Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Brown-Eyed Girl

My brown-eyed girl, perfectly captured in this portrait taken with my new camera.
It's the second week of October, which means that we have entered Abbey's adoption anniversary week. The date itself did not seem important at the time and even if it had been, I was so out of it from medication and mental health trauma that I probably couldn't have remembered it if I tried. But I do know it was right around this time of year seven years ago when we brought home our beloved brindle beauty.

I have written previously about the many positive changes Abbey has brought to my life, especially from a mental health standpoint, but I can't let this anniversary go by, arbitrary as it may be, without singing her praises once again, especially since she's been so important these last few months following my concussion.

Snug as a bug in a rug.
From the time we brought her home until I hit my head in early July, Abbey had always slept--quite happily--in a crate in my parents' bedroom. There were occasional slumber parties brought about by  anxiety-producing incident like fireworks or thunderstorms, but I'd say she slept in my room fewer than half a dozen nights a year. That's all changed now. Two weeks ago we moved her crate from my parents' bedroom into mine, acknowledging the new reality. Abbey went into care-taking mode after I got the concussion and would lie across the threshold of my door at night, refusing to come to bed. When I started sleeping with my door open because I was overheating in the night, there was no keeping her out. She was adamant: she would be sleeping with me, keeping watch over her girl. I had kicked my comforter off my bed because I was too hot and she made a little nest in it at night and has been sleeping there since. That is, when she's not sleeping ON my bed. Two years ago she wasn't allowed on the bed at all; the onset of the
Abbey her bedspread nest.
migraines and my need for companionship during the long, painful hours eliminated that rule. Now sometimes she sleeps there at least part of the night, though she often abandons me for her nest in the comforter at some point. (Soon it will be cold enough for the bedspread to go back on the bed; I'm not sure what she'll do then.) I've grown to derive a lot of pleasure from the warm solidity of her body pressed against my leg at night or the purry, snorty little snores she makes when she's sleeping hard in her nest, perhaps with her paw over her nose. I like listening to her dream, too. It's very soothing to have someone sleeping so soundly in your company. And now that the moving of the crate has made it official, it looks like I'll have the comfort of having her near me (and she'll have the comfort of having me near her) for the rest of her life.

A super-sleepy Abbey wraps
 a paw around her nose.
I've had to remove Abbey's collar when we're at home (I do put it on when we leave the house) since the concussion because my increased noise sensitivity has made the jangle of her tags unbearable. The flapping of her velvety ears when she shakes herself, however, is an extraordinarily pleasant sound. Aside from occasionally barking at dogs that relieve themselves on our front lawn, Abbey is very quiet. Her pleasure is manifested in a wagging, swishing, thumping tail and in hops and twirls. Her ears, eyes, and eyebrows ask questions and communicate emotions. This silent language is perfectly suited for my sensitive ears. It makes her company easier for me tolerate when I'm not feeling well than the more noisy communication of my fellow humans. Being with Abbey causes no stress. She does not make me tired, except when she wants to play a game that involves being chased, and if I don't want to play that sort of game, she will always accept my decision with equanimity. My health is such that I seldom leave the house for anything other than medical appointments and socialize only with immediate family members, and sometimes even being around them is too much. Having Abbey around, with her warm, soft fur, her eager interest in whatever I'm doing, her deep contentment when sleeping away the days on my bed, keeps me from feeling isolated. These days, it's preferable for me to have most of my human social contact over the internet, but thanks to Abbey, I never feel like I'm alone.

My best friend affectionately nibbles on my earlobe, giving me the giggles!

My brindle baby is getting a little bit older now. We don't know her exact age, since she was brought to the shelter as a stray with no known history. She was, according to their
Getting up there in years has not
abated Ab's love of playing a jolly
game, riding in the car, or basking
in the summer sun!
best guess, a young adult, likely somewhere between a year and a half and two years old. That means that Abbey is in the neighborhood of nine years old now. At nine, a dog is considered old. All the known breeds that went into making Abbey have an average life expectancy of twelve years, so while technically she may be past her prime, don't tell her that! I've detected a few gray hairs on her muzzle and her eyes have developed a slight bluish cast that the vet says is caused by changes in the shape of her lenses as she ages, but otherwise her energy and agility and zest for life remains unchanged!

