Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Storm Clouds and Rainbows: An Update About Holding On

This is an update on my June 15 post, The Cow, the Calf, the Crisis, the Kids and the Creator.

June and July have difficult months for me, often resembling a sunset through storm clouds.  Shortly after I wrote the June 15 post, I got the results of the milk culture back.  There was no growth reported in any of Siobhan's quarters, but she had a horrendous SCC (somatic cell count) of over 4 million in the Right Rear (Pseudomonas) quarter.  I didn't know whether to feel happy over the "no growth" or worried about the SCC; I was just confused!  I knew that an SCC could remain elevated even after the mastitis was gone, but surely not that much.  Dr. A had been out sick, so none of my questions got answered; in fact, I never have gotten to talk with him again.  I've finally concluded that he was rather like the angel God sent to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac--he saved Siobhan and disappeared offstage.

Wondering if I had tested too soon after the antibiotics, I decided to send off a test to AntelBio, a lab that tests for the DNA of mastitis-causing organisms.  That means that even if an antibiotic treatment was preventing growth in a culture, any organism present would still show up through its DNA.  Those results confused me even more!  They showed that both Right quarters had no detectable organisms, but one or both of the left ones (I had combined them in the last tube I had) had 1+ Prototheca spp., contagious algae carried in water.  On top of that, it turns out that AntelBio doesn't even test for Pseudomonas, so the negative result wasn't reassuring at all.

That meant I needed to send off one more test to TQML since they test for both Pseudomonas and Prototheca.  This time the test came back showing NO Prototheca, but with 60 CFU/ml of Pseudomonas and the SCC down to 2.7 million.  (For comparison purposes, when Siobhan originally had Staph A in February 2014, the count was 659,000 CFU/ml.  When I got a report of 60 CFU/ml of an environmental bacteria at dry-off, Susan told me that small amount was probably a contaminated sample.)  So I was left with lots of questions . . . Was this a contaminated sample? . . . Had the PA never gone? . . . Or was it back?  Susan did tell me that with Pseudomonas, it's not unusual to have a negative test followed by a positive one.

Meanwhile, another problem had appeared.  About the 12th of June I noticed that Siobhan seemed to be in pain when I was milking or Remy was nursing, although her quarters seemed normal in size and the milk was flowing well and without clumps.  In fact, for the first time in her life she was regularly lifting a foot in protest, and I resorted to using hobbles on her.  As I investigated what could be causing her pain, I discovered long sores high up in the "cleavage" where her front quarters joined her body.  The sores were hidden in her thick coat and only became obvious when I tried to shave the area.  Her reaction made it clear that this was VERY painful.

I prepared hot water with eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree oils and used it to apply hot, moist compresses to the area.  Then, a bit at a time over a period of days, I shaved and pulled away the nasty clumps of dried exudate and hair.  What was left was raw, red, oozing sores.  I realized that they were right in the area where the thick edge of the Tamm udder net had touched Siobhan, and I was sick at heart to realize that I had caused this, too.  I tried a variety of things to help soothe the area until my friend Kirby Allen suggested that it sounded like a fungal infection.

So I switched to using Colloidal Silver ointment, which seemed to ease the pain as soon as I smeared it on, followed by Lotrimin Anti-fungal spray.  Every morning I dragged Siobhan into the stanchion to eat her grain while I did her soaks and treatment.

By that time it was the end of June.  I was down to once a day milking, and Remy was pretty much handling everything on his own.  My sisters were due to arrive July 1 to celebrate my 60th birthday, so I milked Siobhan for the last time on June 28.  After agonizing over what to do and when and how, I finally came to the conclusion that I didn't know enough to do anything at that time.  Siobhan had been in the barnyard with her Pseudomonas, and keeping her there longer wasn't going to change that.

Except for the sores, Siobhan was looking healthier and actually getting a shine on her coat.  So I decided to just hold on and let her raise Remy as long as possible.  There was no rush to make a decision, and I would try to enjoy the month of July with my family, ignore the undercurrent of sorrow that lurked just below the surface, and cross the next bridge when I came to it.

