She calls it “stick season,” this slow disrobing of summer, leaf by leaf, till the bores of tall trees rattle and scrape in the wind. – Eric Pinder
Tonight I’m inviting you to come along with Bear and me as we walked for almost two hours on Sunday afternoon. It was a beautiful day to be on Mackinac, and it seemed strange not to go to church that morning (Little Stone Church closed for the season last Sunday). Ted took Maddie and walked her to town to pick up a newspaper, and Bear and I struck out in another direction.
I hadn’t been to the Annex in over a month, so I was anxious to see how the trees were looking in that area of the Island. Bear and I walked down Cadotte toward the Grand, then turned right on Algonquin just past the “caution” sign. Algonquin runs behind the West Bluff cottages.
As we crested the first hill, I glanced at the path we sometimes take from Four Corners through the woods to Algonquin. It was literally covered in leaves now.
Walking down the back side of that hill brought us to the corrals where Teddie and McGuyver spend their summers . . .
. . . but both of them left the Island last week, and the corrals were empty. Either I’m going nuts or that is a new building (the yellow one) since the last time I was in this neck of the woods. Maybe they renovated an old shed that was there. Gotta ask Mary about that!
The “stick season” may be upon us, but even with some of the leaves already fallen . . .
. . . it seems the ones still clinging for life to the trees are putting their hearts and souls into making their last moments as beautiful as possible.
Bear, his nose always to the ground, seems to be finding it difficult to understand why there is less horse poop to taste test these days. I tell him it’s because there are fewer horses on the island now. He just keeps on looking though.
All of these are private corrals, and they’re all empty. Remove the horses, and you remove that earthy smell that lets you know it’s Mackinac. I miss the horses . . . and the smell.
At the end of Algonquin, we turned toward the lake. I stopped to frame a photo of the lighthouse between these two trees in one of the West Bluff cottage yards . . .
. . . then we went through the turn stile onto Pontiac Trail. Bear seemed to sense something different and came running back to me after he’d walked ahead. The bluff below Pontiac has been clear cut, something that is done every several years. It did take some getting used to, but just like the trees along Cadotte, before we know it the trees will be tall again.
The tree cutting (which opened up views of the stairs down to the water) does allow for exceptional views of the Grand now from along the trail.
At the end of Pontiac Trail, we made a sharp right, then a left onto Lake View Blvd.
We usually stay on Lake View until we reach Hubbard’s Annex, but on a whim we took a less traveled trail . . .
. . . and I found myself on a path I had never been on. Bear and I had a wonderful time wandering around back there – seeing a couple of houses, barns and stables we’d never seen before. It was amazing to find a spot on the island that was new to us!
It was later than I thought it was (we stopped to chat with some ladies who were staying at the Grand and needed directions), so we headed back home.
Every time I walk up this hill now I try to memorize this view of the condo so, during the winter, I can close my eyes and visualize it.
For the last week these trees down at the horse corral below the condo have been becoming brighter and brighter. I knew when I walked back Sunday afternoon, I wanted to photograph them and that splash of red the gate added. What I didn’t know was that a few horses had been turned into the corral a little before we arrived . . .
What a beautiful frame for these taxi horses . . .
. . . and the big Belgians who pull the drays.
Hope you enjoyed our little walk . . . it sure was nice having you along!
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. We had a couple of REALLY COLD days and nights – it even got into the thirties a time or two. But, not to worry. We’re now in the 70’s again, and I have to say it’s pretty darn perfect weather right now!
It was even nice enough for some of the Sunset Inlet ladies to eat outside at a great little restaurant we discovered recently – Hammock Organic Café and Boutique. Can’t beat getting to eat and shop in the same place!
On Mackinac it’s 29 today, and for the next two weeks it looks as though 35 or 36 may be the high temp. All the photos below are compliments of Clark Bloswick except for two.
Tuesdays are trash days downtown, and a little snow storm doesn’t stop these hardy workers and horses from completing their route!
The Mighty Huron plowed through some surface ice as it arrived early one morning this week.
Yesterday marked the end of seeing the 1,000 foot freighters until at least March. The Soo Locks closed today.
A sunset earlier in the week – perfect lighting. How can Clark continually be in the right place at the right time?
Sunday morning serenity.
Hard-working horses have to eat. A hay wagon heads for the barn after it was loaded at the ferry dock.
Full moon hangs over a blockhouse at Fort Mackinac.
Looking across Lake Huron toward the bridge in the distance. Looks like the shore ice is setting up pretty well. (Photo: The Island House)
Loved this pic of two friends, Pam and Meredith, leaving for a day of fun on snowy Mackinac! (Photo: Craig Harris)
BODIE’S FIRST WRITING ASSIGNMENT
Hey! It’s me – Bodie. Mom said I could try and write a very short blog today.
I only have two questions. What’s a blog, and what’s writing?
So. Mom tried to explain it to me. She said a blog is where you tell someone out in space about something that is interesting to you or about something you like doing.
