oblivious

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There are times when Malcolm and I really wonder about the dogs.  Seriously, Einstein they are so not.  That’s not saying Amore or Dolce are dull as dishwater or as dumb as dirt, they definitely have personality.  But there are times when their lack of intellect shines way too brightly.  Maybe I should have said, their lack of awareness, with their head-in-the-clouds wool gathering.  Both dogs have a tendency to be a little bit of a ditz. Both have a susceptibility to be slightly unaware of events.  Both are a little spacy and a whole lot of space cadet.  That’s not to say Amore and Dolce don’t have moments of smartness or acts of cleverness.  It’s just, these moments are usually overshadowed by their propensity to be totally oblivious to their surroundings.

On one hand, it adds multiple chuckles full of humor to Malc’s and my day.  Like the day when Dolce was barking at a dog that wasn’t there.

Dolce is our traveling watchdog when we take the girls in the car with us.  She sits in the middle of the back seat, head scrunched down to study the countryside.  Eyes alert, tracking left and right, she scrutinizes the walking trails on the shoulders of the road, waiting to call out her find.  When she spots a dog and owner on the hike n’ bike path as we drive by, she lets out a rowdy clamor, claiming dibs on spying the other canine first.  The larger the dog, the louder the bark.

It so happens, about the time we cross over the RR tracks on our main drag, there always seems to be this one dog, an Airedale, walking with its owner.  We pass by them enough times that Dolce is constantly on the lookout for them.  Ready to be the first to hit the buzzer.  Ready to bark.  A month or so ago, we were driving towards home, when Amore blocked Dolce view (deliberate or not, we’ll never know).  Dolce, so intent at being upset with Amore, forgot all about the upcoming railroad tracks.  Until she heard our tires thump thump over the parallel tracks. By the second thump Dolce was in a barking frenzy as she was sprawled out in the back.  When her head popped up to finish her spiel, she realized there was no dog, no Airedale, no human.  Nothing walked the trail but a gentle breeze.  Totally oblivious there had been no one on the trail.  Her embarrassment took over, as her yelps quickly puttered out.  Yeah, we got a good laugh over that one.

On the other hand, we (okay, maybe it’s just me) fret and worry over their absent-mindedness, their inattentiveness.  Like last week when Malcolm was walking the girls at the Galisteo Basin.

If Malcolm and I were to describe ourselves as parents, I would be the worry wart.  The one that takes all the safety precautions.  The one that harps on Malcolm to leash up the girls. The one that errs on the far side of caution when it comes to Amore and Dolce.  Malcolm on the other hand is the easy-going parent.  The dad that is always reassuring me that they will be just fine.  Leave em’ be.  They need to run off their excess energy he tells me as he unhooks their leashes.  That being said, when Malcolm walks the dogs, he usually doesn’t harness and leash them.  I’m mostly ok with that, as the Galisteo Basin is fairly empty of other hikers during the work day.  I mean, how much trouble could they get into, right?

Last week was no different from any other day at the Basin.  Malcolm let the girls take a twenty yard lead as he started out on the trail.  About five minutes into the walk they both came running back up to Malcolm as he trailed behind, hopeful for a treat.  While Amore was hugging his wake, Dolce took over the point position.  She was maybe fifteen feet or so in front, happily dog-jogging along, stopping every once in a while to sniff out what was new in the neighborhood, when Malcolm heard a loud buzzing.  There was something in the back of his brain that screamed danger.  Malcolm calls it his reptilian brain coming forward.  In any case, it was a noise he had never heard before, but he instinctively knew.  He grabbed Amore from behind him and bellowed at Dolce to come.  Whether it was his tone of voice, or if she, for once, decided to obey his command, miraculously, Dolce ambled back to Malcolm, totally oblivious to any threat.  Right there, in the middle of the road, not two feet away from where Dolce just was trotting along, was a rattlesnake.  Mean, coiled and ready to attack.   IMG_0184

Dolce had no idea she was literally inches to being bit.  She was in her own little world, enjoying life.  Didn’t even see the blasted thing.  Didn’t sense it, hear it, or see it.  Scared the be-jebbies out of Malcolm.  Scared me just hearing out it.  Rattlesnakes are no laughing matter.

It’s true that God protects children and animals.  I’m thinking someone upstairs was watching over Dolce that day.

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flip flop

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Flip flop.  Yup.  That’s all it took.  A quick flip-flop.

From the moment we brought Tiamo into our lives, we knew there were some risks.  There were ‘things’ to look out for.  Large breed dogs characteristically have a higher tendency to have bad hip and shoulder placements.  Bernese Mountain Dogs especially, have a higher rate of having cancer.  And there was the dreaded and deadly stomach twist, something our vet had informed Malcolm and I to be aware of.

Berners’ typically only stay in our lives 7 to 10 years, their longevity is much shorter than other breeds.  Malcolm and I vowed to love Tiamo every minute, every day, we would be lucky enough to have her in our lives. Every day would be a blessing.

When Tiamo passed, we were heart-broken.  Our hearts did a tragic flip-flop turning upside down, inside out.  We understood the hazards, knew the uncertainly of her life span and were still willing to take the gamble that maybe she would be with us for seven years, or, if we were lucky, ten.  We would take whatever the creator gave us.

