Meh to Spring? Nah…

Happy Spring

“Happy spring equinox,” I say cheerily to The Poodle as I get ready to walk him out the door. “The sun is shining and it’s gonna be a lovely walk.  Let’s make it a nice long one, around the lake,” I continue as I grab keys and insure I’ve got a poop bag or two.

“Alexa…what’s the temperature?”

“It’s 28 degrees,” was her reply.

“Oh for heaven’s sake…enough of this cold already!” I grumble as I switch to a warmer coat and don hat, gloves and search for my favorite scarf, a blue wool one that hubby says matches my eyes.

The Poodle sits patiently as I get myself together.  He knows the drill.  I look him over as I consider whether to subject him to his Pendleton coat.  I think he rather loathes it.   He’s still looking mighty goofy from his last grooming appointment– so goofy that I’d swear his eyes are pleading;  No photos on Facebook please!   His usual groomer–a lovely Asian woman who had the perfect touch with my boy– hurt her back late last year and now I hear she may not return to work.  A new gal has taken over and …well….she doesn’t have the touch.   I decide to forgo the coat which I’m certain makes my pooch happy.

To keep warm I started out fast, with The Poodle struggling to keep up.  It doesn’t take long into our walk down into the woods to realize that plan B would be in order.  Short walk it is.

As I walk without music on this occasion, my mind wanders… and wonders.

Still holding on to winter…

Some trees are starting to open to the perpetual promise of spring while other trees are late to the party with their brown, dry withered leaves from last year still stubbornly clinging to otherwise bare branches.  And how is it that they still cling after the long winter with plenty of days marked by fiercely strong, bitterly cold winds?

As we round a bend and head up a steep hill back into the housing area my eye catches something blue up in a tree.

Seriously? I say out aloud as I get closer and realize what it is. It’s a bag of dog poop that someone had to have literally thrown from higher up the hill. How is it that someone was this rude? Probably a kid walking their dog. I suppose I should be thankful that the poop was picked up (and I am) ….but still. The poop bag in the trees gets my thoughts on a negative roll. Inexplicably (or not) now I’m thinking of all the recent headlines.

My heart aches for New Zealand while my blood boils over the college admission scandal. And don’t get me started on AOC in D.C. nor Pelosi’s push to lower the voting age to sixteen. I’m no academic on teen brains but I think of my children when they were that age….not to mention all the neighbors’ kids back in the day…or even the teens at the swimming pool just last summer. Lord have mercy I seriously don’t want them voting for our next president! Adolescent brains undergo a crucial development spurt between the ages of 11 and 19. As one author, Sheryl Feinstein, Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress, puts it: “…Just as a teen may go through an awkward growth spurt, new cognitive skills and competencies may come in leaps and stutters.” Plainly, the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t full developed until their early twenties. In the teen brain, the amygdala whose role in the brain is the processing of memory, decision-making and, importantly, emotional responses (such as fear, aggression, and anxiety) is more highly activated during heat-of-the moment situations. The teen’s pre-frontal cortex–the complex cognitive, rational part of the brain–isn’t ready to take control over emotional processing which explains why many teens do profoundly stupid and/or silly things.

Sigh. I suppose I shouldn’t get my knickers in a twist over what goes on in the world. This Too Shall Pass is my favorite mantra these days. And yes, adults do profoundly stupid and insane things too. Lunacy, in one form or another, has been around since time immemorial.

In teen-speak: apathetic, uninterested, or indifferent to the subject at hand

Meh. My senior brain is tired of (most) of it all. So much so that I’m distancing myself more and more from the news of the day. It’s such a tremendous drag on heart and soul. I’d much rather curl up with The Poodle and bury my head in a book.

Ah…but wait! Worry not. I can’t say I’m “Meh” to Spring! The promise of warm days ahead, flowers in full bloom and trees full of leaves makes me happy and thankful to bear witness to all that is good and beautiful.

There is bliss in that.

Mellow Monday

A view in the Woods

Winter continues in my neck of the woods. I won’t complain as we were spared the wintry mix of snow and sleet that had been the forecast over the weekend. However, I’ll readily admit that I am more than tired of gloves, hats and bulky coats. 

