10:36 PM

um, you did what?

(you know you want it.)

i drank 1/2 a cup of soy milk, so sue me.
it led to my own demise! shit!!

apparently, for an anesthetic procedure as lengthy as a total hip replacement, liquids are not permissable.

YES this was something i knew.
WHY did i drink soy milk anyhow?
no clue. i was hungry & couldn't eat? every starving artist knows drinking something like soy milk fills you up!
possibly in my anticipation & haste to get a move on i had a temporary lapse in judgement.

and so.
we're on for 8am tomorrow morning. then we can get this damn show on the road!
but ee gats was i angry. i got an insta-headache i clammed up for about 2 hours.
my parents just sorta waited me out. Mommy dropped me off & gave me a big hug & said, "let's do it again tomorrow, hm?!" i said ok, but no Starbucks this time!

growl. 3 big yawns....hopefully i'll sleep straight through.


(elizabeth you idiot!)

10:23 PM

i miss my dogs already.

tomorrow is surgery day, & in preparation, the dogs have gone to their respective keepers for the time being. i miss them & it hasn't even been an hour. Andy picked up Pixel tonight after dinner & Kerstin picked up Sake this morning. i gave him a bath & was blow drying him as she came in, & he was so happy. his watery little eyes followed me as she carried him out the door. my poor guy.

kerstin has a cold, & won't be staying with me after all. disappointing, but it's true. who needs a cold top of my pile of ailments?

back to crutches & muscle spasms that wake me with searing pain....i only hope that this surgery will be all that the surgeon predicts. ...running, riding, all night in heels... it'll be my mantra.

as well as the recurrent dream of horses, every shape, height, color, all for me to ride.

i can't wait.

11:18 PM

tick tock, tick tock.

my surgery date is close at hand...just 2 full days or so left.
i'm still doing my best to hold steady, be optimistic, look at the benefits...
i imagine myself running. i eyed sleek pants, fleecey zip ups & imagined Pixel running beside me.

i went to my new integrative doctor in SF on Wednesday. i found myself both impressed, excited, & reminded the seriousness of my situation. besides setting out my life story (which has become automatic lately) i flatly stated i was anorexic as a teenager & still struggling with control issues & food. the doctor again painted a rosey picture of the benefits of treatment, on top of being amicable & warm. maybe it's just me, but these people always have sales to fall back on-- selling the surgery, a new diet & exercise plan...sheesh.

in explaining things to her, the dr. asked about why i drank so much red bull, didn't take breaks, & stressed myself so much. to every question my answer started with "Work". 6 months away from work, i can finally see what i've done to myself. how much i gave to work at the expense of my health. ....really not worth any salary or feeling of accomplishment i might receive.

even though i've now realized it, i have a long way to heal; a long way to go.

at any rate, thanksgiving was about as usual, but not without snags. Sake was downright grumpy, growling, snapping at Grandma, Brother & Joshe. he had the runs still & vomited several times. when i got him home he vomited some more, so i let him sleep with water close by. a course of metronidizole & I/D bland diet are in his future.
however today, he bit Ryan on the leg (but Ryan thinks he might have stepped on him, so i'm throwing that incident out). he then went bugshit on Pixel over a chewie, which has never happened!
i'm wracking my brain for possibilities, & there are plenty why he'd act like this. stress, fear, establishing dominance....but which is the right one to treat? i'm giving him some more time before i give up, of course. i'd say we've all been under some stress lately, so we won't mar he's record just yet.

still waiting for the damn check to come from the state. about time to get a move on with school too. trying my best not to feel rushed, get anxious, remember my goals.
the upside to all this is getting things together for Xmas presents. i'm compiling pictures for collages, photobooks & such for friends. i'm sure they'll be happy, i am so excited to see it! especially the one for Andy. Mabel's grown up so much & he'll get to see.

4:21 PM

you guys make me laugh.

"hey Pix, what do you get if you cross a sheepdog with a rose?"

"a collie-flower!! get it?! ahahahah!"

comedians, i swear.