I got this. I like food – dog food (dry and canned), people food (when I can steal it), trash can food (dry and wet), street food (little pieces of paper, bugs, smashed water bottles, lizards (after Maddie kills them), rocks, twigs, dried up chewing gum, bird seed. You get the picture. Oh, and poop – but Mom says I don’t like it as much as Bear did – not yet anyway. I’ll have to work on that.
What else do I like?
My crate! I sleep in here at night, but I also grab naps here when Mom’s working or watching tv in this room. I also stay in here when Mom and Dad leave the house. I think that’s because they are worried I’d un-stuff the couch if they left me free. And I can’t say that I wouldn’t.
What else. I LOVE dryer sheets! I stand in front of the dryer when Mom gets the clothes out, and we have a race to see who can spot the dryer sheet first. Mom usually wins because she can see INSIDE the dryer. I have to wait and see if mom doesn’t spot it. In that case it just falls out of the dryer on the floor, and I’m on it like a wolf. I’ve only managed to swallow two so far – because Mom is pretty good at prying my jaws apart. She was worried after I swallowed the first one, but something called “Google” told her they weren’t very dangerous if they’d already been through the dryer. And – like most things I swallow – it all came out ok in the end.
I love being outside! Last night we were out on the deck and our neighbors next door had their 8-month-old granddaughter out on their third floor balcony, and she was talking to me through the rails. I don’t know why the grown-ups couldn’t understand what she was saying. I understood her perfectly!
Mom is saying “that’s enough for the first time, Bodie”, so I will end for now. Mom just read what I wrote and said it looked like I was going to do pretty good as a blog writer – especially for a kid! I didn’t know she was serious though until she hugged me and said I was a good boy. I really, really, really like when she calls me “a good boy” – because that is usually followed by a treat, which is the BEST kind of dog food EVER!
Personal Note: I received the following notification from Feedspot Blog last week:
I hope some of you out there will know more about this than I do! When I opened the link, I learned that Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog was listed as the 14th most popular ISLAND blog among the thousands of island blogs Feedspot holds in their index. The rankings change by the week and are based on Google reputation and Google search ranking, influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter, and other social media sites, quality and consistency of posts, and Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review.
As I said, I don’t really know what any of that means, but I say a very big “Thank You” for the designation! And a huge thank you to all my readers who encourage me daily to keep writing!
We didn’t have to worry about time dragging by this week! Ted and I (and Maddie and Bodie) were busy with work, doctor appointments, and a wonderful visit from friends. And every time I checked on things on Mackinac, there was something else going on up there – including the first snow of winter!
Our Oklahoma friends (who also own a condo where we were at Surrey Ridge), Buz and Patty Wierwick, visited us for three nights this week as part of their three-week driving tour of the south. They had never been to Florida or Georgia, and I think they fell in love with both states! Their children are “doing” Thanksgiving at other relatives this week, so Buz and Patty are going to be having Thanksgiving dinner in Mobile, AL on their way back home. We spent a few hours touring St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, on Thursday.
Stops included the oldest wooden school house in the U.S. . . .
. . . . and we just had to stop in for refreshments at St. George Tavern, which claims to be “The Oldest Pub in the Oldest City.”
On our way out of St. Augustine, we rode by the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. At over 315 years old, it’s the oldest structure in St. Augustine. Have you noticed that every sentence about St. Augustine contains the word “old”?
Ted finally got our boat out of storage last week, so we took our guests out for a ride on the Intercoastal on Friday – a gorgeous Florida November day! We’re so glad we got to see these great friends for a few days during the winter, and we can’t wait to get together again on the island next summer!
WINTER ARRIVES ON MACKINAC!
The calm before the storm – near sunset earlier in the week. Grand Hotel and Fort Mackinac by Tom Chambers.
Sunrise from the water on Thursday – by Stephanie Fortino on her way to the island.
A sunrise on Friday from Clark Bloswick.
Ahead of the snow came a gale warning. Jason St. Onge, who posted this pic of the freighter James Barker, said it was in the 60’s with calm waters earlier on Saturday. Saturday night and Sunday’s forecast included gale warnings with gusts up to 50 mph for the Straits of Mackinac and the island. The James Barker was setting anchor to take refuge between Mackinac Island and St. Ignace. Peak winds were to arrive around 4 pm Saturday.
Molly McGreevy posted this pic from a Marine Traffic App, showing the James Barker wasn’t the only vessel to take cover in the St. Ignace “parking lot”. For those interested, the green icons from bottom to top are the freighters James Barker, Cuyahoga, Edwin H. Gott, Algoma Enterprise, and Calument. The light blue icon are tugs. From top down The Michigan, The Rebecca Lynn and The Anglian Lady closest to land.
A Clark Bloswick photo from this morning at British Landing.
Clark’s view of the town this morning. He said the island got a couple of inches overnight.
Bodie had his first official grooming last week, and I’m so happy to report it went very well. Raina, our wonderful groomer, said he was good on the table. Even better – his trainer taught me how to load him in my car the day before our grooming appointment. With a couple of simple instructions, Bodie now jumps right into the back seat and seems content to either lay down or sit in the back and take in the scenery. Please, Lord, let this last! As much as you all know how much I loved my sweet Bear, he was a terrible traveler.
How Bodie sleeps at night. Cracks me up!