Even though I had on all the aforementioned, including a wool scarf, I grumbled during the first few minutes of my morning walk. A cold wind stung my cheeks as I headed into the woods with The Poodle. As we neared the top of the path that leads down into the woods to our two lakes The Poodle pulled, hard. Something in the air had sparked his entire body into keen attention. A soft growl followed by barking broke my focus on the music I was listening to.  The Poodle had his snout practically glued to the muddy path, sniffing like crazy, as he continued to pull.  “Heel,” I said as I looked all around and pulled back on his leash.

Please let it not be the woman with the two Labs, one black and the other yellow.

My boy is as friendly as can be with most dogs…and humans too. But it baffles me that he’ll go all-out Cujo when he sees those two. And it is just those two Labs; he’s happily cavorted with plenty of Labs over these last ten years.

Thankfully, the Labs are nowhere in sight. Perhaps it was a fox that had  him go all Tasmanian devil on me. It’s happened on numerous occasions during our walks in the woods. The first time it happened, just after we had moved to Northern Virginia, it scared me witless. The Poodle was agitated beyond belief, practically pulling my arm out of my socket. For the life of me I couldn’t see what was causing his melt-down. Images of being mauled by a bear (yes, apparently there are bears living in suburbia!) made my heart race as I all but sprinted out of the woods to “safety.” Yep folks….there’s “chicken” in my blood…..

Whoosh. It was over in a flash. The Poodle slowed, as if terribly disappointed, walking once again calmly at my side.  I stopped to pet him rubbing my hands over the length of his back.

“I don’t know what it was that got you in such a tizzy my love, but you are such a good boy.”  He stares at me intently with eyes that are milky with age. For a brief moment my heart is gripped with a certain sadness: my Poodle love will not be with me forever.

But we are here now…together came the thought, as if carried in on a feather.

So yes, the remainder of our walk had me centered inward more than usual.  I’ll attribute my lost-in-thought walk to Hearts of Space (a streaming music service that my brother-in-law got me hooked on several years ago). For the fourth time within a twenty-four hour period I found myself pulled in by this weeks’ music compilation: Specifically program number 1207, titled A Fragile Beauty. This particular playlist features “ambient chamber and choral harmonies for the winter season.”  Eleni Karaindrou’s Love Theme and Johann Johannsson’s  A Pile of Dust https://youtu.be/L1pnayWa4dYl compelled me to stop and gaze at the seemingly weak winter sun as it struggled to shine through a thick haze of gray clouds. A shiver shook me awake. I must have mellowed inward far too long as The Poodle had decided to plop himself down on a mess of muck and who knows what else as I stood in the morning quiet.

Oh dear….we’re gonna freeze if I have us stand here any longer. Let’s get home. Kibble for you and coffee for me awaits.

The serene, melancholy and ethereal playlist was really a perfect accompaniment on a cold winter morning but it made me pine mightily for spring.  And so, the universe delivered for on the walk back towards home I spied the beginnings of tulips and crocuses too, pushing up through frozen earth.  Yes! There is the promise of color in the weeks ahead and this lifts my spirits on this, my mellow Monday.

Then around another bend, there’s a pop of color which seals the morning walk with not a promise but a fact.  Winter, as in all things…shall pass.

As torn as one can be about the nature of impermanence, there is bliss in that.

A sign of Spring!

Love Notes

 

 

Alas, not the written kind folks.   I’ve haven’t gotten too many of those in my nearly sixty-two years.  Lamentable….I know….right?! Not to worry though as I certainly haven’t let it define my life.  In fact, the few I have received (which I could name on one hand with digits left over) were special enough to make up for any perceived scarcity in the love note department.

What I am referring to on this day though are musical notes of love.  I’ve been listening to evocative romantic tunes since before my feet hit the floor this morning.   An eclectic mix of tunes from classical music (Chopin, Debussy and Bizet just to name a few) to Chris Botti and his trumpet, Keith Urban (oh where did that come from?!) and then various cedar flute selections filled the house.  Later, it would be Hearts of Space music with  David Darling’s cello that would accompany me into the woods on my morning walk and afterwards Tibetan Bells helped me to zone out for a few minutes.  In effect, my heart has been all over the place on this day after Valentines Day…from happy to heavy and all the notes in-between.

I’ll attempt to explain but honestly, the right words elude me….

My turning (and tuning) in-ward began yesterday actually, on Valentines Day.  It started early with a doorbell ring, which naturally made The Poodle bark like crazy.  He could see who was at the door and was positively busting with Poodle joy.  I had just stepped out of the shower and was, admittedly, annoyed by all the ruckus.   When The Poodle barks it often rattles my gray matter and tests mightily my patience.  I quickly donned a robe and off I went to see what had my pooch in such a tizzy.

Through the window, I could see a car pulling out of my driveway. The Poodle’s snout was squashed against the window as he whined and barked in happy excitement.

Ah…. Okay.  I see. 

My nephew, on this way to school, had left something on my front doorstep.

I opened the door to find a perfect pink rose surrounded by lovely baby’s breath.

Swoon. My first love note of the day!

My heart swelled and feelings of love kept my steps light as a feather as I breezed through morning chores humming to Coldplay and, again…. Keith Urban.  There was a brief text consisting of a string of love emojis from my husband, who was away on business travel, and even a Happy Valentines text–the first in sixteen years– from my son who continues to be mired in difficulties that make my heart break.

And then a whisper…through cyberspace…broke the spell of love notes….

I was not surprised by the email from my beloved auntie Linda;  sis and I knew it would be coming.  Linda’s husband–my favorite uncle, Uncle Budd, was expected to take his last breath imminently.  He had been under hospice care for some time.  As I read her words I became aware that I was holding my breath….

I closed my eyes and let out a long and slow exhale.  So, I decided to sit for a spell with The Poodle curled in my lap, abandoning what I had planned for the rest of the day.

I simply wanted space to remember….

In crystal clarity I can see the twinkle in his piercing blue eyes…and, I feel his loving hugs–surprisingly strong for a man of his advanced years–hugs that he gave me when I saw him last, in 2014, on the occasion of his 90th birthday.   This man, a loving and devoted husband and father, served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  He was the epitome of The Greatest Generation.    A soulful cello piece plays in the background  as I think about that visit with my uncle.  A single tear rolls down my cheek….followed by another….and another….

And there it wasregret bubbled to the surface.

I had too few moments with my uncle because  I had allowed–consciously and unconsciously–the baggage of a wrecked childhood to define me for too long….and then later, as if awakened from a slumber of a hundred years, life and geographic distance got in the way of regular visits.  I wipe the tears with the sleeve of my shirt and caress The Poodle.  “We’re all going to go,” I whisper…”there is no time to waste.”

How blessed I feel to have lovely things to think about…memories forever cherished with Uncle Budd.  There were a string of brief visits we shared in Carefree, Arizona when I’d be visiting my mother and he’d pilot his plane in to a private airport literally around the corner from where my mother lived.  I cherished those visits with my Aunt and Uncle.  We’d imbibe on good wine and catch up on life including their stories of travel and adventures but more importantly, I treasured the loving shoulders to cry on (and cry on them I did).  I hungered for their unconditional love and understanding along with Uncle Budd’s bear hugs that sent rays of brilliant sunshine straight to the ever-present hole in my heart.    And, I’ll never forget that long June weekend some fifteen years ago to the last frontier….Alaska –the place where my aunt and uncle called home for many years.  Rocket-man and I had decided to run  the Anchorage marathon.  I didn’t even need to finish the sentence when I had called to ask if we could come to “hang out” while we ran a marathon.  My aunt and uncle made me feel like a rock star that weekend…

so now….

Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Uncle Budd and I on his 90th Birthday in Seattle Washington

This gentle giant, in my eyes, has now passed.  His beautiful soul now makes the journey upwards –into the blue skies where his physical body once flew.  Though death had a duty to take him he lives on, I believe, through all the souls he touched during his 94 years on this earth.

There is, through salty tears aplenty,  a certain comfort in that.

I love you Uncle Budd.  Rest assured we will all take good care of your loved ones here as best we can until it is their time to take the journey to be at your side.

 

Wintry Mix

 

Twenty-one days into the new year and what pops into my head on this frigidly cold winter day is: Wintry Mix. That seems to best define the past few weeks….a mix of snow, wind, and rain…and good and well, not so good.

Winter berry bliss

The good includes sleeping in (rare for me) and days of delicious soups and stews, homemade bread and chicken pot pie….popcorn and Netflix movie afternoons and even a movie theater outing where we…gulp…received senior citizen discounts.   And then, there were romps in the snow.