11:15 AM

you're collecting what?

my urine. for 24 hours, i have to save every drop of urine for a metabolic test.
oh, & i gotta refrigerate it.

tomorrow morning, i split my first whiz of the day into 2 more specimen jars, then take the whole pitcher & cocktails back to the lab. nice!

but for today, i'm going to bring Mom some mail, then the 3 of us (me, Pixel & Sake) are going to Lisa's to help her tidy the barn. i'm not sure how far we're gonna get today, but we'll see. i'm bringing extra clothes this time, i always end up filthy when i play up there.

last time i weeded the front yard:

i generally end up grooming Jack:

...which = me covered in whatever i brush off of him & then some.

i even shaved a barn cat:

he was matted as all get out & was grateful for the trim later on.
don't ask what he said during the fiasco.

let's see what's in store for me today on the ole Stine compound....& how dirty my dogs are going to get.

9:48 PM


i escaped to Kerstin's Wednesday night after my orthopedist consult. i took Sake for a bath & managed to lock my keys in my truck, being as distracted as i was. the day went pretty well, but i wasn't sure how well i really had it together. i needed to get away & not look at my life for a few hours.

Wednesday morning, my Dad picked me up & we went to SF, critiquing the Bay Bridge's replacement progress & SF living in general. he dropped me off & went to scour for parking.
i went down to the x-ray lab & changed into the utterly flattering gown that left me squirming in a chair in the women's waiting room for 20 minutes. when the techs called me in, i went easily through the awkward positions for the xrays, impressing the laughing techs. my dad was in the doctor's office when i got there & we went right in.

the surgeon is still an amicable, easy-going guy that talks about your surgery like it's a walk in the park. he looked at my xrays & put it frankly, i have osteopenia, meaning i am a hop, skip & 10 years from osteoperosis. this changes any surgery plans he'd had in mind for me, & now it was more imparitive we get the revision done & work on recovering some bone mass. instead of using screws to anchor a acetabulum plate, i'll have the whole socket resurfaced & have a cup fitted (read: pounded into shape with a mallet!) into place. the whole joint will be titanium & hopefully, pain free for the rest of my life.

we went over the pros: the smaller amount of recoup time, the prosthetic should last a lifetime, etc. we nodded over the doctor's assurance of being able to start school on time & ride horses comfortabley next year.
we left the office with a plan for surgery in 2 weeks, November 27th. Dad & i went to lunch & he talked optimistically about how good for me this is going to be. i agreed with him, ignoring the feeling in the back of mind that felt like something coming undone.

i called Mom & Jef, they both took it in stride & agreed with the reasoning. Dad dropped me off at home, & i was left alone with the dogs & my thoughts. i did my usual puttering when i think, went about tidying & chatting with the dogs, but i kept finding myself sitting in a chair, just staring. i called Kerstin & she said i should come out; i agreed & decided on the dog bath to kill some time until traffic settled down. Andy agreed to watch Pixel, so i dropped her off there & set out for Sacramento.

i drove in the dark with little Sake snoozing next to me & a pile of laundry on the floor. (my excuse not to come, Kerstin wouldn't have it & said to bring it.) i got to Kerstin's by 7, & we started piles of laundry, hers as well as mine. Sake did his share of helping with the laundry:

after watching the Da Vinci Code with Kerstin's husband, we both managed to fall asleep immediately, even though we both generally struggle to sleep. (really the Da Vinci Code was a good sedative. boring!) i spent the rest of Thursday with her, cleaning her apartment, & the many guinea pig cages, including bathing the critters. i used to hate these things, but she really handles them so much they're nice to pet & watch. heck, they were even good for a shampoo.

i hated having to leave, it's so nice to have K's company again & i know she benefits from having me there. she's waiting for a new job to start & has been home alone for weeks, bored & sad.

i left Kerstin's pretty late, this time driving back in the dark with a basket of clean, folded laundry & a sleeping Sake on the seat next to me. coming home, once settled, i plopped back in the same chair after i fed the dogs & emptied my overnight bags. it was still here, that feeling.

here's another thing i have to plow through, mentally & physically. i'm hoping that tacking a surgery onto the end of this year leaves next year clear for success, no foreseen set-backs to endure. i'd hoped my hip taking a back burner to all this MS drama would last a little long. i didn't want to think about it all at once.

but i can do this, i can. just gotta concrete the mantra in my own head....

