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My They Grow Up Fast

I’m way behind on my blogging so bear with me please. This past fall I had the chance to revisit little miss Collins to take some holiday shots. I could not get over how big she’s gotten! Look at that smile, it doesn’t much cuter than this does it?

Saying Goodbye

I know it’s been a while and I promise to be better about blogging in the new year, but it’s been a rough couple of months around these parts. I did not underestimate how hard this post would be to write, but I can’t seem to find the right way to start it, so after erasing the first few lines over and over again I’ve decided to just jump right in. About 3 weeks before Christmas we had to make the terribly difficult decision to put our 10 yr old dog, Wheaton, down. Now anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to a pet knows where I’m coming from when I say words cannot even express my sadness, but at the end of the day I know she’s in a better place. Wheaton was a bright light on my worst days, she was my baby, my favorite photo subject and my best friend. She may be gone, but she will always be remembered!

Considering all the great memories I have of that scraggly mutt, it’s still funny to me that I never wanted her in the first place. I’ll never forget the day Clarissa called to tell me she had found the perfect dog for me at the pound. When she described her to me I immediately said, “no way.” I had always imagined myself the proud owner of a bigger dog like a lab or a shepherd. You know what I’m talking about right? Like a real dog person’s kind of dog. God was I naive!

Luckily, Clarissa is pretty darn stubborn when she makes up her mind about something and she had decided that I was going to get this dog. There were 6 cages in a single line under a shoddy looking structure at the Animal Control shelter in Wilmington. Wheaton was in the very last pen. The people there claimed she was a runner. Meaning, she had probably belonged to someone and had escaped enough times that they were tired of looking for her. The woman that opened her cage door for us reiterated what Clarissa had already told me, this was Wheaton’s last day. If she wasn’t gone by the end of that evening, they were going to have to put her down in order to make room for more dogs. She led us to a tiny white room with one metal bench and a rope toy on the floor, handed Wheaton’s leash to us and shut the door. Clarissa plopped down on the floor and looked up at me with these huge expectant eyes, “Well,” she said, “What do you think? Isn’t she adorable?” I gave the mangy dog the once over, “she looks like Benji on a bad day,” I said. Clarissa just glared at me as she pulled the dog into her lap. Wheaton immediately started licking her face. Clarissa looked up at me and said, “we are getting this dog. We are not going to let them kill her. She’s perfect. She’s not too big and not too small and she’s sooo cute. How can you not like this dog?” Really, it’s not that I didn’t think she was a cute dog, she just wasn’t exactly what I thought I wanted. We debated for about another 15 minutes, why I don’t know because I know that any argument with Clarissa is simply an exercise in futility, before I finally gave in. “Fine,” I sighed, “I’ll take her.” As if getting this dog was some huge ordeal.  Secretly, I was elated to have a dog to call my own, but I didn’t want Clarissa to think she had won.

On the way home she sat in Clarissa’s lap while we discussed names. Clarissa lobbied hard for Old Scratch or Scrappy Doo, while I took a let’s wait and see if something better comes up approach. The next day we took her to the vets office for a check up. He told us that she looked to be about a year old, was pretty much full grown and that he thought she was some kind of Wheaton Terrier mix. A little light went off in my head, Wheaton! What a perfect name for this little mutt. For once, Clarissa didn’t argue.

Looking back I know it looks like we found Wheaton, but in reality I think she found us. Honestly, I don’t know of many other families that would have kept her. Sure she was cute with that scruffy looking face, but she had a lot of issues. She didn’t like most people, especially men, seeing another dog would turn her into a snarling psycho and children must have looked like big chew toys to her. She did not believe in coming when called and good luck catching her if she got outside without a leash. Plus, heaven forbid you even look at her the wrong way and she would set out to find a hiding spot leaving a trail of pee behind her. Thankfully we lived in an old house with hardwood floors that were easy to clean, we didn’t have any kids and our other dog, Drake, was deemed acceptable to her. On the plus side, Wheaton was great in her crate and loved to cuddle. She learned to never say no to a treat and even learned a few tricks!

As time wore on, she stopped being so scared and started warming up to most people, she learned to like dogs that were smaller than her and sometimes she came when called. We learned that she loved to swim, she could run like a gazelle, that barking was one of her favorite hobbies and that she had a stomach of steal. We think Wheaton might have been a fisherman in a past life because she really enjoyed it.

I am thankful for my time with her and the litany of stories that she’s given me. I’ll never forget the time she jumped out of our moving car to get to her Aunt Dawn, the time she ate a marker and dyed all the fur around her mouth green, the mango chicken incident of 2002, the first time she tried yogurt, her first snowfall, her first kayak trip, the way she would peek out our window in Greenville when she heard you coming. I won’t forget the first time she swam, Clarissa had to throw her in and the fact that we couldn’t keep her out of the water after that. I’ll remember how cute she was when I shaved, “Go Duke” into her and  how dumb she looked the time I screwed it up and had to put, “Duke Dog,” because it was the only thing that would work. It won’t be hard recalling watching her chase anything and everything that ran, the time she ate a fish Clarissa had just caught whole, the time she got hit by a dump truck and only lost a toenail, or the time she got hit by a car and had a bumper print on her side. Drive thru windows for cheeseburgers will never be the same! Then there’s the time she tried to drag a whole turkey carcass under the bed. I’ll also think about the way she would goad Drake into chasing her, haircut day, how much she liked to attack the spray nozzle on the hose, watching her squirrel away food, the time Drake stole all her french fries, the night she ate half a bottle of tums, the time she got into my chapstick, the first time she howled with Drake or the time she stole the soap out of Clarissa’s hand and subsequently ate it in one bite. I’ll never forget the evening we spent 3 hours looking for her thinking she was lost only to discover she was sleeping upstairs or when Clarissa taught her to speak by yelling, “Come In”, at our door. I’m quite certain I am missing hundreds of other funny or sweet little moments in time, but it would be impossible to list them all here anyways.

