It’s all about air of the dog these days

IMG_20180910_151552051_HDR[1]I’d be a terrible mom because I can’t blow up balloons. Never could. I hiss and spit and just about explode, but the balloon stays limp.

I don’t have any need to blow up balloons, but life has been all about air lately. My car tires suddenly needed more air when the temperature dropped into the low 40s this week. Hello, Les Schwab, where a kid who looked to be about 12 years old did what I felt unable to do myself. Where did the air go? Why doesn’t it just stay in the tire? And who ever decided we would ride on rubber circles filled with air? It sounds crazy.

A Google search led me to this article on tires and the invention of the inner tube in 1845, quickly followed by the invention of the flat tire.

But mostly my attention has been on the blue inner tube-like inflatable collar my dog Annie wore post-knee surgery to keep her from licking her incision. Why not use the traditional plastic cone of shame? Because it’s cruel. The dog can’t see, can’t eat, can’t drink. The collar is easier on both of us—if it would just stay inflated.

We had three weeks of hard caregiving, starting with 12 pills a day and me constantly watching to make sure Annie didn’t get to her wound or overuse the leg which has been restructured with plates and screws.

And blowing air into the stupid collar. We had three different collars in three weeks. Air, it seems, is a hard thing to hold onto. Being a lousy balloon blower, I gave up and tried to use my late husband’s air compressor. It plugs into the car, forcing me to sit inside with the engine running while I direct air into the rubber nozzle. I couldn’t make it work at first. Desperate, I ran to the handy neighbor for help. He hooked it to a machine in his garage and had it blown up in seconds.

A week later, the collar sprang a leak. I woke up to find Annie licking her knee. No! The staples hoping her incision together were gone. But maybe it was okay. A nice scab had formed. Maybe the incision had healed enough to let her go commando.

Wrong. Fifteen minutes before I had to leave to play music for the 5:00 Mass on the Saturday nine days after her surgery, Annie sat in the back yard and licked the whole thing wide open while I was getting dressed. Cursing, I dragged her across the street and borrowed the neighbor dog’s plastic cone to get us through Mass. Annie went berserk, banging into me and knocking down furniture. I had to leave; the choir was waiting. God bless the neighbor who sat with her while I did Mass and went to the Mini Pet Mart to buy another inflatable collar.

Collar number two was too big, even though the measurements on the box were correct for a 20-inch neck. Annie slipped out of it during the night and again while I was taking a bath. She chewed up her wound. Ate the bandage I’d put on it.

We just had to get to her vet appointment on Monday, I thought, counting the hours till we’d be free.

No, said the vet. Look how red and oozy it is. She needs to wear the collar for another week and take another round of antibiotics. Back to the Mini Pet Mart, where Annie knocked over a display of jerky treats while I exchanged the giant collar for collar number three, my favorite because it glowed in the dark. That one worked until last Thursday, when it flattened from an inner tube to a cumbersome necklace. Rats.

I was not going to bother the neighbor again. I was not going to sit in my car trying to work the compressor either. I was going to blow it up with my own mouth if it killed me. Phew, phew, phew. Ow, my lungs. Deep breaths. I’m a smart woman. I could figure this out, right? What if I put my lips in the same position I learned in my failed attempt to learn to play the flute? OMG, it worked. Finally a use for my embouchure!

My success was short-lived. By bedtime, the collar was half flat. By morning, it was useless. I blew it up again and again, trying to keep it going just a little longer. Finally,  Annie’s wound had healed enough. Hallelujah.

This morning, I gave her the last of her antibiotics. Collar-free, she can use the doggie door again, so I don’t have to escort her out to do her business. She still limps, she still has a bald back left leg, and I still keep looking at her incision to make sure it hasn’t opened up. But we seem to be past the worst of it.

I paid the first installment of the vet bill this morning, and I’ve got two limp collars sitting on the washing machine. I never did locate the leaks. I pray we never need to go through this again. But at least now I can blow up the inner tubes inside the collars by myself. I have also figured out the compressor, just in case.

Did you know there are YouTube videos on how to blow up a balloon? You’ve got to watch this one from Gregg the Balloon Guy. It’s funny, helpful, and he is so cute I think I’m in love. He also offers a solution if your mouth isn’t working: a balloon pump. Only about $5 online. He says all the good balloon guys use them.

