R.I.P. Chewbacca “Chewie” Hutchison, 2009-2013

Chewie with a halo!

Chewie’s final weekend convinced me that we were doing the right thing.  It was a weekend where he slept when he wasn’t painfully coughing, and his only bright moments were when he got to eat snacks or chow down on some rotisserie chicken.  I tried taking him for a walk, and we could only go around the house on our corner and back.  It really drove home that he was suffering at this point, and his lurching attempts to roll himself out of bed and onto his feet made me regret that we had waited this long.

I took Monday the 26th off from work so that I could spend the last day with Chewie, and I was so glad I did.  He had a great last day! It started out with a car ride to drop off Melinda at work (she couldn’t get out of it, being the current team nurse).  Chewie loved it, as he has loved all car rides, and Melinda rode in the back seat with him so that she could soak up all of these last moments.  I did, however, have to lift him into the car.

When we got home, I took him for a walk in the cool morning air, and Chewie had so much energy that we went half a block!  I was certain that that would have wiped him out and he would need to doze, but Chewie kept hanging around me, wondering what we would do next!  I gave him a day filled with cuddles and treats on the sofa, a last nap on our sunny deck, and I even tossed his orange pumpkin squeak toy and watched him run for it!

After picking up Melinda from work, we spent our last hour with him and we pressed his paws into some homemade play-dough that she had made so that we would have impressions of his paw prints.  Then we headed off to Quarry Hill Vet to say good-bye.

Dr. Karen Lee and Gina were so kind.  They said that they had been sad all day, knowing that this was on the schedule.  Melinda and I took turns holding him one last time, while the doctor administered the drug.

I’ve had to do this before, for Melinda’s cat, Alley, and my cat, Natasha, when they had lived long happy lives and had fallen ill in their old age.  Those cats were so old, they predated our marriage.

Chewie had just turned four.

We bundled him in a beautiful old blanket, placed him in a plastic washtub that I had brought with, and we took him home.  I ran around packing the car as quick as I could, while Melinda brought a few of Chewie’s favorite things to be buried with him.  She lay down on the floor to stroke his head one last time.  Melinda couldn’t get off work, which meant I had a long lonely car ride north and Melinda wouldn’t have anyone with her that night.

Doris, our older cat, approached and investigated.  I believe she could tell that Chewie was dead.  We felt this was better than his sudden disappearance from her life.

I arrived at my parents’ farm three hours later, where I found that my dad had prepared a beautiful coffin and my mom had written on the lid.  I gave my doggie one last pet on his woolly head, and then I placed the items in his coffin: the orange pumpkin, a stuffing-free fox squeak toy, a ball, a chip twist, a chicken chew…and one of our business cards with the picture of the three of us.

(I am hiding these next pictures in a spoiler, for those of you who don’t want to see him in his casket.)

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Chewie in the blanket
Chewie at peace
One last pat on the head
One last pat on the head

Chewie in his coffin with his memorial items
Chewie in his coffin with his memorial items

We buried him that night, and we finished seeding the grave the next morning. Chewie is buried under the limbs of a tree, and my parents are planting flowers nearby.

Chewie's coffin
Chewie’s coffin
Chewie's grave site
Chewie’s grave site

I don’t know what kind of afterlife awaits dogs, but it’s my hope that his spirit is chasing the rabbits around that farm at full speed, free of the pain that slowed him down.  Go, run.  Good boy!

My Diet Tools

UPDATED August 2011: I fixed the links for the blender to go to the revised model.

These are the things which have helped me to lose 30-35 lbs. in 2009.

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Walking our Labradoodle, Layla, is what got me started losing weight and getting fit back in June. After a few months, I was down 10 pounds and in much better shape. Dog-walking has turned out to be excellent for weight loss because you HAVE to do it every day. No escaping the fact that even in the lousiest weather, the dog would like to go around at least one block, if not more. It helps that with Layla and Chewie, the standard poodle we bought as Layla’s companion in October, the dogs are so strong that they pull me along! (I now understand how just a few huskies can haul a sled, a person and hundreds of pounds of gear.)

I bought an Escali scale because it was guaranteed to be accurate even for large people. Most bathroom scales get wildly inaccurate if you go much higher than the upper 200s. This one was guaranteed even above 400 lbs (way beyond what I weighed), and it measures your body fat and your fluids. I love it and highly recommend it.

I then joined Weight Watchers for the first time in my life. I wish I had done that a decade ago. The digital scale, books with point values for food, pocket points calculator and daily food journals have helped me gain control of my over-eating. (The pedometer, not shown, gives me the value of points I’ve earned in fitness each day.) A membership to Weight Watchers pays for itself, since you save the $10/week just in groceries that you’re not eating! Most of the W.W. merchandise is a lot cheaper if you’re a W.W. member and purchase it through the organization.

Finally, my early Christmas present: The Oster Counterforms 2-in-1 blender. Get this one. Seriously, click that right now, unless you already have an excellent blender. I researched blenders far and wide, and was quite surprised how many lousy blenders with cheap parts there are. Most blender reviews were split evenly between the people who loved them and those who complained about the 1 plastic part that breaks almost immediately. I was going to get the “Magic Bullet”, but I was amazed to read all the stories of cheap, broken parts. I know, I know, yours is probably working fine.

This blender had stellar reviews, and when I got mine I found out that they had improved it beyond how it was described on Amazon. It’s a 1000 WATT BLENDER! 1000 WATTS, not 600! All I do is add my smoothie ingredients and hit “frozen drink”; the blender then takes over, alternating the speed and direction until it’s well-mixed.

Here’s a trick I learned: Take the Weight Watchers chocolate smoothie mix, which costs less than a dollar. Add a cup of water (or milk) and then throw in 6-10 ice cubes (depending on their size). With the addition of the ice cubes, the end result is a smoothie that is indistinguishable from a Wendy’s Frosty…and it’s only 1 Weight Watchers point (or 3, with milk)! Let me tell you: A Frosty from Wendy’s is NOT a single point! You can throw in other flavors in small doses. Frozen slices of banana disappear into the chocolate smoothie; you can’t really taste them, they thicken the smoothie and you get a bit of fruit for the day.

Click my link and get that blender! I honestly cannot recommend it enough. For years, we had this cheap plastic Black and Decker blender that may have been from the early 1970s. It leaked, it was noisy, and it made lousy milkshakes. This little $70 blender gets used almost every day, because I have a sweet tooth and a pitcher full of chocolatey (or fruity) goodness will keep me from snacking on stuff that’s far worse.