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.


  1. Hope all works out well for you and Barkley, Brigid. I would be lost without my dogs. I am becoming a bit of a hermit. I am either in the woods or working. Enjoy your time with Barkley, lifes a blink


  2. I hope that Barkley is ok and that it turns out to be benign.

    Here's a virtual hug for you and Barkley.

  3. Wishing you and Barkley the best!
    Your pictures and stories about him always makes me smile.

  4. A match made in Heaven. Murphy sends his regards and a "Get well Soon" note.

  5. Thanks - he should be fine. But I'm his "Mom" so I will still worry. We're enjoying a quiet day at home with books and chats on the phone with the family.

  6. I feel for your friend and her loss. My DH was among the 3% who survived Sudden Death... Brugada Syndrome for us. My hub, died 3 1/2 yrs ago on opening day of deer hunting, Nov 15, 07, he was w/o oxygen for over 20 minutes and pronounced 3 times that I could hear. My love survived, but not without struggle, many miracles came and he is here with me. I couldn't imagine it any other way even if things are different now. We make adjustments and go on to make the best of things, of our lives. Our golden lab brought great healing to my DH during those years. I don't know what I would do without him either & his unconditional love. My guys.

  7. For information on getting care for injured birds the Department of Natural Resources maintains a list of licensed rehabbers. In Indiana the link is.

  8. Sasha and Ruger are sending a woof and a grrruff his way...

    Dann in Ohio

  9. Brigid, best wishes to you and great big get well to Barkley. Non-animal lovers will never understand that they aren't a pet. They're our children who just happen to have fur and 4 legs. And Barkley's eyes are magnificent, they communicate so much.

    JJ, an ex-nuke and land-locked sailor.

  10. Get well most quick, Barkley! I had a black Lab myself once...Sam. He was an awesome buddy and hunting partner, and I still miss him.

  11. I'll keep him in my doggy prayers.

  12. A doggie prayer for Barkley and I wish you a happy holiday from a very dry Oklahoma.

  13. Lovely post. Consider yourself blessed with a labrador, they are low maintenance compared to terriers, ours has cost more in hospital bills than my teenager and that is saying something! ;-)

  14. Sorry to hear about Barkley. Hope all goes well. I know all to well the harshness of having to do serious vet work on a dog. My first Irish Setter had to have a portion of her lung removed do to a weed seed getting in there and causing severe infection. All told we ended up about 10k in vet bills. Luckily we were able to trade some antelope hunts with the vets and got the cost down to a quarter of that. But dogs are part of our family and you wouldn't hesitate to spend 100k for one your kids.

  15. G'luck Brigid, and get well soon Barkley. Wouldn't be the same around here without Barkley doing his moderating ;)

    I've never been much of a dog person, but my buddies slightly insane, but perfectly content with people Chocolate Lab Reno (Named after the air races, natch) Is certainly changing that.

  16. I hope and pray that all will be well. Looking forward to pics of Barkley wearing his Cone of Shame.

  17. I'm sending good thoughts and prayers Barkley's way.
    And, of course, yours.

  18. Go Barkley go!!! Just a little bump in the road.

  19. Best Wishes for Barkley.

    I would love to share a house with a raven, but I don't know if I could stand to be outsmarted on a daily basis!

  20. Barkley,
    Umbra, Penumbra, and Shadow send you their very best ever WOOFS and know you'll be just fine, Good Buddy.
    And they told me to tell you to be sure and take care of that Fine Lady you got with you- she's a Winner.

  21. Hope all goes well for Barkley.

    Been there, done that with the favorite toy stuck in a tree. I have a dented trash can lid from using it as a frisbee to dislodge the bumper from some high branches. It was up even farther than someone the height of Andre the giant could have reached with a rake.

  22. Thoughts and prayers to you and Barkley.

  23. Regardless of what my Catholic upbringing (and the nuns!) would say about this, I'll say a prayer for him tonight anyway.

  24. Nugget told me he hoping everything goes good for Barkley.

    He's the same way with toys. There is always one we called "His Stupid Toy" simply because he just became a complete idiot when that toy comes out, and it was usually something with a squeaker in it. The squeaker didn't last long, nor did the the rest of the toy.

    Fortunately, he also enjoys things like empty water bottles, tennis balls and frisbees. Yes, beagles can fetch, and like it.

    Barkley has been added to our prayers.

  25. I hope all goes well for Barkley. It can be extra hard because you can't explain to them what is happening. Our Penny just had surgery last week for three lumps to be removed. The tests are back and were pretty good. Hopefully, Barkley will also get good results.

    Penny is off of the Agility Show circuit for about three weeks, but should be back in the run of things and the hair on the side of her body regrown soon.

    Big hugs,

  26. Prayin' for you and the Barkster.

    Mark Alger

  27. Hope The Bark is back in action soon. I still miss Maxwell Smart, the Wonder Cowdog,geez it's been two years. Gusserson keeps me sane with his puppyness.

  28. Dang that news...I know the arresting feeling of hearing that something is amiss with our furry children. They don't really know or they try to hide it from us. "Just a dog - doing fine. Got some bacon?"

    Glad you noticed it and I do hope the news will be good, if pricey. Ranger and Kota send their best wishes and suggest more bacon wouldn't hurt.

  29. Praying for a good outcome for Barkley! ((((B))))

  30. The best to your boy. He looks like the kind to pull through on love alone.

  31. I hope all goes well with Barkley. Dogs are great to have around. They are always happy to see you and help get your mind off of things. Have a great Independence day and again, hope all goes well.

  32. Give him a hug and a scratch for me... please.

  33. Good luck to Barkley; hope he gets through the operation with the minimum amount of fuss.

  34. Brigid,

    I will, of course, send my best "vibes" to Barkely and you. But, I would pay $10 for a photo of him in the examination gown.


  35. Brigid.

    Just read your post on Barkley. Please know that everyone here at the farm is praying for him, and for you as well (in our Christian lite sort of way). You're in our thoughts.

    Keep us posted.


  36. May St. Roch (Rocco, I kid you not) watch over him. Rocco is, of course, the patron saint of dogs and those who love them.

    Oh, and bachelors.

    Best wishes for a speedy, complete, and inexpensive recovery.

  37. Having just lost my 10 yr old black lab, Bandit to liver failure and other such things that sneak up on you in the middle of the night I commiserate with you. Ill say the words for Barkley, always always hope for the best. they are the best of our lives, loving us without hesitation.

    another virtual hug for you both.


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..