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.

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

 

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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

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.

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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]