Sugar from my baby

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Just in case you were wondering where he went… here’s Oliver! As you can imagine, in my time of need he’s got lots of love to give. There are moments between treatments when I’m beat and just need to hunker down for a nap, and whaddya know, Oliver is quite content to hop up at the end of the sofa to join me. And then there are the times he just wants to give kisses and hugs. We had heard stories about when he got close to turning two years of age of how he would all of a sudden mellow out… well, that seems to be true.

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Almost overnight it seems, in many ways he became this chilled more mature dog, and gone are some of the crazy puppy behaviors. He still gets very excited when greeting people (something we are working on), but other than that, we can definitely notice a calmness to his demeanor that just wasn’t there before. Perhaps he senses what’s going on within the house, or maybe it’s just true what they say about him transitioning from puppy to dog… either way, he is an absolute dream of a family companion and brings us so much joy. Here’s a rare one of me in front of the camera – this time getting lots of sugar from my baby.

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Why not..?

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Is it possible to update Oliver’s condition too often? Forgive me if I’m being overly zealous with his recovery pics, but I just wanted to keep you all up to date. Top pic has a touch of Instagram applied.

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*As a loyal reader, please don’t feel as though you need to leave a comment every time I make a blog post. I just want to provide a quick note about my little friend’s condition. Though he does look a little sleepy, trust me… he’s doing awesome!

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Home safe and sound….

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Update*

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Here he is morning after. Perky and looking more like his old self. Just have to keep him settled and quiet now.

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Here he is… home safe and sound – minus a couple of important bits. As you can imagine, Oliver’s not quite himself right about now, but the doc assures us that everything went well and that he’ll be back to his old self within about a week. The vet-recommended boxers are to try and keep him away from the stitches and the incision, and although it pains me to see him this way, when we take into account everything going on in our lives right now… I just know we did the right thing. Welcome home sweet Oliver, and I just know he appreciates all of your good wishes.

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The day has come…

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3-16-13 Oliver7I knew this day would come, and I knew it was going to be difficult. Oliver just turned 18 months, and what with everything swirling around here of late, we kind of dropped the ball when it comes to getting him “fixed”. A few months back, I discussed the pros and cons – according to a layman like me – to having this operation completed, so if it’s all right with you my loyal readers, this time around I’d rather not re-visit why it’s a barbaric and unnecessary procedure. Let’s just accept that it’s going to happen and move on – thanks for understanding.

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We’re getting Oliver fixed on Wednesday morning. Though sad about actually doing it – I don’t want to put my baby through any unnecessary discomfort – we’re doing it for the following reasons… it is convenient, and besides, when we purchased him from the breeder we signed a contract saying that we would. There are a similar amount of health-related concerns on either side of getting this procedure completed at an early or later stage, but most importantly, I believe that by giving Oliver the 18 months that we did to grow into his body he was able to take full advantage of the natural hormonal development over that time… he has derived more benefit from NOT being snipped at an early age and denied of so many natural body chemicals – he has grown into a healthy, happy and incredibly stable young dog. He’ll also get micro-chipped in case he hates us for it and decides to run away 😉

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I don’t want Oliver to breed unnecessarily, and although in all likelihood he would never get the chance to roam free and do anything unexpected… you just never know. Better safe than sorry in that regard, and as a family we’re all for responsible pet owning.

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Here’s the convenience piece… we’re realizing that over the next few weeks and months we are going to need to temporarily house our little friend for a day or two here and there… maybe even an overnight stay. Doctor visits and other commitments are starting to fill the calendar, and although to date we have been able to work around every circumstance, the day is coming when an extended event will definitely mean needing to board Oliver.

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We have an awesome boarding kennel lined up, but they are understandably reluctant to have dogs – even if all males – co-habitate if some are fixed, while others aren’t. There’s a significant chance that our little currently un-fixed guy will be the one trying to “hump” other dogs – and while that’s perfectly natural behavior – apparently it can make for a more heightened and less tranquil atmosphere within the group, and we wouldn’t want that to happen.

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And besides, one of the things we’re especially hoping to get from the boarding experience is a positive social interaction for Oliver. His demeanor is such that he just wants to play… with anyone, anytime, anywhere. He’s a happy dog who will get along with all others… perfectly. However, if he’s humping (and there’s no guarantee fixing will prevent that), then the possibility of a mellow co-existence within his fellow boarders might become a little unbalanced, and if the alternative is some form of isolation for the humper… well, then that’s not what we want.

