Life on crutches

Spoiler alert: It sucks. Actually, that’s probably not much of a spoiler alert since it seems as though most people I talk to have been on them at some point in their life already. I guess it’s a testament to my luck that this is the first time I’ve broken a bone. (We’re not counting the toe I likely broke when I drunkenly slammed it into a table leg several years ago.)

I’m extremely lucky that I work from home, so my day-to-day hasn’t been inconvenienced in a way that affects my job performance or ability to get to and from work.

But everything else has been affected, and a lot of things I used to barely think about doing are now incredibly inconvenient. I can’t get into or out of the shower on my own, I have to use a chair once I’m in there, and it takes forever to get dressed. I shower at night now because I don’t want to have to get up a couple hours earlier in the morning—and I don’t even dry my hair anymore. Since I broke my ankle four weeks ago, I think I’ve put product in and dried my hair twice.

Things like forgetting a piece of clothing in another room turn into a logistical nightmare. There is no more quickly getting up and grabbing something I forgot somewhere. I’m fairly quick on the crutches now, but I can’t carry anything unless it can be held in my hand along with the crutch grip. I drink all of my water out of Nalgene bottles that have a loop attached to their caps. My snacking has been cut down considerably because if I can’t fit it in my pocket, I’m not able to carry it back to my desk. I plan out my trips to the bathroom to maximize my time being upright—I’m constantly scanning rooms and making mental notes of things I need to move or bring back with me before I sit down again.

I’m incredibly lucky that Ian has been able to help me with literally everything, though. Since this happened, he’s been cooking every meal and bringing it to me on the couch. He comes home at lunch to let the dogs out/in (I can do this now, but if it’s wet outside I’m unable to wipe their feet down), fix me lunch and carry it over to my desk for me to eat it. He’s been walking the dogs, cleaning the house (I did manage to clean the kitchen and the bathrooms at one point, but I paid for it with foot swelling and ankle pain later), carrying my foot-elevating pillows from the bed to the couch and back again every day, and moving stuff around the house that I can’t carry, which is almost everything.

When I do have to leave the house, he has to help me down our steep staircase in front of the house. He takes my right crutch and I hold onto him and the left crutch as I try to put the least amount of weight on my right foot for each step down. We repeat the process for getting back into the house.

My insurance finally approved a monthly rental of a knee scooter, but it’s not as big of a help as I thought it would be. It’s got a basket on the front, which helps me carry small things to and fro, but it’s cumbersome to move in small spaces and I keep running over my left foot when I try to back it up to navigate around things.

I tried putting some weight on my foot while in the boot this weekend and it was slightly liberating—but now my ankle hurts worse than it has for a week or two. So now I’m back to taking it easy and not pushing things. The pain isn’t always terrible, but I’m not a huge fan of pain killers and have been trying to not take them unless I think I won’t be able to sleep because it hurts too much. (For reference, I just finished the bottle of 20 that I was prescribed in the ER the night I broke my ankle. It was meant to last three or four days.) I really hope when everything is healed I don’t have lasting issues from this, but the more people I talk to the more worried about that I get.

I’ve never been good at waiting, but that’s all I can do now. I feel a little relief that this happened in the middle of winter and not right as the weather was changing to lovely spring days, because I’d likely be spending most of my time indoors anyway. It’s been chilly and rainy most days, and the dogs have been mostly content to sit on the couch and chill. We did start sending Stella to camp twice a week instead of once so that she doesn’t get too bored (or fat) from not leaving the house as much as she’s used to, but Star Fox has been more than happy to stay inside with me so I don’t feel too guilty.

I miss being able to do a lot of things, but most of all I’ll be glad when I can walk the dogs again. That’s probably what I miss the most.

It's a wild Saturday night at my house.

One year gone

Today marks one year since Gordo died. He was cremated and I planted tiger lilies (given to me by a thoughtful and knowing friend) above the place in our yard where I scattered the ashes. The flowers bloomed and then died, and I fretted until my friend told flowers for Gordome they would grow back again the next season.

