Sunday, February 24, 2008

Updates on Delhi, Butterball, and "Bob"

February 19 (from The Elephant Sanctuary)

Delhi is still lying down and still doing well. She has had a couple of things pop up
in the past couple of days: a wet dermatitis in her ear folds, which is being treated with an antibiotic antifungal powder, along with a discharge in her urine, which is being treated with cranberry capsules and vitamin C (no need for supplements there, she is eating a bucket of oranges a day). But one look at the sweet smile on her serene face and you know that Delhi is still here because she wants to be and we are more than happy to be there for her and spend this time with her trying to make sure she is as happy now as she has always made us.

Tarra (the elephant) visited her the other day and enjoyed the giant pile of sawdust and endless supply of hay she found in Delhi’s stall. She backed up ever so gently to Delhi with her tail out and picking her foot up slightly—she was very easy with her. Misty and Dulary are still spending time with Delhi, but also are comfortable enough to spend part of the day away from her playing and napping in the south yard. And our sensitive Winkie can be found in the corner of the stall with her trunk out, looking very softly at Delhi. Once again, the girls seem to be making sure that we understand that this can all be done with the utmost grace, dignity, sensitivity, care
and love.



I felt I had to go back on my word to Butterball and take him for another ride to the vets last Tuesday. It just seems like he is disappearing before my very eyes. The vet confirmed that he has lost another pound in the past month, making it a total of almost 3 pounds in four months. A drastic loss in weight so quickly, I asked the vet about a possible thyroid problem. Apparently, when I had the thorough blood workup done a few months ago, they did check his thyroid and there were no problems, along with normal levels for his kidneys and liver. The vet said the next step would be to take an xray of his abdomen for which he would need to be sedated. Another decision, but one that was quickly made as I was driving to work that same day. What would the purpose of the xray be? To see if there was a growth or tumor in his abdomen. Then what? At 15 years old, weakened by weight loss and the occasional respiratory problems, I just cannot subject Butterball to the stresses of major surgery.

The vet also said we could just be going on a witch hunt and not find any "smoking gun" as to his weight loss and, drastic as it may be, could just be his aging process. He is still a very content guy, jumping up on chairs, tables and countertops. At night, still pressing his face against mine while purring both of us to sleep.

So, I will take my cues from The Elephant Sanctuary and love him and make him as comfortable as possible.



Well, as soon as I posted my note about my new roomie, Bob the stink bug, he started slowing down and the very next day found him belly up next to my computer. Cheers Bob, I hardly smelled ye.


I still feel I need to add a photo or two even though I have nothing to go along with the stories above. So, enjoy my one bad shot of the lunar eclipse and some quiet time with a cardinal having a drink outside the window over my kitchen sink (just ignore the house sparrows)...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

For My Mother

Who passed away three years ago today......

"Things neither come nor go. Things don't move. It is we who go to them. Only the spirit travels. Memory is not an eye that returns to the past; it is rather the power that allows us to see what is, in its essence, outside of time...."

from Canek, by Emilio Abreu Gomez

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Recall and Some Sillies

By now I'm sure you are all aware of the largest recall in the U.S. history. The undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States is truly stomach churning. The USDA which has oversight for the safety of the meat and also making sure the meat packing plants (slaughterhouses) follow the guidelines of the Animal Welfare Act, said this was an isolated incident. The Humane Society, on the other hand, said they just picked this particular plant at random. I have the sickening feeling that this goes on far more than not.

I wrestle with this daily. I am a meat-eater from the Midwest and I just don't know if I could give up meat entirely. But, I have decided two things. One, I have made the decision to eat less meat, including poultry. Instead of almost every night, I have cut back to 2-3 times a week. Two, I have made the decision that I will not buy meat from a store where I do not know how it was processed. I'm lucky that my farmer's market has a local angus farm that has a stall that sells meat, poultry and eggs. When they first set up their stall I asked how the animals were slaughtered. I won't go into details, but for one thing the animals are not trucked anywhere which is a big plus. And, they are killed on the farm in the most humane way possible. Only being able to buy meat once a week is not the most convenient, as just today I was thinking of making my family's recipe for hungarian goulash. Well, that requires stew meat and I will have to wait until next Sunday to buy it.

