Grace For New Year’s Eve 2010

Well, as I wrote earlier, I had plans for what I would write this evening and night, as I wait to see one year turn into the next.  But my plans have had to change, because there have been a lot of surprises, and that happens a lot these days.  It’s a kind of metaphor for how my life is now, this life with lots of pets.  And so I’ll do what I always do lately–I’ll go with the change.

The first surprising thing happened early this afternoon, but I didn’t recognize it for what it actually was.  I thought it was Grace.  There was a puddle in my laundry room, which is really just a laundry hallway, a little area that joins the main part of the house to our suite, with a door at each end and a half bathroom which adjoins it.  I hadn’t mopped anything or dripped water for any other reason, so I assumed that Grace had tried to get outside, had turned the wrong way, and had needed to pee too urgently to make another attempt for the door.  I had left her just moments before, lying on her padded blankets on the floor in the inner room of the suite.  I went to check, and sure enough, she was on her bed.  I thought it was weird, but that she must have moved quickly, which lately she’s quite capable of.

So I cleaned it up and forgot about it. 

In a little while I did some laundry–I suppose I do, on average, three loads per day–and there was the puddle again, and this time I knew.  In spite of my public paean, in this very blog, in praise of my washing machine, it had played me false and was leaking.  This is the third time it’s done that.

Why, you wonder, had I praised an expensive washing machine that leaks?  It’s because, those other two times, I’d overloaded it a little, added small things when it was washing a big thing.  I don’t recall doing that today…but I had an aha! moment just now, when I remembered my Poop entry.  I had started my day with a load of laundry, and I may not have had even one cup of coffee yet at that point, and I do remember adding Smart Wool socks to some load of laundry recently.

And it had been Smart Wool socks, or sock, really, that had caused the problem last time.

Let me take a second and recommend Smart Wool socks to you, if you’ve never tried them.  They can go through textile hell and land on their feet.  Well, not on their feet, but on your feet or on my feet.

Last Christmas I was given a pair of socks, the best socks I’d ever owned, and by a big margin.  These weren’t just Smart Wools; they were the crème de la crème of Smart Wools, and must have cost (now that I’ve bought more SWs, I know what they run) close to thirty dollars.  For days, I didn’t take them off (one of the great things about SWs is that they just don’t get dirty–they seem to repel anything your feet can deliver in the way of stinkiness, and they do it naturally).  Finally I had to wash them.  I didn’t notice, at first, that one of the pair wasn’t to be found.  I thought it would turn up, and kept the other one carefully laid away in waiting, like what’s-her-name at the moated grange or a bride left at the altar.  Eventually I lost hope.  I can’t remember ever mourning an article of clothing like I mourned my separated socks.

Fast forward to a time when there’s a recurring and substantial puddle in my laundry room.  After more than two hours spent on his knees in the damp, my wonderful plumber, Frank, is stymied, and leaves in a bit of a huff, after refusing to accept payment.  His uncharacteristic tetchiness isn’t directed at me, I know, but at the Cabrio.  I am left with no option but to call in the specialist for the second time, but this time I’m ready, and I prepare to take notes on how to disassemble the blasted sieve.

So I hand over about a hundred dollars, and take my careful notes on the unbelievably simple procedure needed to access the outer tumbler.  It requires a screwdriver, and that’s it.  I’ll tell you, tonight I’m very glad I took those notes…

When that outer tumbler gave up its secrets, what was discovered were one yellow tee-shirt and my Smart Wool sock.  They’d been stewing in their own juices for a good many weeks, and the tee-shirt went into the trash right away.  But the sock…

Well, for one thing, one doesn’t lightly toss a fifteen-dollar sock.  But it wasn’t just that.  Believe me, if that sock had smelled like the shirt did, it would be long gone.  But, remarkably, it didn’t.  And it was in much better shape than the shirt was, too.  Admittedly, it was a different color than I remembered.  But I felt it might recover, and once the machine was back together and the expensive wizard with the screwdriver had departed, I added my sock to a load of laundry and took the Cabrio for a congratulatory spin, and at the end of it I got a nice surprise.

For although each sock of that pair is still a slightly different shade of beige or taupe or whatever that nice natural wool color is called, those socks are otherwise as good as new.  Now that is a sock.

And I think this, unfortunately, may also be a sock.  I have the bad feeling that, in my haste to get my SWs up and running with as quick a turnover as I can manage, I added a pair to the blankets this morning.  Would I have done that, though, considering the blankets had a poop smear on them?  It’s not my usual policy.  Oh.  I remember now, just now.  Later I washed a big mess of clothing that was lying on the bathroom floor, including a pair of SWs, and any one of those fairly small items could now be trapped in the outer tumbler. 