One day recently, Ian started to accidentally mow over the burial spot and the lawn mower—which is electric and had full batteries—sputtered and stopped working. “Gordo says hi,” he told me later.

The flowers are growing again now, and should bloom soon.

In the year since Gordo died, I’ve thought about him often. Every day, most likely, since I see things all over the house that remind me of him. I almost started crying when I opened a box of Band Aids recently—peeling off their wrappers would cause him to come running from wherever he was and he would beg to be able to eat the paper.

At first I wasn’t sure how I’d sleep, since every night for nearly 16 years he would curl up under my chin and purr me to sleep, but soon after he was gone BK started sleeping where he used to. She tried to be sneaky about it at first—she’d climb into bed this is how we sleptand get between Ian and me as usual, but when I would wake up in the morning she’d be on my right side, snuggled up to me and my pillow just like Gordo used to. (Well, almost. She’s not super into being spooned like he was.) Now, though, she is pretty obvious about what she’s doing and many nights she’ll immediately settle down next to me and start purring. I’m not sure if she set out to intentionally comfort me, but it worked. It still works.

I don’t see him in Dragon (what we finally settled on as a name for the male foster kitten we ended up adopting) at all, which is a relief. I was so afraid I was subconsciously trying to replace him by adopting another male ginger cat, but he’s pretty much the exact opposite of Gordo. He’s a kinetic ball of energy, and is both skittish and brave at the same time. He isn’t too fond of people, but he loves BK and King Boo and Stella is his best friend. He’s not super cuddly, and I don’t think I could ever hold him long enough to cry into his fur, but he brings a different joy and energy into the house.

And this morning, I woke up with both him and BK sleeping next to me.

I knew the feelings of hollow sadness wouldn’t last forever, but it’s a relief to have made it a year and be able to think back easily and sweetly of the time I spent with Gordo. He was one cool cat who lived a good, long life. So rest in peace, old buddy. I’ll be drinking in your honor today.

RIP Gordo

Every year is getting shorter

Time is ticking out

I hung up a clock today. A real, old-school, two-hands one. I can’t remember the last time I had a clock in my house that made that noise—tick, tick, tick—and it’s a bit disconcerting.

Tick—time is passing.
Tick—you’re getting older.
Tick—time is running out.

It’s easy to waste seconds when we can’t hear them being spent.

Tick, tick, tick. Three more gone. Tick, tick, tick. You better do something, the clock taunts me. Tick, tick, tick. What will you have to show for your time when it’s up?

My first foster failure

Two months ago, I overestimated myself.

Ian and I agreed to foster two neighborhood feral kittens until they were old enough to be spayed and neutered and adopted out, and I thought, “Oh sure, it’s too soon for us to get another cat so it won’t be a problem. I’ll find these siblings a nice home with some nice folks and everything will be fine.”

foster kittens

At first, we were only supposed to keep them for a week. Just to help out a neighbor who was overwhelmed with foster kittens. But then I went to Chicago for a week with Stella and Ian agreed to keep the kittens even longer.

That should’ve been my first clue.

Eventually they gained enough weight that they could be fixed, and then it was time to try to adopt them out. My neighbor and I brought them to a high-end pet supply store to talk to customers and hopefully find them homes with people who spend hundreds of dollars on pet food every month, and we found a man who wanted to bring home a kitten for his hyper dog to play with. I was skeptical, but the people who worked at the store knew him and said he was very good to his pets and would provide Rafi, the boy kitten, a great home.

I walked him out to his car with the kitten and wouldn’t let go of his car door. I gave him my phone number and pleaded with him to call me for any reason, and told him that he could bring the kitten back at any time—no questions asked.

That should’ve been my second clue.

I got home and cried all night, and Ian made me Moscow mules to drown my sadness. I knew it was a good thing that one of the kittens had gotten adopted out, but I felt in the back of my mind like I’d failed him somehow. I decided we were going to keep the girl kitten because I couldn’t bear going through that again. I wasn’t being rational.