We took Bodie and Maddie out to Washington Oaks State Park this afternoon for a little adventure. Bodie discovered his shadow . . .
. . . and loved running free up and down the trails!
My sweet fur babies. . . .
So darn cute!
A FEW EXTRA
An awesome sunrise over our Flagler Beach pier by friend Linda Brendlinger. We lost a portion of the end of the pier to Hurricane Matthew.
Some beautiful shots of last week’s super moon from blog reader Cheryl Haddon from Illinois. Wow!
How can you not smile with these two characters around!
Who let the dogs out?! We have this big holding pond in our community, and it is usually dry. It makes a really fine dog park! From the front, that’s Maddie, Bodie, Ryder (an English Golden Retriever), little Joey (a MinPin), and Raschal (an Australian Shepherd). They LOVE playing together out there!
I had to end with this one. This photo from Greg Main shows a very unusual vertical cloud. If God ever chose to show us what His angels must look like, I think this cloud is a great representation.
Personal note: As all of you who have been readers over the years know, I usually take the month of November off from blogging. I didn’t want to do that this year, because of course I wanted to share our first month with Bodie with you.
So, I’m going to take a little breather now until the first of January. Per doctor’s orders, I’m starting physical therapy again on my neck, and I just need some time to recharge my jets. Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us, and I know we’re all going to be extra busy. It’s a good time to take a break from writing!
I’ll still be around on Facebook, so we can always say “hi” from there!
In advance, the Horton household wishes all of you the happiest of Thanksgivings and a very Merry Christmas. We’ll see you back here during the first week in January, 2017. It promises to be an exciting year for us. We have an Alaska cruise coming up in May, three months on Mackinac again during the summer, and lots of fun with a growing Bodie and our sweet little Maddie girl.
Sending much love and hugs from our house to yours!
We’ll have been back from Michigan a week on Monday, the 24th, and I have to admit to still being somewhat discombobulated. Although Flagler Beach and Beverly Beach community services are working like Trojans to get our little beach communities cleaned up and everything open again, it’s sad to ride up or down A1A and see the destruction that some subdivisions and towns even smaller than ours suffered.
Ted and I rode up to Fort Matanzas this afternoon (where Ted volunteers), and the destruction to homes and trees and dunes is just devastating. All along the highway there are piles of debris – some of it is just rubbish from downed trees, but way too much of it is furniture, appliances, clothes and artwork from houses that were once someone’s “dream homes”. In some areas the ocean came across the dunes and highway and went into neighborhoods and houses on the other side of the road. Vegetation both east and west of the highway looks as though it’s been sprayed by weed killer. Such is the destruction of salt water on plant life.
As many times as you read of these kinds of things happening other places, you can never fully grasp the reality until it happens close to you. In Sunset Inlet, homeowners whose houses sustained damage are struggling to get roofing and siding companies’ attention when there are so many other people needing the same services. Since we first got home, we’ve learned more about what happened here in our neighborhood, and we now know that several homes suffered pretty substantial damage – mostly from water intrusion from roof damage, windows and sliding doors. We had sustained winds here of nearly 90 mph for several hours, and that is a terrible force against anything man-made.
But – everyone is pulling together – sharing information, being there for each other, and lending helping hands. For those in the community who got here a day after the storm passed (one couple actually rented kayaks and came in that way before the bridges opened) – a huge thank you to those who came in and emptied our frig and freezer while the electricity was out and moved it into storage where there were generators. And thank you for coming – not once, but twice – to check our home for water damage around our doors and windows.
Each day more highways are opened, detours are cancelled, and businesses are opening. Two of our favorite places – Java Joint and Turtle Shack – were off limits to cars because of a detour, but they opened within days and you could still get there by walking down the side walk. Today the highway was opened, and we had breakfast at Java Joint for the first time since we’ve been back.
Our Flagler County communities depend on tourism – both summer and winter – for jobs and a good economy. We are rapidly rebuilding, and I predict by January, when most of the snowbirds arrive, and by next summer, when the beaches will fill with vacationers, this little coastal town will once again be going strong. We may be small, but we are mighty!
I KNEW I would miss the peak week for Fall colors, and I did. Thank you to Jill for sharing the first seven pics below (except the one from the Chippewa) from her final week on the island.
Jill found me on our last morning grabbing a cup of coffee from Miranda at Martha’s Sweet Shop.
One of my favorite places for Fall color – Surrey Hill!
There’s no Halloween anywhere as happy as a Mackinac Island Halloween!
Children fill the streets for a giant parade past the downtown businesses, where owners pass out goodies to every trick-or-treater.
After dark the streets belong to the adults, and costumes range from cute and clever to . . .
. . . over the top scary! (Photo: Chippewa Hotel)
A sure sign of season’s end – today the Chuckwagon closed. Have a great winter, Donny and Sharon and the crew!
The day after we left I saw this Mackinac Revealed LLC photo on Facebook. This has always been one of my favorite vistas, and in this pic our neighbors at Cedar Hill Condos, Meredith and Craig (and dog Mason), happened to be walking down the hill. Such a perfect photo!
Shepler Ferry Captain Pat Springate captured this great photo today, showing exactly how HUGE a freighter is!