Yes, we had a lovely snow accumulation a week ago. In fact, my back still aches from shoveling a good six inches of accumulation of the beautiful white stuff from the long, long driveway that constitutes our “pipe-stem” of four homes. Rocket-man shoveled the most as I was somewhat preoccupied with The Poodle.  I had let him out, off-leash, wearing his smart coat of course, to frolic in the snow.  And what fun he had….he was a maniac, running to and fro with unbridled joy stopping only on occasion to  stick his snout into the cold snow for lord knows what….

Cannot imagine what he’s hoping to find…..

 

I also spent a lovely afternoon playing in the snow with my nephew.   Within walking distance from the house is a substantial hill that is mighty popular with the kids…and adults too.  However, it’s just on the backside of a small dam to a man-made lake which means lots of large rocks at the base of the hill.  Images of broken limbs, or worse, popped into my head as I watched kids sled down the hill  some barely missing the rocks that could literally break their momentum as well as their noggin.  To decrease the chances of injury some parents parked themselves well in front of the rocks to catch their kids.  Sis and I did this as well while marveling over the magnificent blue sky and the unexpected sighting of a bald eagle flying from his lofty perch a stones’ throw away from all the energetic play in the snow.

“Come on Zia CC. Try just one ride down with me!” my nephew pleaded more than once.

My favorite little man on the planet.

“Are you kidding me?  Our combined weight will surely send us crashing into those rocks; your mama cannot possibly stop our momentum,” I told him.  “Plus, your Zia isn’t a spring chicken anymore.”  I’m certain the latter was lost on my nephew.

“Please CC!   It’ll be fun. Just dig your heels in to slow the sled down.  You won’t get hurt.”

I chewed on his request for a good five more rounds of him sledding down the hill and trudging back up.  Live in the moment, a little voice said.  And this is a moment that will create a memory not just for you but  for your favorite little man.   So, I surprised him by accepting his request.

“Just once….for you,” I said as I climbed on the sled behind him, doing my best not to show the terror in my eyes as I stared down the long slope of the mountain….I mean, hill.

And so,  before I had a chance to chicken out away we went…. down the length of the hill careening perfectly to the right off the sled before reaching my waiting sis.  Naturally, it was a blast.  For two nanoseconds I was a ten year-old kid!  And yes, it was thrilling enough for me to practically crawl back up the steep slope and sled down again.   Later we toasted to our snow day fun (and the fact that no bones were broken in the process) at a packed Starbucks.

So what possibly could be not so good?

For starters. the partial government shut down still drags on affecting thousands of folks to include my sister’s family.  It’s well past ridiculous.  I wish the two sides would quit the political game-playing, and simply come to the table and start seriously doing their jobs.

And, though quite the first world problem …I am still lamenting the loss of a diamond ear stud the day before Christmas.  Alas, I’ve retraced my steps over half of Northern Virginia without luck.  What a sight I must have appeared to those who witnessed a crazy woman, red hair all askew, at World Market…searching on hands and knees (yep…that was me!).  Anything that even faintly gleamed made my heart stop in hope.  Note to you kind readers: their floors are beyond filthy!

And last but not least…perhaps even more tragic than a lost diamond earring….

I broke my mouth guard.

The Earth stopped on its axis, I am sure of it, for a good long minute as the horror of the moment unfolded.

Laugh not folks.

It accidentally got knocked off the nightstand and fell to the wood floor and broke into several pieces.

I have a love/hate relationship with that piece of plastic in my mouth at night.  But after breaking teeth (which required two dental implants) it’s a vital “partner” in my night-time ritual.   Not to mention the fact that it’s $400 to replace it.

Not to worry.  Tropical bliss happens, next week.  Stay tuned.

Comfort and Joy…

Peace on Earth

May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility
— Mary Anne Radmacher

Perhaps it’s the age thing…or maybe that I’ve been faithful with Andy and Headspace for 63 days straight, and counting, but since Thanksgiving weekend I’ve been playing Christmas music…non-stop…even when working out.

Oh come on, you can say it: That is weird!

“Silent Night” and a myriad of variations of “Jingle Bells”…while lifting weights?  Yes…weird.

Oh, but how magical these past weeks have been!  I feel like the kid I should have been allowed to be all those years ago.  

Better late than never, wouldn’t you agree?!

