‘Tis the season here when the deer come up from the creek bed behind my house to forage closer to my yard, if not in it. They remember my apple tree and my petunias and everything else, and may not realize that I throw all the apples I can find over the fence for them. In any case, we have a new pattern to our nights lately.
There’s usually at least one time in the night when Grace needs some attention. Although her general health and her mobility have improved greatly, I can’t seem to help her get rid of the phlegm in her chest, or her lungs–I’m not sure. Dr. Miner, when he listened, didn’t feel that it was necessarily serious. I’ve been giving her 500 mg of vitamin C per day, and yesterday increased it to 1000 mg, based on suggestions from, ‘The Nature of Animal Healing’, by Dr. Martin Goldstein (another thing to add as a suggested aid, in my post for new rescuers). The sound when she coughs is very nice and ‘loose’, as my mother used to call it when my siblings and I coughed like that, and I know it’s a productive cough, because I can see her swallow the phlegm, which is, apparently, what dogs do. And when it comes out her nose, I love it, because I can wipe it for her, and, if I’m lucky, pull out more, in long strings. (This is a disgusting thing I’m writing, isn’t it? I thought it might be OK, because you were already expecting a post about poop).
So I’d thought that by now, with all this phlegm moving out, there might be signs that no more was being made. But that’s not the case, and the cough has remained constant. I now believe that Grace’s body is producing that stuff to fight off the bacteria from her teeth, and so it’s time to have them cleaned. She’s already had the blood testing done to make sure that the anesthetic will be safe for her, and since the infection with which she came to me is long since gone, I have hopes that cleaning her teeth–which are extremely dirty–will do wonders for her overall health.
Most nights since Grace has come to us, there’ll a period of fifteen minutes or so when she wakes up and coughs or snorts. I wake up with her, at least some of the time, and wipe her nose or pat her back or just let her know I’m there, and the other dogs either sleep right through it, or wake, but stay curled up where they are.
But not now, now that the deer are closer.
Burberry wakes up, looks toward the bank of fourteen windows in the outer room of our suite, and, with a kind of roar, charges out of bed. With several of the others behind her, she races at top speed to the far corner of the yard (and for this I’m grateful) and proceeds to do an energetic and sustained demonstration of what it means to be a hound.
I’ve been thinking, after listening to Part I of, “Dogs Themselves”, which was aired in December on Canadian radio, about the many different kinds of barks each individual dog has, not to mention the variations between dogs. Burberry’s voice when she’s spotted a deer, for instance, is quite different from what she uses when it’s a raccoon she’s discovered–that call has a frantic note in it, so over-the-top excited that I fear for her heart. The ‘deer’ call is plenty excited enough, although what I fear in this case is just that my neighbors will hate us. I hope that the timing of these episodes, between 3:00 and 4:30 in the morning, usually, means that people are so deeply asleep that they miss it. In this season all windows are shut tight, and that probably helps.
Last night was another deer night. Grace was fussy, Burberry shot out with some of the others, and I carried Grace out to pee. She came back in and got a drink, and I settled her back in bed and helped those of the others who were ready to call a truce with the deer to find their spots. Last in, except for Burb, was P.D.Z., an intrepid little hunter although he’s the size of a groundhog, and I lifted the comforter so he could resume his place near my feet.
I lay listening to the admittedly beautiful sounds coming from Burberry, and fell back asleep for a few minutes. Then she was back, and wanted in under the covers. For such an athletic, woodsy dog, she sure is a snuggler. “Good dog, Burberry girl”, I said (this may be a mistake, but it’s my policy when an animal is doing what it thinks is its job, and I do it when the cats bring me dead creatures, too, and anyway, maybe Burb will think I’m saying she’s a good girl for coming back in), and I lifted enough of the comforter for her to turn around three times without completely uncovering P.D. and me. No sooner was she settled than Annie stood up and needed help going outside.
I’ll write much more about Annie and her legs, but for now, I’ll just say that it’s impossible for her to slink around–she has to get a kind of running start to go from one level to another. So I carried her off the bed, in an attempt to keep the others from waking or at least stirring, and once she was out, I put a log on the fire and replaced Simo’s blankets. Sosimo of Mexico is the only dog who prefers (most nights, anyway) to sleep in that outer room, the one with the many windows and the woodstove. I worry that he might get a draft on him (and he’s got almost no fur), and he loves being completely covered in blankets, so that’s what we do. Anna Belle came back in, I settled her in her spot, and there was Grace again, wanting to go somewhere and do something…
I decided not to try to make it an early morning, and to sleep as long as I wanted, and I did get a nice sleep. But I had an abrupt awakening, and what woke me was a scent. Several years ago, it was news to me that one could be awakened by a smell, and the first time it happened, the scent wove itself into my dream. Maybe that still happens, but I don’t know, because now I just wake up super quick, to try to troubleshoot whatever it is before it gets compounded.
