Yesterday I woke just before 3:00 a.m. to the sound of heavy panting. Conan was supine in his bed except for his head and shoulders, which were held high as he surveyed the dark room. He was alert but clearly distressed and uncomfortable. I turned down the heat, removed his blanket, and sat with him on his bed to monitor his progress.
Unfortunately, he only got worse.
What began as panting transitioned into a death rattle. His heart rate climbed. His body would occasionally shake from involuntary muscle contractions. I woke my husband, who is not a morning person, to come spend time with Conan before he traveled to his next engagement. For close to two hours we supported him as he labored valiantly to stay. We told him all the things about him we love the most and thanked him for sharing his life with us.
More than 24 hours later, Conan is still with us and has been the entire focus of our weekend. He is able to rest comfortably and about 30 minutes ago had a few ounces of food (roasted pork and pumpkin fed from a fork) for the first time since Friday's dinner. At 2:00 a.m. he ventured outside to pee and rehydrated. He is weak and tired. In many ways he appears to have checked out. Although he is responsive to his name and usually to touch, he has spent most of his hours with his eyes tightly closed. Still, he is not ready and we will not move him along unless he indicates he needs help. He is welcome to stay and sleep here for as long as he wishes.
This exercise has moved me to think about how we spend time with each other. So many days life feels rushed and stripped of sincerity. Get up. Feed cats. Walk dogs. Feed dogs. Go to work. Come home. Feed cats. Walk dogs, Feed dogs.
I have spent almost all of the past 28 hours lying or sitting next Conan. I have gently scratched his head, massaged his legs and feet for circulation, rubbed his lower back, been a pillow for his massive head, helped him rearrange himself, sang silly songs, told stories, cried, napped, and just been silent and still. As much as I adore seeing him charge through the underbrush of a forest or hunt for cats when we walk in the evenings, simply being with him mindfully is the best.
There will be times in the future when I am distracted and not fully present. I already have a rule about no mobile phone use or listening to music while walking dogs. When I am with them I want to be with them. That time allows me to reacquaint myself with the characteristics I love dearly as well as learn about new ones.
Midway through writing his post I took a Cone break. He drank a little more water, had a bit of corn bread (one of his favorites) with half of his medication, drank a little more water, and worked through about 10 minutes of labored breathing before settling. Whereas yesterday, or even an hour ago, he was not making a connection among brain, body, and environment, now he has regained a sliver of vitality and appears to be quite frustrated that his body is not able to do the things he would like to do today. He watched me intently after I returned to my laptop, two feet away, and explained what I was writing. Satisfied that things are as good as can be in the world again, he stretched his limbs, lowered his head, and closed his eyes for the next round of intense napping.
Coney, whether it is in the next hour, next month, or next year, I will be here to support you when you are ready.
Do you remember when every picture was one you could hold in your hand? They were all printed. When digital technology came along, it revolutionized the world of photography, but it also diminished the importance of printing images. This is a sad state of affairs.
Pictures were meant to be printed. They are different on paper than on even the best monitor. Paper is always better. Of course, it is not practical to print every picture and digital media storage is a wonderful solution. But really, they are so much better on paper. On paper and framed, preferably.
Today I visited with a client from last year who told me (with a huge smile) that she selected her favorite picture from our session and printed it as an 11 x 14, which is now proudly displayed. I wanted to giver her a big hug for saying such a thing but quickly decided that might be a little weird. I love to hear that kind of comment. Our house is full of photographs, and because we have so many we simply rotate the stock in the frames so we have a fresh view every quarter or so. The other pictures are securely stored in acid free containers and all of them get a turn to be featured.
Professional prints can be expensive, however, which tempts people to print their memories at Target, Costco, or some other place that can churn them out quickly. I lab I use, www.mpix.com, offers archival quality prints at prices that rival the box stores. Sure, you have to wait for them to arrive in the mail, but the delayed gratification can be exciting. Mpix also offers services like color correction, metallic paper, and loads of variations like wrapped canvases and photo books.
Please, please, please consider printing your photographs. You'll be glad you did.
Witnessing cats be cats outside is mesmerizing. They have so many things to do. Their senses are incredible, and watching them see, hear, and smell things that are unnoticed by me is exciting.
I am rarely asked to photograph kitties because they are often shy of strangers. Even more rare is the opportunity to capture the feline in nature. It was cold and had recently snowed, but my new friend Bailey still braved the elements to put on an excellent show for me in his backyard. He was quite pleased to be photographed.
Isn't he handsome?
This project is a true challenge this time of year. It is simple too dark to create the kinds of images I can in the summer. Creatively interpreting each day with subjects I can shoot indoors is tricky, but it has also been a wonderful opportunity to think.
There are so many ways to represent something or someone at peace. This clock probably looks like just a clock, and most people do not find the concept of time especially peaceful. In this clock, however, are the ashes of who can only be described as the love of my life. Seeing the clock on the mantle reminds me that at least part of him is still with me.
Vaughn passed away in 2007 and I miss him every day. Those who knew him would describe him as dignified, elegant, benevolent . . . and a dog. He was the first great Dane in my life and the teacher of things I could not hope to learn from any other. There was something very undog-like about him which was at times unsettling. Especially in his last two years while his liver slowly failed his body, he was the embodiment of peace.
Because of him I am a better person. I love him dearly.
"I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
- Anne Bradstreet