Posts Tagged ‘faith’

What I Am Doing This Week: Remembering Grandma Norma Jean Everingham

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

This week I am mourning the loss of Russ’ wonderful Grandma, Norma Jean Everingham.  She is one of my very favorite people ever.  I will catch up with you all soon.

Russ’ sister Jodi (another of my favorite people ever) and Grandma Norma

I Wish You Were Here

The only things you had in common with my own Grandma Amanda were that you were both beautiful and I always wanted to be where you were.

You walked me into your family as if it were my own.  And indeed it is.  You let me call you Grandma.  You always said, “I sure love you.”

And then, years later, old and full of life, you walked from this life to the next as if it were the most natural thing in the world.  And maybe it was.  From my perspective, it was not.  I am left holding the Valentine cards my children made for you, angry and sad you are gone.

Today I am not relieved you are no longer in pain.  Today I am not in awe at the perfect heaven you are now a part of, that you have been longing for.  I mean, I am.  Of course I am.  But today I miss you acutely.  I need you here Grandma.  Today I will mourn.  Later I will rejoice.  Later I will say, “Wow, how blessed I was to know this incredible, wise wonderful woman of God.”

Today I will spend with the people you and I love, drinking drinks (Is that ok?), eating pizza, remembering you and thinking of all of the things we loved best about you.  It is going to be a long night Grandma.  I wish you were here.

The Road Trip to Stromsburg Nebraska for Grandma Everingham’s Funeral

Russ said, “What are you thinking about?”

I said, “I was wondering if being in the presence of the Almighty was so incredible and overwhelming that one could only worship in amazement, or if people in heaven can still see us here, and the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 11 and 12 is a reference to our loved ones who have gone before us interceding for us and cheering us on.”

“Oh,” Russ said.

“What are you thinking about?” I said.

“Rum,” Russ said.

“Oh,” I said.  “Do you want to trade?”

Russ said, “Sure.”

So we did.

What I am Reading This Week: Introverts in the Church

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I have been thinking it would be fun to start a What I am Reading This Week thread in addition to What I am Doing This Week. I will continue with these random post threads (, What I am Tweeting, What I am Walking Past…) until you say “Really?  Do we need to know everything??”  And then I will insert a picture of a baby Angora bunny, and you will forgive me, and let me continue.

Sophia Rose, cute bunny of Stephanie Voss

When I thought about starting a “What I am Reading” thread, I thought I would talk about JAVMA and text books, and interesting dog behavior books, and then I ran across THIS book, and I do not want you to miss it!!

So let this be a great start to what will hopefully be a year of me very often curled up in the corner with three dogs and a cat on my lap, chocolate coffee on the table next to me and a great book in my hand.  As I close each book and think through how my perspective has changed or widened, you will always be the first to know.  So far, it has been an extraordinary year!

Introverts in the Church

Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture


Adam S. McHugh

I will come back to this post soon and tell you why I loved this book so much.  For now, know that whether you are a part of the Church or not, whether you are introverted or extroverted, you stand to gain so much by reading this book.  Which is not to say, if you have the same graph in your head that I now do, that you need to read it twice.  However, I plan on doing just that.

Update:  December 3, 2010

In Janurary of this year, I said that I would come back to my very first “What I am Reading This Week” post and expand on it.  I had just read the excellent book Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh.

Right after I finished the book, I met the author online, and I was so excited!  I told him how much I loved his book, and when he asked me to review it, I wrote a post about it here on Riley and James.  I asked if he wanted to write Introverts in the Veterinary Field.  He did not.  I said that I might.

He asked me why his cat’s radiographs cost so freaking much, and I said that I did not know.  Actually, he never said “freaking.”  Some Christians do not like substitute swear words.  I do not know if he does or not.  I love them.

Anyways, I was tempted to tell him how much an abdominal study in a human radiology department would cost if one of us had gastrointestinal issues, but I do not actually know how much an abdominal study would cost for a person.  I assume, that as with pets, it would depend on the case.  I do know it would cost many times more than what it cost for his cat.  I confirmed with him that his cat is now healthy.  (He never did say what was ailing his kitty.)

Adam McHugh later “unfollowed” me on twitter, which, silly as it is, is kind of mean.  *sigh*   I probably will not read Introverts in the Church a second time, as (crazy alert ahead) I am sad that he unfollowed me on twitter, and I am sad that he seemed to just be “one more person” griping about the high cost of veterinary medicine.  I have such an incredible group of clients, and we have gotten so good at communicating with each other (my clients and I) that I am not used to dealing with that as much as I used to.   I still enjoyed meeting the author of such a great book, and I still highly recommend it.

