Stressed Out Pooches

Recently we took Kasey to the vet’s office while we went on a weekend trip.  When we returned the vet reported that Kasey had been very anxious during her stay — so anxious that they actually had to give her some kind of sedative to calm her down.  One symptom of her stress was that when the vet’s assistants would try to walk her, she would constantly tug them toward the road, as if she wanted to return home.

Of course, this news made us feel like crap — nobody wants to hear that the canine member of their family is suffering from anxiety issues — but it also leaves us with tough and limited choices.  Although it is increasingly common for people to travel with their dogs these days, we can’t take Kasey along every time we go on a trip.  We can’t take her everywhere we go, and leaving her alone in a hotel room seems like a recipe for disaster.  We’ve had her stay at our house with a dog sitter who stops by a few times a day for some of our short trips, but that approach often produces accidents.  We’ve taken her to the vet, where the anxiety issues have occurred, and we’ve boarded her at kennels, but those stays seem to leave Kasey sleep-deprived and exhausted.  Kasey is an old dog, and the constant barking you hear whenever you visit one of those kennels seems to really bother her.

People used to talk about “a dog’s life,” as if the leisurely romping and dozing we associate with pooches was the kind of lifestyle we should all aspire to, but researchers have found that dogs in fact deal with lots of issues.  Many dogs have serious problems with separation anxiety when their owners leave the house; others are high-strung and have delicate constitutions thanks to the constant inbreeding needed to produce the latest designer dog.  Some dogs take daily medication for psychological issues, which really makes you wonder:  what does it say when our modern society is to the point where there is a significant issue with dogs being over-medicated for mental conditions?

I’m not sure what we’re going to do with Kasey when we travel; we’ve got a while before we both have to be out of town again.  I do know this:  I’m willing to accept a few accidents on the carpet if that means she doesn’t have to be sedated.

 

Planting Season

Yesterday we spent some time over at the urban farm, where it’s planting season.  So far this year Emily and Russell have planted a number of black currant and raspberry bushes to join the apple trees and strawberry plants that remain from last year, and there’s a new beehive where the bees are busily doing their thing.  You could say things are buzzing at the farm.

It was a fine day, clear and not too warm, so we tried to put it to good use.  Russell and I spent most of our time shoveling dark, steaming topsoil from a huge mound into the back of his pickup truck, then transferring it onto the rows to be available for even more planting.  Thanks to the squatting, lifting, and twisting, I felt like I’d spent a few hard hours at the gym — except the farm effort also helped to produce two more furrows that are ready to go and made a noticeable dent in the topsoil pile.

Not surprisingly, I slept pretty well last night.

At The ASO

Last night we went to see Julianne perform with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, which is the reason we came to the capital city of Texas in the first place.  The ASO delivered a stirring rendition of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, then Julianne’s oboe solo kicked off John Corigliano’s beautiful and touching Music from the Edge.  I’d never heard anything by Corigliano before, but I really enjoyed that piece.  The concert closed with a return to Copland, for some fine clarinet work on the Concert for Clarinet and String Orchestra (with Harp), and finally Dvorak’s powerful Symphony No. 8 in G Major.  Julianne played marvelously — of course!

It was a great performance by a really good orchestra.  One other thing about the ASO — its performance hall is world class, with a walkout area that offers a magnificent view of the Austin skyline across the river.  And since the ASO doesn’t like photos taken inside the building, I took the photo above to remember a wonderful evening.

Way to go, Julianne!

Our Apparently Deaf Dog

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that our dog Kasey may be dealing with deafness.

If true, it’s not surprising, because Kasey’s getting to be of pretty advanced age.  She’s a rescue dog, so we’re not exactly sure how old she is, but the vet estimates from her teeth that she’s probably somewhere around 14 or 15.  Lately she’s experiencing some of the gimpiness, gastric, and bladder problems that you see in older dogs, and she spends a bigger portion of her day sleeping, too.

