Board Game Night, 2017-06-25

For many months now, Wendy & I have been quietly hosting Board Game Nights at our house. We try to get folks together for “gaming unplugged” about once a week, though sometimes schedules get in the way and make it less often than we’d prefer.

But once we get folks together, phones are put away (except for the occasional rules clarification and recording of the game on BoardGameGeek.COM), and people begin to interact in meaningful ways, all facilitated by cardboard chits. Laughter happens, drama happens, game-based tensions rise and are resolved, and common experiences are experienced, real-time and together, around a table.

Last night, we had friends over for the first time to play games, and they brought their bright 7-year old daughter with them. Among other games, we played MYSTERIUM, which allows you to vote for or against the selections made by other players. The little girl was very anxious about voting against anyone because “they’re [my] friends!”, she said.

We talked about it with her at the table, helping her to understand that it’s just part of the game and “nothing personal”. While she was still a bit apprehensive about voting against her friends, she embraced the spirit (pun intended) of the game and fully participated.

I hope, if nothing else, that she enjoyed the game. But more so, I hope that she learned that games can be a ‘safe space’ that is non-damaging (and in fact healthy) to relationships. Even if you have to vote against a friend!

RIP Chuck, a great dog

On April 11, 2016, we laid to rest our dear, sweet dog Chuck. He’d been with us a long time — and was a mature dog when we got him — so he was an old fellow.

Chuck’s story is largely unknown… Before we met him, he was brought in to one of the local animal shelters to be euthanized because he had large masses growing out of his ears. However, Leland, one of the animal shelter employees, saw something in Chuck and, instead of euthanizing him, brought him to Wendy’s hospital for treatment.

I don’t think it was love at first sight when Wendy saw Chuck. He was an unremarkable dog — black, skinny, with long gangly legs. Not particularly handsome nor particularly ugly or goofy looking. Just a black dog. Wendy worked on Chuck to surgically remove the growths from his ears and in doing so, found a spark between them.

As Chuck got healthier, Wendy’s fondness for him grew. So we adopted him into our home.

Chuck was, in a word, meek. He never got angry and took delight in simple things like laying in the sun, stretching out just as much as he could to take up as much of our bed as possible, and curling into as tiny a ball as possible when cuddled up on the couch. He enjoyed running with Wendy. But mostly wanted to chill out. Chuck was steadfast in his love for us — his whole adopted family — enjoying the cats as much as the other dogs. He escaped from the back yard a couple times, but came to the front door instead of running away.

Occasionally, he would race around our back yard at great speed. We thought he was a greyhound. When Wendy ran a DNA test on him, we were surprised to discover that Chuck was a mix of Dalmatian and Poodle! His nicknames were “Chuzzle” or “Chuzzlebutt”.

(l to r): Buster, Dolly, and Chuck
(l to r): Buster, Dolly, and Chuck

Such a gentle soul. Wonderful to have around the house because he was solidly present and interested in whatever you were doing, but never nosy or insistent. He just wanted to watch.

One time, Wendy came into our bedroom to find Chuck positively frolicking with a toy — tossing it into the air and catching it (well, trying too — Chuck was never good at that), play bowing, jumping around, and generally having a blast with the toy. Wendy went to see what toy was giving him such delight, she discovered it was a shard from a tennis ball that had been chewed up. Just the tiniest speck of a ball, and Chuck thought he’d won the toy-lottery. We named the top “Speck” and treated it with reverence (until our cleaning lady eventually swept it up with the vacuum).

Chuck was laying on our bed on which I’d tossed some plastic hangers. One of the hangers got hooked around Chuck’s collar in front, acting like a hobble as it bounced against his front legs. Chuck was startled by that, but just sat there, still, because he was confused. I had the time to take a picture of it while he waited patiently for me to rescue him!

Chuck Stuck
Chuck got stuck when this hanger hooked onto his collar.

