It’s Knees to Me–Annie preps for surgery

IMG_20150902_184515698[1]I stared at the X-ray of Annie’s knee, feeling a wave of déjà vu. Only two weeks ago, I was looking at my father’s X-ray, which showed his broken leg bone and the plate installed to secure the pieces. Annie is going to have a plate, too, same shape, just smaller, to deal with her torn anterior cruciate ligament. The only difference is that she will be able to walk afterward. Also, she’ll have to wear a cone on her head to keep her from biting her stitches.

This also took me back to the early 2000s when our old dog Sadie had surgeries for torn ACLs in both knees. You can read about that adventure in Shoes Full of Sand. In those days, Newport’s Dr. Jay Fineman did the surgery at his office, using sutures and the remnants of the ruptured ligaments. Things have gotten fancier now. Dr. F. has retired to other vet ventures, and his successors don’t do this surgery on big dogs like Annie, so we had to go out of town.

It was the longest drive Annie ever took, all the way to Springfield, 100 miles each way. The dog didn’t understand what was happening as I rushed around getting ready. Why was I putting her blankets in the back of the car? Why was I urging her to “go potty?” When she gathered that we were going for a ride, she got so excited she leaped into the car on her own. Torn ligament? What torn ligament? As we drove past her regular vet’s office, she started shaking, but then we passed it. Wow! Where are we going?

I drove Highway 20 to Philomath, turning off at Mary’s River Park for a rest stop. Oh boy! This is where we’re going! I wish. It’s a nice park with picnic tables, trails, the river, and a vast grassy area. Annie pulled me this way and that, so excited I hated to have to tug her back to the car after she did her business, but we had an appointment down the road.

Springfield, just east of Eugene, is the home of “The Simpsons” on TV. Nice houses, big trees, a peaceful atmosphere. Oregon Veterinary Referral Associates, the fanciest veterinary hospital I have ever seen. Exuberant Annie dragged me to the reception desk. I struggled to fill out forms, hold the dog, and answer the incessant questions of a pixy-haired child beside me who kept asking me what my dog’s name was. “Annie.” “What’s her name?” “Annie.” “What’s her name?” The girl was one of twins, about four years old with matching haircuts and matching dresses. Each had a small stuffed dog that Annie found very interesting. Their mother and grandmother waited with them. I suppose their real dog was inside.

Annie had to greet every human and animal that came in. When a small snub-nosed critter that was all head and minimal body entered, my sweet dog went all Cujo, knocking over my water and scaring the kids. Luckily, the nurse called us in about then, taking us the long way around to avoid the other dog.

In an exam room with a black rug over a white linoleum floor and bench seats all around, Annie raced toward the counter, sure there must be dog treats there. Not at this place. They keep them in a drawer. On with the exam. Pulse, temperature, feel her up. Check the X-rays. Annie was so active that I hoped for a minute that this doctor, a gorgeous woman I’ll call Dr. C., might say she didn’t need surgery. No such luck. She brought out the visual aids, including a fake leg bone that Annie was dying to chew on and pictures to show exactly what would be done. After the surgery, Annie will be able to walk right away, although I’ll have to keep her from running or jumping. In eight weeks, she should be fully healed. (If only this vet was taking care of my dad’s leg. We don’t know when or if he’ll be able to walk again. For at least the next month, he’s stuck in his wheelchair in the nursing home.)

The doctor went out, and her blue-scrubs-clad assistant April came in to schedule the surgery, give me instructions, and go over the estimated costs. Oh my gosh. Big numbers. Did I look a little pale? Annie wasn’t worried. She lay on the rug, facing the counter, waiting for cookies and for a chance to get out of there.

Finally, my purse stuffed with papers, my head stuffed with information, we pushed out into the sun and took a walk around downtown Springfield. What a great place. Of course I was looking at the buildings, and Annie was sniffing the bushes. Maybe we should move here, I said. I say that about every town I like.

Then it was back on the road. One hour 55 minutes, no stops. I encouraged Annie to relax on her blankets in the back, but no, she had to see what was going on and she wanted to be close enough to touch me. The seat belt alarm kept going off as she perched on the passenger seat. Toward the end, she looked a little queasy.

