Friday, June 19, 2015

Happy 12th Birthday, Rowan!



My Rowan is twelve today. In some ways it is hard to believe he's that old, but then I see him get up slooowly from one of his frequent naps, and I'm reminded that he is no longer a youngster. We spend more time snuggling than playing these days, but every now and then Rowan looks at me with a gleeful glint in his eye and then leaps into the air and darts back and forth in front of me. He did that yesterday when I walked to the car and back; he was overflowing with joy that I hadn't gone away without him. I overflow with joy and gratitude every time he does that.

No matter how deeply Rowan is sleeping, if I say the magic words, "Do you want to go with me?" he leaps to his feet and runs to the front door, where he dances impatiently until we go out together. He flops into his spot in my car (the floor of the passenger side), always facing me, and happily stays in the car until we're back home, sleeping some of the time, but frequently opening his eyes to check on my. If I reach down at a red light, he rests his chin in my palm, and sighs contentedly. So do I; it feels so good to have my boy with me wherever I am. Now that the weather is warming up, he can't go out with me often, since he is retired from formal Service Dog work for the most part, but whenever I can, I schedule errands for cool mornings.
Rowan in his spot in my car
As I type, I hear Rowan snoring behind me. I know no matter how quietly I get up to leave the room, he'll open an eye to see what I'm up to. If I turn off the light as I leave the room, he'll get up and follow me. If I don't turn off a light, he'll wait in his comfortable spot on the floor to see if I'm coming back, but inevitably within just a few minutes he'll come find me, flop down near me, and fall asleep again after watching me closely for a minute or two.

On a recent walk-- my faithful, happy shadow
These days with an older dog are challenging both due to aging health issues and because of the backdrop of uncertainty that hangs heavy at times, but they are also wonderful in a way unique to a connection forged over years of time growing together. Rowan has long since shed the reactivity of his younger years and has become the most connected, intuitive dog I have ever known. I have grown in more ways than I could write, thanks to what he needed from me to help him learn and grow from an impulsive young dog to a steady Service Dog capable of traveling around the country with me and thanks to his faithful, loving presence in my life. I don't know how much longer Rowan will be with me, but I treasure every day we have together, and hope we still have years to enjoy the connection and partnership we have grown.

Happy twelfth Birthday, Rowan! I am so thankful for you.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quiet Day

Today has been my weekly Quiet Day, a day each week when Stephen goes to the office instead of working from home, so that I can have time home alone. I cherish the silence and solitude to read, pray, putter, sketch, muse, and just be. It's actually not silent today-- the birds are singing their spring songs of love, the stream is gurgling as it courses by the yard, and a light breeze has been whispering through the slightly greening shrubs all day. Those sounds have enriched my day from the very start, when I awoke at 5:30 to the sound of a Phoebe vociferously calling forth the dawn, with the faint burbling of the stream in the background. I listened briefly, then dozed a while, the birdsong a peaceful lullaby until I awoke again, ready to rise and rejoice in the gift of a new day.

I've spent most of today outside walking the dogs, reading,  sketching, and sometimes just enjoying the peace of an unscheduled day. To cap the day off, Stephen and I are going out on a date after he gets home from work. A perfect day that will leave me refreshed for another week of dog training and other work.
Bridge over our stream (Wolff's carbon pencil)
Locust Tree (Pen & Ink)
Robin's nest on a ladder

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Sweet Savor of Home

We got home earlier this week from a wonderful trip visiting Arielle and Stephen's mother. We walked, talked, ate good food, hiked, painted, and generally had a restful, refreshing time. I may post some of those paintings and sketches in another post. I love traveling to visit family or see interesting places but, even so, I'm always happy to come back home.

I especially cherish the simple, peaceful moments at the start of most days when I sit, tea in hand and Acadia warming my lap, reading my Bible and watching birds breakfasting at our feeders. 




















Quiet evenings I stroll in the yard with my dogs romping or exploring as I review the day, while long shadows and rich evening light refresh my soul. 


And then at the close of the day, right before I go to bed, I usually step out one last time to look into the depths of the indigo sky sprinkled with bright stars, and I thank God for the wonder of his creation as I bid the day good-night.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hudson River Watercolor

The trees may not have leaves yet, but spring really is finally arriving here in New York. Two days ago I went to Bowdoin Park, sat in the warm sun overlooking the Hudson River, and played with my paints. I love the varied colors of the land all year, and I especially like the more subtle melange of colors in an early spring landscape, when grasses are starting to green up and shrubs are just barely gaining a hint of color from buds swelling with the promise of vibrant color to come.

Hudson River
Watercolor 6" x 12"
To see this and other paintings that are available, please visit my Etsy Shop:
Melissa Fischer's Art

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Artist-in-Residence at Acadia National Park!

