their tour.

Ma would've gotten a kick out of all this. She hardly ever got out of College Point, a small town in Queens, New York. She liked to hear about our small successes, even though she'd never heard of half the places we mentioned.

Now I can't tell her any of our news.

Wednesday, October 14 had been damp and cold. We were going to take a small drive, but decided against it. So I walked BoBo and went about our usual business.

Bobo was still enjoying the turkey and was up to his old tricks. He had this game he liked to play with me. I usually sit in the right corner of the couch, near the table and lamp. Whenever I got up, BoBo liked to steal that spot, then give me a "Who me?" look when I returned.

After lunch I picked the last of our vegetables and cleaned the yard while Paul took BoBo for a walk. When I went to the kitchen, I noticed the light on our phone was blinking. My sister had phoned. Ma had passed away. Our brother George had tried to called her from work. When he didn't get an answer, he drove for an hour and a half from Manhattan to College Point. It looked like her heart had stopped.

In a way Ma's death was a blessing and an answer to her prayers. My parents had married in 1948 and immigrated to America in 1950. Pop passed away this past January. Pop's last years hadn't been good. He was in poor health with heart and kidney problems, arthritis and diabetes. The days had turned into an endless round of doctors' visits. Ma also hated the winter weather in New York and always said she'd never gotten used to it.

During one of my parents' visits, Vince Leah and his wife died within a few days of each other. Since he'd worked with Vince at The Free Press, Paul had gone to the funeral. I remember Ma saying how lucky Mrs. Leah was, that she would want to go the same way, too.

Most of the relatives Ma's age had passed away. Ma kept to herself, no matter how much we encouraged her to make friends or to at least go to the Senior Centre which was a block away. My sister and brother took that into account and just planned for a 1 day wake instead of the traditional 3 day viewing. The funeral was scheduled for Saturday.

When we talked to my siblings, my sister Rose, who had moved out years ago and is married, was calm. George had never married and had lived with our parents all his life. He was very upset, although he was trying his best to regain his composure. He explained how he tried to call Ma several times, but there was no answer. He rushed home and found her dead. He called the cops, who came and left. Ma's doctor signed the death certificate. George kept repeating, "It's the end of everything."

Life can be weird. Ma's older by 2 years sister, Stella, still lives in Malta. She has survived her sister and 2 younger brothers. George told me that she'd just had a pacemaker put in.

Our cousin John will break the news to her gently.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One Film and a Burial by Margaret Ullrich

Life has turned into a roller coaster.

This should be a really up time for us. Tuesday night we went to the Cinematheque. Paul's animated cartoon 'The Bicycle Lesson' was screened as part of 'The Bike Shorts Film Festival'. There was also an exhibition of bike-related art and art work done by Tim Hunt, a bicyclist who had passed away. The other 3 bike films from Winnipeg were interesting, too. It was a nice evening out.

In addition to the screening on Tuesday, 'The Bicycle Lesson' will also be shown on October 30, at the Cinematheque, as part of 'The Get Animated! Film Festival - The Devil Wore a Paper Hat: New Winnipeg Animation'. It has also been selected to screen at 'The Sharp Cuts Indie Film and Music Festival' November 13 to 15 in Guelph, Ontario.

Like I said, this should be a really up time for us. But, of course, it's not.

Yesterday we buried our dog BoBo. We had to wait until the weather was drier than the overcast damp we've had for the past week. We're both pushing 60 and have arthritis.

Paul dug the grave near where our other two dogs, Silky and Pocorn, are buried. Silky, our cocker spaniel, passed away in 2001 from heart failure. She was almost 13. Popcorn, our first bichon frise, died in 2006. He was a little more than 15 years old. That's 3 dogs lost in 8 years.

It was cloudy. But, after BoBo was buried the sun came out. He would've liked that.

Friends say we should get another dog.

I can't go through this again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just one week ago... by Margaret Ullrich

Could it really only have been seven days?

We'd had a nice Thanksgiving. We were particularly grateful because our 8-year-old bichon frise, BoBo, was still with us. Paul walked him while I was preparing the turkey dinner. Paul thought Bobo would only be able to do a short walk, so he meandered in the neighborhood instead of heading north or west. BoBo knows the neighborhood so well that, when he sees that he's being headed home, he pulls in the opposite direction.

BoBo wolfed down a generous portion of turkey. We decided to feed him whatever he wanted. He hated the special diet the vet had us giving him since April, when he was first diagnosed with having liver problems. BoBo wouldn't touch anything higher than 1 part medical food to 1 1/2 parts Beneful.

It was hard to believe he had cancer.

The previous Wednesday BoBo had suddenly had a seizure. My husband called the vet for an appointment. The next day he took BoBo to the vet for some blood work and was told to return the next day.

The next morning Bobo had another fit. Paul took him to the vet for x rays. We'd never had a dog have a serious medical problem at such a young age, so we still hoped the vet would find the right medicine for him.

The news wasn't good. BoBo had liver cancer. Paul saw the x ray - BoBo's enlarged liver was pressing on his other organs. The vet gave us pills and a liquid (squirted by syringe into BoBo's mouth 3 times a day) to control the seizures and keep him comfortable. BoBo seemed okay.

We took BoBo for a walk and talked about how life was going to change. For 37 years we'd had at least one dog with all that entails: does a motel accept dogs, going to see a tourist sight solo while the other stayed out with the dogs, not leaving them alone for more than 4 hours, somebody there to take a walk at regular intervals no matter the weather, getting up at night to let a dog out to pee, cleaning up after them.

Then, on Friday evening, BoBo had terrible seizures that lasted while Paul was out and during most of the night. We gave BoBo the medicine to control the seizures, but we were afraid to leave him alone in case he had another. What about going to church, the dentist, etc.?

By Saturday BoBo couldn't walk far. What shocked us was how suddenly this all happened. On Friday we had taken him for an hour long walk, now he just very slowly walked a little in the yard. Other than that, he seemed comfortable.

On Sunday we drove to Portage la Prairie to see the deer and walk in the park surrounded by the lake. At first BoBo seemed sleepy, so we thought it would just be a 5 minute look around and that we would have to carry him. Then BoBo suddenly perked up and wanted to explore. We walked around the arboretum, the water slide park and the pond. He even wanted to approach the kids we saw. He was on the go for over an hour.

Then we went to our traditional spot - Dairy Queen. BoBo still had an appetite for their fries and burger, with a few spoonfuls of pumpkin pie blizzard for dessert. After that he wanted another walk. He had a good night and peed and pooped twice.

Last Tuesday, the day after Thanksgiving, the Bathfitter came to do our bathroom. Bobo insisted on an hour and a half walk and saw many of his friends. After lunch BoBo wanted another hour and a half walk. He also barked at the Bathfitter man, who laughed and said he'd also had a bichon who thought he was bigger than he actually was.

We thought BoBo would be with us for a while. Our other bichon frise, Popcorn, had also been diagnosed with liver cancer. We remembered how we had been nervous for a few months. We'd gone to Riding Mountain for a week and brought 3 large garbage bags in case Popcorn died during our stay. He'd survived about 6 months after his diagnosis.

So, we decided to take it one day at a time.