Word by Word

 

 

 

 

My mom passed away May 21. She was an amazing woman who lived a beautiful life. A  well-loved lady, she was appreciated for her fine cooking and kind heart. She taught me compassion, sharing and resiliency. It’s difficult to move forward without her, but it’s time. Dwight, you have been my champion; keeping me mindful of routine, exercise, napping and sometimes just playing or letting out a melodic howl. Despite my best attempts; memories, longings and regrets find their way into my being. The past spills and I sop it up with my heart. I’m not sure how to stop it. Some days I don’t want to.  My words struggle to surface through the past and breathe life into the present.

Grief sits in my writing chair, blocking me from the table. He seems aware that the words in my head  will begin  the healing process, banishing him from the room. Grief is clever. He hides in the corner behind the plant, always in the shadows, growing larger as he feeds on past despairs. Sometimes, a short grief visit keeps me grateful for the here and now. Sometimes the melancholy drowns me.

You soften the sadness, Dwight. Your brown eyes soothe my soul. Your cold, wet nose pushes my arm, encouraging pen to paper, knowing this is what I need. So we start again. One breath, one word at a time. I wrote this poem at the beach a few weeks ago.

Words

The ocean is noisy today. Her waves crash and rip at the shore. I close my eyes as my thoughts drown in the surf. She spits out a winter coat, studded with barnacles, lying abandoned on the beach, its story buried by blowing sand. What’s my story? I need to start again. My words, like waves, tumble in my head, ever reaching and retreating. Rinsed and pulled under, some never surfacing again.

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Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

We still have lots of stories to share, Dwight. Thanks for listening.

 

 

Paw Pause

You have been a great support to me these last few weeks, Dwight. I have taken you away from your best friend, Frazier,  your fenced back yard and your walks in the woods. You seem to sense that we are here for something important. I walk you when I can. You enjoy the scents in this rural area. Our morning walks in fresh, heavy air spiked with skunk spray and farm odors must seem exotic to you.  I brought your bed, but this isn’t your house. It’s quiet. Empty.

Helping an aging relation is difficult. There are a lot of decisions. As I struggle to find my new normal, I am thankful to have  you as my constant. You push your soft muzzle up under my bent elbow when I am on the phone, or lay your head in my lap. Twirling your ears is a comfort for both of us. We may have to pause from our usual routine, but you help me remember that the important stuff happens right here, right now…for just a little while. Thank you for keeping me in the moment D Man, my Mindful hound.

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

 

 

Job Interview

Hounds are part of the Working Dog Group, Dwight. Maybe you keep running away because you need a job. Even though I grew up in a hunting culture, I don’t know of any openings for a “spoiled suburban, two bed, basket full of toys, pantry full of treats” hunting dog. As I used to hear my dad say, “That dog can’t hunt.” So, I have decided to see if you can volunteer with me in a post Rehabilitation day program in the city. It’s called Club Rec and  folks come to socialize, exercise, explore recreational pursuits, and take day trips. You and I are working hard with Katie from Lucky Dogs on our Canine Good Citizen skills. We are close to achieving this goal, which means you will be ready to go to work. I want to make sure this job is a good fit for you. We are going to meet and greet. While they are observing you to see if you are suitable for the position, I’ll be observing you to see if you want the position. I hope we can make this a twice a month event Dwight, but I promise, if you don’t like it, we won’t pursue it.

The morning of the interview starts with you not wanting breakfast or a walk. Are you nervous, Dwight?  Maybe its the chewable  flea and tick medicine you got yesterday. It does seem odd, that this drug goes into you blood, so when a flea bites you it dies. What does that do to your body?  I was trusting science to keep you safe, but the way you are acting this morning, makes me question my faith in veterinary medicine. So, with an empty belly and full protection from fleas and ticks, you transfer into the car with maximum assist from me (I lift front paws to the bumper, scoop under belly, lift and push rear) we head to the city. You sit and gaze, your back toward me. I watch you through my rear view mirror. You look like a big furry bobble head, as you sit, stoically looking out the back window ,ears and head moving as I maneuver through traffic. The city landscape is so different from suburbia. Lots of noise, buildings, graffiti, bikes, cars, stop lights. Do you notice?

