Friday, September 25, 2015

Project Design:How to Create a Beautiful Bed

I was asked to join some fabulous design bloggers on the Project Design series. 
This series is "How to Create a Beautiful Bed".   Sounds pretty elementary, but actually
more goes into making a lovely looking bed than even I realized.  After doing
the post on my own bedding, I found out that making a bed look beautiful took 
a few tricks.  I have two beds to share, so take a look at how they came together.
So lets get started with some analysis and solutions.
How to approach dressing up a bed:
STEP 1. A bedroom starts with an established color palette, so that is a basic beginning point. Next up is the foundation, your sheets.  I have various collections of sheets in florals and plain white. I like to mix and match things and many times will use a different top and bottom sheet on purpose. In this case I had a set of lovely embroidered sheets with a green leaf detail.  Since the bedroom is blue I wanted to coordinate the two colors together.  That is where the next step of layering comes in.
STEP 2.  Layering means just that, adding layers to create interest.  Since I had green sheets in
the blue bedroom, I added blue and white buffalo check shams from my Ballard Designs set
behind the white pillowcases.  Next I added toss pillows in front and I tried various pillows to 
see which ones looked the best with the new sheets.  A pale blue floral chintz pillow that I created
with poms on the border for extra detail was the accent pillow that would tie the two color groups of blue and green together. 
STEP 3.  Pillows are the key to making a bed feel dressed and beautiful.  I had more than 
these on the bed at first, but I felt it was too busy for the restful look I wanted.  So I pared
down the pillows to just two, using the green toile to reinforce the green on the sheet set and then the blue chintz floral lumbar pillow to be the personality piece that finishes the look.
STEP 4. Do you Duvet?  I can remember when it was only the Europeans that used
Duvets on beds.  But now they are common place and most people either are duvet lovers or firmly in the bedspread or quilt category.  Of course you can layer both if your choose.  In the warmer months I take off our duvet and store it until the weather gets cooler.  During these months I often use an empty duvet cover as a simple covering draping the bed, or sometimes I will layer a large vintage
embroidered tablecloth over the bed, like I did in this case.  Its a fun way to add interest to your bedding and I feel it gives my bed a more european look. 
 I could have easily added the Ballard Designs Buffalo Check duvet folded at the foot of the bed, so consider your options for your bed's top layer.  Or add a woven blanket at the foot of the bed in your color palette for another layer that will add texture for interest.  
Perfectly made beds don't seem to photograph as beautifully as slightly 
rumpled beds, so if you are looking for your bed's beauty shot, pull back the sheets and 
mess it up a bit!  Lets take a look at another bed I styled for a recent photo shoot
I did in Newport with Matthew Mead at the home of Lydia Langston.
 This bed was done in a color palette of white with the luxurious looking duvet as 
the star. Ok, maybe it was the dog that was the star!  Haha!
But overall this was a very simple bed to do, as the huge puffy shirred duvet really
was all that was needed in addition to adding some pillows.  

STEP 5.  I didn't forget this step, I just wanted to show how beautiful this bed feels, and in large part it is due to the lovely accents that surround the actual bedding. This is a great example of how bedside accents can play up the mood of the bedding. Lovely soft colored accents in the way of a sunset oil painting and some pale pink roses added romance and sophistication to this bedroom.
 Some toss pillows echo the rooms neutral palette.  In this case, we really went
for the rumpled luxe look. We even tossed pillows onto the floor.
 Just makes you want to dive in under the covers!
 Since there was no headboard, large white euroshams were used resting against the wall.
The bedding and pillows, from Homegoods,  made a luxe statement at a reasonable cost. 
 So make up your beautiful bed with my 5 easy steps!  
And make sure you make it your own way, in your own style, using lots of what you
already have and maybe a few well chosen pieces for a wonderfully beautiful bed!
Please visit the other Project Design bloggers to see how they Create a Beautiful Bed.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Odds and Ends of Life

 Well life has changed drastically around our house! This little guy is ruling the roost!
I have no life now, its official.  Colby Chalmers has been having bouts of an upset stomach so that has been the thing that we have been trying to tame, and it seems we may have turned the corner.
Anyway, he is darling and we love him so much!  We are crate training him and of course he is a baby so he has to go outside all the time to learn where to do his business.  He is only getting up once during the night and has had no accidents at night, so that is fantastic.  I will try to limit how much I write about him and post pics of him, but its hard because he is my everything right now. :-)
If he wasn't here I would have led off with this exciting tidbit:
We are in the process of getting our French doors installed in the dining room!!!
OMG!!! I have waited for years to see this happen, and it finally is happening.
There is a huge hole cut out in the wall right now, and the door is getting fitted
and then we will need to make it all look pretty, inside and out.  So stay tuned on that one.
At the end of the week I will be joining some fabulous design bloggers as part of the Project Design series, created by Mary Ann Picket of Classic Casual Home and Cindy Hattersley of Rough Luxe Lifestyle.  Its all about taking things apart from a design perspective, and on Friday we will examine how to create a beautiful bed.  You will learn more than you thought, seeing what all these designers have to say on the subject!

