More randomness as I learn to navigate this new pandemic world we’re all experiencing. If you’re reading this, I hope you and yours are healthy and safe, and that you, too, are learning new ways to shelter at home without insanity-inducing boredom. Sometimes it’s all about finding and focusing on the small bright spots, the smiley-faces in the snow.
As an introvert, I joke that I’ve been practicing for this shelter-at-home lifestyle for decades. And truthfully, my day-to-day life has hardly changed; I’m just a bit more careful about going to the grocery store. But it has occurred to me that there’s a vast difference between self-isolation by choice, with the ability to socialize at whim, and that same isolation being mandated without a clear end date. The former relieves stress, the latter adds stress. The unknown is always stressful. We could all use a glimpse of a “light at the end of the tunnel” to help us know that this, too, shall pass eventually. Hope is a powerful antidote to stress.
I discovered a new, international way to refer to my remote place of abode: booay. It’s a colloquial New Zealand term for remote rural districts, countryside, great outdoors.
I love my booay.
Shopping: Social distancing is clearly a difficult concept for many. When I venture out to the grocery store I’m amazed at the number of couples and families shopping together. Unless it’s unsafe to leave your spouse and/or kids at home when you shop for groceries (e.g. your spouse has dementia, your kids are too young to leave alone), please, don’t bring them with you, doubling or quadrupling the exposure to everyone there – shoppers, cashiers, stockers. Whatever happened to common sense?
Match.com keeps offering me 50% off if I’ll come back. Hahahaha! Like, yeah, sure, the online flirting is safe but the point is to make a real-life connection. Pretty sure I’m not up for arranging first dates for the next several weeks, possibly months.
Love in the time of coronavirus.
Aaah-chooo! Every time I sneeze, I remind myself: it’s just allergies. Hay fever. It’s springtime.
Sneezing and itchy eyes are my normal spring fever symptoms. And even though I’ve had allergies all my life, I’m still always surprised when symptoms start each spring.
I’m also allergic to dog and cat dander. And dust. And milk/cheese/ice cream and shellfish and probably many other foods but they can only skin-prick test for so much.
If I’m allergic to wine, please don’t tell me.
Obviously, I don’t let my allergies to pollen and pets dictate my lifestyle.
Glad I decided back in January to grow my bangs out. With social isolation, only the grocery store clerks see me with kid hair clips holding my too-long bangs back from my face.
As the snow melts off the yard, vole holes and trails are exposed. The voles – a mouse-size rodent, sometimes called meadow mice or field mice – tunnel between soil and snow all winter, safely hidden from raptors and dogs, leaving divots on the lawn surface that become exposed as the snow melts off. Now, in addition to clearing dog bombs from the yard each afternoon, I smooth out the vole trails and tunnels on the newly-exposed ground as the snow slowly disappears. I’ve learned that it’s best to quickly repair their damage before the soil dries out. Otherwise, the dirt hardens in the sun and once the grass starts growing again – which happens almost instantly – it’s almost impossible to smooth out, making for a bumpy and more difficult mowing experience all summer, me swearing as I go.
Speaking of voles, this period of transition from snow to new growth on the ground leaves voles more vulnerable to predators as they run from under a stretch of crusty snow into the open, searching for another tunnel opening and safety. Conall got three of them in the ditches alongside the road during this morning’s walk (Sunday, March 22). I watched two scurry away, so he’s not always successful. Both dogs frequently dig at the openings to vole tunnels, shoving noses (and teeth) in as far as they can, usually to no avail, noses covered in mud when they’re done. When they do catch a vole, they don’t eat it; after pinching it until it stops moving, they drop it on the ground, where a raptor, raven, crow, magpie or maybe even a fox will find it a turn it into a meal.
Life can be cruel and harsh. Isn’t that the lesson we’re all learning afresh?
Never underestimate the calming effect of stroking a dog’s fur. Especially if that dog is snuggled against your hip as you read in bed.
If you live in a small town, as I do, you probably don’t want to be following local social media set up expressly for coronavirus information. You will see posts and comments made by people living near you, people you may even know, that are utterly ignorant and irresponsible, based on rumor or worse, conspiracy theories. If it weren’t so depressing, it would be amusing. It’s just depressing.
Corona Ointment. I’ve been using this lanolin-based product for years. It’s especially good for dry areas of skin, e.g. hands/cuticles, elbows and heels. It was originally made for farm animals, but hey, it works and doesn’t take much when used occasionally on those few spot areas, so it lasts forever. But now I wonder if they’ll have to change the name of their product. Or, on the upside, maybe it’s popping up in lots of internet searches now, and with all the hand washing we’re doing these days….
Whatever fears or aversions you may have about being around others who could potentially infect you with coronavirus, they fly out the window when a member of your family needs urgent medical attention.
In my case, it was Conall, my five-year-old Alaskan Malamute.
