Bipolar Cancer Husband No. 2

square787Dr. Rettenmaier had told us that he was waiting for the pathologist’s report. We had forgotten this fact during the two days between the initial discovery of the malignant growth on Lynn’s ovary and the diagnostic paperwork. Lynn had awakened from her surgery to discover that she wasn’t going home, that her doctor had had to remove her whole uterus. After I fetched her computer from home, she pored over all the information she could find on ovarian cancer. The outlook did not look good. I made a point of holding back the grim photo of her excised body parts. She had enough on her plate and everyone was telling me that I had to support her with all my spirit and body.

The exceptions were the husbands and wives of cancer patients, as well as cancer survivors. They told me that I had to take care of myself. One neighbor whose wife had had breast cancer told me that the most important thing I had to do was tell my wife that I loved her every day. But he also empathized with the pressure I was under.

I must confess that I still feel a little selfish when I remind people that I am under stress — perhaps more stress than Lynn. The cancer patient has to go through the motions of treatment, but everyone rallies around her or him. People expect the spouse to take the lead in this. The fact remains that my wife has been living with a potentially fatal illness. How can the squeezing you feel in your chest measure up against the palpable tumors that appear on sonograms and post-operative photos? Where’s the drama in a headache? You feel terrifically alone. The party — if you dare call it that — isn’t going to be about you. You tell people, but most of them give you the glass eye.

To survive, I made time for myself to take photos and take walks. I made sure to get home every night to look after the animals. This task made me feel of some use. When someone1 suggested that the filthiness of our condo required that we get rid of the cats, I felt sick and started to cry. Lynn had a massive support system of which I was an important part. But the cats and the dog were going to be my support system. Lynn’s oncologist scoffed at the idea of ridding ourselves of the animals — “You’re not brittle!” he told her — and our vet provided us with information about living with chemotherapy and keeping your pets. Armed with this, I simply told the people who were telling us that we had to do this “The pets are off-limits.”

On the backs of this resolve came better news: Lynn had endometrial cancer. It would be a few days before we got an idea of how bad, but even with a 10 to 15% depreciation of her survival chances2, it was certainly a more sanguine prospect than the 46% assigned to ovarian cancer. I felt that we were going to make it. But there were major projects to undertake before Lynn could move back into the condo.

  1. One of those nonmedical professionals who though s/he read that pets were dangerous to people undergoing chemo []
  2. Uterine cancers usually have a 90% or more survival rate with treatment []

Whines of 2012 — Updated 12/17/2012

  • UPDATED: 9 September 2012
  • square780Let me count the ways the events of the past few months have screwed me. Note that there may will be additions as the weeks pass…so keep checking this article. It will be a mega-whine!