Another thing I have done was to go to the Humane Society of the United States and sign an email letter to send to the head of the USDA to stop the torture of downed animals and to keep them out of the food supply.

A fascinating book that has a chapter about the meat-packing industry and what simple measures can be taken to make sure all the animals are treated humanely is Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin.

I will close this subject with a quote from Albert Schweitzer "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."

Okay take a DEEP exhale. Let's switch gears here.

I've acquired a new housemate. I noticed him early last week. His name is Bob.......

Does anyone know what kind of bug he is? I thought he was a box elder bug but no dice. In the past week I've fished him out of the cats' water dish twice, and almost stepped on him. One day I was sitting in the bathroom and something caught my eye and found Bob on my shoulder! I was a little peeved "c'mon Bob, can't a gal get a little privacy!" It's interesting that the cats leave him alone. If he is on the floor they will give him a sniff and walk away. I think he walks too slowly for them.

Now, onto demon squirrels. Last weekend we had some of the coldest weather of the season with temps going down to 18 one night. I put out extra bird seed and shelled and unshelled peanuts for the jays, woodpeckers and cardinals. Last Sunday I looked and saw three cardinals in the bushes near the dish with the shelled peanuts and wondered why they were not eating. Of course, there was a squirrel sitting fat and happy gobbling up the peanuts. It was so cold that I didn't even want to open the door so I was just yelling and waving and banging on the door. The squirrel turned to look at me and his eyes went from black to....well, look for yourself.

Are those demon eyes or what?! I slowly backed away from the door.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Long Goodbye

Many of you know I’m a big fan and supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Over the past three weeks I have been checking the website multiple times daily for updates on Delhi. At over 62 years old, Delhi is the oldest elephant at the sanctuary and is in the process of crossing over.

Delhi was captured in the wilds of India over 55 years ago. Her entire captive life has been spent traveling and performing with circuses. She arrived at the Sanctuary is 2004 after being confiscated by the USDA from the Hawthorne Corporation that had been cited for many violations of the Animal Welfare Act. She came to the Sanctuary with a terminal foot disease and her prognosis was grim. Many vets who examined her said she would not last very much longer. Well, Delhi proved them wrong. She flourished being exposed to other elephants, good food and excellent care. The most important thing, she was free. Free to do whatever she wanted. Free to explore 2700 acres of the Sanctuary.

Elephants, by nature, only sleep around four hours a day, taking little half-hour ele-naps throughout the day. This can be done by either standing or lying down. One of the reasons for this is that because of their size, when lying down, they can injure their internal organs if they are down for a long period of time. Delhi’s caretakers became concerned at the end of January when Delhi went down for a nap and did not rise for 24 hours. What follows is commentary and photos from The Elephant Sanctuary.


February 2, 2008

Delhi settled in for another of her long naps early Thursday morning and has not risen. The option of lifting her in a sling was discussed and rejected due to Delhi's advanced age (62+ years) and terminal foot disease. Alternatively, it was decided to keep her comfortable and pain free while supporting her through her process. Last night, Misty took turns sleeping next to Delhi then protectively standing over her while Delhi slept. All of the elephants remain calm and peaceful in Delhi's presence. She is eating, drinking periodically and seems quite content. We switched her pain reliever from banimine to ibuprofen today. She was amazing. The grand lady, who in the past would clamp her mouth shut tight and refuse to accept nasty tasting meds hidden in any medium, graciously accepted twenty-five apples and oranges, mostly oranges, with one 800mg ibuprofen pill in each one. She savored the fruit, then stretched, rested, savored the next and then stretched until each of her pills were eaten. Lauren, Kat, Scott, Mary, Carol, Misty and Dulary continue to shower Delhi with love and constant physical attention. Delhi is an angel, we are so blessed to be in her presence. She may be leaving us from this physical plane but never will she leave us from the world of wise souls, watching over us as we continue our work for her and her sisters. Please send light and peaceful thoughts of acceptance for our Grand Dame. True to her advanced species she would not want us to worry, because worry is wasteful—instead of worry, send love. The most profound thing you can do for dear Delhi right now is to open your heart in love and acceptance.

