Friday, June 23, 2006

I'm going to perform an experiment on my dog.

Before you start calling the animal rights people, hear me out. When I was a kid, we had a beagle mix named Patches. Patches was a grumpy old dog, but that's beside the point. Twice a day, Patches would get a half of a Gainesburger in her bowl. Gainesburgers were these frighteningly red, crumbly food stuff that was packaged in a hamburger shape. You'd open the wrapping, crumble half a Gainesburger into the bowl and Patches went to town.

My grandmother's dogs preferred Chuckwagon. Chuckwagon's marketing point was that it made its own gravy. Each day, at 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Grandma put a scoop of Chuckwagon into each dog's bowl, added warm water and stirred the concoction until it formed its own gravy. Scampy and Brandy went to town on their Chuckwagon.

Patches, Scampy and Brandy all lived long, healthy lives, expiring at about age 15 or so. Same with the other neighborhood dogs who received similarly packaged grocery store foods. Interesting.

When we bought our first puppy 10 years ago, our vet wrinkled her nose at grocery store dog food. Sure, she said, give your dog the equivalent of Twinkies and Ring Dings. She recommended premium dog foods. They might cost a little more, but your dog will appreciate its healthy coat and digestive system. Nothing but the best for our dog. Kadi lived on premium dog food. When she developed seizures at age 6, we kept her on the premium dog food. When her legs started to bother her a few years later, we switched to a food that promised to enhance her joint health. As the epilepsy medications made her fuzzy, I tried a food that promised to help her mental state. When she died at 9, she was well fed and loved and prematurely gone.

Our neighbors have similar stories. The lab on the left had to be euthanized at age 8 when his hips gave out. The dog behind us lost his life to cancer at age 9. The one next door died at age 10 due to heart failure. All nice dogs. All premium dog food dogs. Not a speck of Gainesburger in sight.

So now we have this new dog, Ginger. Great dog. Healthy dog. No seizures yet. Strong hips and knees so far. Yesterday I bought her a bag of grocery store dog food. Granted, it's the top of the line grocery store dog food. I can't bring myself to do the generic stuff yet, and I can't find any Gainesburger. But I'm going to see how Ginger does on grocery store dog food. At least I'm going to try this 20-pound bag. Then I'll probably feel guilty for feeding my dog Twinkie dog food, and I'll go back to the premium stuff.

I'd make a lousy researcher.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ten years ago, my husband and I stood in front of our family and friends and pledged our solemn vows. I suppose I should be saying something like, "I can remember it as if it were yesterday," but honestly, it seems like a lifetime ago. I look at our wedding pictures and think, "Who are those young people, and did they have any idea what they were promising on that day?"

The wedding may seem like a lifetime ago, but it seems like just yesterday I was waking him up at 2 a.m. with an infant, begging him to take her for a couple of hours so I could get some precious sleep. Take her he did, even though he had to work in the morning. Later, when I thanked him, he said not to worry. "She's my baby, too," he said.

It seems like just yesterday we were moving into this neighborhood, complete with its cul de sacs and safe streets. We bought bikes for us and a bike trailer for the girls. The weather was kind. Life was good. So good, that we looked at each other and said, "No matter what else happens, we're going to remember this time and say it was good."

It seems like only yesterday he was taking time off work so we could go as a family to my mom's bedside when she was diagnosed with cancer. Only yesterday he told me not to worry about the girls while I went home again to be with my mom and my dad as they recovered from heart attacks. Only yesterday we took a trip to Chicago, away from the girls for the first time in almost nine years, enjoying a weekend without bed time routines and menu negotiations. Only yesterday we fought so hard, only to reaffirm that we both want and need to honor those vows we took when there were stars in our eyes and naive love in our hearts.

Did we know 10 years ago how much that love would have to grow and mature to meet our changing lives? Did we realize that the words "for better or for worse" didn't pertain to lottery winnings and catastrophic events, but rather to balmy summer nights and little irritations that we'd have to let go of in the name of a promise we made 10 years ago? Did we have any idea how much more we'd love each other 10 years out, and how that love is what we hold onto no matter what else goes wrong in our lives? Did we realize that we were signing up for hard times as well as good times, and that "as long as we both shall live" was more than a trite, familiar phrase?

Happy anniversary, honey. There's no one else I'd rather call my husband, no one else I'd rather take this journey with. You're the first one I want to share my good news with, and the one I need when the news is bad. I love you more than I did 10 years ago, and I'm in it for the long haul. Let's work through the bad times and hang onto the good ones, "as long as we both shall live" and maybe an eternity more.