Bated breath.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hating being told to sit still for a picture.  2009.
I think we nearly lost our little dog this afternoon.

ClaireDog's been with us since Thanksgiving weekend 1998, when I scooped her out of a pen outside Wal-Mart and decided that I couldn't wait until Christmas to bring her home to Aaron. I went inside, bought a tiny harness and some food, and brought her home in a cardboard box. She was six weeks old and could fit in the palm of my hand. We wouldn't have kids for another seven years, but suddenly we had a baby.

She's been with us ever since, and her antics always entertained. She was a tiny puppy fireball who could hurtle herself over the back of the couch without touching it at all (skidding across the house on our hardwood floors on her rear end afterwards) and a "heat-seeking missle" that laid, panting, with her belly turned toward the flames of our gas space heater, baking herself until you couldn't touch her. (Then she'd stretch out belly-down on the coldest section of floor, recovering. Spa treatment, I called it.) She chewed on electrical cords until she shocked the tar out of herself on the a/c cord in her metal crate while we weren't home. She caught mice and floppy orange frisbees with wild and endless abandon. She fought the leash at first, hopping down the street on her hind legs, gagging, embarassing us to no end. She snowplowed through the yard at full tilt, spraying snow and pushing her body through the white cloud like a dervish. The first time we left town and left her with my sister, she immediately went into heat and started bleeding all over the place. My poor sister followed her around with little doggy diapers, trying to stop the chaos. We've laughed and laughed at her. God, she was nuts.

In Florida, she was my companion, digging with me in the sand as I built gardens and schemed to plant our front yard with natives instead of grass. She chased a giant black snake (harmless) that was living in our yard until he finally bit her in disgust and left forever. We would walk around the neighborhood retention pond, and I'd watch the bald eagles circle overhead and hope they weren't mistaking her for a rabbit. One day we came upon a giant momma sandhill crane and her baby, and had to beat a swift retreat as she spread her wings and advanced threateningly at us. She entertained our many visitors and gorged herself on fallen avocados from our tree. I remember crying and her licking my tears as we struggled through the horrid conflicts in our church (and employer) that led us to leave and head back to the Ozarks.

Now, she's a sleepy old thing who spends her days snoozing and asking to go outside. She loves to bake herself (still) on the sidewalk, even in this awful heat. When she's had enough, she comes and scratches at the door. (She's peeled the paint and scratched that old door something awful. I can't believe I let her do that. I do.) She loves carrots and cheese and any other treat she can scam from the kitchen; she loves the kids, and they've learned to treat her gently and love her, though not like Aaron and I do. She still thinks of herself as a fearful watchdog, obliged to bark furiously at anyone with a uniform, wheels or fur of any kind, or a tendency not to move right along out of her field of vision. As far as she's concerned, everything within sight is her property. Stay off your yard, neighbor. I have a fat geriatric minpin who's a-gonna bark you to death.

I've never had another dog. Before we had kids, she was our baby. She slept in our bed until she couldn't leap up anymore; then she slept on the floor in our room, until she started making a regular habit of peeing on the carpet in the hall. We tried and tried to get her to quit, but finally had to install a baby gate and keep her downstairs with the hardwood floors. She sleeps on her bed or on the couch now, and is apparently untraumatized by the switch. I still miss her warm body pressed against my feet. (Okay, I don't miss the hair in the bed. At all.)

Anyway. Today Aaron called as I was parking at the grocery store. She'd fallen out of an armchair in some kind of fit, and her hind legs wouldn't work right and her head was twisted and held hard to the right. She was panting hard. He sat with her, helpless, and I called the vet. There's not much we can do, he said. She'll either stop or she won't. Could be a seizure, could be a stroke.

Then, forty minutes later, her head straightened, and a minute or two later, she shakily got to her feet and tottered off for a drink. Aaron watched in amazement.

My sister says a 40-minute seizure would probably kill a person. But within an hour afterward, she was wiggling greetings and kissing us and asking to go outside just like she always does. I gave her half a baby asprin, as the vet suggested, and we'll go in for an exam tomorrow to see if there's any way to pinpoint or prevent the cause.
Hanging out with Gracie at the grandparents'.  2008?

There could be more of these, one after another. There could never be another. We really have no idea. Has she had them before, when we were gone? Will she have more, alone, when we're out of the house? How scary.

My sweet old dog. I'm thinking through 13 years with her tonight.

I know no dog lives forever. But how much time do we have left?