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Anyhoo… Wednesday is the big day. We’ve cleared the decks so that we’ll be here to care for him after the event and give all the love he needs. We’ll make sure he gets as much peace and quiet, medicine, and of course, love, so that he can make as full a recovery as soon as possible. I have no doubt that Oliver will once again amaze and be the model patient, but it still makes me sad that we have to put him through this process. Wish him luck 😉

The other kind of medicine…

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Few words today, but in addition to the many not-so-natural medicines I’ve been pumping into my body lately, here’s a glimpse of another kind of medicine that has certainly been impacting my well-being. I’m getting lots of love from Lori, Sam, Jack and family – don’t know what I would do without all of them – and then there’s my baby boy Oliver. He knows somethings up, but as always – regardless – he’s got lots of love to give. Both photographs in this post are iPhone pix processed in the Snapseed app – the one below is a “selfie” I’m especially proud of.

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Leave of absence…

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So… I don’t think I’m necessarily interested in publicly chronicling what’s going on in my life right now, but I will be taking a leave of absence from the blog. Rather than just disappearing though, here’s the scoop.

Wednesday, February 19: I’d been dealing with a persistent cough that I just couldn’t seem to shake – cough medicine and a scheduled two-week follow up appointment. Concerned that I might be dealing with pneumonia, I went back to the doctor. Antibiotics were prescribed and an X-ray scheduled.

Thursday, February 20: X-Ray and home.

Monday, February 24: Met with Doctor to talk about X-ray and potential for pneumonia. Was referred to Pulmonary specialist for meeting on Wednesday, February 26.

Wednesday, February 26: The X-ray showed something in my lung that shouldn’t have been there. CT Scan and meeting with the pulmonary specialist revealed that I did indeed have pneumonia and… lung cancer. Brain MRI was immediately scheduled to see if it had spread that far : (

Friday, February 28: PET SCAN showed some not so good activity in lymph nodes in lung, just outside the lung near the diaphragm, in the area of the abdomen, and then also in the lower neck. Next step is a biopsy on Monday afternoon, and after that the doctors will be better able to develop a plan of attack. Good news: Brain MRI showed that it hadn’t spread there yet.

Monday, March 1: Woke up feeling pretty bad. Pain management team hadn’t yet been consulted, and my body was wracked with pain. I couldn’t stand up and nor could I lie down- everything in-between wasn’t so good either. And that familiar tickle turned into a wraspy cough that brought with it wicked headaches. I was scheduled for some more blood work for a Bronchoscopy where doctor sees inside of lungs and takes sample of tissue.

Tuesday, March 2: Not feeling good at all so checked into my local hospital. Stayed overnight.

Thursday, March 3: Checked into local bigger hospital which has greater capacity to handle Cancer.

Friday, March 3: Needed to have fluid removed from lung so I could lie still enough (without coughing) for Body Scan (to see progress – or lack of – spread of cancer). 20oz fluid removed from lungs – immediate relief felt. Pain management team went to work and have performed miracles. Can’t say enough about their work and the performance of my doctor/nurse caring teams – superb people I am forever indebted to.

Saturday, March 8: First dose of Chemotherapy

Sunday, March 9: Second dose of Chemotherapy

Early on I did a lot of thinking about how this could have happened. I never smoked a cigarette in my life, though both my parents smoked and I was exposed to significant second-hand smoke as a kid. I soon realized it would do me little good to dwell on the past, and since then, we’ve been moving forward trying to figure out what our next steps are.

Lori, Sam, Jack and I are facing this head on (what other way is there?). The good news is I’m looking thin and trim-ish, but the bad news is I’m paying somewhat for that look.

So that’s my story. I won’t be back on the blog for a little while until we get things squared away. I thought about turning comments off for this post – it’s not that I won’t appreciate your thoughts – but I’m just not so sure I will be able to respond to everyone. I’m leaving comments turned on but probably won’t get to them for a while… hope you understand. When I have more news, I’ll back in touch.

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Oliver sharing some love: funny how he seems to know something’s up

Enough already…

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2-13-14 tree2It’s been a snowy winter so far, and that trend doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of changing soon. I don’t like winter to begin with, but when it stretches out this long with so much cold and snow, I REALLY don’t like it. FYI… here’s a record of the past week or so… we got 8 inches on Friday, 5 inches on Sunday, 6 inches on Tuesday, 3 inches on Wednesday, and we’re expecting sleet/rain on Friday… joy.

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The good news in all of this is that Oliver can’t seem to get enough of the snow, and since he needs his exercise, at least I’m getting out in the fresh air too. I’m posting a couple of simple photographs of a stark – but I thought beautiful – tree from our walk together during one of the recent snowstorms. And then there’s my handsome boy – I say roll on springtime and enough of this winter nonsense already!

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Want some cuteness?

