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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Here’s my bloggy Christmas card to you

Earring Tree 1217Twas the blog before Christmas, and I can’t send Christmas cards to the whole world, although God knows I have received enough cards and mailing labels from charities to card several countries, so this is my Christmas card to you.

How the heck are you? If I haven’t heard from you since last Christmas, are you still alive and living in the same place? If you haven’t heard from me, well the phone works both ways, you know. Oh, wait, I mean, gee, I hope you’re all right.

I don’t know if you send cards. A lot of people don’t, but I have all these cards and I bought stamps, so I might as well send them out and let you enjoy the pretty pictures. I’m struggling to remember who’s Christian and who bristles at a hint of religion. Is this dog picture okay? A cottage in the snow? Peace or puppies? Virgin Mary or Santa Claus? Should I have bought Christmas stamps instead of flags? Who cares, right?

Are Christmas cards even a “thing” anymore? We were talking about this at choir practice the other day, and we’re all wavering. We receive fewer and fewer cards, we all have too much to do, and how important is a printed card with our signature on it anyway? Plus those newsletters full of information about other people’s great vacations and kids we don’t even know just make us feel bad. It all goes in the recycling bin eventually—unless you’re like me and keep cards for fear the person will die and that’s the last signature we have of theirs . . .

Anyway, the cards are ready to mail. The gifts are on their way, even that one I had no clue how to wrap. To that relative who doesn’t want to exchange gifts with me anymore, tough. I’m still sending presents because I want to. If you don’t buy anything for me, fine. Last week, I received an amazing box at my doorstep from a Secret Santa with seven, SEVEN, little wrapped gifts inside. They may be the only presents under my tree. I was so grateful I cried. I need to do the same thing for somebody else next year.

You have no idea how many people are alone like me during the holidays. That’s the subject of my next book, people living alone. I don’t mean people who sleep alone but are in constant contact with their kids and grandkids. I mean really alone, with no family anywhere nearby and no neighbors dropping in like on every TV sitcom. People who may not see other people for days or weeks. If you’re alone like that and willing to be interviewed, let me know.

Speaking of books, it’s not too late to boogie over to Amazon, look me up and order some or all of my books. They have this two-day delivery thing. They’ll even gift-wrap them. Click here to see what’s available, including my latest, Unleashed in Oregon: Best from the Blog.

Annie and I are well. We’ve got a few dents and rattles, but keep running like fine old cars. Annie had surgery in May for not one but two torn ligaments in her back right knee. She has healed well. My dad broke his leg in March. Shattered is a better word. His leg has not recovered; he’s still rocking the walker. After stints in two different nursing homes, he’s back at the house with intermittent caregivers whom he plans to fire any day now.

A massive tree from my neighbor’s yard destroyed my fences and trashed the gutters on my house last April. That led to months of upheaval, but now the fences are fixed, the gutters have been replaced, the trunk of the fallen tree remains next door like a weird statue, and I have a bigger chunk of sky to look at.

I didn’t go to Europe or a fancy resort, but I did go to Cleveland in October to speak at the NotMom Summit. I visited San Jose seven times, and made a few jaunts to Portland. My Honda Element turned over 100,000 miles, and now it’s up to 106,000. I bought new tires, and the service light has been on since Thanksgiving.

I’m still writing most days, got a few poems and two essays published this year. I’m co-chair of the coast branch of Willamette Writers. Check us out on Facebook. I exceeded my Goodreads goal of reading 60 books, and I’m still going. You don’t know about Goodreads? Click it and get on board.

I’m still playing piano, singing and leading choirs at Sacred Heart Church in Newport and going to the song circle in Waldport on Fridays. Still playing guitar in spite of my arthritic hands.

I turned 65 in March and signed up for Medicare. I had my interview for Social Security earlier this month and will start receiving full benefits in March when I turn 66. Thank you, Uncle Sam. President Trump, keep your paws off my money and my medical insurance. I earned it.

What else? Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Walking the dog. She’s a relentless personal trainer who keeps me exercised in sun, rain and snow. I wore out another pair of shoes, and the replacements hurt, so I’m still looking for the ideal footwear for all-terrain hikes. Mowing the lawn. Feeding the pellet stove. Blogging here and at Childless by Marriage. Trying to sell my memoir, novel and a book of poems (Hey publishers, they’re really good).

