walkies

So the weather has been teasing us again here on the NC coast that the humid days are coming to an end. We get a couple of days of cold mornings, dry, warm afternoons, then a day like today with muggy air and blustery winds. Hurricane Zeta decided to throw some our way but that’s long since past. So no idea where this is coming from. Hurricane Eta is visiting Honduras.

humidity-loving tree frog stuck to garage door

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu love the cooler weather. Lily’s hot spot of 3 months ago has morphed into a larger area. It does not appear to bother her until I have to wash her but she looks moth-eaten. She doesn’t care, and I don’t care, either but people have stopped asking about it. Well, hoping with cold weather it will soon be history.

Occasionally I walk on my own after Lily and Lulu have their walks. It always interests me when I see others walk their dogs. Most seem to understand that if you are walking with a dog it is their walk, not yours. They stop to inspect every third blade of grass or, if they are strong and young, strain against the leash lengthening your arm in the process. On the rare occasion when Lily was younger and she spotted a rabbit she would suddenly cross in front of me without warning and I’d cartwheel into the bush. But more and more I am seeing dogs on a short even if retractable leash being dragged behind their person who apparently is on a walk for exercise not for dog exploration. I feel badly for the dog.

I almost never see initials or names etched in newly-poured concrete sidewalks or driveways anymore. Obviously this was from many years ago. I never knew Kathy or Bob. I don’t know if they lived where this was engraved, or if they did, that they are even still there. But it is carved (until the driveway/ sidewalk is replaced) in time immemorial as a testimony that once this couple wished to let anyone who passed by know that they were important to each other.

Once I saw “Jesus Loves me” carved on a tree trunk. It gave me pause. It is a truth that applies to every one of us. Whether we love Him, obey Him, seek Him or even believe in Him, He loves us.

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I tried to remember though if I have ever seen a carved “I love Jesus” and I couldn’t. But then He tells us when we love Him we show it because in true love you want to do things that make the person you love happy. So you serve Him. Not because He expects to be served but because this is who He was when He came to save us. And He is still interceding for us. But it is our choice. So saying and doing are not the same thing. He is life. Forever.

hot spots

Back in the ‘70s this would be a place my parents wouldn’t have allowed me to go to. Not under any circumstances. Swinging, happening, mod… none of that was part of my experience. No, we were not Amish, Mennonite, Mormon or even Catholic. My parents were cautious and protective of my brother and me. Based on how some of our neighborhood pals turned out I am glad they were that careful.



Go forward a couple decades. Hot spots are specific designated WiFi accessible places like airports, hotels, campuses. With smart phones it’s not that important now but they are still around.

Not that kind, either.

A couple of weeks after I came back from Texas I noticed something on husky-mix rescue dog Lily’s fur. It looked like I spilled water on her but didn’t seem to bother her. I found her grooming brush to get it out and a large clump of hair came with it. Lily turned her head toward me and I leaned closer to figure out what this was.

Hot spot.

She had not had one of these in a couple of years. It’s an allergic reaction, sometimes from a flea bite or allergy or other skin irritation and generally bothered even more by extreme heat and humidity. If they chew or scratch it becomes worse. I’ll spare further graphic description but her vet confirmed that’s what it was.

So we came back home loaded with antibiotic, allergy pills and an anti-itch antiseptic spray. They shaved a large area on her back around it so it could heal.


Well, it has healed and as you see here Lily and terrier-mix rescue dog Lulu are eagerly searching for a small lizard living in this plant. Not bothered anymore in the least. She still has that bare spot that draws curious looks when we are on our walkies but probably also provides welcome cooling to her double-thick husky fur coat.

Crisis resolved.

ramblings

A park in a city where  I used to live had such a Canada goose problem they hired border collies to get them to fly away. They usually came back the next day, so it took many tries before the geese got too discouraged to bother going back. Recently I rode my bike to the library to get some books and saw a flock of these geese milling around, with a librarian gently shooing them away.