When cancer took Tiamo’s life, we became even more vigilant with Amore and Dolce.  I am constantly checking for swollen lymph glands.  Malcolm and I are attentive in watching for limps of pain from their hips or shoulders.  The slightest sign of discomfort, not eating, or an abnormally of behavior in either dog will put us both on alert.

The girls have certainly seen the inside of the vet’s clinic more than enough times.  We’ve been through two shoulder surgeries (Dolce), a stuck bone in the throat that required surgery (Amore), a swallowed rope, almost requiring surgery (Amore), another swallowed bone, more surgery (Amore), grass splinters in the throat, only a local needed this time (Amore), the plague (Amore), cactus spines in the paw (Amore and Dolce) and more.  For as many times as we’ve taken the dogs to the vet’s, Malcolm likes to joke that we have bought and paid for at least two F-250’s that Dr. Bob likes drives.  We know we have, at the very least, financially helped build his new clinic.

With each vet’s visit, it’s a hit to our wallet.  Canine health care isn’t cheap.  Each surgery lowers our saving’s balance.  Ka-ching!  Each time, Malcolm and I examine how far are we willing to go, willing to spend,  and willing to do.  Our biggest concern is whether or not the surgery or procedure will continue to bring quality of life to the dogs.  Will they suffer if we do, or if we don’t, do something.

What we learned is we will do anything when an emergency hits. As we all know, emergencies only hit when you least expect it, usually at night or on a weekend…..

Our night was progressing like normal.  I arrived at home from work at my usual time.  The girls were fed their dinner before Malcolm started our evening meal.  I set the table, Malcolm was at the stove, Amore and Dolce were watching for fallen scraps.  When dinner was ready, Amore laid down by my feet, Dolce behind Malcolm’s chair.  All normal occurrences.  Then about an hour later, I noticed Amore started to get agitated.  Whinny.  Making noise.  Acting weird.

“What’s going on with Amore?” Malc asked me as he walked into the room.

“Don’t know.  Something’s going on with her,” I answered as I observed her strange behavior. “I’ve been watching her, but can’t figure it out.”

“What do you think?”

“Ah, it will probably pass, it usually does.  She ate all her dinner and I just saw her drink some water.  She’ll most likely be fine.”  Eating dinner and drinking water are good signs.  She’d be all right.

“Well, let’s just watch it for a while and if she’s still acting up in the morning, we’ll take her in”

“Ok.”

Only it wasn’t okay.  Ten minutes later both Malcolm and I instinctively knew something wasn’t right.  We knew not to wait. Some sixth sense told us to take her into the ER Vet Clinic.  Now.  Not twelve hours later.  Not in the morning. Now.

Thirty minutes later, the night-time ER vet told us we either do surgery now or she’ll need to euthanize Amore.  Amore’s stomach had twisted.  Flipped-flopped an 180.  The vet needed our consent and Amore needed to be prepped immediately if going into surgery.  Time was critical.  What were we going to do? We had no time to analyze the situation.  No time to assess. The vet explained the consequences of surgery.  Amore had a 40% chance of not surviving the surgery.  Without surgery, no chance at all.

“How much is the surgery?”  The question had to be asked.

“Depends on what I find when I go in, how bad the stomach flipped and twisted.” Dr. Mourano replied.  “Best case scenario, around $3,500, worse case would be $5,500.  Then there is after-care. Maybe another grand or so.”

Both Malcolm and I gulped in a quick breath.  Tears flooded my eyes, running down my checks.  I turned to Malcolm.  “I’ll get a second job, I’ll work weekends!” I sobbed.  We can’t lose Amore.”  Malcolm’s eyes told me he felt the same.  We would do whatever it took to save Amore.

Malcolm turned to the vet, “do it!” he ordered.  We would worry aboût how much it would cost later.  For now, our worries were concentrated on Amore making it through the surgery.  For now, we worried about how much contamination was done to the stomach, how much collateral damage was done to her spleen, if they could keep her blood pressure from dropping, and we worried if her heart would make it though.  Ten p.m. turned into midnight as we waited in the empty lobby while the techs were keeping up posted on her status.  By one a.m. Dr. Mourano ventured out to the waiting room in her scrubs.  Her smile answered our fears.

“Amore did great!” were her first words.  “Her spleen was intact and still attached, and there wasn’t any damage to the stomach lining that needed to be cut away.  I tacked the stomach down so this won’t happen again.”  All I felt was relief as she launched into the surgery specifics.  I heard phrases like, “you were lucky you brought her in when you did”, and “her blood count is rising to where we want it”.  The rest was a blur.  Amore’s flipped-flopped stomach had flipped-flopped my mental state all to hell.IMG_0342

I had to be up in four more hours for work.  I had a huge meeting I was chairing four hours after that.  I didn’t care, Amore would be okay. Our family would be okay.

At five p.m. that next day, we brought Amore home.  She had over thirty staples and had to take all sorts of pills and medication. She had three of her four paws shaved for IV’s and hook ups during the operation.  She looked like a poodle.  She was on soft foods and no running, jumping or getting excited.  The drugs kept her sedated for five days.  Our little girl was not her usual self.

A week later Amore started licking her incision.  We tried the collar cone only to find it chewed and ripped up in the dog pen, so we safety pinned one of Malcolm’s t-shirts around her torso and back for tummy protection.  She loved it!  We had our Amore back.IMG_0350

We might be digging out of debt but we wouldn’t be digging a grave.

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