It’s now officially Monday, the fifth of October… so ends a particularly turbulent week. The week concluded much as it began – with Dave and Grim asleep in the master bedroom while I sit quietly with Scully and Fi in the guest bedroom across the hall. The girls are snoring contentedly while I try to wind down with the aid of my laptop (though, of late, you’re more likely to find me winding down with my Kindle instead). In spite of appearances, I have the distinct impression that I used up every bit of my good karma to make it unscathed into this new week.
Last week started with a mini-break to the family cabin in the Upper Peninsula. Our original intention was to take all three dogs, but Scully’s car anxiety proved to be too extreme and we were forced to turn around before we even made it to Alma. She spent the mini-break at HHQ with Mom and Dad, while Dave and I made the five hour trek with Grimshaw and Fi. It looks like this will be Grim’s last trek to the cabin, as well. At nearly thirteen, he doesn’t seem to be able to tolerate the drive anymore either.
We arrived later than we would have liked and had to drop the dogs off at the cabin and go straight back into town to get groceries. In retrospect, we should have stopped on the way to the cabin and left the dogs in the car with the air conditioner running while we quickly shopped. That’s ultimately what we had to do, but on the night of our arrival, we thought the dogs would be all right in the cabin for the half hour that it would take to purchase some food.
When we returned with a few odds and ends for dinner, we found that Fi had torn down a set of curtains, defecated in two places and urinated on one of the sofa cushions. We spent the first night of our mini-break scrubbing carpets, cleaning upholstery and re-hanging curtains.
On the second day of our mini-vacation, we drove into town (with the dogs in tow) and purchased groceries for the remainder of our stay. After that, we returned to the cabin and spent the rest of the afternoon tinkering with equipment in the pole barn. Eventually, we were able to get a couple of lawnmowers started and we were able to reclaim the lawn before it got dark.
I had hoped to visit Tahquamenon Falls on the third day of our vacation, but Dave’s knee injury and lingering concerns about Fi’s separation anxiety kept us at home. Dave ventured into town (by himself) in the morning, because he had a phone interview scheduled with MSU and you have to go into town to get reliable cell service. He returned in good spirits and was satisfied that he gave one of the best interviews of his life.
In the afternoon, we took the dogs for a long hike in the woods… selecting a route that took us in a huge loop around my grandmother’s property. We circled back to the house by way of Aunt Mary and Uncle Ray’s, but it was raining by the time we got back, which foiled our plans for the traditional vacation campfire.
We returned home the following afternoon and found Scully in good health and good spirits. We spent the rest of the evening at the Masonic Lodge, setting up for the awards dinner that Dave was putting on the following evening. As soon as we were finished, we adjourned to the Hobbit House to tackle the weekly cleaning and grocery shopping. I was up late into the night – finishing the laundry – but everything seemed fine when I finally turned in at 5.
At 9, Dave woke me to tell me that Scully was sick… that she had vomited in the kitchen, but he was running late for work and didn’t have time to take care of it. I spent the morning cleaning up pile after pile of vomit until there was nothing left in her stomach but bile. By the afternoon, I’d called in to work and made an appointment for her at the vet.
Since my car was at the shop, I called my parents and they hurried over to help. Scully was hit with another wave of vomiting right before we put her in the car, so my mother stayed behind to clean up the mess while my father accompanied me to the vet’s office.
They assigned a new veterinarian to her case, which didn’t necessarily instill me with confidence. The new doctor’s assessment seemed thorough though: She took x-rays and blood, but I was disappointed when she returned to the room without an explanation (or even a speculative guess) as to the cause of Scully’s sudden illness and rapid decline. The only thing she could do – she told me – was treat the symptoms and wait to see if the situation resolved itself. She offered to keep Scully at the office overnight, but it didn’t make sense to me to leave her there. At home, I would be able to watch over her and care for her… whereas she would be alone for most (if not all) of the night if I left her at the office.
I was also conscious that Scully is nearly thirteen. Every illness could be the last illness when a dog is so old, and if it turned out to be her last night, I wasn’t going to let her spend it alone in a cage.
The new vet gave Scully IV fluids (because she was dehydrated) and a shot for nausea before sending her home. I got Scully settled in the living room and retrieved the carpet scrubber from the basement. I’d soon worked my way through the upper level – sweeping, mopping, vacuuming and scrubbing carpets. When I picked up the rug that sits just inside the back door, however, a small shower of mouse droppings rained down on my feet and I very nearly lost my composure.
I have always been pretty candid about my obsessive compulsive tendencies, and my neurosis has always dictated that I keep a meticulously clean house. I’ve never had a pest infestation in any house I’ve ever occupied, and in ten years of living at the Hobbit House, I’ve never had mice before. As I scrambled to clean up the mess, I followed the trail of droppings to a hole that Dave drilled in the floor to run an electrical cord to the lower level.
It was necessary to postpone any additional cleaning or investigation into the source of the mouse problem, however, because Scully’s condition was continuing to deteriorate. She was in excruciating pain by the time Dave got home from his Masonic dinner and we all settled in for a traumatic, and largely sleepless, night. I’d carried her to the master bedroom and put her on the bed, where Fi and Grim positioned themselves on either side of her, as close as they could get to her. I laid on the bed with her and tried to comfort her, but she was in too much pain to do anything but pant and tremble.
Even with a king-sized bed, there was no room for Dave. He was relegated to the sofa for the night, but he was only able to doze. Every half hour, he would leap back up and scramble to the bedroom to check on her. I spent the whole night holding Scully, increasingly conscious that I had never seen a dog survive for any length of time in such a condition.
Around 4 AM, she fell asleep for about twenty minutes and, when she woke, the pain seemed to have let up some. She was able to sleep until the morning, when we called the vet again. This time, we demanded an appointment with our usual vet.
