Sunday, August 7, 2011

She Puts the Fun in Fungus

Unperturbed by spots,
Cleo holds her ball at a jaunty angle.

Well, the results are in.  According to our wonderful vet, Cleo’s hair samples grew “A big, hairy fungus.” 

It’s still a mystery why the fungus grew only in those three spots, but I’m glad I started the treatment early.  To be safe, we’re back to spraying the anti-fungal lotion on her back twice a day, but even before the official diagnosis came in, she was showing a great deal of improvement.  Her hair is growing back at a rapid pace. 

Although she looks fairly startling with the blotches on her back, I can’t help feeling nostalgic.  As the hair regrows, it comes in as black as her original baby coat.  Over the next six to twelve months, she’ll go through the whole maturing process all over again as her hair gradually lightens to the adult color.  I am reminded each time I look at her of her very first days with us.  Such a tiny little girl. 

Each night, John and I allow Cleo to settle down and fall asleep on our bed before we transport her to her crate where she immediately curls up and settles in for her long summer’s nap.  Last night, it was my turn to evict.  “I’m going to get fungus medicine all over me,” I said as I picked her up.  It was amazing how little I cared about that as I snuggled her warm little body into me.  Cleo’s sleepy head flopped against my shoulder as her nose pressed against my throat.  We stayed like that for several minutes before I tucked her into bed.

Our trainer, Pluis, says that our dogs fill “a great gaping hole in our lives.”  Had you asked me if I thought I had a hole, gaping or otherwise, in my life before Cleo arrived in it, I would have laughed and responded with an emphatic “No!”  I’ve been through enough to know how fortunate I am to have found my husband.  I have a good, stable job where I am valued and where I can make the kind of difference I recognize is essential to my well-being.  I have some treasured friends who are caring and loyal.  I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  What hole could there possibly be?

And yet, Cleo found one to fill.  As I said way back in the first post, John knew how important she would be long before I did. 

I don’t think of myself as a particularly maternal person.  I have tried to be a good mother to my step-children, all beyond babyhood when I first met them, but in general, babies, at least of the human variety, have never held an interest for me.  I’m not one of those people who stop by a stroller to coo and admire the contents.  Babies sense that and tend to ignore me.  We’re mutually agreeable with the arrangement.  They find John endlessly fascinating.  They will gaze at him, rapt, when we are standing in line at the grocery store, their little mouths drooping, drool oozing down their little chins.  If there happens to be a baby, toddler, small child at one of his gigs, forget about it.  They will stand, sometimes three or four deep, directly in front of him, alternately staring at the guitar and his face.  Sometimes they’ll flap their arms or wiggle their butts to the music.  Even for a non-baby-ite like me, it’s pretty darned adorable.

My sister Jan also responds well to babies, possibly because she used to have one herself.  My niece, now verging on young womanhood, was a lovely baby.  People used to tell her mom and dad that she should be in the Baby Gap ads.  Honestly, after meeting her, even I was tempted to reconsider parenthood.  Then I realized that I was perfectly content with the situation as it stood.  But a couple of weekends ago, my sisters and I went on a mini-retreat together.  At breakfast in the hotel dining room, Jan spotted a baby at the table next to us.  “What a happy little boy!” she exclaimed, smiling at him.  He responded with a huge smile and winningly grabbed his foot.  Babies sense when someone authentically appreciates them.  As for me, I authentically enjoy and appreciate adolescents. 

So last night, as I stood cradling my sleepy baby girl, her fungicidal blotches sliming all over me, I had a dual realization.  The first was, Now I get how parents can cuddle their puking infants.  The second was, Ah, this is the gaping hole that Cleo is filling.  She looks at me to share her joy on our walks.  She presses against me when she’s frightened or intimidated.  She snuggles into me when she’s sleepy.  And I want to share in her joy and her victories, to encourage her when she’s scared, and to protect her when she’s down.  I am Cleo’s mom.

