Mop, You Were Such a Good Girl

I don’t know where to start. Even though I typically write about dark, depressing, maybe even morbid, topics and situations, I do NOT like to write about personal experiences that make me depressed. However, I’ve been mulling over this all day and when I got home, I decided maybe the best way to cull the restless thoughts in my mind would be to write them down. I apologize if this makes you sad. This is just a personal piece that I couldn’t not write. Fair warning: this is an unedited, unorganized mess of writing, there is no flow, no organization, and nothing is withheld. This is just a stream of my conscious thoughts as I sit here and remember Mop.

Yesterday, Ash and I had to make the incredibly, no insanely, hard decision to put one of our dogs down. Mop (formally named Gracie), had been feeling down and acting uncharacteristically for a couple days. Her eyes were swollen, she had nasal discharge, couldn’t relieve herself, wasn’t eating, she stopped greeting us when we would get home, and a whole slew of other issues that weren’t in line with her usual peppy and excitable self.

We tried to make a vet appointment up here in Tuolumne County, but due to COVID-19, the closest vet we could get an appointment at was in Oakdale. So, we took the trip down there and were pretty much told that she had multiple health issues that had been ongoing for some time.

I blame myself for not noticing some of the issues before hand, but after discussing things with Ash, we both came to the conclusion that given her past life, she learned how to hide her pain extremely well. She always put on a good show to make sure we weren’t stressing about her. I don’t think she ever wanted to be a burden, and she did that too well. Of course, I can’t blame her for this. She was a wonderful dog that only ever had minor problems that we worried about.

We were given the option of having a surgery performed that might fix some of her health problems, but historically, this surgery has a bad mortality rate for dogs of Mop’s size. The vet in Oakdale also discussed how given her age and health, the problem would most likely return with even more aggression and severity, and also given her age, they might not be able to do the surgery again. Even performing the surgery wouldn’t get rid of the infection she had, and it would just be a matter of time before the infection would affect vital organs. Essentially, the surgery would help to alleviate some of the problems that the infection had caused, but would not get rid of the infection. While the vet didn’t want to burden us with a difficult decision, she heavily alluded to us having to come to terms with Mop’s state of health and make a decision appropriate for her pain and suffering.

We opted to take Mop home so we could spend more time with her. The vet gave her steroids and antibiotics to help remedy the pain, but on the way home, it was evident that Mop was in even greater pain. I’m not sure if she just got tired of hiding the pain and new that it wasn’t worth the effort, but it was apparent to both of us that she was tired of fighting it. Even though she might have lost her will to fight, she never lost her resolve and happily cuddled in Ash’s lap and at her feet for the entire ride home.

When we got home, we tried to give her some chicken mixed with her favorite treats, but she wasn’t very interested and only ate part of the mix after some heavy persuasion. We let her lay in the yard with Bug (our other papillon and Mop’s puppy) and made sure she had a few more hours of enjoyment before we scheduled an appointment with the vet in Twain Harte to finally ease her pain. Even in the yard, we could tell that Mop was tired of the pain that she had carried for so long.

At the vet in Twain Harte, Mop was stoic and didn’t even tremble or show any nervousness when the vet gave her a sedative. After the sedative was in her system and she could relax, we noticed how labored her breathing was, how much weight she had lost, and what her true relaxed state actually was. Seeing her like this made me realize how much work and effort she was putting in to keep us from worrying about her.

We never want to give credit to the reaper, and I mean no ill-will against the vet, but I think things could have been a little better in the vet’s office when Mop was finally given the final syringe that would ultimately end her life.

She passed with complete peace and she isn’t going to hurt anymore.

I keep telling myself that she is in a better place, and I understand that the pendulum of time swings regardless of our wishes, but I was not prepared to come home to a house without Mop greeting us when we walked up the steps. Ash and I both knew that Mop would be passing sometime in the near future, but we weren’t prepared for that time to come so soon.

I had to put my dog, KC, down less than a year ago, but KC showed us that she was in pain and she made sure we knew when it was time. I actually feel guilty for making KC suffer longer than necessary as I came to terms with her physical state. Mop didn’t let on that she was in pain. Mop put on a front and was attentive and happy up until the day before we took her to the vet. We were really hoping for a better outcome, but we still braced ourselves for the worst. It really sucks that we didn’t have time to really say goodbye. It sucks that we didn’t have more time to prepare. But then that is just us being selfish. If Mop was hiding that pain from us for all these months, even years, how could we make her withstand any more pain just to ease our emotions?