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Oliver, about a week after he came into our lives

Up until just over a year ago, I never considered myself a dog person. In fact, for most of my life, I would literally cross to the other side of the street to avoid interacting with dogs. It just wasn’t my thing, and I never understood why dog “owners” made the fuss they did. It was just a dog, right? That all changed though when Oliver came into our lives. Pre-Oliver, I’d only ever really known three dogs… Prince, Sheeba and an evil little black Scottie who lived three doors down from where I grew up. It’s no secret that I’m now kinda partial to my cute baby boy. Speaking of cuteness, if you’d like to see adorable, check out The Sundog Drift… there’s an extra 9 doses of golden cuteness over there right now, and over at Tamarack Goldens there are 7 more 🙂

Enough of the landscape stuff…

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Heeeeeere’s Oliver! It was so cold when we walked the golf course on Sunday, the shutter button on my camera literally froze. Seriously. Before it did though, I managed a few snaps of my baby boy. He’s already 16 months old, though in these photographs I can still see glimpses of the cute little puppy we brought home just over a year ago. He amazes me every single day with the amount of joy and affection he has to offer, and I wonder just what we did to deserve such unconditional love. The least I can do in return is take him to the golf course and let him run off his leash. Like most dogs, he loves tennis balls and sticks… give him either, and he’s one happy boy!

For those interested in the semi-technical stuff… Canon 5D II in A1 Servo mode with a 70-200mm f4 lens mostly at 200mm. The camera finds dealing with the snow quite challenging – it usually tries to tone the brightness down and leaves a darker than normal image – so I intentionally set the camera to overexpose by half a stop to ensure a more accurate exposure. I bumped the iso to 200, and chose a shutter speed of at least 1/500th second (fast enough to freeze even the quickest Golden Retriever). Then it’s just a matter of throwing the stick or tennis ball, and when he fetches and eagerly runs back toward me so I can repeat the process, I position myself down on one knee at his eye level and snap away.

Every now and then I get a good one 😉

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Ghosts…

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On our regular walk to the golf course, Oliver and I always pass a large stand of pine trees located opposite a graveyard. Depending on the time of day, the light, and the current season, these trees present a variety of interesting opportunities for photographic compositions. The sun had already set when I took the camera out one last time on this particular walk – I set the shutter speed to half a second, and started moving the camera up and down through the scene. I knew that the strong lines of the trees would contrast well with the cool carpet of snow that covered the ground, and it only took me a couple of tries to get something I liked. As twilight washed over the scene, I feel as though the low level of light combined with the dark tree trunks made for a ghostly impression.

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Experimenting

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12-30-13 oliver14I usually only carry a 70-200mm lens when I take my “real” camera to the golf course to make photographs of Oliver as he plays, and I like the reach it provides for my fast moving friend. The longer focal length is a significant departure from the wide angle approach I usually take when shooting landscapes, and it provides ample opportunity to practice and experiment with a different perspective. The sun had already gone down for the day, and although there was still some warmth on the horizon, the snowy fairway was engulfed in the blue hues of the reflected darkening sky. The longer lens compressed the scene considerably, and I had some fun experimenting with a variety of compositions. Here’s one I liked.

A snowy abstract…

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12-30-13 oliver15So far, we’ve been getting our fair share of snow this winter. The temperatures have dipped down pretty low too, making it a little challenging to spend any kind of quality time outside. New Year’s Eve brought us a cozy – and record low temperature of – minus 13 degrees F (that’s -25 C!), so it’s fair to say that it’s been chilly around these parts lately. After a fun walk to the golf course with Oliver, I spotted this little scene while making our way home. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, and almost reluctantly, I pulled my frozen fingers out of what were warm and toasty mittens to shoot the cool shadowy blue of this snow bank contrasting against the sunset sky. I used a long-ish lens (70-200mm) and a large aperture to isolate just the elements needed, and although a rather simple and abstract composition, I kinda like it. Oh yeah… and this one makes for a “cool” (pun intended) iPhone home screen.

Like glass…

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12-30-13 oliver16We still haven’t managed to lose any of the recent accumulations of ice received during the holiday ice storm. Instead of warming up, the temperatures have taken a dive for the worse, and that means the landscape is still covered in a glaze of ice. At any other time of the year, this little tree isn’t something I would even think of photographing, but with a coating of glass, it glistens magnificently in whatever kind of light we have. Returning from a walk with Oliver, I was intrigued by the beautiful colors in the sunset sky and grabbed the quick photograph posted above. Several days apart, below is the same tree in very different light…

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A foot of new snow…

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…so away we went to the local golf course. Oliver loves the snow, and he also loves being off leash. We recently spent a few days visiting Granny and Grandpa in Northampton, MA, and although I’m sure there are places we could have let him run, we aren’t too familiar with the area just yet, so it had been about a week since he ran free like this. A foot of fresh powder overnight meant some serious digging out this morning, but it also made for a perfect winter playground – and needless to say, Oliver made the best of his opportunity. I like to think he’s genuinely smiling in the photograph above, and even if he’s not, I KNOW he had himself a blast! Happy New Year!