And like all moms, there are times I have to make Cleo do things she doesn’t want to do, like go to the doctor or behave appropriately.  The other day, as Cleo tried to climb me in her desperation to avoid having her temperature taken, the vet tech asked me, “Is she playful at home?”  It’s hard to explain how funny Cleo is.  It’s harder still to convince the uninitiated that she knows she’s being funny and is laughing, too.  While she loves to chase her ball at the beach, she equally loves the game of keepaway.  Though she mostly plays it with us, sometimes she challenges the waves to a game.  If the ball ends up at the edge of the water, she dashes to get it before a wave can surround it.  She snatches it up and dances away from the oncoming wave.  As the wave retreats, she scampers towards it, the ball in her mouth, a taunting smile on her face.   

Every once in a while, her sense of humor can be a tad obnoxious.  Last Wednesday, I had a meeting with a new student and his parents.  Cleo came with me to school so that she could start getting used to the routine again.  The lovely family came into the library and Cleo rushed to greet them.  Exclamations of delight and admiration spurred her on.  She was all over them, jumping, trying to mouth their hands.  She ignored my efforts to quiet her.  Much to her confusion and consternation, when the baby gate at my office door closed, she was on the outside, humans were on the inside. 

As Cleo stared in disbelief, I seated the family at my little conference table.  They turned to look at her, smiling.  Then we started to chat.  Cleo turned and walked out of my line of sight.  Perfect, I thought.  We can concentrate on questions about the transition to a new school.  Yes, well.  I had forgotten that earlier in the day, Cleo had taken one of her toys out into the library.  It is a four inch long, tube-shaped monkey that was given to her by an appreciative parent last spring.  Just around the corner, she started to chew on it.  SQUEEEEAAAK-AHHHHH.  This thing is the loudest chew toy I have ever heard in my life.  And it has the longest squeaks.  Most chew toys have quick, short, exciting chirps: squick-a, squick-a, squick-a.  Not this guy.  Long opening salvo: SQUEEEEEAAAAAK.  Long follow through: AHHHHHHHHH.  It was worse than a jet passing overhead.  We valiantly kept the conversation going, though both the student and his father were barely suppressing smiles and briefly glanced towards the door.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t able to suppress a snort of laughter myself.  The student and I made eye contact and smirked at each other.  I said to the parents, “I can take that from her if she’s distracting you.”  Both assured me she was fine, they weren’t bothered at all.  We continued to talk.

Cleo stopped the squeaking.  It was quiet.  Too quiet. 

The ceiling of my office is made up of fifteen or so large plastic panels, the kind that cover fluorescent light fixtures from the seventies.  They are set into a grid of wooden beams.  Above me is a balcony-like structure which houses our computer lab.  Imagine that you are standing on a balcony that overlooks a great room in a house.  The balcony wraps around to your left, and there it overlooks the kitchen.  If you stand at the railing and look ahead, you look down into the great room.  If you stand at the railing to your left you observe that the builders have put a plastic ceiling on the kitchen and you can’t see down into it.  You can climb over (or through) the railing and walk on the ceiling, but that wouldn’t be a particularly wise thing to do.

From overhead, I hear a tick, tick, tick of little doggie claws on plastic ceiling.  I look up. 

Over the summer, a cleaning crew came in to dust the library.  What seems to have happened is that one brave individual climbed out along the wooden rafters in order to clean the upper side of the plastic panels.  Unfortunately, he must have lost his balance and caught himself by stepping onto the plastic because one of the panels has a giant, jagged crack in it.  A section of it is sagging.

Cleo is standing on the broken panel, peering down at us through the crack.  The panel is sagging under her weight.  I see a gap begin to form between one edge of the panel and the beam that is holding it in place.  “Excuse me,” I say, and sprint up the stairs to rescue my dog before she plummets, skinny tail over tasseled ears, onto a very surprised student. 

By the time I got up to the computer lab, which probably took all of 9.5 seconds, Cleo was sitting a foot from the staircase in the carpeted aisle between computer tables.  Her mouth was open in a wide grin, her tongue lolling to one side.  “Think you’re pretty funny, don’t ya?” I asked her as I picked her up.  She turned and licked my face, still laughing.

As I walked back down the stairs, I could hear the family laughing and commenting on Cleo.  When we came back through the office door, the student said, “She is so cute.”  His father added, “And she has quite a sense of humor!”

It’s going to be a good year.

An average day at home...

1 comment:

  1. That is the cutest story, I just laughed and laughed, she was going to get in your office one way or another. I am proud to say she is one smart little girl. You treat her like a human and she acts like one. Can't wait for the school stories. Jan