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The point was, she said, to get them off the sidewalk. There are these sheet metal dog-shaped statues in the grass there that swivel and are supposed to frighten off the geese. But as you can see the geese ignore it.

I walk almost every day. Usually for an hour or more, now that the weather has (likely temporarily) cooled some. I don’t take rescue dogs Lily and Lulu now. Lily is still building her strength after her surgery and Lulu just doesn’t like to walk that far.   And generally not without her pal, Lily. So occasionally a neighbor sees me and asks after Lily. I am running out of things to say. No, she isn’t up to walking far, yet. Yes, she seems to be doing some better. But this recovery is incremental. So I am often surprised when I have this very conversation with a neighbor and just a few days later they are so surprised to see me without a dog. These are not particularly elderly people (which is relative, based on my own age. To a 20-year-old they’d be ancient.), so I wonder do they forget? Not hear me? Do I say it in such a way as to indicate recovery is imminent? So I explain, again.

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I have a tiny backyard. Maybe 40 feet by 20 feet. I over planted. Three fig trees, a hedge of lemon grass that’s hard to get around, an elderberry that is very happy where it is. There are many plants that I like but I have to be practical. Even though they do well it makes no sense to have them choking each other out. When they begin to die back I’ll move some, though I have no idea where.

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Same with house plants. This climate is almost tropical in summer so house plants and orchids love being outside. But some do so well they outgrow their pots and by end of summer I have to divide them into more plants. Philodendron and aloes are most, then Christmas cactus and arrowhead plants. These I divided into so many smaller plants I finally consolidated them into bigger pots.

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But somehow when it truly does get colder (for about 3 months) I have to find places for all of these plants inside the house. Which means spraying them for bugs and not overwatering or drying them out.

After hurricane season.

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snapped

I honestly have no idea what happened. One day things are perking right along, the next day my blood pressure’s off the charts,  (I have normally abnormally low blood pressure) I’m screaming blue murder at no one in particular (in my house, thank God), freaking out when rescue dog Lily tries to get up on her own after her sutures were removed, and not sleeping with racing thoughts.

Honestly. No idea.

Well, some idea.

I let go my hold on my true life preserver– Jesus. I stopped praying and let my anger get a real grip. My thoughts were out of control.

When I took Lily for her suture removal I had some questions: when can she stop her medications? I thought they wanted to x-ray her leg that had surgery? what about her exercises, compresses?

The tech printed out the same ‘information’ sheets I was given when Lily had her surgery, with an area highlighted about the x-ray. No other answers. Oh, except the ever-vague ‘wean her off the meds’.

The unasked questions: is my dog ok? have we been doing the right things? can I get a “Great work, she looks like she is doing fine!” This was the same issue she had before, completely different surgical procedure.

Is it me or are veterinary clinic people becoming just that–> CLINICAL? Cold. Uncaring. I moved to this little coastal town about 4 years ago leaving a vet I had taken my dogs to for over 30 years. This is the 6th vet I have gone to. Maybe it’s me. There has to be something I do or say that rubs these people the wrong way but honestly? If their dislike for me broaches a point at which my dogs may suffer I am seeking help for my dogs elsewhere even if it means going to every single animal hospital in this town. And if I go through them all and still come up empty I move.

Like any genuine pet person I will do anything to get the best care for these dogs. But this? Seems unreasonable.

Maybe it’s because I spent 6 months helping Lily with her first ACL surgery and now we are embarking on another 6 months for the other ACL. Cabin fever? It’s possible. It’s gotten me in trouble before. Or maybe I was upset because I will miss seeing my family for our yearly vacation. So that was something I could remedy and rented a cottage near the inn where they will be staying. Just for a few days. But at least Lily, Lulu and I will have a change of scenery.

And maybe I can hold it all together for the remaining 4 months. Only with my Life Preserver.

IMG_0048.JPGPassiflora incarnata “Maypop”

 

 

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rejoice!

