Friday, March 31, 2006

A Meditation on Time, Age, Bodies

I'm feeling a little reflective today. Maybe it's because tomorrow is my birthday. I'll be twelve. Yes, I was born on April Fool's Day, which has always greatly amused my moms. Moose turned 47 this past Monday, so we are both Aries. She feels a little reflective, too.

Getting older is not a bad thing. As Moose always says, the alternatives suck. It does, however, require a certain amount of pluck and sometimes a great deal of patience. We are always having to adjust--to the changes in our bodies, the losses that pile up as time marches forward, the constant changing of the world around us. We are always adding to our store of experience, and if we are lucky and open to new possibilities we are adding to the circle of those we love, even as we mourn those whose time in the bodies we know and love expires. Just this week, for example, we found out that one of our great animal friends, Maya's cat Puss, died suddenly and quite unexpectedly up in New York City, where Maya and her mom Janlori now live. That is a sad thing, and yet we look across the street to the front yard of the house that Maya and Janlori and Puss and their other cat Emma used to live in and we see that the daffodils they planted and lovingly tended for so many years are in bloom, covering the hillside with a splendid blanket of yellow, gold, and white. Every year that blanket returns, and it's a reminder that our friends are still with us, no matter where they are physically. Moose's father, a sweet man who died in 1991 at only 60, used to say whenever he left the house, even if it was just to run out to buy cigarettes, "I shall return in the spring." Moose always laughed whenever he said that, but now she understands her dad's sly joke was also a way of teaching her that love always comes back, one way or another, and that sooner or later spring always arrives, bringing with it fresh breezes and new growth.

I tinkle on the floor a lot these days. Last night I did it at 4:33 in the morning, all because Moose couldn't find her sandals in the dark and carry me downstairs before my bladder overflowed. One minute grapes are my new favorite food, and the next minute I refuse to eat them. And the next minute I won't touch the goulash Goose makes me, even though I like the sound of the word. It feels good in the mouth--the word, not the food. Everything changes, and none of us can explain or keep up with the pace of the change. But deep inside we trust that eventually loving hands will pick us up and carry us down the stairs so that we can go outside and finish peeing, then find a sponge and wipe the tinkle up off the floor. By 4:43 the house will be clean and quiet again, and Moose will lie awake, thinking of time, age, and daffodils.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Let the Wind Blow Back Your Ears!

Newsflash: Taliban (aka LSU) beats Duke 62-54 in Sweet Sixteen! Redick held to 11 points. Rumor has it: There IS a god!

This is my moms' favorite photograph of me ever. It was taken at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia in October, 2003. I'm posting it today to celebrate good news from my doctor's appointment this morning. All the fluid has cleared from my lungs, so I'm much better than I was two weeks ago! I won't have to take quite so much Lasix, and the doctor says my moms can try feeding me Alpo since I've gotten so picky about food. (Which makes me wonder if bad food is one of the privileges of old age, but I digress.) Personally, I'd like to stay on my "goulash" diet, which is working quite well for me. Also, Moose scrambled me a couple of eggs this morning, and I enjoyed that very much as a reward for not eating before I went to the doctor. We were all so happy with the good news that we even showed the doctor my blog. He laughed and bookmarked my site!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Go, Taliban, Go!

Today the part of the Taliban is being played by George Washington University. Moose likes them because their coach is a passionate black guy with a strong commitment to giving players from the wrong side of the tracks a chance to play ball and earn a degree (though she was bothered by stories this week suggesting that a few important corners had been cut to get some of his guys admitted to college). Goose doesn't like them because they beat the Terps twice in the past two seasons, but Moose points out that everybody beats the Terps lately--including Manhattan, today, in the first round of the NIT tournament. They yelled a lot during that one, so I spent a lot of time out in my yard. It's a beautiful day today, and now that my energy is back I have some catching up to do--security checks, fish-kissing, rolling in the spring mud. We're going for a walk soon so that everyone will know that the mayor of Sligo Creek Trail (that would be ME) is back on the job. I have to make sure all the other dogs remember who's in charge.

