Monthly Archives: June 2011

A New Orleans story

This story is apropos of nothing other than a stray, pleasant memory this morning. In the mid 90s, I went with three friends (hereby known as S, D, and R) to New Orleans. We went toward the end of October, and the weather was perfect. Gorgeous blue skies and mild temperatures the entire four days we were there. It was my first (and only) trip there.

I was delighted by the history and flavor of the French Quarter, and I couldn’t have been with better friends. S and D had been a couple for six or seven years at that point. R and I were just friends, but he was a good friend, and I was nursing a bit of a broken heart. Over part of the summer I had gone out a man I was absolutely crazy about, but he had broken off our relationship — which really hadn’t been anything more than casual anyway — when he went away to graduate school a month before. I liked the guy. (Heck, it has been almost 15 years, and I’m still terribly fond of him.) But it wasn’t to be, and the vacation to New Orleans was just the ticket to cheer me up.

I’m not a drinker, so the allure of New Orleans was in the food and the (mostly) window shopping. The first day S & D wanted to get a Tarot card reading from a place in the French Quarter. Hey, I knew it was a tourist trap, but I love the woo woo stuff, so me too, me too, me too! Typical reading, nothing memorable until the end. The reader said, “You’ve been dating a guy through the summer. He’s not good for you. End the relationship.”

Um, wow. That was specific. I told my friends, and we all laughed. They weren’t a fan of the guy I’d been dating, so I received a good-natured “I told you so.” We didn’t, of course, take it too seriously.

In addition to the food and shopping, we took several tours. We did a ghost tour through the French Quarter one night and a tour of the Garden District one day. And then one day we took a Voodoo tour. It ended at a Voodoo church, and I was really impressed with the priestess. She didn’t try to sell any of her wares, but I searched out her info and found out she did readings. I arranged one for the following afternoon. Rather than Tarot, she cast bones. Again, it was a pretty standard reading until the end. Then she said, “You’ve been dating a guy for six week. He’s evil. You need to get him out of your life.”

Okay, that was a little weird. She nailed the six weeks. I wouldn’t call him evil, but in retrospect I’d say we’re yin and yang (and not necessarily in a good way). My friends were also wowed, and R vowed to kick my ass if I ever saw the guy again.

Our last morning in New Orleans came. We payed for the hotel, and then popped to the French Quarter for coffee and beignets. There was an occult shop up the street I had visited earlier in the week, and I decided to pop back in for a last-minute purchase. The thing I wanted was behind the counter, and the guy working there chatted with me and S for a minute. Then he looked at me, cocked his head to the side, and motioned with his finger for me to come closer. “You’ve been dating someone. He’s bad news. Lose the guy.”

Then he stepped back. “Do you know what I’m talking about?” he asked. “I just deliver the message.”

I nodded. Dang. Three for three. I hadn’t even paid for that one!

S’s eyes were huge. “I TOLD YOU!” she sputtered.

He talked to us a few minutes more. I’d forgotten what he’d said, but S remembered, and we talked about it one night over dinner not too long ago. “He said I had broken hearts in my future and would have a hard time finding happiness.” She remembered, because it had pissed her off at the time, but it had also been true. S is gorgeous (inside and out) and brilliant and talented, but she has had a difficult time with relationships. Lots of ups and downs.

“What did he say about me?” I asked.

She smiled. “He said you didn’t have to worry. You’d be fine.”

And I have been.

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River

I tried, tried, tried to get at least one photo for this post, but really:

  • My camera sucks.
  • I have a black dog.
  • I suck as a photographer.

Yeah. That means no cute smiling dog photo.

River, our youngest curly coated retriever, is now 11 and a half months old. He was the runt of his litter, so it was natural, when we got him, to call him Little Bit. He was just a little bit of a thing, especially next to Pax and Pflouff. Now the nickname seems ironic — like calling the bald guy “Curly.” He is the tallest of the three and the second-heaviest. And he’s still growing. Little Bit will be our ┬álargest dog when he matures. Even bigger than the Newf.

From the beginning I noticed something odd about him. He loved to run, loved to wrestle, but he almost never jumped. If he couldn’t climb up, he put his front paws up and waited to be lifted. That was not normal, not for a puppy of any breed, much less a curly. In March I took him to the vet and had his hips x-rayed. The ball and socket of his left hip joint didn’t fit well.

For the record, I don’t believe this was breeder error. He has an awesome breeder, Dawn Fleming in Ohio, who did all the research and health checks. (No dysplasia in either side of the pedigree for generations.) River was the runt of the litter and developmentally behind his siblings throughout his early life. My personal theory, truly, is that he just wasn’t done baking yet. No one’s fault.

