Category Archives: Conan

Dungeons, Dragons, and Dreams

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Conan at four months old

It’s been a month and a half since I lost Conan. For awhile, I thought things were getting easier and I started perusing dogs on shelter sites because I miss having a dog around. Then the dreams came.

The first one I was at a party. A friend arrived (I don’t know who), and they brought Conan. In the dream, it turned out that I had given him up to a friend and they were allowing me a visit. I couldn’t stop apologizing to Conan.

The second one I was at a shelter. I was looking at dogs, when I found Conan. In this dream it turned out he wasn’t gone, I’d just accidentally left him at a shelter. I was so happy to find him again.

What these dreams taught me is that I am not really wanting a dog again (yet), I’m wanting Conan again. My searching through adoptable dogs was me looking for one that might be Conan. None of them are.

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The above photo is my party of adventurers (I’m the monk on the far right) with a spiritual guardian represented by the four-sided die. I’m not sure what connection this has to my dreams about Conan, except that Dungeons and Dragons is a place I go to once a week where I am surrounded by friends who make me smile and help me forget for a bit the world that weighs on me.

I once claimed that Dungeons and Dragons had saved my life when my appendix became infected during a game. Now, dealing with life without Conan, Dungeons and Dragons continues to save me. It allows me to be creative, to escape, and to spend time with a group of friends who make me laugh and smile.

People ask me all the time, “How are you?” and I say, “Fine.” It’s true, I am, because when grief hits again it will do so in a wave when I’m not expecting it. Such as on my way home from work, when I suddenly feel happy about walking Conan when I get home. Or first thing in the morning when I expect to see Conan at the foot of my bed. Or when I vacuum my suite and there are no dog dishes to move out of the way. Ask me then, and I am not fine. For those tiny, fleeting moments, grief takes over.

Grief isn’t always about being sad or depressed. Sometimes, grief is about appreciating the moments that made you happy when the one you lost was still with you. So, when I’m asked, I will say, “I’m fine” and that will be an honest answer. But if you do catch me when I am not fine, just remember that it is a fleeting moment. An important moment. A moment I need.

If you want to help me, grab a set of polyhedron dice, and let’s play a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Conan, 2000-2016

I haven’t posted in a long while since there haven’t been any great days for road trips. In other words, I haven’t had much to say, and I don’t like posting just for the sake of posting.

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A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my pet and friend, Conan the shih tzu. I’ve been debating if I wanted to post about this, or if I wanted to keep the blog light and fluffy. It was during Christmas festivities, when a friend started asking questions about my decisions because he will one day soon also have to make the same decisions, and then when other friends who lost pets recently messaged me telling me about the comfort they took in my openness, that I knew I needed to make this post.

For months while I was trying to make that final decision, I googled for advice and found help online. So, for all those who have pets, I will pass on what I have learned.

1) The Natural Death

475When we think of this concept, we imagine our pets passing painlessly in their sleep into the next realm. That’s what I was hoping for since the day that Conan was diagnosed with liver disease in 2014. The truth is, this concept just doesn’t exist. Conan’s liver disease was probably cutting the air off to his brain, and it was starting to cause his lungs to fill with fluid. If he was going to pass naturally, he would have died in pain, probably when I wasn’t home, and filled with fear. Don’t consider the “natural” option. Natural sucks.

2) Where You Say Goodbye

I considered saying goodbye in our home. It seemed like a place where he’d be most comfortable, and perhaps that would have made it easier. However, that would have meant finding a vet I didn’t know, and there was always a tiny part of me clinging to the notion that someone was going to say to me, “Are you sure about this? He’s fine. Look at him!”

I chose the vet we’d been going to for the last seven years. In the end this was the healthy decision, because the vet had a chance to say goodbye, to tell me that he was going to miss the two of us, and to remind me that I had done more than most would have done. He was amazed that Conan had stayed healthy for so long.”He’s a fighter, that one. You should have no regrets,” is what he told me.

As for Conan’s comfort, his place of solitude was anywhere I was–just as it had always been. Cradled in my arms, his gaze staring up at me, his tiny body completely relaxed.

3) After

I spent so much time preparing for the event, that I didn’t think much about what I was going to do after. I chose to be in the room with him alone, which was a mistake. Take someone with you. I had plenty of people offer, but for some reason I thought it needed to be a moment for me and him. And maybe that moment did–but the moments after was when I knew I needed someone for me the same way Conan always needed me there for him.

When asked if I wanted the ashes, I initially thought no. But thankfully I understood how final that decision was, and decided to say yes in case I changed my mind and wanted them. I did change my mind, and am now very glad I have them.

img_0139-1Grief will come in waves. I can’t tell you what to expect or how to prepare as it comes to everyone differently. I cleaned up and put away his things immediately as having them out just made me sad. However, I keep going on our walks and I say goodbye to him each day when I leave for work as I always did. Sometimes I cry when  memory hits, and sometimes I just smile and remember him.

