Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bandit is part husky and part shithead.

Rumbling on the hardwood above and a yelp and I have to guess that Bandit nipped or frightened Lily.

Dogs are funny and pant when they're nervous or excited and both Bandit and Lily were circling, tongues dangling, and their sides heaving. Lily rushes to me, ears down, and stands sideways to lean on me. Bandit lets his one lazy ear flop while he perks up the other. Did I do something, he appears to ask. I pet him too.

Lily follows and Hershey wedges her brown sausage body into the middle of hands and snouts and paws and sticks her nose at me for attention. Ozzy the pug takes the moment to steal Hershey's bed, which is really his bed.

What the hell was all that, I ask Jerry.

I don't know! They were both Over THERE. I look and the little braided rug is a mess. It's where Lily usually plunks down at night.

Now she's with me in the basement and my fingers are cold. It's March and we have water trickling across the unfinished floor until it meets tile and pools. It's just passing through I suppose. Me too. Some days life feels to me as if i am standing at a bus station in a foreign country. The little folded schedule says I am in the right place, I think. I lean against a poster dated for last year. The sun has faded out names and faces. With my stupid yellow ticket wrapped in my grungy fingers I stand there wondering of the bus will ever come.

This morning I want to find my body's lingering warmth in bed and fit myself back in place. It was 6-something and I got up to get Lily's food ready. I mix enzyme powder into her food, moisten it with tap water and shove it into the microwave where no one will eat it spill it steal it off the counter. For $100 bucks a bottle I confess that if the wrong dog gets a nose in that bowl and downs Lily's food, I am going in there to get it back.

I clomp around the house doing normal things but I am not normal. I feel like someone took our a mega eraser and smudged all my feelings out. Jerry sits stressing about things way more important than my feelings, but someone stole my tongue and I keep quiet. Actually, I think my tongue, along with happy thoughts has been stomped kicked poked swung at and hit shoved in front of a speeding train truck bus and generally left out in the cold on purpose by myself and others. Nice.

Anyway, I leave Jerry to himself and thoughts probably of his daughter his health the bills the flood in the basement the new floor and desire to drag that crapper back in from the patio but, I am too tired today or I would do it now, he told me earlier. I sit here in the chilly basement.

This morning I did try to get back in bed, but it was a really regretful move, sort of like making a face at the last second and for eternity there you are right in front like blemish on the family photo. While I wished for sleep, that independent and unfortunately dominant part of my brain took out its serious weapons and commandeered my head for the day. It wanted quiet, so I have been very very quiet. The nagging and worrying began while I felt around the sheets for my other sock before hopping in. It said: you have to get up in 20 minutes anyway to give Lily her food you have to take a photo and go to the town hall you have to run Lily through the woods so you aren't brushing at your shoulders all day trying to knock off the guilt.

Out of bed with way too little sleep and I give Lily her dish. She unhinges her jaw like a snake and shovels in her breakfast. She looks better and has a puppy's energy back and I can see her body reasserting itself over her concave little skeleton. When I think of a couple of weeks ago when the specialist finally diagnose her and handed me the magic remedy, I realize that without it I don't think Lily would have lasted until today. I would right this second be staring at all the places from which she is absent. Won't need her food bowls anymore. Won't need her doggy bed or leashes. Lily would right now be just a blank space on the basement tile where a dog once slept. The end. Something in my head must have slammed a door on that thought while the vet and I searched and searched for the problem and cure. Why hadn't I totally flipped?

Spring. Late March with lots of water seeping in. Daffodils. The smell of moist earth. Easter only days ahead. I am depressed. Who cares about anything anyway? Jerry says, GO to BED already! I wish I could. After all the housework and bills and writing and everything is done, I get a few minutes to myself and I am finally feeling peaceful as if my life is my own and does not belong to some mean bastard randomly shuffling me through the maze. At night he sleeps and I am free to let my mind roam where it want to roam .

Tonight Lily cast long creepy shadows while sniffing for a good spot. Her legs were like black ink tossed across the muddy ground. Shadows of her ears were the size of bright orange emergency cones.

