We say a lot of things about Hazel. She’s a good girl; she’s out of control. She’s a smart dog; She’s a moron. She’s a sharp as a tack; she’s a mess. All of it is true. She’s a mixture of very intelligent breeds that have combined in her brain to create a lovable schizophrenic who is a slave to her own conflicting instincts. She is desperate to be put to work: She wants to hunt for game but is continually sidetracked by the scent of rodentia. She can be passed out cold but the faint bark of a horny fox will send her into convulsions. We take her to the Farmer’s Market every chance we get, but the presence of other dogs means I’ve got to hand off my coffee and choke up on the leash to make sure she doesn’t get tangled up in the crowd. To her credit, she’s never the dog to bark or growl; I’m usually able to get her away from the other dog quick enough to avoid that.
Her smell has been getting pretty foul lately, and the frito smell from her paws has been strong, so I got her to follow me up to the bathtub to get ready for a bath. She knows what the bathroom is all about and doesn’t really enjoy being in there, but she followed me in and sat on the rug, waiting for me to prepare. I realized I’d forgotten the baking soda, so I gave her the WAIT command and ran downstairs to grab it. It took a little longer than I was expecting to find it, but I also grabbed the marshmallows and ran back up. As I reached the top of the stairs, I was happily surprised to see her sitting quietly where I’d left her, clearly aware I was about to give her a bath, but resigned to her fate. I gave her a handful of marshmallows.
She is a beautiful, maddening mess of a dog, but I love her very much.
Saturday morning the family rose, grabbed a quick meal, and put on warm clothes so that we could help organize and distribute Thanksgiving meals for a church in our neighborhood. As part of the food drive we did a couple of weeks ago, our church partners with others to collect and donate food, and we signed up for another morning of service. We parked front of a long line of idling cars, then walked to the back of the church house where tables were set up and people were busily building boxes of cans and bags of dry goods. Jen and Finn dove into the tent and got to work, and I made myself useful at a pile of boxes along the driveway, stacking and moving things from one place to the next. When the cars started coming in, we all hustled to fill them with food. It was a bit chaotic at the beginning, but the joyful congregation and good cheer kept the mood light and the work easy. The last of 200 turkeys was loaded in a car at 10:40, and the final car drove through at 11:30. We helped clean up as much as we possibly could, then had a slice of homemade cake and some hot chocolate and said our good-byes, happy we’d been able to do some good.
I headed over the bridge on Sunday morning to put a day’s worth of work in on the schoolbus, which has been sitting patiently in the shed since we stopped work in October. The first job was to unpack the bench seats and do a test fitting to see how they looked. We unpacked one and set it up on the floor of the garage, finally figuring out how the folding mechanism worked so that we could convert it into a seat (they ship flat). We used an angle grinder to take a third folding section of the bed off the back—there isn’t enough room to include it, and they don’t need it with the way we’re organizing the space. Then we hauled it into the bus and sat it in place, making some test holes to figure out where the seat bases will land. When that was done we unpacked the single seat and put that in place to test the pass-through space. It’ll be tight, but it should work.
Repacking the seats, we sanded the high edges of the floor down, put about a thousand flooring nails in place, and applied leveling mud to the surface to smooth it all out. By the time that dried it was getting dark, so we set up a light and got to work laying floor tile. We started up front and worked our way back, and with Brian prepping the floor and laying tile and me cutting tiles to fit, we cranked it out pretty quickly. Even so, by the time we finished it was 7:30 and while he cleaned up the surface I ran around and threw all the tools in the truck. We then had a minor hiccup when the battery on the bus decided it was too weak to turn the motor over, so we found some jumper cables and started it from Brian’s truck. It was 8PM when we left Rock Hall and 9:30 by the time I made it home to the girls.
Meanwhile, Jen had been at the ER with Hazel for four hours, who had been acting strangely all morning. They were swamped so it took a long time to be seen, but when she was examined and an X-ray was taken, it turned out she is backed up worse than the Long Beach dockyards. They did some, uh, work to help the situation but it’s going to take more long walks and some time to clear out her pipes. So she’s moping around the house with her bonnet and a disturbed look on her face. Here’s to hoping the deliveries start back up again.
