Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dixie's in Recovery

Dixie was diagnosed a few weeks ago as having a hypo-thyroid condition. Her thyroid has stopped functioning. I am giving her Thyroxine daily. In addition, as you all know, she has Lyme disease and receives Cosequin twice a day.

I found out recently that hypothyroidism is common in Airedales. It's unfortunate that Dixie, who will turn 4 on May 5th, has to have the double whammy of that and Lyme.

She's now responding to the medication after the vet had me increase the dosage from one Thyroxin pill to one and a half pills per day. IFortunately,by having such a positive response to the increase in medication, she won't have to be tested for Addison's disease.

FYI, Addison's disease is a malfunction of the adrenal glands. The gland stops producing cortisol. It turns out that JFK had Addison's. I guess it is treatable; the test, I've been told, is expensive. I don't really care about the latter part.

Some of the symptoms of Addison's includes loss of appetite, hyperpigmentation (darkened skin), nausea, diarrhea, depression, irritability, muscle weakness, and chronic fatigue. While I'm not sure of the nausea, she has most of the other symptoms. However, hypothryoidism also has those same symptoms. It all comes down to whether she responds to the thyroid medicine.

When I took her out several nights ago she had periods of lethargy interspersed with periods of being a typical, jaunty and playful Airedale. Over the past two days, however, she's been walking with her tail up, has that Airedale air about her and is getting back her stride; she's also regained her appetite. Unfortunately, it's been raining and so it is hard to tell how much her stamina has increased. As with me,the weather is affecting her mood.

It's hard to imagine, though I've been through every moment with her, in her short little life Dixie's been bitten by a copperhead snake and survived, had the area just below her right dew claw sliced open, been bitten by a deer tick and gotten Lyme disease, had a bacterial infection, and now has had her thyroid shut down. That's a lot for anyone, even an Airedale Terrier dog, to take on. I think it's due to her fortitude and genes that she's come this far - and, I believe, will continue to carry on for years to come.

Just the other day I was telling a co-worker that she's gone from hiking over mountains with me to becoming an urban walker. However, as she's an integral part of my life, I'll take her any way she is.

More Trees Less Bush

I watched some of the President’s news conference the other night. He’s such an effacing, aw shucks kind of guy that it’s hard, preliminarily, not to like him. He’s sort of a doofus and it’s right there that it gets dangerous. He’s easy to like and while he’s slapping you on the back he’s got his hand in your wallet and he’s leading you to the brink of disaster.

This Social Security thing; on TV he’s challenging the Democrats to come up with a plan. The Republicans, he said, have a plan, they’re the party of preparation. Well, I read in the Boston Globe today that the plan he’s putting forth to the American public is one that he’s just recently grasped at – like literally a week ago. He knew he needed something to tell America about how he’s going to “change” Social Security and so he eventually found something. It wasn’t him, his advisors or his political party that came up with the idea. They found it in an article in the Washington Post. “Hey, that sounds good. Let’s use it.” That sure demonstrated a lot of forethought and academic thinking.

At least now people know that if you’re in what is considered the middle class, you’ll get fewer benefits; if you’re really poor you’ll continue to get just enough to maybe keep you alive and if you’re rich you still won’t have to care. What bugs me is that he’s completely lying about the insolvency of the Social Security system and his desire to fix it. The only folks who would benefit under his “reform” are the Wall Street brokers, the only ones - and they are the ones who are really targeted in his plan - targeted to get the American public’s money, every last one of us.

Everyone who is even remotely aware of the stock market knows that there’s no such thing as a sure thing on Wall St. In fact, I’ve always been told not to invest unless I’m willing and able to lose my money. Don’t invest in the stock market unless you can afford to live without the money you’ve invested. The stock market goes up and down; sometimes people lose it all, sometimes they make out. But generally, only the already rich get richer. If you have it and you can afford to lose it, then you can also afford to give it away and so you don’t care either way.

But, just as in the legal system in which the only people who make out are the lawyers, on Wall St. the only ones who make out for sure are the investment brokers. You could lose your entire life savings on a bad investment; however, the investment broker you gave your money to will still get his share. And Bush wants me to give them the only income I’ll have in old age.