We pull into the parking lot, where I find a shady spot on the back row. I open the rear hatch, grab your leash and you hop down. Your feet hit the pavement as a city bus pulls in front of the building. You startle when the air brakes hiss, but then cock your head and wag your tail as the bus announces its next stop. Your first friend in the city! I love your sense of adventure, Dwight. We walk around the parking lot while  we wait for Katie and Rob to arrive. They are meeting us to offer support and expertise on visiting dogs. There is no grass here, but the median is mulched and there is a small dirt bank in front of a large privacy fence that blocks the alley. This is where you pull me, looking for a way to get over, under, or around the barrier. You sniff, nose to the ground. The city smells stale and heavy. Restaurant odors mixed with exhaust from cars,  hints of oil and gas, blended with stray tobacco smoke. The pavement is gritty with crumbly bits of rock that sneak into my shoes. There’s a congestion of buildings,  cars and people that hold the noises in.  Horns, engines, screeching brakes, chatter, sirens. I wonder if your senses are as overloaded as mine.

You greet Katie and Rob with a wagging tail and a nudge to Rob’s hand. We walk towards the entrance. The automatic doors slide open. You don’t hesitate as you stroll in and meet  a client in a power wheelchair. You walk right up and let her love on you. Katie gives the patrons a plastic knife slathered in peanut butter to lure you and keep your attention. I’m not sure a bribe is necessary. You are thriving on the ear rubs, cooing and petting as you wander from room to room, person to person, meeting  folks using walkers, canes, wheelchairs and slings. Some have speech issues and make noises and pitches you aren’t familiar with. That doesn’t phase you. I ask if you want to sing and give you my rendition of a howl. You point your nose to the ceiling, and to everyone’s delight,  let out a long, deep song. You are a working dog, Dwight. The job is yours. We will be welcomed back. I think you’ve found your purpose. Good for you, D Man.

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Care Free Hound

Caring for your injuries is challenging, Dwight. After surviving the removal of your toenail, you were bandaged and sent home wearing the cone of shame. I was instructed to give you antibiotics for 5 days,  remove the bandage after 3 days and doff the cone after the dressing was removed. Sounds simple. Not so much. Hound Dog Stubborn trumps Simple every time.

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Wound Care

After 3 days, the cone of shame came off. I did remove it for walks and meals, but otherwise it stayed on. You didn’t seem to mind it too much, as in, it didn’t disturb your sleep.  Your paw didn’t appear to be painful. We walked and you ran around the backyard without a bother. On day 3, dressing removal day, your stubbornness showed. Our determination was equal Dwight. I was going to take the bandage off. You were not going to let me touch it. The gauze was covered by a tightly bound blue elastic wrap. I was going to have to cut it. I called in reinforcements. John and treats. I tried putting you in sit, distracting you with treats while John made the snip. He got one small tear  at the top before you ran off. We waited a few minutes before trying the reverse. John distracted, while I operated. Nope. By this time, I couldn’t even attract you with a treat, much less distract you. So I called Alexa, the vet tech, from next door. She put you in “the hold” while I consoled and petted you. John approached with the scissors. You saw, you flailed, you jerked out of the hold and ran behind the deck. After an afternoon of alligator wrestling, you whining, and running away, I threw down the scissors.  You won, Dwight. I planned to call the vet, admit my defeat, and take you in for bandage removal.

For such a sweet boy, you sure do have a hard head. You didn’t even want to come in the house with us after the bandage removal fiasco. A while later you jumped at the door, probably hunger driven. When I let you in, I noticed the absence of the bandage. It was lying in the yard.  All you needed was a slit cut in it, so you could remove it yourself. The good news. It was well healed D Man.

How NOT to give a Dwight a pill

  1. Surround the pill with American Cheese. I watch and wait as you take the round lump of cheese. It rolls around in your mouth like an after dinner mint. Then your jaws open and shut as your tongue stretches forward. Plink. The pill hits the floor. The cheese is gone.
  2. Make a bread/pill sandwich. You spit the whole thing out. Not even trying.
  3. Run to Petco, buy the special Pill Pockets. You love them, but the pill still hits the floor.
  4. Slather a piece of cheese with peanut butter and hide the pill in the middle.You really seem to like this. In true Houndini fashion the cheese goes in, magically disappears, but the pill ends up on the floor.
  5. Place the pill between 2 paper towels, crush it with the butt of a knife, scrape it onto a piece of cheese and offer it to you with tremendous enthusiasm. It doesn’t get a chance in your mouth, but ends up a slimy mess on the kitchen floor.

