Jan 08, 2020 11:52 PM

When the wagging stops

Posted Jan 08, 2020 11:52 PM



This year I was preparing my Christmas card list. As I went through the list from last year, there were so many changes because of friends, family members and clients passing away. It reminded me of an article I wrote over three years ago that I would like to share with you today.

My best friends have been two Labrador retrievers, Star the mother, and Maggie her daughter. This year, they turned 14 and 12 years of age. Both are famous for their friendliness and vigorous tail wagging, greeting family and guests with a nudge and their whole bodies shaking back and forth from the wag of their heavy tails. Most mornings, my alarm clock was Maggie’s tail striking the wall as she waited for me to get out of bed.

Both Star and Maggie fell ill the end of July. Star had two stays in the veterinary clinic. During Star’s second stay, Maggie died. When my son picked up Star from her second stay at the veterinarian, she was so excited to go home. Though she was quite weak, she managed to wag her tail. After she walked through the house and could not find Maggie, she climbed onto the couch with help. She never wagged her tail again.

A couple of weeks later, I was speaking out of town. Throughout the day, I would get reports on Star. Late that night, I got home and Star was on the couch. I sat on the couch beside her, putting her head in my lap. There was little recognition. I started reading my own article reprinted in The Hays Daily News about letting an old dog, Star hunt for as long as possible and about enjoying life, even as you grow old. I realized at that point, sitting on the couch, Star and I would never hunt together again, that she had stopped enjoying life.

The most emotional part of my practice as an elder law attorney is working with families facing end-of-life decisions. As prepared as families think they are, it is the most difficult of times.

Unfortunately, it can be much more difficult if there has not been “the talk.” What quality of life is important to them? Do they want feeding tubes or other life support? Do they want to donate organs? Who will be the decision maker if they cannot speak for themselves? What happens if they lose cognitive abilities on a permanent basis? What type of health services do they want or not want?

Many of these decisions need, and must be conveyed in legal documents, a living will, powers of attorney for financial and health care decisions and perhaps a do-not-resuscitate order.

But more important, or at least as important, is that these wishes need to be communicated to your family. You need to have “the talk.” Let them know what you want or do not want.

Please understand that the journey is not yours alone. Dying is not just the journey of the ill person, it is the journey of many who love and care for that person.

When I assumed the care of my grandmother, she had three to six months to live. That went on for ten years. I smile at that because we had ten great years together. Through the years, we had several discussions about the end of life. When Mam-Maw did die, I knew what she wanted and that she was ready. I knew what health services she wanted and did not want. I knew she was ready to go.

As my sister and I stood at the gravesite of my grandmother, we were able to make the transition ourselves. The transition to a world without Mam-Maw, a world we had never experienced. It was an important transition for my sister and me, as it was for my grandmother.

So, that night with Star’s head on my lap, I knew it was time for the transition. The next day, my wife, my son Josh and his wife Andrea and my son Ben all accompanied Star to the veterinary clinic. As she laid there, we all held her. She was able to muster a final raise of her head, looking to all of us with those great, kind eyes. The eyes that trusted and loved us. She closed those eyes and then passed with her family leading her through the transition. Part of all of us went with her.

I cannot overemphasize how dying is a transition for the dying, but also for family members and friends. It is hard to let go, darn hard, the hardest. Having “the talk” allows for the transition. But when the wagging stops, it is time to let your loved one pass. Hopefully you can be there, in person or in spirit.

Somewhere, I know Star and Maggie are wagging their tails, waiting for me to come home, so that we can continue our journey.

Randy Clinkscales of Clinkscales Elder Law Practice, PA, Hays, Kansas, is an elder care attorney, practicing in western Kansas. To contact him, please send an email to [email protected]. Disclaimer: The information in the column is for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Each case is different and outcomes depend on the fact of each case and the then applicable law. For specific questions, you should contact a qualified attorney. 

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Jan 08, 2020 11:52 PM
Why Kansas CO2 emissions are at lowest level in 40 years
A wind turbine rises over Kansas. Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

By BRIAN GRIMMETT, Kansas News Service

WICHITA, Kansas — As global carbon dioxide emissions break records, Kansas is headed in the opposite direction — reducing emissions for 10 straight years.

