Not Camping Here

image

I think it was once a skunk.  It doesn’t smell like skunk, but then it is a bit aged.  I’m inclined to think it was a skunk; otherwise it would have been totally eaten by now.

I am impressed at the length of its spine.  And its feet are not prehensile, like those of a possum.  I have never seen a possum corpse just lying around.  They’re good eatin’, I hear.  Maybe that’s why you never see them: the carrion eaters clean-up crew get to them first.

In my youth I had a friend who had a family to feed, but no money.

He was a practical man.  Whenever he found a fresh road kill that wasn’t too mangled, he’d take it home, clean it, and put it in his enormous deep freeze.  They’d make possum stew, raccoon stew, and if lucky and careful of the law, deer stew.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To show the possum that it could be done.

I was exhausted, so I did camp there for one night.  In the evening, when the air currents lie low, is the best time for scent tracking.  Atina’s eyes grow wolfish when she latches onto a scent–in this case, skunk perfume!  I followed along as she was tracking, and soon I caught whiffs of eau du striped kitty.  Uh-oh, I see their burrows!  Yikes, let’s get out of here!

Atina has her nose buried in one of the burrows-oh no! What will I do if she gets skunk sprayed?

I couldn’t let her in the van.  What could I do?  I don’t have a crate I could put outside.  And Little Miss has not spent a single night away from me since she bounced into my life last July.  Even if I had a crate, imagine her misery if I left her outside!

And then what?

How would I get her somewhere with water for washing?  I would have to take her to the vet, but that would mean stinking up the van…

Let me tell you, skunk spray is a complex stink bomb.  It’s made of a cocktail of volatile oils that penetrate absolutely everything. I wish my perfumes lasted that long!  I’m talking about the perfumes I make.  I could take a lesson from the skunks!

There’s no way to isolate it, and there is really no way to remove it, since the volatile oils penetrate skin and hair.  And wood, leather, fabrics….everything.

All the classic skunk stink remedies like bathing in tomato juice, lemon juice, etc, merely mask the eau de skunk with something else, making it more tolerable for a few hours.

I quickly decided that since skunk mitigation would be impossible, the better part of wisdom would be to scram.

We did.  First thing in the morning….and I am relieved to say, without skunk disasters.

Oh My Aching….

image

Yes, that is a portion of my ample posterior.

Yes, that is my Sexy Sparkly Michael Jackson Stretchy Glove-type thingy.  I wear it under my wrist braces to keep my skin from wearing out.

Let’s see, now.  It’s all getting blurred together.  Thank God for credit card records.  That’s how I know where I was and what I was doing whenever I get injured.

I think the first thing was the wrist (again).  Since the last of the LEFT wrist surgeries was all the way back in 2000, I didn’t even think about the possibility of another one when I tripped over a log in the pitch dark and went ass over teakettle, making a one point landing on my left palm.

I felt the all too familiar sick crunching sensation, followed by excruciating pain.  Thank goodness I was with a friend, who helped me up, which I doubt I could have accomplished by myself, since I was upside down.

“Oh no!” He exclaimed.  “Can I do anything?”  He is a really nice man.

“Yes, help me up!”  At least I think that’s what I said.  He would be better able to tell you, or maybe not, as he was nearly as distressed as I.  He is a really nice man.

After a few volleys of,

“It’s broken.”
“No it’s not, it can’t be broken.”
“Yes it is, it’s broken.”
“No, it can’t possibly be broken.”

Etc, etc.  Look, we’re both Jewish, and we’ve known each other a really long time.  Thousands of years.

After a few of those volleys, he helped me back to my rig–that’s what you call any kind of a camping vehicle type thing–where I trussed my throbbing wrist up, smoked some pot, took a tramadol, which I soon regretted because, you know, the itch thing, did the dishes and went to bed.

In the morning I un-trussed my aching wrist and did a careful exam, gingerly palpating all the little bones and checking range of motion–clunk–there it was.  Not good.  I trussed it back up.

My phone rang.  It was my Hebrew Brother.

“How’s your wrist?”

“Broken.”

“Broken?”

“Broken.”

“Oh, well, how long are you staying?”

Before we hung up I heard him yelling “Goodbye!” from his Jeep outside my window.  Dear soul!