10:38 PM

tuesday, sunshine & dogs.

we had a pretty fun day, despite having shirked all my plans of cleaning & laundry.
i got up early & walked them right away, but all that did was rile them up!
Sake finally loosened up & gave into Pixel's play bows & arfs to initiate some fun.it was hilarious-- the noises this dog makes!
"rabid ewok" my friend Eric tagged it.

the picture looks innocent, but Pixel was playing nicely to her credit, letting Sake 'win' & make all the noise.

i called Eric to go walk the dogs at campus, & we enjoyed the sunshine & had a nice walk getting to the glade. Pixel chewed her good harness the other day, so she is wearing her Halti head harness until the new one comes. she loathes it, & plows her face into the grass, bushes or whatever's handy as soon as it comes off. after a good face plowing, some crow chasing & general spurts of puppy energy, she sat around with us:

she then went about grazing & inspecting gopher holes while Sake & i looked on:

we ended up meeting one of Eric's friends for some fishing at the marina. he brought his dog too, & i was so relieved. nothing wears Pix out properly other than playing with another dog. Schroeder was a cutie Lab & Border Collie mix, but i claim there's something tall & thin in there too.

the boys cast a buncha times & caught a lot of seaweed. my hands shake too much to get a good pic of the sunset; this is all i got after much swearing & deleting.

Pixel & Schroeder rolled in a bush full of burrs; i spent half an hour at home brushing her out. it was totally worth it. she's fast asleep & so is Sake. i am so proud of him! he kept up with us on the marina trail & on campus. i carried him through the rough spots, & he sat in my lap the whole time the guys' fished. pretty good for a little dog who's been apartment bound for 6 years.

tomorrow is my orthopedist appointment to get a work-up done for my hip revision.Dad's coming with me; he catches the things i miss cos i get nervous & forget to ask.

so tomorrow--we shall see what we see.

11:28 PM


stay on your side!

6:23 PM

sake bomb!

Sake was delivered today with little fanfare. Judy, rescue woman from
OHS was very sweet & amicable; Sake is equally as sweet.

he fits the breed standard for sure:

"This breed is considered one of the most cat-like of the dog breeds in attitude: it is alert, intelligent, and often independent, and it uses its paws to wash its face. A companion dog, it is loving and loyal to its owner, but is distrustful of new people. Chins prefer familiar surroundings, and are very uncomfortable in unfamiliar areas and with new situations. They are a quiet breed, with a much deeper bark than the high-pitched yap commonly associated with many of the toy breeds and are naturally clean."

he's currently sitting pertly in front of the tv, considering it adorabley.
he adores being pet, but won't come to you to ask for it. he's a chow hound for sure! gobbling everything in his bowl & whatever else you have. he's been snoozing on & off, either on the couch or the rug.

did i mention the tongue? it accompanies a charming underbite, & is ever present.

asleep or awake.

Geisha had an initial case of bottlebrush tail (all poofed out), but she was soon not caring & hiding between the pillows-- which is normal.

Pixel of course was perfectly cordial, showing more interest in Judy & being sure her face was thoroughly tongue-bathed, than in bothering Sake. she went with Andy to play with Mabel soon after, to get her well-excercised & let Sake settle in a bit.

Mandy's wedding shower is tomorrow, hopefully all goes with mom.
she seems a little edgy already, having called 3 times so far tonight.
i'm sending her the vibe: "this is about Jef & Mandy."

let's hope she gets it.