So, Thanksgiving weekend had us in the scenic Blue Ridge mountains attending a blast of a wedding.  Specifically, Asheville, NC., an off-beat college town nestled in the mountains between the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers.  On the heels of a weekend full of wedding festivities our spirits were high during our long drive home.  Though the skies were winter-weary gray and the chill in the air was enough to warrant bun-warmers on full blast in the car, the seven hour drive had me singing to the sounds of the seasons nearly the entire way home.  Curiously, all these weeks later I still am not jingle-belled out.  Even through all the rather silly insanely stupid controversy over “Baby It’s Cold Outside” I sing (and dance myself silly) whenever, wherever I can.

The year is quickly drawing to a close and as some folks have noted, it’s been not altogether blissful, but more of a Topsy-turvy, roller-coaster kind of a ride.  I’ve no idea what 2019 will bring and honestly, I’m not even thinking of it… much.  A marked departure from my usual process.

I’m simply enjoying the here and now..the comfort and joy and, yes, even tear-filled moments…

…like holding my children’s first Christmas ornaments close to my heart before gingerly hanging them on the tree…

…or handing a $20 bill to a homeless guy in a wheelchair: “God bless you,” he said.  “No…God bless you,” I replied.

There has been Pizzelle making with my nephew as well as our first Christmas shopping experience together–sans his parents….

…and watching Rocket-man string up lights outside and marveling together, his hand warming mine, how beautiful and festive everything looks in our neighborhood.

…And, like this morning, impromptu coffee dates with my sister.  Even beaver sightings during daily walks in the woods with The Poodle– hands freezing and cheeks too…I’m treasuring every moment, uncharacteristically full of hope and wonder for the season, and all the seasons to come… willing my spirits high even when a less than blissful memory threatens to break the spell of it all.

Though we have yet to bake sheets of cookies (it’s on the list this week) perhaps best of all has been Hallmark Christmas Movies with my Poodle-Love snoozing on my lap.  Judge not peeps;  I’ll happily admit to this indulgence.  Though formulaic and fantastical, it’s a wholesome escape from the insanity of headline news.

So, before the rest of the week gets away from me…and I trust that it will…let me take this moment to wish you and yours days upon days filled with comfort and endless joy.

Oh, and one more thing….spread your bliss whenever and wherever you can! 

 

This ornament is 32 years old.
Merry Christmas 

Two Peeved Peeps

Me and my shadow

 

 

He’s getting mighty cantankerous in his senior years….stubborn too. I’ve called him some ten times already; still he refuses to budge. It’s not his hearing that is the problem. I could whisper one word…cheese…and he’d shoot down the stairs like a missile.

No, it’s not hubby that I speak of though his stubborn streak is long and deep.  I’m talking of The Poodle, of course.

With leash in hand I stomp up the stairs miffed that I even must. 

The Poodle, comfy in hismy…study chair is aware that I am none too pleased.  I stand before him with the look. 

“Come on old man…let’s go.  I’ve got things to do and places to go.”

He complies but ever so reluctantly.  He’s almost sloth-like as we make our way down the stairs.   But then, as I reach for his smart winter coat that is in a pretty wicker basket by the front door his energy picks up—he practically runs in the opposite direction.

Rocket-man howls with laughter.  Me?  I’m peeved.

“You think this is funny?” I say in exasperation as I go in search of The Poodle.  “I really don’t have time for this.”

“Yo…Brando….get over here,” I all but bellow.  Clearly, I am not in the mood for games this morning.  I suppose it’s the stress of the season.  My house looks like a bomb went off.  I’ve got boxes of Christmas decor all over the living room.  I’m behind in everything–from laundry to Italian, and a list a mile long of stuff to do…. which makes no sense at all since I’m not a working gal.   How is it I got more stuff accomplished when I worked full-time, took care of kids, went to school and trained for marathons?

Sigh.

Finally The Poodle inches his way back to the front door. 

I sit on the floor and coax him into my lap.  Looking into his eyes I whisper, I love you as I caress his head and torso.   Then I begin putting on his coat.  With his tail down between his legs he looks awfully pathetic….like he is being punished for some far-flung reason.

I’m practically gushing with “good boy” praises as he lets me arrange his coat on properly. 

“Good boy….you’re such a good boy!   I know you are not fond of this coat but you do look so very handsome in it.”