The east end of town from Fort Mackinac this afternoon. (Photo: Tom Chambers)
And earlier today – from Clark Bloswick – a glance toward the Chippewa and Fort Mackinac from the Arnold Dock bike racks.
A CHANCE TO LIVE ON MACKINAC
For anyone who may be interested, I’m mentioning again a condo for sale on the island. I have a special place in my heart for this condo because Ted and I used to own it! Yes, our former condo at Surrey Ridge is being sold by the folks who bought it from us. Improvements to the condo since we owned it are: 1) personal storage units for each owner; 2) new decks and railing; and 3) new landscaping. The condo has three large bedrooms and two baths, a living area, kitchen, and a loft area that could be used as an office or TV room. The condo has three levels – entrance on the first floor, living area, kitchen, master bedroom and bath, and guest room and bath on second floor, and loft and third bedroom on third floor. The price is $315,000 FIRM. Interested folks should contact Steve Gould at (678) 521-3165. It is for sale by owner.
Eventually Bodie will take his place with Maddie as “one of our dogs”, but just for a little while I have to talk about him pretty much constantly.
You remember how you felt when your baby(s) started crawling and you could no longer take your eyes off them for one second? Take that feeling and multiple it by four legs and you get my present life.
Negatives: 1) He loves to put things in his mouth and couldn’t care less if they are safe or dangerous. Case in point – I was loading the dishwasher tonight when he disappeared behind me and headed for the bedroom. I know to follow him ANY TIME he disappears suddenly, and thank goodness I did. He had pulled a steak knife out of the dishwasher and was trying to figure out how to chew it! Oh dear Gussie – I almost had a heart attack! Thank goodness no harm was done, but I spent five minutes with his mouth pried open looking for blood and cuts. 2) Hmmm . . . I seem to have run out of negatives.
Positives: 1) He’s settling down more for longer periods of time. 2) He’s good in his crate at night and when we leave the house. 3) He has SIT and DOWN mastered (as long as there’s a treat involved), knows LEAVE IT and OFF (because he hears it every two minutes), and definitely knows his name. 4) He and Maddie are learning to share, but Maddie has met her match in “toy snatching”. For the first time in her life, she gets HER toys stolen as often as she steals Bodie’s. 5) Did I mention he’s a mama’s boy? 6) He is so curious about everything. He will sit and watch an airplane cross the sky and cock his head like “What IS that?”
He loves walking out to the dock on the Intracoastal and watching birds, but the first time a fish jumped out of the water he almost came out of his skin he was so scared.
Several days after we lost Bear I took all the covers off his huge orthopedic dog bed and washed them. When I was putting it all back together, I said to Ted I was going to see if anyone in the neighborhood would want the bed, and he immediately said, “No you’re not!” I asked why not, since we’d both talked about getting another small dog when something happened to Bear. “Because,” he said, “We’ll have another big dog one day who will need that bed.” Of course I cried on his shoulder that day, thinking to myself I couldn’t ever love another big dog.
I was wrong.
One of my readers last week commented that Bodie would never fill the spot in my heart that Bear filled, but that Bodie would create his own spot.
Oh. My. Gosh! What beautiful weather we’re having on Mackinac this week! All the humidity is gone, the temps are in the high 60’s during the day and low 50’s at night, and we’re beginning to see a red leaf here and there. I can feel Fall standing just behind the curtains – waiting backstage for just the right moment to appear in all her glory!
With that thought in mind, I set out with my camera on a walk a couple of days ago. I didn’t capture too much in the way of fall colors, but I sure had fun looking! My photo idea for the walk was to focus on Mackinac fences, and I did that some, but it really just turned into one of my “happy walks”!
Just past the new condos is this tall wooden fence. There is one on both sides of the road here, and they hide some of Grand Hotel”s maintenance equipment. The gates are seldom open, but if you happen by at the right (or wrong) time, you might spot someone leaving on a riding lawnmower!
This open fencing borders the back side of the first nine holes of Grand Hotel’s Jewel Golf Course. Since we’ve moved right across the street from the course, Ted has been “climbing the fence” after the flags are removed in the afternoon and trying to improve his golf game (yes, it’s ok to do that – I promise he won’t get in trouble).
This beautiful team of horses came by while I was at the golf course fence. Pretty sure they are Percherons.
Looking across the golf course to Little Stone Church.
This serpentine white picket fence surrounds the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence. Wonder where that bench on the dray was going?
The Governor’s residence is to the right of this photo. I’m standing at the summit of Fort Hill, looking out over the harbor – a fantastic vista!
I turned left, walked up a small hill, and spotted a team of dray horses through the trees.
Sometimes a fence can be a living thing – like this hedge at the back of Fort Mackinac.
The North Sally Port entrance to the fort. On July 17, 1812, American troops marched through this gate to surrender to the British. This is not a public entrance but is used by State Park and Tea Room employees, tour groups with a State Park escort, and service vehicles. And it’s handicap friendly.
I cut through the open area beside the fort and passed several private residences on my way to. . . .
. . . the Somewhere in Time gazebo, scene of dozens of island weddings each summer.
