Too Much

 

What I wore: four weeks after the foot surgery, I finally got an air-cast. It is a two piece plastic walking-boot/contraption that you wear over a giant white tube sock and secure in place with three enormous velcro straps. The nurse fitted it to me and said “This will be a transition week. You’ll still need your scooter for distances. But do what you can. Your body will let you know what is too much.”

How I got red eyes and a blotchy nose: I couldn’t actually stand in the air-cast at first, and used my knee-scooter to get to the car.

I went to my room and got into bed, bitching to no one in particular about not being able to walk in the walking cast. I took it off and had a long, self-pitying cry.

Who went with me: a couple of hours later FedEx wanted a signature so I strapped the medical-device-gray ski boot back on.  To my surprise I found that I actually could take some steps unassisted. Yes, I was wobbly. Yes, it was stompy. But I got up the killer three stairs and to the front door and realized I was walking. 20 and I went for a short dog walk with the knee scooter just in case. 20 took Captain and I took our 15 year old dog Cherry.

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It was not too bright, not too cold, and there weren’t any cars on our road. The feeling of liberation was real.

What I did beforehand: as Cherry has been disintegrating in her advancing age, I have been throwing remedies at her which seemed necessary and reasonable. It started with joint supplements. Next I got her dog hoodies and a pressure-sensitive electrically-heated dog bed.  After that it was laser treatments for her ear infections and acupuncture for her weak hind-end.  I got her some toenail covers to help with traction, and some Doggles (dog goggles) for when the sun was too bright. And when she started being picky about her food, I started cooking for her. Over the course of two years she went from an old dog to a reason we couldn’t travel.

Where I sat: the next morning I went to the barn and went for a walk on horseback. Staff were divided between the folks who thought it was awesome that I would get on a horse in a plastic walking cast and the folks who thought I was completely, certifiably, nuts. One person actually told me he thought I was crazy to get on a horse with a cast on my foot. The rest of them just looked at me with what appeared to be bemused alarm. The ones who thought it was awesome said so. I was so happy to be there and not just standing around answering questions about my progress that I didn’t care. I rode about 20 minutes and got off.

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Why I saw this show: I wanted a dog almost as much as I wanted a pony as a kid, and I have loved having them in my life, even when they do embarrassing things, or annoy the neighbors, or have violent diarrhea.

Why my sun-room is now a questionable shade of yellow: the next day was Saturday and the Bacon Provider left for a week-long business trip.  I have been very sad about the pace of travel in his job this fall,  and never more so than on this weekend. Also, the painters showed up and took over several rooms. I made some impulsive choices about paint colors.

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How I got wet: the following day it was warm enough to give the dogs a bath. Cherry loved a bath even though she needs help getting in and out, but afterward she wouldn’t settle down on the pile of towels I spread on the bathroom floor and ended up wandering around the bathroom and got stuck in the shower.

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Things that were not funny: the day after that Cherry went outside to go potty and never came back in. I found her collapsed in the grass. I stood her up and got her to follow me in. She was not alarmed. I was.

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Things that were sad: two days later she could not stand, even with help. She was covered in pee and didn’t want to be wiped off, so after cleaning her, I pulled out an old bottle of dog massage oil and after a few minutes of my attention, I settled her back down. I used up the oil and went online and ordered several essential oils.

Then: I called the vet and explained that I needed to bring my dog in but that I was in a walking cast and would need help getting her out of the car. The receptionist gave me the names of three vets who do house calls in my area. I called the first name on the list and left a message. I think he was a vet I had seen in the past. After about an hour I got anxious from not hearing from him and I looked up the other two vets online. The last one seemed to specialize in end-of-life veterinary care, including hospice and euthanasia. She also had online booking. I was able to make an appointment for the next morning without having to burst into tears again on the phone.

Cherry started screaming again and I changed the house-training pads under her.  The supply of pads was down to a half dozen and I had to go to Petco for more. I found that when I lived in North Dreadful visits to Petco could be very sad and lonely for no reason I can easily explain, and this quick trip felt especially echo-y and poorly lit.  I bought pee pads and a pink stuffed pig toy with a good squeaker in it for Captain.