    • First, my mother dies of a glioblastoma — brain cancer — the same disease that killed her father. The oncologist told me that he doubted it was hereditary. I am waiting for the announcement of a new hereditary variety any day.
    • Drake gets into a fight with a larger dog.
    • Lynn begins to bleed beyond her period. I talk her into seeing a doctor. She gets referred and referred until she is scheduled for a hysterectomy which is then handed over to an oncologist who tells us that only 2% of the patients her age presenting with her symptoms have cancer. He repeats this just before he performs the operation. It is only supposed to take half an hour. An hour and fifteen minutes later, I notice the time. He comes out with a grim look on his face and tells me that he found a malignant mass on her left ovary. Two days later, we learn to our relief that it is not ovarian cancer, but uterine cancer that has metasticized up the left fallopian tube. She spends nearly a week in the hospital. I tell people, with a sigh, that someone has to be the 2%.
    • We skip my mother’s memorial service. This was supposed to be our vacation.
    • We now need to make the condo readily cleanable. So we have to rip out the carpet and put in new flooring. Everything small in the condo needs to be brought into the garage.
    • My favorite cat — Fiona — dies.
    • The bathroom sink backs up.
    • I hurt my back.
    • I cut my hands and my knees.
    • I gain weight and fall out of the great shape I was in in the fall.
    • My other cat — Little Bo — goes crazy when I send her to board at the vet, so we take her out. I take her to a motel because the people Lynn is staying with don’t want a cat in their house.
    • The floorers discover that our floor is not level. Either because of settling or because the builders screwed up 22 years ago or both, there are large humps all over the condo. We need to spend an additional $1000 to fix these.
    • Lynn’s hair starts to fall out from the chemo. She is given a 75-80% chance to live.
    • Drake runs away three times in one day from the house where we send him to stay during the remodeling. Turns out he is slipping under a gate, so we block the way. I resolve to visit him every day.
    • My dentist informs me that three of my crowns need to be replaced.
    • Weather report promises rain for two days, pushing back the time before we can move back into the condo.
    • Painter discovers the reason why the previous owners covered the bathroom in wallpaper — there was damage to the walls that they were too lazy to plaster over. Plus they used white glue to hold it in place. (What kind of idiot puts wallpaper in a bathroom?) Add more money to the cost of the job.
    • Our new maid asks for a cabinet. She puts it outside on the deck because the weather report says that it will only be cloudy and the weather report is never wrong. It drizzles heavily all night. I do manage to cover it and wipe down the wet parts before putting it in the garage the next morning.
    • We put felt feet on everything except for one file cabinet which has a sharp lip that we can’t find a way of covering.
    • We witness an accident when we come out of a local restaurant. One man hurt. I’m glad it wasn’t one more thing to add to this list, but I would rather it didn’t happen to these people, either.
    • The dentist informed me that I needed to have a tooth pulled.
    • The garbage disposal dies necessitating its replacement. (Yes, we pushed the red button, cranked the main rotor, etc. The repairman did the same things.)
    • The tooth extraction will entail some painful digging around because the tooth has broken into three pieces. Plus I will have to undergo a sinus tap and bone graft three months after the first surgery. Plus insurance will only cover about $78 of the total. How about some dental insurance reform?
    • Drake found a new way to get out by forcing his way through one of the front window screens.
    • Just before we are to get the good news that Lynn’s treatment is going so well, they may end it before they had planned, the phone rings and someone tells me that my dog is out. “No, he can’t be out. We locked him up.” “No, your dog jumped out of the second story window….” Drake is fine, but I am angry with God about heaping so much crap and denying us the joy of the moment when we learned that things were going better than hoped for Lynn. Now we have to put out a thousand dollars for custom interior louver shutters.
    • An old obsession with the number 13 has returned. If I check the time, it is 13 after. I haven’t gotten to the point of counting things to see if they add up to 13 as I do when the obsession is truly out of control, but it is getting there. I wish I knew how to break the cycle. This is not a good sign for my mental health.
    • My country is going to hell.
    • Last Friday afternoon, I am chewing on some licorice when I feel something hard between my teeth. It is a crown. Given the day, I can’t get in to have it looked at, so I wait until Monday. My dentist looks at it, frowns, and refers me to an endodontist. He looks at it, frowns, and refers me to a periodontist to have the tooth pulled. The bicuspid has broken down to where the nerve is. Do I feel any pain? Dare I say that I don’t?
    • So now I have to have two teeth pulled, on opposite sides of the mouth! This will mean liquid diets, I dread.
    • Chest pains. This led to a three day hospital stay. My roommate was a whining biker. My mother who was a nurse had warned me about these and she was right! He bossed the staff and cried when the needles hurt. (Like, duh!) I was going so crazy by day three that I threatened to check out AMA if they didn’t release me.
    • Triglycerides are through the roof. No explanation yet for the chest pains.
    • Doctor cancelled her appointment with me due to illness. Does this really belong here? Maybe not.
    • Lynn had a blowout on the road that took out at least a third of her sidewall. She is all right. Rims were not damaged.
    • I keep getting #1141 errors every time I open up Rosetta Stone. Restarting doesn’t do a bloody thing.
    • We discover that the right front of Lynn’s car has been crushed. Week in the body shop.
    • Night of the malfunctioning software. Can’t move Rosetta Stone to a new computer and can’t get a game program to work on a new computer.
    • Friends don’t like my politics. Plus I temporarily pick up a roach who is against privatization, but sure Obama is going to push us that way. Where do these people get these ideas?
    • I put on 15 pounds.
    • Learn that my cousin killed himself. Attend the funeral.
    • Third tooth slated to be pulled in January.
    • Repairman drops an electric drill onto our wood laminate floor, leaving a dime-sized hole where it can’t be covered by a rug.
    • Massive struggle to install Windows 8. Headphones decide not to work. I buy a new pair, only to discover that the problem is still there. Then I discover a simple fix.
    • Extraction of second tooth has complications — one root takes an hour to pull. Fortunately, I am well sedated.


