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The Last Walk

I had an inkling it would be the last.  But it wasn’t for the reason I thought it would be.

One sunny Sunday, the Husband and I decided to take Gryffon and Gracie for a walk at the nearby state park.  I was hesitant to take the dogs.  Gryffon is twelve years old and his hips are bad.  He just doesn’t get around all that well anymore, and he can’t do the walking he used to.  On the other hand, Gracie has always been so energetic that she pulls my arm out of its socket every time I try to walk her on a leash.  It’s a tug-of-war – Gracie’s pulling us, and we’re pulling Gryffon.

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Still, Husband was insistent so I agreed.  The dogs were delighted to go for a car ride, and they wiggled with excitement when we put the leashes on them.  I took the girl and Husband took the boy.

And as always happens, Gracie drove me crazy by yanking me along.

We switched dogs.  Husband is better able to keep Gracie in check.  It wasn’t too long, though, before I said, “I don’t think Gryffon’s going to make it much further.  He’s tired.”  And indeed, he was dragging along behind, tripping over roots he couldn’t quite see with his cloudy eyes, and almost audibly asking to lie down for a bit.  I said, “This might be the last walk we can take with him.”

But it wasn’t Gryffon we needed to worry about.

We finally made it to the car, and Husband lifted each dog into the back.

That was odd.  Gryffon hasn’t been able to jump into the car for years, but Gracie has always been spry enough to hop right in.  This time, she seemed wary.

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That was the beginning.

Monday evening, I sat in my chair catching up on some schoolwork.  Grading papers, planning lessons.  All that stuff I try to leave at school but never can.  And Gracie was wandering around the house.

Wandering, but not her usual energetic habit of eating used tissues out of the trash baskets, noisily drinking water until her beard drips, and nosing into whatever interests her at the time.  No, this time it seemed an aimless wandering, as if she were lost in this house we’ve lived in for three years.

Then Tuesday came.  Around ten in the morning, Husband let the dogs out for their usual romp around the yard.  Gracie didn’t come back with Gryffon, but that’s not so strange.  When two hours passed and she still hadn’t returned, Husband began to worry.  He drove around the neighborhood, talked to the neighbors, called the animal shelters.

It turns out, she had wandered away – something she has never done in all of her eleven years – and was picked up a half mile from here and taken to the shelter.

When husband retrieved her, he knew right away something was wrong.

She was completely blind.

Forty dollars later, after a vet visit where we learned that she is blind (thanks, that was so helpful), we faced a lot of questions.  What happened to her?  How did this occur so quickly?  What can be done?  The vet gave us a referral to take her to a canine ophthalmologist for a $150 consult where they would either give her ointment or remove one swollen eye – “to ease her discomfort” even though she doesn’t seem uncomfortable to us.  Just lost.

No one can restore her vision.  Probably no one can tell us why she lost her sight so instantaneously.

But now, we adjust to life with Blind Gracie, and we love her all the more.

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Bernadette Smart, the main character of the novel I’m writing, also has a dog.  Her name is Martha Washington, and she’s a big furry thing.  Next month, come back for a story about Bernadette and her pup.

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Bird Blood

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Scritch, scratch, flutter.

A bird in the chimney. We’ll have to get the nest out before we start lighting fires this fall.

The dogs and the cat sniff and investigate.

Flutter, scritch-scratch.

No, a bird in the actual wood stove. Hm. Structured as metal cylinder with a window of old mica, the stove is such that we can’t see inside, but we know the bird is there. Its wings whisper against the metal and its feet and beak scrape against the sides.

“Should I open it and take a look?”

“Only if you want a bird in the house instead of in the stove.”

Unlatch, creak, the door opens. The dogs are on alert, and the cat springs. It is in her mouth in an instant.

But because she is a cat, she is less interested in a quick kill than in the thrill of the catch, and she lets the injured avian go. We don’t know its fate. Had she dealt it a bite from which it could not recover? Is it dying somewhere under the furniture?

A few hours later, I hear fluttering again, and I think perhaps it is outside the kitchen window, until my eyes are drawn upward and I see the bird sitting on top of a large kettle on the shelf above my head. The cat also hears and sees and is on the prowl again. The bird flits down lower, a disastrous mistake. The cat pounces and has it in her mouth again, and this time the bird does not recover. After she plays her deadly game a while, we take her toy away, noticing that rigor has begun to set in. The bird goes in the trash can, and the cat licks her paws and blinks in a self-satisfied way.

Only later do I notice the bird blood on my floor. I’ll have to mop that up. Until I get the chance, it is a reminder of kitty’s first bird.

The Swirl

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At 9pm, my eyes get sandy and my energy drops.  Time for bed.  I tuck myself under the covers and drift to sleep.

At 2am, my bladder wakes me and I pad off to the bathroom.  When I return to bed, I snuggle back in, thinking that sleep will return to me.

Instead, a hurricane of thoughts fills my head.  Lessons I need to plan, copies I need to make, a quiz I need to alter.  The research paper I need to write for the class I’m taking.  And when will I get it done with house guests two weeks in a row and a mini-vacation planned after that?  And the refrigerator needs to be cleaned, and I forgot to buy flea prevention for the dogs.  There’s a log cabin show at the state fairgrounds this weekend.  Where will I buy the fruit trees I want to plan and when should I plant them and where?  Do I really want the strawberries where I had originally planned them?  If we buy a tractor, will there be enough money left to purchase the supplies to build an outhouse this summer?