Tomorrow we go to the vet so he can tell me if the little bubble on her belly is anything to worry about.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Everyday life really screws up everything.

As in, I want coffee, but I am late for work. I want coffee Lily is bouncing all over the place and she needs to get out and RUN already. Someone has to call the vet finish the laundry do something about the mounds of trash fermenting on the patio fix the vacuum so it sucks as much as I think it sucks who will do the damn dishes?

Jerry put a new cool black and white tiled floor in the bathroom, so our toilet is out on the patio too. This place is beautiful.

Lily has to sniff the stupid thing every time we hop outside. Didn't she sniff it enough when it was parked in its corner of our bathroom? How can I take advantage of a patio toilet? My neighbors loath us enough, so I am thinking I should plant something in it and see how long it lasts out by the mailbox with the lid up. Enjoy your morning speed fest on your way to work ... maybe an unsightly crapper will ease your foot off the gas.

Let me mention something that I can't resist: How often is it that you step over a crumpled dog and are cleaning your teeth with your face stretched and grimacing at the mirror when you notice a pure white and nearly clear little spider repelling off your chin lapel zipper and zooming past your waistband on its way to the floor? At the same time the endless rain we've endured for days finally has swelled up in the ground, knocked politely at the foundation stones, then trickled streamed poured through the cracks? I have an inch puddling in spots around my computer chair.

It's meandering along now in the seams of grout, or clogging up with tons of dog hair and lint it collected on its way.

Lily and I don't mind being wet in the mornings on our quick bolt through the woods. I had been throwing a stick and Lily came back with a giant tree limb. Maybe I should throw a dollar.

Monday I popped off my wet sneakers and watched steam come rise from inside my shoes. Shower.

Lily and I will go to our vet Thursday afternoon and find out about the little bubble on her tummy next to her belly button. I press on it and it feels like a little glob of jelly under there about the size of my thumb.

She runs out of her Viokase enzyme treatments about once a week. It's $110 a bottle. Oh My God.

I don't know if it's stress or what but my back is covered with huge, sore acne and on my collar bone is one red and blistered boil that I will eventually stab in exasperation, but not just yet.

Remember that record Lily and I set for the most consecutive days of making, then cleaning up diarrhea? The stench of bile and rot clinging to our living room upholstery, staining the brown wooden walls a darker hue, and smashing into guests with a fetid blast of gore has been replaced by and equally vicious fool. It's me.

I am mean nasty intolerable and the cause of screaming raw throats and swearing. What am I going to do with myself? Why can'tI just shut up and leave everyone else alone and in peace where they are on the couch or bed or wherever. I am going through a weird and impossible rage and want to hurt. I want to break things I want pain and to spend my fury in some exhausting way. Maybe It's too long with the strain. Maybe I am standing there inside my head with one foot over a fire and the other in quicksand. Goodbye, I say to myself. I hope the people I care most about are still here when I crawl back out of the muck to apologize.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The past couple of days have been rough.

When the stress gets to me I am usually sick with it. It’s like a blinding headache that sets up shop in my eye sockets, opens its tools, and puts as much pressure on that delicate bone and thin skin as it can. It spreads into my head from front to back, and somehow this weight settles like pooling lead at the back of my skull. By then it has made me nauseous and my apologies to all who are anywhere near me when I feel this way.

Gauging by my mood I always see this day coming. Signs showed up Wednesday when I snuck to a different, less visible desk tucked into a quiet corner at work. Approaching the nice, dark room without anyone else in sight, I overheard a one-sided conversation. Peering into my sanctuary I found a coworker on the phone.

Panic. Now where do I go?

Plopping down in a chair near other friends in the office I wondered, what now? I am near tears, I tell them, which I was. I am stress saturated. No more stress can pass through this mind and body so I am feeling the hit like a raw nerve like the dentist is drilling for China like everything is huge and loud and forcing me into a claustrophobic corner. I wait and my stomach hurts. A magnet is in there pulling my head toward the floor and my eyelids are gummy and want to stay shut. Out in the sun I go momentarily blind and the needles of sharp pain rush in through the eyeball to worm around the moist nooks and crannies of my brain. It’s not long, I know, before that sluggish weight stabbing into the back of my skull returns the jolt of pain, whacking it hysterically like some stupid kid playing ping pong.

