D for Dog

I’ve had dogs all my life. Mostly claiming them from my parents as “my” dog, but always sharing time and generally taking care of them. For some reason I’ve always had labs (or lab mixes) with a few notable exceptions. There’s something about their temperament that just fits with mine. I love labs.

Scamp the Lab

Scamp was our dog. One day he ran away, never to be seen again.

My first lab memories were of a black lab mix called Scamp. My sister and I loved that dog. We took him to Scotland for a year, living in a caravan while Dad fixed sewage pipes in the Clyde estuary. It was a weird childhood. One day he simply vanished. Scamp I mean – not Dad – who stayed and is with us to this day happily tending to his cement garden and ignoring his age. We were not happy, and I took a pet sheep as a hasty substitute (I am from Lincoln after all).

Next came a golden lab mix we called Kim. She was a sweet dog, always fun and attentive and very bright and loyal.

Me and Kim

Me and Kim the golden lab in the same caravan but years later.

This picture is from around 1972, when we moved from the big metropolis of Lincoln (Sarcasm intended) having recently trying to argue with the back door handle of a Morris Oxford and having most of my right arm taken off, Mum and Dad decided that living in the country would be way less hazardous and I may actually live to see maturity.


I made the local news!

I made the local news!

After Kim passed, we didn’t get another dog as a family. My sister had left home to get married, and she had a mutt who was part whippet and part lab I think. I went off on my adventures, and finally settled in Hartlepool, where I became step dad to a giant German Shepherd named Jack. He was a huge beast of a dog. We used to walk along the tops of the dunes next to the sea, where I would find old car tires and roll them down to the beach below. Jack would go down, pick the whole tire up in his mouth and carry it back up the dune as if nothing. We used to do this until he was finally tired. We had great fun, Jack and I. The marriage was unstable though and we ended up living in Sunderland, where I could take jack down to the beach, but the apartment we had wasn’t good for a huge dog.

When the marriage ended Jack stayed with her, and she eventually had him put down. No warning, no “would you like him” – nothing. I heard a few weeks later and was really upset.

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve married again, living in the USA and decide it’s time fro a dog once more. We were living in a rural house, and I was working out of a home office so I wanted company. I decided this time it was a rescue dog I wanted. For some reason, finding myself 40 miles north at a shelter, I was found by a lovable little black lab mix. She had white paws, and a white chest and we connected just like that. I adopted her, and took her home.

The first night back, I had made a bed for her in the basement with food and water, but she wasn’t having any of that. Oh no – she wanted to be with the rest of the family. A mournful howling finally made us cave in and she came happily to the main house, where she settled in and made it her own. I stole a name from an old friend of mine back in the UK and called her Defor (D for Dog)

We had amazing adventures. The house was close to hills where we took long walks. There was a pond nearby where she ran in after a stick and came out with her leg badly gashed by something under the water. The Vet and I were on speaking terms after a while. She developed a hematoma in her abdomen that affected her urination, so we took her to have it removed via a splenectomy. It weighed 10 pounds! On a 75 pound dog!.

Defor relaxing

Defor relaxing

Which brings me to right now. Defor is 13 now, and definitely in the later stages of her life. Yesterday she suffered a seizure, and we spent all day at vets and ferrying her around for treatments. She’s ok for now, but it’s a wake up call of her impending demise. I don’t like that. I don’t like that one bit, but I do love that dog! I hope she’s around for a while longer.

Oh – and for those of the Buddhist persuasion – it is purely coincidental that Defor has almost exactly the same build and markings as Scamp did all those years ago. Or is it?

11-15-14 UPDATE

Defor died last week. Luckily while My daughter was with me, although I felt really bad for my ex having to deal with that. I went round the next morning with my daughter and we grieved together, then took her to the funeral home for cremation. I got the ashes back yesterday and I’m still numb. Can’t believe she’s gone.

I’m under some pressure now to get another dog, which will probably happen but not right away. I resisted getting one while Defor was alive – it just didn’t seem right. Soon though.

Rest in peace my old friend.

Ch Ch Ch Changes!

As I sit here on the eve of July 4th, I can’t help feeling scared. Change is a’ comin’ and soon. As of August 1st my life is about to change dramatically. I start a year long project with the state of Vermont “Blueprint for Health” assisting medical practices in becoming leaner, more efficient and able to serve their patients better. It’s relatively simple work as transformation work goes, but it is going to fun and I’m looking forward to being able to replicate modules of improvement strategies over many practices.

The change is going to be with my life and work routines. I haven’t been in regular work since 2012, and it is going to be a shock to get back into the rhythm necessary to work like this. Normal days consist of getting up around 6, showering etc then setting off to whichever practice is on the schedule that day. Spending a few hours with them where you go through a series of carefully planned meetings and activities, then returning to the office for reporting, follow up and planning for the next day. Every day. It’s – well – it’s work, as the rest of the world sees it. I know i’ve done it so much before that it will take a couple of days before it becomes normal once more, but the anticipation of that transition period is scary as hell.

That wouldn’t be so bad if that were all that were happening in the next month. Last week I also was asked to take on a project with a hospital system which is working on implementing process improvements which result in achieving the requirements of the “meaningful use” designation. Basically this is a series of requirements of a practice that pertain to the implementation of their Electronic Health Record (EHR) and practice management systems. It’s good stuff. I’ve seen enough examples where practices have dove headlong into implementing an EHR system because they were being incentivized to do so, without really understanding what that would do to the day to day workflow of a practice. The Meaningful Use requirements and subsequent designation have been thought out well so that achieving this status will ensure the practice has a baseline level of competency in not just the implementation of the electronic systems, but the usage and interfacing of them also. Of course, practices are not doing this for the good of their health (pun intended). They are being guided in this direction by medicare rules from the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) which assign levels of procedural reimbursement based on your standing regarding these criteria. Not doing this can cause a powerful hit to the financial picture of a practice, so it is in their best interests to make sure it happens.

All of that is going to happen in the last two weeks of July, before the main work with the Blueprint for Health, which has eaten into my mental preparation time even further. It’s good though. I can use the kickstart, and the knowledge is going to be very transferable to the new project as well. Better service for my clients.

Lastly – personal changes are rife right now. My divorce has finally been filed, and we are now in the process of splitting up final assets. It’s been a long time since separation but we have used that time to resolve all our issues and design a life that works for us and our daughter. I’m happy and proud of the way we’ve managed to do this and insulate her from the majority of the change that could have been if things had been more acrimonious. We even did it without lawyers! (Well – we did use mediators but that was a good experience also).

So it’s all about change right now. As with any change, it can be good and bad. I’m concentrating on the good, and minimizing the possibilities for the bad. The corner has been turned. I feel better. I’m excited. I’m ready to hit the road again.