Who should see it: the next day the painters arrived early. From her heated bed, Cherry drank a mouthful of water and a bite of food but no more. The vet came in one of those Mini Coopers that looks like a mini hearse. She wore scrubs and brought in a big old-fashioned black leather doctor’s case and sat down on the floor with me and Cherry. She asked a lot of questions. Captain brought her his Kong toy and made a nuisance of himself. Her opinion was that the dog was pretty far gone already. I got 20 to come down and hear the vet say that again. “If she isn’t drinking,” she said, “She won’t last more than three more days.”

I think I’ve been getting ready for her to be put down for a few months. I don’t remember when she last wagged her tail. 20 had to get ready over the course of a few days.

Anyway somehow in the middle of this difficult conversation the electrician showed up and I had to get up from the kitchen floor and stomp with my plastic cast up the stairs and show him which fixtures we didn’t have yet and which we did and where they went.

Then I stomped back to the kitchen and sat down on the floor and tried to convey to the vet that despite the flood of tears that had suddenly burst out of my face I was in fact ready to do this very hard thing. I announced to the room that there was no treatment at this point that was going to make her strong or well enough to stand and walk again, like it needed to be said. It didn’t.

I stroked Cherry’s face.

What I saw: Cherry’s last four breaths.

What else I saw: Captain sat on his big new monogrammed Orvis ™ bed and saw the whole thing. He stood and came over an checked her out before she was wheeled away.

And: The vet made a print of Cherry’s paw in clay, and left it on the kitchen counter. I said goodbye to the vet on the driveway, thanking her for doing a hard and important job. She gave me one of the nicest hugs I’ve had in a while. Certainly the best hug Ive ever had from someone I’d just met.

I went in and put Cherry’s bedding the wash, unplugged her heating pad and folded it up, wiped the floor, and moved Captain’s bed to conceal the hole left by Cherry’s departure. I texted the Bacon Provider with the news and a picture or two. I did not know he was sitting at his boss’s keynote speech, between two board members.

The very next thing that happened was someone came from the kitchen cabinet shop to measure.

And: a fancy box containing Cherry’s remains were returned to us by the vet a few days later. And a few days after that a bunch of essential oils arrived which I had little memory of ordering. I mixed up a small bottle of oil with lavender and bergamot and gave Captain a little massage. He loved every bit of it, but he loves everything.

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What I saw at home: I am looking at some of the new paint colors with suspicion, but I’m avoiding it by getting back in bed. My body has let me know that it is too much.

My Pets’ Pets

Things that were sad: we said good bye to Cherry this week, at age 15. She died peacefully at home (thanks to a veterinarian who specializes in both end-of-life pet care and house calls), surrounded by some of her people and Captain, her companion of 9 years. I will write a longer post about her soon. In the meantime, enjoy this story about pests.

What I saw: I have graduated to a walking cast, but when I was still on the knee scooter, I had trouble by the back door. Turning around was a process of bashing into walls, running over shoes, inventing new cuss words, and trying not to fall. As long as the weather stayed unseasonably warm (thank you, catastrophic global climate change), my solution was to open the door and leave it open for Captain. I have taught Captain he is not supposed to charge out an open door, and he has learned to wait, even if there are squirrels; so, he stands, sometimes trembling with anticipation, and waits for permission to go.

Things that were funny: by leaving the door open for him, Captain just stood in front of it wagging and asking to go out. He needed to be told it was ok. I was in the kitchen trying to do ordinary things, like unloading the dishwasher one cup at a time, spilling water, bashing into the cupboards, and trying to make tea that all take forever on a knee scooter, and there was Captain standing at the open door unable to go out.  I said something encouraging. Now he was whining. I finished unloading the dishwasher one plate at a time and went to see what was wrong. There was a big spotted slug in the doorway.

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Captain could not pass the slug without permission from me.

What I did beforehand: I had foot surgery in mid-October. I’ve been putting it off since seeing a creepy podiatrist in Seattle in 2000, but I realized as I limped around a horse show early this summer that I’d waited long enough.

What I wore: yoga pants

Who went with me: while I’ve been recovering from foot surgery, I’ve spent long days flopped out in bed, and Schwartz has been a shitty cat, not being nearly as snuggly as he should be, and finally curling up with me but not letting me actually pat him.

Why I saw this show: because of remodeling in other parts of the house, Schwartz is mostly confined to my bedroom during the day, and he has a cardboard box we put catnip in to entertain him.  He likes his box and thrashes around in it.