So, thankfully this was to be your last dose. After 3 pieces of cheese, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and a slice of bread…you win. I managed to be the pill tricker 9 times, as you were supposed to take the antibiotic twice a day for 5 days. I give up. I figure you have decided you are healed and do not need this final dose. I sure hope so my determined Dwight. No cone, no bandage, no pills. You are care free!

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Blue D’Waffodil

I left you outside while I ran a few errands. The sun was warm, the sky cloudless, with  a cool breeze blowing. Perfect conditions for leaving a dog in the backyard, rather  than confined to a crate in the house. I’m always apprehensive that you might escape, but the gate is double locked and the fencing secure. I’ve got to learn to trust you and give you as much freedom as suburbia allows. You look content as I back out of the driveway. Sphinx pose, with paws crossed in front of you, fur shining under the backyard sun. You never run to the gate to greet me when I return, although sometimes you look up when you hear the car pull in.

My last errand was grocery shopping. I ran into a friend there, who commented on how tired I looked. “I am,” I said. “I can’t wait to get home and relax for a while.” I didn’t see you in the yard when I returned home. Once I got inside you rocketed up the steps and jumped at the back door to be let in. I was delighted that you were excited to see me, thinking we could chill together in the den a bit before dinner. I quickly opened the backdoor. You burst through the opening and ran excitedly through the house. As I was closing the door, I noticed bright red  blood on the boards beside the welcome mat. Before I could determine its source, you had already spread this redness on the hardwood floors and the rug in the den. You were limping. A nail on your left front paw, torn, barely attached, had blood pouring from the wound.

My tiredness disappeared as I went into frantic mom mode. I called the vet.  They are open until 7:00 on Friday and were kind enough to see you before closing. I donned your harness and leash, avoiding eye contact with the bloody paw. We get to the car and do our usual accordion dance transfer. I lift your front paws, blood and all, getting it on my hands and sweatshirt, scoop under your belly and lift and push your rear to get you in the car. In my panic, I failed to cover the cargo floor. Now there’s blood there too. I battle Friday rush hour traffic, with your whimpers escalating my tension as we make our way to the vet.  We arrive, you gladly jump out of the car, and enter the vet’s office, leaving a trail of blood in your wake. The techs see the blood, take the leash from me, and calmly instruct me to wait in the waiting area, while they take you to triage. I pace and sigh, relieved for the help. I smile at the other dogs and their owners, who may be delayed due to our Friday afternoon emergency. I stroll over to the bulletin board for a distraction, reading all the dog training, grooming and kennel cards. Imagine my surprise when I saw this:

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There you are Dwight. My delinquent missing dog. It was from your last escape. HomeAgain forwards the missing dog owner reports to all vet offices within 25 miles of the pet’s home. I remove it from the bulletin board and smile. This hound has been found! I place the clipping in my purse and sit on the wooden bench and wait. Soon I hear your howls. Patrons in the waiting room smile at me. I’m certain you can be heard in The Outback Steakhouse next door. Your song gets sharper, louder. I start to tear up, when suddenly your noise stops. In a few minutes they bring you out.

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You look like a daffodil, Dwight. A Blue  D’Waffodil. They had to trim the nail back to the fur. We are told it will grow back.  You must wear the cone of shame and the blue bandage for three days. We accordion back into the car and head home. You go lay on your bed with a sigh. I clean blood from the floor and carpets. I wonder as I clean, how you ripped the nail. I search outside, but don’t find any clues. I’m guessing you caught in the slight space between the deck boards. My EMT, forensic investigation and clean up complete, I head to the couch. We survived our first emergency D Man. Now let’s get some dinner, my sweet hound.

Acceptance

I promised you, Dwight. No hunts, no pens in the backyard, no staked tethers. But what if the hunt is what you long for? I’m assuming I know what’s best for you. You don’t seem too accepting of suburban life. I know hound dogs have a sadness about them, but you sometimes look despondent. Tail down, heavy sighs. I buy you the best food, promptly feeding at breakfast and dinner. You have 2 beds in 2 different areas of the house. I bought you a deer antler (that really creeps me out). You loved it for a few minutes. Then it went the way of your other toys. Mr. Football Man, Flat Elephant, Squeaky Hedgehog, and Crinkle Corona Bottle, all cast aside, longing for your attention. They are piled in a basket near your bed. Sometimes one captures your notice for a quick shake, squeak, or run around the den, where its abandoned once again.