Stress, worry, anxiety is like exercise for the brain, adrenal glands, sweat glands except it isn’t very healthy. But we are told to rejoice, no matter what. We are told to be grateful even when there doesn’t seem to be anything to give thanks for.

It sounds perverse but it is the pathway to peace. Sanity.

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Rescue dog Lily did fine in her surgery. She thanks everyone for thoughts and prayers.  She is textbook recovery dog. Not licking sutures, allowing for physical therapy, ice compresses, hot compresses no whining or objection. Once again a hind leg is completely naked from top of the hip to her ankle, but it’s summer! So even though I have never shaved her hair in hot months now she has her own partial cooling system.

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She rests quietly. She tries, when I ‘carry’ her in her walker sling, to drag me over to the garage. This is to let me know that surgery or no surgery she is ready to get in the car and go to the park or the river or anywhere and start taking her walkies again.

Well, not quite, Baby Girl. We have a ways to go yet. She will get her stitches out in a couple of weeks. Then her walkies can go from 5 minutes to 10. A month or so after that her surgeon will look at her and decide how much more she will be able to do.

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But right now, pain or no pain, she wants to be free. She wants to have her walks and chase little anole lizards and toadies. She is not at all happy having restrictions of any kind.

She is a very good girl. She is obedient and knows her commands and likes to do what makes me happy. But this? This even though she just went through it with her other leg, she is not too patient with.

It will get better.

Sooner than she thinks.

Rejoice!

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making new friends

Runs with scissors. This would be me. So far, except for one small mishap in high school which only required a butterfly bandaid I have been very lucky.

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Don’t Play Well With Others

This would apply to rescue dogs Lily and Lulu.

I adopted Lulu somewhat late in her life, 3 years ago. She is maybe 8 or 9 now. I adopted Lily when she was about a year so she is now around 11 or 12. Lily’s sole purpose in life (after eating) is to be my Nanny. She follows me everywhere, keeps me in her line of sight at all times. If we encounter other people on a walk she places herself between them and me. When she lost her rescue buddy Murphy 5 years ago she was heartbroken. This was a surprise since they tolerated each other but did not appear to much care if the other came or went. When Murphy died I realized that despite outward appearances animals form strong bonds. Lily looked for him, even after I moved 200 miles east. So enter Lulu.

I fostered her for about a week to see how things would shake out. Lulu confiscated all the toys and appropriated all the beds within a day or so. Only once did I find her shaking, cornered by Lily for some unknown altercation. Lily and I discussed her new friend and that put an end to her hostility toward Lulu. They are sisters now.

On walks and hikes whenever they encounter any other dog, happy, peppy puppies, sullen surly dogs, or any other attitude they are tolerant, receptive but non-interactive. So I figured they had decided they were enough. Until a few days ago.

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This happy but laid-back little fellow ambled over one afternoon. We had just finished our walkie and were about to head home. Taking an immediate interest, he was undaunted by Lily and Lulu’s complete nosiness. He welcomed it! There was no growling, no defensive posture. Just happy sniffing and wagging of tails.

So sometimes there are exceptions to even the truest of generalizations.

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It’s important to keep an open mind.

 

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tested

Sometimes things just go another direction than expected.

So rescue dog Lulu. She was not dealing well with her dental procedure recovery, spitting pills out, not eating or drinking. Her vet said to call him to let him know on Monday the following week (this week) how she was.

That’s the day the tree broke.

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The three of us (rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I) were out in the yard, I was digging around planting things. I heard a large cracking sound behind me and turned to see the top third of a large river birch tree slowly falling toward us. I scooted Lily and Lulu to the other end of the yard and watched it fall in slow motion. This tree is about 15 feet from the screen porch corner of our house and about 12 feet of tree was coming down. I don’t know how to calculate the physics of height and distance but it was going to hit something.