When we get home, she will sleep, I thought. Ha. I accidentally left the screen door unlatched while I was unloading the car. Suddenly a tan dog-shaped bullet came flying by me. Annie, free at last, zoomed across the street, where she ran and played with Harley, the giant yellow Lab. Then she plunged into the trees and shrubs of the undeveloped property next door. I could hear her rustling around in leaves. Oh well. The doc said she couldn’t tear her ligament any more than it was already torn.

Eventually she worked herself into a dead end. I opened the newly repaired gate on the west side of our property and she walked in. She collapsed on the love seat. I collapsed beside her. Soon she was dreaming, her feet moving, her lips puffing in and out. I pet her knobby knee and leaned my head on her flank.

Knees again.

Sleeping with the dog: move over, Rover!

4f2be-annierestsPets do not grasp the concept of personal space. Offer to share the couch with them and they will ignore several feet of empty cushions to sleep on top of you. If you invite them onto your bed, they will plop themselves right in the middle, sideways, and expect you to deal with it.

At lunch the other day, a friend talked about the cat who keeps sleeping on top of her feet despite being kicked off several times a night. Another described how her old dog slept horizontally in the middle of the bed, causing her and her husband to cling, vertically, to the edges. Picture a big letter H.

dscn1480Thinking back many years ago to my first marriage, I remember a cat whom I referred to as The Flying Cat because he kept getting in my face while I was trying to sleep, which led me to see how far I could throw him, the farther the better so it would take longer for that cat to come back and start the whole affair over again. During the day, that cat would chase me and try to bite my legs. I happily gave him up in the divorce. I can still see his white face pressed against the bars of its cage, yowling, as I moved my stuff out of our apartment. Buh-bye.

Cats get this weird dominance thing going, but dogs, they just want to be close. Very close. Look at how puppies cram together. With their siblings gone, dogs want to get just as close to you. But now they’re big. And they sleep with their paws stretched straight out, pressing into your skin or your nightgown. They’ll drape their whole heavy body over your arm, your belly, your leg, any part that will prevent you from leaving this cozy lovefest and they don’t care that they’re cutting off your circulation.

dscn1315Sleep on the floor? Sleep in a crate? No, I want to be with you. Sound familiar?

Until this year, I kept Annie out of my bedroom. I have a hard enough time sleeping as it is. The few times we tried, she spent all night bugging me to pet her, wagging her tail and pawing me. So no, Annie and her brother Chico were faithfully crate-trained. Take these two Milk-Bones, go sleep in your crates, and I’ll call you in the morning.

Chico is long gone. This winter, thunder scared Annie so bad she banged my door open and insisted on being together. I was feeling lonely, so I said okay. Helping this decision is the fact that dear Annie is in the early stages of hip dysplasia. She can’t jump up on the bed anymore. And I’m not lifting a 75-pound dog. I spread a blanket on the floor. She settled in. But she seemed cold. The next night, I added a second blanket. Now we’re up to three. I have to slide off the far side of the bed and use the hall bathroom so as not to disturb the sleeping dog. I need a flashlight so I don’t trip over the blankets, which tend to move during the night.

Annie has not quite accepted the fact that she can’t share my blankets. Several times a night, I hear her walking up to the side of the bed. I feel her hot breath and her nose poking me. Hey, hey, hey. “Go to sleep,” I mutter. She collapses on top of my slippers.

As a result, I am half asleep typing this, and Annie is running in her sleep on the loveseat out in the living room. Neither of us got enough sleep during the night, but by God, we were together. Now I don’t dare try to kick her out. The habit is formed. I’m thinking about going to a motel to get some sleep.

So how do your dogs and cats sleep? With you or elsewhere? Do they take up the whole bed? Horizontal? Vertical? Legs in the air? Please comment to tell us about your night-time adventures with your furry friends.

 

 

 

 

There’s nothing like the love of a dog

Annie Feb14C

This week, I have decided to share a poem with you. The left side of the loveseat is mine. The rest belongs to Annie. Enjoy.

On the Green Love Seat

Come into the circle of my arms.

Lay your head upon my lap.

I will rub your belly and whisper

into your floppy velvet ears

that you’re my one true love.

 

Stretch your paw across my arm,

lick my fingers with your long pink tongue,

sniff me with your moist black nose,

fix your amber eyes on mine.

You are my one true love.