Walking Around Omaha, October 2009

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Omaha, After Psalm 122

We stand as a city united under cialis canadian pharmacy God,

Omaha with her incredible diversityand blend of unique personalities.

We are compassionate.

We are creative.

We are hard workers.

Add the power of God Himself, and amazing things occur.

God is at work everywhere on every level.

He is directing the path of the believer and drawing the unbeliever to Himself.

Great things are happening.

Greater things are brewing.

If you love Omaha, pray for her.

Pray for the violence to end.

Pray for our neighbors to be housed and fed.

Pray for a loving home for each pet.

Pray for healed marriages and families….for met ends….for a family for every conceived child,

…and that each would be loved throughout their lives.

Pray that God’s amazing works would continue until darkness can find no corner of Omaha left in which to hide and must flee.

Peace be to Omaha.

I Need a New Day with a New Theme

Friday, January 30th, 2009
I was not going to post this story of Wednesday, January 28, 2009 on the website.  I just had it on Facebook where I could process the day and friends could read about it.  Apparently I have friends who I never even knew before this week, and I wanted you all to hear this story and know that life is good.  It just doesn’t always look that way from the middle of a hard day.  I will say it again…God bless you Mike and Jessica.  And thank you so much.  Well…here it is…
Most days at work are an amazing, seemingly random mix of people and pets we love.  Some days, themes emerge, and I am always looking for them in the morning as we prepare for surgery and see the first appointments of the day.

We will say things like, “Oh no! Looks like Crabby Cat Day!”  Or “YAY!  It is Fuzzy Black Puppy Day!”  We even have crazy themes like “Cruciate Ligament Tear Day” and “Diabetes Day.”

One of my favorite themes is “Weiner Dog Day.”  Last Weiner Dog Day, we had two baby Dachshund littermates in for their neuter surgery.  We also saw Marty’s great little Dachshund, his Mom’s equally great Dachshund and an adorable little 18 month old Dachshund, Gracie, who was being treated for kidney failure.

I remember putting my forehead on Gracie’s little domed head and scratching her behind the ears while her tail wagged furiously.  You can do this with Dachshunds in the top kennel.  You can do this with big dogs on the floor.  You can not do this with Dachshunds on the floor.  But Gracie was in the top kennel.  So we could hang out.  And she was very happy, and very sweet, despite her IV catheter and IV fluids and very high kidney values.  My friend Sharon, who had owned Dachshunds, just happened to stop in that day to say hi.  She loved our theme, and met all of the pups.

A good pet name will keep me happy for the entire day.  There is Frankfurter and Oscar Meyer, the Dachshunds, and of course, Sarah’s black and tan Dachshund, Guinness.  If you say “Weiner! Weiner! Weiner!” in just the right tone, you can often get them to spin in happy circles.  I love Weiner Dog Day.  Today was not that day.

Gracie’s Greyhound sister came in to have her teeth cleaned.  She was a precarious anesthesia risk with some serious health issues, so I did what any sane vet would.  (Well, maybe “sane” is not the word I am looking for.)  I called Russ and asked him to pray for her.  He did.  And she did wonderfully.  While she was under anesthesia, her housemate Gracie died in her sleep at home.  Her ten year old person found her.  And a few times through the afternoon, busy as I was, I would stop and breathe in a sharp painful breath and need to sit down.  I hate this day.

As I look around, I see a theme emerging, and it is not a good one.  In the bottom kennel is Luna, the one year old Black Lab still fighting for her life after eating only a few naproxen two days before.  (Is this day not emotional enough, without a Baby Ebony here?)  Throughout the day, Luna’s owner asks me what her chances of survival are.  They are not good.  She asks for percentages.  I know she does not want a number with a % sign, but I give her the very low number while I wait for her to process the situation.  Finally, at the end of the day, she asks if I think Luna will live and do well.  “Yes,” I say.

My next appointment is six week old Black Lab mix who is literally starving to death.  (Really, God?)  The pup is a carbon copy of how I imagine Ebony looked as a puppy before we knew her…another Baby Ebony.  The couple has just rescued her from a guy in PetSmart who could not afford to feed her, so apparently, he just wasn’t.  She is the skinniest puppy I have ever seen.  They came to PetSmart for a pet bird, not a project.  I promise to help them find a home for her, and call Russ in tears, and we have pretty much the same conversation we had a decade ago, right before we adopted Benji.  But don’t worry Mom!  The couple have an 18 month old Black Lab mix at home and are going to give it a try.  They are amazing, and I realize we just witnessed a puppy being saved days from death.  I sigh and sit down again.