And suddenly it stopped. I ran to the other side of the tree to see what happened and noticed a rotted place in a fork where the break was. The part that fell was now precariously resting on a smaller trunk. So I started calling tree removal companies. Two mailboxes were full, I spoke to one company I normally call and they could not get here until Thursday. I left multiple message at 2 others and got the last company I called. Long story short, the reason they were available was they are unlicensed, uninsured and not bonded, though they said they were. The guy who gave the astronomically high estimate told me. I said no thanks, bye, can’t afford it, they came down a fraction, nope, still no.

So I took the dogs for a walk. I saw a truck turn into our subdivision with that tree company’s name. I was talking to a friend and told her. She told me to go home immediately, before they started sawing on the tree.

“But I already said no,” I replied and she told me it did not matter. They were likely to start anyway for the money (naive me). So I turned and dragged the dogs home. Tree guy called just as I turned onto my street and I wondered what part of No was confusing for him. So they stood around chatting for about 20 minutes as I scrambled to lock my backyard gate, took down their license plate number and  waited for them to leave.

My friend drives up, takes one look at Lulu and tells me to get to the 24-hour emergency vet, now. I said I’d never been to an emergency vet before. She yelled, “NOW.” So we went. This is Monday evening.

IMG_0994.JPGthe local Arboretum, a lovely 7-acre garden near the emergency vet office

The following day I tried my regular tree people again and they came and looked at it. They could see, windy as it’s been this should be taken care of so they came the next morning and took the tree down. Affordably.

So Lulu. I won’t go into all the painful (especially for Lulu) details, but she still would not eat, even my visits with her availed nothing. She was groggy from iv pain meds, she was mercifully being rehydrated with fluids and now on antibiotics. But a small lump had developed on her throat, so we had to have a cat scan. This was inconclusive, though thankfully it ruled out a likely tumor. The area was drained and sent off for cytology and culture. The cytology came back inflamed but not infected and we are still waiting for the culture to tell what, if any, bacteria it has so a proper course of antibiotics can be given.

The hard part was this: Leaving her everytime I visited. So after the cat scan Wednesday I said I would like to take Lulu home at the weekend until the culture results came back and a decision could be made as to what comes next. Surgery is still on the table.

IMG_0979.JPGwhirly-gig art piece

After much discussion her emergency vet agreed I could come and get her Saturday. Each morning up to now I had usually heard around 10 or 11 a.m.from the ICU tech an update on Lulu. By 10:30 this morning I had still heard nothing so I decided to go over there. On my way I had second thoughts and detoured to the Arboretum, wander around the lovely flower beds and among the trees and wait. If I had not heard by noon I would go to the hospital.

I sat on a bench in front of this whirly-gig sculpture and watched each side madly twirl in opposite directions. I suddenly laughed realizing that this was what my life had been this week. There was a methodical, rhythmic routine to the care Lulu had been receiving. My anxiety over her condition was like these two sides spinning against each other at the whims of every breeze or wind that came along. My thoughts had run wild escalating to the worst imaginable possibilities. I watched it spin for a good while. It was as though God was showing me how ridiculous my worry had been.

IMG_0980.JPGheron in flight wire sculpture

After a while I got up and wandered through the rest of the gardens. This heron was comforting. Here is a graceful bird rising above earthly cares. I realized I had become mired in murky musings of my own making and had to stop bathing in it. My focus was all wrong. It was on things over which I have no control, not the One Who is in control.

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I began to truly feel the heavy weight I had created through the week disappear. I had realized, rightly, that Lulu, a quiet and shy little dog was in an environment that was by its very nature noisy and likely hadn’t gotten much if any real rest. So I was gratified in this strong urgency in bringing her home at least in that aspect. I noticed it was now around 11:30 and still no call….

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I slowly walked through the rest of the garden and sat on a bench near the exit. After a bit I saw it was almost noon so I headed to my car.