One thing that was not funny: one night, Schwartz brought a mouse up from the basement and put it in the box so he could play with it and it wouldn’t get away.

Another thing that was not funny: when the mouse abruptly disappeared, leaving two drops of blood behind, I assumed Schwartz had eaten it. This is a ridiculous assumption.

Still more things that were not funny: I was wrong, of course. The next night he was at it again, batting the mouse, enticing it to squeak and run and try to jump out of the box, and Schwartz was having the finest of fine times playing with it and not killing it.

Yet another thing that was not funny: the following morning I saw the mouse running around my bedroom, and I, temporarily one-footed and historically the only person in the house willing to catch and/or dispatch an injured mouse, was not able to do a damned thing about it.

Where I stood: then Schwartz showed up and recaptured the damned mouse and started for the bed with it in his mouth, I leapt to my feet, reacting from instinct, and nearly went down. Because I couldn’t put any weight on the left foot yet.

Something I watched: that night, there was a big storm and we were watching a few episodes of season 2 of Stranger Things.  We have a generator, and an expensive service contract for it, so we weren’t even worried about the power going out.

What it is: meanwhile, the Bacon Provider updated all our water treatment stuff, but the plumbers failed to install the air-gap we requested, and before the situation could be corrected, the heavy rain caused a bunch of water to back up into our basement. As a relentless troubleshooter, the Bacon Provider went out and got a sump pump to address it.

Who should see it: when the power did go out, quite late and in the middle of the episode, the generator did not fire up as it is supposed to. I found myself sitting in the living room in silence and almost complete darkness, and not sure where I’d left my knee scooter. I crawled around groping the air. The Bacon Provider went out to see if he could start the generator manually. It sputtered like it wanted to start, but couldn’t. He checked the fuel, and the oil.  It was still raining quite heavily still and the wind was so strong as to seem threatening. And now our sump pump solution was no longer a solution.

The least funny thing of all: I scootered around in the dark house, first looking for the number of the generator service company and then looking for mobile phone reception.  After the call dropped twice I got through. The tired woman who answered started off by asking my area code. I told her I didn’t have a landline and don’t know the local area code. She was indignant. I was more indignant. “I am sitting in the dark, I can hear water coming into my basement because the sump pump is off, I had foot surgery two weeks ago so I can’t walk, and you’re telling me the expensive service contract doesn’t include you being able to look up my account some other way?”

The Bacon Provider walked in, looking, by the light of his ever-handy pocket flashlight through the gloom even more alarmed, I told him, without muting myself, that I was on the phone with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (America’s grumpiest professional liar).

Eventually, after more arguing, she took my number and said we could expect a service call. My phone was down to 9% battery life, and my backup charger, when I found it, was almost dead.

I went to bed.

In the morning, I found out that the Bacon Provider had called the generator service company himself, after me, and got a call back. He was offered a technician at $480/hr with a two hour minimum in the middle of the night, or the normal day rate of $145/hour in the morning. He opted for the latter and went to bed. When they called in the morning to confirm, they told me that our service plan had lapsed two years ago. I begged to differ. They checked again, and found nothing. I insisted. On the third try they found my contract, up to date, under my correctly spelled name, at my address on my street, misspelled, and my town also misspelled.

I can’t wait until they call me in March about renewing!

What they saw when they showed up: the technician finally arrived mid-morning, and found that there was a big, spotted slug on an air vent of the generator, preventing it from starting.

A shit-show

What I saw: the physician’s assistant handed me a stack of pages of pre-operative instructions, including a page of “Helpful Items,” with pictures of crutches and canes and walkers and wheelchairs (things that no one ever thinks they’re going to need) and said, “You will want a knee-scooter.” It had been hurriedly circled in ball-point pen. I did not want it. She went on, “You can rent them, but…,” she said, glancing at my feet, “If you’re going to have to get both feet done, you’re probably better off just buying one.”

IMG_3932What I did beforehand: I avoid shopping with the Massive Online Retail Monopoly, but they have all the things and also all the reviews. You simply must read the reviews of these knee scooters or you might end up with the wrong one.  As for me, I had to read the reviews of the wrong scooter after I had found the right one to figure out that I was actually wrong. I had to get the child-sized scooter, because the manufacturer makes a “regular” sized scooter for people who are larger than the average size woman.