By the end of July, the right-hand sore was mostly healed, with new hair growing back.  I stopped the soaks on that side, but continued to monitor it and apply Lotrimin every few days.

The left-hand sore was much better, with most of the rawness gone and no further clumps of exudate appearing.  I was thankful for small blessings like Siobhan not being in pain any more.
I continued daily treatment on the left-hand sore, and now at the end of August, most of the hair has grown back.  I continue the daily treatments, however, unwilling to take the chance of a relapse.

The final piece of news is that this past Monday, Aug. 24, I sent off milk samples to TQML for a mastitis re-test.  I got the results Thursday, and to my complete surprise, there was no growth after 72 hours.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  The SCC results are confusing (to both Susan and me), and I think I might have mixed up the two right-hand tubes.  At any rate, I'll test again in a month.

This entire saga has been like a roller coaster ride.  While I'm trying not to hope too much, I'm very thankful for this unexpected blessing, and I'll continue to leave Siobhan's future in God's hands.  Meanwhile, Remy is a funny, lively little guy and Siobhan is her usual sweet self.

What a relief that I don't have to drag her into the stanchion any more!  She comes over to the gate, waits until I open it, and walks right in.  I don't even have to shut the neck catch.  She eats her grain, I do her treatment, I give her some apple treats, and when I open the gate she backs out.  It's obvious that she wants to be out of the barnyard, and every three weeks she moos for Royal, but I think we can both hold on a little while longer.

A special "Thank you" to all of my family and friends who have prayed so faithfully for Siobhan!  Some of you like Herb, Kara and Barbara have been right beside me when it was hard to make myself go out to the barnyard.  Others of you I only know through the internet, but your caring messages have encouraged me more than you can know.  So thank you!  And please keep praying!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Helping Me Over the Hill

As I mentioned back in June, the month of July was scheduled for a big family get-together.  It ended up being a month-long celebration to help me "over the hill" for the Big 6-0.  My two sisters, Barbara and Karen, arrived July 1 to kick things off.

Of course visiting me means hanging out with my Dexters.  Barbara has met them before, but it was Karen's first time here on Zephyr Hill Farm, so she had to meet the whole crew.  Here she is petting her first cow, Ebby.
Barbara discovered that when there aren't enough barn boots to go around, cowboy boots work fine for mud, too.
We did some civilized, "girly" things, too, like antiquing--an especially appropriate activity for an old-timer like me!
The last time the three of us were together was five years ago, so this was a special time for us all.  Someone has to be the oldest and hit 60 first, so it might as well be me.  As I like to remind my sisters and my kids, "If I can't be a good example, I'll just have to serve as a horrible warning."

Sadly, the girls had to leave before my actual birthday, but others came to take their place . . .

We celebrated that night at my favorite restaurant with all of us locals: Jim, Monique, Herb, me, Katie (who came in from Houston), and Kara.

Before Katie headed back to Houston, we modeled our new Billy Bob teeth.  What can I say?  It's a family tradition!  She also took me shopping while she was here, so now I actually clean up nice.

Kara had spent weeks planning a special birthday menu that spanned much of July.  Since we love ethnic food, she cooked up an Around the World Food Tour of places we've visited and cuisines we enjoy, including German, African, Persian, Egyptian, Italian, Greek, Spanish and Mexican.

This was the twelve-course Persian meal she prepared one night with a little help from her Minions.
Jim and Monique brought the grandkids for a weekend, and they kept me young at heart.

Jenny and Jean-Marc came down from Ohio to join the local yokels, and we all got our own pair of teeth for some family photo fun.

Misty had to get in on the act, too, and the kids couldn't bear to take out their teeth, so the "serious" photo was only about as serious as it ever gets in this clan.  Fun times to remember, though!

