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24 May 2017

Red Meets Summer

Red Meets Summer

Red was visiting with some of the Mansion residents on their back porch Monday and he turned his head and noticed Summer, a stray cat who has adopted the Mansion, sitting behind a rocking chair watching him.

Red is the Dean Martin of dogs, he is Mr. Cool. And he just glanced sideways at Summer before deciding to ignore here. She sat by the chair as we walked into the Mansion and Red didn't even waste a glance on  here, although she kept a watchful eye on him.

Summer will be spayed and given her shots and bloodwork this week, it is not possible for her to move into the Mansion right now. One of the residents has a serious allergy to cats and the Mansion staff said they could not put any patient at any kind of risk.  It might be possible for her to come inside at some other point.

Summer has made a good move coming there, she is fed regularly and has warm and dry shelter outside of the Mansion. Several people in town and on the staff would happily take her in if it became necessary, but she is doing very well where she is. She has lots of people loving her and caring for her.

The residents can visit her outside if they wish, and she has a fine life.

I'll keep you posted on any Summer updates and thanks again for helping to pay her medical bills. She will be a healthy cat as well as a loved one.

Posted in General
23 May 2017

Red: What A Difference A Week Makes

What A Difference A Week Makes

Watching Red move the sheep out towards the side pasture this morning, I wanted to jump up and down a bit. What a difference a week makes. Last Tuesday, Red was in the Cambridge Valley Veterinary Clinic. He hadn't eaten for days and his fever had been at 104 for nearly a week.

He could hardly keep his eyes open, and looked miserable. The staff was worried, so was I. I was preparing a goodbye speech to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. That afternoon, he had some news for me: he wasn't dying, he wasn't ready to leave, his work was done.

So we got down to it, Dr. Suzanne Fariello, me and Maria. We tried different medicines and recipes. We did additional blood work and summoned a specialist with an ultra sound machine. We ruled things out, one by one – liver trouble, organ cancer, bone marrow cancer.

My recipes got more pungent and exotic – chick broth, meat gravy, cooked hamburger, white rice, baby food.

We discovered the four tick-borne diseases showing up in his tests, some of them showing cell counts through the roof. Two different kinds of anti-biotics and the second worked after a day or so.

Last Sunday he began eating normally.  Monday his fever was gone. Yesterday, he went to the Mansion to visit his friends there. This morning, he came with me to the dentist, he was mobbed by his admirers there.

I am settling down, I guess I was on the roof too.

Last Tuesday was one of the hardest days of my life, Maria suddenly was worrying about me as much as Red. I always love Red, but it is sometimes easy to forget how much he means to me, my life, and the lives of so many other people. He is not just my dog, he belongs to many others as well.

It is so grounding for me to be able to write about it., and all of your support and concern gave me strength, the feeling that I was not alone with it. So thanks again., even to the corps of amateur vets bombarding me with information.

I'm going to Rhinebeck, N.Y. today, to do a reading and talk, and I've decided to leave Red at home.  People will be disappointed, I am well aware he is more popular than I am.

But he still needs rest, I can see that, but he is very close to himself and the best care I can give him right now is nothing, some peace and quiet.

It was wonderful to see him out with the sheep, poised and strong and steady. Just as he told me last week, he has a lot more to do, and I have a lot more to do with him. Last week, I thought he was gone. This week, new beginnings, for him, perhaps for me.

Life is good.

Posted in General
22 May 2017

All Clear: Red’s Fine.

Red Gets The All Clear

Red got the all clear from Dr. Suzanne Fariello this morning at the Cambridge Veterinary Service this morning, she said he looked great, had a great pulse and heartbeat and was doing beautifully. He has no fever, and is eating heartily. He remains on antibiotics for the next tree weeks and she recommended rest and light work for awhile.

We've dropped all of the other meds.

"He's good to go," she said, sweet words, given that I thought we were losing him just about a week ago.