It’s only been a day, just over 24 hours, and I’m still expecting her to bark whenever the cats start acting up.

I keep looking at her spot on the floor at the end of the couch every time I get up.

Mop would hang out with me in the bird room while I played video games or watched M.A.S.H. long after everybody else went to bed, and now I am staying up late by myself. You don’t realize their presence until it’s gone.

Sometimes I’m a cynic and always make weird statements jokingly, and then proceed to ‘knock-on-wood’. Mop would always bark when I did this. I just knocked on the side of the wall after making a cynical joke to Ash and paused, realizing that I was waiting for Mop to bark in response. Of course, she didn’t.

She would bark whenever I bumped into her crate, which is pretty much every time I walk by the bed (we always kept the crate door open so she could have the freedom of going in and out of her ‘safe-space’ whenever she wanted). When I bumped into it an hour ago, I heard no bark, and realized another hole that Mop had filled.

We took a trip out in the woods today to look for snakes and decompress after putting Mop down yesterday. This is the kind of trip that we would always take Mop and Bug on so they could run through the forest and explore un-inhibited. We always keep an eye on the dogs when we do this, since they are small and would make great prey for forest-dwelling predators. Every time I would spot Bug, I couldn’t help but realize I was scanning for Mop as well. Each time I would feel the uprising twinge of anxiety, since Mop was going deaf and we had to be more deliberate in making sure she didn’t get too far away. And then each time I would feel the crushing depression that Mop hadn’t wandered off, but she simply wasn’t there and would never be there again. I think Bug felt the same way, as she would often stop to look around as well.

I think the worse part though was coming home and waiting to hear Mop’s happy greeting barks. Regardless of if we took her on a trip with us or not, she would always be so stoked to see us when we got back. Because she was going deaf and had slight dementia, there were some trips that we opted not to take her on and only took Bug instead. Not hearing those happy yips when we got home crushed me.

When Ash and I started dating, Mop would always hang out with me when I would visit Ash at her parents’ house. Ash raised her from a puppy and did a great job in training her. When Ash moved out, her parents kept Mop until they ended up moving to a new place. Once they moved, Mop came back to live with us. She lived out the rest of her life with us and we tried to make her life as good as we could. She got tasty treats every night, got to go on walks, came with us on adventures, visited her doggy brothers and sisters at my parents’ and Ash’s parents’, got to visit the beach, play in the snow, have her own bed, and overall live the best life a dog could ask for and that we could provide.

Some of my best memories with her were when she tried to jump on the couch at my parents’ house after my dad replaced the carpet with laminate flooring. She slipped, completely missed the couch, fell on the floor, and then growled all the way across the room as if she were muttering to herself about how stupid non-carpeted floors were.

I also remember the first time she discovered the oil leak under my Jeep. She promptly rubbed her white back all over it, then proceeded to roll all over the oil stains in the driveway. Of course, this was right before a long trip, so we got to smell motor oil during the entire drive.

I can remember when I was vlogging with Ash at the beach and the tide was coming in a bit faster than we expected. Ash had Bug and Mop on leashes, but when the wave crept up on them, Ash and Bug jumped onto a little sand ledge to avoid it, and Mop just took the wave right to the face. I can’t forget her face as she looked at Ash and me in complete betrayal. Of course, she wasn’t hurt, but you could tell that she had some qualms about the beach in that moment.

She used to lay under the couch behind a blanket that draped from the couch onto the floor. One night, I had passed out on the opposite couch after work without realizing Mop was behind that blanket. I heard movement, so I woke up and groggily watched in horror as a bulge in the blanket unfurled all the way across the based of the couch. I was half asleep, so the abject terror I felt was magnified as my brain tried to put together what it was observing. I think I took the biggest sigh of relief I ever experienced when Mop popped out of the end of the blanket.