That should’ve been my third clue.

But the next day the man called and said his dog had urinated in protest all over his house—twice—and he was bringing the kitten back. I was filled with relief.

That should’ve been the clue that smacked me in my delusional face.

Rafi and Stella

My neighbor asked if I wanted to hit the pet supply store again, but I declined. A friend/co-worker and his 16-year-old daughter were looking for a kitten, and he told me they’d adopt one. I knew they were good to their pets and would be good to the kitten, so I invited them to come visit me for the day and choose one.

I expected they’d pick the boy, since he’d previously been the more outgoing, friendly and not-scared-of-anything kitten, but while they were here Rafi hid almost the entire time. Instead it was Jane (who we’d nicknamed Scorpion Princess because of the way she folded her tail over her back when excited), historically skittish and unfriendly except with King Boo, who captured their attention. She played excitedly with my friend’s daughter and inspected their puppy (from afar) and showed no fear. It’s one of the few times I’ve actually seen an animal choose its owner. So while I knew I’d miss her, I knew she was going to the right place.

As soon as they left with her I cried, but then I saw King Boo grooming Rafi. And later, as the two of them wrestled and ran around the house, I realized I had gotten a kitten for my cat.

King Boo plays father-figure to Rafi

All of the guilt I’d felt with adopting them out was tied into how much King Boo loved having them around. We’d started calling him Papa Boo because of the way he’d supervise their play time, and then jump in to diffuse things and lick their fur back into place. The whole time we were fostering we joked that Jane was his girlfriend, but now that she’s gone he snuggles with Rafi just as much. They sleep together in the bed each night, they nap in my desk chair together every afternoon and they wrestle the shit out of each other at least five times a day.

Despite all of the attention he paid to me, I think I’d been trying to push Rafi away a bit because he was a male orange tabby and I didn’t want it to seem like I was trying to replace Gordo. But as the vet told me the other day when I took him in for shots and they knowingly chuckled at my first foster failure, you can never replace a pet. And not keeping Rafi because he is the same color as Gordo, even though he’d endeared himself to everyone in the family including Stella, wouldn’t be fair to him.

So here we are, a three-cat family again. I’m slightly annoyed with myself for thinking I could foster so easily, but then I see how happy King Boo is to have a cat friend again and I figure it’ll work out OK.

How is it almost Christmas?

Somehow fall morphed into winter and now it’s mid-December and I’m scrambling to finish my Christmas shopping. Ian and I spent the past weekend in Gatlinburg at a cabin we’d also stayed in a couple years ago. I won a free weekend there because the owner liked the review I left so much, but we’d been waiting to cash in the trip. Even though it rained all day Saturday, the trip came at the perfect time. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out and the weeks approaching the holidays always get me a little down, so it was a relief to just chill out—sans dog—in the woods for a couple days.

(I know those of you with kids are laughing at me right now.)

Gatlinburg was all gussied up for Christmas, and I guess that inspired me a bit because Monday night Ian and I went to Big Lots and bought an assload of lights to decorate the outside of our house with. Of course, the excitement was fleeting and overruled by laziness, and we still haven’t put them up. Mainly because it’s dark after work and we don’t feel like futzing around in the front yard in the dark and cold after working all day. As much as I keep telling myself I’ll work on putting them up at lunch the next day, I have a feeling they’ll end up going into the attic until next year when I don’t wait until right before Christmas to decide to decorate.

But I did decorate the inside of the house some. Our cats are psychos so we can’t have a tree, but each year I decorate our biggest bookshelf with those big colorful lights and a window in our living room with a strand of the small white ones. I also threw a strand of white lights under the TV this year and hung my little star lights under the kitchen cabinets.