Hopefully I can get back in the swing of blogging but this puppy thing has me tied up.
Oh yes, and there are a couple of other super exciting is that the videos I made with Matthew Mead for his series with Wagner Spray Tech are finished.  I got to see a sneak peek, and then of course I fired it right off to my sons so they could see them and give me feedback!
Professionally done videos are pretty impressive, and I have to say these videos came out great!  Soon enough they will be on the website and everyone can see how amazing their new Home Decor sprayer is, as well as see how fabulous Matthew and I look in front of the lens, using the sprayer and talking at the same time! Hahah!
Oh this was so much fun, and it was about 100 degrees in the warehouse while we filmed, but you would never know it.  Cool as cucumbers I tell ya!
I wanted to mention that I got tons of feedback from lots of you interested in the Whole30. 
I have been off of it for almost a week now and I am still following the guidelines pretty much and have lost another 1.5 pounds.  And my cholesterol dropped 30 points, and as soon as the doctor sends me the paperwork I will post my before and after numbers.  Its is truly a healthier way of living, and who wants to take statin blockers and struggle to button up their pants every morning??  I don't, and no I don't have to.   Can you tell I am pumped up about this program!?
I got the most touching comment when I posted about it from a reader named Susan.  I was really
moved by what she wrote, and I will include her comment here.  I wanted to tell Susan that I posted 
her comment on my Facebook page and so many women and men reached out with positive thoughts and messages for her as well as for me.  So Susan, if you do Facebook find me on there and check out what these lovely people had to say to YOU!! And thank you sooo much for that message.  It made my day, my week and even my hubby got verklempt over it.
This was Susan's comment:
"I have been with you as a reader since the early days of being a house wife, b/4 we had annie paint down here in Alabama I ordered my paint from you, I have been on vacation with you, there when you got the blue chandy, painted and decorated your first window display, and so many more memories, you inspire me so much Amy like when you were eating steak tips and salad everynight when you were opening your shop,felt like I was with you in the car when you were driving to the vet I wanted to sue them for, I said all that to say, Amy you were put here to inspire, you do all the research,planning,experimenting and then tell us the easy tried and true way which is what your latest post has done I won't continue making this comment any longer than its already gonna be but I need to tell you that I wish you lived closer as I would so want to be your bestie I have fought diabetes for 10 years, my hubs died of cancer, but it is folks like you and my Savior,Jesus that keeps me going. I wish I could start the whole 30 plan but living by yourself and feeling pretty rough everyday it is hard to get the wherewithall to pull it together but if I were ever to be able to do it just know it would be after reading one of your posts which leaves me smiling and full of determination to make it through another trial or day my bucket list is very long and I do try to mark them off as I can. You look fabulous and again I am inspired to do better and just try and be a better person,I don't comment much as I do go on and on, SORRY....and from the bottom of my southern heart Thank you, you are loved and appreciated"

And last but not least, my mom and dad sold their house on Martha's Vineyard and will be moving back to the mainland (that is Massachusetts for everyone who lives somewhere other than here).  Their new condo will be in an old school that my sisters attended growing up, how neat is that?  They will only be about a half hour away from me so I am looking forward to seeing them a lot more often, as before I had to travel by plane or ferry to get to them. My sister Ellen and I helped mom look at the place and we all agreed it was simply terrific.  So that is the latest from me, I hope you are enjoying these beautiful days as we officially approach the next season.  Its been great for the puppy and house training.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How hubs and I lost 26 pounds in 30 days!

