obits, royals

Queen Elizabeth II is dead after a long lifetime of service and sacrifice…

I knew we were going to get bad news about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when I noticed announcements on YouTube about her doctors advising that she be under medical supervision. Buckingham Palace never makes those kinds of announcements unless something big is about to happen. I soon found myself on Jesus Enrique Rosas’ YouTube channel, of all places. He was having a live stream, talking about Queen Elizabeth’s declining health. Some people in Britain commented that the Queen had already died sometime around 2:00pm, UK time, but they were waiting for all of the family members to arrive in Balmoral before making an official announcement.

How did they know? Some had mentioned that members of the press were wearing black ties. I hadn’t known until yesterday that the black ties were a sign. Apparently, the BBC had regularly rehearsed the announcement of the Queen’s inevitable death for years. I read somewhere that they rehearsed the procedure every six months, and always had black ties on hand for anchormen to don immediately, when they announcement finally came. Below is a video about the protocol that I stumbled across yesterday. It was made in 2017. And here’s an article by The Guardian written on the subject of protocol when “London Bridge falls”.

Very interesting video about Operation London Bridge. I had no idea.
Such a shock… and yes, the anchor is wearing black, as is tradition.

I shed a few tears yesterday when the news was confirmed that Queen Elizabeth had, in fact, crossed the bar at last. My earliest memories are of living in England, although I was not born there. We were living in England when the Queen had her Silver Jubilee in 1977, and my parents bought memorabilia from that event, which was always on display in our home. I always felt a kinship with Britain, and while a lot of Britons don’t care much for the monarchy, I have always been fascinated by it. I especially loved the fact that Queen Elizabeth II was such a big fan of horses and dogs. I have that in common with her.

Queen Elizabeth II has always struck me as a lovely person with a good sense of humor, warmth and consideration for other people, and a remarkable attitude toward service. Just a couple of days ago, she met Liz Truss, Britain’s brand new prime minister. Although this ceremony has historically taken place at Buckingham Palace, because the 96 year old queen had been in poor health and had mobility issues, Ms. Truss visited her at Balmoral, near Aberdeen, Scotland. There were photos of the event, which circulated widely, with the queen smiling and shaking the new prime minister’s hand while clutching a walking stick. Liz Truss is the 15th prime minister to meet the queen, and she is Britain’s third female prime minister. I almost get the sense that Her Majesty waited to do this one last duty before slipping off the mortal coil and meeting her beloved Prince Philip and the countless dogs and horses who predeceased her.

With the Queen’s passing, Britain now has a new King– Charles III– and a new Queen Consort, Camilla. Prince William and his wife, Catherine, have now become the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and Rothesay, in addition to Cambridge. They have inherited Cornwall and Rothesay from Charles and Camilla. I suspect that very soon, Prince William and his wife will also inherit the title of the Prince and Princess of Wales, although that isn’t a given, since that title isn’t one that passes automatically. Maybe I shouldn’t care about these things, since I’m an American. But, as I mentioned before, I spent a lot of time in Britain, and had it not been for my ancestors, I would be a Brit myself, based only on my overwhelmingly British DNA.

They are about to be even busier than they ever were.

Prince Harry wasn’t able to get to Balmoral in time to say goodbye to his grandmother before she passed. He and Meghan have been in Europe on a speaking tour. They’d had plans in London, but obviously, those had to be canceled. Meghan is said to have stayed in London, which was no doubt the wisest thing to do, under the circumstances. I’m sure that in time, there will be a documentary about all that went down yesterday, and it will be interesting to see. For now, it just seems so surreal that Queen Elizabeth II is gone. She always reminded me so much of my own Granny, and I’ve always admired her for so many reasons– from her love of horses and dogs, to her colorful sense of fashion and style, to her sense of humor, to the way she always seemed to keep a stiff upper lip, no matter what. I’m glad for her that she was able to pass in the place where she reportedly felt most comfortable– in Scotland. I can’t blame her for feeling that way. Scotland is a wonderful place. It was especially fitting to see that there was a double rainbow over Buckingham Palace yesterday, just after the queen’s passing– even though she passed in Scotland, not London.

Queen Elizabeth II was not born to be a queen, but had that duty thrust upon her. She handled with with grace and sobriety, leading through so many eras during her incredible 70 years on the throne. No matter what one might think of the monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II was an amazing woman who showed great fortitude in good times and bad. I will miss her for many reasons. She was a role model to me, even though I’m not one to follow role models very well. I hope she’s resting in peace, reunited with Prince Philip in paradise… but I realize that no one really knows what happens when death occurs. If she can’t be in Heaven with everyone she’s ever loved, animals included, I hope she at least enjoyed some beautiful hallucinations as she drifted away.