Last week I was notified that I've been selected to be an artist-in-residence at Acadia National Park in Maine! I am SO EXCITED! I applied in early January and have been eagerly awaiting news, attempting (with limited success) to wait patiently and not check my email obsessively. I got the email last week on the first day of a vacation trip Stephen and I took; that started that vacation off on a wonderful note.

During the time I'll be there (October 14-31), I'll be focused on immersing myself in the world of Acadia and in my art. Observing, exploring, sketching, creating, painting. I can hardly wait! I'll also be working with the public (school children, I think) for an hour or so each week, sharing my love for nature and art, something I always love doing.

I am so very thankful to the Schoodic Institute and Acadia National Park for this incredible opportunity, and a big thank you also goes to my friends and family who encouraged me to apply. I feel so honored to have been selected, and I am eager to serve the park and the public with my art. I've already purchased a book on plein air painting at the park-- Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island Plein Air Artist Guide-- and have been perusing the book and counting the weeks and months until I can start roaming the park, sketchbook in hand.
View from Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park,
photo courtesy of National Park Service

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Retreat of Winter

I stood on my deck in the marginally warm sunshine this afternoon and, looking south, painted the stream, which is finally free of ice, and whose banks are slowly appearing from beneath Winter's heavy blanket.

Like winter in Narnia retreating before Aslan's advance, the snow is gradually yielding to Spring's sunshine. The west facing bank of the stream is now snow-free, but the east facing side is still covered. The mornings are cold enough that early in the day the sun can't muster the warmth to melt the snow, but the afternoons are warmer now, so the south and west facing areas are clearing.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Reprieve and a Gift: My Dog is Back

A warm breeze whispered across my face and, looking down, I saw it rumpling Rowan's red fur as he glanced up, then smiled his wide doggy grin as he caught my eye and held my gaze. My dog is back and I am happy.

A few weeks ago I didn't know if Rowan would still be with me much longer. For months I'd been feeling like our bond wasn't as strong as it had been and, as is my wont, I figured I was to blame. Was I so distracted and fulfilled by having a grandchild that I no longer valued my relationship with my dog as much? Maybe I was too preoccupied with my search for and then delight in my new cat, Acadia. Or was I just too busy training other people's dogs and getting ready for my February art show?

Whatever the reason, there seemed to be an increasing distance between Rowan and me, and he seemed less and less interested in being with me. Whereas previously, when I would ask if he wanted to go somewhere with me ("with me" being the magic words), Rowan would leap up and run to the door; in recent months when I'd ask, he'd skulk into his crate and lie down with his back to the entrance. He's always been eloquent in his communication with me, and that was a pretty clear message. I would leave the house alone, with his place both in my car and in my heart empty.

Additionally, we'd been seeing some odd behaviors from Rowan from time to time. Startling more and more often for no apparent reason. Some inexplicable housebreaking issues, and this from a dog who always used to ask to go out even when he just needed to pass gas. Disorientation and indecision in the house. Repeatedly getting "stuck" under the picnic table right outside the door. A part of me knew I was seeing early (or perhaps not-so-early) signs of dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, but I really wasn't ready to put it all together.

Then one day I came across a piece I'd written about Rowan a few years ago, and I started to cry as I realized that I hadn't seen that dog in months. I finally recognized it wasn't me; that Rowan really had changed and that he wasn't the same dog who'd been inseparable from me, who used to go everywhere with me and who knew my moods and state of mind and body better than I did myself. I'd made the wrenching decision to retire Rowan from Service Dog work a few months before when it was apparent he was no longer up to going places with me, but I thought it was due to arthritis. Now I realized it was because he was no longer connected with me in the same deep way he'd been for the preceding eleven years.

With a mixture of fear and despondency I called my vet and was relieved when she was hopeful. She suggested I try giving Rowan SAMe, which is used for cognitive issues in dogs and cats, and also a nutritional supplement, on the premise that even though he's eating a high quality diet, he may be absorbing fewer nutrients as he ages. She told me it would take about four weeks for the SAMe to make a difference.

I thought I saw some changes within a week, but knew it could be wishful thinking. But now, five weeks later, Rowan is back! Yes, he still seems a bit disoriented in the house occasionally, but he's not getting stuck under the picnic table anymore, there've been no more housebreaking incidents (not that we've given him the opportunity), he's startling much less often, and best of all, he is back to being my loving, connected companion. Now when I ask if he wants to go with me, Rowan leaps up and runs to the door, dancing with excitement. He follows me around the house again, and he comes to me often asking for affection.

I don't know how long this reprieve will last, nor do I know whether he will decline gradually or depart from me all at once, but for now I am cherishing every day as a gift. And when I look down now, and I see those familiar, intelligent eyes and that happy smile that I know so well, I thank God for more time with this wonderful dog who has blessed me in so many ways.
Rowan in his spot in my car
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