Nature and Environment
News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.


Green Lakes and Greenhouse Gases: What to Know

 

Lakes around the world are turning green. While going green is usually a good thing for the environment, in this case, it's not. Lakes "turning green" due to algae blooms are causing a range of environmental problems, including increased greenhouse gas emissions.

What Causes Green Lakes?

An algal bloom is a rapid increase in the amount of algae in a body of water. Excess nutrients, such as phosphorous and nitrogen, in the water are often the cause of algal blooms. These blooms tend to turn water green but may also turn them red or yellowish-brown. If a bright green bloom occurs, it's likely because of blue-green algae, which is actually a type of bacteria.

Human activities are often the reason excess nutrients enter the water. Agriculture is a leading source of these nutrients, as fertilizers applied to crops and animal manure can introduce excess nutrients into waterways. Fertilizers applied to lawns and gardens also contribute, and stormwater and wastewater may carry excess nutrients into the water. When a body of water is overloaded with nutrients, the phenomenon is called "eutrophication."

Problems Associated With Green Lakes

Algal blooms lead to a number of problems. They can release toxins that cause illness and death in people and animals. Microcystis cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can create 80 different types of a toxin called microcystin. This toxin can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and liver pain in humans, and removing these toxins requires the use of chemicals and carbon filters.

Algae blooms can also lead to depleted oxygen levels in water, creating what are called "dead zones." As the algae that make up a bloom start to die off, the bacteria that decompose them increase in number. These bacteria use the dissolved oxygen in the water, potentially depleting it to the point that fish and other animals can't survive.

Additionally, algal blooms increase emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is as much as 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Water with depleted oxygen favors microbes that produce methane.

Eutrophication Expected to Increase

The occurrence of algal blooms is expected to increase over the coming years. According to a study published recently in the journal Nature Communications, eutrophication in lakes may increase by 25 to 200 percent by 2050 and potentially quadruple by 2100 at the current rates of population growth and climate change. This increased eutrophication may increase methane emissions by between 30 and 90 percent over the next 100 years.

The authors cited three mechanisms that are expected to have the largest impact on increasing eutrophication. Human population growth is one, as it will result in more sewage and fertilizer use. Another is increased storms and runoff of stormwater. The third is the warming climate, as warmer water tends to lead to more algae growth.

Other impacts of climate change are also expected to increase the likelihood of lake greening. Because algae require carbon dioxide to survive, increased levels of it encourage the growth of algae. Sea level rise may create coastal water that's more shallow and stable, which are the perfect conditions for algae growth. Climate change could also lead to more droughts, which increase the salinity of freshwater. In turn, the increase in salinity may lead to the growth of marine algae in freshwater.

In shorter terms, green lakes are worsening climate change, and climate change is making lake greening more likely.

What Can We Do?

What can be done to stop lakes from turning green and contributing to climate change? The key change we can make is improving nutrient management.

Agriculture is a leading source of nutrient pollution, so changes to agricultural practices could have the biggest impact. Reducing fertilizer use as well as ensuring that fertilizer is applied during the right time of the year using the right methods is crucial. Precision agriculture techniques can help farmers apply fertilizer more efficiently. Additionally, keeping animals away from streams can help prevent nutrient pollution from manure.

Other ways that farmers can help is by planting buffers of deep-rooted plants that can absorb or filter excess nutrients along bodies of water. They can also plant cover crops to reduce erosion.

Homeowners and businesses should also reduce their use of fertilizer. People who have ponds or other bodies of water on their property can take steps to prevent and remove excess algae. For instance, dredging a pond can remove sediment that may contain excess nutrients, and adding an aerator can help encourage oxygen diffusion and control algae growth long-term. It can also be helpful to plant a buffer zone around the pond.

Taking the Right Steps Today

Green lakes can release harmful toxins and marine life. They also increase greenhouse gas emissions, making climate change worse. Climate change, in turn, worsens algal blooms, creating a feedback loop.

It's extremely critical that we address both of these problems for the health of the environment and the people and animals depending on it.

Photo source


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Are Cracks in Walls Normal? How to Tell an Eyesore From Real Danger

 

Photo source

A crack in your wall isn't always an indication of structural damage. Many cracks are perfectly natural and the result of your house "settling" — no reason for concern. At the same time, a crack can signify a complication you have to immediately address, like the collapse of wood members or shifting in the foundation.