Mop was definitely not the most intelligent dog, but she wasn’t stupid. She was more oblivious than anything. Maybe air-headed would have been a good way to describe her. You could tell her to do something, and you could almost hear the gears turning in her head as she pieced together what you told her. This was frustrating at times, but it was always cute, and she would always figure it out at some point.

Even though this wasn’t the ending we wanted for Mop, I think this was for the best. We gave her the best life we could, and she returned the favor by making sure we never stressed about the pain she constantly felt.

I never really thought about it until today, but Mop was like an unofficial mascot for us. She was always doing something strange or barking in response to something we did. She was a focal point of all of our pets. Her existence in our lives might be best understood as omnipresent, as we were always either trying to see what she was up to, figuring out where she fell asleep last, or figuring out what she was barking about.

I wish we had more time to adjust to the idea that Mop might no longer be with use, but I feel relief that she is no longer suffering. She is in a better place, and while I am sad that she is gone, and realize that our lives are going to feel empty going forward, I am so proud of her bravery in confronting those final moments of her life. She stayed strong for us, so I hope I can remain strong for Ash while we adjust to life without Mop.

I’m sorry if this is raw. I don’t know why, as humans, we become so empathetic and emotionally attached to animals. I really wish we didn’t. I hate that we have the ability to choose the outcome of other’s lives. I hate that we can’t talk to dogs. I hate that dogs live shorter lives than us. I hate that dogs become so attached and loyal. I hate that we take our canine friends’ lives for granted when they are healthy and well.

Sometimes I wish we didn’t evolve.

But this isn’t about me, this is about Mop. Mop was one of the best damn dogs I ever got to share time with. I hope any of my future pets are at least half as good as Mop was.

Do me a favor and in memory of Mop, let out the best bark you can.

You were such a good girl Mop.

Until we meet again on the other side of the rainbow bridge…

-Aaron

New Passive Income Available NOW!!!

My debut book is now available!

Well, it’s actually been available for the month and a half. For being a marketing major, you think that I would be more on top of this kind of thing. Truth be told, I got so into update my author website, that I totally forgot to post the great news here.

The book has been published and I’ve sold a handful of copies! I am not that great at running ads or trying to sort out Amazon’s algorithm of marketing, but I am truly thankful for all of those that have purchased my book! If you haven’t gotten yourself a copy yet, you can snag it here: New Passive Income: Converting Opportunities into Stacks of Cash

If you do purchase it, or have purchased it, let me know what you think about it!

Oh, and bookmark my author website (atjameswrites.com) for news of future releases and sales!

-Aaron

Made the FRONT PAGE!!!

*Pictures are at the end of the post!*

I recently made the front page of both the Union Democrat and Calaveras Enterprise newspapers who each used photos I took of the Camp 9 Road bridge. The bridge was painted with bright neon letters spelling out “BLACK LIVES MATTER”. I stumbled across the letters on June 9th while I was going for a drive. Thankfully I had my drone with me, so I took a ton of aerial shots of the bridge, two of which the newspapers used for their articles.

Once the public found out about it, there was quite a bit of public comment, both negative and positive. Some comments even claimed the images were fake and in one case, someone claimed they saw an article where the “photographer” even made statements that he photoshopped the images to make a point. Obviously this was untrue, and when asked for the article to be provided, I never received a reply back. When interviewed by both papers I tried to keep my comments as noncontroversial as possible, given my profession, and even though I didn’t mention it to reporters, I really wanted to document the message before it was ruined. I figure that whoever painted the bridge would have wanted as many people to see it as possible before it got covered up or altered.

And guess what? Both papers are now reporting that someone did in fact go down there and tried to convert the message into “ALL LIVES MATTER”. Admittedly, they did a horrible job. In viewing new images of the bridge, it seems like someone tried to do various burnouts across the original message as well.

While the owners of the bridge, PG&E, initially said they were not going to paint over the first message, now that there has been more vandalism, they are planning on removing all of the paint on the bridge.

Kudos to PG&E for allowing the message to stay up as long as it did. I’m also *secretly* happy that they are making a stand against the counter-vandalism that has popped up since it was reported.

Anyways, here are the news links of the whole thing. I am going to try to list these in chronological order from when the story broke to the present.