I roll over, hoping a change in position will help.  The cat shifts her weight on my legs, wondering why I’m disturbing her sleep.

I remember I didn’t put away the laundry yet, or vacuum the living room rug.  I wonder if bleaching the well is the best way to get rid of the sulfur smell in the water.

The cat box needs to be cleaned.

I ask God to clear my mind so I can get back to sleep.

Will the research project I thought of for my eighth graders be too hard?  Is it okay if it’s hard because they need a challenge?  Why haven’t we heard back from the meat processor about the deer Stephan took there a few weeks ago after he hit it with his car?

Flip the pillow to the cool side.  Look at the clock.  Thirty minutes have passed.  Forty-five.

Everything I just thought about runs through my head again, this time in a different order.  Trees, tractor, strawberries, outhouse, research, guests, fridge, vacuum, lessons, laundry.

I try to release it all, but mostly it continues to run in the mental hamster wheel.

My eyes droop again, and I hope this time it will be for good.

Soon, it will be time to get up.

Kitty

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The whole family loves our kitten, Nova.  She and Gracie play together often.

She loves to sit on our laps.  She nuzzles my face and likes to cuddle.  Sometimes she will butt me with her head in order to get chin rubs or head scratches.  Recently, she even stood on her hind legs and hugged my leg.

SONY DSCNova is curious and friendly.  We feel lucky to have her.

Critters: Part 3

The cats seem finally to be out from under the house.  The mouse had been MIA, so we speculated that it decided there were far too many predators in our home for this to be his home as well.

Only, a few days ago, the cat and both dogs seemed really interested in this spot behind the sideboard in the dining area.  The dogs would go over an sniff and look around.  The cat would crawl underneath to investigate.  I never saw anything, and Stephan said he even moved the furniture out and saw nothing.

Christmas morning, I got up, let the dogs out, fed all the animals, and puttered around a bit.  Finally, I went to get dressed.  Stephan walked out into the kitchen and yelled, “Karen!  You have to come see this!”

It was a dead mouse, right in the middle of the floor.

It looked like it had been dead a couple of days.

“I can’t believe you didn’t see this when you got up,” he said to me.  I insisted it wasn’t there earlier. I surely would have noticed it.

So I think the pets finally caught it, and then saved it, hidden, behind the sideboard, until Christmas morning when they could give us a gift.

Well, can you prove they didn’t?

Critters

It’s chilly outside, and most days, I want to be in my nice warm house.

Apparently, critters feel much the same.

There is a family of feral cats living under the house.  Since our current (temporary) house is basically a double-wide trailer, it wasn’t too hard for them to get under there.  But when the dogs started finding a way to sneak under the house too in order to investigate (terrorize) them, we had to get that hole blocked off.  That’s accomplished, but the cats are still under there.  The dogs somehow can smell them through the floor registers.  Sometimes they will hover over the vents, sniffing and sniffing.  My hope is that in the spring, I can catch the cats and get them fixed at the humane society, and then release them again.  They’re handy to kill mice and moles.  I just don’t want them reproducing.  (This particular Mama cat is on her second litter since we moved here in July)

Speaking of mice, one little guy has snuck into the house.  I’ve seen him three times now — twice on the kitchen counter and once in the living room.  This morning both dogs and the cat chased the mouse all over the place.  I suspect his days are numbered.  I hope so.

The rabbits are cozy in the barn with lots of straw in which to burrow.  The young ones, except for Brownie, have been dispatched and are now in the freezer.  One or two more does will follow.  Not all of our does are reproducing, and we need them to earn their keep.  Besides, we have two black ones and two blond ones, and they are tough to tell apart, especially now that they all share the same large pen instead of each one in her own small cage.  We’d be better able to keep track of them if we had one black, one blond, and one brown.

In the evenings, the dogs, the cat, and I cozy up together in the living room.  The dogs lie on their mats and Nova sleeps in my lap while I watch TV or read a book.  When the hubs isn’t busy, he joins us.

It’s sweet.

But I hope they get that mouse soon.

Pitiful

SONY DSCYesterday, Gryffon had surgery to remove a mass from his elbow.  The vet’s office stitched it up and wrapped it.  They instructed us that Gryffon was not to chew or bite it, and the bandage should stay on for ten days.

In one evening, we re-wrapped his elbow four times.  We did it four more times this morning.

Stephan called the vet and told them the problem.  They said to come in and they’d rewrap it and put a cone on the dog.

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When that was done, the clerk told Stephan it would be $9, which no one had told him over the phone.  “Why wasn’t that included in the original surgery charge?” he asked.  According to the office, “Not all dogs chew at the bandages.”

Really?  I’d like to meet those dogs.  Are they comatose?

Anyway, now Gryffon has no peripheral vision, and has a hard time getting around.  The bandage still comes off sometimes because he still scratches at it with his hind leg.

And he looks so pitiful.

SONY DSCPoor guy.  Nine more days to go.