When everyone else had to go home, Jenny and Jean-Marc stayed on.  They were able to use up some leave and get some rest before heading to their new base.

About the time Jenny and Jean-Marc left, Barbara came back with the rest of her family for another week of fun and laughter, like enjoying my youngest nephew's attempt to walk on water.  (Just kidding--see the swinging rope over his head?)

The month of July finally drew to an end and so, like all good things, did the longest-ever birthday bash.  After we waved goodbye to the last of the family, Herb turned to me and jokingly said, "Well, it's over.  You're not special any more."

I didn't believe him, though--I had an entire month full of lovely memories to remind me otherwise.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Great News for Dexters

The "break" I posted about in June ended up being much longer than I intended.  I'll catch up soon, but it seems appropriate to "break the break" with some wonderful breaking news in the Dexter world.

Here's the background:  Saltaire Platinum is an imported, polled Dexter bull that appears in many of the pedigrees of today's Dexters.  In fact, he figures in our own herd.  He appears twice in Siobhan's pedigree and twice in Royal's.  He does not appear in Ebony's five generation pedigree online, but if you look at her sire's pedigree, he appears six times in his fifth generation.

In certain circles, Platinum has been denigrated as an outcrossed, upgraded, impure bull.  Some so-called "purists" go so far as to say that Saltaire Platinum is not a "real Dexter."  Why?  Because his grand-dam was the first polled Dexter of record.  When Platinum was imported for use in American herds, he became a target of those who claim that polled Dexters are not "real Dexters."  They were unwilling to accept that a genetic mutation might have occurred and instead have claimed that what took place was outcrossing to another breed, fraudulently covered up by the breeder.

Now for the breaking news:

First, let me state that I have permission from the owner of this report, Patti Adams, to use it without any constraints or conditions.  (Thank you, Patti!)  However, I did blur Patti's address on the report for privacy reasons.  I printed the report from the link, scanned it as a JPEG, blurred Patti's address, cropped the excess scanner screen below the report, and posted it.  I did not edit the report itself in any way.  You can find a link to the report here.

With "housekeeping" details out of the way, where did this report come from and what does it actually mean?

Of course, when Platinum was born in 1990, genetic testing for parentage verification did not exist.  However, during his lifetime, Saltaire Platinum was collected for AI (artificial insemination), and so his DNA has been preserved in his semen.  Someone who owned Saltaire Platinum's semen submitted it, and this is what was tested by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at the University of California at Davis (UCD).

What the test means is that here is scientific proof from one of the world's premier genetic laboratories that Saltaire Platinum is a REAL Dexter.

The last sentence of the report sums it up:
"Breed analyses provide no evidence of a genetic background other than Dexter.  If there is influence from other breeds, the crossbreeding event is too far removed in the ancestry of this bull and no longer detectable."
This is great news for the Dexter breed! This news is not just gold--it's platinum!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Taking a Break

We have a big family get-together planned in July, and my well-worn china barely has enough pieces left to feed us all for one meal.  It's time to get some new china, and I thought restaurant china might be a good idea.  If it can survive the treatment it gets in a restaurant, it might even be able to last here!

After pricing some restaurant china at an outlet, I lamented to a friend how expensive it is, and then she told me about Deck's Glassware and Salvage in Chattanooga.  After reading about it online, Kara and I decided to go today, and what a fun experience!  Here's one of the blog posts that inspired us to go.

Part of the back room at Deck's.

More of the back room.  There was lots more, but I stopped taking pictures and started hunting for china!  By the time we'd finished, I promised Kara lunch and a huge cold drink, which she'd earned.  Then it was time to head home and wash the china.

My 20 dinner plates.  That's Misty having a roll in the background.

20 dessert plates and 20 cereal/salad bowls.  We also bought 20 brand new, white pasta bowls.

Getting ready to wash the china.  I soaked it in water with Dawn and vinegar, then washed it with a scrubby sponge.
My sparkling clean china, ready to go in the dishwasher.