I moved farther North to get out of the blazing desert heat.  Three or four hundred miles and two thousand feet of altitude didn’t seem to make it get any cooler.

But since my destination had electricity and therefore air conditioning in my rig, I decided to make it my base camp for scouting hand surgeons.  I did find one, but he wasn’t going to be in the office for a week.  In the meantime, they told me, I could go another half a day’s drive North, where they had a walk-in orthopedics  clinic.  I opted for that.

In the meantime, I was not just sitting on my ass.

The campground is situated on a completely barren stretch of dessert, devoid of any vegetation save the thorny kinds.  I recall, in my college botany classes, learning that desert plants have to have thorns in order to protect themselves from being eaten.  In that case, why doesn’t everything that grows have thorns?

It’s easy to walk your dog there.  All you have to do is go to the “Designated Green Space”

image

And there you go.  Actually, there the dog goes.

My dog is VERY friendly, and everyone wants to hear all about her.  You might say she’s a conversation piece.  You might not.  She doesn’t care.

A friendly couple with an aged obese spaniel were admiring her.  While chatting with them, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she had another admirer: the biggest, sassiest raven I have ever seen.  It strutted up and down, perhaps ten feet from us, uttering little raven-speak cackles and gurgles.

(Did I already write about this, or am I having a deja vu all over again?  Oh well.  A good story bears retelling.)

One moment, I am standing chatting with these nice strangers, and the next, I was hanging, suspended by invisible wires, my body parallel to the ground.  Then somebody cut the wires, just like in the cartoons, and my body obeyed the laws of physics and hit the hard packed sun baked desert with a thud.

That naughty raven got on Atina’s last nerve and it broke, and she bolted out of the gate like a two year old racehorse, forgetting about the me who had a good grip on the other end of the leash.  Before my lightning fast reflexes had a chance to unflex my leash hand, it was too late: the deed was done.  I was horizontal.

When she heard the resounding report of my corpus hitting the desert floor she came running and threw herself down beside me, plastered right up against me, panting desperately.

The shocked couple wanted to know if they could help me up.

“No, thank you, she will brace for me, it’s one of her jobs,” said I, placing my hands on her withers and pushing myself to my feet.  Atina rose to hers and flanked me closely as I hobbled to my rig.  Nothing broken.  Baruch ha’Shem.

You know how when you’ve got a headache, and then you drop a hammer on your foot, you forget about your headache for a while?

Well, first my wrist felt better, and after that my ass felt better.

Then they both started up hurting at once, and I didn’t want to drive anywhere, so I turned the AC on “deep freeze,” smoked the rest of the pot, and read escapist novels for a couple of days.

Eventually I had to (had to) take a shower, and in the course of human events I passed by the mirror and–holy mother of goddess, what in the hell is THAT???

You see that black, green, alien looking lump of dough?  That ain’t half the story.  You should have seen it a few days ago.  I should have snapped a shot then, but I was dizzy and had to go lie down for a while.

And now, just to ice the cake, I’ve been gifted with (drum roll Sheldon) a brand new thrombosed hemorrhoid!  Ain’t that nice!

Today I finally made it to Flagstaff, and called around about a hand surgeon.  I was dreading the inevitable question (which I did get):

“If you hurt your wrist days ago, why did it take you so long to call us?”

How good of you to ass-k….

Higher and Deeper

The wind howls and rocks the van.  We feel like we’re in a space ship, hurtling through a hostile zone:

“The wind blew and spit icicles in their faces…” –Carl Sandburg

Periodically in the night we were awakened by crashes as layers of ice and snow slid off the sides of the van and smashed on the punky snow below.

Poor Atina was frantic to go out at first light, but we couldn’t risk it due to extreme high winds.  And since every window is covered either by Reflectix or by handy insulating layers of snow and ice, the only way to check the situation would be to open the main hatch and risk having the door blown shut on some body part–not worth the risk.  So I told Atina to cross her legs till the wind took a break!

When things settled down to where I was pretty sure we would not be impaled with flying tree branches, Atina watched anxiously as I slowly and deliberately donned layer after layer of mountaineering gear: double layer of silk underwear, water and windproof pants, microfleece vest, mask, thick wool socks, high altitude ski parka, ski gloves, and I sure wish I had a pair of goggles but I don’t.  I’ll have to hope that the anti-fog stuff I sprayed on my glasses actually works.

