So here I am, three months into owning this rolling work of art named for Gaia, the Greek goddess of the earth. The transition from a combustion to a hybrid hasn’t been too bad despite my queasiness with technology. I still don’t know what three-quarters of the features do. As long as I have my air conditioning and can listen to WFMT (classical) or WDCB (jazz, folk, and blues), I don’t care. The really important things for me include Oakley having a comfortable back seat to stretch out in like a rock star in a limo and the features that give me feedback on energy efficiency. When the engine goes off, a screen comes up on the dashboard to give the driver information such as how many miles they’ve driven, gas milage, and their EcoScore for the trip, or how well they’ve driven on a 1-100 scale. I usually get 70 to 75. Most of the subtracted points have to do with air conditioning settings and braking versus acceleration. Which is all well and good, but it’s a little hard to drive smoothly in small towns replete with stop signs.
The biggest adjustments have been with the size ( driving a midsize car after driving the compact GTI and the Corolla for years feels at times like I’m driving an RV) and the sensors that let the driver know when there’s a risk of bumping into something. The latter comes in handy when I take Oakley to day care. There’s a hedge delineating the border between the parking area and the neighbor’s yard, making it hard to see if anyone’s coming. Sensors in the rear emit a pleasant mid-range beep and give the driver a picture of what’s behind them as they back up and take the pitch up a few notches if something’s coming. That’s handy.
What gets a little nerve-racking is pulling into the garage. The two-car side is inhabited by Hubby’s woodworking equipment. The one-car side is a bit on the tight side, and Gaia lets me know about it in no uncertain terms. “Beep.”
Pull a millimeter to the right to avoid the door frame. Aim directly ahead and….
“No, I won’t let you hit the shelves.”
Brake, push the park button. “I told you I wouldn’t hit anything. Geez, do we have to go through this every time?”
I swear she took points off the EcoScore in retaliation.
Getting a little nostalgic for the day trips to see my sister (my brother had moved to the east coast by then) when she lived in western Michigan with this in the background: https://youtu.be/gSQAlfyaKyc. (“Summertime Is Here” by War.) The drive to St. Joseph-Benton Harbor is about two and a half hours from Lansing. Once at our destination, we’d stop at a store, grab supplies, and have a picnic at one of the state parks with a view of Lake Michigan spreading before us and the wind in the pines and the waves . While Dad tended the grill and Sister tended the place settings and related matters, I would take Fritz the Wonder Schnauzer for a walk along the beach. He didn’t like water, so that made it more of a drag when I wanted to dip my toes in the lake. Any time in nature with a dog is well-spent, though, even with a lack of cooperation.
Flash forward to present day. It’s quite hot and muggy already, more like July or August out there than mid-June. I limited this morning’s walk to 30 minutes. Oakley and I were both pretty uncomfortable by the time we returned to the car.
I don’t think we’ll go back to the forest preserve today. We’d have to go rather late, and I’m not comfortable going there after five or six by myself. Not as if we live in a high crime area, but safety first.
I have other plans this evening, though. When the sun moves to the front of the house and the raised bed lies in the shadows, I will finally unveil the raised bed and plant some seeds. I tried growing my own seedlings, but they all died. This week’s errands include a stop any place with plants. They will join their younger siblings after I pick them up. Water, cross fingers, hope for the best.
According to sources, I can still plant up to July 1. At the rate things are going, that might happen. Mothers’ Day weekend, the traditional last date for frost, brought it as well as snow not that far north of here. Then we had a heat wave, and then Memorial Day weekend brought another round of frost and freeze advisories along with measurable snow in Eau Claire, WI, about three hours to the northwest of me. And then came another heat wave.
Seeds will be planted, however. Period.
The other hallmark of the summer, Renaissance Faire, is up for grabs. We’re leaning towards a pass this year. We’re vaxxed, masked, but we aren’t going to relax until Dr. Fauci says it’s over. The one we go to is encouraging masking up, but there are always the few that impact the many. It’s why they’ve had do purse and diaper bag and backpack searches on entry for guns since Wiconsin became a concealed carry state despite signage all over the front gates and website forbidding guns.
We’ll be able to get back to the bookstore, though, shortly. Illinois is slated to reopen, masking encouraged, on June 11th. I’m going back to in person yoga then.