I got the one with the three wheels (instead of four) in the hopes of not hitting myself constantly in the ankle of my “good” foot. And I got the one with the bigger, 9” tires in the hopes of not wiping out thanks to a pea-sized bit of gravel on my driveway, or succumbing to the enormous thresholds of the doorways in Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum. It came in a big box that arrived via drone only three minutes after I ordered it, and I had to put it together with the shiny, enclosed tools. It came with lots of written instructions, stern warnings about not backing up, and even has a training wheel, to put on the side opposite your good foot, for people with stability issues. I had the Bacon Provider adjust the brakes and finish the tire inflation. We took turns riding on it before my foot surgery, to see how it cornered (not especially well), to see how fast it could go (not especially fast), and to see how it stopped (well enough). It sat in the corner of the dining room like a vague threat until the surgery.

What I wore: the wrong pajamas.

Who went with me: I have to back up a little and say that Cherry turned 15 this summer and is now completely deaf. When she was a younger dog, she knew a good number of useful commands like sit, come, stay, down, don’t touch, and take it. I even taught her hand signals for sit, stay and down because I always thought that’s what good dog owners did to prepare for the day when their dog could no longer hear. Cherry’s hearing seemed to vanish suddenly and completely about two years ago, but in retrospect it was probably failing for a while and she masked the loss by continuing to seem obedient by making educated guesses about what she was supposed to do. Those educated guesses were her forte from a young age, and it was why I was able to get her to climb on top of things like big rocks or tree stumps for pictures. We are unprepared for her diminished vision, though. You cannot call a deaf dog. And you can wave all you want to a dog who can’t see, but she’s not coming to you except by luck.

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How I got tickets to the shit-show: Cherry seems to be able sometimes to see a waving hand about 6 feet away. She gets up and down the stairs from the kitchen to the yard with a great, clumsy leap. Sometimes Cherry wanders around the kitchen looking for people to stand next to, which is sweet but kind of annoying when you’re cooking. When she rises from her dog bed and starts wandering around the kitchen, then we wave our hands to try to shoo her out the door. She makes her leap off the stairs having no better plan. Some mornings we get up and she’s had more than one accident in the kitchen. The sting of frustration about this is dwindling as she becomes more and more frail.

Why I saw this show: so, the Bacon Provider had to do a webinar one morning, just a couple of days after my foot surgery. I was still unable to put any weight on the bad foot, spending most of my days with it elevated in bed, and taking pain meds.  I said derisive, colorful things about the word “webinar,” and some insightful things about capitalism. Only the cat heard me. He agreed, I think.

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Pretending to listen

Things that were not funny: before you need your knee scooter you can tool around your dining room, but it will never prepare you for the horror of a bathmat, a narrow bathroom, a pile of laundry, or a pair of shoes in your way. You can’t pick them up. You can’t go over them. You can’t go around them. The turning-radius a knee scooter is one half to two feet to large for most of this 80s museum. Also, you will come close to falling for surprising reasons, like missing the pad where you’re supposed to kneel, or smashing yourself in the good ankle, or the unexpected shoe (and it’s never your shoe, because all you need now is one sad shoe for your right foot, a sacrificial shoe, chosen to get extra, uneven wear and be forever associated with the dark days of recovery from surgery).

What it is: somehow, thanks to the webinar, I got stuck with feeding the dogs breakfast.

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Clearly on pain meds

Things that were sad: there were dog blankets all over the kitchen floor. People in my family cover the dogs with blankets when they sleep. Yes, this is ridiculous, but Cherry gets cold. But also, she is a dog, and being a dog, she wakes up and gets a drink and the blankets come sliding off and get dragged across the floor and left there when she goes back to her bed.

Who should watch their step: of course, Cherry is no longer really very housebroken so sometimes she gets up to go on the floor and other times she just poops in her sleep.

Things that were funny: so when I scootered across the kitchen to get a can of dog food and there was a dog blanket on the floor and I tried to back up, bend over, and pick it up, I was showered with dog-poo nuggets. And I don’t know if I was like, trying to nugget-dodge or maybe bounce them away from me like they were dog-poo-hacky-sacks, but I wobbled. Cherry, who was hungry, which was the whole reason I was trying to do things in the kitchen at all, was right up against me, keeping track of me the only way she can anymore.

