Saturday, July 2, 2011
Creatures Great and Small
"Woof bloody woof." -- Gaspode the Wonder Dog -Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
I've a friend that moved in closer to town from a very isolated ranch after the sudden death of her partner, losing him to a sudden heart attack in his 40's. She was older than he and never expected that he would leave first. I watched over her through that time as best I could and she's done the same for me since. She is like my big sister, watching over me and other creatures who wander in from the cold.
But living close to other people, there will always be those that don't like animals. Like the folks photographing her collection "that's violating some sort of official subdivision code dammit" of neutered barn kitties. Now there is a new addition to the local flock, a raven officially rescued from a bad situation and made all happy and healthy again. (and a note to readers, in most States you have to be certified for bird rescue and rehabiliation so if you find a bird or other small annue injured, DNR can help you find someone to take care of the them in your area who is trained and licensed).
Meet Aleister "did you say Bacon?" the Raven.
Hopefully the neighbors mistake him for a big and ugly black chicken. Otherwise she might have to put a big orange collar on him and tell folks he's a Labrador retriever. He certainly eats like one, turning up his beak at the pricey nutrition normally given by the avian rehabbers in favor of chunks of turkey wieners, kibble and eggs. Offer him bacon, his toes will curl (hey, so do mine).
Caring for pets, for the wounded, is work, whether you do it as a profession or simply through your heart. It's concern.
I think back to a snowy morning a couple of winters ago. Part of the back yard is fenced so I could let him out to play without him getting into the pond when it's not safe. It was bitterly cold.
So I just opened up the back door, and flung his favorite toy out into space. It's this bone length thing covered with yellow tennis ball material to which a thick plastic cord is attached so you can really wind it up and throw it. It's THE toy. He has a half dozen different balls and toys, but once this one showed up they were ignored. He knows the word "toy" and will fetch it from anywhere, digging through the snow if necessary to find it.
I threw it and went back into the kitchen, leaving the family room glass outer door closed, main door open, so I could see him. It's not good for him to be out too long; dogs can get frostbite on their paws, ears, and tail if left out in freezing temperatures for lengths of time.
I saw this movement in my peripheral vision, a black form jumping up into the air like a kangaroo. WT. . .??
This is why. I threw it too far out, and too high.
So I got bundled up in coat and boots and went out.
He was pretty upset. If a dog could look concerned, this one was.
I got it out of the tree (one of those times I'm glad I'm tall) and the world began revolving again for Barkley the Wonder dog.
I take care of him. He's my best friend of the four legged kind. He's never acquiesced to that alluring and disparaging mythology that is life forever alone. He is content to be with people. To love heartily and deeply. To wag his tail and smile and greet another friendly face. Even the vet.
For today I took Barkley to the vet for his yearly shots but also to have her take a look at a growth in his eye area that worried me. He doesn't mind at all. New People! Cat Smells! Though it's hell getting him into that little paper gown.
They looked at him in the little exam room we waited in and then took him from me to another room. I heard a meowing (cat scan??) somewhere and then nothing for a while. The doctor came back to talk to me. It's a tumor, but they're usually benign, though she said black labs are the breed that can get the more wicked kind. Based on what she sees when it is excised it it will be examined histopathologically. She was also concerned that he's lost 10 pounds recently though he's eating normally and is at a healthy weight. That's likely just a lot more walking and biking, and less treats, for after my surgery in January, both of us put on some pounds and are working on that. But she asked a lot of serious questions. I've got the best vet in the area, very talented and concerned for her patients and their owners so I know he's in good hands.
He's scheduled for surgery on Thursday after a bunch of screenings. They gave me the estimate of the cost. Lab fee after Lab fee. I should have gotten a different breed.
But it needs to be taken care of.
He's only been in a doggy hospital once, three years ago, when he was about 4 and a half years old. I'd left him in the care of two male friends and apparently he hyper-extended his leg jumping for his toy as they played with him and came up lame and trembling. He quit eating, quit drinking. My vet at that time didn't have the equipment for checking him out and sent us to the dog hospital an hour away in Indy. I was worried, and it showed. The young man who was the vet asked after we got him settled "do you have anyone with you to drive you home?" I said "There's a girl who's 6 feet something, with a blond pony tail down to her waist and a Blackwater hat in the lobby pacing. That would be his other Mom." And he grinned. $800, an overnight stay to get him re hydrated, some canine anti-imflammatories and he was home and soon as good as new, looking for his favorite toy. It was the canine equvalent of a 55 year trying to play touch football and pullling something.
I'm sure he'll be fine this time as well. I don't know what I'd do without him around to steal my underwear and play with his new furry friends, Ted the crotch seeking dog, Schmoo, Bob, Tank, Goldie and Socks the Bitch (sorry pal, she won't play with you, she'll just claw your nose and clean out your wallet).
For he keeps me focused on what is good. Evenings sitting at home among reports, artifacts of life on my desk, shattered shells and bone, and intertwined with the broken bodies, a black feather from a bird, a pine cone, a small piece of swirled gemstone that looks at me like an eye, daring me to look deeper, to find some closure for those that need it, even if that is me. It's easy to get caught up in that, it's my work, it's how I think, finding logic to behavior in science that doesn't seem to exist in the human world. Barkley makes me less serious, with a snoot and a bark, and a fuzzy yellow toy in his mouth. He reminds me to smile and enjoy every day for what it is.
For that and many other things he's worth every moment of worry, every penny. For the company, the steady and invincible support, the sheer joy of watching him at play, capturing him on film between stillness and unbridled motion, where even mass seems to be physically altered, changing from solid muscle to wind the color of night. Don't you worry my friend, we'll get you all fixed up.
Posted by Brigid at 4:37 PM