The Taliban are down by 11 at the half, and Goose is making me goulash. I'm still refusing to eat my dogfood, which is forcing my moms to get creative in the nutrition department. Recently I've also turned up my nose at rice and Cheerios, so they decided to try something with pasta. Moose persists in giving me pills hidden in peanut butter. I've tried to resist, but I am inordinately fond of peanut butter, as Moose well knows. Goose hides pills in pieces of chicken or crunches them up and stirs them into things when she thinks I'm not looking, so I've stopped eating oatmeal in an effort to avoid my tinkle pills. I am a willful little animal, and even though I've begun to suspect that the pills are actually helping me I'm reluctant to let my moms win the contest we've got going on. But I am looking forward to my goulash.

I don't mean to brag or anything, but I think the Terps could have used some of my willfulness this season. Nik Caner-Medley showed flashes of determination and DJ Strawberry proved he could be a scrappy player when he wanted to be, but as a team and over the course of the season they just couldn't sustain a strong fighting spirit. My moms make jokes about how close the word "terrapins" is to the word "terriers." "They really played like terriers tonight, Rox," they'll say after an impressive effort against a great team. They laugh and recall my epic battle many years ago with a possum that I cornered underneath the deck at the back of our yard. I squared off against it and barked and barked and barked and barked, and the wooden deck amplified the sound of my barking as midnight approached and Moose started worrying about what the neighbors would think. They tried everything to lure me back inside, including hooking up the garden hose (in February) and spraying me right in the face, but I wouldn't back off. It wasn't until they thawed out a piece of chicken and cooked it in the microwave that I came out from under the deck long enough for Moose to grab hold of me and drag me, covered in mud, back into the house for a bath--and a piece of chicken. That's what it means to fight like a terrier.

And maybe this is what our new normal is going to be like: taking the good days when they come and reveling in the fun we have together, figuring out how to make the good days better, fighting the battles we need to fight, searching the internet for homemade dogfood recipes. The Taliban are down by 15, but they haven't quite fighting. Neither have we. I ate two bowls of goulash. Score one for the mommies and for their hungry girl.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Meet Moose and Goose

I named my moms Moose and Goose shortly after they brought me home with them in May 1994. I was seven weeks old, so tiny I could fit into the palm of a hand and so uncertain on my feet that they could let me run around the front yard knowing I'd never get out of reach. I quickly grew in size, speed, and personality, however, and my moms realized we would have to work out a few basic issues in our parent-child relationship. A born dominatrix and a tough little cuss, I was more than willing to take on the role of alpha-dog, but Moose seemed to have different ideas. She packed us all off to obedience school and insisted that she would be the leader of our pack. She insisted on rules, rules, rules: I would sleep in a crate, I wouldn't be fed from the table, I would sit when I was told to. She was so emphatic about order and routine that I named her mother "Moose," as in Mussolini, an Italian leader known for his commitment to discipline. My other mother, on the other hand, had a tendency to be more flexible about rules, especially when I turned my big brown eyes in her direction. She didn't mind that I pooped on the floor of her office when I was a tiny pup or that I chewed the corner off the cover of one of the books she'd written so that Rowing in Eden became Rowing in Ed. She laughed and said that rowing in Ed would probably be a lot of fun and maybe we should try it sometime, and so I named her mother "Goose."

Over the years, it's worked out pretty well, this delicate web of roles and relationships, rules and realities we've built together. Moose keeps us clean and makes us laugh. Goose makes sure that the bar and the pantry are always well-stocked in case a friend drops by. And I walk ahead of them on the trail, glancing back occasionally to make sure they're safe, never straying far in those rare moments when they let me off my leash and Moose starts singing, "Oh, freedom, oh, freedom, oh, freedom, over me. . . ."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

After the Hospital

It's been a funny weekend. I came home from the hospital on Thursday night and was so happy to be back to my couch and my moms and my big yard that I ran straight outside and took a nice big dump right by the pond. I ate a good dinner and took my meds without any trouble. We all felt better having our whole family together again. Moose joked that the night I was in the hospital her routines were so messed up that she didn't know quite what to do. After sitting through the parts of the late news that we normally don't watch, she finally turned to Goose and said, "Would you please go outside and pee in the yard so that I can go to bed?"