 Its not easy to post unflattering pics of yourself. This photo is of me and Mr. Maison Decor this summer when we went to meet his best friend, Jack, for lunch.  Wow, I couldn't believe I looked that fat chubby.  I thought I looked pretty good leaving the house, but pictures don't lie.  Over the past ten years I had been able to maintain my size 8 no problem until recently.  This year it kind of caught up with me, and after seeing this photo I decided I should really try to do something before ten pounds plus ten more pounds and ten after that would leave me in a very bad place.  Hubs was also heavier than ever and after watching my son Justin go through a food program called Whole 30 we decided to try it.  If you haven't heard of it, the basic gist is that you are eating whole good food. No processed stuff and you have to be really strict for 30 days.  Anyone can do anything for 30 days if they really really want to.  I'll admit that I started to have second thoughts nearing our start date, and Justin threw down the gauntlet and said, I knew you wouldn't be able to do it.  Well that was all I needed to hear. OF COURSE I could do it!! I just had to make sure hubs agreed as it is pretty hard to do this alone, when it comes to the meal planning and preparation.  
 So here are the rules in a nutshell.  You can see what you need to cut out.  No alcohol??!! That would be the tough one for me, as I love having a glass of wine at the end of the day, especially when I start cooking dinner.  Its just a habit I have that I feared would be hard to give up.  Hubs on the other hand enjoys a beer here and there, but his biggest sacrifices would be giving up dairy and sugar.  This guy eats cookies and ice cream every night after supper.  And he loves ice cream sundaes on a regular basis. No lie.  I was always amazed he wasn't a blimp the way he ate!  But it did start to catch up with him and he was approaching 20 pounds over his desired weight.  I was 15 pounds over what I weighed on my wedding day, so that is what I would prefer to weigh.  So with our goals in mind, we read everything we needed to before we started, and I printed out guidelines of what to expect as the diet progressed. We found that very helpful.  I did some basic meal planning and went to the store and bought all the supplies for the first week.  Tons of fresh produce, nice looking steaks and chickens to roast....I was nervous, but all in.  And so it began.
I taped the guidelines on the fridge and got a lunchbox at the ready for hubs so he could pack a Whole 30 compliant supply to eat when not at home.  This is a very important step. Bring what you need with you if you work outside the home as its going to make staying on the plan so much easier.
So that meant I needed to think the day ahead about what was going in hubby's lunch box.  Justin gave me some pointers about how to get started, and that is what I will give to you here.  And once you get rolling, it will be easy and it can even be fun.  Its fun to think of ways to cook things up that taste good, instead of just eating salad nonstop and grilling chicken or steak.  
One of our first meals was this version of Whole30 shrimp scampi I whipped up.  Look up the ingredients you are allowed to use, and then think of how you can make your favorite meals within the approved ingredient guidelines.  The fats you are allowed to cook with include Coconut, Avocado and Olive Oil, and Ghee (which is a clarified butter). We used Avocado and Coconut Oil the most, purchasing them at Costco at much better pricing than a whole food store.  We bought a box of kosher table salt and poured it into a dish and it brought many a meal to life.  It had so much more flavor than regular iodized salt.  I felt like Martha Stewart sprinkling it into the saute pan or over my grilled steak.  Slowly we became used to the tastes of vegetables without butter.  I loved butter and cream, and now these were off limits.  As the days progressed, the flavors in fruits and vegetables came to life and things were suddenly tasting very good, with nothing on them at all!
Below is a shopping list of special things that were favorites. They helped make this diet a success:

  • Coconut Aminos (at organic/whole foods stores) its like a tasty soysauce. Use it to marinate steaks and chicken or toss on vegetables as you saute them.  Its delicious!!
  • Avocado and Coconut Oil.  We used Avocado oil for making home made salad dressings and for grilling/frying/sauteing chicken and veggies.  We used Coconut Oil for cooking our eggs.
  • Coconut Milk.  Buy the full fat version, not lite.  We used this in our coffee and it really helped as I was used to cream and splenda.  We also used it on occasion to drizzle over fruit as a desert and then sprinkle with fresh shaved coconut flakes.  Its terrific over fresh pineapple chunks. 
  • Freshly Ground Almond Butter.  Get this at Whole Foods. It is so much better than Almond butter in a jar.  You can find it in the produce section at WholeFoods and you will love using this on celery sticks and on slices of apple for a satisfying treat.
  • Fresh shaved Coconut.  This is just a fun addition to sprinkle on fruit.  We used it over slices of banana with a dolop of almond butter, topped with the coconut.  We also sprinkled it over pineapple and coconut milk. 
  • Sparkling waters of different flavors.  Check to see that there is no sugar or sweetner added.
  • Small snack size Unsweetened Apple Sauce.  EAsy to take on the go, these are great for a lunch box as well as to use for a side when you cook pork tenderloin or chops. Sprinkle coconut flakes on top for a desert if you have a craving. We buy the Motts version at Costco. 
  • Load up on fruit.  We always had a huge bowl of fruit stuffed with every kind you could imagine.  They recommend not overdoing the fruit, but we did enjoy two pieces a day, each.
  • Chicken tenderloin.  I was grilling chicken tenderloins on a flat griddle on our stove every other day it seemed.  I would grill it using Coconut or Avocado Oil and then sprinkle with kosher table salt and put it in a tupperware.  It was so delicious and it made for easy lunches for all.  If you had a hunger attack, you could reach for a piece of chicken and it always did the trick.  Try to always have some protein at the ready, and that is why grilled chicken tenders are great.  
  • Cook up huge steaks, like big London broils.  Then with the leftovers you can use the next night by thinly slicing the remaining meat.  In a wok or saute pan with oil cook up a bunch of veggies, like mushrooms, broccoli, snow peas, zuchini...whatever you have.  Add some coconut aminos and top with the sliced meat at the end for a nice steak stir fry.  
  • Another stir fry variation we called Polynesian chicken, was to saute chicken and set aside.  (or dice up your already cooked chicken in the fridge).  Saute your choice of veggies using coconut aminos and add some chopped up dates.  Then add the chicken and you and pour in a half cup or so of pineapple juice.  Out of this world delicious!  Try different versions of vegetables with various meats/chicken.  
  • Roaster chickens.  These are always tasty dinners and leftovers.  Boil up the carcass and make a nice chicken soup too, adding carrots, celery and onion.
  • Franks Hot Sauce.  We used this on chicken tenders.  Mixed with Ghee its a very enjoyable version of Buffalo tenders.  No blue cheese though!
  • Granulated Garlic and fresh minced garlic.  Use this when seasoning meats and also in your veggie stir fry. Its great with fresh spinach and some ghee!
  • Macadamia Nuts.  Almonds. Big cans of the Macadamia nuts at Costco. Have a bag of these in your car or purse or husbands lunch box.  They are a life saver.  All nuts must not be roasted in vegetable oil.  So read your labels.  
  • Eggs.  We ate eggs for breakfast everyday.  We always made a three egg omelet to share, using two yolks and a dash of water.  CReate variety by using different fillings.  We loved mushroom and onion and pepper; as well as onion, cherry tomato, spinach. We found that buying a $30 Kitchen Aid Emulsifier Blender with a mini Food Chopper was a LIFE SAVER!  I highly recommend getting this thing.  We whipped up all kinds of chopped vegetables in a flash, and beat the eggs after the veggies were sauteing.  We used this chopper and stick blender constantly.  Also, from Costco.  Make sure you get it with the tiny food chopper. It is also the thing you need to make homemade mayonnaise.