4:14 AM

here we are again.

can my mind sense it's 4 am when i'm asleep?
because here we are again, & even the dog looks annoyed by the light being on, we're all up. how cute is it when she rolls over, groans & covers her eyes with a paw? cameras are not fast enough to catch such moments for me.

but i'm up & waiting for my requisite tea to cool, & i certainly hope green tea is as good for you as they say it is.....cos i drink a LOT. i woke up nauseated with my back muscles spasming, most likely the side effects of my Avonex injection last night. i did my best to ignore it but the clock was glowing 4 am so fiercely! i'm trying all the things i've heard of to change my behavior & go back to my generally sleeping-well routine:

Try modifying your nighttime sleeping habits and other behavior before resorting to drugs to cure insomnia. For example:

* Avoid using alcohol in the evening. Avoid caffeine for at least 8 hours before bedtime. Give up smoking, because nicotine is a stimulant.
* Establish a regular bedtime, but don't go to bed if you feel wide awake. Use the bedroom for bedroom activities only. Once in bed, use creative imagery and relaxation techniques to keep your mind off unrestful thoughts. Avoid staying in bed for long periods of time while awake, or going to bed because of boredom.
* Take your TV or computer out of your bedroom. Otherwise, your brain becomes used to the stimulation and starts to expect it when you are there. This makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
* Relax by reading, taking a bath, or listening to soothing music before getting to bed.
* A snack before bedtime helps many people. Foods such as warm milk or turkey have a natural sleep inducer called L-tryptophan.
* Exercise regularly, but not in the last two hours before going to bed. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has been show to make people fall asleep faster and benefit from deeper and more restful sleep. Sex can be a natural sleep inducer and helps some people.
* Avoid emotional upset or stressful situations prior to bedtime.

eeeeyeah. i'll get right on all that.

reading this, immediately my mind goes to Kerstin, who's had troubling sleeping at night since forever. then my mind rolls to a session with my shrink, who accurately pointed out how i empathize with other people & ignore myself. i agreed, but it seemed there is no foreseeable path to correct this.

this morning when i woke up, my mind was writing a detailed mental letter to my friend Ann, whom i've had an upsetting falling out with when i first got home from the rehab center in July.
another one of those sad tales of a friendship being so much less to the other person & it's apparent when the going gets tough-- & they get going. i went from angry, confused & hurt to really just hurt. i'm not even concerned with the guy involved in all of this, i'm just aching about Ann.

i suppose i should have known, i did see this coming. it's still so shocking when someone you thought you knew, who wouldn't ever hurt you because you were there for them so many times before, would bury you in a precarious stack of lies.

~*at any rate*~

so for tonight.....i have to go back to the South Bay for Mandy's birthday party at Amy's house. the hard part is dressing up cute enough to fit in with the crowd, & staying awake & witty long enough for people to enjoy my company.
no really, lookit these people:

vibrant & gorgeous everyday of the week! Mandy falls right in line with them....
i can't keep my hair red enough to make the cut.

i think i can lay down again now....this chair is making my back scream, & how unfair is it that i have cramps too? was i Ghengis Khan in a past life to deserve these things?

le sigh.

9:37 PM

well, that's better than a lesion.

Lhermitte's sign "is a brief, stabbing, electric-shock-like sensation that runs from the back of the head down the spine, brought on by bending the neck forward. Medications, including anticonvulsants, may be used to prevent the pain, or a soft collar may be used to limit neck flexion."

yay! not a spinal lesion. shall we dance?

what else? guess who's miiiinnnne? (& coming Saturday at noon to my house)

~Osaka Shigenori~

ok & i'll say it.
i told my parents this is a foster dog but he's not.
he's for me. mine.
i don't NEED another dog, no, of course not.
Pixel is my active, running, chasing, comical, cheerleader dog.
Sake will be my fussy, fragile, complicated, aloof constant companion.
(he'll fit in seamlessly with Geisha.)

i want this, for me.
selfish? absoloutely.
& i might try it again.
(not by get a third dog, but by doing something just for me.)

at any rate....
i'm going to a nutritionist, as per my neuropsychologist.
it's a way to get hold of my control on my body that i'm so used to, but in a better way. no more deprivation, i'll get a better way to control it, a healthy way.
i hope it works; i will try.
only organic popcorn & green tea for a day made my stomach hurt so bad it woke me up at 2 am. i haven't been that bad since i was a self-loathing teen, trying to sleep through stomach pains, unable to lay on my stomach cos it was a giant empty bubble.