4) Memories

What I came to understand is that although I loved him no matter what, I was missing him long before he died. I was missing that happy puppy that wagged his tail at the sight of other dogs, who chased my feet when we walked, who jumped onto the couch to sit on my lap, who sniffed out the crumbs when I dropped food, who ran to the door to greet me every day when I came home. That’s the Conan I miss, even if it wasn’t the Conan I loved and said goodbye to.

511I take comfort in remembering the many good times we had together. I may blog about that for a while, because Conan was a part of my life for a very long time–from when I was 28 until 16 and a half years later. We had a lot of really great times. And that is my last piece of advice: don’t fear the memories. Sometimes they may make you sad, but mostly they will bring you comfort.

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Godspeed, little buddy.

James in his Jeep Getting Java- Forks, WA (Classic Edition)

Forks Washington is a town between the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean of just over 3,600 people. It’s fame comes from the Twilight novels, as that was where Stephanie Meyer set her stories. Interestingly enough, she had never set foot in the town when writing her books nor did any of the movies get filmed there. It is, however, an interesting place to visit if you are into pop culture (and its effects on people) or just like a beautiful drive. Olympic National Park is amazing.

This was a trip I had taken back in the summer of 2012, but since there’s nothing but grey skies outside and I haven’t been feeling up to a road trip the last week and a bit I’m going to reminisce. (Also, since I’ll most likely never have the chance to return to Forks, it would be nice to have a blogged record of it.) My soundtrack for this trip is Vacation, by the Go-Go’s.

I didn’t have my Jeep in 2012, so this was more of a “James in his Prelude Getting Pizza” event–which really doesn’t have the same ring. This vehicle, a 90s relic that looked better than it performed, used to suddenly overheat with no cause. I had a few mechanics look at it, one changed the thermostat which helped for a short term, but eventually the vehicle completely died.

However, for this particular trip it performed well and only overheated and smoked at the border while coming home. (Thankfully, it would stop overheating when I was at customs and then continue when I was over the border. It was really strange.)

Below is my dog, Conan, who really wanted to come with me. He stayed at the Baggie Socks Spa (a friend’s place that he stayed at whenever I went on vacation) where he was pampered and loved.

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Conan the Shih Tzu

This was my first experience driving through Deception Pass (see my blog post about Langley, WA). I took the ferry from Fort Casey to Port Townsend, my first stop along the way. Port Townsend I do hope to return to someday to better explore, as it was a beautiful little port side town of just over nine thousand people.

I did find a 50s style soda shop where I had a burger and root beer. The food was good and the atmosphere was like that of Al’s Diner from Happy Days.

But this wasn’t where I was headed, so off to Forks. What I will say is that, as an author of a vampire series that came out a few months before Twilight (and that has been accused of copying Twilight’s tropes ever since,) it was fascinating to me to see what this level of fandom can do for a relatively unknown town.

Forks was a logging community and I got the impression that the residents were happy that the popularity of Twilight was waning so they could return to their quiet life. There was a bus emblazoned with the words “TWILIGHT TOURS” that drove through the area every hour filled with tourists. (I did not take the tour.) There was also a store dedicated to the sale of Twilight memorabilia. (I bought a shirt.)

I visited all the tourist places that marked events in the books. La Push was freezing cold, even though it was a hot summer day of plus 30C. Along the drive to La Push, there are dozens of signs warning of possible, sudden tsunamis. Made me feel a little nervous about being there — very open and exposed to the ocean.

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All in all, I should have stopped to take more photos of the drive there as Olympic National Park was spectacular. (Warrants another trip there, for sure.) It would also be interesting to see the town after the Twilight phenomenon, now that it has died down so much. The people there were quite friendly, and there was a restaurant that had the *best* french toast I have ever had. (They said they used “egg bread” which I’ve never been able to find anywhere.)

Below is one more photo from the trip, this one taken in Port Angeles. I didn’t get to eat in the restaurant, as it was closed when I was there. (It was open only for dinner.)

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Where Bella and Edward had their first date.

As an author of paranormal fiction, I do have to tip my hat to Meyer for creating such a blockbuster success (regardless of my own opinions on the books). She did help the sales of my own novels, even if it is annoying to be constantly compared to her books as though hers invented the genre. (Mine didn’t either, in case you think I’m hinting at that.)

If you’re curious about my books, you can still get a copy of Rancor which is available in a 2014 edition on Amazon. And if you ever decide to go looking for Minitaw, where Rancor takes place, I should warn you that the town doesn’t actually exist. I did, however, base it on my experiences with Birtle, Manitoba, which was founded by my great-great-grandfather. And, it’s nothing like Twilight.

 

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New Home

It’s been almost two months since I’ve been in my new home. Conan and I have settled in quite nicely, and I think we’ve explored most of the area. Thankfully, I’m walking distance to an Internet cafe, an inkjet refill store, a baker, a butcher (but no candlestick maker – unless you include the knickknack shop, which has lots of candles).

That’s all fine and dandy, but what about Conan? Yes, we are walking distance (though when your legs are three inches long it’s a pretty long trek) to a pet supply shop and a dog groomer. So today, Conan and I visited Something to Bark About so Conan could get a haircut. He was getting scraggy and dirty, so it was definitely time. His after shot is probably one of my favourites of him: