The Art Of Reading Through Tears

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I knew it was a risk. I had been told about a book called The Art Of Racing In The Rain and had all but ignored it…until now. I began reading this book in the waiting room of my Honda dealership while passing time during an oil change and brake pad replacement. It was a fitting scene.

The book is narrated from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a race car driver. Although I am not a race car driver (perhaps only in my mind), the irony of sitting in a car dealership while beginning this book was not lost on me. I devoured the first half of the book in two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced. I sat in a small, sparsely furnished area with three very large men and openly wept while devouring every chapter I could of this novel.

There is an underlying joke between my friend and I that we would be gold medal winners if the Olympics ever created a competition for crying. Sitting in the waiting room of that car dealership while reading this book was certainly my qualifying round. Initially I did my best to conceal my tears, but these three men were on to me from the appearance of the first glistening tear that tracked its way down my cheek and they made every effort to not make eye contact from that moment forward.

I have a dog who recently turned twelve and has health issues, and the narrative in this book hit very close to home. Every well-paced paragraph reminded me that I may be mere moments away from having to realize every truth written in this book about an aging pet. It was eviscerating, but strangely comforting.

This book gave me a gift. I now know that I will have the strength to make that tough decision because it is what is best for her, not for me. Her comfort and her dignity come before my need for having more time with her. And as I cry writing the end of this post, I know it will be one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make, but one that has to be made….for her.

 

The hitchhiker who didn’t ask for a ride

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If you follow my blog, you will know I have had some strange experiences with animals and reptiles at my home. Coming home to the eight-foot snake in my window after attending the funeral for my best friend was one of the craziest stories I have had the good fortune to tell, but yesterday’s tale is climbing the charts.

My co-worker came in to the office around noon to tell me there was a groundhog under my car. Four of us crowded around the vehicle and attempted to push the furry little guy out with a broom. It would be an understatement to say this creature was extremely uncooperative.

All the cajoling did not convince my new friend to extricate himself from under my car. Instead, he climbed up into my engine block and thought he could outwit us. We couldn’t reach him with the broom handle any more so I retrieved a pitcher of water from the kitchen and flushed him out. He lay on the ground under my car again and it was suggested I roll my car backwards, very slowly, so I didn’t pin him under the tire. The wily little bugger moved with the car so we were no further ahead. Just as I thought we were making some progress, he climbed up over my back wheel and somewhere into the frame of my car!

The afternoon progressed with no sign of the groundhog. We all went on the assumption he had crawled out when nobody was around and made his way back to his den. We assumed incorrectly. 

Fast forward to 7:30 pm. I had been home for a little over an hour and curled up on the couch reading a book. I got up to get something from the kitchen and looked out my living room window. There, munching away on the grass on my front lawn, was the groundhog. He saw me in the window and froze. I moved slightly to get a better look and he scurried back under my car. I put on my bug jacket and sat on my deck waiting to see if he would come back out. He gathered the courage to continue his expedition in uncharted territory and I took a few pictures to prove to myself I wasn’t losing my mind.

He made his way to the other side of the driveway and I can only hope he was looking for new real estate. The darkness eventually enveloped my car and the surrounding foliage. As I am writing this blog post, I can honestly say I have no idea if my hitchhiker has taken refuge from the rain in his new ride or if he found greener pastures to set up a new home. If you see an ad on Kijiji for a 2017 Honda Civic that is pet-friendly, the two events are unrelated.

 

Will the real magician please stand up?

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There is something about magic that forever binds us to our childhood. We recall birthday parties with the guy who retrieved the quarter from our ear, had a continuous cloth of many colors that he miraculously pulled out of his mouth and live animals he made disappear and reappear. These are the tricks we talked about incessantly when we were young and kids today are still engaged by those people who have the gift of magic and who can keep the illusions alive.

Every Thursday, we have a magician come to the lodge to entertain our guests. He has been a staple at the lodge for many years and the kids are always wowed by his pre-show antics during dinner. He hooks them with his sleight of hand, rewards them with a token of his wizardry and has them lining up to see his full performance when dinner has ended.

One particular night a few weeks ago, I received a text message from a co-worker. It was a message I never thought I would read and it simply said, “Frank forgot his rabbit”. The finale of his performance, the only live part of his show, was in a travel carrier and left at the lodge with nowhere to spend the night. I asked my co-worker to drop the bunny off at the staff house and we would deal with him in the morning.

The next morning came and the only place safe enough for the bunny to be harbored, until Frank could return, was my office. As cute as the bunny was, I was quickly pulled back to my childhood when I learned I was allergic to rabbits and the rest of my day was not so magical. Frank could not pick up the bunny until after his shows had ended and the bunny and I spent the day acclimating while he adjusted to being stuck in his travel cage and I adjusted to itchy, swelling eyes and sneezing.

Regardless of my allergic reaction and my utter disdain for the smell of his travel cage, that bunny became my hero. The more time he and I spent together, the more I laughed, because the more I laughed, the more I realized he held powers far beyond the cuteness of his twitching nose and his soft fur. That bunny, after years of being the victim of a disappearing act, had finally fulfilled his lifelong wish and made himself the star of the show by making the magician disappear!

Like sands through the hourglass…..

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Yesterday was a very important calendar date.  It had been looming and, as each day brought me closer to it, the dread I felt increased exponentially.

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Last year, on that precise calendar day of October 18th, my dog had her first Petit Mal seizure.  I was a mess and I called my friend in a complete panic.  He calmed me down and made me realize that I must control my hysteria.   I needed put on a brave face so my dog knew that I had my shit together.  It was tough, but I did it.

Poor Callaway lost a great deal of her freedom after that, only because I was too afraid to let her out of my sight.  What if it happened again?  And if it did happen again, what if she was somewhere on the property I couldn’t see her and didn’t know what was happening?  We bonded a great deal more over the weeks that followed her seizure because I was afraid to leave her alone.

As the days turned into months, I became less of a “helicopter parent” and eased the reigns a bit on her leash.  And then April 18th came – six months to the day after her first one –  and she had another seizure.  Like the first, it was a Petit Mal seizure.  But unlike the first, I kept my composure and soothed her through the episode.

Yesterday was October 18th.   Callaway has not shown any signs over the last six months of having had any incidents while I have been at work (or at home) but that date glowed in neon on every calendar in my peripheral vision.  It was my waking thought yesterday.  The number 18 hovered above my head like a cartoon balloon and spent the entire day threatening, like that too-close pair of glowing eyes in the dark.

But thankfully the day ended with as little commotion as it began.  And as she sits chewing on her rawhide sticks, I am thankful – thankful because I am now able to focus on all of the days she hasn’t had a seizure and not just the two that she did.

 

What is THIS lovely fragrance?

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There was no sweetness.  There were no flowers.  And the only thing that was stolen was my breath.   What began as a restful few hours between a long day and an abbreviated sleep turned into a rolling profusion of expletives followed by a few moments to regain my sense of composure.

On any other occasion, these moments could have been used to describe a much more pleasurable evening.  What really happened will live in my mind, and my nasal cavity, for years to come.

It was a routine outing.   Callaway never strays far from the house for her late night relief before bedtime so I didn’t think twice about opening the door to let her out.   But I certainly thought twice about opening the door to let her in when the pungent stench of skunk met the sensory cells of my nose.  She looked extremely pleased with herself and I’m certain she sensed that I was not so pleased.

I scoured the cupboards for the age-old remedy of tomato juice but came up empty-handed.  I glanced at the clock and it read 10:30 pm, so a trip to the local, small town grocery store was out of the question.  I then relied on the only endless source of information I had readily available – Facebook.

As much as I have expounded in great detail about this social media icon being a complete mind sucking website – it became my lifeline and my hero.   After a bath of Hydrogen Peroxide, baking soda and dish soap, the putrid odor dissipated to the point that I could tolerate her and allow my dog to come inside.   Since I would never leave her out at night, I wrapped her in blankets to help her dry off and put her to bed.

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The “lovely fragrance” still lingers on my dog and in my house.  And I’m sure it will be a phantom smell that follows me for months.  But I have since forgiven her for the reminder that she is more canine than human, and she has forgiven me for forgetting that she is a dog and that she will continue to behave as a dog.   Lessons learned…..and from now on, we walk together….Callaway on a leash, and me with a flashlight looking for any eyes in my peripheral that may pose an olfactory threat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a few grey hairs between friends?

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The grey whiskers appeared almost overnight.   In the blink of an eye, my dog had matured beyond the youthful puppy I have known for 9 years.  Sure she still has the spunk of a young pup on occasion but I can slowly see time creeping up on her faster than I would like it to.

My solace lies in the fact that our affection for each other is timeless.   Her devotion to me, whether her joints are currently aching and she has no desire to jump on my bed, is endless.  She is, and will continue for years to be, my true companion.   She is happy to see me when I have returned home after four hours or four minutes.  She never judges my idiosyncrasies and she still manages to hear my soft sobs when I am trying to quietly cry and she comes to clean away the salty tears.

callaway

I thought my life was full before she came along.   I was dead wrong.  We have always had dogs.  Growing up, my life was filled with hairballs and doggy kisses.   But Callaway is a unique soul.   There is not a doubt in my mind that she was meant to be my dog.   The picture we fell in love with on the adoption website (the one above) was a picture of her brother but it was Callaway who came into my life and into my heart.  I fought for her during my divorce because I couldn’t imagine my house without her in it.

I know I must face the inevitable – time will not go backwards and those grey hairs on her muzzle will slowly multiply, but so will the grey hairs on my head.  We will face this truth together knowing that however long we were destined to be in each other’s lives, we will make the most of each moment.

 

My catnaps are something completely different

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It was a marginally illegal happenstance born of complete innocence.  Our Chef made the familiar turn onto our road and noticed the owner’s cat in the woods about a kilometer from their house.  He did what anyone else would do in his situation and he put Lulu in his car to bring her home.

Although the cat seemed mildly disoriented, she seemed to settle back in relatively quickly and made her way to Nanny and Poppa’s house.  Having just returned from south of the border, they were happy to see Lulu and reached into the treat bag they kept at the house.  The cat seemed content to stay there for a couple of days but was finally taken back to her home.   Upon putting the cat on the porch outside of the sliding glass door, Nanny realized that Lulu was inside the house staring back at her doppelgänger on the other side of the door.  Both cats immediately puffed up to twice their size and the interloper was brought back down to the lodge for her own safety.

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The new cat, who I affectionately referred to as RuPaul, lived the Life of Riley for the next few days.  She sauntered around the property, drank lake water while standing on the sandy beach, joined a young conference who had an outdoor meeting session on the lawn and became one of the group.  She was fed, loved and seemed like she would fit right in.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out how RuPaul had come to the resort.  We realized the error that our Chef had made by erroneously abducting our neighbor’s cat and she was then returned to the property from where she had been cat-napped.

When the owner realized that Snipey had returned she called her husband immediately, commenting on how well the cat looked and that Snipey wasn’t even hungry.  After reading my message to her on Facebook, Sue called our resort and I told her the story of how her Lulu-lookalike became a part of our lodge family for a few days.  She was a great sport about the story and was extremely happy to have her cat-napped family member home safe and sound.

From now on, we’ll just have to make sure that our Chef sticks with the cat naps that I am used to and not the ones that can get him in to trouble with the neighbors!