The view from inside the gazebo.
From the gazebo, it’s just a short walk over shaded dirt paths to Anne’s Tablet, where you can stand at that split rail fence and see . . .
. . . the entire marina, the bay, Round and Bois Blanc Islands, and both lighthouses.
There are many short trails that meander near Anne’s Tablet. One takes you to . . .
. . . the edge of a cliff that drops straight down. Careful on that one!
Another leads to a fence-bordered set of very steep stairs leading down to the back of Marquette Park in town, and one leads to . . .
. . . . the East Bluff, where Victorian cottages reign over . . . .
. . . what could possibly be the best of all views of town and the Straits of Mackinac.
I retraced my steps to the back side of the fort, then took a shortcut through the State Park Maintenance buildings area. Love this old building that has probably known many uses over the years . . .
. . . but right now seems to be mostly used for storage.
Beyond the maintenance area I come to this well-known fork in the road.
Picking the road on the left and walking just a few steps, I come to the Cupid’s pathway sign (on the right). Directly across from that sign is the shortcut path we would take through the woods going home to Surrey Hill.
I’ve found myself avoiding this path all summer because it was one of the most frequently walked paths for Bear and I. We’d choose it as the shortcut to one of our adventures and as the shortest way home from those adventures. I knew what was going to happen, but I turned down the path anyway. Just a few steps, and tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.
That tree up ahead (the one on the left and closest to the path) is the one I’d slip behind and hide while Ted, Maddie and Bear walked on ahead. As soon as Bear would look back and not see me, he’d fly down the path to find his lost mom. And then he’d dance happily all around, and sometimes . . . .
. . . that would be followed by one of his famous “Bear zooms” through the woods at full speed.
My heart has been heavy this summer without my sweet boy. I love this photo of us taken several years ago on a beautiful Fall day. I’m praying for many years ahead on Mackinac, sharing this beautiful island, with Bear’s blessing, with Bodie. Just the thought of Bodie makes me smile
That special path takes another fork toward the end. One way leads to the back of the carriage museum at Surrey Hill and the other, which I took, comes out behind the building which houses one of the island’s fire trucks.
Behind the fire truck building, it’s a short walk across the area which houses the offices of the electricity company, then out into the open in front of Grand Hotel Stable. And I’m back to the condo!
Can’t tell you how excited we are to have dinner planned on Monday evening with a dozen or so blog readers. Right now my reservations list includes Lowell & Faye, Kem & Ed, Yvonne & Tony, Hilde & Bud, Joleen & Bruce, Pam & Mike Day, and Jill. If you’re a blog reader and going to be on the island Monday, Sept. 19, and want to join us at the Chippewa at 6:00 p.m., please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add you to the list!
We had another of Ted’s newly-found cousins, Dave Bennink and his wife Diane, visit with us for a couple of days this week, and we continue to feel so blessed to have the chance to connect with such nice folks.
We’d been told by other family members what a “big guy” Dave was, and that turned out to be an understatement!
At 6′ 5″ Dave is a commanding presence (no, Ted is not standing on a lower step),and we both instantly fell in love with him and his sweet wife Diane.
Even though the Benninks had been to Mackinac several times over the years, the private tour with Blake Ruddle took them a few places they hadn’t seen . . . like Fort Holmes!
We even spotted some trees at the cemeteries that had begun to show their Fall colors! I think it’s going to be a brilliant Fall on the island!
While downtown, this sweet lady – Joan Bishop – recognized Ted and I from the blog, and we sat down to chat a moment. It turns out Joan and Diane know some of the same people from Muskegon and attended the same high school! Such a small, small world!
Diane and I cracked up at this candid pic I took of Ted and Dave working those iPhones one evening. Look at those faces! Exact same expressions. Yep, they’re cousins all right.
Our visit with the Benninks was saddened when we learned of the passing of Harry Shade, husband of Ted’s half-sister, Sheryl. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sheryl and her family during this sad time.
THE NEW PLACE
A few pics of the new condo . . . .
Thanks to neighbor Pam Day for this nice shot of the condos as she was returning home one evening. We’re in the bottom right-hand unit. That’s the Grand Hotel stable and carriage museum behind us on the right.
The living area . . . love that chaise!
. . . and kitchen.
Guest bedroom one . . .
. . . and two.
There are also two nice-sized bathrooms, a large walk-in closet, and a laundry room. The landscaping hasn’t been completed yet in the front, but Jack Barnwell is in charge. Can’t wait to see what he will come up with, and one thing’s for sure – it will be gorgeous! We are loving being up the hill again!
While Ted was seeing Dave and Diane off yesterday, I was transporting Maddie down to Chambers corner for a visit with one of the island vets, Dr. Hites. Maddie has been limping for over a week, and we discovered a growth between two of her toes. I didn’t want her to have to walk all the way down there, so I put a towel in my bike basket, put Maddie on the towel, and away we went. No, I didn’t ride the bike, I walked it (I’m off-balance enough without an extra 12 lbs. in the basket to throw me off). Dr. Hites gave her an oral antibiotic, an antibiotic cream, and something for pain relief. He said she could have gotten a cut, or a thorn, or it could have just come up on its own. Back in the basket she went, and up the hill we came. I can’t begin to tell you how many tourists took pictures of Miss Maddie riding in the basket!
