What’s Next?

This has been a week of significant loss. We lost our puppy, my grandmother, and now, basically my job (my hours were significantly reduced, which means I am in the market for a new job). I am determined to move on from the difficult week and turn things around for the better. My roller coaster ride is on its way back up and I am focusing on the positive things I have going on in my life, along with the positive opportunities I can create for myself and others.

Now that I will have a lot more time in my days, I’d like to fill that time with productive and thoughtful tasks and activities. I’m sure I will spend a lot of time looking for a new job, but also doing things I enjoy most: writing, reading new books on my Kindle, cooking, planning our upcoming trip to Hawaii (!!!!!), pinning new recipes on Pinterest, working on projects around the house, going to the gym in the middle of the day, along with mentally preparing for our next puppy, and just enjoying time to myself while I’ve got the chance. I also plan to volunteer more and see what good deeds I can come up with.

My first good deed was calling Aspen’s doggie daycare and asking them to donate Aspen’s remaining pre-paid sessions to Aspen’s best doggie friends who she loved to play with. We gave away Aspen’s open bags of kibble to her puppy friend, Emma, and we will give the extra canned food to a local pet food drive.

We’ll see what’s next on the list!

Another Goodbye

Comb Family Photos 14This morning my grandmother, Mor Mor, crossed over the rainbow bridge after living a very long and full life. She is now peacefully resting, hopefully reunited with her loves in some capacity. For many years now she has told us all candidly that she has been ready to cross over the rainbow bridge. Now that the time has come, I am just left with many fond memories of our time together.


My Mor Mor was a wonderful part of my life. In my adult years, Sundays were our day to chat on the phone, that is, until she could no longer hear me at all. I will always remember our conversations – she made me laugh, told me a saucy story of her days as a Tri Delt, talked about memories of her marriage or first love, Ted Jones, and spoke about life’s greatest gifts.


Ali & Mor Mor 2003

We could all learn a thing or two from her. She was always there when you needed her, she was so thoughtful with her words and had so many lifelong friends. I am so thankful that my grandmother was able to live her last decade or so at Friendship Village. This facility is basically like a dorm for the retired. She was living among friends whom she was in 7th grade with at Ramsey Junior High. I know that living at Friendship Village kept her active and social and close to most of her children.

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One of my favorite recent memories of her was from the last time I saw her, which was over the summer at the cabin. She told me that the ring that she has worn for as long as I can remember was the engagement ring she was given by her first love, Ted Jones. I asked her why she wore that one instead of the one my grandfather gave me. Her response was matter-of-fact, “Well, the stone is bigger.” I think it’s safe to say I got my love of nice jewelry from her.

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As we say goodbye, my thoughts are with my father and his siblings, who were all so lucky to have her as their mother, along with my great aunt Janice and her family.

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My cousin, I believe, made a wonderful collection of family photos. Here are a few to remember:

Always a woman of style!

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Her beautiful family

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As we grieve the loss of our puppy I continue to be overwhelmed by the support and condolences offered by our friends, family and the community. I really just wanted to take a moment to thank you for being there for us in this difficult time.

A special thanks to:

My dad. My dad is dealing with the imminent loss of his mother and he is still saddened by the news of Aspen and supportive of us. He knows how important Aspen was to us and somehow with all that he’s got going on he has been so invested in knowing how we are faring. Thank you dad.

Alex’s parents. Donna and Stan just got to see one of Aspen’s best weeks while we were up in Whistler. They cared for Aspen the first week of her life away from the breeder and brought her out to us while Donna was experiencing the loss of her father. We so appreciate the love you had for our Aspen. We know you are sharing the grief we are experiencing.

My mom. My mom never got to meet Aspen and yet, still has gotten worked up over the situation. She always asked how our little furball was doing and continued to be there when things turned for the worse.

Rachel, our puppy class instructor. Rachel said some of the kindest, most heart-felt words about Aspen and the situation. We were currently enrolled in her puppy class and our next class was supposed to be tonight. She dedicated the class to Aspen. Thank you, Rachel, for your instruction and unbelievable kindness.

Ali. Thank you for crying on the phone with me. And thank you for all the toys and treats you have given Aspen over the last few months.

Sara. Thank you for the beautiful flowers, the visit and the continued calls and emails. You are so thoughtful! We are going to miss our play dates with Emma.

Our vet, the techs, and the staff at the emergency vet. We were provided with amazing care to the end. Our vet, Dr. Jones, and his tech were crying with us as we said goodbye. A special thank you to the emergency vet for the lovely card.

Dr. Ruhland at St. Paul Pet Hospital. Thank you for your consultation and support of our decision. You really helped us feel secure about the decision by providing a second opinion. I will always be grateful.

Sarah. Thank you for always listening and for your empathy. I’m sad that you won’t get to meet Aspen in March.

Carrie. Thank you for coming to visit me and bringing such a special bottle of wine. I appreciated the company in my ultra-quiet house.

Our extended family. Thank you for the calls and emails. We so appreciate your concern and thoughts.