Well, it looks like the time I spent wet and shivering in a field in Pennsylvania translated itself into a head cold. I’m taking some Dayquil to knock the cough and runny nose back, and that seems to be holding things at bay for now. I’m going to try to get into bed and get as much rest as I can through the weekend so that I can get better before we head to Mom’s house for Turkey Day.
Hazel is back to wearing the Bonnet of Shame for a while; we were lightening the medication for her allergies but her ears started scabbing up and bleeding again (and itching, which meant she was scratching and shaking her head even more) so we ramped the dose back up again. She’s a pitiful sight; she skulks around like we’ve been beating her with broom handles every day of her life. I feel terrible for her, but it’s either this or she sprays blood all over the house. And I’m not having that.
Jen and I were on deadline Thursday night and so the subject of dinner came up and smacked us in the back of the head at 6PM, as it often does these days. We punted and got some grilled cheese from the eponymous shop down the street and devoured it in the living room, spending some time together as a family. We like this restaurant because it’s tasty and because their sandwiches can be split into two meals. Hazel figured some of it was for her because while we were eating she snuck into the kitchen and pulled the other half of Jen’s sandwich down from the counter for her dinner.
This is not the first time she’s gotten up on the counter. The last time Karean came to visit Hazel ate about six muffins before I could stop her; it’s a miracle she didn’t go into a diabetic coma. She’s getting worse about it, too—but I’d be desperate for good food if I was restricted to the weird non-allergenic shit we are forced to feed her.
Even so, it made me mad, so I dragged her right out of the kitchen and put her on her lead outside while we finished our meal. She knew she was in deep shit because she was nervously licking her lips as I hooked her on the lead, but I needed to leave her outside for a while. I put the Scout in the garage about an hour later and she came up to me nervously as I locked the garage; I told her I wasn’t going to deal with her right then and went back in the front door.
Getting ready for bed about an hour later I went out to bring her back inside, but heard nothing as I stood on the back porch—usually she’ll come bounding up when someone steps outside. With a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I picked up her lead and pulled it all the way in until I was holding the clip, still attached to the empty D-ring from her tac harness, with her tag jingling at the end. Oh, shit.
I walked up to Jen holding the tag and gave her the good news; we went back down and half-heartedly paced the sidewalk in front of the house, feeling pretty helpless. I was about to hit the local Nextdoor social feed with a picture and a plea for help when the front doorbell rang; a nice man Jen knows through school had a sheepish Hazel on a leash outside. Apparently she wandered over to the house where her evening barking buddy lives and the folks there were able to grab her. Because the D-ring still had her tag attached, there was no way to know who she belonged to. But somehow through the neighborhood grapevine they connected her with us, and she made her way home.
She made her way upstairs and curled up on the bed, presumably happy to be home with her pack. I felt horrible while she was missing, knowing that the last two times I’d seen her I was mad at her. Thankfully she was smart enough not to follow her nose to West Virginia, but I half wonder if she’d be able to find her way home when left to her own devices. Either way, it’s good to have her snoring on the bed next to me.
So, all things look pretty good on the cancer front. There are no new passengers in my abdomen via the CT scan. My bloodwork isn’t yet in the Normal range, but I also just got my flu shot on Tuesday and I’ve felt like I want to take a nap every minute of the day since then. All of the levels seem to be holding steady with no major drops, so I’ll take that as a win.
When they announced the COVID booster policy, such as it is, I made an appointment to get a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at my local pharmacy. Feeling pious about the whole thing, I went in and filled out the forms and waited in line, and then they looked at them and told me that I was a month early and that I’d have to come back in late October for the actual shot.
Tuesday night we took Finn to karate, where she is acting as a class helper by request of her sensei. It means she needs to be at the dojo an hour early, but I think the added responsibility is good for her, and we’re hoping she starts taking things more seriously. In the meantime, with two hours to kill, Jen and I hit the local thrift superstore, where I was able to find a nice Patagonia vest and a couple more of the Harry Potter movies on disc. We only need the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 to fill out our collection; a few years ago a friend’s daughter deep in a Potter phase borrowed our complete box set and we never saw it again.
