Sunday, September 26, 2010

The surprise of love

"There is no surprise more magical
than the surprise of being loved."

~ Charles Morgan

Sep 24 Word for the Day from

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One should never ask: 'What else could go wrong?' . . .

. . . Unless one is prepared to get the answer.

I certainly wasn't.

My post-op visit*, scheduled for 9:10 am today actually began much closer to 11 am. It seems that a members of a professional basketball team in town were seeing Dr. Top-Flight Knee Surgeon and staff for their preseason check-ups. And they were ahead of me. That, in and of itself, would make for an interesting day. Such a fascinating gallery of tattoos and swagger.

But there's more.

Eventually, my turn came around, and it appears I am making FANTASTIC progress -- despite the frightful amount of "cushioning" that's gone missing in this particular joint. The hope is that the surgery will help stave off the need for bionic knees for a while. But best of all, even when the time comes that I do need bionic knees, I can still keep mushing. Halleluja!

Still, it got me thinking.

Every injury I've had in the past 3 years can be traced back to one thing: my passion for dogs. And the question soon bubbled up to my consciousness: Am I crazy or WHAT? At which point I remembered when EarthDoctorSon was writing his college application essays. One particularly elegant piece of prose described his passion for soccer and why, despite 2 very serious concussions, a broken nose, surgery to repair a deviated septum, umpteen sprained ankles (which recently required a very delicate surgery), broken bones in his feet, and bruises -- to name a few -- he continued to play.

His explanation: joy and drive.

With him, I came to understand that when a person finds the sweet spot where body, mind, and soul converge, the person is simply so euphoric in that "zone," that it infuses every fiber of his or her being, taking over like a viral bodysnatcher. Such a person will find a way past any barrier to reach that zone again and again.

Hey! That's how I feel, too, I realized.  And while I'm not an elite athlete, never will be, I have experienced that zone through mushing, through the fluid beauty of flying across wintry landscapes, deeply connected through joy with my canine companions. Yes, I'm definitely crazy. Crazy in love. Crazy in love with a pup who is maddeningly driven by an instinct that defies efforts to confine him. Crazy in love with a sport, that like many many others, can lead to injuries, injuries I'm willing to sustain but equally committed to preparing to the best of my abilities not to sustain.
Exhibit 1

When I got home from a lonnnng morning at the orthopedic clinic, I could hear the distinct wailing of Ginsberg. No biggie I thought. He always wails when he hears us come home.

But the wails were not at all typical. Actually, they were whimpers.

While I was away, Ginsberg, the 8-month-old escape artist Alaskan Husky pup, had begun to disassemble his crate, one heavy-gauge wire at a time. The thing looked like a mini tornado had passed through. Wires hanging all akimbo, whole quadrants missing, even a chewed up carabiner tossed a few feet away from the mangled crate on the floor.

He had managed to wedge his arrowhead-shaped skull into one of the smaller rectangular holes he'd created. There was no backing him out either. I checked the tightness and it wasn't compressing on his throat, but still, I tried to calm him down so he wouldn't doing anything else so nutty.

Charlotte, with her hot pink hopalong cast, and Cora, with her ever-present look of "If you don't take care of this, I will," hovered around nervously. I left him for a sec to find my puny jewelry wire cutters. But they didn't even make a scratch. So I called our friend Brian -- the one who Mr. B let in last Monday and forgot to lock the door when he closed it, the unfortunate omission that led to the Great Escape -- because Brian possesses every tool known to man. He came over in a jiff with the Mack Truck of wire cutters, and within minutes, unstuck Ginsberg.

 Ginsberg, ever the resilient pup, blasted out, headed to the door, and clearly needed to do some business. But once back in, he was sniffing his mangled crate, sniffing Brian, and harrassing the girls, most definitely ready for the next adventure. Eerily, though, he watched with the attention of an apprentice as Brian attempted to reassemble the crate. I could swear Ginsberg was memorizing Steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 so that if he was put back in the crate, he'd reverse the order: Steps 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 BLAST OFF!!!

"Hmmmm . . the potted plant has possibilities."
It's times like these that I feel like
I'm living in an Indiana Jones film.