His health declined and he was “circling the drain”, losing weight (his last several months he wore a doggie sweater to help keep him warm). Wendy and I went out of town briefly and put the animals into Wendy’s hospital for care as we normally do. Sometime during that stay Chuck “crashed” and, while he held on long enough for us to get back and be with him, we knew it was the end of the road for our dear sweet boy.

Chuck Last Pic
Chuck’s last picture, being petted by Andrew.

Chuck was a wonderful companion and a great dog. Rest in peace, faithful friend.

This was a difficult eulogy to write because Chuck is difficult to capture in words. It is hard to express how loyal, loving, and just-plain-nice Chuck was in a way that does justice to it. He was a pleasant dog, and a good boy.

20 Years!?

My calendar reminded me today that my first post on DrewVogel.COM was 20 years ago today… While I’d been writing online for some time before that, this article from April 6, 1996 was the first on this domain name.

Wow.

While I don’t blog here much anymore, or at all for that matter, I still keep this site up and open because of its history. And it is still significant to me personally. There are many accomplishments documented herein, milestones along my path. I’m glad this site holds them all.

So many changes, challenges, and opportunities occurred in these last 20 years. The adventure is never as I expected, and always bolder and more exciting than I ever imagined.

Super Mario: We love you!

Today, full of energy, Mario is still running, running
Go save Princess Peach! Go!
Today, full of energy, Mario runs
Today, full of energy, jumping!
Today, full of energy, searching for coins
Today, keep going, Mario!
Get a mushroom – it’s Super Mario!
Get a flower – it’s Fire Mario!
Goomba! Troopa! Buzzy Beetle! Beat them all!
Mario is always full of energy and strong!
Today, full of energy, Mario is still running, running
Go and beat the Koopa tribe, go!
Today, full of energy, Mario runs
Today, full of energy, jumping!
Today, full of energy, searching for coins
Today, keep going, Mario!
Get a star – become invincible!
Quickly, go save Princess Peach!
Lakitu! Blooper! Cheep Cheep! Beat them all!
Mario is always full of energy and strong!
Today, full of energy, Mario is still running, running
He’s made it to the castle and gets fireworks!
Lightly sidestepping the Hammer Bros.
Show the last of your power, Mario!
It’s been a long journey but it’s nearly at an end
You’ve done it, you’ve done it! You’ve defeated Bowser!
Princess Peach says “Thank you”
Mario’s got a great big heart!
Mario’s adventure is over for now, but
Mario’s dream lives forever…

Farewell to Buster the wiener dog — RIP 2014-12-22

Buster the Weiner Dog

It was a long time coming, but Buster the wiener dog finally met his end on December 22, 2014.

He was a lucky little fellow… He came into Wendy’s hospital more than 8 years ago, already a mature dog, because he’d hurt his back and was paralyzed from the neck down… He was able to move his head and his tail. That was it. His owners, who were in poor health, felt they couldn’t take care of him and brought him to Wendy’s office to be euthanized. It was three little words that Wendy had written in his chart on a previous visit that extended his life.

“Great little dog”

You see, Wendy very rarely editorializes in her notes, so the presence of those three words struck a chord in Wendy. She asked the people if they would surrender Buster to her care, and we’d take the responsibility for whatever happened with him. The people didn’t want Buster destroyed, so they eagerly agreed.

Wendy called me that day and said, “Come to the hospital to meet you new dog”, and she hung up. I called her back, thinking we were accidentally disconnected. She repeated the instruction, “Come to the hospital to meet your new dog”. And she hung up again.

Intrigued, I went to her hospital! And met a sorry, still little dog. Though he couldn’t move, his tail wagged like mad when I greeted him. My heart was his.

We brought him home with no assurance of his potential to be a fully-functional dog. There were lots of “messes” involved… He couldn’t move to let us know he wanted to go outside and he couldn’t move out of the mess if he pottied inside. We took a yellow car wash sponge (you know the ones that are vaguely bone-shaped) and wrapped it in a plastic bag. We’d prop Buster on this to let him “stand” outside to pee. He’d let us know he was going by raising his tail, and let us know he was finished by unceremoniously rolling off the sponge onto his side on the ground.

