We are all happy to be upstaged. Upstaging is what Chet Baker does best.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
SO much good has been happening lately. Book's almost officially out; I'm filling your orders every day and loving that you're ordering them from me. It's taking pretty much all I've got to get these orders filled before the ship date arrives. THANK YOU!
You make everything I'm fixin' to whine about possible. I mean that. Thank you.
Every light source casts a shadow, and lately I've been dancing in and out of view.
The Universe is lobbing messages at me thick and fast, acting as if I weren't listening. So it keeps pitching them faster and harder.
Yes, several. And they're all going to go at once.
OK. Uh huh. So I'm not invulnerable. Got it. Thanks.
And you maxed out your dental insurance for the year with the first root canal. Next one, and all the crowns, are on you, Sister. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Right when I have to scratch together money to pay for Phoebe's college?
Yep. You have to fix your teeth now. Because, you know, eating and drinking and pain and all that.
And...Psst. It's not just your teeth. Everything is broken. Both upstairs and downstairs refrigerators are going to die within a week of each other. Bathroom fixtures, furnace dying; septic aerator dead; drains plugged...notice anything else? Car. Liam needs a car. So you need another car.
Universe, I don't want to look around any more. I want things to work like they're supposed to. I want things to work like Bill and I do. Which is all the time, and hard.
Yes. Well, work harder.
Ahem. Now. About your dog. That little black dog of yours.
That one you love so much.
I CAN'T HEAR YOU, UNIVERSE. Get out of here. Leave us alone.
My little dog is exempt from your stupid plan, whatever it is. He's too dear. Keep your damn gloms off him.
Well, here's the thing. He can't hear you. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Remember the little video of Chet Baker trying to get a chipmunk out of a log? I get a whole 'nother thing out of watching that video now that I know what was going on with him, as far back as February 7, when it was made.
If you'll indulge me, please watch it again.
Notice how, when I speak to him, his ears don't swivel? And when I finally turn to leave and call him, he seems to be ignoring me? At the time, I chalked it up to his being interested in the chipmunk inside the log. Still, I wondered. You can hear me pause, laugh nervously, and say, "It's gettin' dark." Then I turn around and am relieved that he's following at last. Big sigh. Even though he's half rat terrier, it was well out of character for him to keep at the chipmunk log when I'd gently asked him to come with me.
I know now he wasn't ignoring me. He couldn't hear me.
The very evening I shot that video, a lot of other stuff happened.
That night I got my first real clue that something was wrong, in two of the most terrifying hours of my life, when he simply vanished. We'd stayed out to watch this sunset from a ridge several miles from home. Then we turned back to the road, where my car was parked about a mile distant. One minute I had stopped to take a photo of Buddy's old house, lit by one porch light, and Chet was right beside me, and I was talking to him, and the next he was gone, nowhere to be found. What in the Sam Hill??? Chet Baker doesn't leave his Mether! Did a coy-wolf snatch him away?
When it got pitch dark, Chet lost track of me. When he could no longer see me, he panicked and, against all reason, backtracked the way we'd come, looking for me. I was out on the road, and he took off back they way we'd come, into the woods, up the ridge trail we'd just come down. I couldn't know at the time why he did that, what he was thinking or where he might have gone; all I could do is yell myself hoarse and run up and down the road, trying to find him in the pitch dark. Little did I know that no matter how loudly I yelled, he couldn't hear me. I guess I thought he was having a momentary lapse of reason. I had to run to a hilltop for reception and call my friend Gary to bring his truck and a big flashlight. I was never so happy to hear a phone pick up, to have a friend who'd jump to my aid. We drove all of Pontius Road and then took the truck onto to the woods road I'd been on. It was a last resort. I couldn't believe my dog would just run off. I knew he had to be confused, because he never leaves me on purpose unless he's got a good (animal chasin') reason.
Chet suddenly materialized out of the dark, running toward the truck headlights, frantically looking for me. I leapt out of the truck and wrapped my arms around that little sausage. I don't know who was happier. We were both wriggling. He had run away from me on a 37 degree night with the wind picking up and the coy-wolves waiting. I thought he had panicked and just wasn't listening. I didn't yet know he couldn't hear me.
Chet contracted an ear infection in early February, and nursed it quietly until he turned up holding his head to one side and listless. On February 19, he simply stopped obeying my commands to go to this or that side of the road, something at which he had always been automatic and flawless and absolutely dependable. And on our afternoon run that day, he ignored my increasingly sharp calls and trotted right out into the road as a roaring pickup was coming on. Horrified, I sprinted up and clawed him out of its path, muscling him to the shoulder of the road. The truck slowed, then accelerated again, gunning his engine. You and your stupid dog, outta my way. (Thanks for your understanding, Big Shot.)
When Chet finally saw the truck roar by he cringed and shrank backward, shocked that he hadn't known it was there. He was mortified and scared to death. And I knew then without a doubt he was deaf. The realization hit me like that truck nearly hit him. And then I knew why I'd lost him two weeks earlier, and why he had "ignored" me when I'd suggested he leave the chiptymunk and come with me. Suddenly it all made sense.
