Sunday, August 29, 2010

Taking a walk with Holly

I feel like I have been neglecting Holly lately, in favor of the baby. Panda demands a lot of time, and of course, she is very cute and photogenic, but that is no excuse for ignoring the older, better behaved dog.

Actually, it started in the winter, during the terrible last part of Grace's life, when I wanted to savor every moment with her and took Holly for granted. She and I clung together for a while after we lost Grace, but when spring arrived, full of birding trips and a new puppy, my attention was divided between activities. Then came summer's heat, puppy training, and too many hours spent working. I was tired, too tired to devote any leftover spare time to my sweet, patient old girl.

Dogs, of course, are the most forgiving souls on the planet, always understanding, never blaming or accusing. Still, when those soulful brown eyes kept looking up at me every time I left the house, I began to feel guilty.

This week, I vowed to take Holly out for some one-on-one time with Mom. The enthusiasm she showed when she realized we were going out together nearly broke my heart. She pranced down the sidewalk and waited eagerly by the car door. Going for a ride is always fun for Holly, but this time the destination was more than just the post office and the IGA.

Crooked Run. My own little private sanctuary. Despite the fact that this nature preserve actually belongs to the Clermont County Parks Dept., I feel very possessive of this wooded spot on the Ohio River. There is a pleasant loop trail about a mile long, as well as some meandering paths that criss-cross the preserve. It is quiet and peaceful, and we rarely see another human soul. Holly knows it as well as I - it is our favorite morning walk. Come along with us.
We walk slowly, at the pace of a dog's nose. I have no particular agenda this morning, so am content to let Holly take her time, soaking in an incredible world of scent that I will never know.I find that this allows me the freedom to fiddle with the camera settings, trying to render the dappled sunlight and shades of green and brown into images that reflect what I am really seeing. When none of the factory presets work, I reach deep within myself for the courage to go to Manual mode, and discover I can take a picture, now and then.I'm carrying my binoculars, but hardly using them. Instead, I am hearing the birds rather than seeing them, identifying them almost without thinking about it. I'm not chasing or working these birds, not listing or counting them. Instead, I am breathing them in, absorbing their essence through my skin. I am birding by osmosis. Zen birding - I like it.

Neither am I using the leash draped around my neck. I carry it for form's sake, in case we meet another walker or a park official, but I really don't need it. Holly and I are tethered by something stronger than a nylon collar and a leather lead. We have a bond unbreakable, forged of love and understanding, tempered by time. She knows not to leave the trail or run off. She doesn't even chase the rabbit we flush from the edge of the path. I know I can trust her implicitly.

She wanders ahead, but always at a respectful distance.
If I fall too far behind, she stops and looks back, checking for me and maintaining eye contact. When I don't move quickly enough to keep up with her, she turns and trots back, encouraging me to move along.If I do happen to lose sight of her, I'm not worried.
I know she will wait for me, and when I come around the bend, I will be greeted by this face.
As we near the end of the trail, Holly's slowing down. She's more likely to be found at my side or even trailing behind a few paces, and it strikes me that my high-energy Lab mix is nearly 12 years old. She doesn't quite have the stamina she had in the past.

She is willing to sit and waitwhile I snap pictures of wildflowersand seedpodsand fishermenand weird galls on leaves.She even lies down to restwhen I take forever getting my exposures right.Fortunately, she is still able to serve as my scout and my protector. She checks that the bridge over the pond's overflow is safe for me to cross, even though the water, which is usually level with the boardwalk, has dried to crust.Too soon, the walk was over. The heat and humidity were taking their toll on us both, and it was time to head home. It was only an hour walk, a brief time to spend with my old friend, but such a special time, and one that we both needed. Devote an hour of uncomplicated time to your dog today - you won't be sorry.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The one in which Panda gets spayed

