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Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix’

Seattle author David R. Gross practiced veterinary medicine for ten years.   He returned to school and earned his PhD in cardiovascular physiology then he taught and did research in that field for more than three decades. After retiring, he and his beloved wife Rosalie looked forward to traveling, writing, and focusing on social action causes together. In Travels with Charlize: In Search of Living Alone, Dr. Gross tells a gentle and open story of recovery after the death of his wife of fifty-two years. He must go forward and face a new future, but that road carries rough spots. Memories spring up to hold him back. Revisiting friends reminds him of who no longer accompanies him. Home, to which he must return, still stores a profusion of painful memories. It is the presence of Charlize, his newly adopted rescue dog, that keeps Gross steady and willing to see a brighter tomorrow around the bend. Based on a compilation of chronicles from his popular blog, this compelling and enchanting book hit the shelves in February.

The dog loving couple had talked about getting a new pet, but with Rosalie’s diagnosis of lung cancer, those plans were put on hold. After she succumbed to illness in 2013, David adopted Charlize, a German shepherd rescue dog with problems of her own. He bought a travel trailer, closed his house and the duo started their travels. The two troubled souls embarked on a yearlong journey visiting parks and vistas, rain forests and deserts, family and old friends, to discover how to accept and craft a new life with each other’s help.

Travels with Charlize is available from any independent bookstore, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble. The Kindle e-book edition is currently available as are versions for Kobo and Nook. Dr. David Gross has published over ninety papers in refereed scientific journals and over a hundred abstracts in proceedings of scientific meetings. He co-edited three multi-authored textbooks and his single author text, Animal Models in Cardiovascular Research, can be found in most medical libraries. Since retirement, Dr. Gross has been busy writing both fiction and non-fiction. His published books include Manhunt (historical fiction), Animals Don’t Blush (a memoir of his first year in veterinary practice) and the soon-to-be rereleased, Succeeding As A Student (a self-help guide to efficient and effective studying, learning and test taking).

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The Phoenix I knew, before leaving in 1970, is no more. The northern suburbs now stretch all the way to Cave Creek. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Cave Creek eleven years ago. When I practiced veterinary medicine, never certain I practiced well enough or long enough to really be good at it, there was nothing between my clinic on 32nd St. and Bell Road and the town of Cave Creek, seven or so miles north. I had a few clients in Cave Creek so I drove those miles on a two-lane road full of drops down into washes then up again. Today the road is divided, two lanes to a side, no dips and the previously empty desert is full of subdivisions and strip malls. Compared to the eclectic neighborhoods of Seattle and Edmonds, the subdivisions are monotonic, ersatz adobe style, flat or tile roofs, varying shades of tan. It is early spring in the Sonoran desert and the cacti are getting ready to bloom, some already have. If I lived in one of those subdivisions, even though I still have positive feelings about the desert, I think I would need a trail of bread crumbs to find my house after a couple of glasses of Malbec.

 

The biggest change though is the shear number of people and the resulting traffic. I took Alexis to see where my clinic was and the building I built is still there. Here is a photo of the Paradise Animal Hospital in 1962:

My beautiful picture

Now the place is a Mexican furniture, knickknack and pottery store. We went in and most of the rooms of the clinic had been reconfigured and obviously repurposed. The indoor kennels have been removed and the openings to the outside runs closed. The outside runs have been removed. My old reception area is now a private office, my old office full of knickknacks for sale. Just for fun I peeked in the restroom. The fixtures have been replaced but the door to my old darkroom was still there, closed. I opened it and the room was empty but still painted black! Here is what the place looks like now:

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Charlize couldn’t have been less interested.

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I met Don in 1954 in Green Hall where all freshmen at what was then Colorado A & M were housed. He had a room across the hall from mine and neither of us cared much for our assigned roommates. I have no recollection of how we managed it but by the second term we were rooming together.

The short, slight rancher’s son, who grew up in the wilds of the Sandhills of Nebraska and the tall Jewish swimmer from Phoenix, Arizona were an unlikely pair. We were nicknamed Mutt and Jeff, of course. However, we found an abundance of common interest. We both grew up with fathers who rarely talked unless they were giving instruction or needed to say something important. We both loved our dads and were comfortable being with them all day without talking. With that background Don and I were never uncomfortable being together without talking and that persists to this day.

After that first year we shared an apartment with two other friends and the third year, my first in veterinary school, we shared a small house with two third year veterinary students. In all that time together I cannot recall a single argument between us.

I was far from home and the ranch was only a long days drive from Fort Collins. Don had a car and he invited me to spend Thanksgiving at the ranch. His folks were warm and welcoming, especially his mom. The holiday was memorable as my first experience on a working commercial ranch. I was invited and returned for several years and always felt welcome. I felt then and still do today that it is my second home.

Years past and we stayed in sporadic touch. Don graduated with a degree in agricultural economics and returned to the same ranch his great-grandfather started and his grandfather and then his dad continued to operate. He gradually took over the operation of the ranch from his dad. He got married, I got married and miracle of miracles Susie and Rosalie became close friends.