Later, with my hiding place to myself again I called mom. Mid-chat someone dashed past me and snarled, we can hear you, ya know!

How thoughtful. I hope you trip.

So here I am bothering myself, Jerry at home, my coworkers in the office, and probably everyone else on earth. On my mind is on Lily and her enzyme powder and the tons of cash it will cost meal after meal after day after week after year. Oh well!

I wonder how big she’ll be when she is back to normal. From 43 pounds and counting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rain is a better lullaby than mother's songs or strong whiskey.

The sound means put your tools away and get inside, tapping into some withered and dusty shred of instinct inside us that seeks warmth and shelter.

Lily prances with her stick, leash dragging on the ground behind her like a balloon string.

I want to drive over there and punch that doctor, Jerry says. Weeks ago we had thought she might have a pancreas problem, but after a blood test the vet had said it's not her pancreas. We were left to grapple with a huge question mark, but we have no room to put this cumbersome thing.

She has a puppy's energy as her flesh and sinew and muscle and substance reconstitutes. Behind me stretched on the cool basement tiles I hear her sigh. With a glance over my shoulder I find Lily curved like a comma, her front paws crossed and her head on top like a paperweight.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Everything smells like dog shit. I am sitting and reading my book and as I switch one foot for the other on the stool in front of me I smell the faint, pungent yuck. Shit on my shoe my boot the backyard the floor the towel I used to chase one of Lily's messes. It will all fade, but here it is for now.

I listen to Lily breath as she lays across her pillow. For the first time she is not curled in a ball, maybe her body's way of wrapping around itself in some protective fold. Don't we all begin and end in some fetal pose? Tonight her breathing is the rhythmic beat of a girl who ran in the woods over rough ground streams rocks fallen trees rises dips valleys and paths from who knows when and now she rests. Her body has been warmer lately under my fingers and where I place my palm on her belly. She is stretched across her doggy cushion like someone took a wet towel and tossed it over a railing in the sun.

One in the morning now, and I get these words out. Lily brought out the diary that apparently was sitting inside me taking a bath, having a snack and then napping. Now it is running away with my thoughts and dragging more and more of them from me like a greedy vacuum cleaner.

Strange, but I don't know what Lily really looks like. I only know her as the bony girl draped in a German Shepherd's loose hide. Like stones inside a pillow case landing on the ground, Lily finds a spot to curl up and rest on the kitchen floor.

Since we started her enzyme treatments the diarrhea has disappeared. I picked up scooped mopped smeared and wiped messy liquid crap off my basement floor for about 82 days straight. That is my estimate as my fingers skipped from one day to the next to add the calendar squares. Finally with treatments the enzymes can rush around in her stomach giving orders to digest DIGEST!.

Out for a jog with Lily and a neighbor stops to ask, how is she? Earlier Jerry had asked, do you think she is looking a little better already? Look at her ribs, he tells me. They seem a little filled in, I think.

I wonder what she'll look like when she adds the 30 pounds she is missing, or probably more.

Today, March 20, was the first day of spring.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A glass of red wine sends streaks of pink across my polished wood bar; I reach for the glass and look at Lily. Eighty-two days I had waited to find out what is wrong with her. Since December 26 until Wednesday, March 17, I wondered why she had diarrhea and how we could stop it. The last couple of weeks left me wondering if we could stop it in time.

Lily was running out of body mass and energy. We would be out for a quick jog and she would just stop. Standing there in the road Lily would look at me the trees a passing car a neighbor, but she was not interested in taking another step. Pulling at her leash, her fur would bunch up behind her ears, but her feet stayed glued to that little patch of pavement. I think of the times she let me coax her. I guess she was putting up with me when I thought that I was helping.

A bad pancreas. It’s an answer and it’s something we can treat. Now I am wondering what kind of dog Lily will become once her weight is back. Already she is energetic and eager and ready to burst.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lily has a deficiency in her pancreas, which is good news. With the help of enzyme powder we can mix it up with her food and feed it to her and digestion should be right.