Where I sat: so when I started to fall, I also hit the old dog, who also fell. No one was hurt, though the scooter and I were kind of tangled up and the poo nuggets were involved. Cherry wasn’t so much hurt as she was startled, and so she kind of had the shit scared out of her. The exertion of trying to get back up made her poop some more, and because she and I fell together, now she was pretty much just pooping on me. I’ve had dogs for about 25 years, but I think that was the first time I was pooped on directly by one.

When that was over, I righted the scooter and tried to stand. My pajama pants (these being the sub-optimal pajamas and not one of the two pairs of optimal, post-operative lounge-wear) got caught on one of the bigger, 9” tires of my five-star-reviewed knee scooter as I was trying to stand up so I fell again.

Where I sat on the way home: so I had to crawl around picking up the poo-nuggets, take off my clothes, wash my good foot, and still feed the dogs, and when I was done I had so much leftover angry energy I hauled the vacuum cleaner out, and took out the trash. I can’t say why exactly I sat down on the floor of the garage while I was taking out the trash, but I did. It was cold, and quite gritty, but not nearly as bad as falling in dog shit.

I thought I saw a dog in the dark

What I saw: the other night, I hopped in the car to go get my kids from the train station, and as I pulled out of the garage I thought I saw a small, light-colored dog, cowering under the wheels of our truck.

What I did beforehand: grabbed my spare glasses because I couldn’t find my usual pair.

What I wore: dirty jeans, Birkenstock clogs, parka.


Who went with me: after convincing myself that it wasn’t an imaginary dog, I got out of the car and tried to call it; it was too scared. I went back in the house and got some dehydrated liver treats and coaxed it out; it had a collar but no tags. It took the treats from me and retreated behind the truck to eat them. I started to call it “Little White Dog.” 

How I will get my next dog: maybe I will get a vizsla puppy in the spring. Maybe I will take in a foster dog. Maybe I will wait until a dog finds me. Maybe my two current dogs are my last two dogs. I used to try to think about things like this, to quell my awake-at-four-in-the-morning thoughts. I’d make contingency plans, based on various disaster scenarios. The year my mom died I learned that impossible things happen, and 2016 has been another year of impossible things. I try not to make contingency plans, believing instead in the ability of my future self to know what to do. 

Why I saw this show: the Graduate was here the weekend before, celebrating the Xmas holiday with us, and he brought along his girlfriend and she brought along her little dog, Snipe. They’d been gone several days when the Little White Dog appeared in the night. The Little White Dog was more stout than Snipe, and had shorter legs, but for one baffling instant I did think that somehow Snipe was still here. Or had come back.


Where I sat: the Bacon Provider went to get the kids at the train station while I tried to lure Little White Dog inside. I wondered if someone had dumped it on our road, the way they’d dumped an old mattress here. 

Things that were sad: I got the dog a dish of water and a bit of kibble and lured it into the garage but when I tried to close the garage door, Little White Dog was startled by the noise and bolted out, into the darkness. 

Things that were not funny: our next-door neighbors have three dogs, a fat foxhound, a rowdy black and white Great Dane, and a small, fluffy white dog. I wasn’t sure if this Little White Dog maybe lived next door, though I doubted it. I felt like this Little White Dog was bigger than the one I’d seen next door. I followed the dog into my backyard, still trying to lure it with food. Soon enough the Bacon Provider returned with the kids and we together decided that a car we saw driving slowly by might have been looking for Little White Dog. So we followed Little White Dog down the driveway and down the hill and up the neighbor’s driveway. I rang the bell. A teenager answered, with his posse of three excited dogs, and the rowdy Great Dane blasted past, chasing Little White Dog back into the darkness. Some shouting followed. 


Things that were funny: at this point, the slow-driving car returned, and we flagged her down. Inside was an older woman who was looking for the dog. It belonged to her friend, and it had followed her when she drove away. Little White Dog’s name was supposed to be “Thumper,” though when she called him he seemed as disinclined to join her as he had been to come to me. After some more pointless running around in the woods, I got a hand on him and almost had him when he decided that going back to his owner’s friend was better than being chased by me, so she caught him and put him in her car.

Something I ate: too many Christmas cookies. 


What it is: I have owned one dog and two dogs and three dogs and know for certain that three is exactly too many dogs.

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Who should see it: you should knock on your neighbor’s door and introduce yourself when they move in. I should go knock on my neighbors’ doors and introduce myself since they didn’t do it first. Maybe next year.