I don’t really know how to describe the feeling I always get around Christmas—it’s kind of like feeling bummed out, but with nostalgia and gratitude mixed in. Having strands of lights and a candle that smells like a pine tree always helps, though. And this is our first Christmas in our new house, which is exciting and seems to be cutting down on some of my usual holiday blues. We’ll have lived here a year at the end of January, and I still sometimes get goosebumps when I pull in the driveway after being gone. I know it’s not great to be so attached to a material possession, but this is our house, where we’re continuing to build our little family and make memories, and I really love it.

Joy

There’s this thing Stella does when she gets really excited. She jumps in the air, all four paws coming off the ground, and spins. She runs in front of me to do it, and looks back to make sure I’m watching. To make sure I see how happy she is.

When we first got her she used to do this at mealtime. But I guess now she’s figured out that she’s going to get fed twice a day no matter what, so it’s not that exciting anymore. At least not enough to warrant a goat jump.

But she does it for walks. She knows now in the morning that when I walk past her crate to grab my glasses, it’s almost time. She knows when I’ve put my glasses on and let her out of her crate we’re about to go for a walk. She’ll wiggle her butt when I ask her to sit before leaving the crate; it’s almost too much for her to handle. And then she’ll goat-hop out of the bedroom in front of me, looking back and smiling, making sure I see how excited and happy she is.

She’ll lead me to her leash, in case I forget where it is, and if I walk past it into the kitchen she’ll follow me, hopping some more. She smiles so much that we’ve started calling her Smiley Cyrus. With her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, the nickname fits. I hope the butt-wiggling isn’t her version of twerking, though.

She’s such a happy dog. I ask Ian a lot if he thinks that she loves me, since I’m always the one enforcing the rules and laying down the law. But every morning when it’s time for a walk and she looks at me with pure joy in her eyes, hopping and spinning and smiling at me, I’m pretty sure she does.

This dog, I swear

We’re getting to the point where we have more good days than bad with Stella, but she still tries my patience more often than not. She had been eating both meals a day consistently for a while, but then this morning she decided she didn’t want to eat breakfast. Granted, we got home late last night and it was around 11 p.m. when she ate dinner, so it was probably our fault.

But then she was a complete chore to walk this morning and I had to cut our walk short after only a block and a half. She lept so forcefully after a car driving by that I thought my arm was going to come out of its socket, and she whined and pulled in every direction down the block, so after she did her business I turned around and took her right back home. I tried stopping and saying “No pull,” changing direction, making her sit and calm down each time she pulled really hard, but none of it worked today so I just gave up. Hopefully she’ll be better tonight.

Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy her puppyhood, but I’ll be honest: I can’t wait for her to grow out of it and calm the hell down. I’d love to be able to start reading/playing video games/sitting still again.

Currently

This weekend Ian’s uncle came to visit, and since it rained for almost three days straight we spent much of our time eating and drinking our way around town—indoors, of course.

In what turned out to be a grave a miscalculation of value due to the weather, I had rented two lenses from LensRentals.com to try out on the new 70d I just got last month. Despite all the rain I still needed to get out and see what they could do, but Ian and his uncle were good sports and let me drag them around whenever we had a break in the rain. (Stopping at several bars along the way probably helped my cause, I’m sure.)

Ian’s uncle is a cool dude—a former prison guard at a medium security prison, he’s now retired and stopped here on his way to Cherokee, N.C., where he was going to gamble on the house for a few days. He regaled us with stories of his time in the Air Force and as a lieutenant in a correctional facility, and as a boy growing up in very, very rural West Virginia, and we introduced him to more craft beer than he knew could exist in one town. I figured out early on that in order to not spend the entire next week hung over I needed to act as the designated driver while we were out on the town, and I think that was probably the smartest decision I could have made. Those boys can really drink.

Stella gets some scratchin'

The upside to the rain, though, was that when it cleared for a bit yesterday we had some nice afternoon weather for back porch-sitting. I used the opportunity to conduct a little photoshoot with Stella, who was happy to finally be able to spend some time outdoors without getting soaked.

But now it’s Monday and it’s about to rain again. Last year when we moved to Chattanooga in July, it rained almost every day for a month. Everyone kept telling us that it was so strange for this time of year, but it looks as though the strange might have become the norm and the non-stop July rain is repeating itself.

