Live, Play, Travel

Back to Ireland: Killarney National Park

April 11, 2016
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I got back from Ireland with grand plans to update you all on our adventures. I was picturing lengthy, photo filled posts about the place we went, the things we saw, and the people we met. And then Maddie got sick and all of that was forgotten.

But our lives are settling down again and it’s time take you traveling!

Today we’re off to Killarney National Park!

Due to my husband’s work schedule (stupid work!) we were based out of Cork for most of our trip. I say that like it’s a bad thing but it’s definitely not. I love Cork. In fact, I love Cork so much that I think I could very easily live there. But by the time the week was over I was ready to see more of the country. We only had a few days to kill and I had a heinously early flight out of Cork airport on our last day in Ireland so we didn’t want to stray too far. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go far to get a taste of the country.

My husband found a beautiful place on AirBnB that was just on the outskirts of Killarney National Park. It was perfect. From our window we could see horses grazing in the field below and sheep hanging out across the little valley. The owner was friendly and provided tons of information on hiking (or “walking” as the Europeans call it) trails in the area. But as tempting as it was to just hang out in our AirBnB all weekend (seriously, it was lovely!) we spent most of our time out enjoying the countryside.

Our first stop upon arriving in Killarney was at Killarney National Park where we paid a visit to the Muckross House and went for a quick hike to the Torc waterfall. The trees were covered in moss and everything was green. It reminded me of the Pacific Northwest and was pretty much the opposite of what we see here in super arid Colorado. It was gorgeous.

My favorite part of Killarney may have been the “jaunting cars” which is apparently Irish for “horse and buggy”. They were everywhere zipping people to and from the various sites. We didn’t ride on one but I loved watching them go by! Also? Could anything sound more jolly than “jaunting car”?

The next morning we grabbed breakfast in town and then headed for the Ross Castle where we took a tour, which we really enjoyed. From there it was off on a driving tour of the Ring of Kerry, which we will save for another day … !

Our visit to Killarney was short but sweet. It gave us a taste for what that little corner of the world is like – and left us wanting so much more. The area is beautiful and, as with everywhere we visited in Ireland, the people were incredibly friendly. If there was one downside to Killarney, it was the food. While Ireland is not necessarily known for its culinary scene, we had some really good food in Cork. But the further we got from the city, the harder it was to find great food. That’s not to say that it’s not there – just that it was a lot harder to find. This is where talking with the locals can be a huge help! But yanno what? It doesn’t even matter. I’d eat lackluster food for the rest of my life if it meant spending time in beautiful Killarney.

 

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Puppy’s First Hike

April 9, 2016
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(Look at that happy guy in the picture above! I swear he’s smiling.)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been less than a week since Cash (a/k/a Ears, Cashmob, Cashbar, Kelpie, Moneymaker, Payday …) entered our lives. He has settled in so well that I feel like he’s been here forever. He’s a good boy. He has loads of energy but it is good, happy energy. He’s playful and sweet and just kind of rolls with the punches. And he and the kid are best friends already.

Introducing him to the chickens hasn’t gone well (he really, really wants to eat them …) but other than that I have zero complaints about this guy. He’s fit into our lives so perfectly that I swear it was meant to be.

Wednesday morning I decided it was time to take the pup for his first hike. I was itching to get out and god knows that Cash has energy to burn. I debated whether or not to take Spotty too, since I thought I would have my hands full, and in the end decided to give it a go. I was kind of hoping that maybe Cash would stay with her if I tried letting him off-leash. Plus she needed the exercise too.

We decided to head for Mt. Sanitas. Sanitas is one of the major “peaks” (these are still the foothills – but it doesn’t make the hike any easier) that form the backdrop of Boulder. It’s a relatively short hike but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It goes straight up the side of the damn mountain and then straight back down. It’s not long, but it’s kind of an ass kicker. It’s also one of Boulder’s most popular hikes (although fortunately we went on a weekday) and seemed like the perfect way to break my guy in.

When we got on the trail I let Spotty loose right away. She’s awesome off-leash and her recall is rock solid. As Cash and I started making our way up the infinite steps that are the Mt. Sanitas trail I started to wonder how he would do if I let him off. He loves his canine sister so I figured maybe he would stay with her. Since the trail was mostly empty that day (by Boulder standards – no trail here is EVER empty) I decided I’d find out.

I unclipped his leash and watched him trot up the trail with Spotty but when I called her back he kept going. I sped up to keep him in sight and planned to put the leash back on as soon as I caught up to him. Then he heard people down in the valley and decided to go bushwacking. He was halfway down the damn mountain before I was able to get his attention and get him to come back to me. Needless to say, he went back on a leash and I signed him up for training classes the second we got home.