I arrived at the clinic and was surprised but thankful to see the waiting area nearly empty. I settled up Lulu’s bill, received her medications, spoke to her doctor about her follow-up appointment and brought her home. So far we have gone through one round of each of her medicines, I have held a warm compress to her throat and she has eaten a little. She is drinking water which, to see her do this when before she could not made me want to alert the media. But we still have a ways to go because we have the remaining test result and a decision to make about what this is and what to do about it. And there is her extreme dislike for the liquid medicines and hatred for me after I give them which fortunately is short-lived. Dogs are truly loving and forgiving creatures.

But, for now, Lulu is home.

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the blue velvet poodle parlor

There were many things I wanted to be when I grew up, one of which was veterinarian. Science was not a good subject for me so the closest I came to practicing in an animal hospital was as a veterinary receptionist. This was not complicated. Answering phones, calming agitated pets, occasionally their persons, running a cash register (the worst part of the job), and taking specimens back to the lab. Once in a while a vet would ask for assistance wrestling a dog or cat still to clean ears, give a shot or trim nails or something.

Often clients would ask for recommendations for shampoos, food, or groomers. Hands down, Blue Velvet Poodle Parlor got top recommendations.

This was not easy for me to do. Just saying the name sounded comical. At the time I had a West Highland terrier. My dad had given me a professional dog clipper to groom her. The problem with grooming Westies is they have 2 coats: a soft, downy undercoat and longer, coarse outer coat. The professional method of grooming them is called “stripping” with a special comb/razor blade tool that actually stripped out the undercoat and then they tackled the outer coat, face and legs. This sounded too painful so Dad gave me the clippers.

Having clippers and knowing how to properly use them are not the same.

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I did try to trim Piper’s hair but she got so many curious looks and “what breed of dog is that?” that I gave it up. And decided to try the ‘Poodle Parlor’ having been assured they groomed dogs other than poodles. This establishment was behind and beneath one of the foremost bridal salons in the city. A tiny strip mall of only 3 shops in an exclusive neighborhood, I knew it would be costly.  But I made an appointment.

I brought Piper inside and placed her on the grooming table the groomer indicated. She sized me up as much as Piper. Then she examined Piper, her head to her tail. Looking steadily at me she said, “$35.00?” I nodded, relieved I could afford to do this and left Piper in her care being told to return for her between 4 and 5 pm.

Aside from the blue satin bows behind her ears Piper looked picture-perfect beautiful. She even smelled powdery fresh. She bounced and pranced knowing how nice she looked and likely felt good with 3 pounds less hair.

She enjoyed her visits at the poodle parlor. I don’t even know if it is still there but since I have grown to mistrust American dog breeders, and there are so many healthy dogs in shelters and city pounds in such need of homes I adopt rescues now.

And Lily and Lulu have made it pretty clear they are happy with a brushing and occasional shampoo.

But no clippers.

 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?”     –Luke 12:27-28

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blossom

When I was married and my (now ex) husband got a job in Tennessee I was, for the first time, at sea. Fortunately I did not know this. My method then IMG_0109.JPGof adaptation was to flounder comically until I found footing. Others were distracted because I was good at making people laugh by laughing at myself.

One kind person did take me under her wing (briefly) to help with altar guild at the church we attended (briefly). Before she finally gave up realizing I was not detail oriented she told me to “bloom where I was planted.” This was wisdom I’d never before heard because I’d bloomed well wherever I’d been, just not there. And I have not forgotten what she said and it has been helpful at times over the now very many years.

No matter where I have alit in life I have made a friend or two and gratefully we have kept in touch. I learned that people are basically the same –good– wherever I am, no matter their manner or customs.

After rescue dogs Lily and Lulu and I have taken our pre-dawn morning walk I set out to take a longer walk, more for exercise than sniff for messages. One recent morning I came upon a plant that somehow I’d not seen before. This thing is called a blue agave or century plant since it blooms once every hundred years. And here this thing had sent up its inflourescence (flower). I thought it was a yucca but their flowers are very difIMG_0104.JPGferent and nowhere near as tall as that. The blooms are ivory-colored and branch singly off the flower stalk. They do not appear to have branches like a small tree.