Misty, never leaving her side, sleeping next to her best friend Delhi

February 6, 2008

Although Delhi was showing no signs of discomfort, we decided to be proactive and bring in Dr. Mikota to do acupuncture on Delhi to help move her bowels. Delhi was awesome, accepting the treatment with only a couple of comments—the guttural verbalization she makes to remind her caregivers that she is in charge and calls the shots. We all reassured her that she indeed is still in charge. A few hours after the acupuncture treatment Delhi received a warm water enema. After about twenty minutes she began to defecate. Again, she was calm and showed no pain. Acupuncture and warm water enemas are a gentle way to stimulate Delhi’s bowels and seemed to be a good treatment combo for her. Her system is slowing down as she gracefully moves through her process. Caregivers continue to shower Delhi with love and care, taking turns being with her 24/7.

Delhi receiving acupuncture treatments

February 11, 2008

Our sweet Delhi continues to rest comfortably in the company of her family. A friend sent wonderful flute music for us to play for Delhi. She has been incredibly relaxed and perhaps this music is helping. All of the girls have been peaceful, keeping the energy in the barn very mellow. Today Delhi’s preferred foods were watermelon, cantaloupe and grapes. It seems what she craves changes from day to day. Her caregivers find great joy in providing treats that she savors. The back of Delhi’s stall has become a loving display of photos, candles, elephant figurines, flowers and a Tibetan prayer flag. The gifts have appeared unprompted over the past week, gifts of love from caregivers and other staff members. Delhi has given us so much over the past few years and today she is teaching us to live in the moment; no projection, no assumption, no worry—just Delhi with us in this very moment.

February 14, 2008

Delhi got a facial of sorts today. She has developed two small pressure wounds on the underside of her face, a place that is quite difficult to get to. This morning two of her caregivers removed the shavings and hay that were under Delhi’s head so they could flush the wounds and apply medication. Getting underneath Delhi’s massive head is no small feat since she only lifts her head for about a second at a time while shifting.

So Mary and Kat made a kind of game of it; with one person on one side of Delhi’s head and one person on the other—just like in the summer when the caregivers would help Delhi swat those big pesky horse flies that always seemed to land in the places that Delhi could not reach. Each time Delhi lifted or shifted her head, the caregivers reached underneath and grabbed out handfuls of shavings and hay. As they laughed, Delhi smiled. When the entire area around Delhi’s face and head was clean, they slipped a flake of hay under her head to give them access to the underside. This way they were able to access her eye and the small abrasion next to it. The caregivers talked to Delhi explaining exactly what they planned to do and how. They told her they would clean the wound with saline that had been warmed, for her comfort it was not cold and that they were just trying to help. Delhi not only was fine with the medical attention, she seemed to want to help out. As her eye and abrasion were being flushed she would lift her head to give better access to the area and lean into the warm-water washes of her eye. All the while, not paying attention to food treats, just engaging her two caregivers in play and assisting them in their job of caring for an absolutely amazing girl.

She really never stops amazing us and reminding each of us just how wonderful she is. It’s indescribable just how full she makes your heart feel.

In her time....for Delhi, by Merilee Newman
The light grew stronger, but the sleeping beauty was not yet ready toopen her eyes and see the glory the light brought with it. She could feel the warmth provided by the light and the love of those who surrounded her. Neither energy pulling, merely there, allowing her to choose her path. She could sense the souls of those gone ahead and those souls caring for her now all telling her that she could choose her own time. Rise or fly...One would sadly let go, and the other would gladly receive..
In due time...In her time

Namaste sweet Delhi

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

These photos have been floating around the internet for a while. I don't know if they were photoshopped or not. I hope they are real.

Hope everyone has a great day. Eat LOTS of chocolate!!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Somebody's Bored

Moochie pretending to be a dog

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!!

Due to some photo copying glitches I'm a day late, but I wanted to celebrate my mom's birthday. Having died in February of 2005, she would have been 89 yesterday. I still think about calling her on Saturday afternoons. Oh how I wish I could hear her tell her stories about her cat--krr meow or her pet duck that she called mama. Or about living in a farm house where every Saturday night they would have dances in the kitchen with her dad playing the fiddle. There was so much dancing that they would wear out boards in the kitchen floor. My grandfather, being a carpenter would just pull them up and make and install a new one before the next dance.