So how do you tell the difference between a benign crack and a more serious issue? How do you know when an unsightly line is a real danger — or just an eyesore? When you have informed understanding of the warning signs, you'll have a far better idea of how to handle this type of problem in the future.

With that in mind, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about the cracks in your walls. As long as you're aware of some of the common indicators of damage — and follow the suggestions below — your home will remain structurally sound and safe for you and your family.

When Cracks Are Harmless

As mentioned earlier, a crack in your wall isn't always a sign of structural damage. It's often the result of "settling," which usually happens with a newer house. The lumber contains a high level of moisture and moves slightly as it dries, creating small cracks which are unattractive, but ultimately harmless.

When you come across these cracks, it's advisable to wait a year after the completion of the home to tend to them, as the lumber needs to dry. Once you've given your home the necessary time to adjust, you can remedy the cracks by re-taping the joints, which are the seams where the drywall panels meet.

Concerning the location of the cracks, you'll normally see them over doors and windows. This is due to the vertical studs involved in the construction of walls, which a builder has to cut for an opening. Beyond doors and windows, benign cracks also appear across walls and the doorways themselves.

Of course, "settling" isn't always the issue. If you leave your home empty for months at a time, the lack of climate control could cause a problem. Cracks can also come from faulty taping with drywall panels and even leaks, so make sure to inspect the line closely before you make an attempt at repair.

When Cracks Are Dangerous

If the cracks are large, jagged or diagonal, you may have a structural problem. These kinds of cracks will occur when a foundation has shifted or sunk, so they demand your immediate attention. You should also check for a potential termite infestation, and determine the status of your supporting wood members.

As a general rule, cracks which are wider than a quarter-inch warrant a review. When the crack is no longer a line, but a serious fissure, you should bring in a reputable builder or structural engineer to inspect your home. They'll provide guidance on how to address the crack and what steps to take as you continue.

That said, every situation is different. You'll benefit from studying the different types of wall cracks and what they mean to fully educate yourself on what you should and shouldn't worry over. A crack which may seem ominous at first isn't always a problem, so it's best not to jump to any conclusions without research.

Regardless, it's usually a smart idea to consult a professional about the structural integrity of your home if you suspect an issue which may compromise your safety. Even if the cracks aren't alarming, a natural disaster could exacerbate the defects your home already has, or reveal defects you weren't aware of.

How to Proceed

When homeowners notice an unsightly crack in their wall, they'll often turn to spackle. In truth, spackle is a short-term solution which doesn't provide the same reinforced surface coverage as re-taping. Unless you go through the process of re-taping the joints, you'll likely have to fix the problem again.

As for large, jagged or diagonal cracks, reach out to an engineer and have them review your home. You'll feel far more comfortable knowing the cracks in your walls are accounted for — if they were ever a danger at all. As you move forward, evaluate your options and start planning your repairs today.

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living, sustainable consumption, eco-friendly practices and green energy. In the past, her work has also been featured on Grit, Mother Earth Living, Blue And Green Tomorrow, Dwell and Houzz. To read more from Kayla, follow her productivity and lifestyle blog: Productivity Theory.


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Get Smart About Weather

Smart weather 1

Forecasting technology allows us to take proactive steps big and small when it comes to weather — from making minor temperature adjustments in our homes, to avoiding the path of a major storm. Now, with advancements in smart technology, we can not only see what’s coming, but we can monitor and prepare ourselves and our homes for weather events in extraordinary ways.

From cellphone apps and personal weather stations to smart lightbulbs and thermostats, you can use smart tech gadgets to stay ahead of Mother Nature, all from your smartphone. Here’s how.

Smart Thermostats and Temperature Sensors

Install small, battery-powered temperature sensors in strategic locations in your home and tie them into a smart thermostat using a Z-wave-powered smart home hub. They’ll allow you to control the climate down to the room, and they can alert you to sudden changes in temperature (like when a door is left open and cold air is rushing in). You can set up a smart home routine to trigger your thermostat to go into eco mode if one sensor reports a sudden drop in temperature, helping you save energy.

Some smart thermostats can even adjust automatically based on upcoming weather. They anticipate your needs based on previous usage patterns, and when a forecast indicates a sudden rise in temperature is coming, they can start pre-cooling your home.