    Everyone is telling me that “things will get better”. I sigh and reread Job.

    At least Lynn’s chemo is over and the scans are looking good. And Obama won.

    Two Sad Dog Stories

    square681The man walking his Boston Terrier along San Diego’s Prado didn’t see the problem. The choke chain made his little dog more controllable. You couldn’t have the yearling running about, being excited about the world. “Now he’s a good dog,” he said. I didn’t mention studies that showed that choke chains kill dogs by breaking their tracheas1 . One can only save one dog at a time.

    There was nothing I could do about the tan and white chihuahua/terrier mix we saw run down the next day on the road coming back from [[Cabrillo National Monument]]2 . The little dog was out with his owner who called him into the street. A black compact sped down the avenue, quite unable to stop. The little body rolled under the wheels and got flipped up before falling hard onto the asphalt. No blood burst from the corpse. The teenage girl ran into the street to cradle him in her arms. We stopped and tried to give comfort. The dog’s tongue hung out of his mouth and flopped around as little spasms jerked his body. “He’s alive! He’s still alive!” cried his owner. “I don’t think so,” I said but she would have nothing of this certainty.

    I recruited a woman who had come out of her house to see what the commotion was to drive her and the dog to a vet. The driver of the black car came back. He, too, was in tears. The crowd of motorists and pedestrians which had gathered for the passing of the mongrel dispersed. I told Lynn sadly that I thought the dog was already dead but had cowardly left the vet to convince his young owner of the bad news.

    1. If you are going for strictness, you can either get a [[prong collar]] which applies hurt to the skin only or a harness which allows you to prevent your dog from moving where you don’t want him to be. We use a harness for Drake, but also make sure he gets some off-leash time when I take him for hikes. []
    2. Photos accumulating here []

    Give this boy my dog

    On the San Juan Loop
    On the San Juan Loop
    , originally uploaded by EmperorNorton47.

    square678After months and months of hiking the Harding Trail at the upper end of Modjeska Canyon, we bought a Federal Lands Pass and set out for a region of the [[Cleveland National Forest]] about forty five minutes away from our condo in Portola Hills. The main attractions were an unburnt expanse of chaparral and two waterfalls.

    The San Juan Loop runs a rugged circle around an unnamed hill. Most people choose to see the waterfalls first, but we took a clockwise course which sent us down the steepest hill of the course, against the flow of traffic. This meant that the last part of our walk took place in the shade of greasewood, scrub oak, and other elements of the local biome.

    We met many families doing the walk for [[Martin Luther King Jr.]] Day. The most memorable of these was one of the first we encountered. Four members stood around a fifth, a dwarf with a scraggly beard. I quickly made out that in addition to being small, he was developmentally challenged, so I treated him with extra courtesy.

    “Would you like to give my doggy a treat?” I asked?

    He took the piece and held it out as I showed him, with hand open so Drake could lick it up. Then he reached forward and embraced my doggy. Drake stretched his neck and gently licked the dwarf’s nose.

    Damn, it was one of those moments when if someone had told me I was going to die, I would have said “Give this boy my dog.” I know they would have got on famously.

    In the Splash Zone

    square689Drake ran away from me on Sunday. We were near the spot where we’d both been soaked by demon waves the previous Sunday. Twice, we passed the spot — once out to the southeast end of Dog Beach and back again so we could cover the full length of the strand. It was on the way back that he panicked, but not before he attempted to go around the spot by climbing on the landslide of cement fragments.

    He climbed high, almost to the rim of the cliff. I lost sight of him and began to call. A passing woman laughed and pointed to where he was, but I couldn’t see him. So I was backtracking, calling loudly, when he shot off the rocks and began zipping like a bullet the way we had come.

    “Ah shit,” I said. The concept of “lost dog” flooded my brain. I ran after him, pausing after a few paces to call his name. He stopped abruptly and looked back. I jogged a little farther and called again. Just as fast as he had left me, he zoomed back. There was a mad tumble of legs and arms as I caught him.