I wondered who decided you could trap air inside things like balloons, inner tubes, tires and balls. How do you capture something that is neither solid nor liquid? Google had answers, of course.

This article explains how balloons were invented in 1824.

Check out this history of soccer balls.

Just for fun, here’s a piece on the invention of bubble wrap.

Why is there air? To blow up basketballs. That’s what Bill Cosby said on one of his comedy albums back when everybody loved him and “me too” was what you said when an adult asked, “Who wants ice cream?”

For now, I’m just happy to breathe air in and out and watch Annie do the same without an inflatable collar.

Can you blow up balloons? What’s the secret?

 

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No, it’s not medicine, it’s a yummy treat!

It’s all about pills around the Lick house these days. Annie thinks they’re treats. Don’t tell her any different.

Post knee surgery, the dog came home from the veterinary hospital with six different medications to be administered at varIMG_20180831_083701117[1]ying intervals and frequencies. She had antibiotics, pills for pain, pills for inflammation, and pills for sedation. So many pills I needed a spreadsheet to keep them straight.

Some of Annie’s meds are chewable. Rimadyl, $90-plus a bottle, she gobbles down. Phycox chewies, which look like the old Rolo chocolate-caramel candies but smell like dirty socks, she snatches out of my hand. But most of her prescriptions are tablets or capsules.

Getting pills into a dog is not easy. It’s not like you can ask them to pop them in their mouth, swallow and chase them with a glass of water. No way. People say: Hide them in their food, coat them with peanut butter, bury them in cheese, chicken, or hot dogs. Maybe that works with their dogs, but not Annie. My dog can find the pill in any sort of disguise and spit it out, especially the capsules, which she can’t chew. It’s especially fun when she breaks the capsule open and scatters white drug powder everywhere.

You can buy a “pill shooter” to launch the medicine into the pup’s mouth, but aiming it into the mouth of a moving dog is a challenge. There’s also the method where two people hold the dog down and you force the pill deep into their throats, holding their mouth closed until they swallow. It works, but it’s not a good way to stay friends with your best friend. Also, there are no other people here.

Enter pill pockets. God bless the genius who invented them. What’s a pill pocket, you say. It’s like a circle of cookie dough with a hole in it for the pill. You insert the pill, smoosh the dough around it and offer it to the dog. She swallows it whole and looks for another one. Cephalexin, check. Tramadol, check. Trazadone, check. See you when you wake up.

Now how come dogs get to eat cookie dough and we don’t?

Never mind. I have purchased pill pockets in chicken, hickory, and peanut butter flavors at the Mini Pet Mart. None of the other local stores carry them. Walmart has an off-brand variety that Annie immediately rejected. I couldn’t blame her. Those pockets were hard and nasty. But at $12 for a bag of 30 and using an average of eight a day, we have gone through an awful lot of pockets, money, and trips to the pet store. For what looks like cookie dough.

Enough. I found a recipe online to make my own. All it takes is milk, flour and creamy peanut butter (the kind without xylitol). I wouldn’t get those perfectly formed circles like the store-bought ones, which list several more ingredients (rehydrated chicken, xanthan gum, “natural” flavors?), but maybe it would work. If Annie rejected them, I could eat them.

On Saturday, I made the homemade pockets. Easy enough, although I don’t see how they expect one to get 12 pockets out of one tablespoon each of milk and peanut butter, mixed with two tablespoons of flour. I got three. I put holes in them, added a pain pill and offered one to the dog.

She rolled it around the floor a while, then took it in her mouth with an expression of distaste on her doggy face like I had never seen before. Sheer horror. After she choked it down, I tried a bite. Oh. I apologized to the dog and offered her a meatball dog treat. Maybe we need a different recipe, something with butter and sugar. Meanwhile back to the pet store.

Until recently, I have always taken my own pills straight. Put in mouth, swallow, wash down with water, done. Most of the time. I have never been good with pills. I gag. I cough them up. I look at the big ones and wonder how I’m going to swallow them. Deep breath. Down the hatch. But not long ago, I bought a bottle of calcium gummies, orange and raspberry-flavored 500 mg. wonders that I actually enjoy. They’re loaded with sugar, and I question whether they’re as effective as the regular calcium pills, but they’re delicious. Like the dog, I always want another one.

