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The Age of Adaline

Exactly one year ago today and at about this exact moment, 1:42pm, I was hanging a picture in our Living Room when it happened.  Life as we knew it thrown upside down…  Baxter was gone…  R~ had witnessed the entire thing play out in front of her 9 year old eyes…  I’d go on, but I’ve already captured that story once before and to be honest… its just too painful.

So for today… Happier thoughts…  The following is a republishing of a Facebook note from early last summer.

B-waxy…  I miss you bud!…


It’s been just over 4 LONG, GRUELING, & PAINFUL months since Baxter died. If we’re new friends or if we’re old friends & you just happened to have no internet access in the month of February, I wrote a lot about Baxter back then. You can catch up by starting with Part 1 and continuing on from there if you like.  It’s raw & its uncensored & it didn’t quite go the way I thought it would when I started writing, but… such is life… Raw, uncensored, & rarely going the way you thought it would. Nonetheless, I recovered some pieces of me in the process & I quickened my resolve to fight for my family’s hearts in the wake of tragedy.

So how’s that working out you ask? Well, I doubt they’ll be making a Disney movie about it… We have all dealt with the loss of Baxter in our own ways. But I think common for all of us is that everything has just felt magnified… Every emotion… Every reaction… Every social interaction… Every high… Every low… Just way too intense… Much weightier than it should be… And that’s made it hard on those around us I think. People tend to like easy… People tend to like uncomplicated… And we have all been anything but easy & uncomplicated lately.

Part of me wants to apologize for that… for all of us… But then I realize that no apology is necessary. What is necessary is recognition & gratitude… Recognition for those that don’t shy away from the uneasy or the complicated. And we are eternally grateful for them in this moment of darkness we’ve had to endure. You folks that encouraged & kept checking in & persevered through walls of insecurity… You’re the heroes here and I can’t thank you enough!


They were born on April 1st, 2016… April Fools’ Day… I started my current job back on an April Fools’ Day a few years back… Since God made man in his own image, I don’t feel bad at all that I tend to have a very dry & somewhat off sense of humor. Clearly he does…

They were born a litter of four… Clove, Cedar, Cashmere, & Cressida… All girls… Did I mention that sense of humor yet? Anyway… here’s all the cuteness…

addie-littermates
R~ nearly came out of her skin when she found out they were finally born. She’d been counting down since the day she found out Belle & Dickens were… um… expecting… Sidebar: That whole birds & bees discussion became unavoidable as a result… But I digress…

After they were born, it became all about pictures… And once we had the initial pictures, she wanted to see their faces after their eyes were open. And after that… the Name Game started. Literally from mid-April until the day we picked her up, every other conversation with R~ was about the name. She researched & googled & polled complete strangers.. And LISTS… She made lists… Many lists of potential names… And the final week before we were to pick her up, you’d have thought she was a momma bird in the nesting phase… She took inventory of everything we had saved from Baxter, but some things wouldn’t do for a girl… So we had to go shopping… multiple times, before we got everything on the list… Finally though, the day came!..

We didn’t have the first pick of the litter with Baxter. The litter back then was down to just two boys. And Baxter chose us, so it wasn’t all that difficult. But now we had four to choose from & they were all perfect in their own way. We thought we had it sort of figured out based on the pictures, but that pretty much went out the window once we got there.

So we played… & we played… & we played with them for about an hour… and we weren’t making much progress. They’d just been to the vet the prior week for their initial shots and they found out one of them had an umbilical hernia. It was really hard to tell which one because they moved so fast & looked so similar, but I was convinced that was NOT THE ONE we wanted.

I could imagine this scenario where that puppy could develop a complication & ultimately wouldn’t make it. We had a family friend with a similar story about a kitten that didn’t survive and I WOULD NOT expose my family to that… Nope… Not on my guard…
Of course, then I realized that the one we were finally zeroing in on was, you guessed it, the one with the umbilical hernia. Somewhere deep inside, that little voice spoke up… “This dog needs healing…” Well okay, yeah… That’s sort of obvious… “Your family needs healing…” BUSTED… I was completely undone…


There would be no inside jokes with the naming of this one… Named Adaline, because of the movie that my wife fell in love with this breed of dog… Middle name Harper, because we rock like that at creating names that flow well… A by-product of having a run-on First & Middle name myself…

And she is a much different dog from Baxter. Smarter because she is female… at least that’s what my family tells me… So house breaking has been a breeze… Hardly an accident to even count. But she’s also smart enough to figure out that if she whines in her crate long enough at night, we’ll eventually cave & take her out… That sleeping through the night thing is still a work in progress. But regardless of the differences, she’s all ours…


EPILOGUE

R~ & I had a chance to do some hiking & rock climbing over Memorial Day Weekend. She LOVED it!… Like she’d found some piece of herself out there or something… That type of LOVED it!…

BUT IT WAS ALMOST ERASED BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED… Catawba Falls is a neat attraction that draws lots of people from nearby Asheville. And many bring their dogs & make a day out of it. In fact, we had multiple conversations about how Addie would not have liked this hike. Too strenuous for a little puppy & we’d have had to carry her the whole way.