I re-watched “Wild” on TV last night. Still love the Cheryl Strayed book and the movie starring Reese Witherspoon. I’m binge-watching “Grace Under Fire,” a 90s sitcom about a divorced woman with three kids and her lovable friends. They give me comfort in hard times. TV Christmases always turn out happy and loving in the end, even if everything is a mess at the beginning of the episode.

The days pass, you know? Suddenly it’s Christmas again, and I haven’t been nearly as good a friend as I should have. But I’m trying. I appreciate every one of you. I wish you a joyous Christmas or whatever you celebrate and a new year full of blessings and love.

Love,

Sue and Annie

I should have ridden the toaster to San Jose

Honda_Element WikipicI had so much fun flying to and from San Jose last week that I’m driving when I go back next week.

It’s not the fact that I’m 25,000 feet above the ground and will die if we crash. I don’t understand what keeps the plane in the air, but I put myself in God’s hands and try not to think about it. I love looking down at the landscape below, picking out the landmarks and enjoying the cloud patterns. I love that I can get from one place to another so quickly.

I flew Alaska Airlines from Eugene, Oregon to San Jose, California. Alaska is fine. They do their best. But there’s a lot about the flying experience I could do without.

Flying isn’t what it used to be. I used to enjoy airplane food with all those cute little packages. Now they toss you a bag of Cheetos or pretzels and a glass of something. They don’t let you bring your own food and drink through security, so you have to buy something in the terminal or go without. I hate the luggage restrictions. I’m constantly worried about being caught with something I’m not allowed to have on the plane. I have to pay $25 extra to check a suitcase which will be X-rayed and possibly searched?

The planes that fly short distances are getting so small you can’t walk down the aisle without raising your arms and scooting sideways. You can’t count on free movies or music anymore. Instead you can rent a tablet-type device. People sitting side by side don’t talk to each other. They turn on their phones, tablets or laptops, plug in their earplugs and tune out everything.

And I can’t imagine having sex in the bathroom. This one was so small they didn’t even have a sink, just a plastic bottle of hand sanitizer.

Flying anywhere from the Oregon coast means driving two or three hours to an airport in Eugene or Portland. Add that to the extra time needed for check-in and security, plus getting something to eat and drink, and it’s a whole-day adventure for an hour, forty-minute flight.

Then there’s security. If I’m lucky, I get the older woman who always goes to the same place treatment and can bypass taking off my shoes and jacket and unloading my laptop. It’s unnerving to be getting a half-dressed full-body X-ray in one place while my purse and computer are rolling off the conveyor belt somewhere else.

Things went all right with security this trip. The line in San Jose was long, but I didn’t have the problem I had last time I flew out of there. I was so rattled that when they asked for my ID, I handed them my debit card. Oh-oh, go straight to the problem-passenger line.

No, the trouble started when I decided to eat dinner at the sports bar near Gate 28 in the B terminal. It was 5:30, and the place was jammed. Tattooed waitresses in black kept passing by me instead of finding me a table. When I did get seated at a tiny table for one amid other tiny tables for one, nobody came. I watched the servers bring second and third beers to the guys at nearby tables, but I didn’t even have a glass of water. I was afraid I would run out of time if I tried somewhere else. After 25 minutes, I got up, chased a waitress down and threw a loud hissy fit while people stared at me. I am embarrassed to think about it now, but I got my food and drink in three minutes. It wasn’t very good, but this squeaky wheel got the grease.

When we boarded the plane, I found myself in the aisle seat next to an immense woman whose flubber took up half of my seat as well as all of her own. I felt sorry for her, but I’m not used to being so intimate with a stranger. She didn’t want to talk, just listened to her music and looked at stuff on her phone. Her husband, equally large, sat across the aisle. When the plane finally landed, he immediately stood, placing his rear end in my face. Nobody was moving, but there he was, a wall of man-flesh in blue jeans.

As I mentioned earlier, the aisle was narrow. Our two flight attendants were unusually wide people. They banged my arm every time they passed by. My restless legs went crazy. It was dark in the plane, and my seatmate didn’t enjoy my turning the light on to read, but I had to do something. I couldn’t see out the windows at all.

