Every day is a beginning – even if it is slower

We went into the garage to climb into the truck and run some errands. Usually, he hops up into the driver’s seat and climbs over to his own, riding shotgun like a guy.

But today, he stood and looked up at me, a single paw raised like a first-grader’s hand when he thinks he knows the answer to a question.

I picked him up and placed him on my seat, and he briskly moved to his window.

Hours later, after we’d returned home, he stood on the seat and waited for me to take him down from the seat to the floor. He darted into the house like his old self, accepted a treat, then went to his favorite spot for a nap.

He’s napping a lot more these days.

Desi is 13.

And I’m feeling forlorn. I get all the uplifting quotes on Twitter about living in the moment, not looking for pain before it comes. I like the Will Smith video about how he lived in fear of skydiving only to have no fear as he later fell through the air.  Messed up two days of his life trembling at the thought of something, but having no fear at the moment he fell through the air.

I am looking at Desi and remembering the first day he came home, tiny little 10-pound runt of a litter. The employee of the last-chance rescue mission where he was said if we didn’t take him, he’d be put down. I didn’t think used-car salesman; I thought loving savior.

I remember telling that employee that our other dog, Lucy, was in the car and didn’t get along with any dogs – and that they had to meet. And even though the dogs were not to be allowed to leave the Detroit Zoo, where this huge animal adoption fair was taking place 13 years ago, she sneaked him out to our car to meet Lucy, a brilliant and beautiful Keeshond who was used to getting all the attention from my daughter and me.

And I remember Desi climbing into the car and sitting next to Lucy like that had always been his spot, and Lucy accepting him like that had always been his spot.

So regal. So assured of his place and our future love. Continue Reading

You can’t beat back time –
especially when you’re in puppy love

It was bound to happen. He’s nearly eight years old, which, in dog years, means 56. So the walks aren’t as long, and the naps are longer.  But today, he did something he hasn’t done since he hurt his back a couple of months ago: He stopped walking. Right on the sidewalk.

I let him choose the direction we’d take, as usual. And rather than turn on the street that would save us 10 or 15 minutes, he chose the long way. I was glad. I needed the exercise, and summer sunshine seems finally to have beat back winter.

But halfway down the block, he stopped walking. He didn’t look at me, didn’t whimper. He just waited. And as I had when he’d hurt his back and I needed to lift him onto the sofa or onto the bed, I just picked him up and began walking. A few drivers who passed us smiled. I’m sure they thought I was pampering him.

We walked that way for a block, him cradled in my arms, feet and smile sunward. But suddenly, he started to wiggle.

“You want to get down?” I asked, as I always do, as if he can respond.

I place him legs down on the sidewalk, and he begins to walk again. Yes, dogs have pride, and they know how to rally.

We walked back home at the pace he set and settled back in at home.

We’re watching the French Open. Well, I’m watching the French Open, and he’s watching me. Rafi Nadal is winning, as expected. Desi’s eyes are closing, time for another nap.

We can’t beat back time. We can’t hold it, delay it or wish it away.

But for today, we’re back to normal. It’s 11:27 SLT (Sunday Lazing Time), and we are happy.  In a few hours, we’ll grab the toys and run around the house. Well, I’ll throw them and he’ll run around the house chasing him. His latest one is a weird looking red weasel whose squeakers do not fade.

Desi likes to play chase in the house. It’s not hot; his water bowl is nearby. And when he’s tired, he just quits and lays on his back and looks at me with that “Come hither and rub my chest” look. He rules the house, and he rules my schedule. Just like my daughter once did before she grew up and went to live on her own. Continue Reading

The veterinarian asked me to cook what?

I knew something was wrong when I walked in from a debate watch Monday night, and there was no pitter-patter of little feet at the door.  It has been years since my lovey, Desi, had not run to the door from whatever comfortable perch he had found to demand that I transition quickly from newsroom slave to his slave.

But I opened the door, and nothing happened. I called out. Nothing. My heart began to pound.

By the time I got to the stairs, he was coming down, quickly and quietly – not slow and tentatively. He was almost himself, except he didn’t bark. And he didn’t jump.

I kept an eye on him. I checked his food dish. I manipulated his four limbs and checked his stomach. Nothing bothered him. Well, except half-ass walks.