Aside from his unauthorized jaunt in the valley, the hike went great. It was a warm day and at first I wondered if maybe I should have started him on something easier but he rocked it! Having him on his leash was actually no problem at all. He didn’t pull and had really good manners. He wagged his tail happily at every dog and person we saw and didn’t bark or jump on anyone. I couldn’t be happier with how he did.

We hung out on top of Sanitas for a while and enjoyed the views and the perfect spring weather. I like to think that as he looked down on his new kingdom he felt like he hit the jackpot. Just over a week ago he was at a shelter in Texas and now he’s romping in the mountains of Colorado. I’m pretty sure this guy was made for this kind of life.

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The Man in Black

April 4, 2016
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“They say new life makes losing life easier to understand … “

I know this is starting to seem like a dog blog and I promise I’ll talk about something else someday … but for now I have some exciting news!

After we lost Maddie we knew we wanted to get another dog sooner than later. With the exception of finding places for them to stay when we travel, having two dogs is no harder for us than having one. And it’s a lot of fun. I’d have ten dogs if I could but unfortunately there’s only room in the car for two!

We started talking about getting a dog almost immediately after we lost Maddie and started visiting shelters just a couple days later. I know that may seem unthinkable to some people but for us it felt totally right. No dog will ever replace Maddie – but we definitely had room in our lives and our hearts for another pup.

So we started looking and, to be honest, we didn’t have much luck. I love ALL dogs but we had some pretty specific things we wanted in our next dog. We wanted something a little smaller (not because we don’t love big dogs but because there is literally no more room in the backseat of our car!) and around a year old. We wanted a dog that was sweet and friendly and super healthy. It needed to be good with kids and other dogs and have the type of personality and energy levels that would make it a good hiking, running, and riding partner. Some day I won’t be nearly this picky when it comes to choosing new family members but for now, this is what our life requires.

I went to all the local shelters (some of them multiple times) and stopped at a couple rescue events and while I saw tons and tons of sweet dogs I didn’t see anyone that came close to what we were looking for. It was ok – we were wiling to wait – but I quickly realized that this was going to be harder than just walking into a shelter and finding the perfect pup. We weren’t looking for either of our other two when we found them – it just kind of happened – so this was all new to us.

To make things even tougher, the shelters here, especially our local one, have extremely high adoption rates. This is obviously a VERY good problem to have but it also makes it hard to adopt. I would see a dog online, go to the shelter, and find out it was already on hold or adopted.

So on Saturday night my husband, being the nerdy nerd he is, wrote a program (you can read about it here) that would track the shelter’s website and send updates to our phone whenever a dog was added. I thought this was ridiculous but I humored him anyway – whatever keeps him happy, right?

Yesterday morning Josh and the kiddo were out riding bikes on the sidewalk and I was working on an expansion to the chicken coop in the backyard. My phone beeped at me and I saw a notification that a one year old Australian Kelpie mix had been listed at the shelter. Josh saw it at the same time. I went to chase him down and as soon as I saw him he said “Go. NOW!”.

Twenty minutes after the listing went up I was begging the woman at the desk to meet him. By the time our thirty minute meet and greet (which the rest of the family joined us for once everyone was dressed and at the shelter!) was over, there were already two other families waiting in line to meet him. If we had been ten minutes later it would have been too late. We put a hold on him, went home to get our Spotty dog so THEY could meet, and the rest is history.

Cash was his name at the shelter and we are going to keep it because it fits him so well. He is a year old, forty-five pounds, and full of energy. He’s also sweet and super cuddly. We spent the evening playing in the backyard and then he curled up on the couch and snored away while we watched TV. Last night he slept in our bed, snuggled up against me with his head on the pillow. I am in love.

This guy is going to keep us on our toes for sure and we have some bad habits (like jumping on people) that we need to break but he seems like an amazing fit for our family. He is SO happy and friendly. He’s getting along really well with Spotty and is AMAZING with our three-year old. This morning he got a much needed bath, ran errands with me, and then tagged along when I picked up the kiddo rom preschool – where he was a total hit. The kids loved all over him and he was a perfect gentleman. We’re going to have a blast together.

It may seem like we jumped into getting another dog faster than we should have but we all felt ready and having Cash here just feels so right. These are happy days and I’m excited for what the future holds. This guy has adventure written all over him!

He was obviously thrilled about his spa day. ;)

Waiting for his human to be done with school.

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Our Girl is Gone

April 2, 2016
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It happened a few days ago.

