Of Dinks and Droods
Once we were DINKS. You might remember that somewhat dubious distinction from the 1980's. We were given that unflattering label because we were a married couple with a double income and no kids. Members of that particular group of married people who elected not to have children, we were suspected of being selfish if not downright anti-social. Instead of bringing a couple more souls into this world to make their precarious way through the morass of violence, ecological degradation, and technological advances that represent modern American culture, we opted to remain child-free. We worked our careers, saved money, had time to exercise and get the requisite eight or nine hours of sleep a night. We maintained excellent credit ratings, made sound real estate deals, and went on spa vacations and spiritual retreats. Is it any wonder we were called DINKS?
I say were, because as retirees we no longer qualify for that designation. Now our double income is retirement income and, though we still have no kids, we do have one old and much-loved dog. A more appropriate and up to date acronym might be DROODS--double retirees, one old dog. Although we maintain our exercise regimens, continue to prepare healthy meals and get plenty of sleep, our careers have ended. Now that we're not getting up at 5:30 am and heading out for eight or nine hours of work five days a week, we have a lot more time to dote on our One Old Dog. Said dog has arthritis, bum knees, allergies, and enough hair to make a blond toupee for every bald guy in the state.
As a pup, our One Old Dog blew out the ACL's on both knees, necessitating not one expensive surgery, but two. Four thousand dollars later, we had a dog with functioning knees and a severe case of PTSD. Routine trips to the vet caused his blood pressure to skyrocket. His eyeballs rolled around in their sockets, the whites turning a lurid red. Mild mannered to the point of semi-consciousness at home, at the vet he screamed and thrashed and knocked hypodermic needles across the room. On the trips back and forth, he shed a veritable blizzard of hair the length and breadth of the car. We dreaded the yearly visits for shots and exams. Trips to the grooming parlor for baths and nail clipping were only minimally less traumatic. Then things got worse.
After living in our home for ten years, we decided it was well past time to remove the smelly worn carpet in our basement office and replace it with a gorgeous, easy to clean, hardwood floor. It never occurred to us that One Old Dog would be unable to walk on our new floor, that as soon as he stepped onto its gleaming surface he'd do a belly flop, all four legs splayed out, two east, two west. And that was just the beginning. As he lay thus, trembling and humiliated, we had to get him up. Hauling up the heavy hind quarter was one part of the process, but then there were the two front legs slipping and sliding, unable to get a purchase on the smooth floor.
The first pair of booties arrived a week or so later, colorful socks with sticky bottoms meant to improve traction front and rear. Each time we put them on, One Old Dog became as frisky as a pup, grabbing Goosie from the toy box, sticking his butt in the air, stomping his front paws, and causing the socks to fly off. We gave up the socks, but OOD continued to fall in spite of the patchwork of rugs and mats with which we covered our beautiful hardwood floor. In addition, now that OOD had realized the threat posed by wooden floors, he lost all ability to walk on the one upstairs as well.
Another call to the sock place resulted in a return of the failed socks and the purchase of little blue booties with black soles and velcro fastenings. These were, alas, no more successful than the socks. The velcro stuck to carpets and to the dog bed, the booties swiveled around so that the part meant to provide traction was located on top of the dog's foot rather than the bottom. Little blue booties were stuffed into their plastic carrying envelope and stashed in the basement utility room.
In the weeks and months that followed, One Old Dog sank deeper and deeper into decrepitude. He slept most of the time, couldn't get up without help, and when finally he gained his feet, was too stiff to walk. His toys languished unused in their box and we, his devoted DROODS, prepared ourselves for his imminent demise. Before that sad event transpired, however, One Old Dog's guardian angel appeared in the form of Angela the House Call Vet.
She arrived one afternoon wearing doggie printed scrubs and toting an iPad and a canvas bag. OOD, always pleased to have company, livened up enough to show her his latest stuffed animal and to coat her black jeans with a generous amount of blond hair. There followed a thorough examination and discussion of his various fat deposits, warts, runny eyes, greasy back, and regrettable teeth. She looked up the percentage of carbohydrates in his food and referred delicately to his weight. He got a rabies shot. OOD liked Angela the House Call Vet.
In the conversation that followed the exam, I told Angela that we were committed to limiting the stressors of invasive procedures; our goal was to make our dog feel safe and comfortable. We, his devoted DROODS, were not interested in prolonging his life for our own benefit. To that end, Angela suggested several ways to ease his arthritis and improve joint function. That evening online, I purchased fish oil, chondroitin chews, and seborrhea mousse for his allergies. Days later I received an email from our Angel Vet with a link to a company that sold doggie socks which had proved helpful to several of her other patients.
A perusal of the website and a phone call to clarify sizing, led to two pair of Woodrow Wear socks, black with grey stripes. One set fits One Old Dog's large front feet, one pair fits his dainty back feet. Miraculously, the socks stay on. Further, OOD waits patiently for them to be worked onto his feet, and apparently does not feel compelled to romp around once they're on. The socks furnish traction on the slippery floors and don't annoy the dog. They do, however, need to come off and be put back every time OOD goes out, but then, DROODS are no strangers to high maintenance.
Now, added to his morning dose of arthritis medicine is an evening dose. We also administer two little scoops of fish oil to the kibbles and cooked vegetables OOD is fed twice a day. Then there are the chondroitin chews used for treats during the daily walks we take him on to keep him ambulatory. Once a week I take OOD into the basement utility room for a grooming session. As he lies on the floor in front of my stool, I work the rake through his thick undercoat while inhaling dangerously high doses of dog dander. Then I clean out his ears and wipe his drippy eyes and work the seborrhea mousse into his freshly brushed coat. At the end of the session, OOD's fur is fluffed and gleaming. His face is clean and his eyes are bright in anticipation of the treat that follows grooming. On the other hand, I am coated with fur, my eyes are red, my nose runny, and my hands filthy.
Having implemented the suggestions of the Angel Vet, we DROODS have seen a marked improvement in One Old Dog's health. He gets up off the floor without falling and appears to be in less pain, although there's no way to confirm the veracity this conjecture. He looks better, too, if one ignores his fat deposits and bad teeth. The on-going expenses incurred by OOD's new health regime are not inconsiderable, but they are small price to pay to keep our boy healthy and happy. And anyway, as former DINKS, we can afford it.