Friday, July 14, 2017

Ode to Andy

This is a remembrance for Andy.

He was an adorable bichon frise who touched a lot of lives.

Brought love and playfulness and joy to everyone he came in contact with.

He died from cancer—leaving his owners and many others broken hearted.

I didn’t know you, Andy, but I’ve heard you were a great little dog.

Being a bichon, you were a step above a dog.

I can attest to that because I have my own bichon frise—Michael Jackson.

From your picture, you remind me of him.

Smart, always up for a snack or a squeeze toy or cuddling from a human. Not exactly the most sociable with other dogs but seemingly always comfortable in the company of people.

Can’t stand the thought of losing my Michael Jackson, as I’m sure your owners could hardly bear losing you.

Must have been one of the saddest days in the world when Andy, who lived in Georgia, passed.

Tears and hugging and prayers, I’m sure.

And guess what else?

There Andy was—gloriously up in the sky—the day the little guy died.

As if he were on his way to Dog Heaven.

Andy’s pictures and moving likeness of his shape in the clouds appear with this blog post.

So long, Andy—the dog I never met.

But surely the dog that will never be forgotten.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Close call at the veterans hospital

Close, as they say, only counts in three things: horseshoes, hand grenades and dancin’.

Now there’s a fourth.

Making a phone call in the hot, unbearable sun on a bench at the entrance of the Mountain Home VAMC in Johnson City.

Right out of nowhere, in the middle of my phone conversation a couple of days ago with my co-author and friend Michael Manuel, I blacked out.

As in fainted.

Lost consciousness.

Entered into another dimension of nothingness that I never ever want to visit again.

It happened a bit after 2 in the afternoon—after I’d had glowing reports from the doctors at both my appointments earlier in the day.

I’m thinking I’ve got the rest of the day free. I’m going to split this popsicle (leave the premises and get on to my car and do whatever).

I’d had a good lunch.

Felt good. Looked good (I think). Acted good (hard for me but I tried).

Then that phone call before leaving the hospital.

I went outside to the front entrance of the building for a better signal.

I’m talking. Jawboning with Mike. Swapping lies. Sharing whatever other mindless stuff you share on a cell phone.

Had been chatting for about 15 or 20 minutes. It was hot outside—really hot. In the low 90s, I’d say. But I was in quasi shade about 40 feet from the front door of the building.

And then my world and mind went blank.

For how long?

Not sure but might have been 5-10 minutes.

Then I “came to”— dioriented and dizzy and scared, my world spinning, my legs rubbery and wobbly.

I got my bearings, barely, and staggered back into the air-conditioned hospital. Tried to walk, but couldn’t. Sat back down. Tried again. Clutched anything I could get my hands on while I moved. But then gave up and plopped back down.

Saw a nurse and asked for a wheelchair so I could make it back to the far end of the building to valet parking.

But she wasn’t game. Told me there was no way she’d let me drive.

Found me a wheelchair and rolled me to the ER.

Man, they work fast and efficiently and professionally in the Mountain Home VAMC ER! No messing around. They took me right in. Asked me dozens of questions. Connected me to wires and computers and all the rest of the stuff they tether you do when you’re in crisis.

Read me my “rights”—sort of.

Doc: “If your heart stops, do you want to be revived?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Doc: “Do you want us to do chest compressions and intubate you or whatever else we need to do to get you breathing.”

Me: “Yes.”

Doc: “Do you have a living will?”

Me: “Yes, I have an advanced directive on file here.”

Hours later, they still didn’t know what had happened.

The suspected gremlins: dehydration, a reaction to one of my heart medications, a pesky UTI (which they discovered while I was in the ER).

And then—on the day that had started out so well—I was admitted to the hospital.

To a part of the place called C-1.

Wow, did they ever pamper me!

By “they,” I mean primarily the nurses on C-1—Renee, Jackie, Amy, Felicia.

Angels all of them. (I love my veterans pajamas).

Didn’t stay on C-1 very long. Got discharged the next day. And they still don’t know for sure (my opinion) why I blacked out.

But if you’re going to go dark, what better place than a big VA hospital?

Thank you again to the docs, nurses, my family and to everyone else who helped me.

I’m glad I’m a veteran. An old USAF veteran but still one who got exceptional treatment at the Mountain Home VAMC.

Y’all are the best!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Never, ever give your best friend Tylenol!

Many of you at the Johnson City Dogpark have noticed my beloved bichon frise Michael Jackson.

That’s him—with his brother Joe (my sheltie)—in the photo with this blog post.

(We named him Michael Jackson because we got him eight years ago on the day the King of Pop died.)

He’s 27 pounds of adorable, romping, playful fur.

One person recently told me a bichon is a “step above a dog.”

Well put.

But I almost killed Michael Jackson two nights ago.

He had a fever in the middle of the night—about 1 a.m.—and I gave him a 500 milligram crushed tablet of Tylenol in a spoonful of peanut butter. Actually forced him to swallow it cause he was so warm.

For whatever reason, my wife Patsy awakened about one hour later and decided to Google “dogs and Tylenol.”

We were shocked and horrified to discover that Tylenol is extremely deadly toxic for canines!

So we got dressed, scooped little MJ up into our arms and hurried to Robinson Emergency Animal Hospital.

Yes, we were told, our bichon frise could have died.

Yes, a dog that ingests Tylenol can suffer massive kidney and liver damage.

Yes, “Jackson” (as we call him) needed to be hospitalized, medicated and put on an immediate IV.

Two days, a lot of anguish and several hundred dollars later, our beloved dog is back home and doing pretty well. He’s not 100 percent back to his old self but we hope he’s getting there.

Moral of the story: Never give your dog Tylenol.

A friend, a regular at the dogpark, also told me yesterday that grapes or raisins or dark chocolate can also be deadly for a dog.

So be careful—fellow dog lovers—what your pet swallows.

Dogs don’t always benefit from what helps us humans.