Everything washed up beautifully.  I found two plates with small cracks that hadn't been visible through the dirt, but at 50 cents apiece I'm not too worried.  It gives me an excuse to go back and get some more!
All in all, this was a fun and welcome break from everything that's been going on around here lately.

I think it's going to be fun setting the table from now on!

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Cow, the Calf, the Crisis, the Kids and the Creator

The Cow

This story begins earlier this year when I weaned Siobhan's calf Wellie and dried her off.  The anti-self sucking harness that I used for her was not holding up because of the inferior quality of the surcingles, so I decided to try something called a Tamm Udder Support that I thought would be more efficient and more comfortable for Siobhan.  (Note:  Do not go buy this product!  Please read the rest of the story.)

I kept it on Siobhan for about 6 weeks until her largest quarter, the right rear, had dried off.  At that point I took the udder support off because I wasn't worried about her self-sucking.  When I noticed Siobhan starting to bag up early in May, I put her anti-self sucking harness back on and figured out a way to make it work despite the fact that the rings kept pulling out due to poor stitching.  I couldn't leave the udder support on in case she calved unexpectedly because it would prevent the calf from nursing.  I was surprised and a bit concerned by how huge her RR (right rear) quarter had gotten compared to the others, although it has always been bigger and produced more.

The Calf

On the morning of May 23 Siobhan calved unassisted and I found her just as Remy, her bull calf, got up to nurse.

I gave Remy the day to get as much colostrum as possible, but that evening I milked Siobhan out.  I got 3 quarts from the RR quarter alone.  After that it stayed more its usual size, and Remy seemed to especially favor nursing that quarter.  I kept Remy on Siobhan 24 hours a day, milking her out morning and evening to remove whatever Remy didn't take.

The Crisis

Then on the morning of May 28, the RR quarter was huge again.  It was hard and obviously painful to Siobhan.  I was horrified to get off-colored watery "milk" that was full of slimy, snotty clumps, and I was sure the dreaded Staph A mastitis was back.  After milking I called our regular vet, but he was out of town.  So I called the back-up vet.  He said they had a shipment going to the University of GA lab at 4:00 that afternoon if I could get milk samples ready to send off.  I had a whole box of Pirsue left, but I asked if he would give me Excede (the systemic antibiotic we had used for her last time), and he agreed.  I took the samples and picked up the Excede.  I started the RR quarter on the first of eight Pirsue infusions that evening and gave Siobhan the injection of Excede.   In addition,  twice a day Siobhan gets oil of oregano in her feed along with Vitamin E and a big dose of probiotics.

The next day, May 29, Siobhan's right side looked very strange without the usual separation between quarters.  It seemed to be a reflection of the degree of inflammation that was present.

Since Siobhan was getting Pirsue infusions, I put Remy in a stall overnight to allow the medication to work for 12 hours.  Siobhan was therefore very full in the mornings, even after Remy nursed.  So every morning I made a bucket of very hot water with essential oils (EOs) in it: tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint.  I soaked dish towels in the hot water, wrung them out thoroughly, and held them against the two affected right quarters, as well as the left ones, which also seemed painful; I did NOT re-dip towels.  I used separate dip cups for the affected quarters.  Once Siobhan's teats were dipped, wiped off with a paper towel, and wiped again with disinfectant teat wipes, I massaged each quarter with mint balm.  I wore gloves, and I sanitized carefully between quarters and again after massaging.  Then I wiped each teat again, stripped and milked, massaged some more, sanitized again, and milked out everything I could.

In the evenings, since Remy had been nursing during the day, I omitted the hot compresses and went straight to the massage and milking.

I don't know what I would have done without our daughter, Kara.  From the time I discovered the mastitis, she came out and helped with Siobhan and encouraged me.  Early on she had to "tail" Siobhan to keep her from constantly kicking a foot in pain.  Kara was my faithful "poop patrol" that first week because Siobhan would poop and pee several times each milking, especially in the mornings.  Since I was spending hours each day working on Siobhan, Kara took over cooking and fed us incredible meals--a far cry from the TV dinners we would have eaten had it been up to me.

