Resurfacing in California

Wren on May 2nd, 2014

Two organisms in their native environment.

C.T.: How long can you tread water?

Wren: For the rest of my life.

Today finds me settled in a log cabin on a mountain, mostly unpacked. Our thirteen year-old dog is lame, trying to decide his attachment to life. C.T. has just received his new computer and mine arrives on Monday. We’ve waded through the mythology of internet service in remote locations and we continue to debate with the DMV and the credit union that our address actually exists. There’s not curbside trash or recycling pickup here. And as we ponder where to hang pictures and whether the local natural remedy will cure C.T.’s “welcome to the woods” poison oak, we are also anxiously waiting for a refund from our moving company, who claimed our worldly goods weighed three-thousand more pounds than they did.

Our new home, a rented log cabin above Chico, CA.

Looks like I’m about ten blog posts behind, eh?

As I consider where to begin, C.T. admonishes me not to look as he folds his clean shirt “gap style,” which I refuse to do. I have always folded mine the way my mother showed me, and the habit is strong. It reminds me of what we tell our consensus students about giving up the habits of voting and competition in favor of consensus culture. It feels awkward at first, and takes longer. Eventually, like dancing or bicycling, it’s in your muscles and it’s even hard to explain to others how to do it. But in the case of shirt folding, I have punted by telling C.T. the “gap style” is corporate and I won’t do it on principle. Old dogs, new tricks.

So I should probably begin with the dog—more valuable to us than anything we sent on the moving truck, of course. I adopted Tuatha when he was eight weeks old and he’s been my child substitute, lens on living, and my companion through adventures and changes. Being a sheltie (read: intelligent, eager to please and learn) and being with me almost constantly from that young age, he became a very interactive little being. I’ve joked that I should have named him Pinnochio, not because of his long sheltie nose, but because he tries so hard to be a real boy. We developed a language of words, signs and movements that each of us do to communicate often complex ideas to the other. This amazed C.T. when he first became privy to it.

Tuatha v. autumn on the Heathcote playground.

As a mother to infant Tuatha, I took his education seriously. He went to puppy classes, obedience training, and classes for his Canine Good Citizen certificate. My health prevented me from following with agility classes and doggie acting camp. But we made a little agility course at home and the kids who grew up with him at Heathcote Community were his daily playmates.

I read The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete and took Tuatha to shopping malls for socialization. Shopping Malls were stimulating to my little extrovert, but it’s the Heathcote playground where Tuatha the jock was forged. I used to supervise him there for hours a day. as Heathcoters and visitors walked by on their way to whatever meeting or chore, they would accept his invitations to play soccer or roll the skateboard so he could kill it. His play days were hours long, with a never ending stream of people joining him. I think this is how he came to view life.

The Heathcote land was a sheltered place for Tuatha’s sheltered life. He could adventure with the kids over acre after acre of woods. If I was too busy to give him attention, he would slip off unattended, following some path known only to him, resembling some Family Circus cartoon, no doubt, ending up at our neighbors, the Anackers, on the opposite ridge from our home. His path clearly involved trips to the stream, because he would always be wet when he met me at the Anackers’. Although I would have worried the entire time that I was looking for him, he would arrive happy, knowing I would always find him.

Plotting the next NYC getaway?

After losing our home at Heathcote, we landed in Staten Island for a while. He tried his disappearing act while our host was distracted, bringing in several boxes. Tuatha was missing in the wilds of NYC for several hours. We combed the blocks, calling. After giving up for the night, we were shocked to hear our host’s boarder hollering to us. Tuatha, disoriented, had recognized her getting off a bus blocks away and followed her home!!!

For the last year or so we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of some health issues. The vets have labeled him an unusual case, which is no surprise and no fun. Tuatha’s chest fills up with fluid and his lungs can’t expand enough. He can’t get a breath. The typical causes ruled out, we have simply controlled it with steroids. He did well for months and seemed to handle in stride the five day, four night car ride from Maryland to California.

Then a week ago he woke up lame, refusing to put weight on one leg and seeming to be in a weakened state. Arthritis seems to be the immediate cause of his sore leg, but Tuatha himself seems to be on the fence about whether he wants to push through this or not. Today is a better day than yesterday.

Yesterday had me calling local vets in my new town and lining up possible home euthanasia. Knowing our options, we will give the medicine a few days.

Having many pets over my lifetime, dogs, cats, ducks, goats, I’ve been through it. Infirmity and death have always been part of the deal. Some of the losses I’ve experienced have been spiritual and satisfying. Others have left me with regret. I’ve had months to adjust to the reality of losing Tuatha. And I’ll sort out what it means to me in the years to come. But right now my attention is on making him comfortable, following his lead, and encouraging him to give healing a chance.

C.T. is setting up his new computer. The pine forest is quiet. The guy called and rescheduled our couch delivery to tomorrow. Leeloo, our cat, is curled up in the middle of Tuatha’s bed. We interpret this as solidarity, not imperialism. Even so, Tuatha has decided to lie down beside his bed, enjoying Leeloo’s company without actually coming into contact that might result in, well, claws…

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