Kansas’ decline is largely due to the rapid adoption of wind energy and a slow move away from coal powered electricity. That is to say: Kansas produces less carbon dioxide, or CO2, the powerful greenhouse gas that’s released into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels and is a major driver of climate change.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Kansas emitted 58.2 million metric tons of CO2 in 2017. That’s good enough to make Kansas only the 31st largest emitter in the U.S.

While it’s below the national average, on a global scale: “Kansas, if it were its own country, would be one of the top 60 CO2 emitters,” said Joe Daniel, an energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

So, when Kansas sees a reduction in emissions like it has in the past decade, it matters, he said.

The decline began in 2007, when total CO2 emissions in Kansas peaked at nearly 80 million metric tons.

Where CO2 comes from

So how did the state reduce its annual CO2 emissions by as much as the entire country of Bolivia so quickly? Three graphics explain it all.

First, it’s helpful to know the source of Kansas’ CO2 emissions. In 2017, about half of total CO2 emissions came from burning fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, to create electricity. The rest was mostly from burning gasoline and diesel in our cars and trucks.

The recent reductions aren’t transportation-related, because, despite more efficient and cleaner burning engines, additional people and cars have offset the difference. In fact, total transportation emissions in Kansas have barely changed in the past 40 years.

That leaves electric power generation.

The decline of coal

As the graph shows, energy-related CO2 emissions began to plummet in the mid-2000s. Specifically, it’s emissions from coal-fired power plants.

While some of the reductions are likely due to plant upgrades and federal environmental regulations that forced coal plants to clean up what was coming out of their smoke stacks, it’s mostly because plants burned less coal.

Coal plants in Kansas only produced about 20,000 gigawatt hours of electricity in 2018, compared to an average of about 35,000 gigawatt hours during the 2000s.

Daniel said the decline is largely due to economics. With the fast growth of cheap wind-generated electricity in Kansas, it’s become less profitable to run coal plants.

“I don’t think a month has gone by where I haven’t read a study about the poor economics of either coal plants, or coal mines, or the companies that invest in those properties,” Daniel said.

The rise of wind

About 36% of all electricity produced in Kansas is from wind, the highest percentage of any U.S. state.

Twenty years ago, there was no such thing.

Part of the rapid growth of the industry is obvious: You wouldn’t put a wind turbine in a place with no wind, and there’s a lot of wind in Kansas.

Plus, federal and state tax incentives encouraged developers to jump into the market.

And it’s increasingly cheaper to build a wind farm.

Just this year, Kansas saw four new wind farms come online, adding enough capacity to power 190,000 homes for a year.

“Will we see four wind projects come online every year for the next five years? No,” said Kimberly Gencur-Svaty, director of public policy at the Kansas Power Alliance. “But I do think we’ll probably continue at a pace of where we’ve averaged the last 20 years, which is a project or two.”

How low can it go?

Ashok Gupta with the Natural Resources Defence Council said the move to renewable energy and subsequent decrease in CO2 emissions will be vital to reducing the impacts of climate change.

But, he wondered if it will be fast enough, especially in states that have a lot of wind.”

“We should be going by 2030 to pretty much carbon-free electricity,” he said.

While some states like Colorado have begun to adopt 100% renewable energy goals, Kansas has not. Even if Kansas were to get to 100% renewable energy, there’s still the nearly 20 million metric tons of transportation emissions to worry about.

Achieving a clean electrical grid will also be key to reducing those emissions, Gupta said, even if it also means another, different shift in the way things are currently done.

“We have to start making sure that our transportation and our buildings are moving to all electric,” he said. “That’s the strategy for the next 10 years.”

Editor's note: This story was corrected  on Dec. 30 to show the coal plants produced gigawatt hours of electricity, not megawatt, and that there are 20 million metric tons of transportation emissions, not 20 metric tons.

Brian Grimmett reports on the environment, energy and natural resources for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett or email him at [email protected] The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.