It is like this, but it doesn't have the Kitchen Aid pitcher, shown above.  We used this multiple times a day for chopping vegetables for dinners and the fillings for the omelets and for whipping up eggs for the breakfast. We also whipped up coconut milk to make a whipped cream additive to put on fruit, but I have to say it was disappointing.  We added vanilla and almond extract, but its just not sweet enough and so we didn't bother doing it again.  It looked great, but fell flat.  Much better was just pouring some coconut milk over fruit and adding coconut flakes and chopped nuts. Sometimes I would toast the coconut.  Remember my hubby was used to desert every night, and this really helped him get through those times of feeling denied his treats.  

A treat using Coconut Milk whipped, poured over fresh fruit, topped with toasted coconut.
 One other very useful thing you should buy if you don't already have one, is a teflon nonstick type pan for cooking your eggs and omelets.  After three days of having to scrub the stuck on egg off of the stainless steel fry pan, I said enough is enough!  The new non stick pan was a game changer!
 A jar of organic red pasta sauce with no sugar added (always read labels) poured over sauted chicken thighs and various vegetables was easy and got rave reviews from my guys.  I served it with spaghetti squash.   It really was a breeze to make, as it was a jar sauce and it kept things from getting boring.
 Before I knew it the weight was coming off my tummy area.  Same thing was happening to hubs.  He was announcing almost daily, "Oh I lost another pound!"  By the way, one of the rules is NOT to weigh yourselves while doing the food plan.  But we decided we would weigh, and it did empower us.  There were days I didn't lose anything, but that was OK, as I knew it was coming off, as we were eating so much better.  Use common sense on portion control, but never feel denied.  We ate what we wanted quantity wise.  
Tons of chopping going on in the kitchen, and here is a pretty empty fruit bowl.  I spent a lot of time running to the supermarkets getting fresh food.  It became part of my routine, and often times that would be our date night.  We would pick out cuts of steak or fish at Whole Foods market.  Hubby even got into cooking, which was totally shocking!  We bonded even more over doing this together.
We vowed to back one another up if one of us got weak, but that never happened.  A funny thing happens when you do this program, you start to become energized about the whole idea and way of life eating better and taking care of yourself.  
Hubs lost 16 pounds and the best part for him was getting rid of his daily pain due to inflammation.  That was huge for him, and has converted him to following along for life.  No more dairy or sugar.
He has gone down 3 belt loops, and feels fantastic!  His blood sugar no longer dips throughout the course of the day, and his energy stays constant.  I am so happy for him.
Today was our first day off the plan.  I lost 10.5 pounds and my pants dropped a size.  Tummy is flat and I feel great walking up and down stairs, being just that bit lighter.  We will continue on the plan but add in wine and beer on occasion, as well as some Almond Milk for hubs, instead of cows milk.  I am sharing what worked for us, and maybe it will work for you.  Its considered a reset for your system, and I think it was a huge eye opener, reading all those labels and seeing all the weird names of ingredients in things, and how much sugar is added to just about everything.
So Whole30 for life at this point, but when we travel or go out to eat, 
we may just have a roll with some butter....
Its amazing to see the difference in how I looked, before and after. Can you imagine yourself
in a side by side, before and after in your mind's eye?  It will happen, if you can just do it for 30 days.
So make up your mind, and visit the website as it is all set up to help you achieve.
If I can do it, you can too.  Really.  Its just a mindset.  Now do it.
If you are doing it, are considering doing it or have done it,
 I would love to have your comments 
here to see how your experience was and if you have any special tips to add.

