I spent three and a half hours at a vet ER with Hazel Monday night, who was pacing the house with her tail between her legs whining. by the time we were all ready to go to bed, she was getting more and more frantic, so I put my shoes back on and headed out to Elicott City to get her checked out. We sat in a cold exam room for a while and they took her in back to get checked out. I explained why she was wearing the headscarf and the symptoms we were seeing, as well as the fact that we haven’t seen her poop in several days. They presented a me with an expensive estimate which I approved, and they took her back for some invasive and embarrassing treatment. Poor girl. We then waited in the exam room for another half an hour of constant whining until they got the bill and meds together and cut us loose. We crashed out at 3AM and the girls mercifully let us sleep in as late as possible. Hazel is still uncomfortable; hopefully the medicine will get things moving for her soon, and the pressure will be relieved.
I stuck my old Nikon 1.4 manual lens on my Fuji XT-10 today and set it up for focus peaking so I could have some fun with a camera I don’t drag around anymore. Hazel was kind enough to sit for a picture.
Hazel has always been a vocal dog. Around the house, among family, she whines, bays, cries, howls, and sometimes barks—the barks are reserved for anyone knocking on the door or delivering mail—but she really comes into her own when she’s out on the lead in the backyard. The neighbors off to our left have a big golden of some kind whose staccato woof will often get the other neighborhood dogs going; he and Hazel will trade gossip until we drag her back inside. There’s a fluffy dog two doors down who likes to prance around her yard and send Hazel into fits of jealousy. The neighbors two doors to the right have a boxer and a French bulldog who run around the yard together; this prompts fits of spastic barking that sounds like an emo band from the early 2000’s. I get it. This is what dogs do: it’s the Evening Barking from the original 1001 Dalmations.
All of this is no good. We can’t be the neighbors who have That Dog, and we kind of are. We’re up at 7AM and she goes out and screams her head off as soon as she’s downstairs: she can’t be outside waking everybody up. She’s been getting worse lately too—there’s a fox who likes to stroll through the neighbor’s yard and stop to gawk at her as she goes completely mental, desperately trying to get off her lead to give chase, barking and crying and whining and yowling like no other dog I’ve ever heard. It’s out of control.
So with a lot of hesitation and a shitty feeling, I strapped a bark collar onto her neck this morning, set to the lowest voltage, and let her outside. She gave one good bark, one quiet yip, and then wanted to come right the fuck back inside. I want her to bark at strangers when they come to the door, so it only goes on when she’s outside. She stands at the door as I strap it on nervously licking her lips. She’s not stupid; she knows exactly what the collar means even if she doesn’t understand why she has to wear it. I’m hoping that after a few weeks I can use it without turning it on, and eventually she won’t need to wear it anymore. But for now I feel like an absolute shitheel when she wants to go outside and I reach for that thing.
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.