I write a note to Gracie’s family and finalize the plan for the next stage of Luna’s treatment.  The next day’s theme is “Show seventy preschoolers how awarding it can be to be a vet.”  I will.  And it can be.  I will not talk of Gracie, but I will think of her and her sister and Luna and “Rescued Baby Ebony” as I talk with the kids.  And I will say I am bringing Ebony because it is fun to auscultate dog hearts when you are three.  And it is.  However, I am, of course, also bringing her with me because I need her near.  I fear I may be just as exhausted after the day to come as I was after the day that just ended.


Two days later…Luna survived and did well.  Gracie’s Greyhound sister who had her teeth cleaned is doing well.  Gracie’s family will heal, as will all of us who knew and loved her.  The preschool tours were super fun.  And here is a picture of “Rescued Baby Ebony…” who became our newest family member…Joy Layla Finch.

Walking Around Omaha (Bring a Leash)

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Happy New Year!

I have decided to dedicate an entire year’s worth of newsletters to health through fitness and nutrition.  This topic, and my New Year’s Resolution (which I will tell you in a minute), came as a result of seemingly random, unrelated interactions with five people, to whom I am deeply grateful.


To start, Janet Shulenberger of Nebraska Poodle Rescue asked me to dedicate a newsletter to obesity in dogs.  I thought that was a great idea.  However, weight management in pets is far too important and broad of a subject to cover in only one newsletter.  Instead, let’s make 2009 all about healthy living.  We will start with dog walking and cover different topics from there…other pets, nutrition, obesity-related diseases…let me know what you would like to discuss.  I decided to start with dog walking, because it has been on my mind a lot lately, and I have not been as diligent as I would like with my own health, or that of my dogs.


I visited a chiropractor recently for the first time in almost twenty years, Dr. Shawn Schmidt.  I was a little apprehensive, but soon realized that I did indeed need an attitude adjustment about my views on holistic health.  Dr. Shawn asked what I did for exercise, and I realized I did…nothing.  I had completely fallen out of the habit of any sort of physical activity.


Shortly before the great, internationally known speaker Luis Palau came to speak in Omaha during the summer of 2007, he challenged a group of Omahans to pick a few streets of Omaha and drive through them and pray for them on a regular basis.  I have been thinking about that challenge alot lately.


During a recent veterinary visit, my Aunt-in-Law Judy Finch asked if she could start walking her puppy Lucy three miles a day instead of their usual two, since Lucy was almost grown up.  I don’t know if I even answered.  (If I didn’t, my answer is, “Yes!  Of course!”)  I was just so impressed by Judy and her commitment to fitness, that I think I went right home to walk Ebony and Noodle, leaving poor Ken and Judy at the front desk with Lucy, and the rest of my clients and patients also standing around, I assume overnight, to be seen the next day, by a doctor who didn’t run off to walk her dogs.  It was a good walk though, and the three of us have been walking ever since.


And finally, Pastor Scott Christiansen challenged the entire congregation of Westwood Church to come up with individual blessing plans for 2009–ways we could each specifically help our community.  I said I would pray for Omaha.  I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but now I am starting to, and I think it will be kind of crazy…

My New Year’s Resolution…

I have decided that my New Year’s Resolution will be to walk with Ebony and Noodle the length of every street in the entire community by this time next year.  As I pass your home, your work, your hang-outs, I will pray for you.  If you will not be offended by that crazy offer, I will not be offended if you file it under “Can’t Hurt/Might Help.”

If you have a pet-friendly business, let me know and I will stop by.  If you want to walk with us, let me know when and where, and I will meet you.  So come on…this will be fun!  You keep doing what you are doing (How is that for a guilt-proof resolution?  You can’t fail!), and I will join you and get back into the habit of walking my dogs.

I believe if the five of you were standing together (Janet, Dr. Shawn, Luis, Judy and Pastor Scott), that would be such a cool group!  But what I was going to say is, if you were standing together, you would each be shaking your head and saying “That is NOT what I meant!”  Then you would turn to each other and say, “She is just a little off.”  And that is ok.  I have often been told that I am crazy (and I don’t think people are always kidding…)  So why not substantiate that with a crazy resolution?

I would not make this resolution without my dogs’ input if I thought there were any chance that they would object.  Their absolute favorite thing in the world is walks.  We cannot even spell “walk” anymore without them jumping in circles.  In fact, I looked around to make sure Ebony was not paying attention before I wrote this paragraph.  (Yes, my dogs are geniuses…well, half of my dogs are genius anyways.)