They didn’t have gummies when I was a kid. I enjoyed the orange-flavored children’s aspirin Mom gave us. But the pills, ugh. We always got one of Mom’s homemade cookies after taking our medicine. How great it would it have been if she had put the pills in the cookies and all we tasted was cookie. But it took dog people to think of that.

Annie in donut 2018With luck, Annie will soon be back to one arthritis chewy a day, and I can recycle the spreadsheets and empty pill bottles. At what used to be pill time, she’ll hound me for those delicious doughy treats.

What is your go-to pilling-the-pet process? Want to come over and make pill pockets?

Here are some sites that offer advice on medicating the pooch.

https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-give-your-pet-pill

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-care/how-to-give-your-dog-pills

https://iheartdogs.com/8-creative-ideas-for-getting-your-dog-to-take-their-medicine/

 

Do You Have a Bury-the-Body Friend?

17578403 - woman carrying spadeI’ve gotta get me some friends, and not just Facebook friends, although I appreciate every one of you. I need some “bury the body”* friends, preferably young ones with strong backs.

County commissioner and sister writer Claire Hall shared that saying with me at a party on Saturday. A “bury the body” friend is one whom you can call at 3 a.m. to help you dispose of a corpse and they say, “I’ll be right there.” They don’t ask why you have a body to bury. They don’t say, “Are you crazy? It’s the middle of the night.” They just show up. With a shovel. That kind of friend.

I don’t expect to bury any bodies (okay, I did bury a dead rabbit a while back), but I do see the need for a bury-the-body friend. As a widowed, childless woman getting older by the second, I have been reading this book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers by Sara Zeff Geber. It’s extremely well done, and it scares the bejeebers out of me.

Geber’s main message is that we need to get our act together while we can. Even if we have spouses and kids, we need to make arrangements for our older years and our death. Our spouses may die. Our children may or may not jump in to help. And if we have neither, we’d better figure out who is going to handle such things as paying our bills, making medical decisions, making sure the dog gets fed, helping us to transition (God forbid) to a nursing home, or deciding what to do with our bodies when we die. Cheery stuff like that.

If we don’t have all our paperwork in order and haven’t chosen people to take care of things, either things will not be taken care of, or the job will be given to folks who don’t know us well enough to know what we would want.

So we need friends. Let me stress that I do have friends, wonderful friends, but most of them are older than I am. No, no, no, says Geber, you need to cultivate younger friends. Cozy up to them until you trust each other enough to put their names on your advanced directive. I’m not good at cozying. I hate networking. I’m uncomfortable at parties unless I’m playing with the band. Take a class, volunteer, join a club, says Geber, but I’m already plenty busy, and where I live, most of the people doing these things are seniors like me. Should I move?

How do all the people on TV sitcoms hook up with friends who are always together, always in one another’s homes, always there in a crisis? Does that really happen?

I’m working on ways to connect with friends under 65. I’m open to invitations and thinking of making some of my own, even though I’m an introvert who is much more comfortable at the computer.

How about you? Do you have a bury-the-body friend? If you don’t, do you worry about it? If you do have such a friend, how did you connect and how do you keep the friendship going?

Here’s another question: With young people so tied to their electronic devices, will they find themselves without lifelong bury-the-body friends in old age?

Please comment.

* I’m still trying to locate the original source of the “bury-the-body” saying, which has developed many variations, including that a real friend will show you the good spots for burying and that a real friend will assume that if you killed somebody they deserved killing.

** If you remember last week’s post, Annie the dog had knee surgery on Aug. 16. We were almost done with the worst of her recovery when her inflatable collar deflated early Saturday morning. I woke up to a limp collar and the dog licking her incision. She kept licking it, reopening the wound and making for a tense weekend. I bought a new collar that proved too big. She got it off and went back to licking. This morning, which was supposed to be the day for removing Annie’s sutures, the vet sentenced us to an extra week of the collar, the pills, and the inability for me to leave the dog for any longer than necessary. Back to the Mini Pet Mart. I bought a new collar that even escape artist Houdini could not get out of. We’re both going stir-crazy. Grr.