No matter what else happens, we’ll have some produce.
We didn’t get that much snow last night. We did, however, get enough wind to make it look as if a blizzard had landed and knock out the power for an hour. The roads are still slick and I’m sure the curve on the road that we take to the big park and day care has been blown in by the unrelenting west wind and snow traversing the open fields.
I decided not to take Oakley to day care. First and foremost, because of the weather and that the secondary roads we take are not that well tended. When I took Oakley out for his first potty run this morning, the majority of the drivers I saw on the main road were picking their way to their destinations with caution even though the roads looked plowed. It’s important that he sees his friends and teachers, yes, but I am not willing to have us risk hitting that one patch of black ice or snow and ending up in the middle of a field or a ditch.
The second reason was his hips. I’d taken him on Tuesday. I’d been home long enough to eat a bowl of soup for lunch when his teacher asked me to come pick him up. He was acting unhappy and having problems sitting and lying down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had diarrhea.
On my way.
What really amped up the suck factor was that this was the first session after Ms. L. had closed down day care for two weeks because two of the teachers had shown COVID symptoms. They’re both OK, thank the Mystery. I had hoped that the afternoon would give Oakley some fun and frolic and me some space to vacuum and tidy a bit, but that was not to be.
So I arrived. Oakley did not look as happy as he was when I had dropped him off. Ms. L. had videoed him struggling to sit.
I watched the video. I looked at Oakley as he leaned into my shins, his way of hugging me. And in the bright light of the reception area, I saw a lot of white hairs blending into the chestnut ones above his eyebrows.
Oh, my, God/dess.
Oakley is aging.
Just like me. It’s fine for me to get older, but Oakley, my companion, my guardian, my fur child? The bundle of legs and fur who’d put his head in the hollow of my neck and fallen into a snoring sleep on the way home from the adoption event where we’d found each other?
Oakley had been fine at home that morning, so it’s likely it was just one bad day caused by the weather. He’d torn it up with pups less than half his age at the last day care session. Well, some dogs age out of day care, and if it’s time to let the twice a week sessions go, it’s OK. No, it isn’t, but it is what it is as part of the aging process. Ms. L. reassured me that he will always be welcome on Ren Faire weekends or other occasions warranting a stay at sleepover camp.
OK, thank you. Go home. Give the homeopathic anti-inflammatory. Give the anti-diarrheal. No, baby. 1:30 is too early for dinner.
He went to his spot on the sofa and fell into a nap. I went on line and ordered more anti-inflammatory pills and another product by the same manufacturer specifically for arthritis. One of my friends had given it to her dogs with success, and I’m hoping for the same with Oakley.
If not, one of the vets at our clinic has experience in a couple of modalities that will help. We’ll figure out the best work arounds, like shorter but more frequent walks, herbs, cold laser treatments.
The arthritis pills will be here Monday, please Mystery.
Until then, short walks in the yard. Not a hard thing because of the wind chill. And anti-inflammatory pills every four hours.
There are the springs the park is named after. Even in the most f-all cold weather, they still flow through the green cress lining their banks
And there are the Mother Maples, still standing after ten years of storms, their roots like knobby toes gripping, digging into the forest floor.
Ahead of us is the river, shining silver in the early sunlight. Oakley and I turn west on the trail, following paw prints that faded from the trail over time but never from my heart.
The last time I was on this trail was ten years ago. Solo, around Labor Day. back. I hadn’t been out there since the next to last week in May when Orion had crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just couldn’t bring myself to walk there for three months. One of the other dog persons saw me walking alone, guessed what had happened, and threw her arms around me.
I hugged her back. No words were needed.
Before that, before the damned heart condition and the double damned lymphoma took him, Orion’s last hurrah echoed through the park. He caught the scent of a rabbit, the quarry of Brittanys across North America and around the world. With an unexpected burst of energy, he dragged me down the trail, up the hill to the larger lake, around the west end of the lake, up another hill, then turned us east and slowed to a tentative crawl as we went back to the car.
The final decline began the next day. He had problems getting up and walking and just wanted to lie in the grass in the back yard.
And then he didn’t even want to do that. He stayed in his spot by the back door. I stayed next to him, begging any deity who was listening to please intervene, to please guide me. Was it time to call in the vet?