My parka hails from my ski bum days in the ’90s.  One of the benefits of my recent shocking weight loss is that it fits me again, over multiple layers of other warm things. Yay!

The hood of this parka snugs up into a visored helmet, thanks to a system of drawcords that don’t even get in the way like some annoying others I’ve had.  It’s designed for extreme conditions.  I love my good old EMS parka!  (Eastern Mountain Sports, not Emergency Medical System)

When I get finished with the ski togs system, not a square inch of exposed skin will remain, with the exception of what gets around my glasses.

Blizzard footwear: a pair of knee high fleece lined rain boots.  Love ’em.

Hiking sticks, because I fall over easily.

Had to kick the main hatch, also known as side door, open, as it had, as expected, frozen shut during the night.  A dangerous shower of icicles and chunks of solid frozen junk clattered off the roof.  I shut the door again to let the debris pass before trying to exit.  Atina bored holes in me with desperate eyes.

When it seemed safe, I opened the door and stepped out into a howling wasteland of grey.  Atina jumped out and made a yellow spot.

Very, very unfortunately, the sky has made layers of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and back to the beginning.  So instead of having nice drifts of light, fluffy white powder, we’ve got….crud.  It’s all frozen together.  Tomorrow it will be rock-hard.  The night time temperatures will be in the teens, with daytime temps above freezing.  That means a melt/freeze cycle that will just create a foot or so of nasty grey ice that would take a jackhammer to bust through.

My nice RV park people plowed out my driveway yesterday, but today you can’t even tell they did it.  I sure hope they’ll help me get out of here after this storm passes.

I wish I’d taken a shower before the storm hit.  I was so busy making preparations that I didn’t get to it.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll walk over on Saturday and get a nice hot one.

Well.  Snow is one thing, but I hadn’t counted on this wind.  I ain’t going out there unless absolutely necessary.  I’ll stay dirty till tomorrow.

 

Hello, Winter!

image

This is the view from inside my cozy camper.  It’s kind of like being in an igloo.  The layers of ice and snow help insulate and retain the heat inside, which is a good thing, because my propane tank only holds 8 gallons and it’s gotta last till next week, or till I can get out of here, whichever comes first.

Thankfully we still have electricity in the campground, which means I can run my electric heater and save the propane for when the ice takes the power out.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be “when,” not “if.”  The governor of NC is pretty sure, too, because s/he (I don’t keep up on politics) has invited 500 Floridian power company workers to join ours.  I like that.  Hope Florida has enough left, because they had tornadoes again last night in the Panhandle.

Atina the awesome Malinois had a blast romping in the snow this morning.  Glad I got her out before it started sleeting.  I took a blast of sleet in the face (the only part of me that was exposed–mask, next time I emerge).  The Doggess stretched out and ran like a deer through the snow-blanketed field.

Now it’s howling and spitting icicles, to paraphrase Carl Sandburg.  Miss Dog is lying on my foot, sulking.  She wants to go out.

That won’t happen until it decides to snow again, or even give us a precipitation break.  Till then, we stay cozy and warm in our igloo.

I have a lot to do this afternoon.  I can’t decide whether to proceed with my project of going through everything and finding stuff I don’t need, in order to lighten my load a bit; or to start a new project making covers for all the windows and skylights out of Reflectix, a marvelous material resembling bubble wrap covered with Mylar.  It repels both heat and cold, so it’s good for both summer and winter climate control.

It’s clear that I need to start a new blog dedicated to my Roadtrek travels.  If the power stays on, I hope to embark upon that project this weekend.  Themes, themes, themes.  I need to find a really good photography theme, because I need to start seriously marketing my photos in order to finance my travels.  I haven’t even posted my “real” photography on this site, because I want to mostly stay on topic.  Anybody got good photog theme ideas?

Spoke with The Boy couple days ago.  Sheesh.  He is not at all sorry that he threw his mother out at Thanksgiving.  At least I got a better sense of where he’s at, and why he did it.

He’s angry that I am a nomad by nature, that I don’t have a house with a front porch with a swing and the aroma of baking chocolate chip cookies wafting on the air. 

He wants me to have a place where he can come and visit me, and have a cozy bed to sleep in, and not have to camp on a deck and pee over a cliff and crap in an incinerating toilet.