I received a few more pics of Bodie yesterday, and all I can say is “That boy is growing like a weed!”
This original photo was taken at three months.
And this is Bodie today at 5 1/2 months!
He’s a gorgeous BIG boy already, and I can’t wait to wrap my arms around him and take him home five weeks from now!
BLOG FAN WEEK
It seems there are going to be several blog fans on the island Sept. 18-21, and I’m hoping we can all get together for dinner Monday night, Sept. 19. Those I know for sure will be here are Lowell & Faye Greene, Frankie Thill and her friend Sue, Kem and Ed Green, Hilde & Bud DaVanon, Yvonne & Tony Pitsch, and Joleen & Bruce Griffin. If you happen to have a trip planned to the island during that time period, I’d love to add you to the dinner group. Just email me at email@example.com. Looking forward to it!
On May 1 – exactly four months ago today – our sweet Bear crossed to the Rainbow Bridge, leaving a hole in my heart big enough to insert the states of Florida, Michigan, and probably part of Georgia too.
Over these four months I’ve considered just about every scenario possible. Did I want another Golden Retriever? Should I consider an English-bred Golden vs an American-bred Golden? Did I want another big dog at all? Maybe I should think about a small dog. Should I not even get another dog (that thought entered my brain and exited at warp speed). Did I want a puppy or an adult dog? Should I purchase from a reputable breeder or rescue from the humane society?
That last question gave me more pause than all the others combined actually. I’m a huge advocate for rescue, and as much as I loved Bear and love Maddie, my rescue Chocolate Labrador mix Bud remains to this day as my heart dog.
All that said, Bear stood out from all my other dogs in one way, and that was his sweet, sweet spirit. He was an amazing friend, he totally and unconditionally loved me, and he absolutely spoiled me for any other breed.
So . . . . . when we return home the middle of October, we will be making a stop at Bearabella Golden Retrievers in Atlanta (where Bear was bred), and we will pick up this little boy . . .
Introducing . . . . BODIE!
This little furbaby will be 6 1/2 months old when we pick him up – a teenager in dog years. That should offer us a few challenges along the way, but we are happily looking forward to having this ball of fluffy, shedding, chewing preciousness in our home and hearts. We don’t expect him to be another Bear, and it will be fun watching his own distinct personality evolve over the months and years ahead.
And I believe – up at the Rainbow Bridge – Bear is smiling, wagging his tail, and thinking, “Welcome, little brother!”
In one of myfavorite books, The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister, there is a chapter that asks the question, “What am I when I am no longer what I do?” In the book, Chittister is referring to retirement and how we define ourselves in the world when we are no longer “the moneymaker, the boss, the councilwoman, the teacher, the parent-in-residence, etc.”
It only took a year of retirement for me to become defined by two new designations. I became Bree the Blogger, and I became Bear’s Mom.
As if it was yesterday I remember going to look at young adult dogs at Bearabella Golden Retrievers in Peach Tree City, GA. I’d been researching Goldens for a couple of weeks, following the passing of our Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Bud. The ad was in the Atlanta Journal – three puppies out of a mom and dad who were both national champions. The two brothers and one sister were 13 months old. Along with their other siblings, all three dogs had been tried in the show ring, but for one reason or another – after a few competitions – their breeder knew these three were not meant for the ring.
I knew I wanted a male, so upon arrival, we only glanced at the pretty female. Ted immediately went for the red brother – the one running around the yard like a crazy dog – jumping, barking, tongue lolling out of his mouth with the pure joy of running free outside. “This is the one!” Ted exclaimed excitedly.
But I was already in love with his sibling – a big, beautiful, blonde male sitting quietly inside his opened outside kennel door – just watching everything that was going on with a slight smile on his face. I walked over, snapped a lead on his collar, and led him out of his kennel. He walked beautifully, a little ahead of me on the left side – not a perfect heel position, but a “show heel” as he’d been taught. No pulling, no trying to break free, just a happy walk alongside the person who he probably already knew was taking him home.
And so I became Bear’s mom. His registered call name was Valentino, and we laughed at thinking about a “river dog” with that name. And so he became Bear, a name his breeder had included in the name of her kennel because she thought her dogs’ heads resembled bears’ heads.
lor:#000000;” href=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/img_0035.jpg”>I couldn’t wait to get him back to the lake and get out my camera. This is the first photo I have of Bear – sprawled majestically on our back deck at Lake Blackshear – and probably wondering what on earth he’d gotten himself into.
[/caption]Even before I found Bear I knew I wanted to participate in Paws Patrol in Albany. They were a dedicated group of pet therapy teams who visited hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living homes and schools. After only a few weeks with Bear, I knew he’d be perfect as a therapy dog, so we signed up for the orientation classes, took all the tests (which HE passed with flying colors – I had to repeat one test), and started four happy years of service.