No, he just had a rally and ate a little banana and a bite of turkey. He was acting more engaged and a little cuddly.
Maybe. He’s not in any pain, but I couldn’t get him out in time.
We’ll try sub-q fluids. That’s helping. He perked up.
And then on the last day, a Saturday, Hubby brought home a garden cart, one of the mesh ones, put one of Orion’s beds in the bottom, loaded Orion into it, and took him on a ride around the property lines and up and down our road.
We spoke of taking him for a ride the next day at the park, but then he crashed and burned.
I called the emergency number for our vet clinic. No one was able to come out and help with that final act of kindness. The nearest emergency vet was a half-hour away.
If he starts acting like he’s in pain, if he has respiratory problems…yeah. Otherwise…
We took him to his spot. I stayed with him through the night, candles lighting his way. Whispering that I would miss him, but I understood if he needed to go.
I laid on the floor next to him, watching the stars crossing the night sky through the skylights. The classical station played a lot of Bach for some reason through the wee smalls.
Just before the first cracks of daylight opened, I felt my heart get torn from my chest and had a mental image of Orion giving me a play bow, running around our back two acres, then taking off towards the east. I sat up. Checked the pulse points.
That stage of his journey was done.
Mine was beginning. The journey of fumbling through the darkness, the numbness. Not being able to even drive past the entrances to the park without tears scalding my cheeks.
Eventually, while the gaps and holes remained, they shrank, and the raw edges scabbed over and turned pink with new growth. I could walk at the park again.
And then came Oakley. While Orion had been exposed to the outdoors from nearly birth as part of his hunting dog training, Oakley had spent his first six months in a shelter with little exposure to the world outside the building. Walking him and showing him the world of his big brother was nearly impossible due to the anxiety triggered by the overwhelming scents and sounds.
Even with all the training mitigating his early lack of exposure, I just couldn’t take Oakley back to that park. He learned to love the other parks in our area, but the state park I just couldn’t…
But then came the current plague where social distancing became a must. Hard to do at the forest preserves and their weekend crowds. A couple of weeks ago we took a little drive and checked the parking lot to see if it was at 50% capacity or less per safety recommendations.
Deep breath, bite lip behind my scarf. Get out of car. Yes, I’m OK. Oakley’s OK. New playground gear? Great. That tree is still standing. Those outhouses, the ones where Orion and I took refuge from an out of nowhere electrical storm, finally came down. That final hard wind probably did them in. The flowering trees, the picnic areas hadn’t changed that much. We walked. Oakley sniffed. He may have listened as I pointed out Orion’s favorite places to sit and watch the river go by. But I think he was too busy sniffing to hear me.
Since then, we’ve worked the park back into our rotation. Early morning is best for contemplating the abundance of beauty around us in quiet and semi-solitude while we walk, my feet and his paws padding down the mulch covered trail by the river.
Sometimes in the silence occasionally punctuated by a bird’s call or the wind in the leaves, if I listen with my heart, I can hear an unseen set of paws running alongside us.
I can tell when Oakley is getting ready to do it. He stares at me to get my attention. Then, while keeping his eyes on me, he unfurls his tongue and leans over towards the coffee table.
“NO!” Part of the fun is watching me react.
He gets in a swipe while I create a diversion with a stuffed Kong or a puzzle. Once diverted, he settles down and attends to freeing the tidbits stashed in the puzzle’s compartments or slurping away at the Kong.
Usually, I sigh both to release my frustration and to express gratitude that he stopped chewing stuff up a long time ago. After all, what’s a couple of harnesses and a few chunks of drywall when he turned out this well?
I can’t say as I blame him. The stay-at-home routine is getting to me, too, but I’m not quite at the point where I wish to put my tongue in contact with the furniture instead of using a dust rag. Especially with the weather as it is this morning. Something like four inches of wet snow fell overnight, then turned to rain and fog. I never thought I’d be salting the steps in mid-April, but there you go.
So I channel my energy into laundry, into routine tidying, and reading. Oakley will do nose work (also known as “find-it,” based on training exercises for contraband sniffing dogs) and get a couple of extra treats for amusement purposes.
And with some luck, no one will lick the coffee table today.