I reminded him that this was only the case because I returned to the States to take care of his grandfather, and was living in his Grandpa’s studio. 

And before that I lived in Jerusalem, in a three story house, had a full-time acupuncture practice, was a leader in my community…HAD a community, fer krissake. 

And despite many invitations and offers to pay tickets he wouldn’t visit me there.

“No, I WOULDN’T,” he said emphatically. 

I didn’t need to ask why not.

He didn’t approve of me doing such a radical thing, moving so far away (as if he visits me that often anyway), putting myself in danger…God in heaven, what did I do to merit having a child who has judged me and disapproved of my life choices since he was a baby, and expressed his displeasure by refusing to participate, refusing to enjoy the various adventures that could have been so much fun if only he had made the leap and decided to be a mentsch instead of a lead weight to drag around?

(A mentsch, for those who aren’t familiar, is Yiddish for “man,” literally, but in common usage means “a regular guy,” “a good person”.)

Hell’s bells, one time I schlepped (dragged) him out to Antelope Island, which sits in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, with his horse and my horse and the Corgi.

I unloaded the horses from the trailer.

“Saddle up,” I sang out happily.  I was looking forward to the four-hour ride on the island trail, where a herd of American Bison roam, as well as marmots, jackrabbits, coyotes, hawks, eagles, and many other interesting things.

He was about eleven, and much larger than me.  He crossed his arms and scowled.

“Saddle up,” I instructed.  No response.

So I saddled his mare for him.  Mine was already stamping impatiently, ready to hit the trail.

“Mount up,” I sang, ignoring the fact that I had saddled up for him.

No response.

“Well, I’m damned if I’m going to miss my ride just because you’ve stubbed up.  If you refuse to come, you can damn well spend four hours in the trailer with the dog.  And don’t you dare go near the lake!”

I unsaddled his mare, got the dog dish and water bottles out of the cab of the truck, tied his mare to the trailer, mounted up, and had a very pleasant four hour ride around the island.

When I got back to the truck he was sitting in the shade with the dog inside the trailer.   The mare was munching at her hay bag.  Without a word, he climbed up into the cab while I loaded the horses.  When we got home (to the real house) he took himself to his room and was not seen till dinner.

That’s been my life since he was a baby.  There have been times when I really wanted to give him away.

He got somewhat better after wilderness therapy and therapeutic boarding school.  In fact, I really thought the values he learned there had stuck, but I guess they’ve worn off.

Well, now that he’s 30, there’s nothing I can do but live my life on my own terms.  As they say in New England, “If he don’t like it, he can lump it.”

If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another

That’s what I always say.

Yup.

I’ve been stranded at this rather dull RV park for over a week now.  Maybe longer, I don’t know.  The days here waft from one into another.  There are benefits: the Catawba River runs through my back yard, and even though the ground is still soggy from last week’s flood, Atina revels in having a place to run.

It’s a joy to watch her stretch out like a greyhound–she has the deep chest, sucked-in belly, and long legs that eat up the ground.  She never lets me out of her sight, though, and after a scary misadventure getting stuck in briars chasing a squirrel (she can’t resist a squirrel!), she always comes to my call.

Today she even got to play with a short pudgy mutt who didn’t mind getting tromped all over by a puppy three times his size.

There are real showers, and an expensive but clean laundry room, and a restaurant where they serve breakfast and lunch for cheap.

In fact, this morning while I was in the canteen filling up on lousy coffee, Atina found the new bag of laundry detergent, the kind that is little pouches of clear liquid, and decided to sample the wares.  Imagine my chagrin when I came in and found the bag ripped open, with an oozing pouch, and a guilty looking pooch on the bed.

I know a bit about detergent ingestions, and although I am trained not to panic, I did, a little, then read the label.  It said to wash out the person’s mouth with water.  Do not induce vomiting.

First I checked her mouth, in the vain hope that she had perhaps just sniffed the material and realized it’s not a treat.

But oh no, her lips and gums were slippery!  Thank goodness, she was not foaming at the mouth…But I had to wrestle her mouth open to check it (just try prying a Malinois’ mouth open, I dare you.  They’re not called “Malligators” for nothing!)  Her tongue felt unnaturally slippery, and there was a faint but present aroma of unscented soap.

So I wet a shop towel and went to work cleaning her lips, gums, teeth, and tongue.  Guess I won’t have to brush her teeth tonight.