I don’t feel any happiness yet. I think I am still waiting to believe my eyes and watch her ribs disappear beneath muscle and flesh. The Specialist’s assistant had asked me, why don’t you take a picture of her everyday so you can look and see the difference. Sometimes if you are with her everyday you just don’t notice…

We feed her the enzymes. We wait.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I cross my fingers and feel no more lucky than the little Monopoly man lifting his top hat in greeting. He wants to be ingratiating like a pearl rather than a sliver. He wants to be taller.

Will Lily's new enzyme treatment soak into her deflated muscle and flesh? Will her stomach and intestines take what they need from the food I give her and infuse her little body with the stuff that keeps us going everyday over and over again and sending us the energy we need to wake and smile love breath tie our shoes hope sneeze and wrap our arms around someone we want to keep forever every time we blink and during the pause in between?

Rocking in the unfinished wooden chair Jerry tells me, I hope this is it. I really do.

The vet said it would not be immediate. We should watch for changes….I lean on the mantle and look at an ornamental blue birdhouse my mother gave me. It has a dented aluminum roof and chipped paint.

Driving later I say, maybe by Friday I'll have confidence that this is the right and she'll be better. Jerry nods and I steer us through roads soaking back into the earth as daylight fades and the blacktop's surface is more of an assumption as I squint at oncoming headlights and look for my turn.

The piles she left on the floor have changed color and I want to report fewer messes, but I am not sure. The house is infused with stink when we get home and it's all coming from this one innocent, lopsided little pile growing cold on the tile floor. The vet had asked me about smell, but it was far gentler than this. Does digestion create this stink? I hope so.

Lily sleeps and I do not hear the sound of what I imagine to be a huge, damp bubble shoving itself through intestines stretching and hurrying this imposition along. Is her food sitting quietly in line and wandering through her gut without a rush and all the noise I have listened to for weeks?

I won't run with her in the mornings as of now. Too much exercise. The vet said: no jogging! How did he know? Makes sense to me. We have hours and days of reassembly to do. Then we'll exercise. Then we'll do some training. Then we'll be better.

I want to be hopeful, and if I were a kid I'd be sure that with the right combination of adults that the world could be saved. But I am the adult and I have learned that luck is something that happens when you try hard enough, and only if you are lucky.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Into the woods I stepped with expectation and a hope of discovery. Lily brushed past my thigh with her tail whipping like a ribbon…

At the specialist's today we stood in an empty waiting room where only the two of us cast reflections on polished floors big enough for basketball. I turned toward the front desk where two receptionists and a couple of women in scrubs were walking toward the exit. Everyone had stopped to stare at Lily -- a little tableau of strangers smiling and waiting.

Her name is Lily I say, sending my voice bouncing across shiny floors.

They move erupt laugh squat down and reach out their hands. Hello pretty girl! The room tips and everyone slips toward Lily.

At the gas station later Lily sits looking looking and checking all the windows. I hear, how old is your puppy? The attendant is coming outside to see her. A year and a half…everybody loves her. No one is put off by her long dark snout and flash of jagged white inside as she yawns. A tall and quiet dog with pointy ears, Lily somehow has the allure, comfort, and gravity of a stuffed bunny.

Another exam and blood test and questions. How long has she been like this, not to be gross, but what color is her stool what consistency and does it smell? I'll be right back just wait here this will take only a minute and at last, the door closes I stand there. Little nags stuff cotton into my ears as suddenly a void settles on the room where Lily the doctor and his intern had stood. They somehow dragged the sounds of everyday life out the door. Minutes later he is back and saying he thinks it could be a pancreatic insufficiency. I tell him we had thought so. If she doesn't have it, then she has every symptom.

Sprinkle this enzyme in her bowl and stir in water and after 20 minutes you can feed her.

I will.

Lily is now 43 pounds. I suspect her body is drawing its energy from her organs and muscle. The food just is not enough. Now I worry. How much longer has she got?

At home I feed her and minutes later she lifts her tail and splashes the basement floor.

