Tag Archives: picturesImage
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
As many of you know, Wednesday I took Mick to the University of Florida’s veterinary hospital. When we arrived, I discovered that the doctor who’d been given the case the day before had turned it over to someone more experienced. “Sorry you drove all this way,” Mick’s new doctor said, “but I’m going to need a few days to absorb all this.”
Absorb? Absorb? I thought about autoimmune destruction of gastric parietal cells and stopped myself from making a bad joke.
We sat together for over an hour. He’d read for awhile, ask a few questions, and kneel down to examine Mick. “I hate to tell you this,” he finally said, “but, your dog is . . . really interesting.” He said Mick either has an extremely rare genetic disorder, perhaps something wholly new, or a rare form of something common. “Either way, this is one for the medical books.”
After he left the examining room, his student doctor stayed behind. “I have a Border Collie too. I love her to death.” She hugged Mick’s file to her chest. “I’m the one who’s going to do all the grunt work on this case.” Her eyes burned with intelligence and determination. “I’m going to discover this disease and cure Mick, I promise you. We’ll call it ‘Mick’s Syndrome.’ Or maybe it’ll be named after me.”
I smiled and wondered if I was too old for veterinary school.
Then, they sent us home to give them time to do their Mick homework–ordering more records, compiling charts and graphs, conferring with other experts, and doing research.
Anyone would be terrified if a deadly mystery illness attacked their loved one, especially one so young and full of promise as Mick. I’m remembering my friends whose children suffered. I’m in mind of the movie, Lorenzo’s Oil. Is there a Nick Nolte for Mick? Is it easier because he’s “just a dog,” or in some ways does that make it harder? I do know it’s especially painful because Mick is perfect for me. He’s exactly what I searched for: a well tempered little character, outgoing, sweet, and biddable, exceptionally well suited to my sociable nature and adventurous ways.
Instead of simply taking over my life the way Border Collies do, Mick brought with him an occupying army of new words: eucobalaminemic, neutropenia, homocysteine, aciduria, hyperkalemia, cosyntropin, neoplasm, aldosterone, cardiac collapse, and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.
One week I’m wondering which is the best way to teach him not to jump up on people. The next I’m wondering if his neutrophils are trapped. Why is his cobalamin normal but his folate “in the basement?” What stole his ionized calcium? It was there July 2, gone July 17th! Were his white bloods cells pillaged before or after the septicemia? Nobody knows.
My husband and I were hunting for a house with a great yard for Mick. As the baffled doctors ordered increasingly obscure and expensive tests, we began to argue about when to “put on the brakes” and when to let Mick go. Mick’s illness waxes and wanes, and twice now it’s come on so strong it almost killed him. Both times we spent a staggering amount of money to save his life, but couldn’t put an end to the threat. We just had more mysteries and no answers. What’s the point of draining our savings if Mick is never going to enjoy his new yard anyway? The next attack could kill him.
In his good times, Mick’s puppy school and basic obedience trainers told me, “He’s a super-awesome dog. You two are fun to watch. You have a powerful bond.”
I’d beam and say, “Mick makes me look good.” The only thing I can take credit for is I sure chose well. Except for the deadly illness thing.
When he’s sick, doctors, specialists, nurses, and technicians look at me gravely and say, “Not a lot of people would have done this for him.”
They say, “He’s a really lucky dog.”
They say, “You’re a good mom.”
I’m touched, I’m flattered, but I’m also wondering: am I crazy?
I don’t think so. I can’t think so. As Mick’s mystery persists and his medical bills mount, love and support have risen up around us and humbled me. On social and medical networking sites, Wendy Drake, Megan Biduck-Lashinski, and Terri Florentino have rallied to beat the clock, solve the mystery, and raise funds to save Mick’s life.
Thanks in part to their efforts, more and more doctors are examining Mick’s case. Doctors and their staff tell me they lie awake at night worrying about Mick. The young doctor at UF stayed up late reading his files with her pulse racing. “It was like a television show. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, no! Does he live? Does he live?'” That now depends in part on her. I told the doctors, you better do right by Mick–over a thousand people are watching you.