I’m going to whisper this: it looks as if winter’s finally let go of us. Don’t let winter hear you repeat this; it might get ideas about returning.
Yesterday some redwing blackbirds sang in the day as I took Oakley out for his first round of social networking. It was breezy, but not to the point where walking and standing were neat tricks. The mild air smelled fresh and slightly milky with notes of green. Beneath my feet, the tender soil yielded to each step, making a slight sucking noise as I pulled my feet from the mud.
Yes. Hello, spring and all the things that come with you: the mud, the bird songs, the unstable weather. Welcome.
We are under a tornado warning until 5PM Central today. It’s to be expected when the day’s high spikes near 60 only to be chased out by a cold front during the afternoon hours. Starting tomorrow daytime highs will be more in line with averages for mid-March. After a winter with a polar vortex, they will feel subtropical.
So far today, we’ve had three short rounds of rain followed by crystal blue skies. The southwest wind is howling away. A little while ago hail smashed against the windows. No damage, just noise.
Oakley has spent the last few hours either sitting next to me with his tush glued to my hip or taking refuge in his storm shelter between the arm chair and the love seat. The flying debris smacking into the house and other solid objects is a bit nerve wracking for both of us. I don’t blame him. A seat next to Mom soothes his anxiety.
We tried to walk at the big forest preserve this morning, but bailed. The thunder under a half-blue half-clouded-over sky was disconcerting enough, but throw a couple of bus loads of elementary school students in and you can kiss any semblance of peace goodbye. We missed our 30 minute goal by about five minutes, but the speed of return to the car likely compensated for it.
I made sure to charge my phone last night in case of power outages, both so I can contact the power company and communicate with the outside world. We’re prepared. We don’t really have much else to worry about as this system makes its way to its next destination. For that I am truly grateful.
We didn’t get out for a walk yesterday due to freezing rain. Outdoor activities are a no-go today, too. While it’s too warm to freeze, at least until tonight when the temps will plummet, the north wind tosses drops of drizzle around like the star-shaped weapons used by Ninjas.
On days like this, I struggle not to bake all the recipes. Oakley proclaims his boredom by pestering for snacks or licking the coffee table and the knickknacks on it to see how much of a rise he can get out of me, there’s only one thing to do: go to the ag store.
The one we frequent is housed in what once was a Wal-Mart on the far side of the next town over from us. The march of progress called for a move to a super center across the street, leaving this building unoccupied for some time. Then a furniture store that underwent reinvention at least twice moved in there. After its demise, the building sat empty again until the ag store chain bought it and set up camp there.
It’s not quite as good as a walk in the woods, but a bit of browsing and window shopping in a dog-friendly environment dulls the edge of cabin fever. We aren’t the only ones looking for a comfortable place to spend a bit of time. It’s not uncommon to see other people chatting or checking the bulletin board by the front entrance or debating the best tool for a given job.
After Oakley leaves messages on a lamppost or two in the parking lot, in we go. He’s happy and eager to do so because of the scents and the associates who tell him what a good boy he is and how handsome, mitigating the neglect he receives at home.
At the customer service desk, there’s popcorn and coffee for the people and a dish of biscuits for dogs. The biskies don’t fit my criteria for Oakley’s daily consumption, but once in a while as a treat, they’re OK. I take two, then drag him away before he scarfs up the rest of them. From there, we proceed to the automotive department to give the tires and accessories a good sniffing.
When that department has passed inspection, we practice “sit,” munch on a bite of biskie, and walk through the aisles where hoses, hardware, and paint wait on the shelves to be purchased. Again, “sit,” and biskie bite.
Power tools don’t have much of a draw for either of us, and neither does the clothing intended for average sized and much younger women. We bypass those displays. We weave through the other aisles until we reach the livestock department. They have rabbits for sale year round, and next month spring chicks will join them. Oakley quickly peeks into the holding pens, keeping his nose high enough so he can sniff but not frighten the bunnies or chicks.
I rarely buy anything if Oakley is with me. It’s infinitely easier to make a solo return trip than to juggle 75 pounds of dog, a cartload of stuff, and my purse so I can pay. When I see items I need such as pet safe ice melt or gardening supplies or the like, I make mental notes and swing by to pick them up after the day care run–it’s on the main route between our house and Ms. Lanette’s.