I will miss her shrek ears, finding her laying in a sunny patch and that goofy grin she would get when she was really happy. I’ll miss seeing her little head pop up over the edge of the door whenever I come home and beep the horn. I’ll miss watching her stretch out into that full run of hers and the way she would tilt her head and look at you whenever you asked her if she wanted to go for a ride.

Our little Wheatpea is irreplaceable and will always be a huge part of Clarissa and I’s story. At the same time I’d like to thank everyone who offered us their kind words and thoughts when they heard about our loss. You have no idea how much that meant and how much we both appreciated it. However, while it is horribly sad that she is gone, I am thankful for all the amazing memories I have of her. Deep down I know that her spirit will live on in the hearts of those that loved her and again quite literally in the thousands of photos I took of her over the years. Goodbye little one, I will miss you for a lifetime!

Train Wreck Tuesday

Grandma’s Super Secret Cherry Pie

My grandmother on my mom’s side makes 2 things that I can’t live without, cherry pie and this thing we call hoho cake. The hoho cake is far and away my favorite dessert on earth, but it’s a pain in the butt to make. A couple of years ago I asked her to walk me through the recipe only to find out there are like 30 steps involved. I gave up before I even tried it. One of these days I’ll give it a go, but I already know it’s going to test my patience. The thing reads more more like a Harry Potter spell  than a recipe for cake. I swear there is even a step that states,  “stir exactly 7 times and then check consistency.” Needless to say, when I decided that I just had to make my grandmother’s cherry pie for Thanksgiving this year I was more than a little worried that I wouldn’t be up to the task. I even had to psych myself up before I called her for the recipe. Only once I had my paper and pen all laid out and ready to go did I dial her number.

After we got the pleasantries out of the way I asked her if she minded telling me how to make her special cherry pie. I told her that I wanted to know exactly how she made hers because I wanted mine to taste just like hers always did. I told her that I was ready to take down all her instructions and any helpful hints she could give me and I also mentioned that I didn’t mind having to wait while she went and found her recipe. This was how that whole conversation played out.

Me: “I can wait while you get the recipe gram.”

Gram: “No I don’t need it, I know this one off the top of my head.”

Wow, that’s impressive I thought to myself.

Me: “Okay, I’m ready!”

Gram: “First you need to buy one of those Pillsbury pie crust. You know what I’m talking about right? You can find them in the cooler section.”

“Okay,” I said. Secretly I was a little upset though. I mean I was all prepared to hand make my own dough and roll it out. I even found our little used rolling pin before I called to make sure I had one. The image of my grandmother standing in her kitchen wearing an apron and covered in flour started to get a little fuzzy in my mind. Oh well, I could roll with this. I mean this could totally be a good thing right? Ready made crust meant I could really focus on the filing. Yeah, perfect.

Me: “I got it gram, I know where to find ready made crust. Go ahead with the rest.”

Grandma: “Then you need to buy 3 cans of cherry pie filling.”

Me: “Three whole cans? What brand?”

Gram: “Any brand will do. I normally use whatever is on sale.”

Me: “Okay, then what?”

Gram: “Then you add an eighth of a teaspoon of almond extract, a pinch of nutmeg, and some ….”

Me: “Wait, wait, how much is a pinch?”

Gram: “Um, it’s just a pinch. I don’t know I just grab a tiny bit and sprinkle it around.”

Me: “Um, sure go ahead.”

Gram: “Then I add 3 drops of red food coloring.”

Me: “Isn’t it already red?”

Gram: “Yes.”

Me: “So why add red food coloring?”

Gram: “Because I like it to be really red.”

Me: “Okay, it’s your pie. What else?”

Gram: “That’s it. Then you put the pie crust on the top, cut some slits in it and bake it per the instructions on the pie crust box.”

Me: “Are you kidding me? I mean I could spit in the pie and give it more flavor than an eighth of a teaspoon of almond extract!”

Gram: “Nope that’s all I do.”

Now I could see why she had no trouble remembering the recipe off the top of her head. Let me find out all these years I could’ve just opened a can of cherry pie filling and dipped strips of pre-made pie crust in it and had “My Grandmother’s” cherry pie.

Well, there you have it. Now you all know the super secret recipe. Enjoy! I did and this Thanksgiving I gave thanks for simple recipes.

My Road to Happiness

Clarissa and I went down to Wilmington a few weeks ago to visit some old friends of ours. Before we left, I made up my mind that while we were there I was going to get a picture of one of my favorite places. It a road. Now, now, hold up, don’t get all judgey on me just yet. I know roads aren’t normally the most memorable locations, but this particular one is special. It sits right behind the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and it’s one of those back roads that only the locals seem to know about. One second you’re driving down a busy multi-lane road in a bustling city, then you turn and suddenly find yourself heading through a forest of ancient oak trees. It’s like driving through a living cathedral of Spanish moss and then, just as you think the road is going to end in a sunny abyss, you turn and emerge directly into the light and the sight of the picturesque inter coastal waterway. Not only is this street naturally pretty, but there’s something about that feeling that you get as you come out of the darkness of the trees and see nothing but water and marsh stretching out before you. As the smell of the salty, ocean breeze hits you smack in the face it’s hard to think of anything but good thoughts.

The York Family

I had another family photo shoot this weekend. This time it was with the York family and boy did they make smile. I think their little one said cheese every single time I took a picture which was a surprise to both Mom and Dad. After about 300 shots I bet his little voice was hoarse.

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