Personal Weather Station

A backyard weather station can provide you with specific weather data for your location’s micro-climate. These sensor-laden devices track local rainfall, wind, air pressure, and even UV levels in real time, right in your backyard, giving you a hyperlocal weather forecast. Ideal for the weather geek, these devices are smart enough to generate forecasts and can work with smart devices in your home to adapt to the weather. For example, they can alert your smart thermostat for a temp adjustment or tell the irrigation system when to water the lawn.

Weather smart 2

Cellphone Apps and WEAs

Drawing from nearby professional weather stations, weather apps on your smartphone can also provide local weather forecasts for your area. Set up weather alerts based on your location, turn on location tracking services, and your phone will keep you updated about the weather where you live even when you’re not home. You can get alerts for shifts in weather like sudden thunderstorms or a heat wave that’s on its way.

The most important weather alerts are the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs). These alerts are part of a public safety system that targets your phone based on your location to alert you of imminent weather dangers, such as flooding, tornadoes, or other life-threatening weather events. This system also sends out Amber Alerts and Presidential Alerts. Nearly all smartphones have WEAs installed. (If you’re not sure, check with your cellular provider.)

Enabled by default on iOS and Android cellphones, WEAs can be turned off in settings (although it’s advisable to leave them on). To check if they are enabled, got to Settings > Notifications on an iPhone, or go to Emergency Alerts in your Android device’s text messaging app.

Smart weather 3

IFTTT

Another excellent way to harness the power of smart technology to monitor the weather is with a service called IFTTT (If This, Then That). It’s a simple, free way to automate regular tasks, such as checking the weather every morning. Create a free account at ifttt.com or download the app to your smartphone and create “applets.” With this service, you can do things like:

get a notification when the UV index is high

receive a reminder to cover your plants when the weather is about to drop below freezing

receive a morning wakeup call with a weather report

You can also use IFTTT to control devices in your smart home to act when the weather changes, which can be convenient as well as really fun. For example, you can:

set your smart lights to change blue when it starts to rain

set your thermostat to kick on if the outside temperature drops below a certain level

tell your smart sprinkler not to water the day before rain is expected

Smart Sprinkler Controller

One of the most effective connected devices to respond to the weather is a smart sprinkler controller. These devices use a WiFi connection to pull weather data from the Internet and local weather stations. They then use the data to determine when and how much to water your garden or lawn. These smart devices can save a homeowner thousands of gallons of water a year, according to the EPA, which certifies them with its WaterSense label.

Staying on top of the weather and its potential impacts on your life and property is easier than ever with smart, connected devices. They can use their intelligence to forewarn you about dangerous weather so you can prepare and adapt from anywhere.

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and editor covering the intersection of sustainability and technology for Xfinity Home. She writes about the smart home, mobile phone technology, consumer tech, small businesses, and green living for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications.


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Everything You Need to Know About the 'Green New Deal'

 

On Thursday, February 7th, 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from NY introduced a bill called H.Res.109. It recognizes the “duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” (GND). The question is, what is a “green new deal” supposed to be? What impact will it have on the surrounding communities, and how will it affect the current job market?

GND: Shaping the Future

The first thing to understand is that H.Res.109 does not explicitly introduce any new laws, regulations or programs. The Green New Deal is more of a proposal or blueprint for the kinds of changes that need to happen in the near future.

It was created by Rep. Cortez and fellow supporters to deal with the many effects of climate change and put in place policies that will help shape future operations. In other words, it’s a way to gear up the federal sector for green initiatives.

In a 10 year period, the Green New Deal challenges the U.S. as a whole to achieve the following:

Net zero GHG emissions

Infrastructure and industry that supports the many challenges of the 21st century and at the same time has a minimal impact on the surrounding environment

Clean air, water and healthy foods for all, as well as climate and community resiliency and a more sustainable environment

The reparations of vulnerable communities as a means to promote justice and equity and prevent future hardships

The introduction of millions of sustainable, high-wage jobs providing economic security and financial prosperity to “all U.S. citizens”

It’s also important to understand that these are challenges or loose goals. There is no guarantee we will meet them, and more importantly, there is no specific plan of action to make it all happen.

It’s clear that the proposal touches upon a wide variety of problems and subjects, beyond just green and Eco-friendly initiatives. It is all connected, however. As more programs are introduced to better our collective communities and surroundings, lucrative employment opportunities will become available creating a cyclical system.