This will be fun!

So come with us!  No, not down every street!  That would be crazy!  Down YOUR street.  With YOUR dog.  YOU do not need such an insane goal as I am setting.  Your pets are in great shape.  Honestly.  For several years, the veterinary journals have been saying that anywhere from 60 to 66% of dogs in America are overweight.  Well, they are not my clients’ dogs!

Ernie plays with his toys so much, it is hard to keep him up at his ideal weight of four pounds!  Riley the Great Dane is a gorgeous, sleek dog made entirely of muscle and goofiness.  Her friend James the Mastiff is in just as good of shape.  Oreo is the only Boston Terrier I know who is not a bit overweight!  And Jacy May can eat whatever she wants and not gain a pound (sigh).

And if you are one of my clients with an overweight or out of shape dog, remember that there are seasons to life.  If you need to sit this one out, do.  Ebony has sat with me through bouts of depression (mine, not hers), crazy toddler years, injury, and just plain apathy.  We have had seasons of diligent exercise, but also seasons of being indoors together.

And there are the literal seasons too.  I have seen you out in the snow and the rain and the wind dutifully walking your dog…from my living room window.  I like to walk in perfect weather, which would explain quite a few of my stretches of inactivity, given that we live in Nebraska!

I do need to get my act together, though.  So keep me accountable.  And keep me company, at least in thought, as I set out to walk every street of our incredible city.  No, I have not thought through how many miles that is.  Russ said it may need to be a five-year plan, not a one-year plan.  But is that so bad?  If I try and all that happens is Ebony, Noodle and I get in better shape, and we have fun walking with whatever combination of friends we have with us, that will not be the worst failed resolution I have ever had.

So grab your pup and a leash.  Add a Gentle Leader or a harness if it will make your walk more enjoyable.  Bring a potty bag.  Muzzle your Pit Bull (or put their “Breed Ambassador” vest on – congratulations to you both!)  Let’s keep walking and see where we end up!

I will be the one with the gorgeous Black Lab cross with the purple Gentle Leader and the cute little black Poodle claiming all of Omaha with his pee.  I may or may not have my family and our friend Baby Kendal with us.  I am very good at getting lost, so I will put Russ in charge of my route.  I will keep you updated on how the walking every street of Omaha goal goes…I know it is crazy, but somehow the idea is appealing to me.  I think it will be fun to try.  I have decided to file it under “Can’t Hurt/Might Help.”

the end…

Little Jack Sparrow

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

If you can indulge me for yet another bird story, this is, I think, my favorite one yet.   I do see mostly owned pets, and mostly dogs and cats for that matter.   But this patient, if you could even give him that title, was the strangest little encouragement I have ever been sent, and I thought you should meet him.   I do not know what his Given Name is, but I will call him Little Jack Sparrow.

I had just finished picking strawberries this past fall and was sitting on our porch swing on an afternoon off.   Lest you think I had anything to do with how deep and powerful this experience was, I was not contemplating anything deep or powerful.   I was trying to decide how many strawberries to eat and how many to save for Amanda and Abby for their after school snack.   I was looking at the bottom of my bucket hoping they would not be very hungry.

To my left and behind me, a scraggly little sparrow crash-landed in the grass.   I said, “Hi little bird.  What are you doing?”   And he cocked his head and hopped towards me.   So I kept talking.   Each time I paused, he would take a few hops closer.   When he was right next to me, I reached out to pet him, and he put his head down to be scritched behind the neck, like a big old tame pet parrot might.   This close, I could see that his eyelids were swollen and matted closed.   I had no way of knowing what shape his eyeballs were in behind that snotty mess, so I said, “Can you stay here a minute?   I have some eye examination supplies inside!”

He hopped right onto the pumpkin vine in front of me and cocked his head as if to say, “I don’t have to be at my next appointment for quite some time.”   I ran inside like it was the most normal thing in the world and grabbed some saline, gauze and eye drops.

Amazingly, when I got back outside, Little Jack Sparrow was still sitting on the pumpkin vine.   I knelt down and picked him up.   He let me scrub his face and wipe out his eyes till I could see that the eyes behind his eyelids were clean and healthy.

He looked around, as if absorbing the moment he could see again, and then flew to the top of the neighbor’s pine.   I stood up and watched him for a good twenty minutes as he sat at the top of the pine tree.