    “My poor boy,” I cooed and carried him past the spot of frightening memory before putting him back on the sand. A couple of small waves wet his ankles, but he stayed with me the whole way.

    White Out

    square684The waterline at Dog Beach runs nearly in a straight line from southeast to northwest. Chunks of gravel-pocked conglomerate shore up the low dirt cliffs for most of the length until dunes meet the sea at the reach adjoining [[Bolsa Chica State Beach]]. As I just noted, the beach itself runs straight, but for about a quarter of a mile, the cliffs do a little advance and push the rocks into the sea. Aside from this, it’s an empty stretch so there are no interesting [[tide pools]] at water’s edge, just a sliver of sand.

    We’ve been arriving during the late afternoon retreat of the tide. The waves have left gray penumbrae of themselves at the point where the beach abruptly changes its declivity to a twenty degree angle diving into the sea. At the southeast edge, people cluster with their canines, throwing orange and yellow balls into the foam while black-clad surfers float a few yards off waiting for the idea wave to scrape the bottom and carry them in a brief moment of magnificence to the shore.

    None wait at the area I call the Point. The Point is merely the place where the rocks spill over into the sea. The beach remains straight, determined on its course to skewer Bolsa Chica. Winds blowing from the south churn up eight foot waves that crash into the beach in intervals that can’t be predicted. I have never been able to count the pattern of small waves leading to one large like surfers are said to — and I don’t think they can make the count either because they sit in the water until one suits their liking.

    Yesterday, as we approached the Point from the southeast, no crests struck the shore. The water just slid in gracefully, throwing up little cockscombs of spray rather than the dramatic crashes we associate with winter storms. So I deemed it safe and let my diminutive, twenty pound [[Boston terrier]] up the strand.

    Halfway through the rocky area without warning of wind, a succession of ten BIG rollers crashed into the shore. I saw them coming, so I lifted Drake onto the rockslide because he so hates getting wet. I pointed out the path he should follow. But my doggy kept coming off the rocks and onto the beach, scared I suppose and craving closeness.

    I saw it coming: a huge scrapper with a slapping wall of turquoise water and a growing white crest bearing down on the shore. I turned my back to shoo Drake up the rocks seconds before it hit. My doggy was slow in understanding my intentions for him, so I was reaching down to pick him up and move him when the monster hit. For a second, white foam erased the rocks and the dog. There was only the heavy shush of the water, then a gurgle as it pulled back. Drake disappeared from my sight. The spring-back from the rock drenched from shoulders to knees. Then, as the green, silver and brown of the rockslide reappeared, he stood there, taking in the surprise of the splash. This time I grabbed him before the next one hit and placed him on a high place before scrambling up ahead of the next one which crashed even higher and still got my butt.

    We were left to climb sideways down the rocks as one white-out after another wrecked itself on the shore. Lynn got wet, too, but only as far as the bottoms of her short-shorts. It was good to get back to the wider beach. I thanked no god for our survival, but I was glad that there had been no pull to the encroaching waters.

    Down a Cliff Under Fragments of Cloud

    square652I noted the first spots on the rocks in the road as we neared the dead tree and picnic table about one and a half miles in. As I sat down to feed Drake his dinner, I noticed streaks of rain on the tabletop. He wolfed his kibble quickly. I took a couple of sucks from my [[Camelbak]], dressed him in his yellow winter jacket, and motioned him towards home.

    The first fist of the storm hit a few minutes later. Then it sucked in its breath, let us proceed under the illusion that we would see nothing heavy, and then slugged us hard with a downpour. Drake wanted to go faster, but I kept calling him back and treating him with biscuits.

    Just past a spot where the downhill split — the right fork heading toward Harding Canyon and the left toward Modjeska Canyon where the truck was parked — Drake fell behind. We had only ten minutes before we’d be back in the shelter of the truck. I looked back and didn’t see him right away. Then I noticed the back of his yellow jacket sticking out of the perpendicular grass and moving precipitously down a near-cliff. The blue hood had fallen over his head so that he couldn’t raise his ears or enjoy any peripheral vision. The only sense that was unimpaired was his sense of smell. I called to him. His head thrashed about, his senses trying to locate me.

