Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Musings, 28 April 2012

Good morning, It's later in the morning than I usually sit down to reflect. Accusations of my neighbors that I don't provide proper care of her notwithstanding, I've taken our little dog for her annual examination, a major undertaking that costs only slightly less than my monthly mortgage. Our dog came to us after being abandoned during a ferocious ice storm. We only learned about her seizure disorder after we had already come to love her. Each year, in addition to everything a normal dog must have, she submits to the withdrawal of several vials of various fluids to check her medication levels. I spend more on her medication each month than I spend on my own. The neighbors disagree with our decision to leave her outside during the day, despite the fact that she has a shelter inside of which is a cedar-chip-lined dog house. I say, anyone who leaves two huge Golden Retrievers inside a 1300-square-foot house all day should not throw stones. When my son left for his first year of college, I promised him that I would not let the pets die until he graduates. The boy cat roams the neighborhood and rumor has it that his immortality has been established several litters over.(fn, don't tell me he should be 'fixed'. I know. Tell Patrick.) The old girl cat will probably outlive us all. I worry most about this little dog, whose seizures now defy her current level of medication. She raises her deep brown eyes in supplication and pushes her trembling body next to my legs. I reach down and wrap my arms around her, holding her close as she trembles and grows rigid, in turns. I'm not a dog person. But I believe there is a special place in hell for whoever ditched this dog, an act probably born of the prior owner's refusal to deal with the grand mal seizures with which this creature, unmedicated, can be plagued. As I write, she sleeps on the back porch, made weary by the various shots that our gentle vet administered. On other days, she lies in the sun, or ambles along the worn path at the north side of the house which she regularly traverses to reach the front gate at which she stands sentry. She barks at dog-walkers, child-strollers, and runners. Sometimes she howls at the dancing wind. She's a beagle. I think her barking bothers the neighbors more than the fact that we let her live a peaceful life spending most of her time in the fresh air. I'm not really a dog person. Yet this animal moves me. I resist spending money on new shoes for myself or paint to fix the door trim the repainting of which a carpenter started several years ago and never finished. But I routinely shell out large sums to maintain the good health of this brown, pathetic, epileptic beagle-lab mix, who sleeps outside the bedroom door where Patrick would be, were he not at school; or, a few feet away, outside the door of my stepson. She knows that boys are her province. She protects them, standing guard, just as she has done for the last nine years. I take good care of her. After all, I am responsible for the death of our original beagle, a fact that I will never forget, and for which I will not forgive myself. That dog, named "Chocolate" by three-year-old Patrick who had named our girl-cat "Sprinkles", had been a gift from a client to my son. He climbed fences, and roamed the city, and cost me hundreds of dollars in fines. We made the fence taller, and wrapped it in chicken wire, and put a rudimentary electric barrier around the yard's perimeter. The blasted beagle, in defiance of our best efforts, taught himself to escape each measure that we deployed. Finally, we strung a cable from porch to fence, and kept him on a sliding lead which allowed him to traverse the length and width of the yard. We routinely detached him and brought both dogs into the house each night, until the night when I forgot, and he got wrapped in that lead, and the shock of the taught wire, or something worse, killed him. The other dog, our epileptic Little Girl, huddled close to Chocolate as his body grew cold, whimpering and occasionally barking, a short, desperate burst, a plea for someone to come. I found them at five the next morning, when one of my son's friends, spending the night, woke me to report that something seemed amiss with the dogs. We buried Chocolate in the side yard next to the cat who had been killed in the street a year or two earlier. I think my son has forgiven me, but I have not yet forgiven myself. My vigilance over the life and welfare of the remaining dog in part reflects a sense of guilt at the senseless death of her companion. The white cat sleeps on my son's bed, a spot she claimed 18 years ago and periodically disdains but never fully abandons. As my son's junior year of college draws to a close amid reports of good mark after good mark on projects, papers and plays, amid worry over summer internships and debate over fall course enrollment, I cast my glance around the house and think about the day when I will have fulfilled my promise to keep the pets alive until he graduates. It is a pledge that I hope to fulfill. So I pay the money, and I give the drugs, and I wrap my arms around her when the seizures strike, and as I do, I think to myself, one more year, Little Girl, just hang on for one more year. So far, so good. 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.