Hubs got his bloodwork checked the day he finished, and his results were simply amazing.
His cholesterol dropped over 30 points from 225 to 192! All his levels were perfect and 
that is so fantastic! I am getting my blood work checked and will post the results here.
My cholesterol last year was a startling 262.   Lets see what the numbers say when I get it checked.
I think I will be a very happy girl.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Meet Colby Dillon Chalmers

 Its been a long 18 days since we lost our Dillon.  He died unexpectedly, and it was a total shock. Our house felt so sad and empty and we missed him immensely.  I blogged about the sad way he died, and I wrote a letter to the offending veterinary ER in great detail.  I searched all my photo files and made up a half a dozen picture books so we could have his life in pictures with sweet memories.  And about six days after we buried him, I got a text from my husband of a long lost photo of Dillon.  I was out doing errands and I glanced at it, thinking, where did he find that photo?  It turned out it wasn't Dillon at all, it was a dog on a rescue site that my husband found.  He had been searching rescue sites and when he stumbled on this dog and the dog's description he forwarded it to me.  Wow....could there be another dog waiting for us, like Dillon had been?  After sending an inquiry, we found out that although his photo and bio were posted, this dog had already been adopted.  We felt deflated.  But that began the search, and husband began looking in earnest.  We became excited about finding a dog a lot sooner than we ever imagined.  We were still shedding tears over Dillon and found searching for a dog that reminded us of him gave us some comfort.  
We ended up sending 8 inquiries on dogs on different rescue sites.  We got two answers right away that both were no longer available despite their postings.  UGH. We would wait days with no response on the others.  In the meantime my husband spoke to a breeder who he had once gotten a pitbull puppy from.  They had a rare litter that was about 5-6 weeks old right now.  Husband was excited.  I agreed to look, but felt that I really wanted to rescue an older dog, giving it a home, like we did for Dillon.  I told him not to fall in love....
but what happened when we got there took me by complete surprise.
 We arrived at the farm.  This breeder was a dairy farmer and his family had been breeders for two generations before him.  The little pups all came running out to the front of their outdoor kennel when he whistled.  Then they all came out into the grassy lawn and we were able to play with them and hold them and talk about them. Which ones were boys, and which ones were girls.  Hubby wanted a boy dog, I had no preference.  I wasn't planning on getting a puppy.
 But then this happened.  I saw this little fellow with the mostly white face and the patch over the eye, just like Dillon.  He had a big polka dot on his head and he was more relaxed than the rest of his littermates.  Oh my gosh.  Oh boy.  I was falling in love with him.  It was just so amazing to think that if we really wanted him, we could actually have him and we could bring him home in a week or two.  And our sad and empty house would be filled with this bundle of joy.  And that is what happened.  If we had been able to see some of the rescues we inquired about, the story may have had a different ending.  But our heavy hearts sprung back to life around him.  So we decided he was the dog for us, and we would take him home when he was ready.
 I took one last photo of him before we left. 
 He seemed to be keying in on us, and stared at me as I snapped him with my iPhone.
  He was completely adorable!  
 We returned to pick him up two days ago.  His parents were eagerly awaiting his arrival with a new tiny dog bowl, although Dillon's big water bowl would stay.  New toys and new crate and puppy chow too.  His first night he did so great! No crying at all, we woke him up twice for potty breaks.  To this day, now almost two full days in, he has had no accidents.  
He is a complete JOY!
 We made him a little pee pee pen so he can find his scent easily
 and will eliminate quickly when we bring him outside.  It has worked very well.  
We play on the floor like kids!  He plays, he eats, he pees he naps and we do it all
over again.  Just like having an infant.  
He is the tiniest little dog I have ever seen!  And the cutest!
 We named him Colby Dillon Chalmers.  
He has us firmly wrapped around his little paws. 
 This morning, the second one he has shared with us, he was a tail waggler.  
He recognized us and was so happy this morning, whereas yesterday he was subdued
 and confused and missing his home and litter mates.  
But today, he is playing and a bundle of fun! He did make his first bark, and he looked surprised.
Everything he does, we just ooh and ahh over.  Family members having been coming over to meet him and its been a very busy weekend at the Chalmers household.
We are over the moon with Colby and hope for a long life together, 
filled with that wonderful dog-human bond that we crave. 
This is a video we took of Colby's first day at our home. 