I e-mailed my friend Nancy about the day's events, and I think she captured the essence of my life these past 2 weeks in one sentence:

"You live a life of adventure without leaving the house!"

She's right. But I'd really like to take that adventure outdoors (in a truck), add some snow, hook up my exuberant Ginsberg, and bliss out together running along a beautiful forest trail. And by the looks of it, I am making fast enough progress to get to that point in as soon as 2 weeks.

But I guarantee you this. I will not ask: "What else could go wrong?"

And if you have any ideas on where to find a crate made of kryptonite (or titanium), I'm all ears!

*A very special shout out to my friend Terry who toted me to the clinic and waited around for hours.

Yours truly,

Kathleen Kimball-Baker
Manager, Disaster Recovery
The Accidental MicroKennel
Minneapolis, MN
Safe dog-sledding opportunities
available at your own risk®

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another day, another X-ray

Let's see. Where were we? Oh yes, Part 2 of I abandoned by husband for a dog.

I nearly forgot. A fair amount has transpired since I reported Part 1, and, truth be told, I have been loopy on pain meds until 2 days ago.

Here's the condensed version:

  • Ginsberg regains his exuberance less than 2 days after abdominal surgery, and I realize it is pointless trying to force pain meds down the throat of an 8-month-old Alaskan Husky who will eat ANYTHING but pain meds
  • Mr. B discovers he has 20/15 vision, post-cataract surgery
  • Ginsberg skins his nose trying to open the cabinet under the sink to reach the trash, after I have jury-rigged the handles closed with a rubber band and flat cheese grater (oops)
  • Kathleen watched her second knee surgery in real time -- supercool!
  • Ginsberg leads Cora and Charlotte on another Great Escape
  • Charlotte breaks a leg whilst participating in the Great Escape
  • Kathleen's chances of acquiring a truck for mushing adventures dwindle along with her meager savings
  • Charlotte replaces Kathleen as the "loopster"
  • Kathleen considers renaming her abode to "A Musherwannabe's Accidental MicroKennel" and seeking sponsorships for my pups and their vet bills
But perhaps, the events of the past 11 days are best told with video and photos. You be the judge!

Ginsberg, Loopster #1, doing his ever-loving best
to stay awake after returning home
from abdominal surgery

See the fringe on the pillow that has Ginsberg's rapt attention?
It's not there anymore.
It took a trip down Ginsberg's gullet and got
hung up on its way into his small intestine.
It now resides in a zip-lock bag--outside.

Ginsberg's "grated" nose

The new-fangled crate security system,
before we added 8 more carabiners

Ginsberg, Mr. B, and Charlotte chillin'
after Ginsberg and Mr. B have surgery on the same day

Kathleen chatting it up with topflight knee surgeon . . .
Thank goodness she wasn't worried or anything . . .

Loopster #2 on her way home from knee surgery.
She could finally wiggle her toes about an hour after surgery,
when the spinal finally wore off

The Great Escape
Mr. B accidentally leaves the front door open
and Ginsberg seizes the opportunity
to lead the pack on a big adventure.
Escapees blast off down the street,
then, amazingly return home at full speed
with Ginsberg in lead, Cora a half block behind,
and Charlotte bringing up the rear, heading straight for the front door
and limping for the next 3 days
[Image courtesty of GuildingEmber]

The vet X-rays Charlotte's leg today and discovers a
 spiral fracture on her left distal ulna bone, which 
he suspects, is the result of stepping into a 
pothole during the Great Escape.
He adorns her with a hot pink cast
that we must keep dry for 6 weeks.
(It's already wet.)
But you gotta hand it to her, she was very
close to Cora, who is twice her size and
did not come home with a broken leg.
This girl has heart!

Loopster #2, who happily takes her pain meds

This is Wally. 
I don't think he'll be coming home
 with me anytime soon.
But I have been wondering
a lot about quantum physics lately

Were you wondering about the photo at the top?
That would be EarthDoctorSon
(who may one day be renamed MushroomGeekSon, PhD)
 holding one of an assortment of fungi
that he'd like Mr. B and me to sample.
Stir-fried, perhaps.