On Monday, March 23, I took him to the vet for the 10-day check to see how his infection was doing. In a recent post I wrote about the earlier visit where the vet said he felt a mass in an anal gland and thought (hoped?) it was an infection. He recommended treating the infection first.
(An upside to Conall’s infection scare: I discovered he calmly and easily accepts pills being shoved down his throat. This is a wonderful thing, as I’m shoveling two pills down, twice each day, this being a 14-day course of antibiotics he’s on, four pills every day.)
By March 23rd, the new pandemic protocol at the vet’s required that I hand off Conall to a staff member in the parking lot. When she brought Conall back out, she mumbled, “Well, that was traumatic. Dr. J will come out and talk to you.” By the time I put Conall back in the car the vet walked outside. He said he felt the same mass as 10 days ago but no pus this time. Probably a tumor, he said. All I heard was “TUMOR” and asked how soon it could be biopsied (which required Conall being under an anesthetic). After checking his schedule, he said the next day. I scheduled Conall. I went home and researched. I discovered that tumors in the anal glands are of two varieties: benign (80-90% of cases), or malignant, and if the latter, aggressively so, with short life expectancy after diagnosis.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night.
Wondering if I was moving too fast, or not fast enough, I dropped Conall off the next morning for his biopsy procedure. Meeting with the vet beforehand, I asked that he remove any tumor he could while Conall was under, hoping that if the tumor is benign, this would solve any issues and Conall wouldn’t need additional surgery. He said he’d try, but warned that nicking the anal sphincter could occur, resulting in fecal incontinence, a fairly common complication of the procedure because it’s hard to differentiate tumor, anal sac tissue and sphincter when it’s all involved.
Longest day I’ve experienced in a while.
I took Finn for a walk along our usual country road that afternoon to help calm my nerves. He caught a vole. He was his usual happy self. I tried to absorb his positive energy.
When I picked Conall up late that afternoon the vet said he found tumors in both anal glands and so removed the tumors and the glands. He couldn’t promise he got all the tumor tissue, nor was he sure about avoiding the sphincter. I was given three different drugs for Conall: stool softener, pain meds, and more antibiotics. I made an appointment ten days out to have stitches removed.
Conall’s butt was shaved. Not a pretty sight. I’m glad he can’t see it.
That first night post-op was hard on Conall, and also on me. He paced and whimpered. I gave him the maximum dose of pain meds at midnight. He eventually settled and slept. Conall hated the plastic “cone of shame” he came home with, and so did I, even after trimming it down some and adding duct tape to blunt the sharp edges. He bumped into everything, adding stress to his recovery.
I eventually made my own “collar” to prevent him from licking or chewing at his hind end: a rolled bath towel secured with duct tape and bright pink engineering tape, attached to his collar, thick enough to keep him from being able to reach. Bonus: he could use the dog door with this collar, where he couldn’t with the plastic cone of shame.
First day home post-op I watched Conall like a hawk. His pain seemed controlled with the meds. But…would he poop normally, without pain? Was his sphincter intact? Late that morning, he started circling in a section of the yard, as he always has when he needs to poop, and he did; his sphincter works! Oh, so grateful for small gifts! Amazing what one can feel ecstatic about, maybe even more so in generally hard times.
By Thursday, March 26 – two days post-op – Conall was his usual self, eating well, pooping normally, wanting to dig for voles in the yard, retrieve tossed toys and wrestle with Finn.
I felt like the mean mommy, nagging Conall to slow down because he isn’t supposed to run or jump, but I was secretly full of pride that he was bouncing back so quickly. Dogs are simply amazing. I mean, imagine if you’d just had such invasive surgery?
Friday, March 27, I took Conall for a walk on our favorite nearby road, on leash (with Finn off leash). He didn’t like the leash, but he loved the walk.
Today, Saturday March 28, I let him off leash on the same walk. Happy boy! I figured even if he went into the ditch water, he wouldn’t get his butt wet. Let him play and enjoy; life is uncertain.
A tissue sample from the tumor(s) was sent to a lab last Wednesday, the morning after surgery. I was told it would be a week before results were back. Given the pandemic and stresses on labs, I’ll be surprised if results come in that fast. We’re not out of danger yet. In the meantime, waiting, I choose to believe that Conall’s tumors are benign.
He sure seems to think so.
This whole situation, and Conall’s acceptance of it, reminds me: live each day to its fullest. You just never know. Don’t invite worry, just…enjoy what you have right now. Marvel at the smiley face someone drew in the snow. Be thankful that you can be outside at all, moving.
Featured photo: a smiley face I found alongside the xc ski trail on March 26th as I skied alone, without Conall who was recovering at home from surgery, feeling naked without his companionship. Someone’s silly and simple gesture of drawing that smiley face brought me joy. How wonderful is that? Spread the joy.