R~ spent most of the hike leading me by 10-15 feet… so much in her happy place. About 20 minutes into the hike, we approached a blind corner in the trail. And next thing I know, two fairly large dogs are bounding around the corner, chasing each other off leash. In a FLASH, R~ was behind me & shaking like a leaf. The dogs ran right by us like we didn’t even exist. Their owners appearing around the corner in the next instance. Just two dogs having a romp… nothing more…

R~ was frozen for a few moments, no doubt re-living the entire experience from the day Baxter died. For a moment there, I wasn’t sure but what our day wasn’t over at that point. But we talked about it for a good bit the rest of the way up the trail. Still reminding her… “Its not your fault”. She shook off the cloud over her much faster than I expected and was back in pure delight by the time the rock climbing started.

In truth, part of me wishes that four months + constant affirmation + new puppy = healed R~. But shortcuts in healing rarely work to the advantage of the wounded. So we persevere and continue the fight because that’s what we do for the ones we love.

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Baxter’s Story – Neighbors (Kindness + Glass Houses = Grace)… Part 5

From a January 31st, 2016 Facebook Note…  See Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4 for the backstory…


I mentioned yesterday that something unexpected happened in all the chaos of last Sunday. I’m standing there holding little Baxter’s body, watching R run home when I noticed our next door neighbor’s teenage daughter. She had just backed her car out of their driveway when R had started her run down the hill. She had the car in drive, but she was barely moving up the hill. Her eyes were fixed on R. She crept slowly forward, but didn’t take her eyes off of R until she made it into the house. She’s halfway up the hill now & I see her head turning from R and now she sees me. She’s still creeping forward, but now she’s locked on me. I can only imagine what was going through her mind… R… R’s dad… What is he holding?… She was about 10 yard past me up the hill when she stops the car… She had added it up…

Our immediate neighbors have kids on either side of the ages of our kids. The oldest daughter is older than A (driving obviously)… Then they have a son & another daughter both younger than R by a few years… We have a quasi-cordial relationship with them, but don’t really chat like neighbors should. Life is busy for both of us, but that’s not a good enough excuse.

She steps out of the car and walks towards me… “Is that Baxter?…” Tears are beginning to well up in her eyes. I confirm with a silent head shake… And I take a deep breath to try to compose myself. “Is R okay?…” And there went all of my composure… “What happened?…” I do my best to explain it, but if you’ve been reading all of these notes this week, you know it was a complex situation. But her kindness in that moment was just tremendous. Teenagers get a bad rap for so many things these days, but this kid was a bright spot in a dark place. “You know that those same dogs attacked our dogs too, right?”…

I think I had a pimento cheese sandwich for lunch on Sunday, but I’m honestly not sure. Whatever it was came halfway back up my esophagus in that moment and then slammed backed down HARD!… Did she just say that the same dogs that had just killed Baxter had attacked other dogs in our neighborhood?… She must’ve read my expression because she started explaining the whole scenario to me. I had a later conversation with her dad and got the details on all the vet bills and other damages incurred. How did I not know this?!?!?… He also describes an attack by these same dogs on another neighbors’ dog. A different neighbor confirms that these dogs frequently harassed walkers & joggers at that end of our street.

By now, I’m guessing that many of you are perhaps seething with rage. Aggressive dogs… multiple instances… Why hadn’t this been dealt with long before Baxter lost his life? How irresponsible!… Justice should be demanded!… A pound of flesh!… that’s what they owe!…


John 8:1-11 is one of my favorite Jesus moments ever. These self-righteous religious types were always trying to trap & test Jesus during his time on Earth. They wanted desperately to make him look bad… unqualified… out of his league vs. their clearly superior knowledge of The Law. And Jesus frustrated the hell out of them over & over again. In this particular passage, they’ve caught this woman in an act of adultery and by The Law… she should be stoned to death.