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Dillon's Last Day, Our Nightmare with the ER Vet

This post is a memorial post for our beloved Dillon, who died unexpectedly last week.
We loved this dog tremendously.
This is a long post, about his last day, as a service announcement in some ways.
We had the joy of living with Dillon for 8.5 years, he was the best dog of all.
Handsome Dillon recovering from Mast Cell Tumor surgery sitting with his Pa.

This post is to advise all pet owners to have an emergency plan in place. Now. 
While your pet is ok.  Not later. Do this research now.  We wished we had.
If something suddenly occurs, you will have researched emergency animal hospitals, and picked the best one. The one with good Yelp reviews, the one that is highly recommended by friends,  the one that your everyday vet says is the best.  Find the hospital that has the experience, the expertise and emergency facilities to manage your critically ill pet when time is of the essence.
You don't want to go through what happened to us with Dillon.
A typical day with Dillon, he was so happy to just be wherever we were. 

 Dillon's last day began just like all of his other 3,100 plus days with us did.  We woke up with him that morning, and he followed us downstairs.  Dillon was a quiet dog with a patient and loving personality. He was our shadow....If we went upstairs, he would follow. If we went in the TV room, he would too.  So this morning was like any other, he waited for us to have our coffee then began wagging his tail to remind us it was his turn to eat and to go outside to do his business.  As our routine is, I fed him and then hubs took him out for a short walk until mission was accomplished.  
A regular start to another day for us all, it appeared.  
But that was not going to be the way things would go. 
Dillon could be found most often on our sofa snoozing or looking out the window

As he usually did, after a bit of hanging out downstairs, he went back up to our bed.  He loved laying in bed and looking out the window soaking up the rays of sun that hit the bed in just the perfect spot.  Pitbulls love laying in the sun.  I was always pulling blankets over him, to warm him from the air conditioning in summer, and the chilly air in the winter.  He loved to be warm. Hubs came back home for lunch, and as I prepared it, I did note and mention to Dave that it was odd that Dillon wasn't coming down to see what we were having for lunch. His sense of smell was as sharp as hearing.  If I was cooking an egg, or cutting up some chicken, I could hear his plodding footsteps coming down from the third floor. He would always appear when I was cooking.  Our kitchen floor always had dried drool spots, as this was part of what he did.  But I just thought, well its tuna fish, maybe he doesn't care for fish....and Dave and I had lunch.  He went back to work, and I went to do some errands. It wasn't until 4:30 after Dave came back home and my stepson, Scott, noticed Dillon was laying up on our bed but breathing very oddly with heavy panting while Dave was showering.  Dave checked him and noticed his stomach was really distended and it felt hard.  I was summoned upstairs by Scott and we all realized Dillon was in trouble.  Dave said a condition called bloating could be very serious.  I googled it and yes, it could be "rapidly fatal".  It advised taking your dog to the nearest ER vet. So we took him to the closest Emergency Veterinary Hospital, without hesitation.  Did we check the Yelp reviews? Yes I briefly did, but thought that the bad ones were just isolated incidents.  I didn't realize that there are "hidden reviews" which are largely unflattering, but you can access them on Yelp by searching for them.  Make sure you do. Read them all. Then ask for references from area daytime veterinarian's about the best hospitals to go in an emergency.  I WISH we had done this, when we weren't thrown into crisis mode.  So that decision is something that I have to live with, and its made losing Dillon so much harder.  
Dillon's adoption photo on the Pitbull Rescue site. This was truly love at first sight.

As briefly as I can describe the events from that point on:
Before we put him in the car, he did have another normal movement and a pee. That was reassuring to see.  We worried about his bloating or GVD (medical term) condition and quickly debated taking him to the closest ER vet or to the one in Boston that was well known for the best animal care.  If he had GVD it was rapidly fatal, and he had been laying in bed since around 11 am with the condition.
So the closest place won out, and off we went.  Upon arrival at 5:30 pm, they whisked Dillon into a back area to examine him, and then put Dave, Scott and myself in a private exam room.  
The doctor came in about 20 minutes later and said she didn't notice him having an extended belly
and said she did a quick ultrasound, and everything looked normal. He only had a raised temperature which she said she wasn't sure why.  Perhaps he had Lyme Disease she suggested.  She advised an xray to make sure the tummy was ok. Yes, we agreed.  She asked for his history. We explained he had Mast Cell Tumors that were  successfully removed last fall , with  clean margins and no lymph nodes involved.  Dillon was considered cancer free.  
No other issues, other than a knee replacement several years prior.
Our 2014 Christmas card with Dillon, front and center! 