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The first of the ranch houses are in the distance, top left.

When we lived in Montana they visited us, and after we moved to Phoenix several times, then in Illinois. We visited them at the ranch or sometimes met someplace convenient to all of us. Each time we got together we picked up as though we had been together the day before, despite the passage of years.

Charlize is in heaven. She stays close to me in the house but outside has thousands of acres to roam and hundreds of wild critters and cows, calves, steers and bulls to discover. She hasn’t wandered far as yet, keeps looking back to make certain I haven’t left without her.

Here’s a view from the house, mother cows with their calves on the hill pasture. They were brought downs to the hay meadow in the foreground the next day prior to being moved to another pasture.

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On the way over from San Diego to Phoenix I remembered my first time trip to San Diego. I was ten years old, the summer of 1946. The Second World War was over and my Uncle Sol, my Dad’s younger brother, was being mustered out of the Navy. The trip was made in our 1940 Chevy, before the multi-fabric, multi-color upholstery. The Chevy had new tires, but no air conditioning in fact I don’t remember a heater in that car, at least not one that functioned. To beat the summer heat we started after dark and Dad drove all night, no freeways or interstate highways to travel at seventy-five miles an hour. I don’t think Dad ever put that car over fifty. No radio either, not that there would have been a radio station to connect to anywhere in that desert, well, maybe in Yuma.

My brother and sister and I slept in the back seat, but I can remember waking up and listening in on the soft conversation taking place between Mom and Dad. Talking to keep awake, about mundane, every day subjects and their hopes and dreams, mostly concerning us kids. The road frequently dipped down then up through many gullies and washes, no bridges. I was concerned because there were stories about whole families being washed away in their car by a flash flood that originated in the mountains sending a wall of water gushing through those desert washes.

Old Blue, Charlize and I will make that trip to San Diego again soon, during daylight, on the interstate, at seventy-five, the radio tuned to a station playing Jazz, air conditioning if we need it. It will be different, better? Maybe. What’s the rush?

Here is Charlize in my brother’s back yard, and practicing her sit-stay, unhappily, in front of some cholla cactus, both near Cave Creek, AZ.

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We arrived in Phoenix but left Frog in San Diego. I will to return to San Diego after my sojourn in Phoenix to visit with my brother, his family and some old friends who are still living here as well as some snowbird friends. After averaging between ten and a half and eleven and a half miles per gallon pulling Frog Old Blue averaged sixteen and a half mpg while traveling seventy-five miles an hour on the freeways between San Diego and Phoenix. With gasoline costing four dollars and twenty cents, or more, per gallon in San Diego I calculated that I saved at least fifty-two dollars on the trip here, anticipate an equal amount on my return. I was also able to drive seventy-five mph instead of the fifty-five mph limit pulling Frog.

My brother and his wife are owned by a Chihuahua mix. She is short on stature and gigantic on attitude like many of her ilk. She is also possessive. When we walked in their front door that little dog let Charlize know whose house it was and that trespassers would be tolerated, at best. Her name is Madeline and Charlize avoids her as much as possible. Whenever Madeline has the opportunity she attacks, nipping at Charlize’s hind legs, going for the Achilles tendon. Charlize cowers and runs away but I’m afraid that at some point, probably when none of us are witnesses, she will turn on Madeline and do serious harm, but thus far she has not made a move to defend herself.

My brother Joe and his wife Carol have a two-plus acre lot filled with well-kept desert vegetation. The landscaping is unique, neat and starkly pretty if you grew up here in the desert and liked it. I did and I do. Charlize ran into a cactus while retrieving for my two grandnieces. She now understands to avoid those denizens of the desert, the cacti, not the nieces.

At four in the morning, my first night here, Naomi, almost four years old, got out of her bed and came into the room where her Daddy had been sleeping prior to my and Charlize’ arrival. Daddy, my nephew Andy, was asleep on a blow-up mattress in the same room with the girls. Little Naomi walked over the mattress with her Dad, came into the room where Charlize and I were behind a closed door, got into the bed where I was asleep on my right side. She was at my back so she crawled over me to get to my front and announced she wanted to snuggle. Charlize, ever watchful for intruders, had helped Naomi up onto the bed, nuzzling her behind. I guess I didn’t feel or snuggle the same as Daddy so Naomi started to fidget.

“I’m your Uncle Dave,” I explained. “Do you want your Daddy to snuggle with you?”

Yes,” she answered.

“He is in your room sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Do you want to go join him?”

“Yes,” she said, and did, apparently nonplussed by the situation.

Andy and the girls live in Germany. The girls are both completely bi-lingual. Andy speaks to them in English and they speak to him in English. Their mother, a native German, speaks to them in German and they speak to her in kind. If in a situation where everyone is speaking German Andy also speaks German. Their mother does the same in English when she is in an English-speaking situation, such as visiting here. Andy tells me that when he first spoke German to them, or their mother spoke English they were confused and a little upset that the parent was not communicating with them properly, but they soon adjusted and no matter which language is being used in the conversation they answer in kind. Oh, to be so fascicle with language.

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