The Green New Deal has strong bipartisan support among registered voters. Survey results show that 40 percent of registered voters “strongly support” the bill, while 41 percent “somewhat support” it. That’s a collective 81 percent of registered American voters that want the Green New Deal to happen in some capacity.

Green Is Great, But Where Are the Jobs Coming From?

From the outset, it doesn’t seem like a major plan to de-carbonize the American economy will have much of an impact on employment opportunities, if at all. The idea is to do away with conventional operations, so it makes more sense that jobs would go away, or does it?

The reality is the Green New Deal calls for the creation of millions of green-friendly jobs, as a sort of federal employment guarantee.

A federal jobs guarantee solidifies the full employment opportunities presented, with a base wage that essentially becomes the new minimum wage. The idea is that anyone unhappy with their current position — or anyone severely underpaid — will find a job working for the government in this sector.

As the processes and programs discussed in the bill come to fruition, it will introduce a variety of new requirements, careers and businesses. The economic policy and its impact on jobs, livelihoods and American homes is a large part of the Green New Deal’s call to action. So, it’s only fitting that we’ll see millions of jobs created as a result.

Perhaps more alarming, the Green New Deal calls for these jobs to be created in troubled, low-income communities but also for all opportunities to be unionized. This protects not only the future workers’ rights to organize but their position within the field and community.

The opportunities will be lucrative high-wage jobs, as a result, promoting fair treatment and pay for all involved. If things play out as promised, it should help boost the economy and many grassroots communities around the country.

As for where the opportunities will come from, they will be born of the green movement proposed in the bill that is meant to improve and lower carbon emissions. We’re talking recycling and development, renewable energy maintenance and sustainability, and much more.

The “Just Transition” Movement

You can’t change the current state of operations — even while introducing millions of new opportunities — without affecting the old guard. The “Just Transition” movement deals with this exactly, to ensure everyone affected can safely shift their employment without incurring hardships. It also provides growth and support to local communities, especially those oppressed by the current state of things.

This movement was first formed by labor unions and environmental justice groups to ensure low-income communities of color and the disenfranchised were not harmed or taken advantage of.

The concept is best outlined by the Climate Justice Alliance:

“After centuries of global plunder, the profit-driven industrial economy rooted in patriarchy and white supremacy is severely undermining the life support systems of the planet. Transition is inevitable. Justice is not.”

The movement is focused on building a “visionary economy” that is different “than the one we now are in.” It’s about eliminating or stopping the bad and replacing it with many new opportunities and policies. Wealth, resources and power must be redistributed to local communities in a number of ways.

Just Transition deals with the gamut of economic and financial challenges in our economy, with the Green New Deal presenting just one way to make a change. Still, it’s “one way” that introduces millions of new jobs, creates a much healthier community and environment, and promotes healthy, happy living for all.

It will be interesting to see where this goes, considering HR.Res.109 is more of an introduction of policies and potential strategies. If and when this bill is passed, there’s a lot more that needs to be done on the Federal level to get this entire system active.

All in all, healthier, clean living and strong financial support for American citizens is definitely worth it.

Photo source.


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Full Belly Project

 

Jock Brandis is an environmental entrpreneur who has devoted his life to doing good things, including coming up with inventive solutions to problems and ingenious devices to solve environmental challenges. Brandis operates around the world through his non-profit organization, Full Belly Project. 

While visiting a small village in Mali in 2001 to fix a water treatment system, he came across a villager who shared that it would be a great service to their village if he could find an affordable nut sheller for them for their peanuts. He returned to the U.S. and found a peanut authority at the University of Georgia who shared with him a Bulgarian Peanut Shelling Design.

He adapted the design with help froma friend and went through several prototypes. A year later, he had developed what is now called, the Universal Nut Sheller

Then, in 2003, he teamed up with a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Wilmington, NC to form the Full Belly Project.

He has helped farmers in North Carolina develop gravity fed water systems for watering their orchards in drought conditions. He has worked with Indian communities to develop hand pumps for irrigating their crops as well. And, he has also launched Soap For Hope in the fall of 2013 which is  a program for reprocessing unused soap for helping communities in Cambodia, Mexico and beyond.

Full Belly's new mission is to design and distribute innovative, sustainable technologies with our local community that empower people all over the world to improve their own lives.