Photo Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

The Trials of a Dog Wearing a Donut

Annie in donut 2018

Monday, 6 a.m.

I awaken for the umpteenth time and listen for the dog. I hear her shaking her head. Along with the big blue donut around her neck that’s driving her crazy, she has an ear infection, so neither one of us can sleep. Does she need to go potty? Is she licking her incision? Is she choking on the bandage she ate last night? If she’s quiet, is she asleep or is she dead?

Seven more days. I’m not sure either one of us will survive. Annie had her second knee surgery on Thursday in Springfield, Oregon, a two-hour drive away. They don’t do this complicated bionic procedure on big dogs here in Newport. Oregon Veterinary Referral Associates is very nice, full of kind, talented people. If only they weren’t so far away. If only the air weren’t full of smoke from the various wildfires. If only it wasn’t 90 degrees out and the air conditioner on my Honda “Toaster” Element wasn’t broken. If only Annie hadn’t torn her left ACL a year and a month after she tore the ACL on her other leg.

The surgery went well, they say. After three days, Annie is beginning to put some weight on the leg. Just now when I finally got up to stay up, I found her on the easy chair in the den. “How did you do that?” I asked. She didn’t say. The leg must have worked well enough to get her up there. By the expression on her face, she doesn’t know how she’s going to get down.

I’m afraid to look at her incision. The first night, she got to it in spite of the donut, and removed several of her stitches. I mopped up a little blood and applied a bandage. I rejiggered the donut, and she doesn’t seem to be able to reach the remaining stitches. Except for church, when the neighbor doggie-sat, I have been with her constantly. Once in a while, we go for a short walk. She scoots along on three legs faster than I can walk, stopping to sniff here and there and to water the grass. Mostly we’ve been sitting on the floor. I pet her belly while reading, writing, watching videos on my tablet, or just contemplating the shocking fact that under her fur, my dog has fat thighs like me.

Last night, since I was right there, I took off the troublesome donut. She stretched out, rubbed her head on the rug in ecstasy and went to sleep. For hours. I couldn’t bear to wake her. I slipped into the other room to watch TV, checking on her at the commercials. Sleeping, sleeping . . . No! I caught her sitting up, licking her incision, bandage gone, shit-eating grin on her face.

I put the collar back on and gave her more of her six different medications while praying to God that she will be able to digest and excrete the big bandage, just as she has passed and excreted all manner of other things, including parts of a nylon collar, rubber toys, and wood. Please don’t let her need emergency surgery to remove the stupid bandage which her stupid mom left unattended and which her stupid mom absolutely cannot afford.

I contemplated a future without her. No. Please God, save us from our own stupidity.

I have told Annie that she has to live until I pay off this surgery. At least. Aside from the bandage making its way through her digestive tract, she’s healing well. Her incision looks fine. Her appetite is good, and she seems relatively happy. Except that the donut is driving her nuts because she can’t scratch her itchy ear, lick her stitches, or lick her bottom. I’m hoping the drugs help.

During my off-and-on sleep, I had wild dreams. A dog got hit by a car. My hair turned into this big bushy thing that got bigger the more I tried to control it. I won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. That was a nice one. But I’m as sleepy now as I was when I went to bed at 9:45 last night. Welcome to another doggy day.

If you have read my 2011 book Shoes Full of Sand, all of this may sound familiar. We went through two knee surgeries with Sadie, Annie’s predecessor. But Fred was here to help. They did the surgeries at our local vet’s office. Plus I was so much younger then.

On the good side, Annie’s a wonderful snuggler, and we communicate without words. I walk toward the door, suggesting she goes out. She stays put and licks her lips. No. I want to eat. I give her a pill in a chicken-flavored pill pocket, which she thinks is a treat. (God bless the people who invented pill pockets.) She interrupts my work to nose my sweatshirt and my shoes to tell me it’s time for a walk. I get up. She has me well-trained. Except that now she’s telling me she wants the donut gone. Not happening.