my mom asked me, again, "what did i do to you to make you like this?"
i was reading an MS website about constant pain & how yes, it effects 48% of MS patients. i said "it's nothing you did, it's been a build-up all along & now we just deal with it."
she didn't respond. i think my mom needs a shrink too.

i wonder if she had anxiety attacks. i'm in the midst of one everyday, it just sits in my stomach, nauseating me. i wish i could find a way to beat it down without drugging the hell out of myself. i want to feel life....just not like this.

5:51 AM

why am i awake?

my sleep has been skewed since my IV steroid infusions, patched with sleep aides & soured by daily naps. suddenly i am awake at 4am, like clockwork, sleep meds or no.
this morning i was awake with a massive gnawing hunger in my gut, since green tea & organic popcorn do not a dinner make. i quelled the beast with strawberry kiwi yogurt.

my Grandma works in the rectory of her beloved Catholic church, & is a bit of a keeper of the priest, Father Jim. i'm not Catholic or any denomination otherwise, but i love Fr. Jim. he's got Parkinson's, & it's slowly stealing who he is, as such diseases will do. he calls me daily with kind words when i am in a relapse, & sends his love & support with my Grandma when she'll see me.
she told me his sleep is sketchy too, but when he's awake at 4am, he gets up & goes to his office across the street & works. then he'll cat nap later as the day progresses.
i'm following this tactic today. we'll see how i do.

maybe i'll lay off the tea. i drank about 10 cups of green tea with toasted brown rice yesterday, right up until bedtime. i outta find a decaf version. duh.

i've had a burning pain in my back for a couple days now, as well as the flesh on my right side being sensitive & burning, although it really isn't. it's my nerves & their false messages, but i fret it's another relapse slowing sneaking back. the tingling in my palms sometimes increases in waves, & intensifies in my feet when i bend my head down. trying not to worry, but i'm supposed to be aware of what my body's doing these days.

i realized i have a kick ass camera i am just sitting on here at home, sans battery pack. well, it's got a dead one, but finding the right model # to fit the thing has been a task. i'll add it to the list of things to do today, on top of my neuropsych. appointment. it's always fun to drone on for 2 hours about my ridiculous thoughts & neurotic worries about my disease. i'm literally hoarse after a session.

i'm yawning. time to give bed another shot.

7:59 PM

japanese chin in my dojo?

i spent today not doing a lot, similar to most other days.
this weekend i emailed a woman regarding a displace Japanese Chin she is fostering. the dog was so adorable, & so like a Papillon that i have been staring at pictures of.

of course i have my Pixel to keep me company & make me laugh. i've found myself wanting another dog, a small dog, more & more since i fostered an elderly Chihuahua this summer. (i called him Mr. Chihuahuahead since he didn't answer to much.)

even though he was a raggedy, smelly guy, Mr. Wowowhead's tenacity, coming from such a small form was a lot of fun to have around. Pixel got along as best she could with the little guy. really it was he who didn't want to play her silly puppy games, but in the end, no one can resist Pixel's charm.

my application for the little dog goes before comitee this week, & hopefully they find me suitable. (!) me?! i can't think of anything i more than spoiling a dog!
i suppose a stranger doesn't see that about me when we first meet.

Thursday! is the deciding day....can't wait!


whom we shall call


7:05 PM

my babies.

