Holiday Letter

2014, That was the year that was

I’m doing something novel this year. I’m actually writing my holiday post in the year it is about. Usually, I keep putting off holiday cards and the the holiday post. This whole business got started in 2006 when I moved up north to Rhode Island and it became difficult to make the Thanksgiving and Christmas pilgrimages to visit the relatives. The 2 day drive from Newport was too long, especially with dog lodging and wee breaks. So I started a Facebook page and began writing the yearly letter to send out with Holiday cards. Over the years, the on-line community got larger and a good bit of it (second cousins) were mobile making it hard to send cards. The card list is down to 10 or so retired moochers.

I Joined the Retired Moochers

Medicare sets you free! In January, I joined the retired moochers. Several cousins had preceded me by retiring early. With the health insurance situation in the US, I felt compelled to work until 65 when I became eligible for Medicare. So I retired at the end of 2013 having given my employer a year’s warning that i was going to bail. I don’t miss work one bit. Since moving from Newport to Norfolk, my command had become increasingly dysfunctional, largely as a result of the location down the street from the real Navy but also as a result of some unfortunate choices of support staff. IT was trying to wag the dog in modeling and simulation and the security pukes were getting increasingly obnoxious, and I was becoming less connected to the product over the last couple of years.

Hobby Jobs

I’ve not had time to miss work. In fact, I wonder how I ever found time to work! Catch up on neglect around home, two greyhounds, and new involvement in local clubs leaves me with few days with nothing to do.

Since retiring, I’ve joined ODU Institute for Learning in Retirement and become the Communications and Technology Committee Chair and webmaster and have become web master of my church’s web site. Over the course of the year, I migrated the church web site from Joomla to Open Outreach Drupal at a new hosting company and will move it again this winter. I’ve also migrated the ODU ILR web site from MS Frontpage to a new Open Academy Drupal 7 based design that will be hosted at Pantheon. Other articles describe these efforts in detail.

Dogs Go and Come

Having dogs is great but all of the good times come with a bad patch at the end. This year, I lost Rhea unexpectedly to complications of a panic attack. She was just shy of her 14th birthday and showing signs of advancing age including weight loss, some dementia, and a big reduction in activity. In early April, I was doing chores (flushing the tankless water heater). When I finished that chore, I found her anxious and having difficulty lying down. She was pacing a good bit, would try to settle, abort the down, and the panting would get worse. This escalated until it was obvious that medical intervention was needed.

As the hyperventilating increased, her breathing became labored and raspy so I carted her off to the emergency vet. They sedated her but she continued to hyperventilate. In greyhounds, raspy breathing is an indication of air way tumors. There were two forks in the road, to induce anesthesia and hope the autonomous nervous system reset itself or euthanasia. With her advanced age, the tumor indication, her dementia, etc my vet recommended the latter course of action. I agreed knowing that if the anesthesia gambit were successful, a wobbly Rhea would begin hyperventilating as she recovered from anesthesia.

Rhea was a dear gentle dog and I miss her. The anxiety episode spared us the accelerating decline and loss that were expected later this year.


Nick moped around most of the summer. He was accustomed to having Rhea in the house for company and suddenly found himself an only dog. He looked after Rhea who followed his lead through the day’s activities. Nick was pretty inactive through the summer. Maybe it was some post-partem depression but the Virginia heat may have had something to do with it too.

In August, I began taking Nick to meet and greet events to meet the local greyhound rescue folks and the dogs they had been placing. Nick recovered some energy with the passing of the July/August heat so I joined the queue for a second dog. You can read about Missy joining us in other posts.

Missy and Nick Day 4
Nick and Missy share the Lifeboat

Missy has been with us 6 weeks now and is taking nicely to companion life. On Thanksgiving Friday, I schlepped the pair to visit friend Judy Schooley and her dogs Meme and Einstein and grand dog Eliza, a devil of a herding mix. Missy got on well with everyone and even met Rocky the Cat who rules the roost. Both cat and hound survived the encounter. Missy is really sweet, very playful, and very affectionate in a greyhound sort of way. She even plays fetch! But only for a few throws to prove she’s a greyhound and not a retriever.

Year of the Garden

This year’s capital maintenance is to replace the legacy shed and fence. The shed was too small. I have 3 bicycles and winter tires in there in addition to yard tools. The existing shed was galvanized frame with sheet metal skin and was just floating on its slab. Each wind storm would find the shed displaced on the slab. So, this September, I ordered a Colonial Barns 8×12 foot shed to be assembled on site.

The new shed
New Shed

I also ordered a new vinyl fence to replace the too-low and badly worn chain link fence. This fence is a vinyl (vinyl is final, I hope) 48 inch rail and picket design with aluminum I-beam reinforced bottom rail and posts. The new fence is free of distorted fabric and fittings, both which can cause injury to an excited greyhound. The new fence is much taller and 50% opaque so the dogs appear to feel safer and fence charges should be less scary to the neighbors. As I write, the installers were short two line posts and the fence is not complete. Creative use of gravity and an Ex-pen close the gap so I can turn my dogs out into the paddock.

New fence
Back Garden

Editing the Legacy Garden

While all of this was going on, I also took the Norfolk Botanical Garden landscape design class and made drawings for new beds and hardscape for the back garden. The plan is to do a little bit each hear. This year, I’ve been editing the big things. The  aucuba japonica shrubs planted under the carport canopy and the ligustrum (very tree like here) guarding them from the street were this year’s casualties. The tree service did in the ligustrum.

I cut back the aucuba in July. As I’m writing this, they are growing back nicely so I’ll transplant them to locations identified for understory shrubs in the new design. I have 4 under the car port and 4 at random inappropriate spots in the back yard to be moved so my instructor and I identified places where these could be transplanted. Two hydrangea also need to be moved. One is in full sun and the other is oddly placed in the foundation bed in the back garden so we’ll move these two to the back fence.

Ligustrum Mess
Ligustrum Mess

I’m getting too old to do the big stuff myself. The plan is to engage a local landscaper to define the beds and move the 8 aucuba and 2 hydrangeas. We’ll also correct the grade, fill in holes, etc, and put gravel around the shed. I’m planning to do permitter beds with understory shrubs under the live oaks, some low crepe myrtle (Pocomoke crepe myrtle) along the hedge in back and various perennials in the beds around the house. In doing all of this, I have to keep a race track and drop zone for the dogs. Picking up used dog chow out of long ground cover is next to impossible and my yard is a block from our reservoir.

Year of the Duck

Did I mention that 2014 was the year of the Duck? The Chrysler Museum contracted a visit by Mr Hoffman’s big yellow duck. The duck attracted 1,000,000 visitors to Mowbray Arch and record opening traffic to the Chrysler Museum which was reopening after two years of renovations. This photo shows the Prophet and the Chrysler’s premier statue of a courier taking a message scroll from his fallen comrade. This view is from the Chrysler steps looking down the Hague.

Duck and Horse
Duck and Horse

By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.