Sunday, January 15, 2012

Notes From the Infirmary

I’ve just woken up from a cold-induced nap.  Not the temperature kind, the virus kind.  It was just a matter of time, really.  Almost everyone else in my family has been sick lately.  John has been laid low for the last two weeks with the flu—a cough so nasty that you feel like you should double check for lungs after each bout.  We got a call last weekend from our daughter’s boyfriend.  He responded to our hello with, “She thought I should call you.  But it’s okay now; the paramedics are here.”  Not precisely the phrase one wants to hear in relation to one’s daughter.  Especially when she lives 275 miles away.  She had contracted the nasty Norovirus and had become so dehydrated she ended up spending the night in the hospital, fluids dripping into her veins, while her apartment mates sterilized every surface in their home with a solution of bleach.  Wash your hands, folks!  Frequent application of soap and water is the only defense.  Unless, like her, you get the airborne variety.

Little Cleo came home from the groomer last Thursday (a week ago) flapping her ears a little more vigorously than usual.  It’s not uncommon for her to shake her head for a half hour or so after she comes home.  I can’t imagine that having the hair yanked out of one’s ears is an altogether pleasant experience.  A little itching and tingling seems like a natural aftereffect.  When she was still at it Thursday afternoon, though, I thought she might benefit from a wipe with ear cleaner.  We checked to be sure there was nothing inside her ear, no foxtails or anything, then wiped the visible areas.  The towelette came away clean and Cleo seemed to improve.

At school on Friday, she was a bit listless, but still eager to get up and play whenever a student came in.  I wondered if she was coming down with a cold.  I only started to get scared when we got home and Cleo went straight to the guest room and curled up under the bed, refusing to come out.  By then, of course, our vet was closed for the weekend.  We called the emergency vet who counseled us to take the wait-and-see approach.  At some point, Cleo came out and was scratching her ear.  I put my hand on the outside of her earflap and gently rubbed.  She screamed and jerked away.  We looked inside her ear again; it was neon red. 

Sometimes, lying on the arm of the couch
gives one a new perspective.
She spent the rest of the night under the guest room bed, wedged between a desk and the wall or curled miserably in her crate.  She wouldn’t come into the living room with John and me, she didn’t want to cuddle on the bed before lights out.  Every time she stirred during the night, I was awake and listening for sounds of distress.  It was a long wait for the emergency vet to open in the morning for non-life threatening conditions.

It was, as most of my fellow dog lovers probably suspect by now, a yeast infection.  The outrageous bit is that it had been brewing for some time, but no groomer had thought to mention it.  Okay, yes, I sniff her ears regularly (like any good mother) and hadn’t smelled it, but when the groomers plucked her hair, it’s impossible that gobs of black crud didn’t come out.  They sure did when the vet cleaned her ears.  And, by the way, plucked several chunks of hair that the groomer had missed. That made a very odd ripping sound which hurt me physically, though Cleo didn’t even bat an eyelash.

Normally a very busy dog.
I did learn a variety of interesting and useful things from the visit.  Cleo is in excellent condition, both weight and muscle tone (always good to hear).  The piece of gauze that the vet fed down into her ear canal was a good three inches long.  That’s a lot of ear canal for a small dog (at least from my perspective; the vet wasn’t surprised at all).  What comes out of the ears of a dog who has a yeast infection is really gross.  And perhaps most useful, how to clean Cleo’s ears with an antiseptic wash.

But here’s the most amazing thing: I think about how that puppy has been feeling for several weeks now.  It can’t have been good.  Yet she never let on; she was happy and energetic and full of love for life and everyone in it.  It was only for the day and a half after her ears were irritated beyond endurance that she was in abject misery.  An hour after the vet visit, at the most, she was romping around with her toys and her cats, joy incarnate.  How often do I let little things get me down?  The sniffles or a harsh word or a disappointment? 

And there’s something else.  The other morning, after John had been up all night coughing, I decided to let him sleep while I tried to drip the medicine into her ears by myself.  I wondered how I was going to keep her still, hold her ear open and apply the medicine with only two hands.  I lifted Cleo onto the counter.  She sat down and held her head up high.  As I lifted her ear flap, she tilted her head very slightly to allow me better access.  The drops went down and I rubbed them in.  She squeezed her eyes shut, then tilted her head the other direction.  Second ear done, puppy holding completely still.  I lifted her down to the floor—explosion!  A good, thorough shake followed by a celebratory dance on her hind legs, reaching up to me with her front paws, a huge smile and sparkling eyes.

We should all be so brave, so patient, so understanding, so full of joy.

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