Here's another:

And couple more:
Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I abandoned my husband for a dog--a true story

Ginsberg, 8 months old and totally tipsy

PART 1: Surgical 'wards'

It began a week ago Thursday, when I "abandoned" (as he likes to remind me) Mr. B the evening before his eye surgery scheduled for early Friday morning.

It wasn't like I was out all night (er, well, come to think of it, I almost was, but I'll get to that in a minute).  I was simply joining two of my dearest friends for dinner to toast one of our fallen in the best way we knew how--telling stories, drinking wine, and laughing ourselves silly. (We think Renie would have liked that; some of the best stories I've ever heard were hers, and she was a novelist, after all.)

We had a grand time together, and knocking down 2 glasses of wine had put me in a most light-hearted mood. (Yes, I am admittedly quite the welter-weight drinker.)

When I arrived home around 10 pm, Mr. B was getting ready for bed. And Ginsberg, he told, me was good and sick. He'd already hurled twice and his tummy was tender when touched. And with that bit of news, Mr B. bid me good night.

Within seconds, Ginsberg begins to utter the truly bizarre sounds that precede the emptying of a canine tummy. And within 1 hour, I have cleaned up 4 messes. Poor guy, he does his best to alert me, sitting by the door making high-pitched-little whimpers that let me know this could be serious. Now mind you, the boy has deposited umpteen pairs of underwear, owl-scat- like capsules of Cora's shed hair, the stuffing of dog toys, and some unidentifiable items. But something is seriously stuck. And it hurts. And he is looking to me with his baby blues and droopy ears, clearly communicating: "For heaven's sake, DO something about this."

So I do. I load my Alaskan Husky pup into the car and drive to the emergency animal hospital. Ka-ching: $115 just to walk in the door. Next come X-rays. Ka-ching, ka-ching: "that'll be $125, please." Gins skitters around the exam room nervously, smelling every nook and cranny, unable to lie down and get comfortable. And soon enough, Dr. Yantis ("call me Rick") comes back with the results. "Well, it's not metal, plastic, or rock. But we can see something that looks like fabric in the small intestine."

(X-ray image: object found in a dog,
 fortunately, not in Ginsberg)

And that my friends, is not good. Not good at all.

Given his history (of eating all manner of textile), his age, and his breed, Ginsberg, the good Dr. Rick explains, had finally met his match. Something is lodged in his belly and it isn't moving. We discuss multiple options and, with my semi-inebriated, very tired mind, I try to process these options. Then he cuts to the chase: "If you were my sister, and I was trying to decide what to do, I would want you to know what they tell us the first year in vet school about these kinds of situations--time is trauma."


It doesn't take long for me to cave.

Yes, please keep him overnight, give him barium, and take images every 90 minutes or so to see if the object as moved. Then call me in the morning. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching: Another couple hundred dollars.

A vet tech brings Gins out so I can say goodnight. He isn't at all thrilled with the idea of me leaving him behind, and I depart the animal hospital listening to the mournful wailing of my sad--and mischievous-- Husky pup.

2 am.

I crawl into bed for a 4-hour nap before getting up to take Mr. B to surgery. I shut my eyes. And the next thing I know, he is gently urging awake. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes as he showers, I sit up and hear the sound of crickets -- oh, right, the ringtone on my phone. It's Dr. Yantis. He sounds as tired as I feel. "The object hasn't moved. I can take another image in an hour or so and call you back."

OK, let's do that.

I can't help but notice how impressively calm it is in the house. Cora and Charlotte don't equal even one-eighth the energy of my sled dog puppy, even one who's in the midst of a health crisis. Mr B and I  head out to the human hospital so he can have a cataract removed. It's the first time in our 30 years together he's ever had surgery. He's a little nervous. I just know in my bones it's going to be fine, that the odds are in his favor, but we ARE talking about an eye, after all, so I listen and try to say reassuring things. Once he's prepped, I'm invited back to sit with him in a tiny pre-op room till they wheel him off to have his damaged lens removed and a new acrylic one inserted. A nurse, and the eye surgeon come in and we chat amicably for a few minutes until the sound of crickets introduces an awkward moment.