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What I saw when I got home: my own dog, Captain, who has such deep feelings.


I let him have it

What I saw: Captain having the new dog toy.

What I did beforehand: the Bacon Provider got home from a business trip in time to catch a late dinner with me. Then, he had to unpack (and re-pack) his suitcase.


What I wore: dirty jeans and the sweater of intermittent self-pity

Who went with me: Captain and the Bacon Provider and even Schwartz.



How I got Captain: we took in Captain as a foster dog in the fall of 2008. 

Why I saw this show: a colleague of my husband who I met on election night gave him a gift, saying it was “for his dogs.”



Where I sat: on the floor because I didn’t want to miss any of it.

Things that were sad: that this made me feel better.


Things that were funny:

 

http://schwartzville.tumblr.com/post/153928449822/someone-got-us-a-toy-for-captain

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Things that were not funny: 

Something I ate: toast.

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What it is: a stuffed dog toy of ordinary durability, in the grip of a dog that is determined to rip the face off of every toy, empty out the stuffing, and pull out the squeaker.



Who should see it: as of this writing65,228,264 American voters, or, 2,554,576 more than the “winner.”

What I saw after: Schwartz made his inspection.


I went for a walk

What I saw: the woods of the Kitchawan Preserve, Ossining, New York

What I wore: tall black custom Vogel field boots, Prince of Wales spurs, light brown Pikeur full-seat breeches, lilac 3/4-sleeve L.L.Bean polo shirt, Charles Owen Ayr8 helmet, prescription sunglasses, black SSG® Soft Touch™ Riding Gloves. 

What I did beforehand: overslept



Who went with me: Remonta Hado, aged 15, also sometimes known as Hado or Brown or, even, Big Brown.

How I got here: a set of random, impulsive decisions that might be impossible to replicate.

Why I went for a walk: we have been working very hard and needed a break. It was a perfectly clear, bright, dry sunny day.

Where I sat: Devouxcoux mono-flap dressage saddle.

Things that were sad: you, my readers, won’t look at my last blog post

Things that were funny: there are signs posted in this park stating that dogs must be on leash, and also further stipulating that dogs must be on a leash up to six feet long. I do occasionally see people walking a dog on a leash here, but almost always see people with their dogs off leash. Walking a dog off-leash is a great pleasure, of course, for both the dog, that gets to explore its freedom, and the walker, who walks and indulges in the sight of their dog moving at liberty. But it all depends on an owner’s ability to call the loose dog and leash it up again. I saw three dogs on this walk. The first was a black lab mix named Lola. Lola’s owners shouted “come” about eleven or twelve or eighty-one times before it occurred to them to turn around and walk the other way. Their apology was, “Oh, she’s never seen a horse before.”

Things that were not funny: the next dogs I saw were a pair of merle Australian shepherds. Their owners were calling shrilly but fruitlessly, as well, perhaps unaware of the deer their dogs were presumably pursuing, when suddenly the dogs exploded from the dense brush, charged me and my quiet, motionless horse who retained all of his composure while the marauding, barking fluff-balls were re-captured. These owners shouted at me accusingly about how they hadn’t any place to move off the trail (a statement so incomprehensible I am still mulling it over, days later), and flexed their muscles dragging off the canine ruffians by the neck and making no apology at all as we paraded sedately past them. 


What it is: the Kitchawan Preserve is a 208-acre natural area bordered by New York City reservoirs. It features reasonably well-maintained, wooded trails and a few open fields. It is lovely in all four seasons, though it can be very muddy after strong rains, and is heavily used by dog-walkers, particularly on weekends in fine weather. It was once a research facility of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There are two horse farms abutting the preserve, though I rarely see other riders in the woods. 

Who should see it: didn’t Thoreau say, “Not till we are lost in the woods on horseback, out of the earshot of people and their dogs, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations?” 

What I saw on the way home: when we emerged from the woods and stepped back onto the mowed, grassy paths of the farm where Hado lives, we were again among Hado’s folk, the herd. Horses stood in paddocks alone and in pairs, heads bowed in worship of one of their gods, the late summer grass, and another of their gods, the sunshine.  Hado glanced in the direction of two of his equine brethren and compelled them to dance in his direction. He celebrated their greeting with a sequence of bounces, tossing his head and shoulders and laughing in his throaty bass-baritone. I gave him a kick, and directed him back to the barn.