The car goes to the shop tomorrow for a whole day of repairs. $1,400. Turns out the air conditioner wasn’t all that was broken on the trusty toaster, which has covered a lot of miles this year.

God willing, we will survive this, but it’s going to be a long, long week.

 

 

We’re Never Too Old to Sing and Play

Gus & Trish 91315
Gus Willemin and Trish Morningstar at the South Beach open mic

 

I was sitting at the piano at the Saturday evening Mass when I got a vision of me and my three-woman choir in Newport, Oregon being echoed at churches all over the world, singing and chanting the same songs at the same Mass. It was beautiful.

Behind me that night sat two visiting couples, probably in their 70s. Both of the men sang out, one in a strong voice, the other in a reedy rasp. Both came up to talk afterward. The burly guy from Vancouver thanked me for lowering the key on a couple of the songs, making them easier to sing. The other man, thin, balding, with an earring in his left ear, shared that he is losing his voice to cancer. “Did any of you girls ever smoke?” he asked us. We shook our heads. “Well, good.”

All three of my Saturday singers are over 70. I’m getting closer every day. Our Sunday choir also has its share of septuagenarians. But none of these singers are “geezers.” Nobody is ready to settle in their easy chair to watch TV till they die. In fact, they’re so active it’s difficult to keep up with their schedules, whether they’re singing with Sweet Adelines, hosting charity events, working at the rec center, serving as Master Gardeners, taking classes, visiting grandchildren, or traveling to the Bahamas.

To most of the congregation, I’m a fixture. They only see the back of my head, if they can see me at all. The music automatically happens. Maybe the teenagers think I’m corny with my button earrings and my pixie cut hair playing the moldy old songs like “Holy Holy Holy,” then rocking out to “Sing of the Lord’s Goodness.” But I catch the little kids staring at me as they come up for Communion. When I smile at them, they smile back, star struck. The piano lady smiled at me!

Of course to some of them I’m the guitar lady because I play for the kids in the religious education on Wednesday nights. Some of our big hits are “Alle, Alle, Alleluia” and “The Butterfly Song.” The little kids sing with gusto, but when they become teenagers, they seem to lose their enthusiasm for the music. Why is that? Will they get it back when they’re old like me? It’s hard for me to understand because I never stopped loving music.

I had a very musical weekend. Every Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., the Waldport song circle meets at the community center. We have a blend of “young” guitar guys just starting to turn gray, a steady group in their 70s and 80s, and Doug, 97, who can’t wait to get to the piano. The music is rarely perfect, but it feels good.

Yesterday, we had our monthly South Beach open mic—second Sunday, 5 to7 p.m. at the South Beach Community Center. Again, it’s a majority of gray hairs. We get ukuleles, mandolins, guitars, fiddles, flutes, saxophones, cellos, and drums. We sing gospel, folk, rock, pop, Beatles, Dylan, Grateful Dead. Anything goes. We accompany each other and harmonize. This wave of sound builds up. Riding it is better than surfing, I swear.

We share a language of music in common, songs that we all know from school, church, the radio, and American Bandstand: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” We grew up in an era when teachers made time for music. I remember loving those thick books full of songs that we sang while teachers played clunky old school pianos. “Waltzing Matilda,” “Funiculi Funicula,” “Little Brown Jug.” Do you remember? I wonder if children do that at all now.

Kids whose parents can afford it, still take music lessons, but do they get together and just sing? Are they too busy fiddling with their phones? Do they think listening to Granddad strum and sing is too corny to think about?

We old folks are still learning new songs and new skills. We battle arthritis and hearing aids. We struggle to figure out which pair of glasses will let us actually read the sheet music, but there are too many great songs to ever stop. We may have to lower the key a little these days, but like that man at church who is losing his voice to cancer, we’re going to sing until we can’t sing anymore. Then, like one of my favorite songs says, we’ll whistle, and when we can’t do that, we’ll listen.

I Can’t Believe It’s All Happening Again

Remember last year when my father broke his leg, a tree crushed my fence and part of my house and my dog had knee surgery for a torn ACL all within three months? And then the west was on fire all summer?

Well, ditto for 2018. It’s déjà vu bigtime.

