Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Summer 2013 Flashback

Hi, Everyone,

       Belated Happy New Year! Sorry for not posting more frequently, but as many of you know, 2013 included the busiest summer I've just about EVER experienced! I'll try to catch up, with a sort of "how I spent my summer vacation (??!)" blog post. Here goes:

        In late May, we imported pregnant Xara (see my previous post), a beautiful four-year old German Shepherd Dog, from the Czech Republic.

    Shortly after she joined our family, on June 6, 2013, Xara whelped her six beautiful puppies! (Sadly one, a tiny female, did not survive.) The rest of the gang have been a blast, growing and playing, and eating and pooping, a LOT! We are keeping three of them (very ambitious/ crazy?) to raise and train as future foundation breeding stock for our up-and-coming service dog program. Here are a few pictures of the proud mother and her puppies:

       Two days later, adding to the craziness, I graduated summa cum laude as a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholar with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthrozoology from North Central College. Considering how long it took me to get around to exploring a traditional education, it seemed only fitting I have a massive graduation party! My friends, family, and I had a great time celebrating the freezing over of hell...I mean the unlikely occurrence:

Heading to graduation!
Jake and Gisela photo-bomb my self portrait...
At the party with my mother, Jane, and stepdaughter, Kelsey.
With Gisela.
My supportive students.

Jake, rocking out with the band.

Dave and Kelsey.
My brother, Mike.

My daughter, Monica, and niece, Bridget, make a lovely heart frame
around Maria and my other daughter, Stephanie.
The cool party tent, full of some friends and family.

My brother Mike, his wife, Kathy and some of their gang;
Dave fails at photo-bombing in the background.

With my stepdaughter, Jessica.

With Uncle Neal.

With Aunt Ag, Aunt Judy, and some of my cousins.

Cousins Sean and Andrew with my nephew, Brian.

       It took a little time for the reality to sink in that I'd not have to write any more papers or plow through homework pulling all-nighters; but there wasn't much time to bask in the relief. The puppies were growing and as if that wasn't enough, some new excitement was brewing. Once again we were waiting expectantly for another big event:
The delivery of our new house! 
       Yes, we have a new house, a beautiful Cape Cod situated on five acres in the country, with breathtaking land and lots of room for our horses, dogs, gardens, and my work. We will be transitioning to our new place when Jake finishes high school in a few years, and then I will be offering more training camp/ boarding school options as well as breeding, raising, training and placing service dogs. I'll still offer classes, too, both locally and out at my place, for those willing to make the trek to lovely Manteno, Illinois. No worries; there will be a small guest house, and immersion training for pets and their people will be lots of fun. 
       The house arrived as two halves and four dormers on huge semis. The house is a customized modular home, meaning its basic components were build indoors at a factory, and then finished on site. It is exactly the same as a stick built home, but was made indoors with more quality control. 
       I acted as general contractor during my last term of school (exhausting, but also pretty exhilarating!) and on through the summer, with the house finally arriving on July 2, 2013. As of this writing we are in the home stretch! Here are some photos featuring early highlights of the birth and growth of of our new home: 

       As the summer progressed, so did Xara's puppies! Katie, Arya, Rinty, Florian and Augustine/ A.K.A. Theo just kept growing and getting cuter:

       With lots of hard work from many skilled, helpful people, the house also progressed:

Xara and Belle checking out the new porch:
There is a big front porch...
Which wraps around to a side pergola! 
My furniture:
Katie hanging out:
Ugh. So much left to do!
Framing installed upstairs:
Katie visiting the new house:
Drilling a new well:

Building a deck off the dining room:
Pretty Xara:
More well digging:
       So, as this post grows too long to ever load, and besides, I doubt anyone is still with me at this point, I'm now stopping writing. Here are some more random pictures from the summer of 2013:

Jake and Xara:

Gisela and Steve, hanging out:
Sitting on the new porch, watching the well get dug:

Future owl and coyote safe, night-time potty area for my tiny dogs:
Mike, the builder; Gisela thinks he's cute! (Tee hee!)
Upstairs, after insulation:

Some new landscaping:

Pretty mama Xara on a special date with me:

Farm, sweet farm:
House, sweet house:
Handsome boys, Jake and Florian:
Field trip to Petco:
Future kennel and horse barn:
Baby mice, found on the ground in the barn. Yes, despite the risk of hanta virus and the fact mice are a pain in the butt, I tried to raise them. 

Pretty new distressed hickory hardwood floors!

Monica helps with the baby mice:
Sadly, despite initially thriving, they all died, one by one (these three were still alive in this photo). I was really sad :(
My new house cheers me a lot, though! :)

Farm, sweet farm, again:
House, sweet house, again:
Semi trailer converted into future hay storage:
The puppies grew and started learning new things:

Our group field trip to the Morton Arboretum's dog event:
Advanced students Gisela and Steve:
Xara and Katie practicing service dog stuff:

Totally cute family of pets and people:

I have cool dogs and a great job!

     Sorry, if you stuck it out to the end, that this was such a ridiculously long post! More happened, but I have to move on so...
that's all for now!

(I'll update with pictures of grown puppies and the finished house in another post.)