Maddie had been feeling great. She was happy and bouncy and in every way had been feeling like her old self. We didn’t know the end was so near.

We went to the brewery for dinner that night and when we got home I noticed she wasn’t super interested in eating and didn’t want to go for a walk. This was cause for alarm for sure but it had happened a couple times since she fell ill and she always bounced back within an hour or two. By the time I realized that she was really going downhill it was around midnight and my big, beautiful, athletic dog couldn’t walk.

We debated taking her to the emergency vet but her condition was deteriorating so quickly that I didn’t think she would last very long. If she had been able to walk under her own power we probably would have taken her in anyway – but she couldn’t. And picking her up, carrying her to the car, driving her to town, and taking her to a vet that she didn’t know in the state she was in seemed like it would be too much. So we laid on the floor with her and loved on her until she was gone.

In the grand scheme of things it was mercifully quick – and I will be forever grateful for that.

That was a couple days ago now and we’re all doing really well. I suspect that we had done a lot of the grieving over her illness before she actually died. That limbo time was hard and knowing its over and that she’s not suffering anymore feels like a bit of a relief. The day after she passed was full of tears, especially when we had to drop her body off at the vet so she could be cremated, but every day has gotten better. Our house feels oddly empty even though we still have another dog and three year old human romping around. Something feels missing. I suspect that it always will.

The afternoon after Maddie died we knew we needed to get out of the house. One can only sit on the couch and cry for so long – at some point you have to get up and do something. I had bought some cans of dog food for Maddie as a treat and she never got to eat them so we decided to drop them off at the shelter. To be honest, taking the cans in was just an excuse. We all needed some puppy therapy.

As we walked the rows of kennels we felt our spirits start to lift. What could have been a sad reminder of the family member we lost really helped us look forward. It doesn’t hurt that the shelter in our town is the happiest I have ever been to. The dogs there are well cared for and get adopted fast. Forget cycling, running, and climbing – the most competitive sport in Boulder is trying to adopt a dog from the pound. It’s a happy place and watching new families be built made us all feel so much better.

People have asked us if we are going to get another dog and the answer is a resounding yes. It might happen next week. It might happen next year (although I suspect it will be much sooner than that). We will never stop missing our girl and no dog will ever be able to replace her – but we are a two dog family and our lives are better with all that love.

Thank you so much for all of your thoughts, emails, and messages over the last couple weeks. It’s been hard, really hard, but knowing so many people “got” it helped immeasurably. There will surely be a long and rambley memorial post coming at some point but I haven’t sat down to write it yet. It will happen eventually.

Rest in peace, my sweet girl. We couldn’t have asked for a better dog.

 

 

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Living with a terminally ill dog

March 30, 2016
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First of all, I wanted to say thank you so much for all the emails, messages, and comments about our sweet Maddie girl. I’m happy to report that she is doing really well! She had a rough afternoon on Sunday but other than that, she’s been acting like her old self again. We feel incredibly lucky.

It’s been over a week now since we rushed our girl to the vet and learned that a mass on her spleen (most likely hemangiosarcoma) had ruptured. The days following that news were a blur as we grappled with the diagnosis and the tough decisions we had to make about her treatment (or lack thereof). For a while, I woke up every morning filled with dread, wondering if today would be the day. That’s no way to live. And I don’t feel like that anymore.

We’ve come to terms with what is happening, at least as much as one can. Life has mostly gotten back to normal. Assuming the vet was right in his diagnosis, her condition is terminal. There will come a day, and it’s probably not too far off, when she will start to decline or maybe a morning when she just doesn’t wake up at all. And it will be hard – really freaking hard – but we will get through it.

Figuring out how to manage her activity levels during this time has been a challenge. She feels good and because she feels good I want to do all the things with her. I want to take her hiking or snowshoeing or skiing. But that feels too risky. Even long walks seem like they may be too much. I want the remainder of her days to be as full as possible – but I don’t want to push her. So we are mostly sticking to short strolls around the neighborhood. We go up the street. We walk around the block. We say hi to all the people and dogs we meet. And we try not to wonder if this walk will be the last one.

Planning is hard and awkward. This is the time of year when we start looking forward to summer. It’s when we start penciling in dates on our calendars – camping trips, bike races, long weekends in the desert – and not knowing what our family will look like on these trips feels strange. Will we be taking one dog? Will we be taking two? Will one of those two dogs be someone besides Maddie? A dog that we haven’t met yet who will be going on their first camping trip and learning to love the mountains, just like she did so many years ago?

We’re staring into the unknown and trying to live life as normally as possible. Mostly we’re succeeding. At the very least, we’re doing the best we can.