Meanwhile, the dog was at home by herself. Jen was experimenting with leaving her by herself for short periods of time while I was gone, and for spans of an hour or two she seemed to do fine. We left her for a full three hours on Tuesday, half expecting to find a hole dug through the wall or a giant mountain of dogshit on the couch, but everything was normal when we walked back in the door. Progress? Possibly, but I’m not going to hold my breath until we get a couple of months under our belt.
Hazel has slowly been working on a routine as she’s gotten older, and some of her more annoying habits have been smoothing out over time. She used to launch out of bed like an ICBM with the first beams of light over the horizon and pace by the bedroom door whining and crying and nervously scratching herself. I’d shuffle downstairs with one eye open, let her out, and then collapse on the couch praying that I’d be able to go back to sleep for a few minutes before she banged on the door to come inside—or woke up the neighborhood barking her head off.
She’s sleeping in later these days, which is a blessing, and even if I’m up before she is and slowly pick up my phone to do the morning’s calendar/weather/news check (what time do I need to be put together for my first Zoom call/how cold will the morning walk be/what’s happening in the outside world) she’ll clock that I’m moving but won’t stir until she sees I’m actually getting up. She knows what reading the iPhone means, and she knows what the pre-rise bed stretch means. She can read the signs.
So on Saturday morning, we slept in for as long as my bladder would allow, and then crawled out of bed to walk downtown for coffee and muffins. Along the way we passed several signs for yard sales, which is your author’s crack cocaine. The pickings weren’t quite as good as the signs promised, but a nice lady gave Jen a 1996 Maryland Master Gardener Handbook for free along with a thick binder full of her notes; she had to carry it back home before we continued our walk.
After eating, I got out to the greenhouse and cleaned up the plants, pinching off all of the suckers, pruning spare branches, and keeping things moving upward. They all got watered, and I fixed the wooden foundation of the building so that it’s a bit more stable. Meanwhile Jen pruned a bunch of the day lilies around the entrance back and cleaned up the gardens around the house. it’s all looking really good out there—I’m optimistic for a good haul this summer.
We ran out to drop Finn off at a friend’s house and ran some errands at the local Home Depot, and while I was there I left my Moleskine in the basket of the shopping cart and drove off without it. On a good day this might have been only a small setback, but I left my vaccination card and some other stuff in the back pocket, which made it a bad day. Two calls to Customer Service and a trip to the store netted us nothing, so I’ve pretty much given up hope. At least I have a picture of my card.
Sunday we puttered around the house and got a late start on the day. After dropping Finn off at a friend’s house across town Jen and I took Hazel to Second Chance to look for some spare doors. To recap: Our fridge is stuffed in what was originally the hallway coat closet, and during the summer, our un air-conditioned house tends to get stuffy. Having the fridge in the closet with the door closed is a terrible idea, so we’ve had to crack the door open and let the cats wander in and out and generally deal with how shitty that looks for sixteen years. Jen’s idea was to find another door in the same style, punch out the center panels, and replace them with radiator screen so that the fridge gets enough airflow and the door stays shut.
Second Chance is one of the advantages of living near Baltimore. We found a very close twin to our doors on the shelf—only 1.5″ taller and 1/2″ wider, in the same large-over-small panel design. We also found a replacement door to the master bath, something to replace the thin wooden screen door we found on the side of the road back in 2004. We stumbled on a beautiful, sturdy 12-light door with good hardware and wound up getting both for $60. I found a way to stuff them both in the back of the CR-V with the rear window up, scooped the dog into my lap, and Jen drove us home with our prizes.
The weather, which has been pogoing up and down for the last month, is supposed to get up into the 80’s this week, which means Brood X is going to rise from their slumber. I don’t know that we’ll get the same number of cicadas without the tree cover we had in 2004, but I’m sure it’s going to be loud out there.