“Nothing against Dr. Gruca,” I heard Dave say. “From what my wife tells me, she was very thorough, but we’d really feel more comfortable if we could see Dr. Armstrong. He’s taken care of her since she was six weeks old and we’re hoping he may have some different ideas or insights.”
Dr. Armstrong reviewed Dr. Gruca’s notes and test results, but his physical examination of Scully was significantly more thorough than his associate’s. He suggested two possible causes: pancreatitis (though she wasn’t presenting the usual tell-tale signs) or a cancerous tumor somewhere in the abdomen. He asked to keep her at the office for the day, so that he could re-hydrate her with more IV fluids and run the test for pancreatitis. If that came back negative – he said – the next step would be an abdominal ultrasound.
We left her with him for the day and returned home to deal with the mouse infestation. On the way, we stopped at Meijer to purchase dog-proof mouse traps, where we ran into my friend Beth. She took one look at us and greeted us with “Oh my!”
Nothing like confirmation that you look like hammered shit, but we’d had little or no sleep and I’d been weeping intermittently. Our clothing was, in fact, better suited to a 3 AM Walmart visit, but she knew that Scully was ill and her reaction was more an expression of concern, since our disheveled state struck her as an indication of a bad outcome.
We returned home to begin our campaign against the rodent infiltrators. Dave found a hole in the basement door frame which allowed them to get in under the floor in the basement bedroom. The hole has been there since I bought the house, but this year the mice we able to get into the house because I pulled up the floor trim to repaint the basement bedroom back in May. With the trim gone, there were several small gaps between the hardwood floor and the wall which allowed the mice to gain access to the basement level. To combat this, Dave bought traps and moth balls. He also called Dad to help with the repair of the exterior door frame and the re-installation of the trim.
Dave spreads moth balls outside, but I was dismayed to find that he intended to use them inside as well. I told him the smell would be intolerable inside the house, but he insisted that it was either the moth balls or the mice.
It’s official. My house now legitimately smells like an old woman.
I probably should have fought him harder on the moth balls, but I have learned to pick my battles, and besides… I knew the smell would drive him to distraction LONG before I couldn’t stand it anymore. As it was, he began to mutter about the smell of it on his hands in the minutes following the distribution of the moth balls. By the end of that first night, he was complaining that he could smell it no matter where he was in the house (he claimed it wasn’t the ones he distributed, but rather, the ones in the box that were sitting in the basement “underneath an air return”, so he moved the boxes out into the breezeway).
By day three, he couldn’t stand the stench anymore and went around the house – inside and out – collecting as many of them as he could find them and throwing them away.
There’s still a smell when you walk in the back door, but I’ve strayed from the subject.
My dad arrived and between the two of them, they fixed the hole in the door frame. We were just beginning to install floor trim when Dad felt a migraine coming on and had to leave. We only installed three pieces of trim before Dave was too tired to continue. I’m hoping the door frame repair is sufficient to keep them out, because we still haven’t been able to get back to the trim-work.
We dispersed half a dozen mouse traps and caught three mice in the first two days. I’m seeing no new evidence of rodents on the upper floor, but only time and an exhaustive, fanatical house clean will tell.
But again, I’ve strayed from the subject. You’ll recall that we left Scully with Dr. Armstrong so that he could test her for pancreatitis. When the test came back positive, they started her on a course of treatment and, by the afternoon, Dr. Armstrong called to advise us that she was (at least) more comfortable. Armstrong kept her at the office overnight to continue to administer fluids, antibiotics and pain medication, but he promised that he would check on her every couple of hours over the course of the night.
It was another relatively sleepless night for me until I received the call from Armstrong in the morning, assuring me that she was making “miraculous improvement” and that I would be able to take her home in the afternoon. I slept a couple of hours and then got up early to get ready for work so that I would be able to pick her up when they were ready to release her.
She still wasn’t her usual spunky self when they brought her to me. She was weak and sluggish, but she was vastly improved. I took her to HHQ and snuggled on the couch with her until I had to leave for work. I couldn’t possibly take another day off work – it being Homecoming weekend – so my Mom and Dad took care of her for a couple of hours until Dave got out of work.
She met me at the back door, like she always does, when I got home in the morning, and though she didn’t camp out on the bath mat while I bathed, she did cuddle up with me in bed and spent the morning sleeping with her head on my shoulder. By the afternoon, she seemed well enough to be left unattended for the two or three hours between when I left for work and when Dave got home.
She was perfectly herself by the time I got home from work on Sunday morning. She met me at the door again, assumed her usual spot in the bathroom while I showered, and spent the entire day napping beside me in bed. When I woke in the early afternoon, she followed me around the house (as per normal) while I completed the usual tidying and grooming routines. She was eager to visit HHQ for our usual Sunday dinner and she is resuming her duties as the reigning monarch of the pack.
This is a reprieve. We’re all keenly aware of it, but (for my part) it just makes me more appreciative. There is, I am finding, felicity in her white face when I open the door in the morning and she’s for me in the kitchen. There’s felicity in the way she follows me around the house like a shadow… and in the way she camps out obtrusively on the bath mat, forcing me to step over her every few seconds as I get ready for work or for bed.
There’s particular felicity in this pre-bed routine, where I sit for a few minutes with my girls and my laptop or my book and clear my head before I try to go to sleep. It is, in fact, the time of the day that I most look forward to, so as costly and transient as this reprieve may be, I’m driven by the need to express my gratitude for it.
It occurred to me this week that Scully is the last vestige of the time in my life when I loved absolutely. She is the last living creature that I allowed myself to love unreservedly, which might explain why this issue was so particularly traumatic for me, but that is – undoubtedly – a topic for a different sort of conversation altogether.