Tomorrow I will start the New Year by taking my screwdriver in hand and disassembling that Cabrio myself, with any luck.

The next surprising thing happened while I was cooking the dogs’ dinner, a special and particularly abundant dinner in honor of New Year’s Eve.  It’s quite warm here today, and I wasn’t worried about the fact that Grace was wandering around the backyard, until I saw her tumble headfirst into a pumpkin-sized hole perpetrated by one of the diggers.  Until now, she’d always avoided them.  It was painful to see, and I hated to think of the nasty shock it must have been for her.  I raced out there and found that she’d done a good job of extricating herself about halfway, and I helped her finish.  She was muddy, but not as bad as I would have expected, and she was also not as alarmed as I’d feared she would be.  She’s a strong girl, my Grace.

But just now she was a strong and muddy girl, and so after dinner I gave her a bath.  And got another surprise, because Grace, who had twisted and vocalized sadly throughout her first bath on November 30, the day I picked her up and found her wearing poop from her midline down, acted this time as if she were at a fine spa.

We hung out in the bath for a long time, and I was able not only to shampoo every bit of her at least once, but to do some hydrotherapy, bouncing her and rocking her and manipulating her left hip-joint, where the mobility is greatly diminished, says Dr. Miner.  She loved it all, and went into a nice trance.  I was touched that she trusted me so much this time, trusted me to keep her head out of the water, trusted me to move her leg and hip, although she doesn’t like to move them herself.  It was lovely.

After she was dried and cuddled and well wrapped up, I tucked her into the big bed, and got another surprise.  I’ve taught this to dogs in the past, but I didn’t realize that I must have taught it to Grace without noticing.  You can teach a dog to ask you for a drink by licking its lips.  There’s something ambiguous about that sentence, and the discriminating reader will rightly question exactly who is doing the licking, and the fine robot proofreader isn’t helping me with it.  I will ask a human or two for help with it, later.  Anyway, to teach a dog to ask for a drink, you need to be on the lookout for when you think he or she needs a drink, and then ask, “Doggie, do you need a drink?” and make that smacking noise with your own lips, like you’re lapping water.  It’ll be just a short time before your dog will do it back to you when you ask the question, and then you’ll have confirmation of what is wanted.  This is a real help when you’re playing the nurse role for an aging pet and he or she is fussing for something, but you’re not sure what.  Tonight, when I asked Grace if she wanted a drink, she made the lapping sound!  Unfortunately, as yet she won’t drink from a bowl brought to her in bed, and wants to go to the two large bowls which stay on the floor of the outer room, and so it proved tonight.  But I’m very pleased that we know a new word and phrase together.

As I carried her back to bed, I got yet another surprise, a very surprising surprise.  As we passed one of the dog crates, Sadie came rushing out of it, crying out in fear or pain or both.  No one was near her, and the only thing inside the crate was a cushion.  My first thought was that she’d been bitten by a spider, but although I took the cushion out and inspected it, I found nothing.  I wouldn’t, though, necessarily.  Maybe it was that, or maybe she’d caught her foot between two of the bars.  I wish I knew.  I’m watching her, in case it was a spider and I need to give her Benadryl.  Benadryl!  Another thing to add to the ‘advice to a new rescuer’ blog.  Benadryl capsules and cream, anti-diarrhea meds, generic Dramamine…I will write an extra entry, I guess.  No wonder I gave up getting pet sitters.  Too much to remember, too many instructions to give.

And the last surprise of the night, I very much hope, came in the form of another cry of fear or pain or shock.  After tucking Grace into bed for the third or fourth time and rounding the corner into the laundry area, from an excited huddle of dogs came that cry, which I’d never heard before.  I could tell it was from either Sadie or Charlotte–it was clear that they were the most involved in whatever was brewing.  And then I was around the corner, and saw what it was.  I must not have shut the door until it clicked, and Mike, the new little cat, was inside with the dogs for the very first time, puffed up almost as big as a raccoon.  He must have swatted one of the dogs, and others were reacting.  He looked ready to argue some more, but I got between him and them, opened the door wider, and edged him gently out.

I’ve had a bit too much excitement this New Year’s Eve, although to many my night would seem as dull as it gets.  The dogs and cats have fallen asleep as I’ve been writing, and I’m looking forward to joining them.  Many wishes for a wonderful 2011–we’re into it by more than an hour, now.

Tomorrow:  ‘a difference a day’:  365 things anyone can do to help save shelter pets

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