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Remembering My Best Friend

thumb_DSC_7248_1024A year ago today I lost my best friend – today I fondly remember my best friend.  A year ago today was a horrible, awful day – today was a rough day, but it was a lot better.  A year ago today there were constant tears that felt like they would never end – today there are still occasional tears, but there are many more smiles and laughter.  A year ago today I never thought the pain would go away – today there is still pain, but the pain is dulled.  A year ago today I felt weak and helpless – today I feel strong and hopeful.

Throughout her life Nittany taught me so much and in her passing she has continued to be my teacher.  The most important lesson she has taught me in the past year is that I am so much stronger than I ever imagined.  It took strength to do what was best for Nittany and to make sure she didn’t live in pain anymore and it took strength to wake up each day in the days and weeks after she was gone and continue living.  After I lost Nittany I lost a piece of who I was.  It takes a lot of strength to come back from that dark place, but I did.  But, once you do, you realize your own strength and that you are capable of a lot more than you ever imagined.  I just kept telling myself that Nittany would not want me to be sad and cry all the time, she would want me to continue living and so, as hard as it was, I found the strength to keep moving forward.

Today, and every day, I remember Nittany and what a powerful impact she had on my life and how lucky I was to have been her dog mom.

Lazy Lab

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Catching Up and Battling with my Sinuses

In September, I wrote a post about how I couldn’t possibly forget the feeling after a good run and swore that running would once again become a regular part of my life.  Turns out I am a complete liar.  Within a week of writing that post I had forgotten all about the benefits of the runner high and feel back in to a very irregular running schedule.  I quickly turned in to a weekend warrior – not doing much of anything during the week and doing a couple runs on the weekend to try and make up for my laziness.  Looking back, I am really lucky that I didn’t really injure myself during this time because from my experience doing nothing physical all week and then cranking out a 10k on the weekend isn’t the best idea.  But, I survived without major injury and am looking forward to getting back on track to a regular and healthy training schedule.

runners high

Since September a lot has happened and really nothing has happened.  But, I wanted to share some of the big events and how they have been effecting my running and my plan for what’s coming next.  I am sharing this for a couple of reasons:  1) I want to be accountable to someone or something and I also like to the idea of writing regularly.  When I think back to why I studied Journalism in school it was because I had (and have) a love for writing and want to flex those writing muscles again.  2)  Maybe if I share what I’ve been going through I might find some answers from people how have had similar journeys or maybe I can help someone who is struggling with some of the things I’ve been struggling with while also sharing successes along the way.

The biggest thing that I’ve been dealing with since September is that I have been battling a weird sinus issue that as of today, almost 8 months later, I still have absolute no answers for.  This has really affected my running.  Somedays I feel like complete crap and I just want to stay in bed forever and other days I am just so frustrated with this process for trying to get better that I also want to throw the covers over my head, scream, and stay in bed forever.  (Do you see a common thread here?!)  Since September I have been on a crazy amount of antibiotics, gone to the ENT and took more antibiotics, got an CT Scan, got tested for allergies, plus trying a ton of other remedies…all of this with absolutely no relief.  While we do have some answers about what is not wrong, we don’t appear to be any closer to finding out what is wrong.  When the MRI came back without any more information that ENT suggested that my sinus pressure could be from acid reflux and prescribed Prilosec.  (It’s important to note that I had absolutely no symptoms of acid reflux but the ENT suggedrugssted I had “silent reflux” and the acid from my stomach was going up my throat and causing inflammation in my sinuses – these are times where I wish there was a stronger word for skeptical because that is exactly what I was, but I forged ahead hoping that this weird idea was the solution to my problem).  I took the Prilosec for several weeks without any relief of my sinuses (but an alarming increase to the number of migraines I was experiencing) and to top it off when I stopped taking the Prilosec I started having acid reflux.  So that long explanation brings you to today, almost 8 months later.  My sinuses still bother me, I have pretty constant pressure in my sinuses, and it feels like my noses is always running, and I have absolutely no answer as to why.  My doctor is currently suggesting that my sinus pressure may be caused by migraines and is suggesting I start taking an anti-depressant as a headache preventative and to be honest I have no idea what to think of this.   I am actually really nervous about the idea of taking an anti-depressant when I don’t have any symptoms of depression, but there is a part of me that wants an answer, and more importantly, a solution to my problem, and maybe this is that answer.