This was Siobhan's right side on May 30 before I milked.  Our milking sessions had a lot of prayer and tears on my part along with signs of pain on Siobhan's.  For the first time in her life she lifted a hind foot--frequently, although she never aimed a kick at me.  On one occasion she was groaning in pain as I massaged her udder, and I tearfully apologized for hurting her, knowing she couldn't possibly understand that I was trying to help her.  I knew there was something in that RR quarter keeping me from getting everything out.  Finally, after two days with hours of massage and stripping, a huge firm clump came out.

The RR quarter would look much better after massaging, stripping and milking, but the RF was worrying me, too.  Remy tended to ignore it more than the other quarters, perhaps because the orifice is smaller, making it harder to nurse.  But that quarter was staying full and firm, which was worrying, although the milk filtered clear.

And even when the RR quarter was milked out, there was a thickened area above the teat that seemed due to inflammation in the tissues.

Finally, by June 1, the RR quarter was looking almost normal after milking.

The milk was white with only a couple of small clumps in it, and the left side was nice and flaccid after milking.

I wish I could have used the Tennessee Quality Milk Lab as I usually do, but I wanted a test to go out as soon as I was dealing with mastitis.  TQML sends test results directly to me. Unfortunately, I did not get any results from the mastitis test until a week later on June 4, and then only via the vet.  He emailed the results as an attachment, which proved impossible to open.

Finally I emailed him asking what the result was, and he emailed back that the RR quarter "grew a pretty bad bacteria" that was uncommon and "a pure culture."  He said that I should contact an expert and suggested killing that quarter.  I emailed back to ask what the bacteria was.  He replied that the RR had "puedomonas (sic), resistant to every thing," that the RF "had a staph but it was treatable," and that the left side was clear.  Again, he suggested I talk to an expert.

At that point I began asking some Family Cow board and Dexter friends for help and advice.  The research I found on Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) said that it is untreatable and incurable.  I have since come to understand that, in my misguided effort to keep Siobhan from self-sucking, I almost certainly caused the Pseudomonas by putting the Tamm udder support on her, since it touched her teat and could rub on it.  Combined with the wet weather this spring, despite the aerated net, the dampness and the irritation of the teat end are enough to explain where this rare infection came from.  It's been an additional source of grief to me that I brought this on.  If I can warn anyone else from using an udder support, at least one small good thing will have come out of our fiery trial.  I did warn another cow owner who was dealing with a self-sucking cow, and she told me that her vet told her that to use the udder support would be "asking for mastitis."  How I wish I had known that!  But now you know it, so please don't use an udder support on your cow!

On June 4 there were no clumps in the PA quarter.  But hit with the double whammy of PA along with the Staph A apparently having returned, by Friday June 5, I concluded that Siobhan's situation was hopeless and that her time was up.  She was not looking good and obviously not feeling well, although she wasn't running a fever and she was still eating. With the antibiotics in her system, it would be impossible to butcher her, and I knew I couldn't possibly eat her anyway.  I realized I would have to find someone with a backhoe to dig a grave and find a vet to put her down.  However, there was nothing to be arranged over the weekend, and I needed to keep her from getting a possibly fatal overgrowth of the PA, so I continued to do everything I'd been doing to keep her alive and healthy enough to feed her baby.

After the result came back that Siobhan had staph in the RF quarter, I started Pirsue infusions in that one.  I was suspicious of the two left quarters and why they seemed painful, so I decided to start Pirsue in those.  I called the vet and he authorized two more boxes of Pirsue from Valley Vet.  I had them shipped overnight to be sure I would have enough Pirsue to get through the weekend.  Kara made a trip to Tractor Supply to get milk replacer and a bottle, and we came up with a plan for feeding Remy when the time would come.