Recently I’ve been studying up on the Medicare Modernization Act. That’s not its full name but it’s a fool’s game. This is another Bush program in which the Americans who need it the most are going to suffer. In this game, the only people who make out are the pharmaceutical companies. On January 1, 2006, the Act goes into effect. I won’t try to get too technical here, but just know, for example, that if you are a retiree and you get a pension but need to supplement your income with Social Security and you also have to take a bunch of drugs for your health and so you are in the Medicare system, you are going to find that this program will take your money and give you a whole lot less than you had before. Now I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am, but my belief is that things are going to get very ugly for America’s senior citizens, poor folk and people with disabilities. It may well come down to the choice being, for Americans who need to use Medicare, whether to use their limited income to purchase drugs off of a limited menu to keep them alive or to eat.

It might be a good idea to invest your Social Security money in pharmaceutical stock and the stocks of the dog and cat food manufacturers. Trading futures in the stocks of the funeral industry might be a good move, too.

I was also reading about Bush’s plan to dismantle the Rehabilitative Services Administration (RSA). The former director of RSA, Joanne Wilson, quit several months ago. She accused the Bush Administration of quietly moving to get rid of the whole agency. Recently I learned that the Bush Administration has eliminated the RSA regional offices and is planning to consolidate the agency into some other, yet to be determined, federal agency. While we in the disability community always debated about the wisdom of the state agencies that received RSA money, we always knew that they were trying to find jobs at competitive wages for folks with disabilities. People with disabilities who received services through the state agencies were able to get needed education, training, durable medical equipment, and other goods and services that allowed them to go to work. Then they could become taxpayers instead of tax burdens.

Now, with the dismantling of RSA, the money that would have been going to invest in the American people can go to someplace where it’s really needed – like to continue to support the war in Iraq – and wherever America needs to be next to spread the voice of freedom and democracy across the world and God Bless ‘Em Real Good for doing that.

One irony of this whole war thing is that Bush has cut benefits and services to vets who have been wounded in the war. Think about that for a while while thinking about what I’ve written about so far.

Then we get to the Terry Schaivo case. If there’s one good thing that’s come out of her death it’s that everyone’s now aware of the need to consider having a living will and a health proxy. I have one that I made with my sister prior to my going to South America. It wasn’t because of Terry’s situation that I did it but I’m glad I have one. The shame about the whole Schaivo thing is how the Bush Administration jumped on it to further their cause of Right to Life. They didn’t care about Terry and her family and her husband and what he did or didn’t do or might have done, the Bush Administration’s whole issue was to promote their Christian Conservative views on America. No, their whole issue was not really to promote their views; rather, it was to shove them down America’s throats, like it or not.

I read recently that in the states where the abstinence only programs have been instituted is where the highest instances of teenage pregnancy occur. In addition, in those states that are the most fervently against same sex marriage are where the highest instances of divorce are. And, in those states that support the No Child Left Behind program, have, guess what, the highest rates of school dropout and lowest rates of literacy.

What are these people thinking?

Bush and his Administration, and his supporters, are very scary and they are taking America down a road that is heading toward the apocalypse. America is becoming a two class society – the middle class has all but evaporated; the democratic values of America have been seriously eroded. I believe we are heading into a depression. I only hope that America wakes up and smells the garbage we’re being force fed.

We may well be living in a dictatorship under an oppressive government that is telling us that they are the voice of freedom and choice. What the Bush Administration is doing in the other countries in which their hands are in is almost not as bad as what they are doing to us here at home. The hardest thing to swallow about all of this is that they truly believe that what they are doing is best for the country. That is what makes it so scary, for all of us – Christian, Muslim, Jew, Agnostic, Atheist, black, white, yellow, red, straight, gay, young and old.

This is a time in which our environment is eroding, our social services are eroding, our principles and our lives are being compromised. Trees, on the other hand, clean the air, provide life to birds and support the very fabric of life. Trees are the symbol of strength, of courage and freedom, and of growth. Trees are the voice of the future.

