Monday, May 24, 2010

The Last Ride

In early October, I wrote that Wolfy was doing reasonably well at 14. For a long time I wondered who would go first, Angel or Wolfy, and when it turned out to be Angel I wondered how Wolfy would do as an "only dog."

Pets give us so many things to wonder about. And when the pet is elderly, the wonderings are endless. Most of the questions center around their comfort, or lack thereof. At some point they stop being energetic, waggy, sometimes silly creatures, and we start wondering what they need. Is he uncomfortable? When does discomfort become pain? Is he okay with this med? This dose? Is he panting because he's hot? Anxious? Because he has to go out? Some other reason?

In recent months, this sort of thing got pretty dizzying. I mean for me, but also literally for Wolfy, as he reacted badly for a few days to a med change. Then we fell into a pleasant routine. The weather improved, and every morning I gave him his pills and then attached a 25' horse lunge line to Wolfy's collar and the other end to the back door knob. He loved sleeping outside--in the sun when it was chilly, and in the shade when it was not. He drank from his water dish occasionally, but he mostly slept until 2:00 p.m., when I brought him back in for more pills and a meal before I left for work. Then more pills when I got home seven hours later. His gait was poor, and occasionally I had to help him get up. But I thought as long as he ate his dinners and slept peacefully, we were okay. And for a while we were.

Then on Friday last week he suddenly didn't want to stay outside any longer. It was a big change. In the house, he slept less and panted more. Panted and panted, more and more. We added a fourth dose of pills, but it didn't seem to help. He was clearly in pain. I took a long look at the situation yesterday, Sunday, and decided I couldn't put him through one more day of this. I awoke this morning certain of my decision. That certainty remained through my shower and my tea, but stopped as soon as it was time to pick up the phone an call the vet. So hard. So hard.

A year earlier, I had made an appointment to have Angel put down, but when we left the house to head for the vets, she took the four porch steps in a single bound. We went back in the house, and I canceled the appointment. This morning when Wolfy and I left the house for one last walk, he fell down those steps. There would be no cancellation today.

He and I always walked to a certain spot on the road. This morning he wanted to walk further. We did, and it looked no different from the road before it--same plantain, same garlic mustard, same brambles--until I spotted a bright pink Sweet Rocket. Was this a sign? Was I supposed to see it and recognize that something beautiful could bloom and grow 800 feet from where I originally planted them 30 years ago? Was I supposed to know that Wolfy would bloom and grow--and run and wag--in his next place? I don't know.

When Jill adopted Wolfy from the shelter 13 years ago, he was so eager to get into her car that he hit his head on it. Today he required a lot of help to get into mine. He loved cheese, so I brought a plastic bag of cheddar pieces with us, intending to feed them to him all the way to the vet's. But he was in such distress that he didn't want any. The vet assured me that I was doing the right thing, but for once I didn't need that reassurance.

When Jill died, nine years ago this coming Friday, one of the first signs I had from her was her car. Suddenly, that model, that year, that color was everywhere. Before I realized it was a sign, I found it remarkable that a 1990 red Oldsmobile was the most popular car in the county. Since then, the car has shown up at difficult times, sometimes singly, sometimes in numbers. On the way to the vet's this afternoon, Wolfy and I were on a two-lane country road with a big dump truck coming toward us in the other lane. It wasn't a passing zone, but without warning I found myself facing a 1990 red Oldsmobile in my own lane. I think I smiled. That car made itself known in such a strong way, intruding on my weepy, blurry grief, literally entering my space. There was no way I could have missed it.

So I'll go home tonight, and for the first time in 42 years, no dog will be there to greet me. I don't know what that's going to be like. But I know without a doubt where our Wolfy is now, and who is with him.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Get off the goddam phone!!"

I said it so many times in the car yesterday.

To the woman in the S Class Mercedes who came this close to sideswiping me. She was probably scheduling her pedicure.

To the college students who ignored the nearby crosswalks. Evidently no one had taught them to Stop, Look, and Listen. No, wait—they were definitely listening. And talking. They were probably discussing who gave who the eye in the cafeteria, and why their Spanish teacher should be shot.

To the teenagers in the car with the blasting stereo. How can they possibly hear anything over the hip-hop?? Or maybe they weren't trying to hear. Maybe they were just talking.

To the hefty woman who wandered out of the dollar store and into my path. No doubt she was in a hurry to tell her BFF about the incredible bargains she just scored.

To the obese man who pinned the phone to his ear with a shoulder as he drove, steering with his left hand and gesturing with his right. Did he close the big deal? I, for one, hope not.