The true test of patience is in the garden department. We practice long sits as I look longingly at the seed packets and hand tools, anticipating the upcoming season of sun and earth. When I’m done, Oakley gets the final bite of biskie and we say “thank you” to the associates at the customer service desk as we make our exit.
We go home with stories to tell about who we saw and what smelled good that day. On days like today, those are just as important as the items I’ll return to purchase after the next day care run.
It wasn’t a bad weekend, not really, but dodging of flying objects needed to be done.
The festivities began on Thursday. For some reason during the first part of May, Oakley gets a colitis flare-up. Right on time, it arrived. The urgent 2 AM potty run request pulled me out of a sound sleep. I called the vets’ office, explained what was going on, asked if Doc R. wanted me to bring him in or of we could just fill a prescription for antibiotic and so when could I pick it up? They called back, saying I could pick it up before closing. We quickly ran over to pick it up. I checked Oakley’s weight–he’s lost six pounds of the weight brought on by the Prednisone. We slept better that night.
On Friday, I confirmed that my nephew was in town for his birthday. Oakley and I would make the drive up to see him at his parents’. I decided to make one of my grandma’s carrot cakes to take with, not a formal birthday cake, but just a little something to contribute to whatever festivities there were. Sounds good; see you tomorrow.
Saturday began with a clogged toilet. With not a little cursing and not a few petitions to any deities concerned with plumbing, I unclogged it. With a sigh of relief, I returned to my native land of the kitchen to put the cake together.
Eggs, flour, sugar, cinnamon, carrots, baking soda, carrots, and butter were introduced to one another in the medium sized pink bowl. Oh, don’t forget the dash of salt. Just a dash. A bit of stirring, then into the 9″x13″ glass pan. Set oven to 325F. Puttered, wiped counters, wondered why the oven was taking so long to heat.
Because it wasn’t. Hubby troubleshot. The igniter went bad, most likely. He launched into a mumbled rant concerning everything breaking at once. Well, the stove is the one we’ve had since he build the house 18 years ago, and the plumbing is plumbing, and the VW is 15 years old and the lock cylinder on the driver’s side needs replacing and…
Alrighty, then. When he gets rant-y like that, nothing can be done. Just let it draw to its natural conclusion while making sympathetic noises. Scoop batter into two separate pans that can fit into the toaster oven. So it just took a little longer.
This was all before 8 AM. This was all before my second cup of tea. As I started the slide into a pool of self pity, I reminded myself that I had coped well, and should be pleased with myself for staying centered, and for that a second cup had been earned. Especially since I make a point of not opening the wine before 4PM, antioxidants and iron aside.
After breakfast, the day leveled out, or so we thought. I loaded Oakley and the cake into the car and headed off to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s. The visit itself was pleasant, if a bit tricky. Nephew had brought his cat home. Oakley loves cats, and believes all cats, like Sonny at his day care and boarding place, want to be friends with him. I kept him on his leash since Nephew’s kitty seemed ambivalent at best. Kitty hid in Nephew’s room or under the sofa table. If I were a 10-pound cat, I would be intimidated by an 85-pound dancing, squealing, play bowing dog as well.
Due vigilance prevented any incidents. We had a good visit, and parted ways. As I drove off, I adjusted the car’s air conditioning. It hadn’t responded well on the way up, and now the air blowing from the vents was the same temperature as the air in the car. I opened windows, stopped at a drive through for iced coffee (me) and ice water (Oakley). The high for the day topped out at 85. I sprinkled Oakley with the water at each stoplight to cool him down. He set a personal best for number of stink eyes shot in my direction in an hour.
Hubby was cleaning the garage when we pulled up. The sorting, stacking, and sweeping had proven therapeutic for him. When I let him know about the A/C, he shrugged. “Well, it is 15 years old,” he observed.
I concurred. Not much else to do, especially since I had neglected to grab a bottle of rose or Shiraz. We watched a goofy sci-fi movie on TV followed by an international mystery, then went to sleep.
Sunday began with a bit of rain. It cleared in time for us to walk with friends. The chaos dissipated, and the day unfolded in a most pleasant manner.
Still, it was good to start a fresh week this morning.