Today the scent of poop was very strong. But once I tracked it down, I was pleased to see that it was going to be one of those easily-contained messes. It was Grace, who’d been too slow to make it to the dog door, but who’d done a neat poop on the blankets next to the bed, without getting any on herself. And so the day began, with a load of hot laundry and musings on poop.
Poop features large in my life now, and I’m no longer able to think of it as particularly disgusting. I’m sure that’s what happens to all new moms, and some dads, and people who have lots of animals.
Anna Belle’s poop, the other day when I came home to find her sitting in a mess, was a sign to me to look for causes. I fed her a fairly bland dinner that night and for the next day’s breakfast–dry food with wet food and rice on top–and there was no further trouble. The meat I’d served with the meal just before her accident was chicken sausage, a very nice kind with apple and maple syrup in it, all natural. But I believe that it was too high in fat for her, and I’ll have to store that in my head so I don’t make that mistake again. Anna Belle, in her appearance and in the ‘heft’ of her little body, is very similar to Baby, the tiny white dog next to my head in my post about the Six Pack. And I have come to the opinion, although my vet and the specialist vet we saw might not be able to confirm it, that I set off a chain of internal events which caused Baby’s death, by feeding her a couple of too-rich meat meals in a row. I’ll write about that…
With Baby in mind, I’d been able to adjust Annie’s diet very quickly, as I said, and get her, and, to a lesser extent, the others, onto a lower fat meal for a while. I’m grateful that I got the chance to see that poop of hers, because part of the trouble with Baby was that, until the very end, there were no signs at all that anything was wrong. Maybe, if I’d followed her around and poop-watched, I would have known earlier.
And that’s how I think of poop now, as a clue to health. I would bet that most people like me think of it in that way. I’ve also thought that, if anyone would be unemotional and scientific about poop, it would be a vet. And I’m sure that’s the case. But it doesn’t stop Dr. Miner from apologizing profusely when one of my own pets poops on me in his office. It’s quite funny, really–he gets truly agitated and worried, although I assure him I’m used to it.
Once, when Burberry cut her paw pad, I had her cuddled on my lap, her back to my chest. Dr. Miner was examining her, kneeling in front of us, when she did a big poop, which, I was glad, missed him completely but really nailed me. This was a first for her, and I won’t be surprised if it turns out to be a last. She’s not at all prone to accidents, and I think she must have been very frightened. It was summer, luckily, and very hot, and Dr. Miner took care of Burb while I went into the back of the office and used the spray hose on the surgery table–surgeries were all done for the day–to sort of hose myself down.
Another time, I was holding Annie Belle in the same position, and Dr. Miner was finding out that she had probably been stung by a bee or a spider on her vulva, and was having an allergic reaction, when she more or less exploded with a smushy poop as he was taking her temperature. He got out just in time, and once more, he was spared and I was a mess. He flew into action again, and I used the surgery hose to clean both Annie and myself. When we went back into the room, he had gotten over it, and said, puzzled, “That looked just like peas and carrots”, and right then he remembered that I cook for them. I hope he’ll be used to it, the next time. Somehow, the idea that I might be more used to having poop everywhere than he is makes me slightly nervous.
Picking up poop is a necessary evil, and I’ve become quite used to it. There is one time of year, one set of weather conditions, really, when I actually find picking up poop kind of fun, and it might happen today. Sometimes in the winter, when the temperature is right, and the snow is crusty but not yet ice, each warm poop a dog does must slightly melt the snow around it, so that it’s surrounded by an outline of itself made of air. When this happens, you can kind of reach into that space and get the poop out in one piece, without mushing it messily, and that’s a real treat for the scooper person. I never do this without thinking of the game Operation, and I pretend I’m playing it, and that if I touch the outlying snow, a buzzer will go off. You have to find your fun where you can…
On this last day of 2010, I’d like, if I can, to finish writing about my own ‘old days’ with the dogs, so that I can start fresh tomorrow about what my pack has been like in the recent past and in the present. Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t have treated myself to this piece on poop, and should have tried to make progress in my chronology. Thanks for reading, and happy scooping to you. You’ll be grateful, I’m sure, that I will not be attaching a photo to this post. 🙂