Back

I sent change of address cards, and if you didn’t get one, it’s probably because I don’t have your address. It’s all email or text now, anyway. You know, back when my kids were little, I’d sacrifice the daylight of a whole day to stage a seemingly spontaneous holiday picture. I’d dress them in matching flannel shirts and try to gather them into a group, waiting for that perfect combination of kid-ness and cute-ness, in the presence of decent lighting. It wasn’t easy when the days were as short as they were in Seattle in early December. And I had film in my camera, so it was not possible to know right away whether I’d gotten a usable shot or not. Back then, I sent holiday cards to a long list, over 100, including my friends, relatives, neighbors, and friends of my parents. The list of change of address cards I sent out this November was less than 40 names.
A friend whose kids are in their 20s still gets them to sit for an Xmas photo every year. Every year for the past four years I’ve been like, no way will she get them to do it this year, and then, blammo, she does. And their smiles last year were slightly less ironic than the year before. My kids aren’t all on the same coast, so I have no hope of being able to make it happen this year; I’m not sure when was the last time I got a picture of them all together. I think instead of feeling sad about that, I will put Xmas bows on my pets and pose them in front of the tree for a photo. They will enjoy it. It might be old dog Cherry’s last Xmas anyway.
In response to our change of address cards, I got an actual, handwritten letter in the mail from one friend, and an email from the son of an old neighbor in Seattle. The old neighbor’s son was sad to report that our neighbor died in August. I have written about this neighbor before, because she was the one who so keenly reminded me what a bad neighbor I was sometimes. She was 88, and had a massive stroke.
Here in Bedhead Hills, the dogs are still learning the boundaries of our mostly wooded property. I’ve only let them out the door unleashed a few times; Captain got skunked in October, and a few nights ago he came back to the wrong door, so I was calling out into the dusk and he was barking to be let in, but we were doing it in different doorways. So, I leash them up and go out with them, and when time permits, I try, after walking them on leashes, to take them around so they can practice seeing where our boundaries are.
Yesterday, after a long walk, we took the little path into the woods on our property. We got tangled in the thorny bushes, and I unclipped their leashes. My timing was perfectly wrong. Though our yard is below a steep embankment on that side, the dogs saw a woman and her dog walking by, and charged up the hill, bursting out of the bushes and ambushing the pair on the road. The woman screamed with surprise and snatched up her little white dog; it was barking furiously. I shouted and shouted at my dogs; Captain came back cowering. Cherry, who doesn’t hear anymore, didn’t bother coming back down the embankment at all. She trotted around down the driveway and headed towards the house. So much for introducing myself to the neighbors. I don’t suppose she heard me screaming, “SORRY!” at the top of my lungs.
Captain has never been very good at anything but the most basic obedience, and with Cherry no longer offering him the model of nearly perfect sits, stays, and comes, I’m going to have to go back to daily drills with him. I don’t know how we’ll conquer his desire to chase deer or greet people who walk by with dogs, without having to risk him running into the road. He is fun to work with, though, because of his sweet and cheerful outlook, and he doesn’t get bored as long as treats are involved.

They have their own agendas

Early last January, when we still lived on a big farm, far from the busy road, I let the two dogs out to go potty on a snowy day and Captain did not come back. Because I envisioned the skunk he was tracking or the herd of deer he was chasing, a half an hour passed before I got worried. Was he lost? Had he chased the deer too far to find his way back? Ten more minutes passed. Had someone taken him? My imagination ran away with scenarios: he is a hunting dog, so maybe he’d been stolen. Or what if he’d been dog-napped? I concocted a tale of how it was the revenge of my Twitter troll, trying to threaten and intimidate us. Could she have figured out where I lived? The longer he was gone, the more outlandish my ideas became about what had happened to my dog.
I got in the car and drove slowly down our long, frozen driveway, calling out the window into the cold. I drove to a neighboring farm where our housesitter said the dog had gone once to play with one of the dogs who lives there. As my tires crunched in my steady ascent of the long, straight driveway with snow banked high on both sides, four separate texts arrived on my phone at once:
“He’s back.”
“He’s back.”
“He’s back.”
“Where are you?”
 
The narrowness of the drive meant I had to go all the way to the top to turn around, or back out the way I came. I backed out the whole way.