Remembering the olden days when my ER was also the regional Poison Control Center (with a red phone, just like the White House), I counted up the pods and was relieved to find that all were accounted for, and that the one she had punctured was mostly full.  That was reassuring.

I did call the vet just to make sure, and he said the worst that could happen is diarrhea (oh boy!).

This is a great place to camp for a night or two, rest and refresh, fill up the water jugs and dump the holding tanks and be on one’s way West.

However.

It’s not the amenities that keep me here, but the repair shop.  Sadly, I’m becoming a regular.

First it was the mishap with the waste water tanks.  I went over a steep spot in a parking lot driveway and bumped the underside of my rig.  Interestingly, I was on my way to this very RV park to do my weekly chores (real shower, laundry, dump tanks, take on water) when this occurred.  I discovered the damage when I opened the “black tank (aka toilet waste)” valve to dump it, and instead of going down the sewer pipe, the nasty stuff poured out on the concrete pad, right under my rig!  Shit.

This was right before Christmas.  I begged and pleaded with the service manager to get my rig into the shop, just to look at it and see if it could be quickly mended, but they were working with a skeleton crew and could not do.

So I hung out till the following Wednesday, when they were at least able to look at it and decide that they could fix it, which they did and I am glad.

I went back up the mountain to my own property for a couple of days, because they were going to fix something else on Monday and I wanted a break from here.

So, on Sunday I started back down the mountain, because I had to have the van in the shop by 8 and I am not an early riser, so I planned to camp here the night before.

What is this “down the mountain”?

The locals call it “Cox’s Creek.”

It’s the most dangerous piece of mountain road in the Eastern United States, and according to one truckers’ guide to mountain passes, the most dangerous in the country.

Marry up continuous switchbacks with grades ranging from 7% to 12% and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

Signs warn:

“The ONLY runaway truck ramp,” and

“ROAD WORSENS BEYOND TRUCK RAMP”

…balm to the soul.

I’ve been having some issues with the traction control thingie, or at least that’s what I thought it was.

Nope.

As soon as I pointed ol’ Jenny’s nose down the mountain, something went very wrong.

The front end of the van started bucking like a bronco.  I tried to slow down, but couldn’t!

I switched over to manual and put her in third, and the thing over-revved so I had to slow her down by tapping gently on the brakes until I came to THE ONLY RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP, where I pulled off and got out to check for a flat tire, but there was none.

So I crept down the mountain at 15 miles per hour, with a veritable parking lot honking at me from behind, but there was nothing to do about it.

Got down to the relative flat, said a prayer, went to the repair shop in the morning, got my whatever it was (I forget now) fixed, and headed out the park gate to go back up the mountain to get something done before having to be back here on Friday (tomorrow) to get the furnace fixed.  Ho hum.

But as I took the gentle left curve out of the park, my brakes locked up completely and I came near to sliding clean off the road and over an embankment.  I caught the fear in the eyes of the driver in the oncoming lane.

So, rather than going up the mountain, from which I could no longer come down, I went to Wal-Mart to stock up, since it’s clear I’m not going anywhere for a while.

Having arrived safely at Wal-Mart, I thought it would be wise to check the fluids.  I grew up with grease on my hands, and even though these newfangled vehicles are now foreign territory to me, they still have oil and transmission and brake fluids, so I checked ’em.

Sonofabitch but the brake fluid was low.  Very low.  That made sense!

I consulted the manual to see what kind of brake fluid this beast takes, since I was at Wal-Mart and all.  But it said DON’T top it off if it’s low, because being low means there’s a leak somewhere, because it’s a closed system.

And so forth.

But what luck!  The town I happen to be stuck in is home to the only Chevy dealership for miles around that has a lift that can handle a 4 ton van!  Yay!

So, after another weekend stuck in my RV park (which is not free), I get to haul ass over to the Chevy place on Monday.

I was really, really hoping to get the fuck rid of this van before shit like this started happening.  I can smell a lemon when I’m living in it.

My new “unit,” as RVs  are called, should be finished, um, next week.  I’m supposed to drive to northern Michigan to trade in this heap and pick up my freshly built one, with dual wheels and four wheel drive, yay!

However.

I am not at all sure that I want to make that trip, in the middle of the WINTER that I was not supposed to be here for, in The Lemon.