The vet referred us immediately to a specialist, Dr. Byron Misseghers at Puget Sound Animal Hospital. Dr. Misseghers recommended a triple pelvis osteotomy (TPO) on that hip. It shot the budget for working on the house this summer, but we didn’t hesitate — not about money anyway. We were scared to death about the post-surgery recovery process. River is a somewhat. . . emotionally fragile. . . dog. Would he be able to handle eight weeks in a crate? Would I? I was an emotional wreck when I left him for surgery. I understood then why parents fall apart when their children are in the emergency room. He was so frightened, and I was so helpless. I still choke up thinking about it.

He came through the surgery amazingly well. When we picked him up the next day, he was walking without a limp — even the surgeon and vet techs were amazed. I was armed with a bag full of antibiotics, pain pills, and sedatives. A dear friend of mine had been a vet tech at this vet hospital for five years and had a dog go through the same surgery. “Use the sedative,” she told me. “It will make the confinement bearable for both of you.”

I took her advice to heart. The first week was easy — much, much easier than I’d ever dreamed possible — because he was on so many meds and still healing. He was in his crate except when he had to go out to pee, on leash only, straight out and straight back in. I put the crate near my desk, and I moved a mattress downstairs to sleep next to him, so he wouldn’t be alone at night. When he came off the bulk of the meds, we had to up the sedative a tiny bit. He began to get a little more restless and a little more vocal. We followed the vet’s instructions to the letter, though: crate rest, on leash to pee, no stairs, no playing with the other dogs.

After four weeks, he had follow up x-rays. The vet said they looked great, and so he lightened the restrictions. Still no stairs and no playing with the other dogs, so he moved from his crate to an ex-pen in the same area. Through the next few weeks we increased him freedoms gradually. Off leash to pee. Access to a larger area with some stairs. Pax (who won’t wrestle) in the area with him. Despite the added freedoms, those were difficult weeks. He had been a good soldier for the first few weeks, but he was making it clear now: He was DONE. It was time to be a real dog again.

On June 4, eight weeks post-surgery (almost — it was three days early because it got too hot to restrict him to his ex-pen), River was given his final freedom: access to Pflouff. I don’t think they’ve stopped wrestling since. “River, stop torturing your sister!” has again become the most often heard mantra of the house. I and all three dogs have moved back upstairs to the master bedroom with my husband.

What does it mean long-term? I don’t know. I hope it means that he’ll have essentially normal hips and be mostly pain-free throughout his life. He isn’t jumping much, but that could be habit rather than pain. He won’t ever be an agility dog, but I’m okay with that. I just want him to be happy and healthy.

And now that he’s a completely normal teenager again, I want him to grow up and stop torturing his sister. You know, I kind of liked him in the box. . . .

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Unbreakable

(This was written back in March, but didn’t get posted. Sorry!)

Cute story from one of my workouts this week. Made me feel good anyway.

Setup:
I work out with Jenny on Sunday and JR on Tuesday. This week, I told JR that I had benchpressed 120lbs (3 sets of 5) with Jenny. He decided he wanted to do one-arm dumbbell presses on the exercise ball. That means my shoulders are supported by the ball, but I have to support my hips using my core strength.

Okay, so the story:

JR looked at my bench press numbers and scrunched up his face. “35lbs, I think. 12 reps.”

I did the set, fairly easily.

He shook his head. “Going up to 40lbs on this next set.”

“Why do you do 12 reps?” I asked. I prefer sets with heavier weight and fewer reps, but JR usually has me work sets of 12.

“I don’t want 12. I want to give you enough weight that you fail at 8-10. But I ask for 12 in case you’re strong enough to do more.”

Makes sense. I did the next set with 40lbs. 12 reps.

He shook his head again. “Have you seen the movie “Unbreakable”?”

I grinned. “The scene with the benchpress?”

He nodded. “Where they can’t load up the bar enough to stop him?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen it.”

“That’s what this feels like. You’re unbreakable. Next set 45 for 10. Or do you want 50?”

I looked dubious at the thought of pushing 50 while supporting my core.

“45 for 10 or 50 for 8.”

“50 for 8,” I said. (I’ll take more weight for fewer reps any day!) I positioned myself on the ball, and he handed me the 50lb dumbbell.

JR giggled like a little boy with every rep. I pressed it a full 12 times on the right and 7 times on the left — then my core gave out. Not my chest. My core. “If I’d been on a bench, I’d have nailed the 12,” I told him.

“Do you know Bernard? He’s a competitive powerlifter. I can’t wait to tell him about you.”

“You want to tell him about your mutant client?”

“I want to tell him he has a new lifting buddy: Unbreakable.”

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