UNION DEMOCRAT ARTICLES:

“Black Lives Matter” painted on Camp 9 Road bridge near Yea Hoo Gulch

Black Lives Matter!” paint on Camp Nine bridge defaced

PG&E decides to remove all paint from Camp Nine bridge

CALAVERAS ENTERPRISE ARTICLES:

Aerial images show ‘Black Lives Matter’ graffiti on Camp Nine Bridge

PG&E vows to clean Camp Nine Bridge after BLM graffiti defaced to read ‘All Lives Matter!’

Another independent reporter from Sacramento also reached out to me and interviewed me for another article, but it has yet to be published.

I always love it when I get on the front page, and I feel like the original message was definitely newsworthy.

Thanks for reading this!

-Aaron

COVID-19

Hey everyone! Sorry for some recent inactivity. Quite a bit has been going on, and quite a few things have fallen through the cracks, so to speak. I kind of put the 3×6 Goal Sessions on hold for a little bit due to Covid and some other things going on, but I’ll probably pick back up with the remaining sessions soon!

Anyways…

Here’s whats been going on. You might see detailed posts about these things in the future.

I published my book (WOOHOO!)

One of my pictures was on the front page of the Union Democrat.

I started my next two books.

I started back at work.

Ummm, I thought I did more, but I guess this is it…

Anyways, what have you all been working on?

-Aaron

Camping is Tourism Too!

One of my Session 2 goals is to finish writing the report for a study I started last year pertaining to camping on the Calaveras Ranger District. I was lucky enough to have been given the chance to parse all the collected fee envelopes from the 2019 season and I have officially tabulated all the information!

It was tedious, but as I’m copy and pasting tables out of Excel and into my report, I’m not sure which part was the most tedious.

While I have typed out all the pertinent words and wordsmithed the crap out of my report, I am still in the process of creating the appendix, which as of now, has over 50 different tables.

My hopes are to get this published somewhere. It would be great to get this thing peer reviewed and accepted into an academic journal of some sort, but I would also be stoked if the US Forest Service decided to publish it as part of their research data.

For now, I’m just trying to get it finished so I can continue work on my OHV Research Paper that I have been pushing to the back of my desk.

Hopefully this week I’ll have a final rough draft I can start polishing and submitting.

Yes, camping is tourism, even if it isn’t taxed as such. At least for now!

-Aaron

2020 3×6 Goals Schedule

Here is the schedule for this years 3×6 Goal Sessions! I took a break for Session 1, and tried to get a bunch of random things done before I delved into an actual 3×6 session, but Session 2 starts on Monday, so I hope everyone is prepared!

Session 1: Jan 13-Feb 23

Session 2: Feb 24-Apr 5

Session 3: Apr 6-May 17

Session 4: May 18-Jun 28

Session 5: Jun 29-Aug 9

Session 6: Aug 10-Sep 20

Session 7: Sep 21-Nov 1

Session 8: Nov 2-Dec 13

-Aaron

The BOP 209

Emily Kingston at the Bright Orange Poppy recently published a feature on my work and I can’t even begin to tell you guys how excited I am! This is my first ever feature, and I can’t believe how spot on Emily was in describing me and what I do. She actually explains my work and myself better than I can. If you know me, or have ever communicated with me, then you know I “don’t do words good”, but if you want to see a GREAT explanation of myself and my work, as well as the work of many other Motherlode artists, check out her site at thebop209.com. They also have a killer giveaway going on at the moment!

Read the article here: https://www.thebop209.com/post/aaron-james-aarxnjames-art-photography

November & December 2019 Reading List!

Here’s what I read this past month!

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Stone Cold by David Baldacci

Worlds Best Science Fiction: 1968 by Various Authors

So how many pages these past two months? 1,715

How many so far this year? 18,408

As Always…

I have listed the above books as Amazon affiliated links, so if you decide to buy a book using the above links, I may get a little kickback from Amazon.

I am also a proud Audible subscriber! Audio books are awesome, especially for those that might not have time to sit down and turn pages. If you want to sign up for audible click here! I get a little kickback for this as well, but I believe you get two free audio books if you start a trial!

If you use an e-reader like a kindle or your tablet, you can also get a free month of the Kindle Unlimited Membership plan by clicking here!

Let me know if you like this post and if you want to see more like it! If you have any questions about the books I posted, or want to discuss them with me, leave a comment!