February 26, 2010

Best V-Day Present EVER!!!

Ok, so Neil and I didn't really do that much for Valentine's Day this year. We went to dinner, told each other "I love you" and that was about where it ended. However, Neil decided instead of giving me flowers or chocolates, he would give me new running shoes. Is he the best or what? We ordered them on Zappos.com and they got here within one day and I love, love, LOVE them! They are so bright and colorful, and I think they make me fast because I ran my fastest 4-mile time this week- twice. I broke my own record on Tuesday and then shattered that record on Thursday. Yay for new shoes!

February 22, 2010

Travis' Farewell

(This was Christmas when he received his call)

On Sunday, my youngest cousin Travis gave a non-farewell farewell talk in church. The whole family was there to support him and he gave a great talk. It was spiritual and funny and he is the first person I have ever heard use the word "faithapalooza" in a church talk. Afterward, we all went to the Price's house to have some dinner. Travis apparently invited the entire high school because there was at least 150 or so people there throughout the afternoon. Luckily there was enough food for everyone and once the craziness subsided, enough seats for everyone! Good luck Travis in the Richmond Virginia mission- he leaves at the beginning of March and he is very excited to go!

Sibling Dinner

Last Saturday night, all the siblings on Neil's side of the family decided to have a sibling dinner. All the siblings would get together and go to dinner while the grandparents baby-sat all the children. We decided to hit up Famous Dave's BBQ in Layton. It was so yummy and messy and we had a blast catching up. Grandma and Grandpa Essig had fun playing with their 6 grandkids (soon to be 7!) and Dave and Carly's new puppy. I don't have any pictures of the event, but it was fun and I'm glad we all get along so well. We are all so lucky!

Redmark Hollie Berry


Its the one word that can encompass every aspect of Hollie, our dog who passed away last week. Most people who knew her would agree that there are few dogs in the world who could ever compare to Hollie. Hollie has been made known for many different attributes, including kindness, meekness, love, loyalty, determination, and a complete desire to obey. For now, though, her story must be told. If anyone else would like to add to her story, feel free to post more stories in the comments below.

Our puppy was born November 2003 in Chicago, Illinois. She was born to two of the most accomplished golden retrievers in the country, a National Working Champion and a National Field Champion were both in her lines. Her mother was a small, dark-furred golden retriever with the kindest disposition known to golden retrievers. With her pairing with a National Field Champion for breeding, the litter was bound to be one of the greatest.

Hollie was the oldest of a litter of ten. She was one of six females, with four males in the litter. She spent the first seven weeks of her life living at the Redmark Retriever Kennels just outside of Chicago. There, she was raised by her mother and experienced breeders.

We were the first in line for a puppy, which meant we got the first pick. Dad and I arrived two days after Christmas in 2002, after a long drive across the country. I had been waiting for a puppy in anticipation for nearly a year, and my dad had done an overwhelming amount of research and investigation to locate the litter.

That morning, we spent a few hours at the kennel, looking over the six female puppies, trying to make up our minds. After some thought and observation, I quickly narrowed it down to two puppies, but one stood out. She had a little white spot of fir on her head, and she was clearly leading the other puppies around with various toys. She never allowed herself to be bullied, and quickly showed her tenacity and intelligence fending off the other puppies for toys.

So it was settled. We took that little puppy with the white spot with us, named her Hollie, and put her in the car for the long two-day trip home. She settled in quickly and was a great travel buddy, even for a little seven-week old puppy. She left no messes in the car and we made it home the next evening.

Over the weeks, Hollie grew quickly. She was trained incredibly easily and even knew how to fetch when she arrived. This was not taught to her by the breeders, it was just instinct. Her only hold-back was her lack of vision. If the object was in sight, she would retrieve, no questions asked.

After a few months, Hollie was taken to puppy classes at Petsmart. Here, she was at the top of her class and showed her dedication to obedience and her masters. Although, she did have excitement overcome her the moment she was in sight of the front doors.

Hollie's first year was uneventful. Mostly growing, playing, and chewing. She shredded dozens of helpless stuffed animals, as well as cardboard boxes and anything else that could easily be torn to bits.

Hollie did receive a good amount of discipline. She learned a variety of commands quickly and began learning advanced retrieving techniques. Because of her caliber as a hunting dog, part of our deal in order to get her involved taking her out on a hunt. After a few months of training, my dad finally took her out with his law partner to go duck hunting in the swamps east of the Great Salt Lake. The party took down a few ducks and Hollie did good work retrieving, once she got over the loud bang of the gun. At one point in the hunt, one hunter took down a rather large goose. Hollie bounded into the water and swam out to the body. She paused for a moment upon arrival and sized up the goose. She turned back to the boat and gave a look to my dad that said nothing short of, "Are you kidding me? Its huge!".