Fully Belly's new vision is a world in which all people are empowered with resources to change their lives through sustainable solutions to improve food security, better their health and increase their income.

Full Belly recognizes that nothing works without a solid partner on the ground. These programs are not just about inventing and engineering. They are about people- total strangers, some from opposite sides of the planet working together towards a shared goal.

Full Belly's local community consists of global citizens who take action to build communities that thrive through partnerships.

For more info on Full Belly Project, visit: www.thefullbellyproject.org

And, to view a short video produced by RePlan It about Jock Brandis:

 


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The Marvelous Million-Hazelnut Campaign

Hazelnut catkins (image courtesty of Pixabay . com

Imagine the vast GMO-glyphosate soybean fields of America’s Heartland transformed into a perennial forest with swarms of hazelnut trees, deeply-rooted and thick as lilac bushes, fourteen feet tall, and laden heavy with oil-rich nuts that have a 101 uses.

Imagine the annual harvest of hazelnuts fulfilling a cornucopia of needs: for animal feed, for cooking oil, for fuel, for human food – and for many of the purposes and functions now fulfilled by soy.

A cornucopia of hazelnuts (image courtesy of Pixabay . com)

How different the landscape. How changed the land itself, and all the creatures which share life upon the land. How profoundly different the environmental impact.

Chris Gamer of Minnesota and his allied visionaries have imagined all that. And after having imagined it, they’ve set about working to make the vision real via The Million Hazelnut Campaign, with a broad circle of partners: The Main Street Project, the Sustainable Farming Association, the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative, Forest Agriculture Nursery, and the Izaak Walton Leagues’ Upper Mississippi River Initiative. Through the campaign, they are spreading a message about the manifold benefits of the hazelnut, benefits they see as acutely relevant in our era of profound climate upheaval.

Reforest the Midwest with Perennial Agriculture

“The goal of the Million Hazelnut Campaign is to reforest the Midwest with perennial agriculture,” Gamer told me in a phone interview. “Our campaign is an initiative to expand our capacity to respond to climate change, and to continue meeting the food and fuel needs of our society.”

“The soil erosion, carbon outgassing, and water contamination caused by conventional farming practices in the Midwest has to stop,” the campaign states.

Gamer, spokesperson and administrator for the campaign, said that hazelnut plantings combat erosion, and that they help purify and protect water. “They clean our water by uptaking nutrients (also nitrogen and phosphorus) that might otherwise run off into waterways,” he explained, “and they can help restore our aquifers through increased water infiltration. Hazelnut bushes give us refuge, refreshment, shade, and shelter.”

The hazelnut is the nut of the hazel (Corylus americana), a small tree of the birch family justly renowned for its medicinal and nutritional capacities. The nuts are a multi-use crop, noted for their satisfying texture, and their rich, earthy flavor. Beyond the commercial scale of cultivation, hazelnut trees can work nicely as part of a home garden. Gardeners are rewarded not just with nuts, but also with the hazelnut’s blazing fall colors.

Hazelnut tree in bloom (image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

There's a Lot of Interesting Things Happening

According to Gamer’s vision, the Million Hazelnut Campaign, if implemented to scale, can help improve the Upper Mississippi watershed that provides drinking water for millions of people, can help decrease the vast toxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, and can help establish habitat for a diverse variety of native plants and animals.

Hazelnuts are a perennial crop with 12-foot deep roots, roots which not only hold the soil, but also allow water infiltration for restoring aquifers. That makes it both flood and drought tolerant.

This spring of 2019 in particular, as blizzards and a bomb cyclone have unleashed historic flooding across the Midwest, hazelnuts on stream banks, in hedgerows, and in fields might have made a helpful difference. Their deep roots may have helped to stabilize some landscapes, and to conserve some of the staggering volumes of productive topsoil that was washed away in this climate calamity.

A solar energy systems designer and installer, Gamer told me had recently returned from a conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, sponsored by the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative, a project affiliated with the University of Wisconsin. He learned a great deal by participating. “There’s lots of interesting things happening,” he said. “Big Ag is interested in hazelnuts, and they are doing cloning. They are looking to be active. Behind them, you should note, are large investors who are looking at the prospect of dominating the hazelnut industry.”