I marveled at this plant! Here is something on the outer back corner of a drug store that looks like it was planted as more of an afterthought. It has grown here happily in nutrient-poor sandy soil and bright, full scorching sun since and now shows itself in all its glory. I wondered if anyone else saw the flower. It’s really important because, after this plant flowers it dies! It sends out what are called pups or little plantlets, offshoots, but the original one’s life is over. I don’t think this plant has been here for 100 years. I suppose it’s possible but the subdividing and development that is going on in this town lends itself more to plants being put in the landscape when buildings are built. I somehow doubt construction would have protected this single plant when the store was being built.

I could be wrong.

IMG_0124.JPGThis is another one in the landscape of a subdivision near the one that is blooming

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This is a baby one I have. They grow very slowly. And though they are the plant from which culinary agave nectar or tequila are made I do not know how to do this and I bought this plant more for decorative landscape purposes than imbibing. If what I learned about it is true I likely will not live long enough to see it bloom. Though I have seen an aloe bloom, in Florida. It has a tall stalk with pretty orange and yellow flowers.

So while Lily and Lulu have no problem making themselves right at home, wherever they find themselves

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it may take some of us longer to bloom.

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”    2 Peter 3:8

 

 

 

Lulu

So when my special-needs rescue dog Murphy died I really thought rescue-mix husky Lily would recover. Eventually. After about 2 years we even moved 4 hours away but she kept looking for him. So when we were at the pet store to buy food and treats I stopped in front of a little black and white dog in a crate at an adopt-a-thon.

Lulu.

She sure looked an awful lot like Murphy. So we got permission to foster her. She and Lily got on well, so we adopted her. A few weeks later she scared the lights out of me looking for all the world like she was having a seizure. But she didn’t convulse, she didn’t lose consciousness. I did not believe it actually was a seizure. Her vet disagreed. So I got a second opinion. The next vet suggested a back muscle spasm. He took an x-ray and did not see an evident problem.

Things went along fine until 5 months later when she had another one. The vet gave a prescription for a sedative in case they really were seizures and same guarded prognosis.

Just before Thanksgiving this year we were walking and a little girl asked to pet Lulu. I said yes and her mother asked a question. As I spoke to her Lulu yelped. She seemed ok, we finished our walk. But then Lulu started yelping at strange things. She yelped if Lily came too close, if she jumped down from a chair, if I picked her up, so we went back to her vet. More x-rays, blood work, maybe a ct scan they said. Next day they said the blood work was fine but she has an anomaly in her back. Right where her tail joins her spine. So more prescriptions and special food.

I looked this medicine up: it is a pain blocker. Ok, so she can’t feel pain but shouldn’t we be working on the thing that causes the pain? Or an anti-inflammatory medicine to help the pain without disguising it?

And what about this “anomaly”. Has she always had it (she was several years old when I adopted her), and if she has did it just get worse? Will it go away? Is it the disc or the vertebra? Is this a thing she was born with or did it happen some other way?

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Lulu feeling better chewing a salmon treat

What is it about phone conversations? I thought of none of my concerns until I’d hung up. I know vets are busy and it’s hard enough to get them on the phone the first time. So I will wait with all my questions until Monday when he said to call and give an update.

So she has made progress. She is not yelping anymore, even growls at Lily again which is a good thing (Lily can take it). She can go down steps but has some trouble going back up. She has not lost interest in her food or her toys. But it is not easy just hanging around the house. She loves her walks and Lily really needs to get out, being a large dog. Chasing the squirrels in the backyard is ok but only takes a few seconds. They both love their long walks at the nature preserve (a couple of miles) or nearby parks.

But the vet has said she can’t have any real walks for about a week, no matter how good she feels. I have tried a couple of times, we walked in the neighborhood and got to about 100 yards from the door and stopped. Lulu gave me an “uh oh” look. So I carried her back home. We are learning our limitations, but I know she really hopes this doesn’t last forever.

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