OH, that's my phone!

I step outside the room to take the call. Ginsberg must have emergency surgery within the hour, I am told. Oh, and it'll cost in the neighborhood of $3,500. I nearly pass out, but that wouldn't be such a good idea. The morning shift emergency vet suggests I contact our personal vet, who can probably do the surgery cheaper. He urges me to call asap and let him know the plan.

And now, Mr. B is being wheeled out of pre-op. I manage to get one kiss in on the top of his head, say some loving words, and do NOT mention money for a second. Why mess up the nice little "high" he's enjoying from his pre-surgical cocktail? His mind is so rarely free of monetary worries. And away he goes.

I call our vet, and yes, they can do the surgery cheaper, but I'll need to bring him immediately, and it's Labor Day weekend, and they'll be closed, so I'll have to bring Ginsberg back to the emergency hospital for a night of recovery after the surgery.

Now, tell me, what would you do in this situation?

The best I could do was punt.

I called EarthDoctorSon, and asked for help. Sort of.

You have two choices, I say. You can go pick up Ginsberg and take him to the vet (finding places he's not been to before is not his forte) or you can come sit at the hospital and wait for Dad to come out of surgery. What would you prefer?

Not even a question. He arrives at the hospital in 5 minutes.

And this is the part I will never live down.

With my husband in surgery, I leave the hospital, drive 15 minutes to pick up my dog.

That's right, I abandoned my husband for a dog.

And to add insult to injury, Ginsberg snubs me when we get in the car, sitting as far away from me as he can get, all the while giving me "the look." No amount of coaxing will get him to sit near me. So I decide to sing to him. And drive. And eventually we arrive at the vet's and I drag him out of the car (that's right, I PULL my SLED DOG out of the back seat of a CAR), and leave him at another place he doesn't want to be, and listen to him wailing -- bitterly this time.

By the time I check back in with EarthDoctorSon, Mr. B is already home, chipper and so happy he can already see better out of his eye. I will be taking him to the doctor's office at 4:15, he tells me, for his first administration of eyedrops. And off he goes to bed, still enjoying the meds they gave him to relax.

Crickets chirp again, and I can't get to my phone fast enough. And next the "ping, ping" notice that I've received a text message. "The surgery is over. Ginsberg is fine. We found a fraying towel-like fabric.

Please pick him up between 5:30 and 6."

. . . to be continued . . .

PART 2: Mr. B isn't allowed to lift anything. Ginsberg is "dead" weight and completely loopy. Ginsberg comes home. Dog and man recover amazingly fast. Ginsberg escapes 3 times from his crate, opens the front door, and greets Mr. B each time. A dog crate security system, involving 5 bungees and 8 carabiners, is installed. Kathleen begins to prep for knee surgery Sep 16, manages to remain sugar sober through it all, and finally sees the needle on the scale move.
 Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

'What? You don't like how we decorated?'

Mr. B: Not at all happy to find the contents of his bag of plastic bags intended for recycling
ripped to shreds and strewn across the entry way

Ginsberg & Cora: Perplexed about why on earth a human would leave
such a tantalizing treasure unattended--and then act all
annoyed about the results

Kathleen: Highly amused that the box in the corner
has yet to be opened and the contents assembled

Charlotte: Nowhere in sight

All who wander . . .

"Into the woods" 

Have You Ever
By Tim and Phillip John Hanseroth
Performed by Brandi Carlile

Have you ever wandered lonely through the woods?
And everything there feels just as it should
You're part of the life there, you're part of something good
If you've ever wandered lonely through the woods
If you've ever wandered lonely through the woods

Have you ever stared into a starry sky
Lying on your back you're asking why
What's the purpose, I wonder who I am
If you've ever stared into a starry sky
Have you ever stared into a starry sky

Have you ever been out walking in the snow
Tried to get back to where you were before
You always end up not knowing where to go
If you've ever been out walking in the snow
If you'd ever been out walking you would know


Image: - Beaded painting by Kathleen Kimball-Baker


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