In the woods with the town historian and the dogs we creep through the debris of an old foundation encrusted with lichen and look for hints. He asks about Lily and I say I am worried now about how diminished she has become, and I worry about a strain on her heart and organs. Should she be out here running around? Maybe not, but if her sickness is going to take her with it when it gets down to the vacation's last pair of socks and finally decides to leave, then I will have to say goodbye to Lily. If time runs out on her I would rather see it happen out here in the woods and sun and fresh air, not in my basement where she may or may not be resting her head beside her latest pile of diarrhea.

Hours later she is doing OK. This really needs to work. I feed her again and wait. She moves toward the front door and curls up on a doggy bed and digests.

I left the forest hours earlier with questions, a tick crawling on a pant leg, and a brier embedded in my palm. Now at 11:30 pm I peek at Lily plopped down on her dog bed and I wonder if this will work.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lily is going to a specialist tomorrow and I have been peeking through thick curtains that hide my thoughts as I sleep. In dreams I see anxiety I see me with curls from pink sponge rollers mom pinned into my hair the night before. My bangs are straight like maybe my hair is really curly and she ironed them.

My nightgown is pink and my arm is around Gypsy's neck. Gypsy our first dog was big and loving and died of arthritis in her hip that swelled like she had a watermelon jammed beneath her skin.

Dad said she knew it was time. She smelled terrible. I miss her.

I think of Gypsy and somewhere at night I roll over and jostle myself just enough to throw that memory off its loop.

Another dream starts. We're in my old Bronco rolling downhill. My friend Jack and I are waiting to see Ozzy the pug in a field or somewhere I am not sure. The road dips. I see the drop and the hard turns but my reactions are slow we bump the curb and I can't explain why I am not stopping. It's like my foot won't press. That image drifts away. It's a tale unfinished in my head. Where were we going?

Dad wants to come with me tomorrow to see this specialist but I have to leave the house around 8 am. How is he going to go with me? I don't want to say no, but I don't know how we'll have company in the middle of our morning while we rush from bedroom to bathroom to the washing machine, where are my underwear!

Brushing teeth and showering and getting dressed and how do Jerry and I do this?

Mom calls and I finally admit that it's easier and less stressful to just go on my own.

Any other time of day would have been better, I tell her. Dad gets on to say, don't worry, I just wanted to be supportive. I know, I tell him, but if it were at any other time of day….

In the woods we visit the foundation and I keep waiting for some hints of its long-ago owner to emerge from the ground. The dogs and I roam the site -- all of us seeking different things.

On our way up I follow their flopping tails and ragged path through the woods down into a valley. From between rises I wonder who last walked across this ground. Lily is great. She never wanders away she never chases after Bandit's curly, furry tail and disappears.

Do you think she has always been like this and her owner just told us it started suddenly with a vaccination shot?

I don't think he would make things up, I tell Jerry. Who knows, really. Who knows.

I am afraid to hear the specialist's thoughts I am also afraid not to hear the specialist's thoughts. What a funny place to be.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I don’t know if there is a single god that sat down like an architect and designed all the intricacies of our world and its beauty and mystery, but I think each living organism is infused with a trace of something sentient other than our own thoughts and that glowing filament needs our attention. Is God in there orchestrating things? Is that where we receive our little hints of intuition, understand when someone is staring at us, feel an unusual fear at the peek of a cliff or other height where our toes poke over the edge?

What about Lily? What is this unusual gravity that draws me to her?

I think sometimes you like that dog more than me, Jerry said to me. I answer, she needs help. You don’t.

I don’t like that comparison. It forces a choice and this is not about choices. This is about stashing my effort where it is needed most. Lily is sick, and that’s my explanation. My time is not a pie and we don’t all deserve equal pieces. Lily needs more, even extra frosting.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rustling pulls our attention to shadows behind the shed.
Lily is around the lawnmower over the stonewall and across a brief space walled in by glacial rock.
She’s after that possum we often catch scurrying between a gap in stones. Imagine warm sprays of blood and squeals of suffering where one minute the possum trundled through dry leaves and another its vertebrae snapped like milk crackers under Lily’s jaw. I call for Jerry.
Lily trots back, head up, with a limp possum draped between her teeth.
As I reach to her she drops her head low and lets the possum fall. Up close I see crumbled leaves stuck to its mouth, and think that its roundish little fleshy ears look like wax. Feeling bad for being angry, I realize Lily must have survived this way when she would escape her prior home and roam.
Pulling her gently Lily walks past me to Jerry and into the house.
The possum gets up and wobbles away. Oh Lily.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rarely do I wake with insight from a dream that even my sleeping mind finds complicated. Seeing it all again as I stare at the window wall ceiling I recognize few faces quickly passing or a landscape rolling. There are no familiar bits of childhood impressions or an old backyard fort. My friend had asked me weeks ago, don’t you dream?