His look tells me he is not at all convinced by my words….of course he isn’t!  “Look…It’s 27 degrees outside–and it’s very windy–so it’s gonna feel like it’s 19.  Besides, you’ve got a hitch in your giddy-up with arthritis….and well….it’s a Pendleton coat for goodness sake.  How can you not like it?”

If he could talk I’m sure he say:  I much prefer my own coat, thank you very much.

We make our way out the door and into the woods.  It’s a beautiful day–just freaking cold.  Round this bend and that our walk in the woods is quiet and lovely….until I see a woman walking her two Scottish terriers coming towards us.  Her pups are dressed in Argyle sweaters, one pink and one blue.  Both dogs are all snarls and snaps. It is their usual demeanor every single morning as we pass them during our walk.  The Poodle always ignores them as if to say “What atrocious manners you two have.”

Except for this morning.  My boy snarls right back.  If fact he’s barking and pulling as if he wants a piece of them!  Whoa! What gives?!

“Leave it!” I say as I pull him close to my side.  “Easy boy….easy.”

Not five minutes later he does the same thing with another dog–a chocolate lab.  Normally my boy is as easy-going as a Sunday morning. 

When we are out of ear shot range I stop and order my boy to sit.  He complies immediately.

“What’s with you this morning?” I ask gently as I rub his snout.  It’s not like you to be in such a pissy mood.”

If he could talk he’d probably say: You weren’t too chipper this morning either mom….like you humans, we have our bad days too.  Now take off this damn coat….

As we head back home I take in, once more, the delicious quiet of the morning.  Yes, my Poodle-love…we were two peeved peeps this morning.  And really, there was no good reason for mine! There are far more pressing matters happening all over the world to get one’s tinsel in a tangle over.   Let’s go home and make things right: it’s off with the coat and a treat for you and Christmas singing whilst trimming the tree for me.

There is bliss in that.

I’d much prefer my own, stylin’ black coat, thank you very much!

Ten But Minus One….

The Poodle at Six

Kind reader, life has gotten away from me.  It’s November already! Seriously?  Where has the time gone?  The thought of Christmas around the corner boggles my mind.  Though I have no pressing agendas or a timetable that I’m subject to, I’m behind in everything, including penning a few words in this here space, at least on a weekly basis. 

Sigh.  Can you hear my groan?  There are not enough hours in a day.

So yesterday was my poodle-love’s tenth birthday. My heart swells still at the memory of that brisk February day in Oregon, well outside of Portland, in the country.  We drove up quite a hill to the modest home that sat on  acreage more than ample enough to allow puppies to thrive and run to their hearts content.  

It seems like yesterday when we first laid eyes on what was then a small bundle of black fluff. I had walked out on a large wood deck and this fellow came running out of the blue, planting himself down right between my legs.  That was it; my head and heart were seized by somersaults of  overwhelming love though I pretended to hem and haw for more than an hour as we watched how the little fellow got along with other pups and such.  Rocket-man had to agree to the new addition of course…and therein was the potential hiccup in my decade-old quest to add the pitter-patter of four paws to the house. Truth be told, initially he wasn’t all that keen on the idea.  In fact he was such a hard sell that it took me nearly ten years to merely warm him up to the idea.  At times I was ever so subtle in my approach.  We’d be out for an evening stroll and I’d make it my secret mission to stop and talk to at least one dog-walker.  Of course I’d be overly-effusive at times in an effort to engage Rocket-man, as in for example: “how brilliant that your dog fetches the paper for you every morning! That’s what we need too, don’t you think?”    At other times I could be more direct…like parking the grocery cart in the pet food isle, vocally sharing the ingredients of a particular brand that I intended to purchase for my make-believe pup, all to rocket-man eye-rolls and a shake of  his head with an emphatic “No!”

Ah, but rocket-man was captivated too on that February day that would bring further internet searches to a halt.  I had found my poodle-love–or rather, he had found me.  As for my husband: he will claim that it was the sparkle in my eyes that did him in.  I submit that he too fell in love at first sight with the ball of fluff that chose me…us.

So as I sit here an type at my desk my shadow–as I often call him– sits on top of my feet slumbering away.  He’s recovering from the trauma of a dental cleaning at the vet’s just last week.  In fact, I am sort-of recovering too…from an unexpected jolt over it all.  The vet called to advise that three teeth needed to be pulled. 

I did not see that coming. 

