Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Musings, 06 April 2013

Good morning,

While Morning Edition personalities muse online, I struggle with the clash of my old computer with the new G-Mail.  My apologies in advance if this email bears your name in the "to" list instead of the "bcc" list, a phenomenon that I usually correct but cannot, this day, because the top of the email is lost in a morass of pixelation. I'm not even sure how to "save".  I can see the "send" button but not the "from" line.   Note to self:  Learn how to find "contacts" in G-mail on the tablet or get a new laptop.

The grey day threatens to spoil the construction of a concrete pad on my husband's oil lease and the transfer of furniture to the little suite into which my mother-in-law will be moving on Monday.  I hear the dog jiggling her collar downstairs, a signal that she wants to go snuffle the grass in our backyard.  The barometric pressure affects her, just as it does me.  Our arthritic joints creak and crackle.  My vet says that the  7 to 1 calculation of dog years to human has no basis in veterinary reality, but in any event, our dog is 12 or 13 in human years but still loves to pace the perimeter with a Buzy Bone in her mouth, waiting for the rain.  Thunder terrifies her, but the soft cool spring rains seem to invigorate instead.

We got this dog after the memorable ice storm, nine or ten years ago.  We found out about her seizure disorder a week later when she started walking funny, her hind quarters stiffening, her head rigid.  She's been a good pet for many years, and everyone in the neighborhood loves her, except for the  neighbors to the north who claim that she barks continually when we are gone.  Of course, no one else hears her; and we often find large, gnawed objects thrown over the fence by their own huge retrievers, so we're skeptical about their claims.  When a "For Sale" sign arose on their lawn, we cheered.

I never liked dogs before I had a boychild.  Our first dog was a purebred Beagle who climbed fences and roamed for miles.  My son begged me to find him, to find the dog he named Chocolate when a client gave him to my son, the year Patrick turned four.  "Chocolate" went with "Sprinkles", the name he had given to the cat acquired on his third birthday.  I walked our block at midnight many times, calling "'Chocolate!  Chocolate!" while my son stood on the porch or huddled around steaming mugs of hot cocoa with his friends.  I often sat on a porch rocker at three in the morning, in the cool night, or the summer heat, worrying, wondering, wanting to be able to tell Patrick that his dog had come home.  I paid more than one city fine, often to jurisdictions miles away in Johnson County, Kansas.  Mission, Leawood, Overland Park.  That dog could run.

We got our current dog from a client who did dog rescue, and then there were two.  But I accidentally killed Chocolate by leaving him on his lead one night, a lead constructed to keep him from escaping.  We found our new rescue dog, Little Girl, huddled against Chocolate's cold body in the morning.  We buried him, had Lamar's donuts at the wake, and my son didn't speak to me for days.  Patrick was 12 that year, just coming into a difficult time of his life, from which he would not emerge for several years and a couple of visits to the Mayo Clinic.  Killing his dog didn't help.

In August of 2009, Aunt Penny and I took Patrick to his first semester of college.  One of his last admonishments to me?  "Don't let any of the pets die before I graduate."  He did not laugh as he said it.  He drew his brow into a deep furrow and stared intently into my face.  I promised.

I've already broken that promise.  Sprinkles died in August of 2012 from old age, lying on the driveway, under my hands, as I wept.  Pablo, the black Tuxedo cat that my son raised in his bedroom in the fall of 2007, has taken to living somewhere else.  He spent more and more time outside as he matured, unneutered and adventurous, but when we catch glimpses of him, he is sleek, fat, and well-groomed.  We think he's been adopted.  

So that leaves Little Girl, our pathetic brown epileptic Beagle-Lab mix.  I take pictures of her and message them to my son.  I buy the expensive dog bones she likes, and mix eggs in her dried dog food.  She goes to the vet two to four times per year, for well-dog checks, Phenobarb levels, and potassium bromide adjustments.  I'm not strong enough to walk her, and my husband doesn't have the time, but we have a big back yard and occasionally we co-opt a visitor to take her for a brisk trot around the block, usually clutching a leash and stumbling after her, having accidentally let her out.  But if you call her name, she lies down on the sidewalk and waits for you to approach.  In the old days, she actually wanted to run; but nowadays, she just wants to prove she can still escape if she chooses to do so.

On a recent evening, I sat in the rocking chair in my little nook, downstairs.  This nook has evolved over the twenty years in which I have owned this home.  At first, my son and I ate our casual meals on a white table left behind by the previous owners.  In 1997, when my brother died and left his nieces and nephews small bequests, we bought a computer and put it on that table, and the breakfast nook became the family computer site, where we played one particular game for hours together.  I can't recall the name, but my son, my nephew Nick, and I, spent many evenings typing commands and comments into a little window to make the hero walk, find treasure, and hunt for a way back home.  When I later got my own computer, that first unit moved upstairs to my son's room, and the nook became Corinne's office, with an invisible fourth wall, and a shelf for my angel collection.

Over the years, sitting in a chair in the breakfast nook became my way of finding solace in a hectic day. I also talk on the phone from that nook.  I have spent hours there in the last twenty years.  Early on, I held a wired phone to my ear and talked to my aunt about my parenting woes.  I've sat there to hear bad news from distant callers.  I've laughed at my son's efforts to cheer me, and listened to my sister's worries, and sought advice from my friends.

Invariably, if our little, pathetic, brown Beagle, hears me crying, she comes into the nook and puts her head on my knee.  On this night, this recent night when I sat in the rocking chair, not on the phone, not on my Tablet using the internet, not talking, the dog skittered on her too-long nails across the hardwood of the dining room floor.  She stood in the doorway, watching me.  She turned her head this way and that, straining to gauge my mood.  Is she crying? I could hear her thinking.  I sighed.  She walked a few more steps, and let her body fall prone at my feet.  I spoke to her, out loud, and she raised her head again, eyeing me sideways, a bit reproachfully, a bit guardedly.  I patted her head, and she let it fall back onto the little pile made by her crossed paws.

I never meant to be a dog owner.  I got the first dog because a client wanted to do something nice for my child.  Little Girl came to us because another client talked me into taking her.  I wanted a house full of cats and kids, and maybe a reptile or two, but never a dog.  And now, here I am, the cats gone, the kids gone, the lizard given away, the pair of mourning doves stolen from my front porch, left with this damn brown dog to whom we have to administer pills and liquid drugs twice a day, who pees on the kitchen floor in the early hours of each day, and barks a slow, steady bark that drives the neighbor lady bonkers.  Instead of being the crazy old cat lady, I've become the lady with the epileptic Beagle, who uses her son's old beach towels to give the dog a bath with anti-allergy shampoo significantly less often than I should.  I'm not sure what that says about my life.  If I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.