(this post is reflective & a little tear-jerky, so be forewarned.)

it's been rough around here, lately.
it's a stretch to make the rent, i'm on hold for hours a week with the disability office, & i have $26 in my checking account. depressive bouts, insomnia & numbness in my limbs are a daily occurrence.
but i realized, no matter how shitty my luck can be, i've always had one thing that gets me through. thinking to myself sometimes,'what makes me most happy, what could lift this weight from me right now?' the answer has always been: animals.
MY animals.

i look back at how i got to here....2006, Berkeley, 3 hip surgeries & a self-made careeer. & even though it was 8 years...it seems like i can't recall any memorable moments that i went through on my way here without thinking of Gambit having been there.

he was my first dog that was MINE, not the family dog my mom took care of, not a dog that was left in the yard for my dad to train. he was my shadow, his eyes always trained on me & his ears tuned to wherever i was. any decisions i made about my life always included him.

it took 5 years of begging & some failed rescue dog attempts before my dad finally allowed me a puppy, & we discussed the size & breed seriously. we decided on the Australian shepherd, which i had never considered before. i was suddenly obsessed.

i saved 3 paychecks from my measly veterinary assistant job, & scoured the newspaper, then internet for an Australian shepherd. specifically, a red merle.
i found a wonderful woman who was in the area with an entire litter, & i had my pick. she had 2 red merles, but when i picked him up & saw those mismatched, marbley eyes, my fate was sealed. i named him Gambit, after the X-Men character i collected.

i was 17 & Gambit was 9 weeks, & it was a battle of wills until he was 2 years old. after that, we were inseparable. it was as if everything i was trying to teach him prior to that suddenly made sense to him. i could talk to him like a person, & he understood. i could ask a question, & he could answer with woofs & whines & the most expressive face i've ever seen on a dog.

he made it through the roughest of years with me, when i moved out of my parent's house & switched jobs. Gam was my closest friend & the one i cried on, the one who was always there. when i moved again & lived in places that seemed so unfriendly & lonesome, Gambit made those places seem like home.

when i was 22, a friend called about a siamese kitty who needed a home. i hadn't had a cat since i was young, & he stayed at my mom's house, all but shunning me when i visited. my dad had always insisted cats went outside! so i was excited at having a housecat.

she came to us in a whirlwind of blue eyes & claws. she hissed at Gambit, attacked hands that went to pet her & executed kamikaze dive bombs on my face in the middle of the night.
i thought, 'oh great, i got a terror of a cat!' i named her Geisha Hatsuemomo for the villainous geisha in the book Memoirs of a Geisha.

the day i brought her home from being spayed, i thought i should keep her separate from Gambit & close her in a bedroom. when i did, she cried & mewed until he was allowed in.
and then we were 3. :)

this was my family unit outside of my Mom & Dad's house for the past 5 years.
Geisha matured into a cuddly, funny cat who hid under the covers for a majority of the day. Gambit grew steadily chubby after my accident when i broke my hip, as his walks were cut shorter & shorter. regardless, he waited patiently through my 2 hour commutes every night, never complaining & his sense of humor never failing.

when we moved Berkeley, i hoped our small, 2 room apartment was temporary. my boyfriend at the time & i contemplated getting a house to rent; i eagerly promised Gambit a backyard of his own. no more leashed walks to go potty in the rain, & he could get to eat all the messy bones he wanted in our own grass!

but then, Gambit suddenly developed a massive infection & tracheal abscess the next month after a simple dental procedure. he was unable to breath comfortabley, eat or drink, or even settle down to sleep as a hematoma grew in his throat. i rushed him from one vet clinic to another, following a chain of specialists i knew from work, coming to the surgery & internists last. they hurried him off for diagnostics, but came back with news i was dreading, but expecting. i waited for the internist to tell me she had found a mass in the back of his throat. a tracheostomy was the only way he would be able to breathe through any possible work up or surgery, & it was no guarantee.

the decision was mind-numbing, but it was something ingrained in my mind. i had watched so many animals suffer at their owner's behest, although the pet would never lead the same comfortable, happy life they once enjoyed. i made up my mind when Gambit was young that i would never put him through such pain to ease my own suffering at the loss of him.

so, trembling & inconsolable, i agreed to euthanize him. my mother, unable to keep herself together, left me alone with Gambit. he laid on an exam table, under anesthesia to relieve his stressful breathing. it seemed appropriate that he come to an end in a place we had spent so many hours when he came to work with me. when they gave the injection & removed the tube; my best friend Lisa flew into the room immediately after. we hugged Gam's hulking, lifeless body, crying & kissing his motionless muzzle & petting his once expressive ears.