DSC04123The apparent deafness, though, seems to be a more recent development.  I’ve particularly noticed it this week, while Kish has been on the road.  It used to be that when I would get home from work Kasey would hear me walking up the steps and the key rattling in the door and come to the foyer to greet me with a few welcoming wags of her tail.  Now she doesn’t, and when I call her she doesn’t come, either, so I have to search the house to find her.  Usually she’s up in the upstairs bedroom.  As always, she’s happy to see me when I come into her field of vision, so I’m guessing that the change in habit has less to do with diffidence about the arrival of the Old Boring Guy and more to do with not hearing me as I come in.

There are other potential signs of hearing problems, too.  Kasey is terrified of thunderstorms, but lately it’s only the loudest peals of thunder that seem to bother her.  She doesn’t come running like she used to when the clatter of the bowls in her feeding area indicates that food is being laid out for her enjoyment.  She seems to bark more, and I wonder if that is because hearing herself bark is one way of interrupting her increasingly quiet world.

There’s no problem with living with a hearing-impaired dog, really — you just need to make sure that she sees what you are doing and can then follow the patterns of behavior that we’ve established over years of living together.  She doesn’t need to hear “time for bed” if she sees you heading up the stairs, and the sight of her leash is as effective a communication about going for a walk as a verbal command.  If she’s adjusting to a changing world, we certainly can do that as well.  Kasey may end up as deaf as a post, but we’ll love her just the same.

A Winter Of Kasey

We have a tiny, pod-shaped patch of grass in our backyard, and right now it’s got about the worst case of yard mange you’ve ever seen.  One area appears to have died entirely, experiencing complete plant structural collapse into a kind of hard brown thatch with only a few healthy grass plants here and there.  Elsewhere we’ve exposed section of dirt and grass plants with colors ranging from a kind of puke yellow to a sickly green.  Let’s just say it’s not the kind of lush grassy field that makes you want to walk barefoot and lie on your back watching the the clouds drift by.

The culprit is a wet winter, with lots of unpredictable temperature spikes and drops — and our little dog, Kasey.  The back yard is Kasey’s preferred pre-bedtime venue, and the tiny size of our yard means her efforts have had a much more concentrated impact than would be the case in a bigger suburban yard.

Time to call in the professionals!

Officially Sprung

This Friday night I am sitting outside, in jeans and a short sleeve shirt in 70 degree weather, drinking a cold beer and reading the Sport Illustrated baseball preview.   All around me I hear neighbors talking and stirring, with music wafting over the fence from a party somebody is hosting a few houses over.  I’ve crumpled our weekly newspaper and tossed it into our fire pit for the blaze I plan to light when darkness falls.  Kasey is digging and dozing in the last rays of sunlight.

All in all, not a bad way to start the weekend!  I’m saying spring has sprung.

Ready For Some Baseball

The Midwest has been hit with a typical contrarian March cold blast, and the east coast has been hammered by a snowstorm.  Perversely, the crummy, winter-is-still-with-us weather has made me think that the real spring cannot be far away, and that it’s okay to start thinking about something good that will be coming with the warmer spring weather in just a few days:  baseball.

hi-res-f1085a23cef5182ba9e8ebe79f8a2f31_crop_northAlthough they fell just short of that elusive World Series win, last year was a magical one for the Cleveland Indians.  The team overcame injuries to crucial members of the pitching staff and key position players and, with deft manager Terry Francona holding things together with spit, scotch tape, and baling wire, the Tribe improbably made it to the doorstep of a championship.  With the players hopefully healed, and Edwin Encarnacion set to fill a big hole in the middle of the lineup, Tribe fans are dreaming that this might be the year.  Hey, lightning finally struck the long-suffering Chicago Cubs last year — why can’t it strike the Indians this year?

Spring is the time of dreaming for all baseball fans.  Tribe fans aren’t the only ones who are hoping that the team’s off-season moves have put the right pieces in place, that the player who had the unexpected great year last year wasn’t a fluke, and that the minor league phenom will step up and produce in the big leagues.  It’s all part of the time-honored baseball process that has been part of America’s National Pastime for more than 100 years.  The baseball fans who are dreaming and hoping about their teams today are just new links in a very long chain.

Let’s play ball!