While I slept my errant thoughts upended a toy box and dug through closets assembling scenarios I’ll never shake: I walk down a long geometric and tan corridor that becomes a hotel lobby. Rooms and staircases and people I don’t know are made of stark color. Their clothes faces bags glasses hair and words all tout blazing hues. I squint and she finds me. A girl I have never seen approaches, frantic. My brother died. He DIED. Abruptly calm, she tells me, he was asphyxiated. He and his girlfriend are curled up in bed. We’re moving upstairs and my editor is there telling me to enter the dead boy’s room. Throughout the dream I am silent and without a voice to oppose.

It’s my brother’s room, the girl tells me, but he really died days ago.

Asking if I wanted to see where he died and pushing me into the room I see a blank bed.

Death’s last posture is an appeal, my editor explains. So he gets on the bed to demonstrate the mystery of each body’s passing and the plea we need to decipher from an outstretched arm, clutched stomach, or head in hands.

From my editor’s reenactment I see that the girl’s brother had clutched balled clothing in his fist, arm jabbing out as if shoving laundry at the servants.

None of this makes sense and I wonder if Lily has tapped into some timid little corner in my head where anxiety has tossed its trash

Outside as the weather warms and snow disappears the stench of Lily’s problem is clear. How will I fix the backyard where we take her out to lift her tail and pour her food-turned-mush along the ground.

Tuesday we see a specialist. What the hell.

Friday, March 5, 2010

After placing her food bowl on the floor I took a picture of Lily. Standing above her I shot the camera down and her eyes asked me a strange thing. Why did you sprinkle clay over my food?

Hershey drops her stick and storms toward a glistening, perfectly round surface in the forest floor where stones form a ring. She leaps and for a second the rustle of leaves under her feet is gone. From within her own quiet she throws out her paws and lands in the water pooled in a hand-dug well that is now a puddle amid forest growth. Forgotten. In the few feet of water she paddles and Lily stands near the edge. She drinks. I hear a pug behind me. I look up a rocky rise to hunt for tan flashes of movement. Where is Bandit?

We’re home. The dogs find different places to hang their tired limbs and rest. Lily is flattened on the floor, as if she sunk in.

Last night the couch held a collection of dogs head to ass to head to ass.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Have you been having any weird dreams, a friend asked.

Why? I wanted to know.

He tells me, you said you’re really tired. get some sleep, you need those dreams.

I agree. I lay down at night like a lump with knees and elbows and slowly warm up under the comforter.

In the morning I am still in the same spot; my heavy arms and legs never shifted.

I grew a kink beneath my shoulder blades and I think this sort of inert restless dreamless sleep like drying cement is the reason.

Up with Lily and outside and over broken branches and boulders sitting there for centuries until one day they held up my foot. Through the hemlocks and I trip and plant a gloved hand hard against a bubble of snow. Crossing a deer path and uphill to a clearing I look for a stick so Lily can chase it, turning her face upward and waiting to watch it fly. Pressing Lily’s pretty face between my palms and leaning my head against the flat slope above her snout I imagine a hollowed egg shell. I hold in my hands something as fleeting as a bird’s skull. I feel the structure of her head and think of straws holding up a tissue.

The vet left a message to ask how she was doing.

She is doing, I tell the answering machine.

Last night Lily and I ran. With her leash in my hand the ground felt as if its substance was slipping away and unable to hold my feet. I look down at a blinding white surface sloping downward and Lily and I are falling.

At 4:27 in the morning when the birds are still quiet I wake from the dream.