We were breathing a sigh of relief as it was not a bloated gut, just a strange fever.  
She returned and told us that the xrays on tummy showed everything to be fine. However she noticed his lungs in the corner of the xray showed some spots, or nodules.  She thought they could be cancer, and asked if we wanted her to xray those.  YES, please check him for cancer, of course!
She returned to say that the xrays of the lungs showed what the radiologist on staff considered to be signs of older damage from perhaps chronic bronchitis.  So he didn't have cancer, just this "fever of unknown origins".  That is technical term, when they don't know what is causing a fever.
Wow, we were so relieved.  He was just sick, and it may have been from a tick bite.  The doctor gave us a prescription and told us to cook up some white rice and feed him a bland diet for the next few days.  We prepared to take him home.  We had been in the exam room for 4 hours as Dillon was in the ER kennel cage.   During the course of the 4 hours as we waited for the doctor to come in and update us, we chatted together to while away the time. Our mood was good as we were no longer worried about Dillon being in a crisis.  Every now and then, we heard a thumping of a tail against the wall.  It was a loud and hard thumping, like one his tail could deliver.  We started to wonder if it could be Dillon's tail?  His hearing is out of this world amazing, and indeed, when we asked the Doctor where he was kept, she pointed to the wall of our room, and said, "right behind that wall".  When he heard us, he would thump his tail!  I am so grateful he realized we had not left him, and that he knew we were there waiting for him those 4 long hours. But it made me question why they sequestered Dillon in the back.  Our other vets would examine him right in front of you in the private exam room, and we would discuss symptoms with transparency. This felt all wrong having Dillon in another room.   We realized in hindsight that the ER was slammed with other pets, and this doctor was running from room to room, with little time to properly notice his symptoms. Ordering xrays and the like, it was clear she never gave his breathing troubles a second thought as there was no note in his discharge papers about it, which was troublesome and the smoking gun of her missing his ailment.
A portrait event at Pioneer Goods.  Of course our family portrait included Dillon. 

When we got home it was 10 pm.  Dave carried Dillon inside and put him in our family room.  Dillon walked over to a corner and laid down with his head to the walls.  I went in the kitchen and started the white rice.  I took chicken out of the freezer so I could boil some up for him for tomorrow.
When I went back to check on him, his stomach was still sticking out and he was still panting heavily. The doctor didn't mention his labored breathing at all.   I took photos and videos of him.  He was panting and wheezing with a rattling noise.  Then he started having mucus slobber, which he never ever had in his life.  Tears or fluid dripped from his eye, so I wiped it all back and had a thought~maybe he had the rare canine flu! I called the ER Vet place and was told someone would call me back.  I asked for the doctor who had examined him to give me her opinion, is this something that maybe no one thought of?  He clearly was feeling very sick.  Dave took Scott upstairs to get ready for bed, and I stayed with Dillon. We brought in his large kennel, as he loved to go in it for peace and comfort, like he did after his surgeries.  Dillon immediately crawled inside.  He would sit up then lay down, trying to get comfortable, panting harder all the time.  I laid down on the floor next to him and stroked his head to give him comfort.  I wished it was tomorrow and we could give him his antibiotic and he would start to improve.  The rice was all cooked and in the fridge for his first bland meal, per Doctors orders. 
Our end of summer pose, 2011, New Hampshire

 Another half hour passed and now Dillon's breathing started getting more labored.
All of sudden he coughed up a bright red spot of blood the size of a nickel.  
From that moment on, I knew he was in danger of dying.  How do I describe the 
horror?  It wasn't a tick bite, or a fever of "unknown origins" at all. 
All the white rice and antibiotics in the world were not going to help our boy. 
I called the ER place again and told the phone answerer, that our dog had now
coughed up blood. I needed to have that doctor call us back! I hung up and ran upstairs to get Dave and we both came back downstairs and gathered around Dillon.  We knew he was in grave danger.
The doctor had missed the mark by a mile.  Dillon was in respiratory distress, and given his
mast cell tumor disease and his lung xrays and his heavy breathing, well wouldn't any competent veterinarian be able to tell something was horribly wrong?  And wouldn't there have even been a mention of his labored breathing on his two pages of discharge notes?  Instead it was all guessing that maybe he had an infection from a tick bite and that the antibiotic should be given.
We were in  a frantic mode now.  Dave and I decided to throw on our jeans and get him back in the car and take him to the Boston ER, Angel Memorial.  I was kicking myself we didn't take him there in the first place,  but second guessing our decisions weren't of any help now.  Still no call back from the ER Vet place.  We were clearly on our own.  Dillon stayed quietly panting in his large plastic kennel.  I had his soft white blanket cradled around his head, the same one he slept on at the foot of our bed.  Anything I could do to give him comfort and take away his suffering would be done to the best of our ability.  I ran upstairs to throw back on my jeans as did Dave.  When I ran back down
to Dillon I found him bleeding heavily from his mouth.  His big brown eyes looked at me, and my heart was breaking with despair.  Dave and I lifted him up in his big kennel and carried it out as quickly as we could to my SUV.  We pushed it all the way in so his face could be near us.  I jumped in the back seat and Dave took off for Boston.  It was about a 20 minute drive, maybe 15 if we could hurry.  We called Angel Memorial to tell them we were bringing in our critically ill 10 year old Pitbull.  We told them he had chest xrays 3 hours earlier at a ER Vet place and could they call and take a look at them as it was clear his lungs were failing.  They said they would wait for our arrival.
My face next to Dillons, I rubbed his soft white head and told him what a good boy he was, too many times to count.  He locked his eyes onto mine, and he never looked away.  We were frantic and desperate for help, our poor dog was suffering and was dying before our eyes.  Dave blew threw a light as he sped for help.  Blue lights came up behind us, and we had to pull over, loosing precious time.  Dave explained the situation and we were motioned onward.  Tears were flowing softly as I continued to offer as much comfort as I could.  He really was such a great dog, even in this horrible situation, he was nothing if not graceful and noble.  At this point my cell phone rang.  I was finally getting a call back from the ER Vet place doctor.  Her call back to us was only because Angel Memorial had called for his records.  She was trying to cover her ass.  She told me she thought I should bring him back in to which I replied that we were taking him to Angel Memorial. I told her she misdiagnosed him, that he was in respiratory failure and that we would be lucky if he wasn't dead on arrival.  I told her I couldn't talk as I had to be with Dillon.  I knew in my heart of hearts he was dying, but I couldn't face it.  It was too much of a shock.  We were told he had a fever. That was all.  And then we were left to watch him suffer and spiral towards death while the clock ticked towards midnight with no additional call backs, despite our frantic pleas.  
Our handsome Dillon and adorable Tobey, who both died a few months apart this year.

