Black Dog

Just a little outpost on the web for me to ramble, post pix, share ideas, and be a part of the crowd.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Semi-Normal Day

Well, put it this way, the evening was capped off with three separate tornado warnings for Lansing, including one at 7:45 tonight as we closed up the shop (at 8) and wrapped up a class that was going on (until 9). That's normal, right?

A little bit of product arrived today (more on that tomorrow), and I only cried like four times (so far). The emptiness of losing my beautiful Connor is still wtih me, but Matt had two more "encounters" with her over the course of the day, including one tonight, between tornado #1 and #2, where his maternal gram came through and told him to scurry home prior to the second wave of storms. He had his first experience with her spirit this afternoon, while I was in the shower (one of the crying times), and without knowing I was having it rough upstairs, he told me that she was doing her little spin-and-woof routine in the kitchen with him, being playful and trying to tell us she's happy, she's comfortable, and she's much like the young adult dog he met nine years ago.

Oh, and I got my "bid" to Ravelry tonight, where I'm using the same ID as here--BlackDog. Like I'd use any other nickname?

(Lest you think we're going wacko in these parts, I spoke with Matt about all of these spiritual encounters he's had in the past 48 hours, and he said that they're more frequent right now due to his actually listening to them and because Connor wants us to know she's with family, that she's comfortable and agile again, and that she's concerned about us. While I'm a semi-believer about some of this stuff--John Edward has some interesting points--I'm not full-on into communicating with the afterlife. But it is comforting to know these things, if he's really tuned in and receiving their messages).

More "normal" postings will occur on Friday, including a Charlotte's Web update (that link takes you to the new ones Matt created tonight using some of our brand-new Koigu that arrived on Tuesday afternoon). See you then!

A Thousand Thank Yous

Thank you, each and every one of you, who've sent positive thoughts, personal notes, donations to our local humane society, e-mails, flowers, hugs, offers of help, knowing smiles, understanding nods, and so much more over the past 24 hours. Matt and I continue to mourn our beautiful girl, but we are comforted by the wonderful outpouring of kindness you've shown to us, to Tate, to your own pets and family, and more.

It's been a difficult day, and the smallest thing will set either or both of us off into tears, with Tate not far behind us, coming over to lick a hand, put a paw on my leg, or to just be near either or both of us. This has really brought Matt and I together, on so many levels, as we stand as a couple to face our future without the smiling face and strong head of that black lab that has been a member of our family for so many years.

Many thanks to Debbi for the very beautiful, and very fitting, basket of flowers that now sits on Connor's ottoman

Deb, the colors are perfect and the fall leaves just right--she was an autumn baby, born in late September and coming to my home just eight weeks later, just days before Thanksgiving. She loved playing in the leaves, she ate plants and flowers of every type in our various yards over the years, and her collar is a beautiful, deep red color. You couldn't have done a better job if you knew every small detail of her wonderful life!

Matt has posted his take on the past few days over at his blog, so do stop by for a little bit different slant on things. What he didn't cover over there was something he shared with me as we laid down last night, trying to go to sleep. In an effort to relax, he took a long, hot shower just prior to laying down. During that shower, he felt the presence of his maternal grandmother and two other grandmotherly types (both of my grandmothers, we surmised) and her voice telling his that Connor was with the three of them. He swears he saw her with clear, expressive eyes (free of cataracts that have plagued her for two years now), running and happy and free of her physical constraints of the past months. The other image he had was of the three grandmothers sitting in the kitchen and enjoying coffee and loud conversation (all three were vocal women), each of them slipping a little bit of food to that black head, working it hard and doing her best "table shark" for them (she earned that nickname years ago, as she was prone to circle under the table while we ate).

Our lives go on, and her wonderful spirit lives within us. She would want us to continue and to be strong, as we have tried to be today. There have been moments of tears and sadness, followed by a smile and a fond memory. That's how she'd expect it to be, and that is how it is in these parts, again tonight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We Lost Our Girl Today

My heart aches this evening, as Matt and I mourn the loss of Connor, the beautiful black lab that served as the inspiration for this blog and as my constant companion for eleven years. She has been in a battle for her life for the past two days and is now at rest.

I asked God for the chance to see her to her eleventh birthday, and I was granted that wish. She turned eleven two weeks ago, and I felt like we reached a major milestone, given the tumultuous situation with her health over the past six to nine months.

While nothing can prepare you for the loss, we feel that she had excellent medical attention in her last hours and that as her condition worsened since Sunday evening into Monday afternoon and into today (Tuesday), we were ready to let go if it was the right thing to do. She didn't seem to be in severe pain--just slowly shutting down, one organ and system after another.

I'll probably be a bit melancholy over the next few days, but it's her happy face, wagging tail, and years upon years of memories and unfailing companionship that help me to appreciate the very special bond she and I have had since that Saturday afternoon just south of Columbia, South Carolina, when I went to a farm looking for a blonde lab puppy and a squat little black runt crawled into my lap, plopped down and looked up at me as if to say "your decision is made--we're going home now".