A little before 10 p.m., we landed. I rolled my suitcase out to the far end of the long-term parking lot, surrounded by groups of people all glad to see each other. I shed a tear when I saw my Honda Element/aka The Toaster waiting patiently to take me home.

It will be me and The Toaster next time.

***

My father, who broke his upper leg in March, moved to an assisted living facility last week. It’s a pretty place, a former convent with a chapel, crosses etched into the fences, and a lush rose garden. He will stay there while he continues to heal. With luck, the doctor will let him start putting weight on the leg in a couple weeks and then he can work on walking until he can walk himself out of there and go home. He’s healthy otherwise. Today is his 95th birthday, and he’d rather be spending it anywhere but there.

The last plane he flew on was an Army Air Corps plane during World War II.

[Photo courtesy Wikipedia]

 

 

 

Running away to Neskowin

DSCN3995Some days I just have to run away. If I had a regular job, I’d have to stifle that impulse, but as a writer working from home, I can jump in my car, drive to the highway and decide to go either north or south. Last Thursday, with my car finally back from the body shop, I chose north.

I needed to get reacquainted with my Honda Element, sometimes known as The Toaster, after almost two weeks driving the black bomb, a low-slung Toyota Corolla that was fast, quiet, fuel-efficient and had a great stereo. In comparison, the Toaster feels like a truck. Now it’s a truck with many shiny new parts. Since the accident, I had become a very nervous driver. I needed to get over that.

DSCN4002
A riot of nasturtiums at a house in Neskowin

Thursday’s adventure started in Depoe Bay, where I joined the tourists watching for whales and taking pictures. It was a gorgeous day, the waves wild and many shades of blue. As I stood outside the whale-watching center with my camera, a stranger said, “Look over there. A whale. You’ll see his spout in a minute.” To be honest, I never saw it, but it felt good staring at the waves, resting my eyes after too many hours staring at a computer screen. Workers at the center keep a tally of whale sightings. Folks had already seen eight by 11:00 that morning. They counted 11 the day before.

From Depoe Bay, I continued north to Lincoln City. School may have started, but we still have plenty of tourists, many of them driving gigantic motorhomes. Slow. But I wasn’t in a hurry. Ooh, Robert’s Bookshop. A goldmine, but I had already purchased at least a dozen books in the last month. The outlet stores. Didn’t feel like shopping. Library. Again, too many books. Antiquing? Yes, but later.

I have grown fond of the Pig n Pancake restaurant in Newport, housed in the old city hall building. So when I saw the Lincoln City P n P, I decided to eat there. The place was jammed. Noisy. It wasn’t a dining experience; it was a feeding trough. Party of one? The hostess led me to a tiny table barely big enough to get my body behind and slapped down a menu. The next party was too close for comfort. And I thought: no. I walked out, got back in my car and kept driving north.

I did a lot of grumbling to myself about how if my husband were still alive, this trip would be a lot more fun, and nobody would stick us in a corner. He loved these field trips.

I was thinking I’d go to the Pelican Pub in Pacific City, but first I came to Neskowin, a tiny beach community where I sang during a 2014 garden tour. That day, running late and fixated on the gig, I didn’t notice the Cafe on Hawk Creek just off the highway. But I saw it this time. It looked cute and uncrowded.DSCN4003

I walked in, the hostess took one look at me and said, “Two?” Um, no. But that was the only negative thing. She sat me at a big wooden table, and I sank into a soft-cushioned seat. I ordered the chicken club sandwich, but this was not the usual three slices of bread with lunch meat chicken, bacon, tomato and lettuce. This was a giant hunk of fresh-baked chicken, fat slices of bacon, tomato and onion and cole slaw on a ciabatta roll. Heaven on a plate. I sipped my iced tea, read my book and luxuriated in great food. The waitress left my bill but assured me there was no rush. The meal fed my soul as well as my body.

I had gone far enough. Backtracking to Lincoln City, I spent the next couple hours wandering the aisles of the Little Antique Mall at the north end of town, where I scored some 1930s sheet music and vintage handkerchiefs. I love looking at old stuff and listening to old music.

I got home in time to catch some sun on the deck and quality time with the dog. All in all, a great runaway day. Now that the toaster had a little dirt and few more miles on it, it was time to go back to work.