Okay….perhaps my head was stuck in the sand on this one.  I will admit to a little voice nagging about a certain someone’s recent bout of bad breath…

“Oh, wow,” I cried in disbelief.  “He’s had stellar checkups in the past!”

“There are a number of factors that could account for this,” the doctor said in her soothing, undeniably British voice.  “Age is certainly one factor but also he hasn’t been getting his teeth cleaned consistently and thoroughly enough.”  She noted that I’d recorded his last cleaning a little over two years ago.  Before that, my boy had had three cleanings while we lived in Southern California but those were done anesthesia-free.  I thought I was being a “good” dog-parent by not subjecting my pooch to an IV and drugs.  What I realize now is that it meant that he could not possibly receive a thorough cleaning because he was not put under for the procedure. 

After going over the options with the doctor we settled on pulling one tooth, the worst of the three that was nearly falling out due to bone loss at the site.  “We may be able buy some time for the other two; but let’s be quite vigilent about it,” said the vet.   

“I feel terrible,” I tell her.  “I’m guilty of being lazy about tooth-brushing.  I honestly tried to do it daily for awhile but life got in the way…with my mother…family stuff…moving…Lord, the list could go on!  All excuses nonetheless.” 

“Don’t beat yourself up over this,” were her kind words.  “It’s not easy for most pet-parents…sometimes it’s all we can do to brush and floss our own teeth!  And really, his health is otherwise excellent and overall, the rest of his teeth are in good shape, with minimal tartar and plaque build-up.  The important thing is that you are taking care of this severely wobbly one now which will prevent more health complications in the future if you do nothing.”

$600 dollars later….(yes, indeed that was head-popping)…. I thanked the veterinarian with certain promise that my boy would be on the schedule for a dental cleaning next October.  While he slept in his bed, fortified with antibiotics, exhausted no doubt from the stress of the day, I high-tailed it to Petsmart in search of liquid tartar remover, Greenies dental treats and canine toothpaste.  As I stood looking at all the dental-related choices I was amazed by how much the canine/feline dental products mirrors those that we “uprights” use daily.  Some would argue the canine/feline dental industry is nothing short of a scam…an unnecessary, even fabricated excuse to drain the pocketbook.  After all, as a general rule, for eons, dogs and cats in the wild didn’t go for dental cleanings.  My vet pointed out that our four-legged loves aren’t foraging for food in the wild.  They are not, for the most part, tearing meat from bones or sharpening their teeth on twigs and branches. And, they also don’t live long enough to outlive their teeth.  Our fur-babies snuggle in our laps or slumber in comfy pet beds after eating kibble or canned soft mush.   Baring unforeseen health circumstances, our pets live years longer than their close counterparts in the wild. 

So the consequences of mediocre dental hygiene are essentially no different  between us and our four-legged loves.  Just as we take our own precautions against gum disease by regular flossing, cleanings, and good dental hygiene habits, essentially the same applies to our beloved cats and dogs. Obviously, we cannot floss our dog’s teeth to prevent canine periodontis (inflammation and infection from bacteria in the mouth), but we can pay attention to our pet’s teeth with daily brushing or at least a yearly thorough dental cleaning.   Without proper care, even mildly inflamed gums can progress to full-on painful gingivitis. From there it leads to where my pooch is today…resting in his bed minus an incisor with two other teeth in peril.   Furthermore, doing nothing would exponentially increase the likelihood of developing heart disease as a constant attack of bacteria from the inflammation in the mouth would find it’s way into the blood stream…the sticky plaque substance adhering to arteries surrounding the heart, threatening other organs as well.  Not much different from us bipeds if you think about it!

I look down at The Poodle who is still sleeping on top of my feet.  “Ten years and minus a tooth,” I whisper to him.   His left ear twitches at the sound of my voice.  My heart swells.   His presence fills me with peace.  The world is right as rain when my shadow is with me.  I know our days together are numbered, in every sense of the word.  That’s the way it is of course, the natural order of things.  Impermanence.   But for now I try not to think of rainbow bridges.  I just want my birthday boy to be with me–as healthy as possible–for as long as the fates allow.

Feeling the bliss on a chilly, wet, and overall dreary November day. 

Now, get out and vote if you haven’t already!

Breath strips….really?!! My luck I’d mistake them for my own Listerine strips!
I love you “mom” but seriously…let’s get this over with so I can take this ridiculous coat off!