We need more trees and less Bush.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bach, Brahms, Beer, & the Boston Marathon

This weekend was a pretty good one, all in all. Any weekend that includes a holiday on one end is a good one. I spent this one by doing a variety of things. On Friday night I went to Swing City and danced to the band, Swing Legacy.

As it usually is, there were too many people in too small of a hall dancing too hard. Come Friday night, after a long week at work, dancing helps one blow off a lot of pent up frustrations. However, it can get deadly out there on the dance floor. Some folks who dance Lindy swing around like two barely connected tops almost out of control. They get a wide berth from most of the others; however, that cuts down on the amount of dancing space and so what happens is that those folks can’t cut loose because there’s not enough room. I’ve spoken to any number of women there who’ve given up wearing open-toed low cut dancing shoes and have instead gone with shoes that protect their toes, insteps and ankles. This past Friday I clipped the back of the ankle of a dancer’s foot. I stopped to apologize and got whacked myself from behind by someone else. Nonetheless, it’s a good time and a good night out.

On Saturday I discovered a new route up to the scenic overlook at Prospect Hill Park. Along the way we met up with two women and their dogs. Part of our conversation was being thankful that the park road was still not open, forcing everyone to walk. When the road opens, I was told, it becomes almost unsafe for the dogs. People drive right up to one of the picnic spots, campsites, or to the overlook and so dogs and walkers get literally pushed to the side of the road. Dixie is still not up to snuff so, while she was able to keep up, she didn’t interact too much with the other dogs and pretty much kept by my side.

On Sunday I journeyed up to Newburyport with a co-worker and a friend of theirs to listen to chamber music. Sitting in the parish hall of the Unitarian Universalist Church on a beautiful afternoon, we listened to the works of Bach, Brahms, Windemark,, played on cello and piano. The performers, Karen Wilson on cello and Frances Burmeister on piano, were excellent. Ms. Wilson performs with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and is a practicing psychotherapist, while Ms. Burmeister plays, teaches, composes and lives in Boston’s South End. The hall was full of friendly people and, as there was a breeze coming in off the water, the air was cool and delightful.

Prior to and after the concert we walked around Newburyport some, taking in the ambiance and getting a feel for the historic nature of the port. On the other side of the sound from Newburyport is New Hampshire. Looking east along the sound you can see where the Atlantic Ocean meets the bay waters. Newburyport, it seems, has a long maritime history; today, however, it’s a tourist trap. And, on this sunny and gorgeous Sunday, a three day weekend to boot with the next week being schools’ spring break, there were zillions of people everywhere. They were all over the promenade, stretched out on the Common, lying on the grass in the waterfront park, all over the place. You almost couldn’t notice the historic nature of the town for all the tourists.

Crammed into all these hundreds of years old, historic, buildings were lots and lots of shops: designer clothing shops, funky shops, beachwear shops, cutesy-cutesy shops, artsy-craftsy shops; and, fancy, trendy and regular restaurants, as well. Tons of people were going in and out of the shops, pounding their feet on the brick sidewalks. Families, singles, couples, motorcycle gangs, and teenagers all soaking up the sun, taking in the town and spending money. Walking around before the concert I stopped at an old-timey soda fountain store and had a double dip of ice cream in a cup: Vanilla Bean Crunch and Chocolate Addiction. Hmnn-hmnn-hmnn. It was good!

After the concert we ventured into a restaurant for supper. The waitress was pleasant, though harried. They’d had a lot more business this day than any one in the place was used to having. Even though they were out of several items on the menu and also among the day’s specials, we still had enough choices to satisfy us. And, of course, we had a beer. In fact, I had two Whale Tail beers. I never had a Whale Tail beer before and didn’t find out if it was local, regional or what. Nevertheless, it was good.

While the folks I was with chose lighter fare, I had the Chicken Piccatore. We ate, conversed and had a nice time. Well mostly. The only bad part was when the motorcycle gang parked out front cranked up their bikes. Since it was so warm outside the restaurant had it’s windows and front door open. The Harley boys and girls had their bikes ass end in and when they started their engines, they blew gas and oil fumes right into the restaurant. While that was pretty disgusting, and certainly noisy, the smells and sounds dissipated fairly rapidly.