Mick isn’t just lucky to have me, he’s lucky to have us, a community of people who care passionately about what happens to him. If Mick has a special bond with me, he has a special bond with all of us. Are we all crazy?
If so, crazy makes for pretty great company.
You keep me going. And I have to keep going, not just for Mick but for any other dog and family who might be stricken with this disease. If the anguish and expense of this hit-or-miss, trial-and-error, roller coaster that we’ve been on can’t help Mick and others, what is it for? We must solve this for everyone. Consider this: how many other beloved dogs did this disease kill before anyone could identify it?
With such love around us, it’s impossible to give up hope. Mick’s ups and downs are exhilarating and harrowing. He’s medically fascinating. This would be really cool if it weren’t our Mick.
Mick is here. He’s not just an interesting medical case or a novelty pet with a cross on his forehead. He’s a sweet, talented, sociable young dog who’s yapping and wants me to throw his tennis ball NOW. A week ago I thought he was dead. I’m exhausted and scared. How long will this round of good health last? Will the doctors solve the riddle in time?
For now, Mick is on an upswing. He’s had these before. Today Mick is having one healthy, boisterous hour after another. We’re going to go enjoy them while they last and hope the riddle is solved before next attack. I dread having to decide whether or not to let him, and his mystery, go.
Thanks to you, we’re far from that dreadful moment. His prospects are full of hope. You keep us going in every possible way. Thank you for caring, for keeping us company, and helping us save Mick.
Do You and Your Dog Look Alike?
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
We want to see! Email us your photos and a few words about the two of you to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll feature you and your lookalike in our special Twins Issue.
Studies confirm that people tend to choose dogs who look like them. Vanity? Familiarity? Call it what you will, but it’s human nature. In this picture, I’m with three dogs. If you didn’t know us, which one would you think was mine?
Even though I love my little Border Collie Mick to pieces, if I had to choose among these three, I might have chosen the tall, curly-haired, golden Labradoodle. I felt a powerful, inexplicable connection between us . . .
We’d love to see you and your best lookalike friend. Email us your photos and a few words to email@example.com for our special Twins Issue, coming soon.
You and Me, Casey
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
After moving my only immediate family member out of my house, I drove the forty-five minutes home thinking about everything other than the fact that I’d just cut my heart out and stored it in a cement-block dorm room. When I got home, I took Casey outside to play Frisbee, just as we did every day. Delaney might as well have been over at a friend’s house for the afternoon. I sat on the grass, and Casey dropped her Frisbee near my feet and whined until I threw it. When I did, rather that rocket after it the way she used to, she watched it sail and skid onto the grass, then whined at me. We weren’t the creatures we once were, she and I. “I can’t reach it,” I said, and she fetched it. I threw the Frisbee and Casey panted to and fro, stopping occasionally to drink out of my water glass, which made it her water glass.
Against the horizon in my mind, the sails of dark thoughts approached: my mother, my stepfather John, my father. Casey was in her final years, but for me, there were more to come. . . . I decided I had stuff to do. I got up, and we went into the kitchen, but when we got there, it turned out I had nothing to do in there.
So I took the stairs two at a time, Casey behind because she wasn’t fast enough anymore to head me off the way Border Collies do. When I burst into my bedroom, I stopped short, and Casey bumped into me. I had nothing to do in my bedroom either.
I veered toward the rubble in Delaney’s bedroom, but at the sight of my only child’s ransacked room, a howl rose in my throat. Casey knocked into me, and I closed the door before I made a noise.
Casey and I swerved and trotted down to the kitchen. I had people to call—my mother and my friend Nina, or maybe someone in the tribe, or maybe Fred or Dan or Vito, three men whom I kept as friends as long as we never discussed falling into love or falling into bed. But when I sat on the kitchen stool and picked up the phone, I was wrong about that, too. I put the phone back on its charger.