Something else was on my mind yesterday. Just before our walk yesterday, I noticed that the lymph nodes in Arran’s hind legs appeared to be enlarged. I felt them, and they are, in fact, swollen. We just passed our third anniversary of our sweet beagle, Zane’s, death from lymphoma. My first clue that Zane was so sick was noticing that he had swollen lymph nodes under his jaws and hearing him bark with hoarseness. Both Zane and Arran had suffered from mast cell tumors, and lymphoma is a known complication of that disease. We didn’t know Zane was so sick because we had been on vacation in Scotland, of all places, and lymphoma can be deadly very quickly. We lost Zane just one week after we found out about the cancer.

I do worry that Arran might also have lymphoma. He has a vet appointment today, because he’s been acting lethargic. However, unlike Zane, he seems to have improved since my initial concern, the swollen lymph nodes notwithstanding. He wanted to take a walk yesterday, and is eating well, if not a bit slowly. Just now, he went outside, drank some water, and parked himself behind my office chair. Hopefully, the swollen lymph nodes are not caused by cancer this time– especially since they so far seem confined to his popliteal nodes. The right one is noticeably larger than the left, rather than uniform, as they were with Zane. His eyes are bright, and his mast cell tumors have never affected him the way they did Zane. But, just as the queen was, our Arran is quite elderly at about 14 years old. Eventually, we will have to say goodbye to him, too.

One thing I have noticed is that ever since Arran encountered the resident hedgehog in our backyard, I have seen some fleas. Hedgehogs are notorious for having fleas, although the kind they have are breed specific and don’t infest household pets. However, hedgehog fleas do still bite, and Arran did have some blood work done recently that indicated a slightly low level of red blood cells. Perhaps that could be related to Arran’s current state. I gave both dogs baths yesterday, just to see if I saw any telltale evidence of an actual flea infestation. Unfortunately, having grown up in Virginia in the 80s with dogs, I have seen my fair share of the pesky little fuckers. But there weren’t any fleas, nor was there any evidence of “flea dirt” in the bath water. Arran is an old guy, though, so if fleas are biting him, that could conceivably affect his blood work. He doesn’t have the resilience he once had, when he was a young dog. I was worried about him being lethargic, and slow to eat, although he always does eat eventually. Anyway, we’ll see what the vet says. With any luck, we can get him back to feeling like his old self for awhile longer.

Bill comes back from his business trip today. It will be good to see him. I always miss him when he’s gone, but I especially missed him last night, as I heard the news about the beloved British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. It will be interesting to see how Charles carries on as King Charles. His reign is bound to be short, though. He probably won’t even make it to the Silver Jubilee that my parents attended all those years ago, when we lived in Britain. I wish Charles luck. I know a lot of people don’t like him because of what happened between him and Diana, but I’ve always thought of him as sort of a tortured soul. It’s been nice to see him obviously much happier with Camilla, who should have been his wife from the beginning. They are clearly soulmates. So I wish them both the best, as they have a huge undertaking, following the second longest reigning monarch of all time, and the longest reigning British monarch. I hope William is preparing, too… because I suspect it won’t be too long before he’s called upon to follow his father. He won’t be waiting 70 years; that is for certain.

One last thing… I am a child of the 70s and 80s, so I can’t help but remember an infamously rude 1986 era song by The Smiths about the monarchy. The song is called “The Queen is Dead”, and it’s definitely a song of antipathy. I have a feeling it may catch on in the coming weeks, as some people are already making tasteless jokes about the queen’s passing. While I don’t agree with the song’s sentiment toward the monarchy, I have to admit to liking The Smiths… this song included.

The lyrics are pretty damning.
dogs, silliness

Sugary grits and old dogs…

First thing’s first. I don’t like sugar on my grits. To me, they are a savory food, not a cereal. I cook them in salty water and serve them with salt, butter, and maybe a dash of cream. Do NOT put sugar on my grits, and don’t tell me they’re cereal. Fuck that noise. Some people like sugar on their grits. I like sugar in my coffee and on grapefruit, but not in grits. And some people like cheese in their grits, but I’m a purist. Spare me the cheese and sugar, please.

And do not give me instant grits.
No self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits!

For the record, we order grits from a farm in South Carolina. They are delicious, and they take about 20 minutes to make properly. We always cook them in salty water so they won’t be too bland. And we never put sugar on them because they aren’t Cream of Wheat or oatmeal!

Alright… now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

This morning, someone shared a picture of a 13 year old male Labrador retriever who needs a new home. I don’t know why the dog needs a new home. I would hope it’s not simply because his family got tired of him after 13 years. I like to think these dogs wind up in shelters because of situations beyond the family’s control.