The Kids

Saturday nights we usually babysit our grandkids, who are 6, 4 and 2, while Jim and Monique have date night.  Then Jim and Monique come back here to sleep, and we have Sunday morning together.  Jim asked what I wanted to do the night of June 7.  I said I'd love to see the kids, but that I kept bursting into tears throughout the day and I didn't want to upset them.  He replied that they're tough, and if it would encourage me they would come.  So I told them to come.  It did help to see the kids.  They are so delightful that they broke through my fog of grief over Kona and Siobhan, and I truly enjoyed having them there.

On Sunday morning Jim got up early with the kids, and when Kara and I went out to the barn to milk, they came along.  I told them they could stand up by Siobhan's head--out of the way of splashing pee--and give Siobhan some apple treats I had found.  It took at least an hour while I worked on Siobhan, and the kids stood there petting her and feeding her treats.  After quite a while, Kara observed that Siobhan hadn't pooped or peed for the first time on a morning since she had gotten sick, and I could see that she was looking at the kids, listening to their sweet voices, and eating up the affection along with the treats.

Jim asked me questions about Siobhan and explained to the kids how sick she was.  After a while he asked the kids if they wanted to pray for her, and they said yes.  One by one they prayed to Jesus to make Siobhan well, and tears streamed down my face as I listened to their sweet little voices.  Even the two year old prayed, and when Jim prayed, she repeated his words in a tiny echo.  Then Jim began singing:

"Soon and very soon we are going to see the King
No more crying there, we are going to see the King
No more dying there, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we are going to see the King."

By the time I finished milking (and crying) it was too late to make it to church, but I told Jim and the kids that I felt like I had been in church that morning.  Not only had they ministered to Siobhan, they had ministered to my hurting heart.  We went back to the house and they all packed up and went home.

The Creator

A couple of hours later my phone rang.  It was Dr. A, the vet who is the head of TQML, apologizing for not calling me sooner.  He had gotten the email I sent to Susan, who does the milk tests, and he wanted to know how Siobhan was doing.  Then he asked me about the results from the mastitis culture.  Our vet had finally managed to send me a copy of the results that I could see, so I opened it and read it to him.  And that was when we discovered a mistake I had made:  Siobhan had "Staph species" or "Staph sp." in her RF quarter, not the dreaded Staph aureus.  After all the time I've spent on Keeping a Family Cow, I should have realized the difference, but my brain had stuck on our vet's report of "a staph," which I took to be his version of "Staph A."  Dr. A told me that since Siobhan's PA quarter was soft and giving clump-free white milk, that if she is strong, he thinks she can heal herself from the Pseudomonas.  The Staph sp. was sensitive to Pirsue and Excede, and he said it's environmental, not contagious like Staph A.  At least three times, he said to me, "Please don't kill your cow needlessly."

When we finally hung up, I thought of the Bible story of Abraham being tested and told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac.  You may remember that Abraham had his son all trussed up on the altar and was holding the knife poised to kill Isaac when God stopped Abraham, showed him a ram in a thicket, and told him to free Isaac and sacrifice the ram instead.  I think I must have felt like Abraham right then--dizzy, confused, hopeful, amazed and not quite sure I could believe what I was hearing.  I believe that God had heard the prayers of my sweet little grandchildren because this was too much to put down to mere coincidence.

Instead of finding a backhoe and a vet, I was heartened to continue my efforts with Siobhan.  I still have questions and uncertainties about what will happen and what her future will be.  I hope Dr. A can answer some of my questions, while others just have to wait.  I don't know what God plans to do.  I know and believe that He can heal Siobhan, even from an infection that is medically considered untreatable and incurable.  Whether that is His plan or whether it is merely to give Siobhan a chance to raise her calf a bit longer and to comfort me that I gave her every possible chance, I don't know.  For now I'm taking things one day at a time.