Casey suggested we try the living room and led me in there, but I couldn’t think of anything to do there, either. She looked at me sideways, her jaws parted slightly in a leering pant. Her body seemed padded and ponderous as she stepped toward her orthopedic dog pillow, glancing back at me over her shoulder to see what I thought of her suggestion that we maybe lie down on it together for a while?
We tried that. I stroked her shoulders and face, and she put one paw on my chest and pushed until her elbow locked, keeping me at arm’s length. She’d always done that, as if she liked being close, but not too close. We lay there for several ticking minutes. Her eyes closed. Her locked leg vibrated. The air conditioning shut off. The refrigerator shut off. On nearby I-19, the traffic amplified its stage whisper, giving its incessant soliloquy that this was the most densely populated county in Florida, with an average of thirty-three hundred people per square mile and three-hundred-and-eighty thousand cars on the road, an average of fifty-two highway deaths a year on this stretch, far, far from woodland and farmland and sheep, under a sky scribbled with wires and littered with billboards. My stomach growled. I asked Casey, “Want dinner?”
Casey was stone deaf, but we understood each other. We both got up.
I bounded to the kitchen, and, laboriously, she followed. It was time for dinner, time to scoop some dog food, haul open the fridge, and start cooking, as I’d done nearly every day since I’d gotten my own kitchen twenty-four years before—but I was wrong again. Once I’d poured kibbled into Casey’s bowl, there wasn’t anyone else to feed.
Casey inhaled her kibble like a Shop-Vac. The cat slithered seductively against the kitchen faucet. I opened a drizzle for her. A stillness settled in my brain.
Casey tiptoed up behind me, panted, and burped.
I went down on my knees and wept. With her paws, Casey pried my hands away from my face to bump me with her nose and lick me, and I rolled away and keened. I had loved every second of my days and nights as Delaney’s mom. I had loved her and loved the woman I was in her company. Frightened, Casey came around and shoved her nose between my hands and face, and I got up. I rinsed my face in the sink, then went down again. If I couldn’t be Delaney’s mom anymore, I didn’t want to be anyone else.
I cried until a headache shut me up. I ate a bowl of cereal so I could keep an aspirin down and went to bed. About three in the morning, I woke and remembered. Delaney’s room was located exactly where it always had been, across the hall, behind a closed door, but now it gaped in the dark like the maw of a mausoleum. I slid off the bed to cry on Casey. We huddled on the floor, clinging to each other, the lone survivors.
And somewhere in the house, there crept an afterthought, a cat.
Day after day, night after night went on like this. Casey had always slept near the foot of my bed, which meant that I had spent fourteen years making a Border-Collie-sized birth around the foot. In the middle of these post-apocalyptic empty-nest nights, I had to get out of bed and crawl on the floor if I wanted to sob into her coat. I had never before made such use of my dog, but it became a midnight ritual. Like other physiological acts that involved uncontrolled bodily sounds and fluids, unhinged grief was best performed behind a locked door, with access to toilet paper and running water.
The dog was wet for two months.
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
After we dressed John in new pajamas, (“He just wanted some rest,” my mother had said), we sat on the patio, my mother on the swing, I in a chair across from her, each balancing a sourdough baguette, cheese, and tapenade sandwich on a plate. We ate like the damned, tearing the bread with our eyeteeth.
We had swallowed the last, thick bites when we heard the thump, jingle, and rattle of firemen rolling the stretcher down the front hall, and then, a duller sound, the firemen rolling the stretcher, more slowly, out.
For about a week after John’s death, I stayed to help with the kind of paperwork that requires other papers you don’t have. We got none of it done. I did what I could: I wrote the obituary. I opened an account online for John’s mourners to leave digital notes on a virtual grave. Mostly, I kept my mother company in person, my daughter company through Skype, and endured more time without the company of my dog. Being dogless is a hardship I don’t understand, but I suffered it from the time I was a toddler until I got my first dog at eleven years old. When I was married and my daughter and I flew to California without my husband, my mother used to tease me, “You miss your dogs more than you do your husband.”