IMG_4559On a much happier note since September our family grew by one.  After losing my beloved Nittany last July I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready for another dog.  There was such a huge hole in my heart that is still there today, but when the tears about Nittany became less often and there were more smiles and laughs about her antics I started thinking our family might be ready for a new addition, when we found the right fit.  We had fostered for the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue and our first foster found his forever home and while we liked him we knew that he was not the right fit for our family.  (You can read about Boogie here.)  But, in late September I was looking at the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue website showing the incoming dogs who needed fosters and I spotted Maggie.  The information said Maggie was 4-6 months old and from her picture she looked like a small chocolate lab.  After checking with the family, I immediately contacted the rescue to tell them we wanted to foster her.  On the last Wednesday in September the entire family jumped in the car and drove to Aurora to pick up Maggie at the rescues drop off spot so we could foster her.   When Maggie got out of the back of the moving truck she was so skinny and did not look like the healthiest of dogs, but you could tell she loved people and wanted to please her people, and I could immediately feel my heart start to melt.  So, as they say, the rest is history…our family was four again.

So, back to running (this is the Jolly Runner, right?!).  The winter and spring has been pretty horrible.  Like I mentioned my training plan was all over the place.  I would take time and develop a plan and one day in I had already fallen off the wagon.  I would then justify that I would restart the plan at the beginning of the next week.  The next week would come and go and I had still not established any sort of consistency with my running.  After losing over 30 lbs. since I started running the weight was starting to creep back up.  My body was used to running 3-4 times per week and I was not providing the physical activity it needed to keep a constant weight (or even lose a little).  My eating was horrible – it was all about comfort and eating whatever I wanted, when I wanted.   Not the best recipe for weight management.  Luckily, it never got too out of control and while I have only gained about 5 lbs. I still feel like a complete failure and I know that I need to get my life under control again.

PeruI have high hopes for May.  A have a new training plan in my planner.  I have a race scheduled for the end of the month (in my funk I almost didn’t sign up for the Bolder Boulder, but realized I would be even more upset if I missed this annual run, and was reminded that even if I wasn’t ready to competitively run, I can always walk it).  I am traveling to Peru in June and would seriously love to get rid of the 5 lbs. I have added over the last couple of months.  I plan to record this journey (and lots of other cool stuff) in my blog.

So, I invite you on my journey over the next couple of months.   Follow along, give me your thoughts and insight.  And if all else fails hopefully I can make you laugh along the way.

How Could I Forget this Feeling?!

This weekend was supposed to be a great weekend away.  I was excited about the getaway but there was a lot that needed to be done before I headed out of town to meet Brandon in Gunnison.  I had to work in the morning and host a big meeting, pack, get the house ready for the pet sitter, track down our new iPhones that were being shipped separately and by different carriers, and get out of the house so I could make the 3 ½ hour drive in time for dinner.  This was all after a super stressful work week with lots of events whose success laid on my shoulder and a 12 hour day.  There was a lot on my to do list and suddenly I notice a huge lump on our dogs ear.  Paterno had a hematoma on his ear in August that the vet drained and said either it would come back or not – it chose to come back twice as large as the first one.  So, along with everything else that needed done I also needed to run Paterno to the emergency vet to make sure it was okay to leave him with the pet sitter for the weekend.  We get to the emergency vet and were told our wait would be several hours.  I could feel the minutes ticking away and myself getting later and later.  One of the vet techs took mercy on me and told me she would look at Paterno and let me know if he needed to be seen that day or if we could schedule something for later in the week.  She checked him over and told me the hematoma was relatively small (I would hate to see a large one because this one seemed pretty crazy) and scheduled Paterno for an appointment and potential surgery on Tuesday.  I ran Paterno back home, finally tracked down our phones, and headed out the door with exactly 3 ½ hours until our scheduled dinner.  While I finally made it out the door and on my way to our mini-vacation I just felt stressed and anxious.

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Fast forward a couple of hours…I made is safely to Gunnison, enjoyed a nice dinner, and headed to an observatory to check out the stars.  As we are getting ready to leave the observatory all sorts of warning lights lit up my dashboard and stated with quite urgency that I needed to have my car serviced.  But, it was almost 10pm in a town that doesn’t have a Chevy dealership that is open on the weekends.  I tried to put the car trouble out of my mind and decided that now is a good time to activate my new iPhone 7.  To match the rest of my day the phone would not transfer my old data and just kept giving me all sorts of error messages.  Finally, I surrendered to the day and tried to sleep but spent the night tossing and turning stressing out about Paterno, the car, and the thought that I’m wasn’t going to be to have any phone access.

When the alarm went off I get out of bed and still feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  I realized I was on a mini-vacation and I am too stressed to enjoy it.  I was being snappy and mean and felt like I was seconds from a full-fledged panic attack.

img_4481Now that I have set the stage of my fragile mental state I will fill in the details about my running.  Last Friday I decided, on a whim, I was going to get a tattoo on my foot (the tattoo wasn’t a whim I had been planning that for months, waking up one day and deciding today was the day I was going to get it was the whim).  The tattoo artist said I shouldn’t run for three days but after that it should be okay.  After three days I was still nervous and decided to take a whole week off to let the tattoo heal.  For some reason I irrationally thought that running would cause the tattoo to wear off (I do realize that is not realistic, but that is what my weird mind kept telling me).  So, Saturday morning it had been eight days since my last run with the plan to go for a run Saturday morning in Gunnison while Brandon was at his conference.