By June 8, Siobhan's udder was looking much more normal.  The last of the Pirsue infusions was finished on June 12.  After allowing five days for withdrawal, I plan to collect milk samples on the 17th and send them to TQML.  Normally I have to send cultures on a Monday or Tuesday, but Susan has to be in the lab for the next two weekends, so I can send them whenever I want, allowing for a bit longer withdrawal.  Then I'll have to wait a week to know the results.

Meanwhile, God has reminded me that He holds Siobhan in His hands, that He answers prayer, and that I can trust Him with the outcome and the future, whatever it is.  

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Lord Gave and the Lord Has Taken Away

My precious, beautiful Kona died this morning at RIVER.  I was not able to be with him at the end, and it breaks my heart that he died alone.  I wanted him to know that he was deeply loved and that he had a forever home.

I didn't get to talk to the vet because she was going into surgery on another dog, but she thinks he had distemper.  Apparently it would explain his symptoms.  Unfortunately, no one knew how serious it was, so I didn't take my phone to bed or I would have gotten the call when Kona suddenly deteriorated about 3:30 a.m.  I could have been with him before he died about 5:30, and my main prayer for him would have been answered.

This all raises many thoughts that are tumbling about in my head, but several things are perfectly clear.

The vets and staff at RIVER did everything they could for Kona.  It was clear that their hearts were captivated by him, too.  Special thanks to Becca, who first helped pull so many ticks off Kona; to Dr. Sprinkle who cared for him when came in the second time and who gave him his transfusion; to Dr. Arnold for the days and nights she cared attentively for him; for Dr. James who tried to call me numerous times last night so that I could be with him; and to all the others at RIVER who gave Kona loving whenever they treated him.  We gave Kona every chance at life, and although it is small comfort, it is what we have.

Whoever let a tiny puppy get into such a starved, tick-encrusted state and then abandoned him on a country road is the one who is responsible for Kona's suffering and death and our terrible grief.  God is not to blame.

My son Jim sent me this verse in one of his emails asking about Kona (and Siobhan):
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  Romans 8:22-24
Whenever I see a little animal that has been killed on the road this verse comes to mind, but I hadn't thought of it in relation to Kona.  It is very apt, though, because Kona's suffering was indeed part of waiting for God's redemption of His creation.  And sadly, people who throw away innocent puppies are also part of this fallen and unredeemed world.  By God's grace, there are others like the vets and the rest of the staff at RIVER who devote their lives to caring for God's creatures.  They are one glimmer of the hope of redemption that God allows us see while we wait.

In His goodness God sent Kona to us to get the only love he was to have in his tiny, brief life.  I don't understand, but I accept His gift.  I trust that Kona is with Him in whatever place He has for the animals He created and loves.  I hope that Kona has met Zephyr and is busy exchanging stories with her and telling her I still love and remember her, and then they will run off to play together, happy and whole.

Kona was amazing, adorable and precious.  I've never--ever--known a puppy who loved with his whole heart, body, mind and soul the way Kona did.  His entire little body would wag along with his tail when he greeted whichever one of us walked in.  He would jump up from the lap where he was sleeping and beg to be picked up by the newcomer for some mutual loving.  He looked at us with his soul in his eyes.  I've never had a dog who would gaze into my eyes the way Kona did.  When we picked him up, he snuggled into our arms like caramel melting.  When I first picked him up on the road, he burrowed into my heart and claimed me for his own, and it was clear that he knew I was his and he was mine.    I don't understand why his little life, so full of potential and so much love to give, had to end so tragically, but he will always be in my heart.  While my heart is breaking right now, I know that our lives are so much richer for having had Kona come to us.

I'm grateful to Jenny for taking so many great photos of Kona last weekend when they were here.  She took the above photos of Kona in the back yard a week ago.  She also sent me this VIDEO of Tai and Jean-Marc praying for Kona.

The title of this post comes from Job 1:21:
"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 
Kona was indeed a gift from God.  The last two photos show the way I will remember Kona, with his heart-full of love shining from his eyes and his tail wagging (you can see the wag from one photo to the next).  I love you, precious Kona.