the days & weeks that followed were empty & difficult. i took a day off from work, but went back the next day, unable to stay in the apartment without him there. his toys still scattered about, a dent still in his bed from where he had lain the night before. Geisha changed from hiding under the covers to sleeping in it from then on.i felt like she knew he was gone. she has became suddenly clingy, constantly jumping into my lap & purring without prompting.

now Gam's ashes are sealed in cedar on a shelf in my bedroom & i keep his ID tags on my keychain. my family & friends knew it was like the loss of any other friend, & were supportive & helpful when i mentioned 'someday' getting another dog. i cried when i was alone in the dark, in bed. his face, which i knew almost as well as my own, haunted my dreams.

just before i would wake up, Gambit would be there in my dream, his clear, mismatched eyes gazing up at me. normally a talkative boy, he was eerily silent. i held him in my arms, stroked his head & begged him not to leave me. i could feel consciousness pulling me back, & i would sob my goodbyes until i was awake. sometimes, i woke up with tears on my pillow.

2 months passed, & i realized i could stand it no more. i needed a dog.
the 8 years Gambit spent in my life were the years that i did the most growing & becoming my own person. i didn't remember myself before him.
a dog in my life, everyday, was part of who i have become.

i tried Australian Shepherd rescues, & was upset when they turned me down for lack of a backyard. i scoured other rescue sites online, put in inquiries all over the state about Aussie mixes. i went to meet a few, & soon found the Milo Foundation very close by. i made an appointment to met a male Aussie mix who was smaller in size compared to what Gambit had been. i thought he might fare better in the apartment. our leashed walk around the neighborhood showed me little of the dog's personality, other than his aggression to cats. disappointed, i put him back in his crate & turned to leave.

i was about to leave when my friend who accompanied me said, "What about the spreckly -faced dog over there?" peering into the crate, my eyes met the most beautiful brown eyes i'd ever seen on a dog. they were accompanied by a dog-smile of shining white teeth & a fancy, curling white tail. the volunteer let me walk her, & when we came back offered, "Do you want to foster her for a week & see how it goes?"

at home, while the freshly washed puppy swam in the blankets on my bed & said 'good night!' with a wag of her tail, it only took that one night for me to decide.

and so, was Pixel.

sweet, sensitive, & endlessly eager to please, Pixel was a burst of sunshine in my grey-skied life. although there was a little potty training to deal with, she picked up everything i taught her flawlessly. she's become in-tune with my routine just like Gambit did, a trait i loved so much. she also plays gentley with Geisha, who took some time to warm up to the boisterous new puppy. now they snuggle & groom one another like old friends. & best of all, true to any dog someone cares to love, Pixel is endlessly loyal & ceaselessly affectionate.

my dreams of Gambit persisted for a few weeks, even with Pixel in my life. one morning,i found myself in the same dream, but was shaken by the different outcome. Gambit's once familiar face, gazing up at me as usual, was speckled with black spots.
he got up & left my lap despite my pleads for him to stay.
panicked, i mentioned it to my closest friend & my brother's fiancee later that day. they both had the same reply: maybe this was Gambit's way of telling me to let him go, Pixel is here for me now.

i haven't had a saddening dream of him since.

Pixel has been an important part of my rehab since my MS attacks. getting her out & thoroughly exercised gets me out in the sunshine, makes my muscles work & just as Gam had been, is my reason to get out of bed some days. we've gone to beaches & the redwoods, taken car trips to Oregon with our friends,& haven't had a day we didn't enjoy somehow.

when i tell people the story of how i came to have Pixel, it always starts with Gambit. i then talk about Pixel's important position in my life, as my grief counselor. most people chuckle, but it couldn't be more true. not only in helping me work through my loss, but through bad days, hospital stays, & being the one to lick my face when i fall down & make me smile.

i wish everyone had someone so positive, loyal & loving behind them. even if that someone has 4 legs.