Maybe the next newsletter…I know, they are supposed to be about practical pet health care tips…but maybe the next newsletter will be about two for a penny, or how deep the love of God must be to send such a very specific encouragement, or how strange it is that such a huge and powerful God would orchestrate such a searing moment with a small, brown, scruffy bird, but for now, I just wanted to let you in on the amazement and wonder that is that little brown sparrow.   Maybe the biggest lesson here is how very fortunate I am to know Jack’s Owner.   It was one of my best moments as a veterinarian.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31, NIV

Will Benji Be There?

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Here is the second of hopefully many, many newsletters for Riley’s Fan Club.  Dave and I talked about newsletter content, and decided I would cover a different medical topic every other month.  I tried to write the first newsletter on heartworm disease, and it turned out to be on health maintenance (not such a different topic).   I tried again to write a newsletter on heartworm disease, and this one is completely off the wall, but bear with me… I believe it is just as important.

I held onto this newsletter for several weeks until today, when I had to euthanize a precious pet for a grieving owner.  The only way this sad ending to such a horrible disease made any sense was to picture the bunny hopping, once again healthy and young, from her owner’s arms into the arms of God.

You recall from my first newsletter “I love to be boring.” I love helping owners maintain the health of their pets.   Yet, inevitably we end up in the exam room or living room or outdoors, making end of life decisions… hopefully with an old pet, full of years.   However, sometimes it is a pup with a rare disease, a kitten who has had an accident, a pocket pet who is here for only a matter of months…you get the idea.   Most of you have been through the heartbreak.  We live 80 years or so, they live 10 years or so… that’s a lot of sadness for animal lovers like us.

Almost without fail, a question comes up that I am not qualified to answer. I was not taught the answer in veterinary school.  I was not taught the answer in church.   But I need the answer as badly as you do, and I am absolutely sure of my conviction.   So please work through this with me. Do not be offended or afraid to disagree.   I will just walk you through my heart struggles and hope it helps you answer the question for yourself.

Everyone has asked at some point in their life, “Do pets go to heaven?” and I can tell you when a seven year old asks, almost in a panic, before you are about to euthanize his friend, a shoulder shrug will not suffice.  When Russ and I held our first dog Benji, knowing what a rare, horrible, untreatable heart condition he was suddenly dying of, I had to be able to tell Benji that it was ok to let go–not for his own sake, but for mine.

Do pets go to heaven? I can tell you emphatically “YES!” Of course they do.  Do you want to argue the philosophical questions of whether or not they have a soul?  Whether heaven exists?  Whether this is all there is?   I will be happy to, but debate is not my strong trait.   You may have guessed… I lean a tiny bit toward the emotional.

However, I will try to move on to logic.

1) Animals are not separated from God by sin.  There is no such thing as a “bad dog,” or a bad creature of any kind.  Not really.   They do what they instinctively know or have been conditioned to do.   They are not born with a sin nature, as we are.

2) Animals have inherent worth.  Every animal is actively created by God.  If we have to back up to “Does God exist?” or “Is the creation account of Genesis true?” we’d better talk in person!  If we agree on these, and that God is good, I believe we can surmise that God still has his hand in active creation in the world.   Therefore, even if Benji had not been our pet, but a Wild Mountain Poodle, he would still be important to God, and thus worth keeping beyond this world.

3) Heaven is perfect.   Jesus has gone to prepare a place especially for us there.

4) The Bible says that animals are there.

5) Do you think heaven is not big enough??

If, when we get to heaven, we do not see OUR beloved pet, we WILL see our Savior, and be so overwhelmed, everything we wondered about will be outshined, or make perfect sense or both.

I hope with all my heart that this is a happy time for you, that you have your pet in your lap at the computer, or are maybe deciding on a pet to adopt when the time is right.    When you do have to make the difficult decision to end a friend’s suffering, or have to go through the pain of having a pet pass away, I want you to have peace.   Peace that he or she will be with you when you get to heaven.   At least peace that ultimately, everything will be ok.

More often, it is not the seven year old who stops me before euthanasia to ask if their friend will be in heaven.   It is the adult, who asks and then says with his or her eyes, “I don’t care what you believe or whether it’s true.   I need you to say ‘Yes.'”

Now you know… I have not told you “yes” in your saddest time to make the grief process less painful, though I hope it has. I have not told you “yes” because I know you need desperately to hear that everything is going to be ok.   I have told you “Yes, your friend will be there” because I believe with all my heart it is true.   I BELIEVE our pets will be with us in heaven, and I KNOW God is good, and really, if we have that assurance, everything will be ok.

Benji and Baby Amanda, 2/00