This June, I traveled south to California to help my dad. I had visions of making major progress with the house, yard, his caregivers and his doctor appointments. He was not doing well. His leg never really healed, so he was still using a walker. He had fallen recently, only skinned his knees, but needed the paramedics to scoop him off the pavement in the back yard. He complained about blurry vision, his clothes getting too loose, and being tired all the time. He obsessed over the gardening and other tasks not getting done.

I thought I would swoop in and fix everything. Instead I woke up on the second day with the stomach flu and couldn’t move beyond the bathroom for the next 48 hours. I didn’t feel much better until a week after I got home. I helped as much as I could, cleaning house, pulling weeds, and running errands while trying not to puke, but didn’t do nearly as much as I wanted to. Dad said, “I didn’t expect you to work.” Yeah. I can just hear him telling people, “She was here for over a week and didn’t do a damn thing.”

The day I got back to South Beach, I picked Annie up at the kennel. I didn’t leave her home with the neighbor feeding her this time because she had been barking for two weeks straight at the bear prowling through our neighborhood. Ten days of that would surely cause the neighbors to lose their minds.

We were overjoyed to see each other. But as I settled in the back yard with the cell phone to make some calls, I noticed my dog suddenly holding up her back left leg. She couldn’t put any weight on it. No. I just paid off the last surgery. Dear God, let it be a thorn or a hangnail, but I already knew what it was. In big dogs like her, when one knee goes, the other is almost sure to follow. The vet confirmed my diagnosis, torn anterior cruciate ligament. Yesterday I found myself back on the road to Springfield to meet with the surgeon, a cheery fellow who said, “Same song, second verse.” We scheduled surgery for Aug. 16. Here we go again.

Once again driving I-5, the air was hazy with smoke from Oregon’s wildfires. Like last year, fires are blazing all the over the West, including a horrific blaze in Redding, and others near Yosemite and Clear Lake, where my brother and my cousins live. The fires seem bigger and harder to control this year. Here’s a link to information about some of the worst California blazes. Please God, watch over the firefighters and help them stop the fires.

And then there’s Dad. On July 25, a year after I sprung him from the nursing home to start his new broken-leg regime at the house with paid caregivers, he fell again. Blood all over the kitchen again. He called my aunt on his cell phone again. The paramedics came again. They had to break the screen door, which he keeps locked. This time, his legs and hips are intact, but he needed 11 stitches on his left arm and has damaged his right shoulder, which means that none of his limbs work as they should. But he refuses to go to “rehab” or have nurses from Kaiser come to the house. He’s a stubborn old cat. He sees his doctor on Aug. 10.

What if dog and dad both need my attention at the same time, 700 miles apart? Annie does not travel well, and I can only lift her 75 pound hulk into the car so many times before my osteoporotic spine crumbles into a pile of shattered bone. Plus Dad would probably trip over the dog. I spent last year running back and forth trying to deal with everything at once. I’m trying not to think about it.

So no tree trouble this year, right? Not exactly. When that other monster tree tried to eat my house, another tree fell at the far end of the yard. The weather was so bad I didn’t see it, didn’t get it included in the insurance claim. It’s still lying on the fence. Yesterday I noticed another tree is leaning on the fence and yet another is resting atop the woodshed. I can’t afford to pay someone to deal with them, so they sit. At least the limpy dog can’t jump over the sagging fences. Also, the bear has moved on, or Annie is too stoned on painkillers to bark about it.

So, déjà vu. I’m using the definition loosely. Actually the phrase does not mean having the same thing happen twice. It’s having the feeling that you have experienced something before. The urban dictionary translates it from the French as “already seen.” Yep, seen it, done it, did not get the T-shirt.

I have to go find Annie’s inflatable collar. Hey God, stop laughing at me.

Click below for a few refreshers on the events of 2017.

“On the Road to California Again” 

“It’s Knees to Me. Annie Preps for Surgery” 

“It’s All About the Dog These Days” 

“Choking in Smoke as the West Burns” 

“If a Tree Falls, It Breaks the Fence”

If you want to read even more past posts in a handy all-in-one-place format, consider buying a copy of my book Unleashed in Oregon: Best from the Blog. (Sorry for the plug, but gee, if you buy a book, it will make me feel better.)