Today, Monday, is Patriot’s Day. It’s one of the 13 state holidays we state workers get to celebrate annually. For most people up here, Patriot’s Day represents the Boston Marathon; but, historically, Patriot’s Day is the day the state sets aside as a part of its celebrated history to commemorate the firing of the first shot of the Revolutionary War in Lexington, MA. Unfortunately today, though, especially among the young, it’s only known for the Marathon and for the name of the football team.

I decided to celebrate Patriot’s Day by going to the Hale Reservation for a hike. It seems like Dixie’s responding to the Thyroxin and Cosequin; she was a little lively, seemed to have some energy, so I thought, why not. Hale Reservation, which sits in the tony area of Westwood, is only a 15-20 minute drive from Waltham on Route 128/95. The reservation during the summer becomes a boy scout campground and dogs are not allowed there after June 22nd, as I learned upon arriving from a departing dog walker. The area includes two big lakes and lots of hiking trails. While Dixie didn’t go swimming, she did go in up to her dew claws and drank up the fresh, clear and cold lake water. There were lots of other dogs swimming and running around. Again, Dixie did not interact with the other dogs and seemed tentative around them but that’s ok. She does have more spunk than she had even yesterday.

On our way back to Waltham I decided to take the local roads, to check out the area. I thought I’d drive from Westwood, through Dover to Wellesley, from there up through Newton and then into Waltham. It was a good plan, I had my map book with me and it was a beautiful day for a ride. Today was also the Boston Marathon, in which 20,000 runners participate and run from somewhere west of Wellesley into Boston. Most of the City of Boston shuts down on Patriot’s Day, not because it’s a holiday but because of all the people who participate and watch the race. The City virtually grinds to a halt from all the people. It is a huge attraction. I figured (if you know me you know I’m always figuring) that by 4 in the afternoon the race would be done, the roads would be open and I could just slide home. Not so. What took me 20 minutes to get to took me two hours to get home.

I was hot, I was tired, I was becoming bitchy. The traffic was backed up and people were everywhere, carrying their lawn chairs, blankets and seat cushions. Cars were everywhere. Roads, especially the ones I wanted to take, were blocked off. It was a mess. Mind you now, I’m ten miles west of the City of Boston and it’s eight hours after the race started. Eventually I was able to wend my way back along Boylston St. to get onto 128/95 and slowly inch my way home. The guy on the radio said that 128 was clear in both directions. Obviously, he wasn’t there.

What I could have gone for right then out there on the road, though, was a couple of Whale Tails to take off the edge and a Harley to cut through all the traffic. Well, maybe not. Maybe it was just better to kick back and revel in the thoughts of the weekend’s unfolding of nature, history, music, and song while creeping along at 20 mph on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in eastern Massachusetts.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

From Waltham to West Newton

The drive from my apartment in Waltham to the West Newton Commuter Rail stop is actually just over five minutes. During that time, however, any number of mental processes can occur – memories, thoughts and day dreams; and, concurrently, realities that intrude on those reveries such as pedestrians crossing the street and cars and trucks ahead of me stopping for the pedestrians crossing the street. Drivers will stop for people crossing the street just about anywhere, not only in the crosswalks. Tailgating can be dangerous. There’s a lot to pay attention to while you’re lost in thought. It’s easier at the train stop where I can stand lost in the morning sun waiting for the train.

The sun rising over the Mass. Pike at the West Newton commuter rail stop is bright, warming and allows me to mentally block out the noise of the traffic on the other side of the barricade. I stand and let it wash over me, warming my soul and allowing me to see, through closed eyes, the universe in all its’ splendor. Sometimes the colors behind my closed eyelids are purple changing to a rose and then into a yellow moving towards white. I can see swarms of stars swirling and moving, being pulled by a celestial force away from me that draws me along with it. There’re times, standing there at the edge of the train tracks that I feel like I’m instead on the edge of the galaxy. It’s a wonderful meditation-reverie, being lost like that in the brightness of the sun, observing for just a moment the peacefulness there can be inside me.

