So the internet repairman is coming tomorrow because reasons.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist. But that’s it, more or less; I called them today to say everything was working fine, because I did the thing they told me not to do. I reset the modem. Before resetting the modem: constant inconstancy. After: rock-solid. Ergo? Conclusions, might we draw them? Nay. The tech - a nice young lady who was so laid back she didn’t even apologize for four minutes after putting me on hold for three, like the previous two intense techs - said she was still seeing lots of red on my logs. Er. Well, we can’t have that, so they’re sending out someone who will look at the wire, see it go up to the second floor, and say “I don’t have a ladder.”
After which I will say thank you for coming and that will be it.
This will be short, because rea - sorry. This will be short because
1. Really, it is a vacation week, or might as well be, what with that three-day hiatus and all
2.I have a column to get out of the way tonight so I can do another piece for work tomorrow, a real hellbender - I have been trying to find “My Minnesota” subjects but everyone is on break, or hates me
3. There’s really only one subject today anyway, and it’s one of those tenterhook situations I don’t want to jinx. Not that I believe in jinxing, anymore than anyone else does. Which is probably to say as much as anyone else does, since one hates to enumerate chicks before they peck out of the shell. What is the mortality rate for chicks? If it’s high, I can understand why you shouldn’t count your chickens until they hatch, but if it’s low it seems a sensible way of preparing for your eventual bounty of nascent poultry. Unless your hatchery doubles as a sledgehammer testing facility, I suppose, and the surfaces are uneven so the eggs roll around. But if that was the case, you’d have made arrangements. Small fences. Even stretching cling-wrap from one pipe to the other would be enough. I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be a big production, and sure, you’d lose a few eggs, but after a while you’d average out the number and incorporate it into your presumptive chicken-hatching count.
Avoiding the subject.
The dog is in bad shape.
That’s the thing, you see.
Well, I stared at that for a while, thinking what it was NOT - necessarily serious? Intractable? Final? - but what it IS seems the key point. When we got him home yesterday we saw he had a lump under his eye, and I figured that was an abscess from a bum tooth. I mean, you don’t brush your teeth for 18 years, that’ll happen. Perhaps the fact that I had a knot on my jaw earlier this year was helpful in making a snap diagnosis, but a little internetting confirmed. So I took him in today.
Picked him up, carried him with one hand down the stairs, all 42 pounds of him, and put him in the car. Which is never good, from his position. He walked slowly into the vets, stopping to sniff, which is good. As the poet said, a man who tires of London has tired of life, and for dogs, every urine-drenched object is London. The vet gave him a basic exam and confirmed: that’s your basic Carnassian inflammation, right there. Antibiotics, stat.
Not extraction. It’s chancy and dicey and iffy at his age.
But here’s the thing. If the antibiotics work, then I’m sure he still has a twangy molar. Hasn’t stopped his appetite. Lord no: last night he was walking around, whining slightly, and I thought he was in pain. Turns out he was starved. He ate three bowls of kibble then went outside to walk around in the utter darkness, using the dim pool of light by the door as his beacon. Then he went to sleep. Today, no whining or whimpering. Appetite galore. And the lump was bigger.
If you’re a dog, a twangy molar is probably the cost of doing business, and your business is EATING GOOD THINGS. If you’re the dog’s supervisor / pack leader, you watch for recurrences of the infection and pop for another round of antibiotics. ($80. With vet visit. On top of his leg pills and Tramadol.) Because, simply put, I want him to rest in the grass on a warm spring day again. Under the tree where he likes to sit.
But here’s the thing. If the operation is a fifty-fifty shot, well, the odds are better than the gentle surcease at the hands of the Lethesmith, no? A hopeful goodbye that turns into a permanent one lets everyone part well, and as much as I hate to think of it happening at the vet, if we’re all there, and he’s on his smelly mat, and he gets a Frosty Paws, well, it doesn’t completely tear me up inside like a serrated bandsaw. Completely.
But here’s the other thing. The horrible thing. You fix a price in your head, and say “yes, of course.” You imagine another price and say “no, of course not.” You’re not going to spend $36,000. Then you move the figures towards each other. Then you tell yourself, as you’re performing this cold calculation, that it’s not about you, it’s about him. But it is about you. But it is about him. That point where you blanche: is it worth it if you know he’d have a year? Six months? Six weeks?
But here’s the final thing. He’s old. He’s very old. Life has pleasures but life hurts, too. You can’t say that without flipping it around in your head right away - life hurts, but it has pleasures. You have no idea what the balance is for him, how much he simply accepts as the daily ration, the ever-now normal. You just wait for the moment, the expression, the admission. The request.
And I’m telling you this: I look for it every day. I’m not seeing it. Not even with this bum peg in his head. I made dinner tonight and he came into the kitchen to watch me eat and he barked, he barked as loud as he’s ever barked: some for me if you don’t mind. I’m past whining. I’m telling you. I want a French Fry. The hard ones with a burnt taste and the hard crunch of bone.
So he got a French Fry and he got a Frosty Paws and he got some peanut butter with his pills and he got outside on a bright day and sniffed some piss. I just went to check on him; his mouth looks like he’s smiling, and the tip of his tongue is hanging out of the front of his muzzle, like he’s blowing a raspberry. At who, you can guess. Merry contempt for the guy with the scythe. Missed me. Missed me. Now you gotta kiss me. Which you won’t, because I have bad breath. Tomorrow? Sorry, I have plans. It’s pizza night. After that I can’t say. Talk to my people.
Catch you later.
A weekend of pills; a phone call on Monday. I’m holding my breath. Here’s the thing: I think they’ll work. Because there’s still snow on the ground under the tree where he likes to sit. There’s a warm spot in the shade that’s waiting for him. The sun must feel good on old bones. He must remember that. If not, it’s another wonderful thing that just suddenly happened.
In other words: a dog’s life.