I've been absent from this blog for a long time. Here's why.
Today I went to the dog park with The Pooch. It had been several weeks since our last visit, but the sun was shining, the temperature had finally warmed to a balmy 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and today seemed like the day to go. I went with trepidation. The dog park is set on a hill, and last time we'd gone this hill had been dangerously slick with ice. The real reason, though, is that for over four months my dog has been sick with a cough and runny nose that no amount of cash thrown at wily, money-grubbing veterinarians can solve. His sickness seems to have been hardest to deal with during the last few weeks, and the recent cold snap hasn't helped. Our last visit to the dog park had been on a very cold evening, which seemed to have worsened his lungs. Afterwards The Pooch had coughed all night, and I didn't get a wink of sleep. I feared today's visit would cause a similar fiasco.
I also felt uneasy about the usual Dog Park Denizens. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy talking to most of them. But when some of them start telling me how to take care of my dog, it rubs me the wrong way. They have no idea what I've been through, the money I've spent, how I've cared for and worried over this animal. Today, the runny nose seemed better, but I still feared the judgment of the Dog Park Denizens.
Over the last several months, The Pooch and I (along with the support of a friend) have battled the constant runny nose and hacking cough. We have endured a seizure, weird muscle jerks, and occasional diarrhea and vomiting. We have butted heads with veterinarians eager to make the wrong diagnosis for a quick buck. For the last several weeks, lest the arctic temperatures make his lungs worse, I have been shut inside alone with The Pooch's hacking cough and runny nose. To keep his lungs in shape, we have been walking up and down the stairs in my apartment building. Six flights, three times a day. It has done wonders for my figure. I have been sitting in a steam-filled bathroom, pounding on his chest to loosen the secretions in his lungs. Twice a day. I have been giving him his antibiotics religiously on schedule. Twice a day. I have been refilling the (hot) steam humidifiers with water. Twice a day. I have tried my best to keep my apartment free of dust and dirt. I have given him a special good-for-the-immune-system diet. And vitamins. Twice a day. And still the mucous keeps running out of his nose, still he keeps me up at night with his cough. I am quite simply worn out and exhausted. Last week, I had reached my wits' end, which regretfully caused commotion in my personal life that I'm not sure will be mended.
And then, what happened today? I thought, if The Pooch is not going to get over this, he might as well be happy. So I gave him free reign. I let him eat dirt (the Dog Park Denizens say, don't do that, he can get giardia. I think, if he's doing it, he might need the minerals). I let him chew on sticks. I let him hump whoever and whatever he wished. Today, I might be imagining it, but he seemed more perky. He ran harder and faster than I've seen him run in a long time. Sometimes (again, was it imagination?) he leapt like a spring buck when he ran-- I would like to say gazelle, but that would be hyperbole. He tried to hump a dog three times his size, sitting straddled on the animal's back like he was saddled on a horse. Yes, his nose ran-- but not like last time. I wiped it off with my glove, deciding to blame it on allergies if anyone gave me trouble. Of course he coughed-- but not like last time (I think?) Of course he gagged-- but not like last time?
When he was running with the big dogs, I remembered (sometimes I forget), why I ended up with him. It's because, despite his runny nose, despite his crappy lungs, despite his small size, he doesn't give up. He runs after those big dogs and humps them as if he were in good health and just as big as them. The Pooch has got spirit, not to mention character.
Now The Pooch is lying tuckered out on the carpet. He seems to be breathing easily. For now. There is no runny nose and no cough. For now. But the worry that I live with is that, just when I think he's getting better, he worsens again. It has been breaking my heart as well as my budget.
Some people may think I'm crazy for going through all this for a dog. Why have I done it? Because it gives me joy to see this little soul happy. I have a connection with him, and would do the same for any soul with whom I have a connection, be it animal or human.