There has been one recent wrinkle in Abbey's health. For a little more than a year I've been keeping an eye on a lump on Abbey's left flank. The vet judged it too small to effectively biopsy last summer, but at her most recent checkup in September, it had grown to roughly the size of a marble. A needle biopsy was performed and according to the cytology report, the lump was a mast cell tumor. These are one of the most common tumors found in dogs and most are benign. Nevertheless, since it was growing, it was important to have the tumor removed. Abbey was booked for surgery the next week. She had a sense of foreboding when finding herself back at the vet's office so soon, but being the uncomplaining sort, when I held her so the vet could stick the needle containing the anesthetic into her foreleg, she did not fight or flinch. She was ready and raring to go when I picked her up that afternoon, seemingly unmindful of the large shaved portion and seven stitches in her flank. I convinced her to snooze away the rest of the day in her bed and while she spent the next week wearing my tank tops to make sure she stayed away from the surgery site (she's very good at leaving things alone when told and was spared the humiliation of the cone!), she's healed rapidly and without fuss and has particularly enjoyed receiving her antibiotics hidden in marshmallows! In fact, she's enjoyed wearing a tank top so much that I think a coat or sweater of her own might make a good Christmas
Abbey has not only tolerated but ENJOYED wearing
the tank tops I've put on her to protect the surgery
site. She looks particularly fetching in this panda tank.
present. She does love being cozy, after all! The only bad moment happened when I found myself a little rattled to learn that the pathology report determined that the excised tumor was malignant. For some reason, I'd never had any doubt in my mind that it would be benign, but since it was of a low grade and the tumor had been encapsulated, allowing the vet to remove it completely, Abbey should fall in the category of the 95% of dogs who need no further treatment for this type of tumor beyond the surgery. I'm not worried. The sutures will come out in a few days and her fur will grow back over the next few months and then the episode of Abbey and the Mast Cell Tumor will be over. I have to say, though, I've rather enjoyed caring for her since she's done so much caring for me lately!

Dog and Girl
And life goes on, dog and girl deeply contented with each other's company. I've been teaching her a few new commands (nine is certainly not too old to learn some new tricks!), including "look," which came in very handy in keeping her focused on me and lessening her anxiety at the vet, and "say hello," which will hopefully make her feel more at ease greeting guests. I'd love to be able to do more to help her work through her anxiety about strangers and her problem with dog-dog eye contact, but that would require repeated exposure and repeated exposure would required physical effort that is beyond my capabilities at this point. I will never be able to give her everything she deserves--daily walks and regular opportunities to socialize with other dogs, for example--but I can give her love, structure, games, rules, belly rubs, dinner, and the chance to sleep near me during the final years of her life.

She's snoozing in a patch of near my desk while I write this and now and then having little dreams. She continues to inspire me daily with her abundant joy in the simplest of pleasures: getting her belly rubbed, going for a ride in the car, eating her dinner, playing a game, lounging in the sun, being with her family. She thinks little pieces of a plain rice cake are manna from heaven! It is essential that I find happiness in seemingly small satisfactions that can be found on a domestic scale because that is what I have access to. But why should being warm and loved and fed and entertained be taken for granted? These are all marvelous, deeply satisfying things, and as long as I am able to appreciate what I have--including my wonderful dog--I can never be truly unhappy, no matter how much my world has been constrained by a painful disability.

My Abbey: she is the essence of all that is joy, all that is love, all that is contentment, all that is soft, all that is family, all that is acceptance. I will have many wonderful dogs in my life and in the future I will carefully assess the temperament and energy level of all canine candidates before I adopt to ensure that I have a pet that can meet my special needs as well as the criteria for a certified assistance animal. When we chose Abbey, we based it upon the way she just sat so patiently in her kennel at the shelter, not barking, just waiting, and that she seemed friendly, if slightly shy, and her fur was so very very velvety. We had no way of knowing that, seven years ago, we were bringing home the dog that I would need--and come to love--so dearly.

1 comment:

  1. That's one lucky dog. Also, I very much admire how you do make the best of things. You're very good at that, I think. I miss you, cousin!, but am so glad to get to see you on FB and your blog...I like knowing how you're doing!