Dr. Fariello said his energy was still a bit low. We thanked her and I agreed to begin a series of preventative and maintenance treatments – acupuncture,  massage. Dr. Fariello has become more and more interested in Chinese veterinary medicine, including acupuncture. I am becoming an admirer of this occasional approach as well.

I thought she did a wonderful job treating Red, the severity of his four tick-borne infections was surprising and unnerving, but she quickly and systematically ruled out things like cancer, kidney and liver disease and focused on the tick-borne infections. He started eating again, his fever broke, and he looks great.

I'm keeping him on light work for another week or so, but will resume our visits to the Mansion two or three times a week, starting today.  It's important to the residents, it's important to him. There are lots of ways to heal.

I am grateful to all of the love and support Red and Maria and I received last week, for all of my grumbling about social media, it made a difference. It was comforting and grounding.

I'm sorry to be putting off the amateur veterinarians, I know they were trying to be helpful, but the way my mind works is that I need to focus on one true vet and trust him or her, and not fill my head with other people's ideas and experiences. Boundaries, boundaries.

I think that worked for Red. Maria was wonderfully wise and supportive, Dr. Farliello was steady and thoughtful and strong. It all worked as it was supposed to work, and Red is bouncing  back wonderfully. I am lucky and grateful and glad that I shared the experience.


Posted in General
21 May 2017

Portrait, Meung. A Hundred Grandchildren

A Hundred Grandchildren

Maung is a young student in the RISSE day care program. He is from Burma I am helping him to be able to stay enrolled during the summer months and with some other projects. We have clicked, I'm not sure how or why. We seem to get one another.

When Maria and I showed up at the soccer game, Meung came running all across the very wide field to greet me and give me a big hug, something that happens often when I visit these kids. I know he has had a difficult time.

I've asked Ali and others about it, and they tell me that in other cultures – the Middle East, Africa, Asia – the elderly are revered and treated with respect and affection. This is a bit of a shock to me, because I often feel that the elderly in America are ignored and discarded.

They certainly are not revered.

When I began working with these children, several people in the program told me that it would be like having 100 grandchildren, and I found the idea strange and hard to fathom. But it is true. I feel like I have 100 grandchildren and I have a growing love for them, and feel love in return.

In America, children are often taught to fear strangers, especially older ones. In the refugee cultures, they are taught to listen to them and respect, even love, them. It is a curious gift for me, and another bright spot that comes from sometimes troubling times.  I got a bunch of hugs today.

I have a grandchild of my own, and love her very much, but I don't expect to have any other grandchildren. But I think I do now. That is a gratifying and rewarding gift all of its own. It is a sacred thing to give, and to love, and a sacred gift to be loved. I look forward to getting to know Maung better and helping him in any way I can. I know there are a lot of struggles in his life, and perhaps I can be of some use.

Posted in General

Red: When Work Heals

When Work Heals

All through his illness, Red has communicated to me that he wants to work and needs to work. Even on the worst days of his illness, I took him out to the pasture to sit and be near the sheep. I always felt – and he always made me feel – that this was healing and important to him.

I have curtailed Red's work for a few weeks, he needs to rest and regain his strength. But I have always found a few minutes in the day for him to work and find his strength and purpose and dignity.

Yesterday, I took him to the Mansion, Jean was on the porch coming inside when she saw Red and she smiled. Jean vacuums the carpets every afternoon, even though the staff has already done that work. This work is something she needs to do, as Red needs to do his.

She came over to Red and bend down so she could be close to him and he raised his head up to her and the two of them shared a powerful moment, an affirmation of work and love and dignity.

It is ironic, but I have just written and published a book about this, it is called "Talking To Animals" is is available everywhere books are sold, and also at Battenkill Books, my local independent bookstore. If you purchase the book from Battenkill I will sign and personalize it and you will receive a tote-bag and a Bedlam Farm post card with the donkeys on it.

The book, it turns out, was quite relevant to Red's illness and the ways in which I was able to communicate with him about a number of things, including his need to work. You can call the bookstore at 518 677-2515 or order it online. Just leave your requested inscription. They take Paypal and major credit cards are are awfully nice.

Posted in General