Then came the day when my mother heard the thump, jingle, and rattle of me rolling my suitcase down her front hall. We heaved my suitcase into the trunk and headed for the airport shuttle depot. My mother gunned the engine to merge into traffic on Interstate Route 1. “Humans aren’t made to live alone,” she said. “I’ve never lived alone.”
“No way.” My mind flickered with views of every place I ever lived alone, from my graduate-school apartment to summers in every home I ever shared with Delaney—she’d abandon me for six weeks with her father. After she left, I’d spend a few days crying with Casey on the couch, then get up and love my life. I’d learned I could live alone anywhere, anytime. Try me.
The turn indicator clicked, and my mother piloted the car into a narrow gap in traffic. I gasped as the hood of her car eclipsed the license plate of the car in front of us. I put my foot on the imaginary brake on the passenger floorboard. “Mom. Slow down.”
“I lived with my parents, then my roommates, then I married your father.”
“How about we slow down so we can see that car’s license plate?”
“When he left, I had you kids, then John. I’ve always lived with someone. My whole life.”
Until today. It dawned on me, when I left, she’d be alone for the first time in her life. “You have Ginger.”
“She’s John’s cat.”
I said, “If we survive this drive, I’ll be back next summer, me and my entourage.”
“Laura says I tailgate.”
“That whole multi-car pile-up thing? You’re how it happens.”
“Laura texts and drives.”
“You’re what? Seventy-one? The world is supposed to be tailgating you. Could you please just tap the brake, like three times?”
When I landed in Florida, Delaney and I had three days of her childhood left. I ferried her to Home Depot and Publix and Target and Borders and Bed, Bath and Beyond. We ate at all our places: Eddie and Sam’s New York Pizza and Sea-Sea
Rider’s and Tum Rub Thai and Gino’s. We went to Tampa Theatre and the Clearwater Cinema Café. We took Casey to the dog beach at Honeymoon Island. We found my heirloom steamer trunk and packed it with a desk lamp and a purple tool kit and a box of thumbtacks and Scotch tape and tampons, and lastly we tucked in a rolled-up Donnie Darko poster and the plush George the Curious Monkey doll that I bought for her when she was nine months old. When I heard there was a kitchen in the dorm, I hand-copied recipes for Delaney’s favorite ragout and vegan cupcakes and curry and Penne Franco. Delaney got mad at me when I fell asleep during our Kill Bill marathon. On campus move-in day, I took a picture of the loaded car with Delaney and Casey beside it. We were sad there was no room for Casey , but we were running late for the prescribed move-in hour, which made me anxious as we stood in line for the dorm key and then had to go to billing to clear up a mistake and then back in line for the key. When we finally got into the dorm room, Delaney’s roommate hadn’t yet arrived. I helped her rearrange the furniture and make her bed.
“What?” When I saw her face had gone still, I froze.
“Thanks,” my daughter said.
She hugged me, and the strangest thing happened: my mom-life flashed before my eyes, or rather, it howled through me. Again she opened her eyes wide as the obstetrician clipped the umbilicus and convulsed as if she felt it. Delaney sat at her child-sized table and played with her Playmobil. Delaney swung her little fist at the dogs when they eyed her pizza. She waved good-bye when I left her at saxophone lessons, at horseback riding lessons, at math tutorials, at the airport gangway to board a plane to visit her father alone. Sunny Florida afternoons she sat with me on the lawn and debriefed me on her school day while I threw the Frisbee for Casey. Again Delaney and I laughed ourselves blue the time I pretended to aim the car for a squirrel and horrified two mommies walking their children—I had to pull over down the block, out of sight—only the two of us knew why it was so funny. Again Delaney and I sniggered in the grocery store aisle because I was so impatient behind a slow old man that I mocked his gait outrageously enough to make John Cleese proud. Delaney and I bundled under a blanket in the dark to watch Ghost World. Delaney and I ate ice cream topped with chopped “Famous Anus” cookies and watched “Absolutely Fabulous” marathons. Again Delaney burst into my room in the middle of the night after a bad dream. Delaney strolled into my bedroom while I got dressed and said, “Wow, I’ve never met anyone so determined to look like a goober.” Again Delaney and I rode to school together every morning and home together every afternoon day after day, year after year, in city after city after city after city. Delaney and her girlfriends quipped downstairs in our living room while I crouched upstairs grateful that my home was filled with such rambunctiously sarcastic young women.