    I moved toward the spot where he had gone over the side, calling him as I approached. He dashed back and forth, trying to find a place to climb up. I attempted to direct him to an easy path, but he either couldn’t make sense of my directions or didn’t want to obey. Finally, he just halted and stared as fragments of cloud pelted his plantive face. He wasn’t going back the way he came.

    Grumbling, I dug my heels into the rain-softened earth and joined him. He moved to one side. Once I was down there, it was clear that I wasn’t going back up, either. “This way,” I directed, and stomped down the steep slope. Earlier rains had slackened the thirst of many a seed. Grasses, flowers, and brambles festooned the hillside. I didn’t worry about tumbling head over heels because of the softness of the earth. At the bottom of the first incline, we came to a three foot deep ravine that was the only way past a place where three slopes met. A broken yucca crossed it. First I had to cross and then I had to cross again. There was nowhere to go, so I followed the bottom of the gully which was paved with the variety of slick conglomerate that underlay much of the surrounding country.

    With both hands, I steadied myself for the passage down the active rivulet. The intensity of the rain picked up. I nearly fell on my ass. My pants absorbed the water that was all around me. More water ran off my blue windbreaker. I cursed my dog, but made sure he was close behind me. When I could, I jumped out of the ravine and onto a flat patch where I fought grass and bramble to make a way to a lower segment of the fire road. At one point, where the rivulet crossed my path again, I grabbed Drake and threw him ahead of me.

    It occurred to me, as I looked for a better place to descend, that the best routes were on my right. I forced myself in this direction, breaking vines with my bare hands when I had to. A nest of foxtails lay right next to a short stone face. I made a momentary nest here because the cliff kept the grass dry. It was then I noticed that I had lost Drake’s bag with his biscuits, food bowl, [[frisbee]], ball, and waste bags.

    “Goddammit,” I groaned as I looked back on bushwhack I’d cut. The black bag could not be seen.

    A few raisins restored my energy and we made it the rest of the way to the fire road. Drake was soaked. The rain had creased his hair so that he looked like he’d been roughly combed. When we got in the car, he shook off his winter jacket. I drove him home and, when we got there, denied him all the usual pleasures of blissfully sniffing the familiar grass and leaves of the shared garden.

    What made him do it? Had he gone to the edge and just slipped? Was he testing me? Or had he decided to hell with the road, he was going to take a short cut? A journey which would have taken a few minutes if we had stuck to the established trail ended up eating up about forty five minutes. All the energy I had depended on the walk to give me had been wrested away.

    UPDATE (4/23/2010): Went back to the place where Drake went over the edge. About eight feet down, I recovered the lost butt pack. It was easy to climb back up. Drake followed all the way.

    The Trail Guide

    square646He was just lying in the road — not dead, but lounging as dogs do before a fire. Lynn passed him first and Drake followed. The two dogs introduced each other with a little friendly butt-sniffing, then the stray spread himself out again just below a bend on the Harding Truck Trail.

    A couple of bikers came around the corner. One of them stopped to pet the red-haired mix. As they came towards me, I asked “Is that your dog?”

    “I don’t know whose dog that is,” said the biker. “There’s a lady up there with a dog. Maybe it’s hers.”

    “That’s my wife,” I said. “We only have the one dog.”

    As Drake trotted ahead, his butt as tight as a jockey dressed for a race, the red dog came toward me. I didn’t know what to make of him. His short hair curled against his back. A pink tongue lolled out of a blocky, houndish head and a pair of silver eyes sized me up. I pulled a biscuit from my pocket and gave it to him out of pity. He took it politely.

    We rounded the corner together and caught up with Lynn.

    “Is there anyone up ahead?” I asked her.

    She scanned the trail. “No, I don’t see anyone.” So we had a new companion. Drake tolerated him and the two of them sniffed the flowers that lined the road — blue lupines, blue dicks, and even a few California golden poppies.

    The trail went down and then climbed up again in a kidney-shaped switchback, ground that I knew well. A cold wind was not matched by the bright light of the afternoon. If it had not been for the steady breeze, we would have been sweating. Instead, I rubbed my hands against my thighs to warm them and quickened my pace to warm my insides with blood.

