I’m awake now, when I should be asleep. Irrelevant images run through my head—an uncaring doctor scrawling the wrong dosage on a clipboard, Spiderman taking on the Vulture with a broken arm, a small white dog running excitedly around in the back yard. I’d like to bury these images in the darkness of unconsciousness, to not think and not worry. But I’m worrying about my little dog, and I’m also worrying about how in hell I’m going to pay for her surgery. Nothing is ever simple, it seems.
Earlier this week Zephyr, our miniature American Eskimo dog, started losing energy and stopped eating. It was really noticeable Tuesday, when I hand-carried our ballots to the drop box, a longish walk but nothing out of the ordinary for Zephyr and me. We weren’t even half the way there when Zephyr began hanging back and refusing to continue; I was beginning to think I might have to carry her. (Where is Spiderman when you need him?) At one point some North Portland denizen stopped to ask, “You all right, man?” I was—it was my dog that was the problem.
By Thursday it was obvious that she was in some sort of difficulty, though she was still enthusiastic about going on walks and willing to eat special treats. She was just getting tired too easily and not eating her regular food. Not eating her regular food isn’t totally surprising—she’s learned that people will give her treats or scraps of food for doing tricks, and there are a lot of people in the house, so many opportunities for begging. Honestly, I just figured she was pigging out on treats and I’d need to watch her more closely. But her slowing down—well, she is approaching eleven (next month), people pointed out, and maybe she’s just beginning to feel her age.
But damn it, old age doesn’t normally creep in between say Thursday (when she was running ahead of me, tugging on the leash, chasing squirrels, generally excited), and say Tuesday (when she was dragging behind me, wanting to go back home, ignoring other dogs, and generally listless). That’s comic-book country, where Dr. Doom invents some sort of aging ray to incapacitate our hero. I had the same sort of argument—and with the medical authorities at that—when my father was dying. “He’s just old,” one alleged physician told me when I wanted to know why he suddenly couldn’t get around, couldn’t remember things, couldn’t function. Well, he hadn’t been “old” two weeks before when he was working on the KOBP transmitter, tools in hand, sharp as ever. You don’t get old overnight, damn it. (Although it feels like it sometimes.)
So Friday we got an appointment with our veterinarian (whom we haven’t been seeing as regularly, damn it, since the money got tight) and managed to get her there, my grandnephew and I, thanks to my brother (his grandfather). And that’s when things turned nightmarish.
My little dog had a condition called pyometra, which apparently is essentially an infection of the uterus. It is, it seems, extremely dangerous, and the treatment of choice is immediate removal of the organ—rather like appendicitis, I guess. (It is, of course, obvious that I am not a physician—actually, I barely remember what little anatomy I learned in school.) But it’s Friday night, and I have sixty dollars in my pocket and my credit union is closed till Monday, and I can’t get hold of anybody who might be able to help.
So emergency treatment was out of the question. Even though my grandnephew’s parents had now arrived and taken over, neither of them had resources available for the task, and we all bombed on the credit-rating front. (I apparently have no credit rating of any sort, as I’ve never bought anything on payments. Go figure.) Our own veterinarian could handle it, but not that night, so we ended up scheduling surgery for the next day and then went home to spend the night sleeping fitfully in the music-room while sort of taking turns watching the dog to make sure that nothing ruptured during the night.
Well, she seemed fine—if I hadn’t seen the x-rays I would never have guessed that she was in serious trouble. Zephyr seemed fairly pleased with all the attention, and when I put my shoes on to head out in the morning she got excited, figuring that we were going for a walk or ride. She was happy with the trip there, and only mildly concerned when I handed her over to go off for her operation. She watched me to make sure I thought it was all right, and I attempted to be reassuring. My niece and grandnephew and I had originally planned to hang around till the operation was done, but once we’d put Zephyr into their hands all the tiredness seemed to catch up with us, and we broke for home and sacked out, did laundry, and tried to catch up with other activities that had abruptly come to a halt. The basement drain backed up—well, actually it’s the main outflow for the entire north side of the house, but it shows up as the bathroom drain backing up—and my nephew and I snaked it out.
Somewhere in there we got the call that the operation had been successful, that the uterus was greatly enlarged (it weighed four pounds—this from a twenty-four pound dog), and that it had come out cleanly and successfully. We could pick Zephyr up in the afternoon.
We did. We were actually waiting for her in the same place we’d handed her over, and Zephyr seemed unsurprised to see us—she actually seems to be taking the things that are happening to her in stride a lot better than I am, though of course she’s on drugs. We’d had an earlier discussion on how to handle Zephyr’s recovery, and we’d decided that my grandnephew’s father should look after her for the moment, his house not having stairs, other pets, and suchlike hazards. We were hoping to get Zephyr to urinate before we took her anywhere, but once outside she walked determinedly over to a car—not ours as it happened—and indicated that she wanted to go home now. We took her to our car, where my niece’s cat River was waiting (Zephyr and River for some reason seem to be fond of one another); River was obviously pleased to see Zephyr, and Zephyr clearly recognized River, though once she was in the car she seemed mainly to want to rest.
When we got home Zephyr seemed to acquire a sudden burst of energy and would have leaped down if my grandnephew hadn’t caught her and gently lifted her to the driveway. Zephyr sniffed the lawn with interest, picked a place, and finally peed—which was reassuring, in a way. She then lay down in the grass, so I gathered her up in my arms and carried her onto the porch. She lay quietly in my lap, but was very interested in the people that passed by periodically along the sidewalk, and the household residents that came out to check on her. She wanted off my lap after a bit, and alternated between standing up on the porch, and lying back down again. I think she wanted to be up and about, but her exhausted body wouldn’t bend to her will, strong though it is.
We hung around there waiting while my niece got stuff ready for the drive and my grandnephew decided between finishing his weekend here or staying with Zephyr. (He decided to stay with Zephyr, which meant cutting short his stay, but also that there is somebody else to keep an eye on the dog during her recovery.) Both their pet cats (River and Tiberius) remain here in my care. River is surly—she likes rides, Zephyr, and my niece—but it’s probably for the best. River went outside with me for a walk in the evening, but she spent it jumping into mud-puddles and getting wet and muddy. Once I got her back inside and she’d dried off she came downstairs and tried tapping the keys on my keyboard with her paw while watching the screen; I don’t know why unless she was trying to figure out what I find so interesting about the activity. She kept tapping the F1 key, which brings up a help screen—it looked purposeful, but was no doubt coincidence.
Anyway, after looking after the pets that are here, I sacked out, visions of hospitals and waiting-rooms dancing through my head. I slept well—at least till I woke abruptly and the day’s worries returned. I really ought to be asleep now—well, I suppose I’d be waking up fairly soon at this point—but I’m worried about my puppy. And I’m worried about the goddamn bill for this operation. It would be something if Spiderman and Iron Man and the rest really could come to our rescue. A pipe-dream perhaps, but—I can’t help wondering if maybe those silver-age comics I have stashed away are worth something.
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