I loosened my grip and pulled away. Our curls tangled together, just for a moment, then slid free with soft, separate, bounces. “Okay,” I said. “That’s it, then?”
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
“It’ll be another day or so.” The hospice nurse clicked her pen. “He wanted to sleep through it. He’s sedated. Come with me.” She took us into the bedroom where John lay on his side, back to us. She showed us the medication and explained how to keep him asleep while he died. “Remember, he can hear you. Right up to the end.”
She left us standing beside John. We heard the front door open and close as she let herself out. John faced the window, away from us, sleeping heavily. I remembered him saying, I keep hoping, ‘This is it.’ Then I wake up, and I’m still here.
I said, “Is this it, then, John?”
“This is it,” my mother said.
We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We went out on the patio. The ravens, whom my mother had named Edgar and Lenore, floated down and hopped along the fence. “They’re looking for sandwich crusts. I leave some out this time of day.” She went back inside the house, came out with an English muffin, and laid pieces of it on the rail. “They have one fledgling this year,” she said. I took some muffin and helped her. I could smell the pitch in the wood, feel the heat of it under my fingers. I had kicked off my shoes; the gravel in the garden hurt my feet.
Listlessly, we stood unprotected from the sun and searched the curled leaves of the oak for the youngster. The leaves looked dusty. The relentless summer sun had disintegrated everything, but the birds still had fight in them. Off to one side stood the bluebird box on its pole, with the bright red umbrella John mounted to give shade for the chicks. The two bluebird parents darted back and forth so fast that we had no will to watch them. We retreated into the shade and sat ourselves on the swing once more.
“It is what he wanted.” My mother turned up the hem of her shirt, found a small factory sticker there, and pulled it off. “He wrote emails to his doctor begging him for help with the pain.” Her fingernails were as smooth and perfect as the halves of tiny eggs. “He never could get ahead of it. He’d ask the hospice nurses to kill him. He wanted me to move him to Oregon where . . . He begged . . .”
The ravens croaked over the muffin bits. Their claws scraped the wood, and the stiff oak leaves clattered in the breeze. I said, “How awful for you, Mom.”
She sighed. “We need rain.”
A person who’s entered “active dying” lies inert. Perhaps it’s called “active” because activity surrounds the patient: self-conscious prattle directed at the dying person, pointless bustle, frequent checking for the passive signs of active dying, and horrid jokes, such as, “I wish the nurse had fitted him with a pop-up timer.”
Everything about my own father’s death came back to me: mottled feet and hands, long pauses in respiration, slack mouth, a rattle in the throat. The suspense is brutal, the agitation intolerable, but on this way-station satellite, an hour, a day, has no meaning. Time doesn’t hurtle as it does on Earth. We became timeless women who pinched John’s toes like Hansel’s witch. Into the oven I’d throw banana bread, propelled by the notion that John had been waiting for it for twenty years. It couldn’t be too late.
“I have an electric mixer,” my mother said.
But I needed to mix it under my own effort. Beating the dough with a wooden spoon kept me upright. I had two recipes open on my laptop—one for banana bread, and one for active dying. We did not Skype Delaney. If we saw her seeing us, the spell might be broken.
As I slid four pans into the oven, my mother said, “What are we going to do with all that banana bread?”