 

Let your nails chafe the worn upholstery,

your tan fur coat my clothes,

your fleas walk across my bathrobe.

I will hold you anyway

for you are my one true love.

 

When you whimper in your dreams,

I will hold you closer still,

safe in the circle of my arms

in the endless spinning of the earth.

You, dear friend, are my one true love.

 

Photos and text copyright 2016 Sue Fagalde Lick

Woman and Dog in the Woods

IMG_20150903_164207601[1]

So many things on my mind. Health problems, car accident, an argument with a friend. After dinner, I sink into the backyard spa and let the hot water steep me like a tea bag, soaking out the crazies as daylight fades around me. While I soak, Annie runs around the yard, barking at dogs she hears in other yards, grabbing a yard-long tree branch and carrying it around, then settling down to chew on it like a peppermint stick.

When I get out, not ready to go into the house, still avoiding the telephone and email, I wrap myself in my big towel and sit on the grass. Annie comes running and sits beside me. I wrap my arm around her. Suddenly we feel like IMG_20150902_184515698[1]a couple, Annie and me, partners in this challenging life of childless widowhood in the woods. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this big yellow dog. I know she won’t live forever. But she’s here now, and that’s what counts.

Whatever I do, she’s nearby, watching, listening, waiting for a chance to share my food, walk with me, or lie beside me on the love seat while I read, write, talk on the phone, or just pet her and tell her I love her. When she leans her 80 pounds into me, I feel something inside me sigh and relax.

Earlier, we walked our usual walk down 98th Street and into the wildness area beyond the houses. Suddenly Annie froze, ears up, listening. I didn’t IMG_20150904_100542760[1]hear anything. I was ready to plunge on through the salal and blackberries, but Annie turned us around. Tail down, she led me swiftly back to the road. I still didn’t see any danger, but she did, and I trust her superior hearing and smell. Often she has sensed someone or something long before I noticed. It was probably just a deer, but when Annie says, “Let’s go,” we go, just as she obeys when I pull her out of the way because a car is coming or I see potentially poisonous refuse on the side of the road. These days when the bushes are full of ripe berries, she eats from the lower branches and I eat from the upper ones. We’re a team.

Thank God for Annie.

A Poem: Learning to Simply Be

pupsleep3

The dog sleeps against my leg,
chest rising and falling, smelling of Milk-bones,
dirt and rain-washed fur.
She has nowhere to go, no thoughts
about what she ought to be doing now.

My ankle twitches, my thighs itch.
I count the ticks of the piano clock,
like a metronome set on andante, slow.
I should be practicing, arranging my music,
composing a brilliant new song to play.

The big dog whimpers in her sleep.
Her paws paddle in the air. She pants.
“It’s okay,” I whisper, stroking her back.
Her muscles tense beneath my hand,
then relax as she awakens with a sigh.

She jumps up, shakes from nose to tail,
stretches and leads me to the door.
Outside, the stars shine thick and bright.
As she trots across the grass to pee,
I gaze upward, still earning to simply be.

***************************

The pups in the picture are my babies Annie (tan) and Chico (black). They will turn seven next week.

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2015

Christmas: The Dog’s Point of View

It’s not great art, but I’m crazy busy like everyone else. Enjoy. 🙂

Humbug Dog
It was three weeks before Christmas
and all through the casa
it rained Santas and angels
and presents. Que pasa?
It looked like a Christmas store
exploded all over
while asleep in the middle
lay snoring dear Rover,
not interested in blinking lights
or tinsel on the Christmas tree,
not charmed by stockings on the mantel shelf
or candy handed out with glee.
But if the cookie box should shake,
that sleeping dog would spring to her feet,
trampling snowmen and Santa Clauses
to gobble up her well-earned treat.
Until then, she will dose and dream
of walks on the beach and romps in the snow,
ears open as she sleeps and waits
for Santa to pack up his sleigh and go.
[Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick Dec. 9, 2014]