When ads are shared for old dogs who need new homes, invariably there are indignant responses from total strangers who have a knee jerk reaction to another stranger’s decision to rehome their pet. I guess I don’t blame them. It would be very, very hard for me to come up with a reason to willingly part with one of my pets. But then, all of the five rescue dogs I’ve had have eventually turned out to be wonderful friends and family members. It’s always tough at first, integrating a new family member. I remember that Flea, MacGregor, and Zane were all especially challenging when we first got them. But I don’t regret taking in a single one of the five dogs we’ve had so far. They’ve all been blessings, even though it was hard in the beginning.

Flea was fully matured, but he’d been a hunting dog and no one had properly housetrained him. He was also very alpha and was neutered late, so it took awhile before he got into the routine of being a pet with basic manners. But he did eventually get the hang of being part of the family and blossomed when we got MacGregor for him to boss around. We had Flea for six years before we lost him to prostate cancer.

MacGregor was still pretty much a baby when we got him. He was mostly physically mature, but he was kind of akin to being a teenager. It took a few months before he stopped destroying things when we were out of the house. Fortunately, he was the smartest of all of our dogs, and he caught on quickly. Although he was scared of anyone he didn’t know, he was a wonderful pet and we enjoyed him for 8.5 years before a spinal tumor took his life.

Most recently, we lost Zane. I remember seeing Zane’s picture and thinking he reminded me of Flea. But he wasn’t that much like Flea at all. Zane was a very intelligent, sweet, smart, and smart-assed beagle who kept things running. He did later take on some “Flea-like” characteristics, but he was definitely his own dog. Like MacGregor, he was in his destructive chewing phase when we brought him home. That “teen” phase was also the only time in his life that he was ever aggressive. He and MacGregor would sometimes fight over food during the first months with us. But they eventually became great friends and bonded. When we brought Arran home, Zane and Arran got along great until Arran picked one too many fights.

The other two rescue dogs we’ve had– CuCullain and Arran– were both fully grown when we got them. CuCullain (CC), our blue eyed beagle-husky mix, was probably the best behaved of all of them, but unfortunately, he got a rare mycobacterial infection and died after just sixteen months with us. We still have Arran, who was also once destined to be a hunting dog. He’s loving being the only dog, but he’s had his issues, particularly with being jealous of Zane and not being as faithful about housetraining as our others have been.

Every single one of these dogs once belonged to someone who couldn’t keep him anymore. They all wound up in rescues. And Bill and I were very blessed to have them in our lives. If it hadn’t been for a previous owner deciding to give them up for a chance at a more appropriate home, we would not have had the pleasure of knowing any of these dogs. I remember Arran was adopted by someone who brought him back to the rescue after nine months. I’d like to think the lady who initially took him tried hard to make the situation work. She’d kept him for nine months, after all. But, for some reason, it just wasn’t feasible for her to keep him. She did the responsible thing and brought him back to the rescue, where I found him while grieving MacGregor’s death. Now he’s with us, and couldn’t be happier.

Just like a woman who has late term abortion almost always does so because of extreme situations, I like to think people give up their old dogs because they have to. I know there are many exceptions, and I’ve heard of people throwing out their old dogs so they can get a puppy. But I like to think that’s not usually why people do this. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, I try to assume the person has fallen on hard financial times, is sick, or otherwise has been forced into a living situation that makes keeping the pet impossible. And if it turns out the person is the sort who would callously toss out an old friend like that, I like to hope that the dog will have a better chance with someone else… even if I do know that old dogs are usually the last ones chosen as new pets.

Maybe it’s not realistic to think this way, but it spares me from getting depressed about how shitty some people can be. I don’t think it’s helpful to shame people who rehome their animals. Truly callous people won’t care what other people think, while the ones who are doing it out of necessity will only feel worse about what must be a difficult decision. And really, I think it’s best for pets to be with people who actually want them and don’t resent having to take care of them. So… when I can, I try to be compassionate about those situations. I figure it does no good to get angry. The focus should be on finding that animal a good home.

As for Bill and me… I’m not sure when a new dog will come into our lives. I want a new one, but I don’t yet feel ready. Maybe after the holidays, we’ll consider it. A lot also depends on whether or not we stay here another year. I think we will, but it’s hard to tell how contracts will go. Also… I worry about how Arran will take it. He’s a very sweet dog, but he does get jealous and possessive. And frankly, after having landlords who clearly disliked my dogs, I think I’d kind of like to wait until we have our own house and don’t have to answer to anyone else about our lifestyle. Fortunately, our current landlords aren’t as intrusive or judgmental, and they actually like dogs.

If you’re looking for good grits, Palmetto Farms has them. I am an Amazon Associate, so I get a small commission when people make purchases through my site. I’ve been eating Palmetto Farms grits for years now, and they never disappoint.