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Maybe being a family pet is not your scene. You’re like a teenager who has  a car, a mom who cooks and cleans, and a dad who doles out money, yet he still rebels. Dwight, my delinquent run away dog. You focus on what’s missing. The call of the wild.IMG_1486

If you had your way, your life story would go like this:

Catch a scent….follow it for miles through brambles, brush, thicket. Forge the stream after pausing for a cool drink. Tire of the run. Find a nice human to rub my ears, just the right way, feed me, give me a nice soft bed….maybe one toy. Hear what a good boy I am. How handsome. Stay a few days until that earthy, loamy smell calls me again.

Repeat the cycle. Dwight, the drifter. I wish it were safe for you to live that way. You can’t always count on finding a nice human. I’d like to let you off lead when we walk through forests and fields, but I’m fairly certain you would run, never looking back. I’m not willing to take that risk. I am responsible for you, Dwight. I will keep you safe. Let’s just accept that the hunt is not going to happen right now. You can lead me on a scent. I’ll follow through fields and woods. We all have to make compromises, D Man. Give suburbia a chance.

 

Dog Gone

Most mornings you sleep while I have coffee. Not today, Dwight. This morning, my breakfast went like this. Sip of coffee, bite of cereal, let dog out. Turn the newspaper page, sip of coffee, let dog in. Sip of coffee, bite of cereal, let dog out. I understand Dwight. It’s a beautiful day. The dewy grass shimmers in the morning sun. There’s a slight breeze blowing spring through winter. Perfect for walking. We will Dwight. As soon as I finish my coffee.

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I get clever and leave the door open from the porch to the backyard , allowing you full access to come and go as you please. Great idea. Sip of coffee, bite of cereal, the sound of dog nails clicking on the floor as you wander in and out. My breakfast in peace. Aren’t I smart.

All is well, until I hear my neighbor calling my name. She was walking her dog and became concerned when she saw the wide open door. She came to my side door and knocked, checking on me. This door opens to the driveway, or should I say freedom, Dwight. I opened it to tell her I was fine, but thanks for checking, I was just enjoying my breakfast in peace. Weather chit-chat, pet her dog, ask about each other’s kids…..dog gone. Dwight gone. You scooted out the side door, past me. Past my neighbor, who tried to grab your tail.

Leave breakfast, grab leash and harness, walk the route you usually take. Call your name, ask walkers if they’ve seen you. Return home, open computer, e-mail HomeAgain (the Microchip company), report you missing, post on neighborhood Facebook page, call John at work. Wait. Pray, cry, wait. Why do you keep running away Dwight? Should I have listened to your restlessness, skipped my coffee to walk you this morning?

It’s the nose. The scent. You breathe in smells that wrap around your instincts. The temptation is too much. You gotta run. I get it. I’m like that with chocolate and freshly popped movie theater popcorn. Even if I’m stuffed from dinner, I gotta have it. Well, it’s not instinctual, but it’s all I know to compare, Dwight. I’m trying to understand your running ways.

I check Facebook, pray, wait. Hours go by. You’ve never been gone this long. What if something has happened to you? What if you never come back? Have faith, trust that your instincts will keep you safe, wait.

Phone rings, I don’t recognize the number, I answer with hope and trepidation. “This is Jason with CarMax. I have your dog. He was running through our parking lot.” I let go a sigh and a tear, relax shoulders, grab leash and harness, begin the 3 mile drive to CarMax, call John on the way.

I pull into the service entrance, park, enter the building. I see people kneeling, petting and talking to you through the glass door. You stand, stoic, tail wagging, enjoying the attention. You acknowledge me by leaning into my leg as I don your harness. The CarMax workers welcomed the sweet hound dog distraction. One of the workers approached me.

“I’ll give you $150.00 for your dog, lady. He’s a keeper. I’ve got a couple of hounds.” I don’t hesitate. “He’s not for sale.” I look at the photos of his dogs. We give each other that “I got a hound, I understand” look.

I can’t give you up Dwight. We walk to the car. You stand at the bumper waiting for me to lift your front legs, push and lift your back to accordion your way into the car. I ponder his offer on the drive home. Would you be happier  with a pack of hunting dogs? I decide for you. No. This dog is not for sale. Let’s go home D Man.