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.

 

 

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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.)

Your roadside garbage is Annie’s treasure

IMG_20180608_112332585_HDR[1]When Annie and I walk, we have different purposes. I want to exercise, explore and clear my mind of everything happening at my desk. Annie wants to relieve herself and eat, mostly eat. To her, our woodsy roads and trails are a buffet. No doubt she remembers fondly the day she scored half a burrito. Let’s go walking. There might be another one!

Trash abounds, especially on garbage day when stuff gets spilled on its way from the carts to the Thompson’s Sanitary trucks. Some people seem to overestimate the capacity of their carts. On Friday, I watched a crow eating from the garbage overflowing at least a foot above a neighbor’s open cart. Wrappers and scraps lay all over the ground. It’s hard to keep an 80-pound dog from making a party of it.

Bears compound the problem. Not only do they cause Annie to bark into the wee hours, but they dump the trash all over the streets, making it easier for Annie to grab a bite while I drag her away, yelling, “Leave it!” and wondering what she’s chewing on.

Annie 72915I say, “Leave it!” a lot. Up and down the road, we find candy wrappers, McDonald’s leftovers, Starbucks and Dutch Brothers coffee cups, Skoal containers, cigar butts, and cigarette packs, whiskey bottles and beer cans galore. In the endless months when crews had our roads torn up to replace the water pipes, workers ate their lunches beside their trucks and tossed the leftovers into the bushes. Party time for Annie. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hot damn.

People food is not good for dogs (and other animals). Onions, chocolate, and coffee are all toxic. Meat that doesn’t start out toxic becomes so after sitting around for a few days. Not to mention that we’re both always on a diet, with minimal success. I try to keep her from eating her roadside finds, but sometimes she’s faster than I am. She gets her treat before I even see what it was.

Annie can smell food a block away, no exaggeration. As the one who has gotten dragged halfway down the street so she can plunge her head deep into the salal and salmonberries, I can testify that there’s always something there. It could be a sandwich, a candy bar, or the leavings from fishermen cleaning their fish or hunters gutting their deer. How I wish people would not toss their garbage wherever they are, as if it doesn’t matter.

Mother Nature provides its share of edible attractions, too. Annie loves berries, especially blackberries. She knows which ones are ripe and can suck them off the vine without getting stuck in the thorns. And they’re good for her.

The roads are full of smashed mice, squirrels, snakes and frogs that didn’t make it across the road. Also feces. These, my dogs like to roll in. Inevitably, she does her drop and roll just as someone drives by. I stand embarrassed, chanting, “Get up, get up, get up,” as she rolls on her back, feet in the air, rubbing herself in ecstasy. Then she rises, smiling, weeds sticking out of her collar, and we go on.

This week we may have company on our walks. A neighbor called this morning to warm me that her next door neighbor captured a bear on his outdoor camera while the guy next door to him said the bear walked right through his front yard at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Annie spent several nights last week barking at what we suspect are bears. Do bears like burritos?

Maybe we’ll trade the trails for the beach today.

Please put your trash in the garbage can. Don’t toss it wherever you are. It could kill my dog.

***

Watch this clever segue: Bears, elk, cougars and other critters are common sights up Beaver Creek Road, the setting for my new novel, Up Beaver Creek, on sale now at Amazon.com. Read it and find how how P.D. and her friends cope with Mother Nature, especially when the tsunami comes.

 

 

It’s all about the dog these days

IMG_20170601_163600329_HDR[1]Life these days is a dance with a pooch, le pas de chien, the “pas de dog.” My partner, Annie, 74 pounds of Lab and pit bull love, is rocking a blue inflatable collar, a back right leg shaved from her privates to her ankle, and a three-inch incision closed with 13 staples. A surgeon in Springfield, Oregon, 100 miles from here, rejiggered her leg to fix torn anterior cruciate and meniscus ligaments. Annie spent two nights in the doggy hospital while I prepared for a long spate of caregiving, stocking up on groceries, washing her blankets, and clearing my schedule for two weeks of full-time Annie.

Annie gets 12 pills a day, organized in days-of-the-week pillboxes. Getting the pills down has been a challenge. I tried pumpkin (nope), peanut butter (yes), meat loaf (God, yes) and shoving it down her throat (projectile spitting). Yesterday a friend brought two packages of pill pockets from the pet store. Remember Rollo candies? They look like that except they’re made of flavored dough into which you insert the pills. Annie loves them. Pill time is now fun time.

Ask me what’s new. It’s all about the dog. It’s all about keeping her from licking her stitches for two weeks and keeping her from running, jumping or playing for eight weeks. Because she can’t fit through the doggie door with her big collar and I don’t dare let her loose in the massive yard with its multi-level decks, it’s about taking her up and down 97th Court on a leash every few hours and letting her into the dog pen whenever I think about it. She does surprisingly well on three legs, occasionally letting the injured leg down. She never complains of pain, but she does complain about being confined. The pen is bigger than many backyards, but she keeps going to the gate and whining.

It’s about me sitting in the dog pen with her because if she can’t go out, neither can I. It’s about watching her constantly, waking up in the night and listening for her moving around, jumping up from my desk to make sure she is all right. It’s about sitting on the floor with her head in my lap, telling her what a great dog she is.

It’s all about the dog. We are on retreat together. I’m enjoying the quiet time to read, write, practice yoga, and do my chores. Annie likes that we’re together 24/7. I like that the weather has been perfect so we can sit outside. There’s nothing like spring on the Oregon coast. The sky is cobalt blue, the robins and doves are singing, the neighbor’s rooster is crowing, and the rhodies are blooming. The air feels like a warm caress.

Annie’s X-rays look very much like my Father’s broken-leg X-rays, the hardware bright white against the gray of the bones and flesh. But Annie will be walking long before Dad, who is not loving his time at the nursing home. Meanwhile, like Dad, we go from room to room, go outside to sit in the sun, take pills, eat meals, sit quietly counting the days.

This morning, when Annie woke up at 4:40 a.m., I was not ready to be awake. I gave her food and water and took her out for a piddle. Then, God forgive me, I fed her a sedative in a peanut butter pill pocket and went back to bed. When I woke up three hours later, she was sound asleep, praise God. It’s going to be a long couple of weeks.

I thank all the friends who have offered their prayers, encouragement and pill-giving advice. This is not my first time through dog knee surgery. Our old dog Sadie had surgery on both of her knees. You can read about it in Shoes Full of Sand. It was harder in some ways. We didn’t have the inflatable collar, just the plastic cone, and I didn’t get much sleep. But it was easier because I had my husband Fred to help me. Now it’s just me and the pup doing our pas de dog.

***

Amazon is currently offering my Shoes Full of Sand book at half price. Click the link and give it a read.

 

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 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 been 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 the 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