During a full week of fighting a virus that had me bed-ridden, his walks were more less walk and more stand. I could barely make it to the end of the block, so his beloved jaunts through the neighborhood had become bathroom breaks. It didn’t matter that we were doing them four times a day.  They were too short.

By Wednesday, he had decided he was sick of food. Even with a regular walks resumed, he still looked like he felt puny. He didn’t even wake me up in the mornings. He always would wake up before I did, eager to get out the door.

On Wednesday evening, he threw up while we were walking. He didn’t eat his dinner. Thursday, he ate only half his food. Early Friday morning, he threw up in the middle of the night.

So Friday morning, we walked down to the vet, where everyone, for just a minute, stopped working. They all love him art his vets. They know he’s the world’s best dog.

The vet checked his teeth, lymph nodes, chest, stomach. His temperature was normal. His reaction to being poked was normal. He was even bouncing around, tail wagging.

The doctor said it was probably something he ate. The doctor said that it might if, for two days, I cooked for him, something bland like boiled chicken and rice.

I just looked at her. Continue Reading

Battle of the Bulge allies include Barry White, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson

If you want to know how you’re walking, don’t look at your feet. Look at the people watching you.

I had been searching for something new in my Battle of the Bulge.

I finally found the answer.

And it was in something I was doing all along.

Rather than stroll with Desi, letting him saunter, stop to chase squirrels or just meander around smelling the smells of every dog that had walked sooner than we did, I remembered the doggie training, put him on my right side, and we strutted. It was a cross between a power walk and dancing.

Now, we do it every day.

Yes, I put on my purple Skechers, my purple Parade Company Jacket and my purple Urban Ears earphones. Then I pump up the volume and set my pace by music: Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love,” Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Marvin Gaye’s “Come Get To This,” Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time, Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You,” (the BEST thing about “Saturday Night Fever”), Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” Jennifer Hudson’s “Love You I Do,” the Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save” and  the classic, always useful “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me” – the Aretha Franklin-George Michael duet that has no Expires By date.

After a few weeks of this, I realize that I have reached cardio pace. A week ago, I noticed the smiles of those in passing cars who slowed to wave or nodded. Approvement? Encouragement? Had I been a Facebook page, they were clicking LIKE.

Since I don’t weigh myself (It ruins the whole campaign.), I can only tell you that the pants are getting loser, the attitude is getting better – and yesterday, a guy in a car almost hit the car in front of him because he turned all the way around to watch. Yes!

Thanks, Barry, Marvin and Michael. You’re still making a difference every day. And thanks to the Queen and to the Prince of Motown. Stevie Wonder may never see what he’s done, but I hope someday to let him know. Continue Reading

Desi Has Surgery

My dog Desi, the world’s greatest dog, had surgery last Thursday. While all surgeries are serious, his was low on a scale of 10. He had a little bump above his left eye that the doctor needed to remove.  His vet wanted to use general anesthesia.

I said: “Two words: irrational and resolute.”

Desi’s vet is pretty smart and got it right away.

“Your fear of me putting him to sleep is irrational, and you’re not going to change your mind, right?”

Told you she was smart. So she gave him a feel-good shot in his thigh, and he was so mellow that she completed the surgery with only two sutures AND cleaned his teeth.

When she called to say he was up and around, she said, “He’s happy. His tail is wagging. And he is the world’s best dog!”

He was fine until they insisted that he wear a collar to keep him from scratching the sutures. I left without it.

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” I said with that momentary, irrational arrogance that comes from thinking you know more than your doctor or banker or your dog’s vet.

We arrived at the home and had been in the house for about .9 seconds when he reached up his back par and began scratching.


My assistant, Leah, raced back to pick up the collar.

“Did they laugh?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, laughing, really laughing. “They laughed.”

I drove him around in the car to distract him from trying to lie down without falling over, which he just could not do. When we got back, Desi immediately felt like posting about his day on his Face Book page. I share it with you here.

“So she was smiling real big, right? That’s when I knew something was up. She took me to the doctor, who kept rubbing this bump on my face and saying “No problem.” Next thing I know, I’m asleep. When I wake up, the bump is gone, my teeth are clean and I’m wearing a flower hat. Oh, the embarrassing inhumanity! But I AM getting lots of treats and some cool pills!” Continue Reading