Hollie quickly began to show a lot of enthusiasm and energy in her personality. As she grew older, we expected her energy levels to drop like most dogs. Typically, dogs grow out of the puppy-energy stage around 15 to 18 months. But Hollie's energy remained high for her entire life. She could run for hours and quickly learned to love a game dubbed "Tennis-Golf". The game first started out with a tennis ball being struck across the yard with a golf club. Then, as Hollie ran out to fetch the ball, the hitter would run and hide somewhere around the house. Hollie's enthusiasm for chasing the ball would quickly turn into complete focus and determination, as she began sniffing and sprinting, trying to find the hitter. Once found, she would run back out to the field and wait for another ball to be struck. When winter rolled around again, the game had to be changed. Instead of a golf club, we changed to a tennis racket, but the name of the game stayed.

Anytime Hollie would hear the words, "Tennis Golf", she would go into a complete panic. She would sprint to the door and bark and whine, her whole body quivering in anticipation of the game ahead.

Only one thing could possibly get Hollie more focused and zoned out than Tennis Golf. That would be a fresh bone. Anytime a new bone was within range of her nose, she could think of nothing better. She would grab the bone, find a comfortable spot, and chew for at least an hour straight. At times, we would try to get her distracted by play fighting with someone else, or offering to play Tennis Golf. But nothing could get her off those new bones.

Hollie was much more than just a dog, she was a member of the family. Hollie spent most of her time inside the home. My parents constructed a fence at their home to give Hollie a place to roam outside. After the fence went up, we quickly learned that Hollie wasn't too interested in being outside. Instead, she wanted to be where the people were, where the action was. Hollie couldn't stand being away from people. When family came to visit, many times she was locked up in a bedroom. She would whine and whimper until she was finally released, at which point she would race into the home and say hello to as many people as she could.

Hollie loved people. In fact, she made it quite clear that she would rather spend time with people than other dogs. A few times, I took her out to play with friends' dogs. We would send tennis balls out for both dogs to chase. Hollie would typically get there first, but would drop the ball when the other dog approached, running back to us.

After a year and a half, Hollie got her first experience at the island in Canada. It was a more quiet trip, as some of the family was not able to come. Hollie was, once again, an excellent traveler, doing very well in the car and quite content to simply be with us.

Once we arrived in Canada, though, she was back to her usual self, with an even higher amount of energy. At the unloading dock, she was already jumping into the water, chasing ducks and other birds that were floating on the surface. On every boat ride, she quickly made her way to the bow of the boat, standing as high as she could.

Hollie loved Canada. No place in the world could offer her everything she wanted, except Canada. As a golden, she was naturally inclined to the water. She loved to swim and fetch things in the water, it was in her nature.

We spent countless hours sending balls, frisbees and sticks into the water. At first, Hollie would hesitate before flying off the dock. After we threw the object, she would run to the edge of the dock, then slowly make her way in. After a while, we really wanted to get her to jump off, so we had to think long and hard about how to accomplish this.

Our problem was solved when Dave was horsing around one lazy afternoon. Dave had been swimming and playing in the water. He was wearing a snorkel mask and at one point, he faced Hollie and began to roar like an angry beast at her. Hollie instantly started barking and chased Dave off the dock. Hollie came flying in after him with absolutely no hesitation or second thought. Hollie's sheer anger over the beast in the mask continued in the water as she swam toward Dave and nearly attempted to push him underwater. Once Dave removed the mask, she quickly began licking his face and returned to the shore.

Hollie wasn't like other dogs in many ways, but she took it to a new level in Canada. After jumping in the water with us, we would climb a ladder up out of the water onto the dock. Hollie thought this was also a good idea for her. She was determined to follow suit, so she, too, climbed the ladder. And she actually did it! She climbed up the ladder, after a lot of work, and rose to the dock. She used this technique multiple times, but it soon became clear that she just didn't have the strength, so we were forced to try and get her to swim to the shore.

Sadly, Hollie couldn't accompany us on our morning and evening fishing trips. She would stay back with someone at the cabin during the trip and wait in anticipation. Many times, she would sit on the edge of the dog, perking up every time a boat would pass. As we would arrive back at the dock, she would always attempt to jump in far too soon, nearly impaling herself on the side of the boat, trying to just say hello. Luckily, she never did get hurt.

The trip home from that first Canada vacation with Hollie will always stay with me. It was the only time that she actually ran out of energy in her entire life. On the long drive home, she remained on top of our gear at the back of the van, almost always asleep. We attempted to get her to move by calling her name and saying things like "Tennis Golf" but it was all in vain. She remained completely wiped out for two days straight.

Hollie truly was a peoples' dog. She loved to greet people on the street while jogging and at the door of the home. She learned quickly what the doorbell meant and would do her best to find out who was at the door. She would always say hello and let everyone pet her, earning herself a multitude of compliments and praise.