Although it was the day before I was to leave for Costa Rica, I rushed him to Dr. Lutz; we treated it with systemic and topical antibiotics (well, Bill and Liam did, while I was away!) and the infection cleared up nicely, but it took what remained of his hearing with it when it left.
He was confused, so lost, so sad. He couldn't understand why I wasn't talking to him any more. Why I'd move my mouth but make no sound.
I was crushed. How could this be? How could my best friend, the one I tell everything, no longer hear me?
I took him to Dr. Lutz for a followup after the antibiotic course, and she said his ears looked 100% better than when I'd first brought him in. He was out of pain. Those beautiful ears were clean and healed. But they didn't work any more.
It's been an adjustment for us all.
This little dog, who has gone blissfully naked all his life, wears a collar now whenever we go out. And on that collar is a bell. It's clanky, and sounds like a sheep bell. It alerts the wildlife that we're coming. I purely hated it at first. But now it comforts me, because I can always tell where he is. I need to know where he is all the time, if we're to keep running these roads. Sometimes I take it off him on the dirt roads in broad daylight. We've been sticking to the dirt roads.
We run a lot less. We're both getting soft. I mean to fix that. But I haven't had much time lately or, frankly, the heart.
The little green disc is a light that I can press to activate when it gets dark. The light's a good thing, too. But we haven't had to test it yet.
If you look at all these recent photos of Chet, you'll see he holds his ears swiveled back now. It's as if he's trying to hear anything that might sneak up behind him. As if he is afraid he'll miss something. Because he is. He looks over his shoulder constantly, worried about the trucks. Dirt roads, that's the ticket.
I had to grieve for awhile. And so did Liam, and especially Phoebe. The thing that we all had to get through our heads was that nothing but his hearing had changed. He wasn't gone--he was still all Bacon. He didn't stop needing to be spoken to and loved and comforted and joked and messed with, just because his world had gone silent.
The thing he had to get through his smart little noggin was that he has to keep his eyes on me at all times. It didn't take long for him to catch on that he'd have to use his nose and those googly eyes a lot more to keep track of me.
And he's doing really well at that. He follows me around the house like a hemorrhoid. Well, even more like a hemorrhoid than usual. I have grown accustomed to having the bathroom door scratched open. It makes me laugh, except when I'm in the shower and he wanders in to say hello, then leaves with the door wide open and freezes me out.
We're working on hand signals. He'll stand and look at me, waiting for an invitation to come out the door or get out of the car. He sees my lips moving and stares at me. Well? And when I give the hand signal, out he comes. He's quicker to learn than I am.
He trots ahead of me, but checks over his shoulder every minute or so to make sure I'm still there. Unless he's on the way home, toward dark or in bad weather. Then he goes like a bat out of hell, doesn't look back nearly as much, and I have no choice but to keep up. Speed has never been my forte. Maybe I'll lose some weight. Keeping up with The Bacon, keeping him safe, is a strong motivator.
It was hard for Phoebe. When she came home for spring break her beloved pooch had changed, a lot. For not only had he lost his hearing, but Dr. Lutz and I were also in the process of figuring out that he had low thyroid levels, as well. His hair was thinning; he was drinking a lot more water than usual, his nose was warm more often than cool, and his energy was low. Sometimes he wouldn't want to come for a run. He quit tearing up cereal boxes. What?? That wasn't Chet Baker. Something else had to be wrong. A blood workup confirmed our suspicions, and Dr. Lutz started him on thyroid medication March 11, when Phoebe came home from Bowdoin to find her little dog a sort of low-energy shadow of his former self.
We started the thyroid pills, and within only a couple of days we started referring to them as his "Feel Good Pills." Better living through chemistry!
And the neat thing about that was she got to be home for three weeks to see him start feeling a little better, every day. To feel well enough to be a goofball again, to frisk and try to grab the basketball and pop it! To jump up in the UPS truck! To murph for treats! To be a pest! To tear things up!
We are all happy to be upstaged. Upstaging is what Chet Baker does best.
He has not wanted for love. Forget Heaven. This is a Boston terrier's concept of it. I'm smiling, looking at this photo.
In my head, I just heard my DOD, who was basically bald from college on, saying, "Look at all that hair." At my college graduation ceremonies, as we looked over the sea of student heads, he kept saying that. At the time, I didn't quite get what he meant. Now I do. And I'm laughing out loud. Beauty is wasted on the young. Of course we have nice hair. What of it?
Like the glossy thick hair and smooth porcelain skin of youth, all things change, whether we want them to or not. Dogs change much too soon, and much too fast, to be fair. We have to listen hard to what they're telling us, and try our best to catch their subtle SOS's.
We have to ask ourselves if our sweet boy is just suddenly slowing down at 11, or if he's got a problem (or two).
Whether we want to or not, we have to listen to the Universe, feel that pointed elbow digging in our ribs, pay attention.
And after that, after we've done everything we can to help them, we must learn to love our dogs for who they are, what they are and where they are, every step of the way, in their all-too-brief walk alongside us.
Or out in front of us. Mr. FeelGood picks up speed, a little black pony headed for the barn, more than two miles away.
HOLD ON THERE CHET! I'm a-comin'!