I’ve also made a number of other observations recently; they’re about the people I actually see here in Boston and that use public transportation. One observation is that a lot of people use mass transit up here. Another is that most of the folks, and there are a lot of them, look trim and fit. Given that there’s a walk and steps – lots of steps and/or ramps – involved in getting to and from the rail stop, I’ve noticed that very few of the transit riders are overweight. They don’t look like fitness freaks necessarily, they just look like active people whose activities keep them fit – like walking a lot to catch the bus, train, and/or subway. In addition, since the T runs “at or near being on schedule” most of the time, folks cutting it close break out into a trot if they are behind schedule.

Last week I was running late and so I had to hustle through my normal walking part of the commute and, while not getting into a dead sprint to get to the train before it pulled away, I was winded by the time I got on it. I have to cover about 100 yards from where I park which includes a relatively steep incline of about 100 feet up to street level, over to the three flights of steps I have to walk down to get onto the platform. I then walk about 50 yards to where the train actually stops. Finally, I have to walk up four steps to get on the train.

I used to get off at South Station and walk a good mile and a half to get to work, skirting the edge of China Town, passing Tufts University Medical Center and the Boston Herald building. I now disembark at the Back Bay station and walk just a little more than a mile through the South End to get to work. It’s a very pleasant walk and every day I pass the Boston Ballet and also see the Cathedral, the Church of the Holy Cross. At the end of the day I reverse the process. As a result, I’m guaranteed to walk at least 2.5 miles a day. Add to that my walking Dixie every morning and night and I easily cover three miles a day. This past Monday I got into work and then walked up to the China Trade Building, which is up at one edge of the Boston Common, for a meeting and then walked back. I figured on that day I covered at least five miles on foot before retiring for the night. I guess I could have taken the Silver Line bus up most of the way but, hey, it was a nice day and it’s always pleasant to walk through China Town.

I gotten to see a lot of downtown workers. I’ve walked to and from the State House and to either South Station or back to work during the day and I’ve also eaten lunch in China Town a few times. Downtown Boston is very busy during the day and, while I haven’t yet traveled into Boston in the evening, I’ve been told that it’s also active at night. Boston doesn’t become a ghost town once the offices close. It does, however, shut down early.

Most of the public transportation systems cease running at midnight. As a result, unless you’re driving, and parking is very expensive in Boston, you tend to get home by midnight. There’s a saying up here that while New York is the city that never sleeps, Boston is the city that slumbers.

It is very cool up here that the buses, trains and subways are coordinated. You get off of one of the systems and, needing to transfer, find the next system right there. However, one can’t dawdle getting to the transfer. In fact, move a little slowly and you might see the vehicle pulling away, the next one not coming for 20 to 45 minutes. So, you tend to hustle. I see people coming up from out of the subway at the Back Bay Station and breaking into a full gallop to make sure they catch the bus waiting just outside the station. It’s not like there’s a lot of pressure from the frustration of maybe not catching the bus that might lead to a heart attack, it’s just like it’s exercise to catch the bus/train/subway that creates an athletic experience; hence, not too many overweight people on the public transit system.

Another thing I’ve noticed while sitting on the train and observing people, is that there’s a lot of really bright looking people around me. Some look like the typical egghead, others look very intellectual and the rest just look smart. Admittedly, there are a few people I see that have dull eyes and flat expressions, but most of the folks look really bright. You can just see it in their eyes. I guess, what with there being around 60 colleges and universities (Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston College, and Boston University, to name a few) in my immediate transit riding neighborhood, there would be a bunch of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed folks in the area.

People up here dress a little more casually, too. Maybe it has to do with the weather, maybe because brain power is more valuable than proper dress, maybe because America is moving toward casual dress Friday on every day of the week. Recently I saw a businessman-looking guy wearing a suit and tennis shoes. It didn’t appear that he had a briefcase with him that would be of sufficient size to carry a pair of dress shoes. I notice a lot of L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer and REI clothing, too. Almost every body, it seems, carries a backpack or a soft-sided brief case. Occasionally you’ll see someone in a traditional trench coat with a leather brief case, but they seem to be the exception. Most folks, it seems, dress for warmth and comfort. I can’t say, though, that people don’t dress for style, it’s just that the style is a little more casual. Admittedly, I haven’t gotten around and about a whole lot, since I’m now just up here two months and my observations are based on a limited sample area. Nevertheless, as I travel through downtown Boston and around the greater Boston area, that’s what I’ve noticed.