[caption gn="aligncenter" width="550" style="color: #000000" id="attachment_24648" height="400" alt="One of his favorite things to do was to listen to children read to him. Middle school students gravitated toward the "]href=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/img_9520.jpg”>One of his favorite things to do was listen to children read to him. Middle school students gravitated toward the “big yellow dog”, and he always patiently listened to every word.
[caption width="584" style="color: #000000" h id="attachment_24649" height="645" alt="He was the perfect size. He could put his head on a hospital bed just where a patient's hand could reach him or lay his head in the laps of wheelchair patients. I don't think there was ever a person who put their hand on him who didn't say, "]ef=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/bear.jpg”>He was the perfect size. He could put his head on a hospital bed just where a patient’s hand could reach him or lay his head in the laps of wheelchair patients. I don’t think there was ever a person who put their hand on him who didn’t say, “He’s so soft! What do you bathe him with?” But, it wasn’t the shampoo – it was just Bear.
[caption aligncenter width="584" style="color: #000000" hre id="attachment_24650" height="273" alt="One of our pet therapy groups outside an assisted living facility."]=”https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/group4.jpg”>One of our pet therapy groups outside an assisted living facility. All of these dogs blessed – and some are still blessing – so many lives.
[/caption]After his knee surgery and our move to Florida, I let his certification lapse. But Bear never stopped “working a crowd.” Any room he entered and any group of people he encountered was fair game for Bear’s “leaning into them” or putting his head in their lap. In his mind, he never stopped being a therapy dog. Never.
Bear was never more excited than when he was on Mackinac Island for the summer! He loved the cooler weather (like his mom). And he loved the woods . . .
s://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/img_84661.jpg”>His happiest moments were racing full-speed through the trees and up and down the nature paths. I would lag behind while Ted, Maddie and Bear walked ahead. Then I’d hide. Ted would turn, not see me, and say to Bear, “Where’s your mama?” And Bear would come tearing down the trail, screeching to a halt beside the tree I was hiding behind. He never once ran past me . . . he always zeroed in with that nose of his before he ever reached me. And he’d bark and jump around like he hadn’t seen me in months.
[caption idth="584" style="color: #000000" href="https://bre id="attachment_24660" alt="He also loved our new home in Beverly Beach . . ." width="584" height="389"]1972.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/img_0029.jpg”>He loved our new home in Florida too, especially the beach on cooler days. He had a blast retrieving stuff Ted would throw into the waves – as long as he didn’t have to wade in past his knees! He never quite conquered his distrust of the water.
[/caption]The photo above is from his last day – a Saturday. He ran around and chased stuff on the beach that morning and generally had a grand ole time. After breakfast Ted and I settled down on the deck with our second cup of coffee, and Maddie and Bear settled into their usual spots. A little while later Bear got up and came and put his head in my lap, something he had never done at that time of day or while we were on the deck. I put my hand on his head, and asked him, “What’s up, sweet boy?” He stayed there another moment, looking at me with those soulful eyes, and then went back and laid down. I think he knew then what was happening. A little over 12 hours later he was gone.
So many have asked about Maddie, and I think she misses Bear most at walk time. Ted would always be putting on her halter and lead as I was putting on Bear’s collar and lead. For the first few days she’d look around as we’d go out the door like, “Isn’t Bear coming with us?”
When I brought Bear’s ashes home this week, they included a little bag with locks of Bear’s hair. Tears streaming down my face, I opened the bag and called Maddie over. She took one sniff, and her little tail went into overdrive – wagging so fast.
As the days have passed, Maddie is settling into the new normal, just as we are. Ted is still her favorite cuddle buddy, but she’s begun to grace me with a few hours of her presence in my chair on some evenings. As I type this, she’s curled up at my feet.
When my Chocolate Lab Bud died I had him cremated, and now his ashes and Bear’s are sharing a spot on our dresser. Years ago, when Bud died, someone asked what I was going to do with his ashes, and some have asked the same about Bear’s. My answer is the same now as it was then: I’ve tried to think of places Bud and Bear loved so much they would like to be there (in a physical way) forever. But, with both Bud and Bear, the one place they loved being more than anywhere else . . . was with me. So, family members know that my ashes and Bud’s and Bear’s are to be scattered together in the places we all loved being together the most – at the lake in Georgia and on Mackinac Island. Some may find that very weird, but those are my wishes.
To each of you who wrote such loving words to me over the last couple of weeks – thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have read and re-read them, and they have brought such comfort because they tell me how much one of God’s four-legged creatures can touch so many hearts. I want to share two of those notes here:
From Sarah Sielbeck in Red Wing, MN: “I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I was to read that you lost Bear over the weekend. The email with your blog post showed up on my phone just as I sat down for a pre-concert rehearsal and after reading it I decided to dedicate to Bear (in my heart) yesterday’s St. Croix Valley Symphony concert. It was a lovely concert of Americana and bluegrass music, and as I played I pictured him running the wooded trails of Mackinac.”
And from Jason (the other Jason) Bergeron in San Antonio, TX: “I have no words to describe how sorry I am for your loss. Though Bear was not the traditional working dog I was used to dealing with, he still selflessly served in the communities in which you lived. Whether it was therapy or having children read to him – that in my book makes him a working dog, a true hero and champion in his community. Bear answered the highest calling only special dogs like him can – which was to make a difference. Though I never had the pleasure to meet him, I’ll never forget him.”