If you have special pets in your lives and are reading this now, spend some serious quality time with them tonight and know that my faithful companion is resting easy now. I'm sad but still a much better person because of Connor's unconditional love for these past eleven years.

I'll be back soon.....I promise!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Socks And Such

Progress on Charlotte continues, but it doesn't look much different than the last time you saw here, so I'll spare you from a picture of it again. Suffice to say that I'm done with Color #4 by itself and I'm blending 4 and 5 together. That means less than 16 rows left! WAHOO!!! I am still very pleased with the colors and how it's working up, but blocking will totally change how it looks. Thank GOD!

It's been a busy week in these parts....Tate's been hanging out in his favorite spot

and Connor has been holding down the ottoman. She's not been feeling fantastic lately, so we're going to see the doctor ASAP this week (hopefully Monday, or at latest Tuesday) to see what's going on. She's holding water again (we go through this all the time) and she's been terribly gassy this weekend. Hopefully we can get some answers soon.

It's been a very sock-filled week in these parts, and it only seems to be continuing for the next several days. We received a nice shipment of the Smooshy from Dream in Color and y 'all have been tearing it limb from limb (quite a bit has been mailed out to some great people, and a good bit has been purchased locally). Tons more has been ordered, with an ASAP delivery date!

Thursday brought us a new batch of fresh goodies from Meg, of Twisted fame. We're so very fortunate to have her as a local artist, and her skeins are so very amazing. Let's check it out.....first, here's the stack of her goodies that awaits you....or is it confronts you walk in the front door

and that's without the new stuff added on top! Here's a little bit of what's new

That's her Arial yarn, which is 450 yards of 100% superwash merino, dyed by hand to make stripes as you knit. Check out a sample sock made with the Giggles colourway

that Laurie made for the shop. Quite amazing stuff, if you ask me, and Meg really does a great job of it!

Interested in something other than 100% superwash merino? How's about some of her Kabam

a blend of 60% superwash merino, 30% bamboo, and 10% nylon, in 400-yard hanks? We have the above colourways, plus several more, available at the shop for just $27 a hank. Considering the amount of work that goes into hand-dyeing stripes as well as the generous size of the skeins, that's a pretty darned competitive price! Need some? Slip us an e-mail or call the shop at 866-939-BEAR between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the week, 10 to 6 on Saturdays, or 12-5 on Sundays.

While we're on the subject of socks, I ran a day-long dyeing workshop on Saturday, designed to teach how to apply color to yarn, a little bit of color theory, and the chance to dye up three different hanks of sock-weight yarn (we used a wonderful 100% superwash merino with a great twist and awesome yardage--490 yards in a 4-ounce hand). While I was a dunce and forgot to take pictures during the day, I do have a couple remnants of how things went. First off, I'll show you a skein I dyed up with Matt in mind

It turned out beautiful and he's quite smitten with it, which means it might turn into a sock or two in the near future.

Even more intersting, to me, is Margaret's last skein of the day, which she dyed while I supervised and suggested. Her good friend Eileen (a major consumer of sock yarns) just got out of the hospital after a nasty bout with pneumonia, so we decided to make something special for her. Boy howdy, did Margaret succeed!

That's a combination of four different dyeing techniques (two of which make those little pepper dots of color), and I couldn't be more thrilled with results--IT'S BEAUTIFUL! Jealous of her results, I went back into the dyeing area at the shop to make a skein of my own, using a similar process. Of course, I took playmates with me--Delaine and Lisa were in the shop this afternoon and I said "wanna go dye some yarn". DUH! I'll try to snag photos of their results on Monday evening, when they're both back in the store with the dry hanks.

As I said, I wanted to recreate something on the order of Margaret's blue skein for Eileet, but I wanted something a little more masculine and neutral--tan/brown. I thought I'd start with a nice brown, but lighten it up. Not thinking, I squirted the dye onto the skein before thinning it down and I immediately hated it! After working the dye into the yarn, I had a dull medium brown/dark taupe hank with pink overtones to it. BLECK! So mad scientist that I am, I went to mixing up my own shade of dye, made with a bright red, some deep blue, and a few drops of black. I worked it over the taupe and kneaded that yarn for all I was worth. When finished, I added bits of color much like Margaret did above (using the same idea I conjured up for hers to get the spotting) and into the microwave it went. The net result was simply stunning (MUCH TO MY SHOCK)

It's not as pink as it apears in this overexposed photo--it's more of a rich cranberry color with deeper undertones. I stood in back looking at it and it reminded me of a colourway of hand-dyed yarns that we carry at the shop, yet I couldn't place it. Pleased with the results, I came out front to show Matt and he exclaimed "you made Copperbeech" (a Colinette colourway). Holy sh#t, I sure did!

You can see the similar tones in both hanks (that's some Colinette Jitterbug) and they're both very similar--red streaks, purply/blue dots, some golden tones, and more. I cannot wait to see this stuff knitted up, and I think I may have to make more on Monday. YUMMMMMY!

That's about it for this late-night post. I'm gonna go work a little bit more on Charlotte and then head to bed. Be well, and check back for updates tomorrow, when I get to post prior to teaching Day 1 of my "Intro to Socks" class (see, all socks, all the time....sorta).