My mom was born Agatha Eve Szczepaniak on February 5, 1919 in Marshall County, Minnesota. She did not have an easy childhood, although she was greatly loved. Her mother (Tekla Truszczynski) died in 1922 when my mom was just three years old. The family then moved to northern Wisconsin near a little township named Sugar Camp. Her father (Joseph) died when she was ten. My mom was very lucky to have come from a large family. In fact, her oldest sister, my Aunt Mary, was married and had her first baby BEFORE my mom was even born! Later, my mom would always joke about having a niece older than she was.

Quite the Gibson girl wasn't she? This is my grandmother Tekla with her first born, my Aunt Mary. This photo was taken around the late 1890s.

This photo is of my mom with two of her brothers, my Uncle Frank (the little one) and I believe, but I'm not sure, my Uncle Alec, with her dad (with the distinquished white hair and moustache). I believe my grandfather was in his 40s when he married my grandmother who was still a teenager, which seems shocking now but was not unheard of back then.

After her father died, a wealthy family wanted to adopt my mother. But, her older sisters and brothers were adamant that she remain a Szczepaniak, the name since being changed to Stefonek. So started a number of years moving around living with her sisters and brothers and their families. Since this was during the depression, the ones that could afford to take her in did, until they could no longer afford it. She would then move in with another sibling. She once told me she lost count on how many schools she started only having to leave a few months later.

Around the age of 14 she left school altogether and started work at the home of a wealthy family where she had one afternoon off a week. She helped take care of three children and did the housework for her room and board. When she was old enough, she became a waitress and settled in St. Paul. She would travel by train in the summers to Yellowstone National Park where she would waitress at the Grand Lodge.

This is where she met my dad. He was a bellhop and they met in the summer of 1941. World War II started and my dad enlisted in the Marines. My mom decided to take the train from St. Paul to San Diego to see my dad off. She arrived three hours AFTER my dad’s ship had sailed. She decided to stay in California and moved to the Hollywood area to waitress. She met some lifelong girlfriends there and had stories of seeing Caesar Romero and Harpo Marx. She even told me of a time when some man was trying to talk her into modeling her hands. He said they would be on a big billboard. He gave her his card. Well, of course, all the girls were warned about men like this and she just threw the card away. Wouldn’t you know, about six months later she saw this billboard advertising hand lotion with some woman’s hands!
She and my dad married in 1945 in St. Paul.

They raised five exceptional children. My father died in 1984 after working for years as a pipefitter and having been exposed to asbestos with little more then a dust mask for protection all those years.

Here I am with mom. Taken just a week before she died.

Happy Birthday Mom! I hope you are still celebrating with dad and your sisters Mary, Teenie, Stella, and Pauline and your brothers Alec, Mike, John, Frank and Joe. You often spoke of how much you missed them. Although I'm glad for you that you are all together now, you are still painfully missed here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Time to take a cat for a ride

This morning I took Butterball back to the vet to see if the two weeks on antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory has helped or if I had to decide that he needed dental work done that would entail putting him under.

Is there a sadder sight than a cat in a carrier on his way to the vets? I don't think so.

I was a little weepy all weekend thinking that I would need to make the decision to get dental work done which at his age and his problems with breathing could be very dangerous. I really wouldn't have a choice. I certainly don't want him to be in pain. I always think the worse in these instances and ride out the scenario in my mind until the sad ending. Somehow I always think this will make things a little easier.

So I was shocked when the vet looked at his mouth and said that it looked great! In fact, he was quite amazed at how well he responded to treatment. Yes, he still does have bad tartar on his teeth but it doesn't seem to be bothering him. His gums were no longer red and inflamed but healthy and pink and he was eating well. My vet said we should leave well enough alone. Now if I could get him back to eating his good quality dry kibble instead of the Fancy Feast!! My vet said he was at a conference and one of his colleagues described Fancy Feast as cocaine for cats! It is very palatable and has a high fat content that cats can't resist. But, it is nutritionally complete, although with lots of artificial junk and colors. My vet said at Butterball's age, it really wouldn't harm him if he just ate that the rest of his life. But, I'm still going to try to add a few Science Diet kibble to his Fancy Feast and try to wean him off of it.

Okay mom, if you promise not to take me for any more rides, I'll promise to eat well. I might even start eating my Science Diet again. Okay, B-man, I'll hold you to that promise.