So, in the midst of my mental breakdown, I decided there was nothing I could really do about any of my issues at the moment and I would go for a quick run and deal with everything when I got back.  I put on my running clothes, carefully slathered my tattoo with tattoo goo, put on some super soft socks, my shoes and headed out the door.   In Gunnison at 8am in September the temperature is 32 degrees.  I was completely unprepared for this and was just wearing my running shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt.  The upside of this was I was ready to run from the very beginning just to warm up.  Because it had been awhile since my last run I just told myself if I could make it three miles I would call it good.  I set out running around the neighborhoods and downtown of Gunnison and then headed east of town to the Western State University campus.  The longer I ran the better I felt.  The beautiful sunshine, the fresh crisp air, and the new scenery was exactly what I needed.  One mile quickly turned in to two and before I knew it I was rounding out six miles.    As soon as I get in to the groove of running I love being out there but I have to play mind tricks with myself to get started so I can get in that groove.  At an even 10k I ended my run and headed back to our hotel.

The run was exactly what I needed.  When I got back from my run I felt at peace, focused, calm, and ready to tackle my to do list.  I contacted Onstar to figure out what to do with my car and they said that it wasn’t really urgent and I should be able to make it home and I should set-up an appointment for next week (the should was a little concerning but in my new mental state I could deal with it).  While I was away I had connected my new iPhone to my MacBook and when I got back it had worked out its issues and downloaded all my data and music and was ready to be activated.   I was still stressed about work stuff and dog stuff but it all suddenly felt so small and manageable when just an hour before it felt like the end of the world.

This summer has sucked and when I should have been running the most to deal with the stress, I did just the opposite and used my running time in the morning to sleep in and try to escape reality and it just ended up compounding the problems.  This weekend was a huge wake-up call that no matter what I need to make running a priority.   Running is my natural stress, anxiety, and depression buster and I need to never forget that.  I don’t want to end up back on the verge of a panic attack because that is a horrible feeling!  I am excited about the new week, the healed tattoo, and the reminder about how important it is to take the time for yourself.  Find the activity that centers you and don’t make excuses for not taking the time for yourself.  I am so excited that I found this feeling again and I am going to work my butt off not to lose it again.img_4501

 

 

The New Norm

I want to start by thanking everyone for their kind words and thoughts last week as our family was grieving the loss of Nittany.  We were overwhelmed with how many people reached out to share with us their thoughts and memories of Nittany.  It did not take us long to realize that our family and friends may actually have preferred the company of Nittany over the company of us…and I really don’t blame you.  Nittany was by far the coolest member of our family.

PT1

We’ve gone through a lot of the stages of grief and will continue to for a long time, if not forever, but there are more smiles and laughs than tears and for that I am grateful.  We are remembering the good times, the crazy antics and just trying to get used to the new norm of being a family of three.  The one that is probably taking the new family dynamics the hardest is Paterno.  Important Note:  Paterno is our epileptic, soon to be 10-year-old, golden retriever that we rescued from the Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue when he was going to be killed by his owner because he had a birth defect and one deformed paw.  Paterno is suddenly in the family spotlight and we aren’t sure if he is quite ready for that responsibility.  I will start the next thought by saying we were not neglecting Paterno in any way, he was always healthy and well fed, but for the past several months Nittany and her health have been an all-consuming part of our lives.  This allowed Paterno to sneak under the radar and a couple balls got dropped.  While going through medical records we realized he was a little late on some vaccines (not really the important ones) and he was possibly getting a little pudgy because he was (not so) secretly eating the food Nittany would leave in her bowl.  We also realized we couldn’t exactly put our finger on the last time he was groomed.  So, as the spotlight shifted we began “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever.”  Paterno was groomed within the week and vet appointments set to get him update-to-date on vaccines and get a good overall physical from the vet.  The last piece of “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” was to work on his physical stamina.  Paterno is not the most athletic dog in the world (having three good paws on one mediocre paw keeps expectations low) but we decided that some sort of regular physical exercise would do him good.  So daily walks commenced.  For the last week and a half the family has set out on family walks every night (except Sunday because, you know, that’s the day of rest).  Each day we have lengthened the walk and we are proud to announce we might be up to a half a mile.  Paterno is actually much more excited about the walks than the first couple days and his stamina is improving daily.  We do have a small issue with his bad paw bleeding from where he rubs it on the cement, but we are working on it.  All in all I feel like “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” is progressing very smoothly.