To everyone else who called, emailed, sent us a card in the mail, texted, commented on our blog, or sent us a facebook message, thank you so much. It is so comforting to know we have such an incredible network of family and friends. While things have been tough, we have so much to be grateful for. Thank you.

Goodbye Aspen

Last night we said goodbye to our sweet puppy, Aspen. It all came so fast, but watching her condition progress so quickly and see her as we did yesterday, we knew that we couldn’t allow her to continue on with her life and experience severe kidney failure, which was imminent. It was the most difficult decision I have ever been faced with, but we wanted Aspen to go peacefully and without enduring any unnecessary pain.

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Aspen and I got off to a pretty rocky start. The first six weeks of our co-existence together were really tough. I had never had a dog before, let alone a puppy, and was completely unprepared for what having a puppy means. Both of us were trying to figure out each other and we were competing for Alex’s #1 girl. Thankfully I won. Once I got to know Aspen a bit better and understand her personality and her quirks things only went up from there. This challenging time in our relationship taught me patience, among other things. I learned so much from Aspen and we shared so many good times and wonderful memories together.

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We know that it is rare to lose a puppy at such an early age, but we are devastated at the loss of her and of our investment in her lives with us. Our days really revolved around Aspen, we planned our Saturday ski days around her, our weekends at home were organized around her schedule, and our free time was consumed in spending time with her. Before we got Aspen we talked about how we wanted to train her. We decided that her training would be positive reinforcement. We ultimately put her through one and a half puppy classes and hours upon hours of training at home and at the park to cement that training. We wanted Aspen to have a safe place to run around outside, so we spent the better half of the summer completely renovating our backyard and building a fence for her. We did our research on puppy food and ended up getting a top-of-the-line kibble and canned food for her that contained wholesome ingredients instead of chemicals and by-products. The last couple of months have given us a glimpse into what Aspen could have been as a mature dog. Now, we are dealing with the loss of our investment in her future. We will never get to see what could have been.

After we got home last night Alex said that he was glad that of all of the puppies in Aspen’s litter that we were the ones to get her, even though she was the first to go. Aspen has never really been completely healthy in her life with us, but we are confident that we did everything we could to provide the best care for her. We are so thankful that we were able to provide the necessary level of care for Aspen from start to finish.

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I will miss Aspen so much. I never thought I’d become so fond of her as I have over the last 4 months or so, and I never imagined that saying goodbye would be this agonizing. She will always be a part of our family. Every time I walk past the kitchen I still expect her to be sitting there wagging her tail with her Garfield toy in her mouth. It will take some time to deal with her loss, but I know it will get easier.

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our sweet Aspen.


A Turn for the Worse

I want to thank our friends and family for being so supportive this week. It is comforting to know that we have so many people who care so much about us and about our sweet puppy. To some, a dog is a dog, but to us, our dog is a part of our family. She means so much to us!

This morning, Aspen woke up and was acting like a crazy puppy. Alex took her for a fantastic walk and she came back and ate breakfast. Then it was like a switch flipped and she became extremely lethargic and has been ever since. She had a short burst of aggressive energy around lunch and ate a bit, but now is back to sleep. Clearly, she is not doing well.

We have a vet appointment this afternoon with her regular veterinarian and have put a call in to another vet for a second opinion. Aspen proves to be a mystery dog, but we are seeing today that she is not doing well. Alex and I are preparing to make some difficult decisions in the interest of our puppy. For now, we are so thankful for the four months we have had with Aspen, but we are just so heartbroken that it doesn’t look like the cards are stacked in our favor for her to grow old with us.

In other news, my grandmother has been in ICU for the last few days with a bleak outlook. She has been given her last rights by a priest and our family who is near has begun to say their good byes. I’m not sure how much longer she has, but she is one spirited, tough cookie, and I will miss her dearly.

It’s times like these when it’s incredible to see my family coming together to support one another. Again, I so appreciate the support and kind words of encouragement. Thank you for helping Alex and me through this tough time.

Highlights from 2012

As we are reflecting on the past and working to resolve some things in our future, I thought I’d put together a collection of some of our years’ memories. We made some wonderful new friendships and turned several acquaintances into incredible friendships. Thankfully, 2012 was a pretty good year for us.

The winter months were mostly spent skiing and wedding planning. That was about all we had time to do this winter. We had record snowfall at our mountains, so it was a great year for us to enjoy. Alex spent a weekend in Vegas for his bachelor party, while I was thrown a bridal shower in Seattle.Iphone 259 Iphone 304

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April brought our wonderful and amazing wedding. We will forever remember that day and how special it was to spend time with our family and friends in such a magical place. The timing of the snow beginning to fall and accumulate throughout our ceremony was something I know I will never forget.


The beginning of summer was mainly spent re-doing our backyard. We tore out and re-built two retaining walls, leveled off our backyard with new soil, planted grass seed, oh, and built a fence. The premise of this project was for our dog. We also took a week off to go back to the Midwest and bask in the glorious heat with our family and friends.