    We came to our destination, a lone eucalyptus tree that had been burned to a stick by the Santiago Fire of three years past. Lynn and I had a problem: there was a picnic bench where we fed Drake his dinner before turning back. The strange dog complicated this simple repast. I called him to one side, offering a biscuit, but Drake ran over, too. Lynn tried to call Drake back to her, but he was followed by our red guest. Finally, Lynn placed Drake’s feeding sack on the table and lifted Drake to the surface so he could eat unmolested. The red hound accepted the distraction of a few biscuits while Drake ate. Lynn lifted our Boston Terrier down so we could eat. Drake yipped and snarled when the stranger sniffed his butt, but mostly they got on peaceably if not entirely amicably.

    No owner appeared, so we let the well-testicled mutt accompany us on the way back. The two dogs bounded through the uncut, undulating meadows along the side while Lynn and I stuck to the broad, rock-strewn dirt road.

    Near the bottom of the hill, we asked one of the neighbors of the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary if he knew whose dog it was. He threw up his hands and laughed when I suggested he take the dog for himself. “We’ve already got a dog.”

    A family with a white West Highlands Terrier met us at the trailhead. Our companion ran over to their girl and made friends. “He’s a nice enough dog,” I said to the father. “We met him about a mile in and he’s been following us all the way.”

    Our companionship ended when we put Drake in the car for the ride home. The red dog tried to jump in with him, but I forbade him using what we call the “game show noise” — a throaty call that told all dogs and cats that they had transgressed. As Lynn carefully backed out the car and drove off, we exchanged hopes that the dog would find his way home. As we reached the top of the parking loop for the turn-around back down Modjeska Canyon, we saw the dog beginning to climb the fire road in the company of the family.

    “Well,” said Lynn, “I guess he’s appointed himself trail guide.”

    A Screech like a Crushed Hat

    square644It was three a.m. and Drake would not leave the front door alone. So I harnessed him up and went for a walk in the night. Water from leaky sprinklers formed amorphous gray blob silhouettes on the sidewalks. Drake went from bush to bush, sniffing and leaving his urine autograph at each one. I grumbled. “Are you going to do anything meaningful?” I asked him. He just pulled me to the next plant.

    Then as we came to a place where sidewalks met next to a grassy knoll, we heard a cry that my synaesthesiac sense registered as being shallow and broad, looking a bit like a crushed hat or static on an oscilloscope. It screeched but once. Drake’s ears went up and he pulled harder at the leash. I didn’t know what kind of animal made the sound, but my imaginings grew from a cat to a raccoon to a mountain lion.

    “Let me see!” Drake begged in the words of resistance against the leash. “Whatever it is, I want to show ‘em!

    “No dice Little Guy,” I replied. I directed him back toward the condo. He resisted the direction of my march, but at last surrendered to my greater power. He reluctantly climbed the stairs and pouted as we went in the door.

    “I’m sorry, Little Guy, but I know you. If it had been a mountain lion, you would have done something stupid.” I pointed to his bed and he sadly curled up, his adventure cut short by his owner’s worried response to a simple mystery.

    Drake Shows a Bull Terrier

    square625I took Drake out for an off-day walk — one where we do not go a long distance but stay close to home. This one took us through the back condo complex where we live into the front one and back into the back through a patch of grass where we often stop so Drake can drop doggy bombs. Today a pair of owners with a [[bull terrier]] and a small [[German Shepherd]] were on the spot first. When they saw me coming, they shouted at their dogs, forcing the Shepherd into a submissive, prone position. The bull terrier — who was held by the woman — and Drake took offense to each other. Drake growled and the bull terrier charged to the limits of his short leash. My dog did the same.

    “You don’t have to show him,” I said.”

    “Oh yes I do!” Drake responded as he jumped to the end of his tether.

    I pulled him away, speaking quietly, while the other owners yelled at their dogs.

    As I drew away, I heard the woman saying “Did you hear that dog growling? That dog was growling.”

    She had no clue of her part in the little drama — the yelling that excited all the dogs into a frenzy regardless of who started growling at who.


    square616A man we know likes to take his cat for walks in the park. The man strolls down the street and the cat — a smallish gray tabby boy — follows along. Once at the park, Dude, as the cat is known, looks around and then follows the man home. The dogs in the park evidentally don’t know what to do with this feline because I have had no report that he has been bothered by them.