Stella celebrates the Fourth of July

On Friday, Ian and I packed up and headed to Murfreesboro to celebrate the Fourth of July with family and friends—and Stella, of course. This was the first time in the three months we’ve had her that I actually felt like I understood why people think having dogs is fun. Wait, that sounds worse than I meant it. It’s just that she’s been so much work and we really haven’t taken her out to do much fun stuff for more than an hour or so.

She was so good at Ian’s mom’s house, though. We grilled out and everyone hung out in the back yard talking, drinking beer and playing badminton and cornhole. We tied Stella’s 30-foot lead around a tree, and she hung out there with us. She got tangled in the chairs and table some, but everyone who was mingling around would just pick up a chair or call her to walk around the other side of the table to get her untangled. For once I actually felt that she was an easy dog. She wasn’t scared of anything or anyone and was happy to just be part of the crowd. Ian’s sister’s dog, Dom (an old Chihuahua), was there and so was our friend Alex’s Shih Tzu, Chloe. Chloe was happy to play with Stella, but Dom didn’t want anything to do with either of them. He’s a cranky old man, though, so he gets a pass.

We weren’t sure how she would react to fireworks that night and had brought along several treats and an unwashed shirt that smelled like me to put in her crate and hopefully keep her calm. It turned out we didn’t need any of that, as she wasn’t scared of the fireworks at all. She was pretty tired after an exciting day, and ended up laying down under my lawn chair to watch with the rest of the crowd. Our last firework was this huge (really awesome) mortar that had about 20 shots in it, and I think that might have made her a little nervous. She got out from the chair and started pacing around a bit, so I took her inside and put her to bed and she didn’t make a peep. Of course, she was ready to go the next morning at 6:30 and didn’t care that we were all hungover and exhausted.

After I took her for a walk around Ian’s mom’s neighborhood, though, she was like a different dog than she is at home. She was content to lay around on the floor or the couch with us and watch TV as we convalesced. I’ve literally never seen her stop moving for more than 30 seconds unless she’s sleeping, so this was an encouraging development. We left her at Ian’s mom’s that night and headed up to his dad’s house in Mt. Juliet (where I ate ribs for the first time in years!), and Sunday when we came back to pick her up she hugged me. Arms on shoulders, licking my face, burrowing her head in my hair. It felt a little like what I imagine picking a real child up from grandma’s house would feel like. Go ahead and barf at the sweetness.

Now that we’re back home, though, it’s been a struggle to get her eating her food again. I don’t know if she’s sick or if she just doesn’t like her food, but it’s starting to worry me a bit. Last week I bought her Natural Balance dry food (Sweet Potato and Bison flavor—a grain-free, limited ingredient food that is regarded as a high-quality dog food) and started transitioning her over last Wednesday. She was doing good, but I think eating scraps on July 4th spoiled her because when we got home she refused to eat. This morning I realized that she just picked out the new food from the mixture and left the old, so I think tonight I’m going to try just giving her the new. There isn’t too much left of the Nutro, and I’m sure I can donate it to a local shelter if she won’t eat the rest of it. I just hope her issue is that she got tired of it and wanted something new, not that she’s sick. Or that she’s going to refuse to eat dry food at all. Canned decent dog food is expensive and really not something I want to have to budget for (we’re talking $120/month minimum, and she’s still growing).

Updates!

I took an accidental hiatus from blogging. I guess that’s what happens when I’m out living life bigger than I normally do. A bunch of shit has happened recently and while some of it warrants individual posts I don’t have time for that right now. So, a list!

1. Apparently eating fish really was a slippery slope, because I fell completely off the no-meat bandwagon. I can’t remember exactly when it happened—late March, maybe? You’d think I’d note something like that, but I guess I wasn’t really sure that it was going to stick. Ian was sitting there one morning during brunch eating some local breakfast sausage from Enzo’s (a market that sells local/organic meat and fish) and it smelled so good. I tried a little piece, and then later in the week I decided I wanted to eat some chicken. So I went and got some local free-range chicken breasts, Ian cooked them, and it was all over.