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August was one of the highlights of 2012 for us. We took a stand up paddleboard lesson for one week’s date night, another week we headed for the mountains and dined atop Crystal Mountain at the Summit House, we toured the Olympic Peninsula and welcomed our new puppy to our household. We also said good bye to Alex’s incredible grandfather.

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Fall ended up being a whirlwind. If you’ve ever had a puppy, you understand.



The holidays came and went in a flash. We spent a lot of quality time with Alex’s parents and extended family. We were able to go back to Illinois for Thanksgiving to be with the Allen clan, then Alex’s parents came out to the Pacific Northwest for an incredible Christmas trip to Whistler, British Columbia. We closed out the year with some great friends. Here’s hoping that 2013 is a good one!

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Back to the Drawing Board

We heard back from the vet and Aspen’s Addison’s Disease came back negative, so we can rule that one out. Alex and I are feeling a bit like we’re back to the drawing board. We have accepted that there is something wrong with Aspen, likely her kidneys, but she has been acting like a wild and starved puppy. She’s eating and drinking like a normal dog, she’s got a ton of energy and just wants to play! It’s hard for us to see that anything is so severely wrong with her because she seems just fine.

I guess for now we will just wait to learn more at our meeting with the specialist on Thursday. We have continued to do some independent research on kidneys, kidney dysplasia and a whole host of other possibilities and just haven’t come up with anything consistent or concrete.

This week has been a roller coaster. It makes me stop to think of all of the positive things I have in my life, namely our family and friends who are being so supportive with all that is going on in our lives. Thank you for keeping Aspen and my family in your thoughts. Even though this has been a very difficult week, we still have a lot to be thankful for. Still, though, I sure hope we can find our way back up soon!

A Glimmer of Hope

Here is our latest update on Aspen:

Last night we received a phone call from the emergency vet. Before Aspen had left their care on Saturday they ran a screening for Addison’s Disease, mostly to rule it out as a possibility. Addison’s is another kidney disease that is basically like kidney diabetes, so it’s not really a great thing, but it is treatable and would allow Aspen to live out her full life. The screening came back that there is a possibility that Aspen may have Addison’s. Further testing will confirm the diagnosis. We will learn the results this afternoon.

The reason we are thinking there is a strong possibility that Addison’s could be Aspen’s actual diagnosis is because of the symptoms. Aspen fits the Addison’s symptoms to a “T” and it just feels right. We were scratching our heads after talking with the breeder who we got Aspen from who had never even heard of kidney dyspliasia, which is a genetic disease. Also, upon doing some independent research of Addison’s, one thing it says is that often times dogs will go on an IV to lower their BUN (kidney value) and seem to make a miraculous recovery. Since Aspen has been home, she has been back to her same old crazy self. She’s wild, rambunctious, chases the cats, steals socks from the laundry, runs around the house, smiles, and most importantly, she’s eating like a champ!

Another “filling in the blanks” if you’re wondering – her original diagnosis of kidney dysplasia cannot be confirmed 100% without a kidney biopsy, which is very invasive, so we are not planning on going through with that.

We are trying not to get our hopes up on this one, but we’re thinking optimistically! Once we learn more from the vet, we’ll continue to keep you updated.

2013 So Far

I was asked yesterday how our new year is going so far. I hadn’t quite thought about it until then, but my answer was that it has been a bit rough so far. Unfortunately, it only has gotten rougher.

For the last few weeks we have been having some various health issues with our puppy, Aspen, and after she spent 24 hours in emergency care, we learned that she has kidney dysplasia. This basically means that her kidneys have lesions on them that prevent them from working completely. Her kidney function is about 25% right now. We are uncertain what the long-term prognosis is, but we are optimistic that we will be able to manage her disease with a strict diet.

The vet sent us home with the only kidney-specific dog food they had and Alex and I were disgusted by it, so we plan on returning it. This dog food did not contain a single food ingredient – it was all chemicals. We did some research about a holistic or homemade kidney diet for Aspen and found that the best bet is very low phosphorus, a moderate to low amount of high-fat proteins and a lot of water. We’ve found an extremely helpful website that has a table with a variety of foods and their phosphorus, protein and fat breakdowns that we will use to manage the household food we will give her. The website also gave unbelievably helpful comparisons of food we can purchase for her. We’ve decided on Grandma Lucy’s holistic dehydrated food which will give her a complete and balanced diet within the kidney-specific guidelines. Thankfully it’s available at our local pet store and is reasonably priced.

All of our other research has been pretty scattered, which is a bit unsettling for the long-run, but we’re still holding out hope for our sweet pup. We will be meeting with a specialist on Thursday, so we are anxious to come up with an official game plan for her long-term care needs and kidney management.

Aspen is home with us now and is hungry, alert, active and sweet as ever. Regardless of what we learn in our next appointment we will be enjoying our sweet girl and monitoring her health very closely. We will use this site to keep you updated with Aspen’s condition, but I don’t think we’ll have much more to report until after our appointment on Thursday. Now, I’m going back to play with Aspen!