Momma has a strict rule at our house: "No babies." So last week, she told me it was time to "fix me," so I did not have babies. I did not think I needed to be fixed. I thought I was perfect, just the way I was. But after all, I am the baby of this house, and I do not want any other babies to come along and be more specialer than me, so I agreed to this "fixing" thing.
First, they put me in a cage at The Work. I am not usually in these metal cages. I usually have my own room at The Work, with my toys and bowls and things. This cage is different. I thought maybe I should worry, but somehow, I was so tired, I could not keep my eyes open, let alone worry about anything.
"Katie, I feel really funny. Please hold me close - this room is spinning."
They put a little stick in my arm and then I went from a little bit sleepy to all the way asleep, and after that, I do not remember much, but Momma and Katie took lots of pictures, and this is what they said was next.
They opened up my mouth. I have a really big mouth, and I am proud of it. Look how big my mouth is!
They put this tube in my mouth and all the way into my breathing tube. I did not feel the tube, and I do not remember it, but Momma says it is real, real important to have this tube in when you are asleep, especially if you have a smooshie face like me.
I do not think this is a very nice picture of me, and I do not like it that Momma put it in the blog.They scrubbed my tummy, to make it all clean. I have a bath every week, and I wash my hands and face every day myself, so I did not think I was very dirty, but they told me I had to be extra-special clean for the fixing.

They took me into the room with the bright lights and the table that moves up and down. I see this room every day, and I know that they take sleepy dogs and cats in here all the time and they are all OK, so I knew I would be, too.

They put me on my back on the special table, and underneath me was a blanket with warm water running through it that helped keep me warm. This is very important when you are very little, because being cold makes it harder to wake up later.

They put a thing around my ankle to give me Blood Pressure and tied my arms down so I would not roll around. Then Momma put on some really ugly clothes and covered me all up with a blue thing. You cannot even see me, but I am there, under the blue thing. Kate is checking to make sure I am still there.
Please do not laugh at Momma in her ugly clothes that do not match. She does not have any "fashion sense."OK, now we are all ready to go.
The next pictures might make some of you feel icky, but I think it is pretty neat to see what my insides look like. If some of you have girl dogs, you might like to see my insides, too, so you know what happened to your dogs during the fixing. It is OK - you can look.

Besides, I really like Momma's hands. Her hands are the best part of her. She can do lots of special things with her hands, like the fixing, so you should watch. (I will let Momma 'splain what she is doing.)

first incision, through the skin
second incision, abdominal wall
using a spay hook to find the uterus
exteriorizing uterus
tugging on uterus to exteriorize ovary
pointing out ovary
triple clamp technique
cut between clamps
ligating ovarian pedicle
double ligatures for safety
both ovaries ligated
pointing out cervix
ligating uterine body
complete ovariohysterectomy
(removal of ovaries and uterus)

closing abdominal layer
closing skin layer
surgery finished

Kate thought she would be funny with me while I was asleep. Momma says she hopes the doctors and nurses who do the fixing to people do not make fun of them when they are asleep.
The black clip on my tongue is to see that I have enough oxygen in my blood. It does not pinch or hurt. I am not sure what oxygen is, but I am glad that I had enough.
This picture is when I was starting to wake up, but I could not swallow yet. Momma says it is important to leave the breathing tube in smooshie faced dogs until they are able to swallow, so that they do not choke. I think I remember this part, but maybe I just dreamed it.
It is good to have a friend with you when you wake up from the fixing. I am glad that Momma thought to bring my pink pig that day, and that they gave it to me. It made waking up nicer.
But, it is even better to be held and carried around when you are so sleepy, like Amanda did for me. It felt so good, I went back to sleep on her shoulder.
And so, now I am home and everything is all right, really. Momma gives me a little pill in my dinner every night, which is supposed to help with the belly pain, even though I do not have any belly pain. I tell her I am a big dog, and strong and brave, but she just smiles and gives me the belly pain pill anyway.
The only bad part is Momma says "Cage rest and leash walk only" for at least a week, and I want to run and jump on things and play with Holly and torture the cats and she says "No." Do you know how long a week is? Because I do not and I think it must be a really long time.