    There’s a bush just outside the fellow’s apartment that Dude likes to hide in. When I come back from the park with Drake, Dude likes to leap onto Drake’s back. This causes Drake to startle and do a left circle until he is behind me. Dude then tries to make friends with Drake, but my Boston Terrier will have nothing of this. He turns his face to his right, away from the victorious tabby.

    “Dude,” I like to laugh to the cat’s owner, “has Drake’s number.”

    Tears of Blood

    square609A fellow around the corner keeps a pair of dogs that are too big and too mean for the neighborhood. Nevertheless, we try to respect his property rights. Drake, on the other hand, feels it is his devotion to inform those canines that he deserves their respect. He could get this plain enough by ignoring them as they bark at his passing, but the pull on the leash towards them whenever we pass tells us that this low key approach does not suit him. He has to show ‘em.

    To avoid overexciting him, we pick up our pace or even run by until we reach a peaceful stretch of path where all the dogs forget about each other. We have another habit to which I must confess: to reward Drake at the end of walks, we sometimes let him walk with the leash dragging behind him. The plan is always to pick it up before he gets to where the big dogs are, but on Sunday night he dashed off before Lynn could grab him.

    Straightaway he charged to the barred gate where his antagonists lurked. The larger and blacker of the two of them faced off our brindle boy. Fierce barking was exchanged. Drake squatted down on his side of the fence, simultaneously snarling and screaming. Lynn got his tether and goaded him back to the path. He marched with his head up for the few dozen paces back to our condo. When he got in the door, I pulled down a flashlight and shone it over his face.

    The rims of his eyes were bright red. Tears of blood flowed from each. I had Lynn bring me Q-tips, hydrogen peroxide, and a clean paper towel. First, I wiped the bloody tears. Then I examined him more closely. An abrasion arced along the bone next to the eye. I carefully sponged this area. Drake sat placidly as I cleansed the wound and patted his head.

    The sight of the blood tears worried me, so I checked the Web. Three different pet medicine sites said the same thing: if there is any bleeding from the eyes, take the dog to a vet immediately. Relaying this to Lynn before I dialed, I first called our regular vet then the veterinary emergency service his answering service recommended.

    “I have a Boston Terrier,” I said. “He got into an argument through a fence with another dog and there’s bleeding from his eyes.” Boston Terriers, like pugs and bull dogs, have protruding eyes which can catch on twigs, claws, splinters, and even flecks of paint1 . We were told to come in immediately.

    It was a relief to both of us that Drake didn’t paw at his eyes for this was a sign of trouble. Lynn noted that he tracked her finger well when she told him to Focus. Still eye injuries can be slight at first then become more serious as they get infected, the receptionist told us. Drake curled up in the back seat as we drove down to the clinic which is attached to the Mission Viejo animal shelter.

    This place wasn’t new to us: it was the same clinic where my little Ambrose had been put down seven years ago. The staff had been kind, but it still ached as receptionist sent us into the same room where my beloved cat had been put to sleep, where I had rushed out in tears rather than face seeing him killed.

    Our dog fared much better. The veterinary nurse happened to know him because she had cared for him at our regular doctor where she works days. Drake did not like the taking of his temperature (what dog or cat does?) but he was stoic as the thermometer did its job. The checkup showed that his eyes were less red than when we left. There was no sign of the red tears2 . The night vet complimented me on my treatment of the abrasion, then rinsed and stained Drake’s eyes green so he could check for corneal scratches. There were none.

    Drake left with a tube of ointment that we were to apply to his eyes three times each day. The drive home was so restful that I didn’t see that I had dropped my cell phone back at the clinic. (We recovered that later in the night.) Drake licked his paws, made his bed to his liking, and slept deep until Lynn woke him for his breakfast and morning walk.

    1. The vet told us that the sensitivity of Boston Terrier eyes is less than that of other dogs. Smushed-face dogs had that in common. He had seen pugs blissfully unaware that there were huge chunks of lint attached to their corneas. []
    2. Our best guess about the blood was that his blood pressure was so high vessels inside the tear ducts burst. As he calmed down, they healed. We have seen no trouble since. []