We were only two minutes away from Angel Memorial when Dillon's chest heaved about 5 or 6 times.  His eyes never stopped looking at me.  He was gone.  Our boy, who we adored more than anything was suddenly gone.  Once in the driveway of Angel, Dave and I cried our hearts out over him, in a state of utter shock and heartbreak.  Did this really just happen? 
In the driveway at Angel Memorial, a gal with a gurney came out for Dillon.  I waved her away and managed to say through my tears, he's gone.  
  I couldn't believe he was gone.  Then I  thought I felt a pulse, but Dave said he didn't feel anything. I had him try again, but no, he couldn't feel it. Maybe Dillon was in a coma?? I ran back inside...
  I had run inside to ask could someone please check him with a stethoscope? 
A doctor came out in her green uniform and climbed into our tailgate to listen to Dillon's heart.
Then she told us he was gone.  And so he was.
 We drove home slowly with Dillon and brought him inside the house.  We would plan for his burial the next day, where we buried all our dogs, up at our friend's farm in New Hampshire.  He came to us in this very kennel when we rescued him from an Oklahoma facility 8 years ago.  Oh how Dillon hated this kennel back then. He had tried to chew his way out of it and the marred plastic still bears the marks.  But after his first surgery for a new knee, he found refuge and peace inside it, as he did in his final hours.  
 In the early morning, after only 3 hours of sleep, hubs said he wanted to make Dillon a casket and he said I should paint Dillon's name on it.  It was a wonderful idea, and gave us something to do.  They say that funerals are for the living, and its the same for a very special pet.  Scott and his dad built Dillon a final bed, and picked out hardware for the pall bearers to hold.  I found some stencils and used them to put his name and dates on the top of this simple pine box. Dave bathed Dillon and placed him in his last bed. We said goodbye to him that day too many times to remember, a hundred last pattings of his soft fur and gentle kisses on his check and head before we could let him go. 
A final gesture of love and affection, a forever bed for Dillon.
 We drove to New Hampshire and met other family members who all came to say their goodbyes.
 He is buried along a stone wall under a stand of tall pines, next to our other dogs.  We gave him the most dignified burial we could.  Our sadness over his sudden passing and all his suffering on his last day was just beginning.  We were all still in shock, and the burial process helped us tremendously. We read poems for our boy after he was lowered into the earth.
 We will hold him forever close.  And hope that the good memories come back and trump the awful ones we have in our minds from his last day.  He could have been spared the pain and suffering.  We could have given him a gentler way out if the vet had recognized that he was in critical condition and not guessed it was from a tic bite. We could have eased him out of our world, and although it would still be shocking,  it wouldn't have been terrifying and filled with pain for Dillon. 
Dillon brought us so much joy.  I loved this dog immensely.
Please have a plan in place if you have a dear pet, so if you find yourself
in need of good emergency care you know what to do immediately.
We were refunded the $1000 we spent that night by the ER Vet place.
That is another story that will never be told, than what you can read between the lines here.
But please.  Get a plan in place.  Now. You never know what is going to be your pet's last day.
And then drive the few extra minutes to a place with a great reputation, 
you won't regret that decision, I promise.

In closing, this poem was edited to reflect the life that our 13 year old
  (my stepson) had with his dog.
Dillon came into Scott's life when he was 4, and now Scott at 13 1/2,
 read this to Dillon at his grave.  

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