This habit also came in handy. Hollie had a sense about her. Sometimes when she would greet people, it was clear that she sensed something was not quite right with that person. On a few occasions, Hollie would remain between us and the people at the door, no wag to the tail, and a look of focus and determination. She could sense that something was amiss and she was not about to let that person get to us if they tried.

In reality, Hollie was the most loving and friendly dog a person could ask for. She greeted almost all strangers with a wagging tail and a happy disposition. We always joked that if someone came to rob the house, she would gladly help them move the TV out, as long as they petted her.

Hollie became a creature of habit throughout her life. She had a semi-strict diet with usual feeding times and exercise times. My dad would usually take her out for a walk in the mornings and evenings, and she was always ready to go. Her evening walk would be around five o'clock, so she waited patiently outside my dad's office door around that time, waiting for her exercise.

During the summer of 2009, Kami and I were given the opportunity to live with Hollie for a few months, following a job change. Kami and I will both remember this time well, and we are grateful we got the chance to spend so much time with her. Upon the evening of move-in, Hollie quickly set up camp every night at the foot of our bed. We always tried to coax her to sleep on the bed, but she usually only stayed for a few minutes, before curling up on the floor below. It was always fun to watch her every night. As we turned in for bed and got under the covers, Hollie would jump up and sit between us, assuming she hadn't already claimed the middle of the bed before we arrived. She would try to play a little bit, then curl up. Then, in most cases out of nowhere, she would suddenly get up in a flurry and jump to the floor. At that point, nothing could stop her. We tried everything and laughed at her belligerence.

That summer was lucky for Hollie in many ways. Not only did her favorite person (not even debatable!) get to live with her, but her favorite person didn't have a job! During those months, Hollie received more attention and Tennis Golf games than she had ever her entire life. In fact, that quickly became a routine for her as well. As soon as I woke up, Hollie was ready in anticipation. She would wag her entire backside, bark, yelp and jump, running back and forth until I would finally go upstairs and play.

It was in October that things began to go south. Following a close encounter with other dogs during a hike up Green Canyon, my parents began to notice lumps on her neck. She was taken into the vet without any hesitation where she was diagnosed with a form of Lymphoma, or cancer. It was a hard day for the entire family. Many tears were shed and with some discussion, the family decided to move forward with Chemotherapy. So long as Hollie remained generally healthy and without much discomfort, we would continue with procedures.

During the holiday months, Hollie would go in and out of the vet's office for treatments and check-ups. Her health didn't seem to be too much of a factor until the very end, when we could all tell how tired she was. She made a good show of energy, but quickly grew tired. We finally decided to put her to sleep when she started to suffer. It was a long wait at the vet's office, but it gave me, Kami, and my dad adequate time to say good bye to the dog that had been our companion, friend, and teacher for so long. Kami ended up having to leave to go back to work before the vet came in, so it was my dad and I who were there for Hollie in her last moments. It was only fitting that we were the two who brought her into our lives and we were the two that let her go.

Hollie will be greatly missed by all who knew her.


February 15, 2010

Happy Love Day!

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and we were happy to be able to spend some quality time with our family. We drove to Logan and had a nice visit with my mom, complete with yummy sugar cookies. After that, we went to Neil's parents house to have a birthday dinner for his mom. The whole family was there and it was so much fun! When we asked Andi how old she thought her grandma was, she was nice and said that she thought her grandma was 26. Aah, the innocence of 5-year-olds! We also got to get in some good time with Neil's dog Hollie, who probably doesn't have much time left, so that was great to be with her. There was great food, lots of laughter, and some birthday cake! What more could you ask for? We also wanted to say Happy Birthday again to Mary Ann- I know she's the best mom Neil could've ever asked for, and she's been an amazing mother-in-law. Thanks for everything!

Playtime before dinner
Hanging out with his puppy
Love this dog!

February 13, 2010

First Race of The Year

Today I ran in my first race of 2010! It was at the South Davis Recreation Center in Bountiful. The weather was cold and rainy, but I still had a good time. The distance was a 5k, and I didn't get a PR like I was hoping to, but it was a good start to my race year. I ended up taking fourth in my age division, which kinda stinks because the top 3 all won prizes, but I'm ok with it. It's just something to work towards for next time. My next race I'm planning is going to be in March in St. George, hopefully that one will be a lot warmer! My friend Sly ran the race as well and took first in her division. She's not first loser today, ha ha! Here are some pics.

Before the race
  After we finished
  This weirdo was wandering around- he had a good attitude about everything at least

February 1, 2010

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

A few months back, after cleaning out my parent's basement, we came across a Voltron toy set. It was a toy that I had grown up with and really enjoyed to play with as a child. It had been a long time since I had seen Voltron. Anyway, even after cleaning out the basement, Voltron disappeared again from my parent's house. This time, I wasn't going to let Voltron out of my sight again. I have successfully spent some time on eBay over the last month and acquired all the pieces to Voltron in order to build my own defender. Anyway, here you go!