Tomorrow, while the furnace is being fixed, I am going to call the factory that made it (The Lemon) and explain all these things.  My aim is to have the new unit delivered to the local dealer, with a considerable upward adjustment of my trade-in allowance.  Or Else.  Something.

As for The Lemon, all I ask is that it gets fixed sufficiently to get me where I’m going next.

Wherever that is.

I’d Do Anything If Only

Atina!  Stop shredding your bed!  Atina!  You can’t have chocolate!  You’re a dog!  Chocolate is NOT good for doggies!  Atina!  Get that goddam wet ball out of my face!  Atina!  SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!

Sigh.

Last night was a total wreck.  For some reason Atina spent her night growling, woofing, and outright barking, at something that I could not see. 

We are in a well-lit campground, so if there was, like, a bear strolling around, or a bull moose, or a hedgehog, I’m certain I would see it. 

Maybe it was some perv hiding behind a tree, whacking off.  All night.  Sheesh.

On this premise, I chalked Half #1 of the night up to Virtuous Vigilance on the part of the Pup.  But when Night Half #2 rolled wearily around, I got cranky.  I shushed.  I gave orders.  I YELLED.  I cursed. 

As grey dawn faded into a grey rainy morning, I felt worse and worse.  If there’s one thing that kicks me right out of orbit, mentally and physically, it’s sleep deprivation.

And of course my baby still needed her walkies, and breakfast, and more walkies, and playtime…And I needed large quantities of thick coffee, and something to force into my queasy stomach so I could take my pills, and I needed to use the bathroom, and brush my teeth, and put on clothes…And Atina, none the worse for her own sleepless night (who knows, maybe 🐶 s only take 😸 naps anyway…), was red hot and rarin’ to go, while I was dragging serious ass.

I got to feeling cross and cheated and just plain ill-tempered, and then I thought about something that happened, and my mind changed.

Here is what happened.

1989. I was pulling a two-week stint in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit–the PICU. 

My residency program was working us like slaves because we were down four warm bodies.  One, my sweet ward partner, died in a car crash.  One got meningitis from a kid she was treating.  One got hepatitis from her dear boyfriend when he got back from India.  And one was on a sort of permanent leave, because he had miscalculated a chemotherapy dose and the child died.

So the house staff were stretched much thinner than usual.  Instead of every third or fourth night call, we were on every-other or every-every night.

In the PICU we usually did every-other-night, actually 24 hours on, 24 off.  But since we were so badly strapped for staff, the PICU director came up with a brilliant plan:  he would live in the PICU for two weeks, and I would live in the PICU for the next two weeks, and then we’d switch off again for another month.  That way we’d both get to see our families, for the two weeks we’d be off.  And of course if things were slow, our families could come and visit us in the call room, which was an 8 x10 ft luxurious affair made of beige-painted cinderblock, with a tiny bedside table to hold up the phone, and a worn metal chair.  

When you switched off the overhead fluorescent lights, you were instantly plunged into darkness.  Fortunately, every doctor carries a penlight, so at least you could find the bed, if you ever got a chance to actually lie down.

Hypervigilance is a common symptom of PTSD.  Therefore, since half of my consciousness was always scanning the PICU for problems, I never really got to sleep. 

One night when we had a truly puzzling and terribly critical case on the unit, I lay staring into the velvety black of the call room.  Everything had been taken care of, rounds, orders, and the nurses were wonderful and right on top of things; so there was no reason not to catch a few winks.

But I was in the grip of free-floating anxiety, so I felt my way along the wall until I found the light switch, and lacing up my Rockports, I sidled out into the unit.

We’d received a case that day that came in via the ER.  It was a little three year old boy, who presented with a high fever and blueberry muffin looking rash.  I mean really, he looked like a blueberry muffin.  But unlike muffins, which are good, he was not good.  He was in very bad shape.  Septic shock of some kind.  Our usual tests could not detect the pathogen, or anything that could have caused his condition.  This was 1989, remember.  We’ve learned a lot since then.

We ran through every possible infectious disease that we knew about, and every form of toxic ingestion or exposure, and every possible cause of bleeding and organ failure, but nothing came out positive.

So we did the only thing we could do: we put the little guy on life support, gave him fluids and antibiotics and steroids, and prayed that with supportive care, his body would come through whatever it was, and heal itself.