PT2

As Paterno has transitioned to the top dog in the house we have noticed some peculiar characteristics that we may not have fully embraced in the past.  It did not take us long to realize that Paterno is not your average dog and, in fact, there are times when we question if he is actually a dog.   Apparently his dog like characteristics were just him mimicking everything that Nittany was doing and in reality we had never taught him how to be a real dog.  I suppose this is very similar to what happens to parents and their second child.  You spend all your time and effort on your first child making sure everything is perfect and by the time you get to the second one you are just too tired to really care and you just figure it will all turn out okay.  Paterno has never been a barker, in the past his barking was always instigated by Nittany.  In the past week and a half he hasn’t made a single sound.  It’s like he’s a dog mime.  The silence is a little creepy and it’s taking a little time to get used to.  He does not ask to go outside or let us know when he is hungry.  If he needs either of these things he just silently lays in the kitchen until one of us passes through and guesses what he wants.  He does not greet you when you come home or really acknowledge your existence at all.  His complete lack of interest in interacting with us actually had us Googling the symptoms of autism in dogs (on a positive note we think we have ruled this out).  He is not excited by the arrival of delivery food and just lays quietly until the food has been paid for, we’ve had a nice conversation with the delivery man, and we get the food on to plates.  At this point he may come over to investigate further, but if he’s really comfortable where he’s laying he probably won’t.  Paterno also has no interest in other dogs.  On a recent walk we must have passed 10-15 dogs on one block and he didn’t glance at any of them.  The dogs were barking and racing up and down their yards trying to get his attention and he just moseyed by.  A guard dog Paterno is not.  Nittany did not let anyone come within a quarter mile radius of our house without her alerting us to their presence.  If someone broke in to our house Paterno would simply leave us to join their family, all Dug style from Up.

Dug

There is a ton of adjustment going on in our family right now and I think we will all get in to the groove of the new normal but I have my doubts that Paterno will ever turn in to a real dog, and I guess that is our new norm.

My Best Friend

Lazy LabWhen I moved to Colorado my husband promised me we would get a dog.  Less than two months into our Colorado adventure we were picking up Nittany and taking her home.  Nittany has been with me through everything Colorado has thrown at me…home sickness from moving half way across the country, a husband who was a full time PhD candidate (it’s kind of like being a widow), getting married, moving a bunch of times, changing jobs too many times, and finally settling in to a great life in Denver with a job I absolutely love.  She licked up my tears when I was sad and happily participated in puppy dance party when I was excited and happy.  But, in August we will have lived in Colorado 13 years which means Nittany is 12 and closer to 13 then I would like to admit.

 

I had never had a “real” pet growing up and Nittany was my first “real” pet (although the verdict is still out if I even consider thumb_DSC_7275_1024her a pet – she is a member of the family).  Everything I’ve gone through with Nittany has been a first for me.  Having a dog spayed, rushing a dog to the emergency vet because she had eaten a stuffed animal and got really sick, rushing to the emergency vet because she got stung by a bee and her face grew four times its original size, finding out that swans chase dogs when Nittany decided to take a quick dip in City Park Lake, having to put a dog under anesthesia because she somehow chipped her front tooth and it had to be pulled out, getting a call from a stranger who had found your dog downtown Fort Collins because she ran away and was mooching food off strangers at a sidewalk café….and this was probably just the first two years of her life.

 

That brings us to today and another first…finding out your dog has cancer and having to thumb_IMG_6041_1024make the most difficult decision of your entire life so that she doesn’t have to suffer anymore.  Nittany started getting sick shortly after the New Year and after several rounds of antibiotics and steroids and nothing really helping her get better it was discussed that that most likely cause of her illness was a nasal tumor.  Before that time, I never even thought that there was an end to Nittany’s life.  I was naïve and liked to think that she would be with me forever.  But, the reality was here and Nittany wouldn’t be in our lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

We struggled with asking ourselves when was the right time to let Nittany go from our IMG_1847lives and we even came up with a plan for Nittany’s last week with us, but the pain of knowing our time was limited was breaking our hearts and making us question our decision every minute.  I think we were both looking for a sign to know that our decision was the right one but we both agreed that Nittany had always been there for us and we needed to be there for her and make sure she isn’t in any more pain than absolutely necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

As you can tell from this rave review Nittany has already won The Best Dog in thumb_DSC_7248_1024the Entire Universe Award and today she gave us one last gift for which we will be forever grateful and will seal her title for eternity.  As we struggled with knowing if what we were doing was right or not Nittany gave us a sign and we knew it was her time to go…to go and not be in pain anymore and to finally be able to sleep a restful sleep.   Nittany went peacefully to sleep on the morning on Monday, July 18, 2016 after over 12 happy years with our family.

 

 

 

 

 

I have her paw print etched on my skin and my love for her will be etched on my heart forever.  Nittany was the best dog in the entire world and gave us more than we could ever thank her for.   IMG_3578