Have you ever thought of Jesus as being cunning? It’s not a quality most would associate with him, but consider it for a moment. These pious little men harass Jesus most everywhere he goes and he very deftly side-steps their traps & landmines again & again. It drives them into such a frustrated state of frenzy that they hatch a plot to kill him. And even in that, he’s still three steps ahead of them.

Back to the woman… She’s expecting to die at any moment. But Jesus throws it back on the accusers… “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” he says… The little men slink away… beaten again by his cunning & guile… “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Don’t get me wrong here… I felt that same outrage about the dogs that you probably did… That Baxter’s senseless tragedy could have, no should have been prevented… I was there & gathering my stones… And then Jesus reminded me of my own glass house…


We adults have lots of responsibilities that we’re accountable for. Enough of us tend to manage them well enough that we maintain some sense of credibility as a species. But you’re kidding yourself if you can’t admit that you’ve been negligent at some point with SOME of those responsibilities. Oh you might have gotten away with it… Maybe there were no repercussions at all. Or maybe they were just minimal… perhaps so minimal, that you’re the only one that knows. Or maybe the consequences were greater.

So what makes one person’s negligence… recklessness… better than anothers? The consequences?… Let’s just call that crap & be done with it. When you’re negligent about something… you usually lose control of the consequences. Sometimes you get lucky & they aren’t that bad… And sometimes, IT all hits the fan so hard that it becomes a literal POO-POCALYPSE… Its the same way with sin… Big sin… Little sin… They all place us in Hell apart from God’s grace…

And there it is… The only logical response… Grace… I screw up regularly… So do you… Thank God his grace is generous enough to handle it all. Thank God it never runs out. Thank God his mercies are new every morning, because sometimes, I’m barely out of bed before I start ruining the day.

Nothing at this point can bring Baxter back. Nothing at this point can make my girl UN-SEE the things she saw. Adding to someone else’s guilt & suffering, to make me feel better accomplishes nothing. Their dogs are now gone too… And though we haven’t gotten to that point in the story, they’ve made it as right with us as they can…

So Grace then…


Continue on to Part 6 here

Baxter’s Story (A Reprise) – Part 3

From a January 29th, 2016 Facebook Note…  See Parts 1 & 2 for the backstory…



He was born on August 29th, 2015 along with three brothers… Bill, Brock, & Buzz… & one sister, Bailey. He was the runt of the litter… And they called him Bertie, not Baxter… Its okay that they didn’t know, but he was always Baxter. His Dad was Dickens and he came from a bloodline of Grand Champions. His Mom was Belle… also AKC registered. They were a perfect family.

By mid-October, Bill & Brock & Bailey had all been adopted. Just Buzz & Baxter now, holding the fort down. And that’s when we showed up… October 25th, 2015. We went to visit the pair and it was not long at all before we knew, Baxter was ours. Or were we his?… Its hard to tell the difference.

I remember so much about that day that changed us… changed me, forever. For starters, I dated the check wrong… 10/24, but it was definitely Sunday, not Saturday. We went to get him after church that day. We had no leash… no collar… and no harness…  As it turns out, its really hard to manage a puppy at an active Interstate rest stop with no leash, no collar, & no harness… We played zone defense as we coerced him to get his business done instead of roaming & trying to play with all the other dogs.

After the rest stop, we had to go to Pet Smart for a leash, a collar, & a harness… And of course Sonic, because we were within 5 miles of one and its the law… Also… Baxter HATED riding in the car… whined the whole way home. Fortunately, that wore off before the road trip to Orlando. He whined just a bit that first night when we all went to bed, but hardly ever after that. After that, he had our routine down… Or we had his routine down… Again… its really hard to tell.

And then there’s that monkey… His first chew toy… He loved that thing… Chewed the ever-living snot out of it… One day we came home and found my oldest daught “A” in the dining room (she home schools) with Baxter… & it looked like it had snowed. Apparently the monkey’s head had LOTS of stuffing… Lots & LOTS of stuffing… Key word there is “had”… R sleeps with whats left of that monkey now… It helps… But he did have other chew toys he loved too… a fox… a weasel… ipod cords… laptop cords… table legs… Good times!…

We officially registered him with the Continental Kennel Club with the name Elkay Baxter <last name omitted>. The first name was my pick entirely… You see, where I grew up, pure breed dogs were something that occasionally appeared on ESPN when there was a lull in programming. In my young world… Dogs came into your family in one of three ways… 1) Someone dropped them off near your house and they followed the smell of food, 2) A close friend or family member had a female dog with a litter of pups & you were obliged to “help them out” by taking away one of the mouths to feed, or 3) A hunting dog with no tags gets lost and… follows the smell of food. Notice that in none of those three scenarios is an exchange of money required.