“There’ll be lots of people.” We avoided each other’s eyes. My teeth hurt from clenching.
“It’s time for another dose.”
We did as Janice had instructed. The house filled with the aroma of banana bread. Delaney called on the phone, but we didn’t talk long.
“I’m going to take Casey outside to play Frisbee,” Delaney said.
Funny to think that was my former life—a place with an outside, where Frisbees could be tossed to a Border Collie I loved. I no longer knew that yard, that young woman who was my daughter, that old dog. I understood, logically, that it was awful not to know them, but I didn’t feel it. I paced. I needed something to do.
“I wish I knew how to knit a shroud,” I said to Delaney, but, unlike my mother, she didn’t get the joke. After I hung up the phone, I went looking and found my mother sitting on the hospital bed next to John. ”
The bedroom was crowded with oversized solid cherry furniture: bureau, nightstands, sleigh bed, armoire, and beyond it all lay John, silhouetted high against the sunlight by the sliding glass door. The previous day, hospice had called six firemen to move John into a hospital bed to ease his breathing. They had positioned and raised the bed too much like an altar. Head elevated, he lay upon it on his side, just as Janice had arranged him, facing the sliding glass doors that opened onto the patio.
The sliding doors made a glass wall from which we could see almost everything John had placed in his garden. Beyond the dappled shade and flowers ran the wood fence upon which my mother and I had laid muffin bits for ravens. Along that fence John and my mother had trained six different kinds of table grape vines. The vines thrived and my mother fretted there was no one to help prune them. I said I’d do it before I left.
At one corner of the yard John had set up their busy bluebird box and sheltered it with its cheerful umbrella, the one all passersby commented upon. To the right muscled the monstrous fig tree that we all climbed when the figs were ripe so that we could take them, still warm from the sunshine, and eat them with a tiny pat of bleu cheese. Beyond the fence ran a steep slope, a stream that pattered with frogs, a walking trail, and a nature preserve, in the canopy of which the two ravens raised their yearly brood.
When she heard me enter, my mother turned her head. “I was just reminiscing with John about Yosemite. It’s his favorite place on Earth.”
I sat beside her. “Yeah?” It was important to keep talking to John, saying pleasant things. I couldn’t feed him banana bread, but I could keep the woman he loved talking about his favorite place. “So why does he love Yosemite so much?”
Together we staged a cheerful interview about Yosemite National Park: the soaring vault of Half Dome, the unthinkable view from Glacier Point, the summer snow, the sound and the scent of mist at the base of Bridalveil Falls, and the cry of coyotes echoing against the valley walls. Behind John, the breeze tousled dappled shadows and light over the glass. Everywhere the confetti of flowers flew. Bluebirds and goldfinches sailed, blue and yellow, to and fro.
My mother said, “I think he’s on his new planet now.”
We waited. We stared. John’s side didn’t rise. It was so.
What Has Your Dog Eaten?
by Lisa Lanser-Rose
Bar soap, a pump bottle of hand cream, a box of crayons, an entire can of Crisco shortening, a pumpkin (everything but the stem), a slice of pizza straight out of a stranger’s hand–all things my Pip-Thief stole and ate.
All of my dogs, from my childhood dog Patches to my present-day Mick, stole and ate food–or things I never considered food. Whatever the case, stories of the time the dog ate something forbidden, or something dangerous, or something expensive, or something impossible, or something hilarious, all become highlights in the narrative of life with our dogs. Tell us your tales! Just click on “Leave a Comment” below.
To get you started, let me ask:
- What’s your favorite “I Can’t Believe My Dog Ate It” story?
- Did your dog know it was wrong to eat something she ate?
- Did you and your dog ever disagree about what was “edible?”
- Did your dog wait until you weren’t looking?
- Were you ever afraid your dog ate something deadly?
- Did your dog ever steal a holiday meal?
And if you like stories about dogs eating what they shouldn’t, please click “like” and follow us here, and like and follow us on Facebook.