I’ve also observed that it’s about 8 – 10 degrees cooler up here than it is where I came from. While the Weeping Willow and Magnolia trees and the Rhododendrons are starting to bud up, and the Jonquils and Crocus’ are blooming, the rest of the flora and fauna have yet to Spring forth. The summer is shorter here than it is 400 miles south. Although it’s supposed to go up to close to 70 degrees today, the middle of April, it was 34 degrees this morning and is supposed to go down close to in the 20’s tonight. I’ve been told the swimming season is from Memorial Day through Labor Day, which is also the tradition back home. However, most years you can actually go swimming by Memorial Day. I’m not quite sure I’d believe that for up here in this region, even if Massachusetts is considered as being in southern New England.

The other day I attended a training session in Carver, which is in the Southern part of the state, not too far from Plymouth. After the training, my two colleagues and I decided to go into Plymouth, as one of them had never seen Plymouth Rock. It was a beautiful bright, sunny day. However, there was a strong wind blowing in off the water that just refused to let the sun have a warming influence over us. Nevertheless, we watched the seagulls hover and heard them squawk in the cloudless sky, we saw the Rock, we saw the statue of Massasoit and we walked over to Sean O’Toole’s Pub to have lunch. I asked my colleagues, one of whom was a Mass. native and the other of whom has been living in Mass. for more than 20 years, when folks started swimming for the season.

One of them never went into the ocean and the other one only swam in a pool. While that didn’t exactly answer my question, apparently, since even in the summer the ocean’s temperature hovers around 65 degrees, it’s a pretty short swimming season up here. I guess it’s a really hot day that drives people into the water, although I can’t imagine there’s too many of those days even during the season.

On our way back to the car we passed a street side café that offered Quahog sandwiches. I had to ask, how does one say Quahog and, perhaps more importantly, what is it? I was told it was sort of like a clam and that it’s pronounced ko-hog. I didn’t ask how they tasted.

When we got back to the car I noticed that the Sea gulls had left their calling card on my front windshield. Big white splotches spattered right where I looked out to drive. For a brief moment I thought about what I saw when I closed my eyes in the morning sun at the West Newton train stop but instead all I saw was red and, as it was getting late, I was tired and we had a long drive back to Boston, I didn’t even want to think about seeing the expanding universe in Sea gull guano.

After I dropped my colleagues off, I got on the Mass. Pike to go home. Taking the West Newton/Wellesley exit off the Pike, which is right next to the train stop, I knew I had just a little more than a five minute drive to get home. Having to continue to look around the Sea gull stuff while I drove those last few remaining minutes was really irritating. It did, however, remind me of a story my ex used to tell about her step-father saying to her that she was “Just like a damn Sea gull.” All she did was eat, shit and squawk. On another day, that story might be funny.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Dixie's Diagnosis

Last Saturday, while taking Dixie back and forth to the vet during lunch time from my hospice volunteer training in Marlborough, I was cruising along the Mass. Pike in the middle lane at a speed just about equal to the route number. It occurred to me that at noontime on a weekend it might be prime time for the state troopers to be out in force but I did need to get Dixie to the vet by 12:30. I became momentarily distracted from that line of thinking as I passed a delivery truck traveling in the right lane. Something about the truck captured my interest and I found myself reading the information on its side. Since I was passing it pretty rapidly, I could only get a close look quickly. Suddenly, out of the corner of my left eye, a car traveling in the passing lane flashed past.

Now, since I was traveling along at (close to) 90, I didn’t think too many folks would be passing me. But, ya never know. So I looked over to see who this speed demon was and saw this state trooper fading away to the east in front of me. Out of respect for the law I decided to slow down a few miles an hour to a more respectable speeding violation limit.