And then there’s Baxter… We paid…. Well lets just say there was a fee for him… If you really want to know, google King Charles Spaniel breeders and you’ll get an idea. So I felt the need to mock the situation because my humor is dark & twisty like that…  So I gave him the first name Elkay… Actually, I gave him initials… L.K. … which stood for Left Kidney… Because that’s about what he cost… L.K. became Elkay…

Ironically, I would TOTALLY give my Left Kidney to take what happened Sunday away. And its a GOOD KIDNEY people… My love of good beer has seen to that…

Did he just say that?… Yes, I just said that… Loves Beer, Loves Jesus… That’s a bumper sticker that will sell people!… But I digress…

I wanted this post to be happier & lighter today because yesterday’s note was not and I have a feeling tomorrow’s post won’t be either. So take a deep breath with me and soak in the happy times with Baxter.

Today, he would have been 5 months old exactly…


Continue on to Part 4 here

Baxter’s Story (A Reprise) – Part 1

One year ago today, my family brought home a sweet new puppy & we named him Baxter.  We were not yet “dog people” at that point and we had no idea of what lay ahead. What you will read in this & subsequent posts, was originally presented as a series of Facebook Notes as I struggled to make sense of the tragedy that would unfold for us.  I didn’t know then that the words I spilled out would have any impact beyond my own catharsis.  But the reverberations were loud & ultimately led us here… to The Bible, The Spirit, & Diet Mountain Dew Blog…

So grab some tissues  & get ready to get yer Feels on…


 


When personal tragedy comes your way, its hard to know what to share via Social Media and what not to share. On the one hand, why burden the ‘internets’ with such a thing? On the other hand, there are some things that can be learned from the tragedy of others, so why not share. The longer this has lingered with me, the more I’m inclined to take the latter approach. “Beauty from Ashes” as my best friend said the other day…

And that’s really the crux of the situation right there. Romans 8:28 says… “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  TBH… its really hard right now to imagine the “good” in this for me & my family. But I’m hopeful that if I throw this thing out there, God will use it for someone else’s “good”. As he’s stirred this in me, I’ve realized I’ve got quite a few things to say about it all… Not really at the “I need to start a blog” level, but definitely more than a 144 character Tweet. And though the temptation exists to hate & rage on this thing… I’m committed to saying what I need to say in love.

And so… I’ll start Baxter’s story at the end…


January 24th, 2016 was not a typical Sunday, but we had no idea how atypical it would be when it started. Because typically, we’re pretty predictable on Sundays. If we’re in town, most Sunday’s we’re going to be at church until 12:30-1:00, then we go out for Mexican for lunch, because its in the bible somewhere. We’d usually meander homeward about 2:00-2:30 and that frequently meant nap time because if I was serving on team that Sunday, I would have been up since 6:30’ish in the morning. But there was no church that day… Cancelled due to the snow & ice & more snow that fell Friday & Saturday.

My youngest daughter, “R” (age 9 at the time) made a new friend during the snow days that weekend… She does that alot that fearless child o’ mine. She just goes at life with reckless abandon… offering her friendship to anyone that’s in her orbit. What you do with it is up to you… she’s just going to keep on being R regardless. My wife & I met the new friend for the first time on Saturday. Very nice kid… well mannered… polite… had his own light saber with him… They sledded & played hard in the weather all day Saturday & got started again early on Sunday. They knew it was going to get warmer on Sunday and wanted to get all they could out of that hill before everything started to melt.

But it did melt… and so they moved on to other adventures. Over lunch, they watched a Star Wars prequel because Star Wars… (obviously)… And then it happened… They had an idea to take Baxter and one of the kid’s small dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. Seemed harmless enough. Before we knew it Baxter was on the leash & they were out the door. I remember that I was hanging a picture in the living room. They hadn’t been gone but maybe 10 minutes when R busted through the front door wailing…

They had walked Baxter to “the kid’s” house and R stayed with him on the front lawn while the kid went in to get one of their family’s small dogs. In trying to exit the front door, the family’s two pit bulls blew right by the kid and…

Let me stop there & say that this will not become a referendum on pit bulls… My brother-in-law owns a very sweet one that R adores. There’s much more to this story on the dogs… R… Me… but for now just this…

Baxter died at approximately 1:58pm… January 24th, 2016…


Continue on to Part 2 here

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