Gamer said that the cloning approach to hazelnut trees is a concern for him. Clones have only the limited genetic history of the plant from which they have been cloned, and are not adapting in real time. But hazelnuts grown from seed have all of the history of that tree and its ancestors though all its genetic lineage back to the beginning, and do also adapt as change is ongoing. So those trees will be more resilient as we face the consequences of climate change.“Where I’m at, the scale that I and others are working on,” Gamer told me, “is to propagate from seeds, and from a diversity of growers. We do breeding along the pathways pioneered by Luther Burbank, using selective breeding to increase nut size, volume, and quality.

Right now the campaign is seeking to partner with landowners to host plantings of hazelnut trees, and to begin the more active commercialization of hazelnuts grown in the Midwest as a commodity for the global market.

“The critical thing is connecting with the citizens,” Gamer told me. “We need help getting people planting sustainable, perennial crops like the hazelnut. It absolutely needs community involvement.”  To help raise that community involvement, Gamer is planning a summer tour of the 12 midwestern states to promote The Million Hazelnut Campaign. If you are interested, you can contact him at hazelnutnursery@gmail.com

Independent journalist Steven McFadden has from time to time experienced the thrill of breathing the sparkling, living airs that course through the meadows of great mountains. Otherwise he’s hard at work, rooted in agrarian cyberspace at DeepAgroecology.net. His wider work, and all of his nonfiction books, are at Chiron Communications.


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Life With Pets

 

Saying Goodbye

Recently I read a post on social media that went something like this: “The hardest thing about owning a dog is saying goodbye”. A profound and true saying because saying goodbye to our fur family who have been devoted to us, loyal beyond a fault, loving us when we don’t deserve it, and always greeting us in a friendly way is the hardest thing we’ve have to do with owning pets.

Consult A Veterinarian:

Just making the decision to euthanize a pet is a stressful life experience. Loss of a pet has been studied, analyzed and rationalized and there are books on the subject but I have not found any comfort in books. Family and friends are the most comfort, especially those who have had the same experience. Veterinarians can be helpful in explaining the need for euthanasia but the grief, pain, guilt and anger are still painfully experienced in spite of a logical explanation.   

Canine Virtues:

I know from my own experience having to say goodbye to 6 of our fur family members is without a doubt the hardest thing I ever had to do. They are our companions in lonely times, our entertainment, our therapists in difficult times, non-judgmental and our constant comfort. They demand little from us except to care for and love them in return. Our love can never match their love for us no matter how hard we may try.

Painful Time:

Saying goodbye is very hard and each time we do it leaves a large hole in our heart. There are many unfair things in life but our pets short lifetime tops the list in my opinion. Our dogs are family members and I can’t imagine our remote lifestyle without them.

Conflicting Thoughts:

When the time comes to say goodbye I’m always conflicted. One set of thoughts tells me that I want to have them with me a little longer. A selfish but truly honest motive. The other set of thoughts says that they have been loving and loyal to me and I need to do only what is best for them; to return the love and loyalty in their time of need because it is the very least I can do.

Our Canine Companions

Following is a brief description of our six dogs that have now passed on:

Clarence:

Clarence was a rescue from a shelter who we thought was about 10-12 years old when he left us. He was a basset hound/golden retriever mix. He had a basset hound body and a golden retriever head and tail. He used to draw interesting comments from others but he was gentle and loving. In his last few weeks he declined rapidly and was having mini strokes which left him confused and having bowel mistakes in the house.  

Ben:

Ben was a long hair German Shepherd and he left us at 12.5, years. He was highly intelligent coupled with a great sense of humor. He could actually tell time and knew his right from his left, and could count to 15. He was more than anyone could want in a canine companion and those who knew him referred to him as Dr. Ben due to his superior intelligence. He was very healthy and alert right up to his demise. Suddenly he went blind and it was clear he was having serious problems. Our veterinarian believed he had a brain tumor and the day we were to drive him to a specialist, 200 miles away, for evaluation he died at home to our horror. His death still haunts me to this day.

Gypsy:

Gypsy was a border collie/cattle dog mix which friends relinquished to us because they thought we could provide her a better life plus she and Ben got along very well. She needed obedience training which we provided. She was the sweetest little girl  and if she had a fault it was her dislike of bears. At her prior house she was kept outside and had a confrontation with a bear. With us she was inside and was a marvelous family member who was never short on love and affection. At around 14.5 years old she had slowed down significantly and we noticed a drop of blood occasionally but could not find the source. It was coming from her nasal passage and our vet said she needed to be euthanized as she was clearly suffering with no hope for recovery. One look at her was enough to see she had major problems.