This Saturday I took Dixie to get her teeth cleaned, got the results of the blood tests and also told the vet the good news. The good news is that Dixie’s perked up (mostly) and is eating her food and drinking, pooping and peeing, and, except for still being slow, moves around pretty good. She’s back to chasing squirrels and cats. The vet said that was good news, indeed. The blood test results showed that she’d had a bacterial infection; the antibiotics of penicillin and cephalexin are doing their jobs. I then learned the rest of the story.

Dixie has hypo-thyroidism. It’s this condition that’s causing her to slow down. The vet hopes that after 7 – 10 days of taking medication I’ll see a marked improvement in her condition. It’s a little funny, in a sick kind of way, to watch Dixie go after squirrels such that they saunter instead of scamper while she’s charging ahead in a sort of slow motion run after them. You gotta love her for trying, though. She puts her soul into it, even if her feet can’t carry out her heart’s desire.

The vet gave me medication for Dixie to take related to the teeth cleaning. Her teeth are fine but from the cleaning the gums are a little tender so the medication is to help heal the tender tissue.

I’m standing at the window in the reception area of the vet’s clinic with vials of pills piling up in my pocket. I said “Wait a Minute. I’m to give her the Cephalixin, the thyroid pills, the pills for the teeth and also the Cosequin? Every day? I’m to give her some of these pills once a day, some twice, this tiny little yellow and white capsule I’m supposed to break in half and give her three times a day? And still another pill she’s supposed to take for the rest of her life?” Yep, was the reply (you have to say “Yep” with an Israeli/New England accent. Now that is an interesting Yep, if you can say it that way). And by the way, the vet says, here’s the bill.

“Yep.” I said, with a slightly Southern twang using a sad affect in the accent. “That sure is the bill.”

So now we know: Dixie had a bacterial infection that she picked up like a bad accent up here in Massachusetts and also has a screwy thyroid. Poor dog. It’s no wonder she’s been walking around hung down, laid low and moving slow as molasses. With all this medication about to be introduced into her, she should perk up, pick up and move out – with “vigah,” as JFK used to say. Maybe. The vet’s going to call me on Monday to see how she’s doing.

How’s she’s doing right now, on a gorgeous New England spring day, is sleeping off the effects of the anesthesia used to put her to sleep in order to clean her teeth. And that’s another thing – Now I have to brush her teeth every day.

I never heard of brushing a dog’s teeth. “Oh yes.” Say the dog people in the know. One must brush the teeth of the animal daily to excise the enzymes that build up on the outer side of the teeth and gum line that causes plaque to form. One needn’t worry about the inside of the teeth as the animal’s natural saliva will dissolve the nahsty stuff.

Hell, I can’t even remember to floss my own teeth daily and now I have to remember to brush my dog’s teeth, but only on the outside. And, the vet specifically reminded me not to use my finger, I had to use the brush. And, to use the large end of the brush, the smaller end being for cats. Can you imagine trying to brush a cat’s teeth? Plus, I have to give her more medications daily than my mother had in her pillbox. How come I can’t just toss Dixie a milk bone now and again for her to chew on and call it even?

Oh! The indignity, the dog owner society says, to treat your animal like a common animal. What kind of beast are you?


Dixie, the Airedale Dog, is back on the road to recovery. She’ll be traveling at a little slower pace, perhaps, but she will certainly be a lot wiser in the long run. She will also have teeth that will simply sparkle.

I think we’ll go out and celebrate by taking a walk in the sun. It’ll do us both good.

I’ll just have to remember to take sunglasses along to protect me from the glare off her teeth when she smiles.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Dixie's Still Depressed

Erma Bombeck once wrote a book entitled – “If Life’s Such A Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing In the Pits?” Now that I’ve been living in Waltham for a month and a half, it’s finally stopped snowing and we’re moving into the spring rainy season, the jury’s still out on the status of my bowl of life. I’ve decided that it’s going to take a while before I can truly determine whether moving from Baltimore to Boston, from Maryland to Massachusetts, from one BM to another, was a good idea or a bust.

