Saturday here was lovely.  (Apologies to those of you covered in snow.)  It was T-shirt weather, the kind that inspires you to get up, get out and do all those things that have been hanging around on your To-Do list for the winter months.  This, of course, means a trip to Lowe’s and several other errands.  And Parker wasn’t going to let me get out of his sight – it was a lovely Saturday and dogs wanted to take a walk in town.

Parker has one of those warm smiles that make you feel like everything is right with the world.  It is like those AT&T commercials where the gold begins at one point and fills the canvas.  When we walk, he smiles happiness at people so that they smile back and visit.

When we are in the van, he knows every place in town that has goodies.   The first stop was the gas station.  The last errand of the previous day was one too many, so this was a priority.  Here was goodie stop #1 – Casey’s, with those tear-apart doughnuts made from doughnut holes – good for small pieces to share with a Newf.

At what felt like 72 degrees, it wasn’t typical Newfie weather, but it is the weather that brings people outside, and Parker, being a socializer like his dad, was sure that there would be people who wanted to pet a Newf, so it was a good day for a walk.  We passed several children playing, and when we reached the van, a group of boys rode their bicycles toward us and asked to pet the Newfs.  One had a new Newfie puppy at home.  Parker christened the boy, who was taken aback by some slobber.  <g>  I guess he forgot to read the instruction manual!

We had taken a long walk, so I wasn’t surprised when the Newfs were quiet that evening, but it continued on Sunday.  Parker seemed so down that I began worrying.  Maybe I had overdone the walk.  Maybe it was something that he ate.  Maybe he was getting a bug.  Maybe . . . 

One of my cleanup tasks was the van.  It had been in the shop for a mysterious ailment (that happens around here too often) that in the end, around $1800 later, required the replacement of an oxygen sensor – what I had suggested when I took it in.  Along the way, a problem with the gasket on the intake manifold had been discovered.  (The cover is now made of plastic and apparently the material wasn’t as heat tolerant as it should have been.)  The service department had taken out the front seats and removed the cowl, and everything in the van had been “rearranged”.

Last year I had taken out the marine grade carpet liner that a local shop had custom-fit to the van floor and began using the Penney’s cut-to-fit rugs in its place.  I love that these can be washed in the machine!  Such an easy clean-up, and the 5 x 6 size fits the floor in front of the deck perfectly.  It was a good opportunity to clean the inside and such a nice day to be outside!  As soon as the clean rug was in place, Parker decided that he had waited long enough, and he got into the van.  Jade came in right behind him.  Far be it from me to argue with a good Newfoundland, or decline them the privilege of enjoying the outside time with me, but there was a lot of work left to do – no stopping for another walk in town. 

There was a cool breeze to go along with the nice sunshine, and the dogs were comfortable with the van doors open.  As I worked, I watched Parker.  He looked so dismal that my worries grew.  Having had some of those painful dramatic losses that can occur suddenly, I have a keen awareness of how fast things can happen, and at that point, I was afraid.  I was still worried that the walk had been too long, but now many other possibilities were springing to mind.  Jade was being too quiet, too, but didn’t appear to feel badly.  I stopped and sat with them, holding Parker’s head in my lap, and the tears began flowing.  I wondered what to do next, and whether to make an emergency call, but I knew that his symptoms weren’t immediate and that any testing would take days.  His last senior panel was done about three weeks ago, and I had his thyroid testing run at the University of Michigan.  I keep all of the Newfs’ blood test results in a spreadsheet so I can watch for trends and had noticed that his TT4 had dropped slightly but steadily over the past 8 years.  He has been itchy since last October, so I had called the endocrinologist to ask whether that amount of drop was normal with aging or if a problem may be developing.  The response was that this was normal and that his thyroid function appeared to be excellent.  This had narrowed down the number of issues for me to worry about, and of those, it wasn’t likely that he was in need of attention before Monday.

I combed him out and blew him off with the high-speed dryer, then took him for a short walk by himself.  He was moving comfortably, not acting sore from overexertion.  He was particularly interested in stopping at one house where a lady comes out to meet us sometimes when we go for walks from home.  He was a little disappointed when no one met us at the road, but they weren’t at home.  He seemed to enjoy the walk.  When we got back, I made fried chicken for dinner.  (His favorite!  – along with a few others)  The smell of dinner cooking seemed to improve his outlook.  He wanted to be sure that when I took him outside, leaving Jade in charge of the kitchen (to sound the alarms if there was a problem), that dinner would be safe.  He didn’t seem confident that was a wise choice.  To his point, he has 9 years of experience with my kitchen skills.

I finished cleaning the floors and the bathroom, then put down a new bed for the Newfs and added freshly cleaned rugs.  Having awakened at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, getting to bed early that evening had been a priority, so as soon as everyone was fed and tucked in (cows, cats, horses and Newfs), I went to bed and began to relax.  Then the dawn of enlightenment lifted my spirits!  Greg was out of town.  He needs to get better at informing Parker about this before he leaves!  I called Greg and let him talk with Parker by speakerphone.  He carefully explained that he would be home on Tuesday night – 2 more nights.

This is another way that Parker is like his dad (Banker) – when it’s time for bed, all members of the pack are supposed to be together!  It used to be a worse offense for me to leave home than for Greg, but Greg was traveling more often then.  Now he is gone for a night and sometimes two, but not usually for 4-5 days at a time, and typically not over a weekend.  Today has been back to normal.  Parker is alert and on cue.  The only drama has been from the Boston Terrier, the typical highly affected sigh that comes when he thinks he is waiting too long for his cookie.  <g>

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