He’d sit on the couch with us, cuddling. We gave him lots of drugs, did physical therapy, and even doggie chiropractic.

And slowly, he started to regain the use of his body.

Eventually, he was able to “commando crawl” — pulling himself along with his front paws while his back legs dragged behind. He looked like a little black seal.

I would put Buster on one side of a room then I’d lay on the floor clear across the room. He would commando crawl all the way over to me and nestle along my chest, resting his head on my arm. And we would lay there together as a reward for his hard effort.

After that, his back legs came, unsteadily, back online. He could walk, barely, and fell down a lot. A good aspect was that he was so close to the ground it certainly didn’t hurt for him to take the many tumbles he did. The height difference between a standing weiner dog and a fallen-over weiner dog is only a couple inches.

As he got better, we decided he was a “floor dog” — not allowed on couches, beds, or to go up & down the steps. We constructed a little ramp that helped Buster get to our backyard, rather than having to navigate the steps leading to our patio. It took him trying to go downstairs once and stumbling, falling, and tumbling to the bottom before he fully agreed with our “floor dog” limitation.

Buster was about 85% functional for most of the time he was with us. Not bad for a critter that had been paralyzed!

Buster lived with us for 8 years, and his previous owners estimated that he was 8 or 9 when they brought him in to Wendy’s. So he was a good old dog, and wore down as good old dogs do.

First, he went blind. Followed by doggie dementia and incontinence and a gradual loss of hearing. We were committed to keeping him with us as long as he was happy, and when we’d set food down for him — BOY was he happy! His little tail would whip around and he’d happily munch down whatever we gave him. Buster was always a good eater.

When we got back from our Miami trip in early December, Buster didn’t look so good and he never rallied. He started turning down food, which was a clear sign that he was done. He finally told us, by not eating, that he was ready to go.

Monday, December 22, 2014, I stopped at Arby’s to get him a Roast Beef Sandwich. It’s the traditional Last Meal for our pets. Buster didn’t even finish his sandwich. I think he “left it all on the field”.

We euthanized him around 6:30pm. And, true to form, Buster christened his passing with urine and feces. A disgusting(ly cute) little beast until the very end!

Hernia Repaired!

Last week, on October 28, 2014 I had an umbilical hernia repaired. This little bump under my skin, near my belly button, was causing a bit of discomfort.

At a visit to my general doctor, he referred me to a local surgeon to do the procedure. I visited the surgeon and showed him my belly. He said, “That’s an umbilical hernia, all right.” to which I replied, “I could have told you that.”, and he said, “Yes, but I didn’t ask you.” I immediately laughed, and so did he. I knew I was in good hands.

I worked through the scheduling and all the pre-test & pre-questions, and received my schedule time.

Wendy & I reported at 8a to Mercy Hospital Fairfield on October 28. I was nervous but did okay. Everyone there was really, really nice and took great care of me. The procedure started around 9:30a and I was awake and ready to go home around 11:30a. Apparently, I woke up asking for cheeseburgers and gin & tonic.

The recovery wasn’t as bad as the groin hernia repair I had 11 years ago. This time, the discomfort was (as expected) in getting up and down, and any sort of bending or lifting. Even that was less uncomfortable than after my groin hernia. But that pain has faded pretty quickly.

Now, almost a week out, I continue to have tenderness at the surgery site and bending over to, say, pick up a dropped piece of paper is still out of the question. However, if I dropped something larger, I can now bend and get it. Lifting heavy stuff is still off-limits. Unfortunately, nearly every one of my animals qualifies as “heavy stuff”.

Getting better all the time!

de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation

This past weekend was the annual Eat. Play. Give. event for the de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation.

The de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation was founded by Jean-Robert & Annette de Cavel and a dedicated group of volunteers and local restaurateurs. Our mission is to raise funds for research, education, and outreach as well as for the memorial Tatiana de Cavel Scholarship at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State.

It has been my honor and pleasure to work on this event since 2005.