I’d thought a lot about the opportunities that might open up by journeying north, and I thought I’d pretty much covered the pitfalls. However, never in my wildest imagination did I ever think my dog would fall prey to the big D. Depression, that is. It never occurred to me that she’d be anything other than an Airedale Terrier: rugged, independent, full of life, charging full steam ahead into the next adventure. Her personality was always one of being the kind of dog that just wants to have fun.

We’d moved before, from Catonsville to Parkville, from a house to an apartment to a house. We’d made new friends in new places. She’d run with new dogs and adjusted to her new surroundings without obvious difficulty. However, seeing her now with her tail between her legs, walking incredibly slowly, head down, eyes downcast, not eating, was not something I’d ever considered. It made me question everything I’d ever done to and with her. I started mentally going back and forth between angst and guilt, frustration and frenzy. I was told that a dog could literally will itself to death by stopping eating. I was getting depressed trying to deal with her depression.

This all started the very day I started work, almost two weeks after we moved up here. The first day I went to work she stopped eating and sunk down into a depression that hasn’t lifted yet. Over the last 16 days she’s lost four pounds, going from 43 to 39. I want to give her a haircut but don’t dare because I’m afraid she’ll look anorexic. When I run my hands along her sides I can feel her ribs.

It's gotten so bad that I have done two things out of desperation – I made an appointment with the vet to have her blood tested for whatever and I also contacted a pet psychic. I went to the vet today and she is going to have a CBC test done on Dixie’s blood and also have it checked for Addison’s Disease. She took Dixie’s temperature, which was 103 degrees, one degree above normal, and also checked for any enlarged organs. Dixie’s innards seemed ok, she got a shot of penicillin and a prescription for Cephalexin.

The pet psychic, in a three way conversation between her, Dixie and me earlier in the week reached a somewhat different conclusion. The psychic said that Dixie said that she felt lonely, isolated, without any stimulation; her stomach hurt and she may have a cracked tooth. Dixie also said that her joints ache; they don’t hurt her, they just ache. She said she missed looking out the windows and front door. On the advice of the psychic, who said that Dixie agreed to work with me on this, I switched her to canned food, stopped giving her the Cosequin, built a box so she can look out the window and take her out three times a day.

We go out first thing in the morning, as soon as I come home from work and again at the end of the night. I’ve noticed that during the morning walk, which is at 6 a.m., she alternates between being her old self and being lethargic, almost as though she sometimes forgets to be depressed and then remembers. During the after work walk she walks like she’s on a death march. There’ve been times she’s walked so slowly that I thought I would lose my mind. It was slower walking than when my kids were toddlers. During the end of the night walks she comes alive, tail up, sniffing, going into yards and bushes, chasing a scent; unfortunately, by that time I’m ready to go to bed and so it consequently becomes the shortest walk of all.

If I prod her, she will climb up on the box I made, which is sturdy and easily climb-up-able, and look out the window but I haven’t seen any evidence of her doing it on her own. I leave the window open during the day hoping she’ll hear sounds, catch a scent and become curious enough to check it out.

By the end of the week she started eating the canned food, at least most of a can of it. I read on the can that a dog her size is supposed to eat 2 to 3 cans a day. Dixie may get one down. She has started eating milk bones again and has yet to refuse a Nawsome or a bacon flavored Beggin’ Strip. Next week I’m taking her to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and to check to see if she has any cracked teeth.

Each time she perks up I think we’ve turned the corner. Some people tell me that she’s going through an adjustment period and just needs time. Other people have suggested I put her on Prozac. Fortunately, the vet doesn’t agree with that latter course of action. I’m concerned that her psychological state may subject her to physiological consequences. I know that when people have depression you’re just supposed to be supportive and encourage them to continue to participate in their activities as best they can. Ultimately, it’s up to them. So, I go back and forth between taking Dixie out, putting out then throwing away uneaten food and walking with her at her rate of speed versus telling her to just suck it up and get on with life. Even the psychic agreed that it’s really going to be up to her.

What I do know is that she has, for better or for worse, consumed my life. I can only hope that she will eventually get back to being Dixie, the Airedale Dog. I don’t even want to think about the alternative.