So, yeah. I am not eating meat too often—maybe once a week or so? And I am trying really hard to eat only local, organic meat. I don’t really eat a lot of red meat—I have tried steak and ground beef and it just tastes weird to me now. For the most part, I eat chicken and some pork. I have had a couple of McDonald’s hamburgers but damn, I just feel like shit afterward. Both mentally and physically. So I’m definitely going to stick to the quality meats if I keep this up.

People have asked me why I started meat again, but I really don’t have any exciting reason. I just did. Boring, I know.

2. I went to Ireland with my mom for 10 days. This definitely deserves its own post, which I plan on writing as soon as I’m done editing the bajillion pictures I took while we were over there. This is taking longer than expected because all of the skies in the pictures are grey and blah-looking. Which I guess was to be expected considering the climate and weather there.

3. Stella is doing well. When I got back from Ireland she was pretty much housebroken—she’s had two accidents in the past month, which I suppose is pretty good. We got our backyard fully fenced-in right before I left for my trip, and I think that made all the difference. Of course, now we have to go out regularly and comb the grass for dog-bombs. But that’s nothing compared to having to take her out on a leash numerous times a day, and she can zoom around back there to her heart’s content.

She graduated puppy school and got a certificate and a medal; it’s pretty cute. She also completed a three-week course called Really Reliable Recall that helped us work on getting her to return to us when she is off-leash. She’s not super great about it, but we have to keep practicing with her three times a day for a year. Yikes. I’m trying to get her into a leash-training course now, but I guess there’s so little interest that they don’t hold it regularly. That just seems ridiculous to me—surely there are a bunch of other dogs who suck at walking on leashes. But besides that class, I’m going to let her have the summer off and we’ll just practice around the house with what we’ve learned so far. I’ll probably enroll her in an advanced obedience course in the fall, though, because I can definitely tell that the classes help her (and us).

The biggest issue we’re having right now is that she doesn’t want to eat her food. When I was in Nashville last week for work Ian noticed that she wouldn’t eat in her crate but when he put the food down on her mat in the dining room she’d eat it. I thought that meant she was ready to transition into eating in the dining room, but when we tried to do it regularly she was uninterested. I think what she wants is to graze throughout the day, which I am not going to let her do since I need to have a good idea of when she needs to go to the bathroom. So I’ve cut down on her treats during the day (which in turn means cutting back on training, which kind of sucks) and am feeding her back in her crate again, and she’s eating a bit more. According to the bag of food she should be eating a cup of food twice a day, but she’s really only eating about a half a cup twice a day. She’s gained weight so I’m not too worried, but it does seem kind of weird to have to try to convince an otherwise food-motivated dog to eat.

She might just not like her food too much, so I am considering switching her again. She’s been eating Nutro Natural Choice since right after we got her, but she’s never really been in love with it. She loves the Natural Balance food logs we use for training treats, but that stuff is ridiculously expensive and it works so well as a training treat that I’d rather reserve it for that. I might try switching her to their dry food, even though it’s twice the cost of the Nutro. She’d probably love any brand of wet food, but that’s crazy expensive too. Even the cheaper “good” brands like Nutro would end up costing us about $120/month if we did canned food. I keep telling her a shelter dog shouldn’t be so picky, but she just looks at me with these sad eyes and then I feel guilty.

Oh! King Boo is starting to like her, I think. They’re starting to try to play with each other, and although they haven’t really gotten the hang of it he doesn’t kick her ass every day like he used to. She still respects and fears him, but I can tell she really likes him, too. And I think he is starting to like her more. He just doesn’t fully trust her.

So, yeah. That’s pretty much been my life the last month and a half. New diet, traveling a lot and dealing with the dog. I’m looking forward to what’s hopefully a quiet summer.