It’s National Pet Day so I couldn’t pass up an ever-so-brief homage to my poodle-love. He’ll be eleven in November so indeed, he is getting grayer and moving slower with a hitch in his giddy-up. And yet, he can hear me whisper “cheese” from a mile away (I seems) and when he sees a squirrel his limp suddenly disappears and he’s off with the speed of a Cheetah! He is a bit more curmudgeonly too; just yesterday he snapped at me when I made him get out of the flower bed because he was trying to dig a hole to the next county over! After a stern (but loving) rebuke from me and a time-out in his bed so that I could finish planting a few herbs I could tell he felt bad. As I sat looking over the newspaper, he came to set his graying snout upon my thigh with “I’m sorry Mom” eyes.
Oh, how he has brought so much joy to my life. I still pinch myself after all these years….
He Chose Me!
I love you Brando.
p.s. My boy….I know the time will come…as certain as the sun shines and the stars twinkle in the night sky…
Yet, I cannot imagine a life without you! I will be a mess for certain….
Kind readers…I know I am not alone in that thought. You feel it too, N’est-ce Pas? (He is a French poodle after all).
It goes without saying; Our pets enrich our lives in a thousand and one ways. I’ve got to believe that when that Rainbow Bridge time does come, the unconditional love our beloved pets gave us, not matter what, will keep our hearts light with love and laughter as we hold their memories dear… through whatever life throws at us. Besides, as Helen Keller said:
What we once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
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.
As usual, I am up before the chickens….before the sun. In the kitchen, I shiver as I reach for the espresso pot. Brrr!. This house is cold! It leaks like a sieve. Sigh. Just one more issue we will have to address at some point.
The sound of my wind chimes break the pre-dawn silence as a fiercely strong arctic wind whips them into a frenzy. One chime is pleasantly melodic while another–the one I brought back from my mother’s garden in Carefree–reminds me of a cow strolling in green pastures, on a hillside in Germany, perhaps. And then there is the one with a tin-can clank and another with a sound reminiscent of the old west, when a wagon train’s comical old cook would call folks to supper around the campfire using a triangle dinner bell.
As I set the pot on the burner The Poodle walks into the kitchen. Usually, while I get coffee–and for some time afterwards– he stays in his bed, curled in a tight ball, slumbering away oblivious to even neighborhood dogs barking. Under my lovely down comforter is where I’d like to be too; alas my wretched internal clock will not allow that indulgence.
The Poodle continues to stand in the doorway looking at me intently. It’s too early for kibble. Could he want his handsome sweater off?
“Oh no, no, no!” I croak, my voice still gravely from sleep. He can’t possibly want to go out now! Going out this early in the morning was not a problem in Southern California (for obvious reasons!) nor even middle-earth-land Alabama; we had a fenced yard.
“It’s not even 5:30,” I tell him. “The wind is fierce. And, I might add, my espresso is brewing.”
I look out the kitchen window and see snow. Relief washes over me. The “beast of the east” snow cyclone forecasted for the northeast has effectively missed us. Nothing major has accumulated; We’ve only got enough of a dusting to cause all sorts of havoc in schedules. Still, I murmur to the only other ears in the room. “There is snow my poodle love which would be another reason to hold on, if you can.”
My sister will be over-the-moon delighted when she wakes to see the white stuff. My nephew will be doing cartwheels because of snow-day school cancellation. Moi? Torn. Yes, there is an aesthetic pleasure in a snow-covered landscape where a blanket of white makes even junky yards beautiful. But the bitter cold and driving headaches damper my enthusiasm considerably. Not to mention having to don proper attire to actually walk The Poodle first thing in the morning since our back yard is not fenced-in. The Poodle would be off in a New York minute to chase those very squirrels that tease him into fevered barking most days of the week. I suppose blinds to the back deck door would significantly reduce that problem!
The sound of espresso bubbling jars me back to the present. The Poodle continues to stare at me, still as a statue…patient. My heart melts. He looks so handsome in his Pendleton sweater jacket…..
“Please, please let me have my coffee before we head out into this arctic blast,” I implore.
As if he understands, he heads straight for his bed which is near the kitchen table.
How lucky am I?
I pour my cup of coffee and take a seat on the floor next to my four-legged love. I gasp in mild surprise: Wow! This tile floor is cold! My poodle love in his smart little sweater is once again curled in his bedand seems fast asleep. “You are the best “puppy” in the whole world! Thank-you for cutting me a break so early this morning,” I say as I give him a pat.
As the wind howls outside I’ve got time now to enjoy my coffee and a page or two of my current read: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It’s a story about nine Americans and their quest for the Olympic gold medal at the Berlin Olympics….made all the more heart-thumping because these men–as one review puts it– will literally upstage one of the worlds most notorious monsters, Adolf Hitler. I’m only twenty-one pages in and it’s a riveting read.
I’ve got a million things I could be doing; taking down and storing all the Christmas paraphernalia for starters. But a day like this seems to scream for endless cups of strong tea and curling up with a good book with a Poodle at my side.