And there were more. Lots more. All this urgency is pretty amazing, when you think about it. I'm old enough to remember when people didn't have so many important phone calls that couldn't wait. I wonder what the traffic accident stats were back then . . . ?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

City Girl, Country Girl

Even though I will always consider myself to be a New Yorker (I put that in red because—what can I tell you?—it's special), I've known for some time that my transition to Country Girl was completed ages ago. If I'd had any doubts about that, they were dispelled last night.

I was supposed to meet my friend Lindsay at an art opening at 5:00. We both agreed we'd be there on the dot or only slightly after. I spent most of the day outside..... mowing around the barn, helping my son with the ongoing barn cleanout, and spraying poison ivy with him. On a trip in his pickup to fill up our gasoline cans, I looked in the truck mirror and said, "I hope I can make myself look a hell of a lot better by five o'clock." When we got home I begged off joining him for some fun brush hauling (his adjective, not mine) because I had to take a shower and get ready to go out.

So he went home, and I got clean. Ninety minutes later I was dressed, my hair was vastly improved, and I was sporting some badly-needed makeup. I added a favorite necklace, and I was ready to face the art world. The wind which had been blowing wildly all day, had picked up, and trees were whipping about. As I locked the front door behind me, I saw that the cover had blown off my wood pile.

The wood pile is huge, and the tarp that covers it is not easy to manage on a still day. There was no way I was going to attempt it in "town clothes," so I quickly decided to take care of it after I got home. I was already a little late, and wouldn't make it to the gallery at 5:00 on the dot or even a little after.

So I got in the car and headed up my road, turning onto Stove Pipe Hill. My big Caprice took the hill with ease as always, and I soon found myself at the top, our own version of "big sky country." It's a great view. At that moment, the sky was a surreal mix of black, grey, and white clouds, tumbling over each other, with odd peeks of blue. My first thought was, why didn't I bring a camera? I always bring a camera. My second thought was, it's gonna rain on my wood pile.

I didn't turn around right away. I drove on and pondered the situation. I called Lindsay on her cell, and left the completely useless message that I was undecided about what to do. Just before I reached the end of the road, I turned around in someone's driveway and went back home.

Fifteen minutes later, somewhat covered in an old jacket and wearing gloves, I wrestled with the tarp. For a while it seemed as though the wind would win. I would get it down in one area, but when I worked on another part the first section would blow off. I could feel spruce needles entering my shoes and occasional big splats of rain landing on my head. I had some words to say on the subject, and they were not pretty.

I finally got all of the tarp over all of the wood, and laid some newly-cut apple limbs on top to hold it down. Then I assessed my appearance. No dirt that I could see. Hands intact under the gloves. Spruce needles knocked out of the shoes. Still wearing makeup and necklace. Hair not worth thinking about in wind this gusty.

So I proceeded on to the art gallery, arriving at 6:15. Lindsay hadn't gotten there yet, as she and her date had made an unexpected stop involving his dog. (Lindsay's an artist, so I don't ask.) An hour later the three of us left to attend another opening. They invited me to go in his car. The wind still sounded like a freight train, and the temperature had dropped. I didn't have a jacket. Lindsay's date offered to go get his car so I wouldn't have to walk to it, but I said, "Thanks, but that's okay. I'm a country girl."

Friday, May 07, 2010

I hit a cat last night.

On the way home from work, about 9:30 p.m., in an unlit area, a cat darted into the road and under my car. I saw nothing but a flash of white out of the corner of my eye . . . I thought it might be a box. But I hit it hard, so I turned around and went back to make sure it wasn't animal. It was a cat, coiled into an impossible ball, her beautiful eyes open and staring at my car.

I thought she was dead, and honestly I'd feel better if she'd died. Years ago I hit a Doberman at 60 mph and was able to tell the owner that her dog died on impact and suffered not at all. But this poor cat . . . as I watched, she somehow struggled to her feet and staggered to the side of the road. A car approached her fast in the other lane, but I blinked my lights repeatedly and he slowed down.

The cat was near a driveway, so I pulled into it—and she immediately disappeared. Of course it was pitch black outside. There were three houses in the area. I went to all of them, trying without success to locate the cat's owner. In one house, a teenage boy said to me, "It was probably just a stray. Don't worry about it." I said, "I'm very worried about it, because I hit that cat hard and I'm afraid she's in terrible pain right now." He looked at me like I was nuts, and went back to his TV.

I don't blame myself for what happened, but I feel awful about it. I don't know why cats run out in front of (or under) cars like that. Maybe fear has something to do with it. Maybe this cat's worst fear came true.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My Blue Heaven

A photographer in the middle of the country took some fascinating pictures he called "Music of the Spheres." I was captivated, and gave a lot of thought to how he might have achieved them. Finally I sent him an email. Was it a secret, I asked? He replied that he had his secrets, but this wasn't one of them. He sent instructions. I shot over 100 images, and ended up with five worth keeping. Mine look nothing like his. But I like them. So does he. Once again, I love the Internet.