Sarah:

Sarah was a German Shepherd, age 4, when she was rescued and had come from an emergency rescue in another state where she was not treated well and probably abused. She was frightened over just about anything when we adopted her. Over time with large amounts of love, gentleness and patience we were able to restore her self-assurance and confidence. When Sarah finally overcame her fears she was a confident, affectionate and loving sweet girl that liked being in my lap. She developed in her advanced age congestive heart failure and medication did not help her. She became very weak, refused food and water and had given up on wanting to live and left us at age 13.5.

Bozley:

Bozley was age 8, when adopted; a German Shepherd/Greyhound mix who came to us from an owner surrender. He had been with other family/s and finally ended up with us. His early life appeared to have been difficult but we discovered he was easy going, laid back, intelligent, loving, loyal and considerate boy. At age 13+, he had a major stroke and collapsed suddenly in front of our eyes. Prior to his stroke he had been very healthy. We took him to the vet immediately but he grew weaker on the drive to the vet and there was nothing left to do but let him go. We took comfort that his last three years were excellent and he was spoiled rotten and pampered endlessly and he loved and enjoyed every bit of it.   

Echo:

Echo, age 10+, was a German Shepherd about 2 years old when we rescued him prior to his being sent to a kill shelter. (see photo)  He was always happy, carefree, attentive and considerate. He was always by my side, slept next to me, was totally loyal and devoted. He was friendly and his love so deep words simply can’t describe the depth of his love for us and his brothers and sisters. All of our dogs had from time to time various physical problems but Echo was what our vet referred to as high maintenance. His worst disease was caudal equina which slowly robbed his back legs of support. He ultimately lost bowel and bladder control and we cleaned up after him for months. He was just over 10 years old when he was euthanized.  Our vet told us it was time to let him go because he was growing worse and in more pain and would not get better. He also had an inoperable tumor in his abdomen that was growing and could rupture at any time. He was panting more and would pace around as he couldn’t get comfortable, clearly experiencing pain.

When To Let Go:

The above descriptions reflect when/why we let our dogs go. Finding the correct time to say goodbye is difficult but when they no longer have any real quality of life or are suffering or terminal and there is nothing that can be done for them it is time to reluctantly say goodbye.

Living an hours drive from our veterinarian means we need to exercise sound judgement in this area because if we wait too long our dirt roads can be covered with snow drifts or impassable due to mud. That could keep us from getting to our vet, but at the same time we want every second with our pet possible.    

No Bad Dogs, Just Bad Owners:

Dogs, regardless of breed, are what you train them to be. Treat them gently, respectfully and with love and kindness and that is how they will be in return. Yelling or being mean will produce a frustrated, neurotic  and fearful dog. We obedience train our dogs because living remotely we have predators around and training could save their life one day.

Humans Should Strive For A Few Of The Virtues Dogs Have:

“The hardest thing about owning a dog is saying goodbye”. What makes it all worthwhile is the love, joy, happiness, devotion, entertainment,  loyalty and good times they provide us until they take their final breath. Saying goodbye is quite a paradox because it is all their attributes and virtues while with us that makes that decision so hard. Dogs bring out the love within us and show us by example how we could improve ourselves to match at least some of their virtues.  

Tell Those Whom You Love Daily That You Love Them:

For such loyal, loving and caring companions it is only right in my opinion to be with them at their final goodbye in spite of the horrible pain we know we are about to experience. Usually through a flood of tears, and in choking words I tell them how much I love them, what good boy/girl they have been and how much I will always miss them and why. Ours know that they are loved because each night at bedtime to tell them I love them and how good they are and provide some extra  affection. Dogs know far more than they are given credit for. The more you talk to them the more they understand.

Grief:

When it comes to grieving there is no one size fits all because depending on our closeness to our pet we all grieve differently. Some grieve more, some less, some longer, some shorter, some in anger, some in guilt but however we grieve it is a painful process. When ready some adopt again  and that can help. We prefer to adopt from a shelter or rescue organization.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle in the mountains of S. Colorado where they heat their cabin with a wood stove go to their personal blog site at: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com 

Photo of Echo courtesy of Bruce McElmurray


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