Oh Rats! A Tale of Rats, Cats and Runaway Dogs


This is a story about rats. Once upon a time, I would sit in my hot tub at dusk, warm water up to my neck, stars brightening up above, dog chewing on a log from the woodpile, and I’d see something scurry from the deck to the fence. Something dark, something small, something that was probably a rat. 
This went on for months, maybe years. In my childlike way, I thought he was cute. I welcomed him to the family, naming him Ratatouille. Ew, rats, people said, but I think everything’s cute until proven otherwise. Remember Sal the Salamander? Ned the Newt? Gary the garter snake?
One day, I found a dead rat on the lawn. No blood, just a black rat corpse. Did Annie kill it? I’ll never know. Grieving the loss of Ratatouille, I carried the corpse out to the woods. Bye, bye rat.
Now at the same time, also for months, maybe years, I was aware of a missing vent cover at the base of the house, over near the fence. Annie noticed, too. Every time she went out, she ran over to sniff its cool darkness. Got to fix that one of these days, I thought. The old metal cover had disintegrated in our coastal wetness, so critters could get in. And out. I never imagined they’d back up the U-Haul and take up residence.
It turns out Ratatouille was not alone. One night as I was washing the dishes, I started hearing noises under the stove. It sounded like something was chewing at the underside of the floor, trying to get out. “Annie!” I called to the dog. “Listen!” Her ears pricked up. She stared at the floor and began to whine. Rather than save me from this marauder, she snuggled against me for protection.
It chewed and chewed. I opened cupboards and looked behind things, afraid something would jump out at me, but it didn’t. I stomped the floor hard, and the chewing stopped. Maybe it was gone. That night I dreamed it was a litter of kittens. The noise came back again and again, under the table, under the toaster oven, under the hallway. The morning it woke me up chewing under the bedroom, I stomped the floor and said, “That’s it.”
I called a company out of the phone book with a name that sounded humane and ecologically sound. When the guy arrived in his VW bug decorated with pictures of ants, it was not a good time at the Lick house. It was 91 degrees in Newport, about 30 degrees hotter than usual. Confused bugs swirled  around my head. My back had gone out and I was hurting from my morning trip to the chiropractor. I was also preparing for a trip to California to help my dad, who had fallen and broken his hip. 
The new dog sitter had just come to meet Annie. Harley, the giant Lab from across the street, had come to the door with her. Annie, seeing her buddy, had whooshed out the door and run away.
“Uh, that was the dog you’ll be taking care of.”
“Well, she looked nice. Hey, there’s somebody else here.”
Rat guy. While Annie romped in the woods, I showed the exterminator the crawl space in the master bedroom closet. A man of size, he blanched. Small doesn’t begin to describe the space under my house. Or so plumbers and house inspectors have told me. He squeezed himself down, looked around for a minute and popped back up, brushing dirt and rat poop off his jeans and shirt. “Ya got rats, he said, an infestation of rats, droppings all over. They have shredded your insulation so it looks like a cave full of stalactites. For the equivalent of two mortgage payments, plus a car payment, we will put out bait, remove the corpses, remove the polluted insulation and sanitize the whole thing. I’ll get one of my skinny young guys to crawl underneath.”
I was in shock. “You kill them?” I had had visions of the rats being lured into a box and being driven to someplace nice to start new lives. Meanwhile, where the heck was my dog?
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Well . . . I’m heading to California to take care of my dad who broke his hip. How about if I let you know when I get back?”
He looked at me as if I was stupid. “You want to wait two more weeks? I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Which is how I ended up writing him a check for most of what was in my checking account and letting him place bait/aka poison under the deck and under the house. In two weeks, Rat Guy will return with his crew to remove the corpses and ruined insulation and sanitize the area under my house.
As we walked out the front door, Rat Guy pointed out a rustling in the trees west of my house. We listened. In a minute, my big yellow dog emerged, panting, tail wagging. I snapped on her leash and hugged her hard. “You brat. You scared me.”
She smiled her doggy smile.
I turned to Rat Guy, who was laughing at my worn-out dog. “You’re sure she can’t get at the poison? She’s sneaky.”
“I’m sure. She’ll be just fine.”
After he drove away, the rats were eerily silent. Annie lay exhausted on the lawn. I cried awhile about the devastation of my finances and my inability to keep up with everything that needs taking care of at this oversized house. I grieved for my dead husband, who left me to manage everything alone. Then I ate a piece of cake and moved on.
When I talked to my dad on the phone later, he said he would have put bait out himself. It shouldn’t cost much. So, was Rat Guy just trying to help or was he a great salesman? All I know is I’m not crawling under my house for any price.
Ah, Ratatouille, you rat.