I know this has been long. It’s taken me several days to get it done because I’ve been unable to see the keyboard through my tears. I’ve stopped and started many, many times. But . . . writing it all down is healing in its way. My tears have gotten fewer and my crying spells further apart. I know, with time, I will remember more than anything that Bear was a special, special dog – loved by everyone whose hands ever touched him. He was the best. He did make a difference.
He was my sweet boy.
NOTE FROM THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
Hey! Bear here!
I guess you didn’t think you’d be hearing from me again, but I got special permission from the Rainbow Bridge Keeper to write this note (yes, I already have the Bridge Keeper wrapped around my paw).
First of all . . . . I am fine. In fact, I am better than fine. I am awesome!
My last memories of earth were of running on the beach Saturday morning and having a wonderful time. Later on in the day I didn’t feel good, and as the day went on, I felt even worse. I remember two trips to the vet – the last one in the middle of the night. At the vet’s I remember mom and dad being with me, rubbing me all over, and telling me how much they loved me. I remember mom leaning into me with her whole body and holding me and whispering in my ear that I was the best dog that ever lived. I remember Mom and Dad were both crying, and I wanted to lift my head and tell them it was all going to be ok, but I was so, so sleepy.
I remember taking a breath and letting it out. And on my very next breath I was awake! Up, and running across this huge field of long grass. The wind was blowing my hair, I felt wonderful (no more achy joints), and there were trees and flowers everywhere. It was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen – even more beautiful than Mackinac Island!
Really, it is!
There are dogs everywhere here! Not long after I arrived, dogs started coming toward me, stopping, and introducing themselves. Because . . . . HERE dogs can TALK!
First I met Lucky, Tyler, Shotzie, Gretchen and Bud, who told me they’d been mom and dad’s dogs before me and Maddie. Then here comes Beyla! And oh my gosh, she had four legs again and was so darn beautiful! And then – oh joy! There was my friend Hershey, running toward me like she was young again. Because – she was!
And then, all these other dogs came up to me and explained they were dogs that belonged to mom’s friends and readers and relatives before they came to the Rainbow Bridge! I wish I could remember all their names for you, but a few of them are Boomer, Sally, Brinkley, Cassie, Fiona, Petey, Herbie, Ginger, Buster, Barnabas, Maggie, Bentley, Tasha, Morgaine, Tiffany, Brandy, Belle, Buster, and Charlie.
Oh my gosh, we are having so much fun here. We’re all well and happy and well-fed. There’s water to splash around in, and I’ve even ventured in UP TO MY CHEST! All the other dogs tell me to just take it a little at a time, and soon I’ll be swimming with the rest of them!
And there is so much love here that we never feel lonely.
But . . . the one thing that will make our lives the very best is when we see YOU coming across that big grassy field toward us. That’s the day we’re all waiting for. Because then . . . we’ll run to meet you and smother you with kisses and feel your hands on us again. And everything will truly be . . . just perfect.
And then, we’ll cross the Rainbow Bridge together into Heaven.
For those who have not seen this already on Facebook this morning:
Our beautiful Bear went to Doggie Heaven this morning around 1 a.m. His breathing had become more labored since we had taken him in to the vet around noon, so we took him back about midnight. The hemangiosarcoma had already invaded his internal organs, had ruptured, and the sac around his heart was full of blood and causing him distress. There were also signs of tumor in his spleen and liver. The vet said he probably would not survive the night, so we chose to help him cross the Rainbow Bridge to ease his distress.
Ted and I are heartbroken. He was our big, beautiful, smart boy, and the love he gave to us, to hundreds of patients as a therapy dog, to children in the Paws for Reading Program, and to everyone he met cannot be measured in mere words.
I will write a proper tribute to my beautiful boy at a later date. Right now Ted and I are just trying to get through this first day. I see him everywhere.
I will probably take a couple of weeks off blogging to try and wrap my head around this and to grieve. I know each of you will understand . . . because you all loved him also.
Run fast and free, my beautiful Bear. You were such a special, special friend.
Bear’s pathology report came back today, and his tumor is cancer – hemangiosarcoma – a particularly nasty cancer of the blood vessels that can appear at the skin level or internally, usually in the spleen, heart, or liver. Our vet urged us to see a veterinary oncologist in Jacksonville, and we have an appointment on Monday at 9 a.m.
The best case scenario will be that this is a primary tumor. The pathology report stated that the surgeon got ALL this tumor – …the surrounding area is cancer-free. If this is the case, Bear would be extremely lucky that we found it at this early stge as these tumors spread quickly and are very aggressive. There is always a chance that it could recur, but if it IS a primary tumor with no spread, he has a good chance for a few more years.
If this is a secondary tumor that has spread from somewhere else, the outlook is distressingly bleak.
We will find all that out on Monday.
I write all this with tears streaming down my face, but I wanted all our prayer warriors to know as quickly as possible that we continue to need prayers.
I will post another update after we get back home on Monday. They told us we could expect to be there anywhere from 2-5 hours.