This was not to be.

Even with maximal supportive care, his body deteriorated.  He had been unconscious when he came in, and never opened his eyes or gave any indication of awareness.  His kidneys stopped working, and fluid was backing up into his organs and tissues.  We tried our hardest to keep up with that too, but soon it was clear that this little boy was not going to make it.

I can’t remember who we were waiting for.  His mother had died, I remember that.  It was just his father alone who took care of him.  We must have been waiting for someone else…to be there…when we took him off the vent.

As I turned the corner from my call room to the unit, I saw the boy’s father sitting on a hard chair, his knees up against the bed, stroking his little boy’s swollen hand and weeping, his shoulders heaving.

I laid my hand gently on his shoulder and said nothing, waiting.

“Yesterday,” the father sobbed, “He was running around making so much noise, I told him to shut up…Oh, if he would only make that much noise again!”

Back From The Dead, For Now Anyway

Atina lay on her bed painfully struggling to breathe for hours that felt like years.  I wrote the previous post during one of those years, and I thank every one of you who have sent me such sweet heartfelt thoughts.

Later in the afternoon she dragged herself up–still couldn’t get her hind end to cooperate–and between the two of us, we dragged her into my bed, and snuggled together.  Every once in a while she’d stretch her long neck around so she could clean up my face, and finally when she got some energy worked up, she tried to hold me down to wash me, as if I were her own puppy sniffling and snotting in the bed.

A couple more hours and she wanted to go out and pee, so we went out.  A naughty squirrel decided to tease her by getting way out on a tiny branch, and fell THUMP into the road!  It made such a cannon shot hitting the ground, I thought it must surely have killed itself, but it jumped right up and scampered up the next tree over.

I think this must be how you check for life signs in a Malinois.

image

“C’mon, Mom, just let me climb that tree, O.K.?  Just this once, huh?”

image

A Malinois isn’t dead until you can heave a squirrel at her and she doesn’t move.

But now she’s all worn out from her squirrel hunt, back in bed exhausted. 

If she’s still alive in the morning (no, I’m not joking here), I’ve decided to go ahead with the surgery.  The biopsy will give us the information we need to first of all know for sure what the problem is, and whether treatment can give her more quality of life (to spend cuddling with me, catching frisbees, and chasing naughty squirrels).

There’s a fair chance she won’t survive the surgery.  But her rapid decline over the last few weeks tells me that her quality of life is getting worse.  I love to snuggle with her, but she should be running me into the ground throwing frisbee, not the other way around. 

Wish us luck.

Losing My Buddy

Atina lies dying.  This morning she had a blast chasing her Kong.  Then she collapsed, exhausted from the effort of what was likely her last play session.

She spent the rest of the morning alternating between frenetic activity and exhausted collapse, with her head in my lap as I stroked her cool ears and told her it’s O.K., it’s O.K. to go.

Now she’s motionless on her bed.  Her breathing is irregular.  If she makes it till tomorrow I will be surprised.

Last night she got into bed with me–an unusual phenomenon–and we kissed and cuddled for hours, until I was exhausted and sent her to her own bed.  I woke at five.  She was sleeping in the driver’s seat of the van, same as always, same as Aress did when he was alive.

She jumped up when she saw that I was awake, same as always, and got in my way as I was trying to dress, just like she does every morning.  This morning I did not scold her, but snuggled her black head into my half-off pajamas.  I have known for a few days that it wouldn’t be long.

Yesterday I couldn’t believe, watching her fly after her frisbee, that her lab tests could possibly measure her life in days, maybe weeks, by miracles months.  Yes, her sides were heaving after just a few catches, but hey, she still had the want-to.

Today she’s been shitting her innards out.  The van smells vile.  I gave her a dose of Imodium, which has slowed things down enough so she can rest.  I’m cooking the rice with chicken broth, hopeful that she’ll rally; but to tell you the truth, I want her to die at home, not on the operating table surrounded by strangers.

Her surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.  If she’s still alive in the morning, I’ll cancel it.  They can look at her kidneys just as well at autopsy.

Yes, we will proceed with the autopsy.  I must stop the carnage in the place where I bought her.  I must save other dogs from being used as currency.  In that way, my beautiful girl will not have died in vain.