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Ice

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So, we had ourselves a little ice storm here in Maine. It’s amazing how much trouble a half an inch or so of ice can cause, and although this storm wasn’t on the same scale as the one in 1998, its impact was still felt pretty hard all across the region. The actual event of ice falling isn’t what creates all of the havoc, but rather it’s the ice accumulating on tree branches and then being frozen in place as a coating of glass. Tree limbs are heavily bowed – and in many cases broken – with the added weight, and if electrical wires happened to be in the vicinity, well there’s a good chance they came down too. We were some of the lucky ones. Other than a few intermittent outages, our power has stayed on. Many people were not as fortunate though, and I can’t imagine what kind of holiday they had. The cold temperatures have hung around for the past week, and without a noticeable warm up, the ice is still laying heavy on the landscape. We’re bracing ourselves for another 6-10 inches of snow this evening, with more ice, sleet and freezing rain mixed in for good measure. Although it makes for a winter-wonderland landscape, I’m about ready for some of those balmy mid-thirty degree, ice-melting temperatures. And yes… that’s a very happy dog in the last photograph – he’s exploring along the edge of the woods where all the good smells are 🙂

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Hitting a milestone

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Oliver entered our lives just over a year ago, and his arrival coincided with me finally joining the 21st century and getting an iPhone. It didn’t take me long to discover the Nike Running app – not for running I might add – but for measuring our daily walks together. As you can see from the screenshot above, my little friend and I have covered some serious ground over the past year. Twenty pounds lighter and probably considerably healthier, I’m looking forward to our next one thousand miles together!

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Surviving the storm…

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You gotta love how the Weather Channel names every storm these days, even winter ones. It used to be if a storm was named – remember Hugo, Andrew, Katrina – that it needed to be of hurricane force strength, and if named, it was most likely going to be a big deal and wreak havoc. Somehow, giving these weather phenomena a name made them even more formidable… doing so made them not just any old storm, but now something to fear. Once named, we have to keep watching the latest news to see what’s in store for us, and in doing so, we feed the monster that is TV advertising. At best a clever entertainment ploy, but at worst, disingenuous reporting.

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Well… fast forward to Sunday morning and the latest named storm – Electra – has already scooted up the east coast and hit us here in Maine. She – I assume it’s a “she” – has dropped about 8 inches of snow in our area so far, though there might be another inch or two to come. Needless to say, Oliver is a very happy dog when romping in the deep snow – he’s already had his quality time outside this morning… and then there’ll be this afternoon’s big nap.

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The good news about this latest storm is that it brought only light and fluffy – the reason why the snow is light and fluffy… the intense cold temperatures we’ve been enduring these past couple of days. The cold (11 degrees F and -12 degrees C) isn’t going to stop our fur-coat wearing Oliver from getting in his daily walk, though on this occasion we kept it short, just in case.

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I always keep an eye on him to make sure he isn’t showing any signs of being bothered by the cold, and if there’s snow on the ground I regularly check between his toes to clear out any snowballs that might have accumulated. The cold weather genuinely doesn’t seem to bother Oliver – truth be told, it’s usually me who cries “uncle” first and has to head back home, especially if I’ve had the camera out with freezing, gloveless fingers needed to trip the shutter. Here are a couple more of him enjoying the calm before the latest storm… Electra!

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Interrupting your regularly scheduled programming…

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To bring you some pix of my favorite dog… Oliver.

For the first time this winter, it got seriously cold here in Maine this week. With a thin layer of snow blanketing the frozen ground, Oliver and I have been braving the “high” temperatures that have dipped as low as -3F degrees (that’s -19C for my friends to the north and across the pond), and despite the icy wind chill making it feel even colder, we had a blast exploring the local golf course. On this particular afternoon, the low angled winter light was absolutely spectacular, and as you can see, it did a number on my favorite Golden Retriever.

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It’s official…

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I’m officially “retired” from the landscape photography game… or at least it feels that way. It has been a long, long time since I raised my camera at a sunrise or sunset in earnest. Between work, family, Oliver and the recent soccer season… I’ve not even given my tripod a second look in months. In fact, the last “serious” photograph I made was way back in July when I visited the area just beyond the cliffs at Otter Point in Acadia National Park. The good news? I am determined to get back in the saddle and make a few runs down to Acadia before the end of the year in the name of landscape photography. In the meantime… you guessed it… here’s an impromptu photo shoot of Oliver relaxing after a long walk! Happy Thanksgiving.

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Hey look… pix of Oliver :)

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