First, it was managing Oakley and his meds for his autoimmune problems. That took a chunk out of me. Right now, it looks as if he’ll officially be done in about two weeks. For that I am truly grateful.
Second, it was Hubby’s UTI. The one that drove him through the snow during the last bad storm to the nearest doc-in-the-box. That got to me on a couple of different levels: he was miserable to the point where it hurt me as well. I have had those, too, and know they are no fun. The other level was the reminder that we are not getting younger. He is some years older than me, and while in good health otherwise, still needs to be reminded to take basic self care measures including drinking enough water and taking supplements.
And then it was my turn (she says with sarcasm). Or turns. In the middle of the above, I had a flare-up of stress related IBS. That took time and white carbs to get under control. That end is fine now.
Problems on the other end started earlier this week. Monday was dry and windy, filled with the promise of spring and allergens taking flight. My nose started running uncontrollably. I wrote it off as allergies. Then Tuesday I woke up at 4 AM feeling as if my sinuses and skull were on fire.
I drank a lot of healing herb tea, used a sinus oil that my acupuncture dude had given me some years ago, and rested as much as I could. I can’t take OTC cold or allergy meds (except Claritin) because they render me stupid or wired. I grabbed naps, ate soup, and amped up the spice content of food with hot sauce and chili where I could. I slept decently last night. Still tired, but better.
On we go. This is not a space where I want to be stuck. We drink our water, take our supplements, and go on with the day.
When I was in grad school lo these many years ago, I studied rational emotive therapy, a way of talking yourself through your personal sticking points. One of the questions used to examine the thought process: how can this event be worse?
The case in point involved a gut-wrenching news story that involved a parachutist who had landed in an alligator-infested swamp. The parachute’s straps and bindings had tangled around him in a way that left him tied to a tree, unable to free his hands. Needless to say, the gators found him quite tasty. When the recovery team found him, they estimated that it had taken him three days to die. What could be worse?
Being eaten by alligators over four days.
It was kind of like that here in the soybean field this weekend. At least it was only two days.
Friday was OK. Oakley had a good time at day care, but was pretty sore. Did I mention that he had to start taking a prescription painkiller rather than aspirin because of interaction with the Pred? I’d given him a full prescribed dose on Tuesday at bed time. When he woke up Wednesday, he ate breakfast, then laid on the floor and stared at the wall for an hour. I cut the dose in half Friday night. He managed to sit on the sofa with me while staring at the fireplace Saturday morning. I need to call the vets’ and see if I can cut the tabs in half.
Once he sobered up, we went for a ride. The roads were in great shape, and no other drivers were on the road. Left, right, straight through the midwinter starkness of grey skies, of still muddy fields reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth paintings.
Nothing like the open road to shake away the dust and cobwebs. My head cleared, I plotted a course that would take us a little further west than usual as a few flakes drifted from the sky. Then the flurry became a shower, and the shower turned into a wall of white.
I turned as quickly and safely drove home as fast as the laws of Illinois and physics allowed with the storm on my tail. I was caught in one storm this year and don’t fancy that happening again.
Hubby returned from school not long after Oakley and I shared a post-ride treat. The traffic on his route is notoriously awful on a good day. He’s wrapping up the course of antibiotics for his health issue. The only problem with them was that they impacted his mood. I’d been patient, I hope; but finally had to say something after another chanting of the traffic litany that he’d recapped every day for the last week or so.
We didn’t talk to each other much Saturday night.
And then, Sunday morning was my turn, she wrote sarcastically. Emotionally, I did myself no favors by looking at social media. One friend moving on with her life; two women in a circle I distanced myself from getting all kinds of help and support without having to ask (unlike when I had some problems and was met with platitudes about prayers and holding space). I will spare you the details of the physical end. I fell into a cesspool of self-pity and questioning my worth to other people. Luckily, Hubby and I were back in each others’ better graces. Joked about taking the good stuff I give Oakley when his guts act up. I drank tea prepared by Hubby, slept, watched the Olympics.
Today is Monday. It’s better so far. Hubby left early for school, circumventing the worst of the traffic problems. Oakley cuddled with me. I didn’t give him the pain killer last night; he slept pretty well. The world is a kinder place for me today. Things are not back to normal in the digestive department but they will get there.
If there’s one lesson in the last couple of days, it’s that this, too, shall pass.