Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Progress, and Rascal's Story

Yesterday I actually managed to get myself and Petey out of the house. Weather was cold and gray again, which I'm more than sick of. We went to mom's house and she was a wreck. We had a good, old-fashioned screaming match, Italian style. I don't know what it is about mothers and daughters - we have the unique ability to make each other completely nuts. Petey got his first lesson in ignoring fireworks. My disagreements with Dick are not nearly so demonstrative or noisy.

Rascal, who has had a rather large tumor on his left stifle for quite some time has suddenly begun limping on that leg. Oh, boy. Poor old dog. I often think about the day I got him and his sister, Angel. It was shortly after New Year's, 1995. At the time, I was married to my ex, Tom, whose last name I still bear, and I was in one of the bluest funks I've ever endured. Two weeks before the previous Thanksgiving, I was hospitalized with severe pain in the lower right side of my chest. I spent a total of three weeks in two hospitals, suffering through several misdiagnoses, inappropriate treatment, some procedures which were nothing short of torture, not to mention the nurses who were afraid to give me the pain meds which I so desperately needed just to be able to breathe. The Medical Deities finally figured out that I probably had a pulmonary embolism, but by that time my lungs were so obscured with blood and fluid, they couldn't really say for sure.

Being hospitalized that long was quite inconvenient because at the time I had a little horse farm and several dogs and cats. One dog, Roseanne, was that one special dog that some people are lucky enough to have once in a lifetime. She was the sunniest little dog - life to her was a series of happy things, punctuated with bursts of unbridled glee. I've never known such a delightful dog before or since and I probably never will. She was my soul mate.

She was like that from day one. I got her from a breeder in Springfield. Drove down there one afternoon to pick her up, along with a sister I picked up for a fellow horse breeder in northern Illinois. I met the breeder at the state fairgrounds. Got there, pulled up the car, and this wonderful woman - I don't even recall what she looked like, handed me this squirmy, wiggly blue fur-ball and said, "Here's your puppy!" As I took her in my arms, she wagged, wiggled and licked me with a joy and passion that made me fall instantly in love with her. It was so ... her.

While I was hospitalized, Roseanne came up lame. Tom had let her out one night and she made her usual mad dash to the barn to roll the cats (it was her way of greeting them - they tolerated it well), and came back dangling her left hind leg. She was still lame when I came home. Turns out she had ruptured a cruciate ligament and needed surgery. My local vet had a visiting orthopedic surgeon, so we scheduled her surgery on a Friday afternoon. I brought her in, and I will never forget handing her over to the vet, whom she licked copiously about the face - she was the happiest little thing. I wasn't greatly worried - I'd done a lot of work assisting a vet friend of mine through a number of surgeries - so after dropping her off, Tom and I went out for dinner. When we got back to the house, I called to check up on her and my world caved in. Bad news. She'd had an anomalous reaction to the anesthetic and died on the table. Two or three breaths of isoflurane and that was it. She wasn't quite four years old.

I can tell you from experience that when someone wails in pain, either physically or emotionally, it is not voluntary, nor can it be controlled. It's something that comes from deep within. It rises then flows out - it's something that happens to you, not something you do, and it is something profound and primal. And I had experienced it twice in a month. Yipee. Lucky me.

Needless to say, the holidays sucked that year. I pretty much blew off Christmas - I just couldn't bring myself to cheerfully socialize with close and extended family and friends. Those were some of the darkest days of my life, and mostly what I remember is looking at that empty crate and dog bed and weeping inconsolably. I couldn't bring myself to take them down and put them away, but I couldn't bear to see them, either. My sunny, happy little dog was dead. I still cry when I think about it, and really, I don't cry.

By mid-January, when I was getting sick and tired of being sick and tired and couldn't stand to look at that empty crate anymore, a friend of mine gave me an ad in a farmers' newspaper - a nearby farmer had a litter of "heeler pups" for sale. I knew, of course, that no dog was going to replace my Roseanne, but I had an awful lot of love to give that needed an outlet.

The farmer's dogs had a large litter and about seven of them were left to choose from when Tom and I got there. They were living in a corn crib. One thing I knew for sure about my next puppy was that I wanted the one who most happy to see me, so I told him to just let them all out. As puppies do, they stampeded the door and got all in a tangle. Then one puppy, the smallest one, scrambled over the puppy pile and bounded toward me. "That's my dog!" I thought. And that would have been that, except Tom decided he wanted a puppy, too. Great. He selected a little female - the shy one, cowering in the corner. Not the dog I would have selected, but oh, well.

So, now when I look at poor Rascal, lumpy, fat, gray and incontinent, I think about that little puppy bounding out of the corn crib. At least he's had a longer life than Roseanne.

I digress. The subject of this post is "Progress." This morning when the coffeemaker beeper went off, Petey perked up, jumped on the sofa and nudged and pawed my hand. Yay! I then said "Where?" and started for the kitchen. He started to go ahead of me, but Nugget ran interference. Yeah, he's already figured out there's a treat involved. It's the reason why I really need to separate the other dogs when training Petey. But boy, this little guy gets it.

No comments: