In case you are wondering, yes, I have plenty of perspective around the recent events in Newtown, Connecticut and the fact that I am talking about dogs, not people. My thoughts on Newtown are still forming as I struggle through the rage and anxiety related to that day.
The first time I met Gabe, it was by way of his wet puppy nose in my ear as he roused me from a dead sleep.
I was sleeping on the floor of a friend’s house, needing a place to crash for drill (Army National Guard) weekend. Her new puppy kept me up all night, clearly thinking that “on floor” equals “chew toy”. He was damn cute, all chubby belly and big paws and wet nose and wiggly-licky-waggy-sniffy, like all black lab puppies, but that night he drove me nuts. I’d already had too much to drink and I really needed to sleep it off if I was going to be standing in formation the next morning.
If you would have told me, that one year later, I would make an impulse decision to take him home with me to save him from the shelter, I would have called you crazy. If you would have told me that 13 years later, I would sob like a baby as I cradled his still body, saying goodbye to one of my best, oldest friends, I would have thought you were off your rocker.
But that’s what happened. In August of 2012, I lost my Gabe, my friend of over 13 years, and I miss him so much.
My memories of Gabe are wrapped up in so many other feelings. The most predominant of these is guilt. Since he was with me from age 22 to 36, a great deal changed in my life during that time, and I pawned Gabe off on a lot of family, boyfriends, caretakers, and kennels as I ran off and did my thing.
Did I do a good job with him? Was he better off with me? Did I deserve the unconditional love he gave me? Was I good enough for him? These thoughts of my inadequacy as his caretaker are like worms, burrowing away at my happy memories of him, casting a shadow on the light that he brought to my life. It is these thoughts that make me hesitate to get another dog, though I am sure that Duke, our remaining dog, is very lonely.
The day after I brought Gabe home in May of 1999, I was using a knife to put an extra hole in his dog collar so it would fit him properly. Needless to say, this did not end well. I slipped, cut my finger, and started to feel faint after seeing the blood and knowing I would need stitches. I called my then-fiancé, M, and told him what happened, that I would need a ride to the ER, then hung up the phone and sat on the floor, a towel around my hand, trying not to pass out.
Gabe stood between me and the door. When M came in the door, Gabe took a defensive stance and would not let M come near me until I convinced Gabe it was OK. Gabe never liked that guy. I should have paid more attention to that.
When I was single, Gabe loved to sleep on my bed with me. This is my favorite memory of him. Soon after I got into bed, he would amble over, hop up, do about 1 ½ turns, then plop down with a little groan “mmmmmph…” before he closed his eyes. I would often stroke his head before I drifted to sleep. Most nights, I would awaken at some point to a muffled “thump” and the sensation of a bowling ball landing on my stomach, which was Gabe shifting position and laying his head on my stomach. I swear, his head weighed at least 20 pounds.
The sadness of his loss, four months after the fact, sometimes feels like a kick to my stomach when I am reminded of it.
Unbelievably Duke is doing quite well. He came home from the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital on Friday of last week, so he has been home for five days. It feels like we are starting to get into a rhythm, finally, with incorporating his care into our household routines.
Duke ended up having two surgeries with a total of three major procedures for his injuries, along with a couple other issues that need to be dealt with.
- Hip. His dislocated right hip was repaired by way of a ‘femoral head ostectomy’. This is basically cutting off the head of the femur with a saw, and closing the wound, allowing for the body to form a ‘pseudo-joint’ in the surrounding tissues. To me this seems like witchcraft, but apparently it’s somewhat common in the veterinary-orthopaedic field.
- Knee. His left back knee was bending in the wrong direction so it was assumed to have been broken. In fact, his ACL and MCL were completely blown, so there was nothing keeping his knee bones from moving in the correct directions. The surgeon placed some braided-cord-like implants in there to stabilize the knee.
- Ankle. Duke’s left back ankle was fractured, and a plate with a couple pins was installed and it is expected that the joint will fuse together eventually. The surgeon had to make additional incisions on the other side of his leg to allow the skin to stretch over the plate, so he has a large open wound in addition to the original.
- Metatarsals. He had some broken metatarsals (finger bones, basically) in his left back leg, but those are being taken care of indirectly by way of the cast he is already wearing and are considered minor.
- Pneumonia. Duke contracted pneumonia after his surgeries. Apparently this is a common occurrence when one spends a lit of time under general anesthesia, which he did. General anesthesia relaxes the sphincter muscles, one of which is the muscle which contracts to keep junk out of your windpipe. So during surgery, some fluid and bacteria must have gotten in there.
Given all the crap that he has gone through, he is doing amazingly well. His wounds are healing as well as can be expected. He shows a desire to get up and walk around, and when he does he does not seem to have too much pain. He wags his tail and is his usual relaxed, happy self. He tolerates the excessive attention from the kids and doesn’t try to lick his wounds too much.
It warms my heart to see Duke’s reaction when Eagle comes in the room. He thumps his tail a little harder, raises his head a little higher, and always tries to stand for my husband. Eagle is definitely Duke’s favorite in the family, and I think that’s awesome.
The only thing Duke gets sullen about is the Cone of Shame. Which I think is perfectly reasonable.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. That is all.
If there were a real Fountain of Youth, would you drink the water?
Though I am quite familiar with the legend of the Fountain of Youth, I decided to Google it because I thought the search results would be interesting. I was not disappointed. Here are the top five.
- www.fountainofyouthflorida.com – A theme park / tourist attraction in Florida based on the Fountain of Youth legend. Who knew? Not me.
- Fountain of Youth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – Naturally. Nicely written article.
- Fountain of Youth – National Geographic – A brief discussion of the legend around Ponce de Leon with focus on the Florida location.
Here’s where it gets interesting:
- The Fountain of Youth Institute – A plastic surgeon’s website. Anyone surprised?
- The Progress Report: Florida’s Fountain of Youth – This is a little strangely presented to me. In the Google Search result, some text appears under the label: “Florida’s Fountain of Youth CORPORATE WELFARE”. Intrigued, I click over to find an article describing the Ponce de Leon / Florida legend, but no mention of “Corporate Welfare”. Anyone know why this would be? Is there something hidden in the HTML that makes that wording come up in the Google results even though it does not appear on the page?
Anyway, back to the topic.
Remembering the movie The Highlander, I think it would suck to live on and on and on while my loved ones and friends die around me. If all my friends and family got to drink from the Fountain of Youth, it would suck less. But then… where would we put all those people?
If the Fountain of Youth would allow me to live to the age of 100 (and look 29, with perfect health and a great body), then die peacefully in my sleep, that would be a lot of fun. Living a long, healthy, fun life, and passing to the next life, is always the option I will choose.
“Not Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Astor together could have raised money enough to buy a quarter share in my little dog.”
—Ernest Thompson Seton
Daily Prompt: Plead the Fifth. What question do you hate to be asked? Why?
Question I don’t appreciate being asked: “How much did <<something that was obviously really expensive, like multiple surgeries for my dog>> cost?”
Why don’t I appreciate being asked? Because it is none of anyone’s business, and for some reason I feel defensive/sensitive about financial questions in general.
Most of the time, I’m sure that the person is well-meaning when asking the question, but it definitely gets my Irish up.