Saturday was not a good day, though. I woke up around 8 and needed to tinkle. Diuretics will do that to a girl, of course, but once I'd pottied I felt really strange. I went and stood by the pond but didn't drink out of it, even though the cool thing about having a pond is that it's like the world's biggest water bowl for dogs. It was a beautiful morning. Our koi, John, Paul, and George-Ringo, were darting around, enjoying the warmer water of early spring. There's nothing quite like a quick circuit around our yard as the morning sun turns the grass a golden green, but yesterday I just stood there. When Moose called me back in, I made my way slowly up the stairs and climbed back up on the couch. I felt woozy and disoriented for most of the day. I didn't want to eat or drink anything and fought like crazy when my moms tried to give me my morning meds. I even turned up my nose at Port Salut, my favorite pill delivery system. I don't like these new drugs or the way they make me feel, even if that sweet Dr. Braz-Ruivo does say they'll slow the progress of my heart disease. He doesn't know what it's like to be a small animal whose whole system is turned upside down by medications. Moose says that drugs do the same kind of thing to people and that doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are in a conspiracy to over-medicate the populace because they're greedy and that eventually over-prescription, particularly of antibiotics, will lead to cockroaches taking over the earth, but that's a long story that she'll have to write on her own blog someday.

I kept up my hunger strike til late on Saturday, though I did decide to drink some water in the afternoon. Moose and Goose tried to take me for a walk, but when we started to walk down to the trail I started pulling the leash in the other direction. I was breathing okay, but I knew I didn't have the energy to make it back up the hill if I went down there. It made me sad, and I knew my moms were really upset, but I'm a pretty smart little animal. I know what my limits are. They took me home, and I curled up under the loveseat in the living room while they took a Wayne walk. It was the first time in twelve years they walked on our trail without me.

Late in the day, my tummy calmed down enough for me to eat a little, and that helped me feel less fuzzy in the head. Goose got me started with a couple of treats, and then Moose gave me some beef broth. I lapped that right up. I was feeling perky enough that when Margie came by at 8 for pizza and a movie I ran to the door to greet her. I've decided not to eat anymore of the dog food I've been eating happily for the last ten years, but my moms are great about sharing appropriate human foods with me. I love anything involving cheese, although I'm continuing my boycott of Port Salut because of the traumatic associations with my icky new meds. For now, my moms are using peanut butter to try to force me to take my pills. So far, I've whipped peanut butter onto Goose's face and gotten it all over the couch in the great room, but they've managed to get the drugs in me.

Maybe I'm adjusting to the awful pills. Today has been a pretty good day. I had more beef broth for breakfast and bites of lasagne that Goose brought home from the store. I frolicked in the sun for more than an hour in the afternoon and helped Moose do some work on the pond. By "helped" I mean that I ate sand and rocks that she was spreading around to make sure the pond doesn't spring any leaks this year. I also did a fair amount of rolling in the grass and some barking at a neighbor who was out working in his yard. At times I almost felt like my spry old self, though I wobbled just a bit when I was coming back up the stairs.

We all hung out on the couch together watching the last few minutes of the ACC championship game between Duke and Boston College. For awhile it looked like BC (or, as Moose insists, "the Taliban"--because she hates Duke so much that if Duke were playing the Taliban she'd root for the Taliban) might manage to knock off the Blue Devils, but in the end the Dukies prevailed. My moms just hate that, but what they hate even more is knowing that tonight is selection Sunday and their beloved Terps will most likely be without a card to the Big Dance for the second year in a row. Poor Terps! Sometimes this season, they've been almost as wobbly as I've been recently.

So, maybe we can make this new routine work, my moms and me. Maybe I'll adjust to the drugs and get used to being a little less spry, and maybe that will mean I'll be around longer to sleep at my moms' feet and chew on their socks and lick their faces and bark at the mailman. I hope so. I'm not sure what my moms would do without me, and I sure do have fun being Roxie.

Meet Roxie!