Monday, September 21, 2020

Aging In Good Spirits With Dusty and This Old Girl


She’s a retired personal trainer.  My wonderful, loving, considerate, patient human who tops off my meals with little pieces of cheese, brushes my coat and who I really like is a retired PERSONAL TRAINER!  “Let’s go for a walk,” she says.  “We need the exercise,” she says.  “Gotta keep our weight down, bods in shape.”  I’m eight-years-old and my last owner was sedentary.  I like a casual walk as much as the next guy, but she worked for years as a PERSONAL TRAINER.   Walking with this old girl is a whole different animal.

     Our routes are super nice.  Towering pines, thick shrubs, winding trails in one direction, tall beach grass, sand and crashing waves in another.  Lots of good peeing and pooping spots, too, and she exhibits a great deal of patience when I stop.  But the rest of the time we’re moving.  I am thankful for small favors.  She’s no spring chicken anymore.  While she once RAN six miles a day, arthritis in her back and knees has changed her workout routine to less miles and walking, but walking with a former runner isn’t just schlepping along. The old girl’s pace is fast.  I’m good for the first mile, staying in front, eagerly pulling on my leash.  By the start of mile two I’m plodding along beside her and near the end I’m starting to drag.  But I came up with a spectacular idea.  To save myself and tap into both the sympathetic and competitive sides of my trainer person, as we close in on the end of mile two I shift from dragging to plopping my fluffy rump down on the pavement.  She turns around, takes pity on my sad little face, to which I’ve added a drooping tongue, and finishes her workout carting me in her arms.  She takes great delight in hefting fifteen extra pounds.  Panting now she tells me she’s burning more calories, building more muscle, bettering her fitness level.  I knew she’d come to that conclusion.  We finish our walk.  She plants a kiss on top of my head, tells me it was a good three miles, gives me water before she takes a drink herself.  I knew she’d do that, she’s such a mush.   You’re a good walking buddy,” she says.  I’m glad when I can help.  


I am an aging woman.  Well, all of us are aging, but I’ve just recently started paying attention to being part of the group.   I’ve been a young thinker my whole life and thanks in part to genetics look a bit younger than my years.  Not that these things are bad, it’s just that owning up to the aging process is a new concept for me.  I’ve been a grandma for many years, but not in an old, crotchety way.  I walk every day, lift weights, occasionally do some yoga and never feel the least bit grandma-ish.  Will admit becoming a great-grandmother a few years ago was a jolting experience, but I pulled through lightly seasoned with a touch of gray, a little irritable bowel and manageable arthritis.  So before I start drooling out the side of my mouth, let’s talk about this aging thing.


In truth, aging is a bloody challenge.  I’m up for it, but sometimes find it a pain in the rump, literally today because my left sciatic nerve is aching.   And here’s where my annoyance kicks in.   “You’re in great shape, keep up the exercise,” my doctor advises.  And I’m out there walking rain or shine almost every day and like I said lifting weights as well, but if I push this aging bod a tad too much it comes back to haunt me in the form of pain.  Now I wouldn’t mind the sore muscles if I saw some light at the end of the tunnel, like my exercise routine bringing cholesterol numbers down.   “Eat more fiber,” the doc says.  So this carbo junkie buys a machine that grinds fruit, veggies and nuts to a pulp and starts having healthy, fibrous shakes for breakfast.  It isn’t long before this morning meal is followed by spending the afternoon in the bathroom.   With the grinding machine tucked to the back of a rarely opened cabinet, I get into oatmeal for breakfast.  Let me tell you oatmeal, no matter what favorite goodie I put in it, isn’t a New York bagel slathered with cream cheese.  Moving on from grumbling, this morning, instead of standing over the sink to eat my yummy bowl of mush, I sat at the dining room table.  This way I was able to plop my screaming sciatic rear on the heating pad while I ate.  About halfway through my ordeal, Dusty plopped in my lap.  I offered him the oatmeal that was stuck to the side of my bowl.  He lapped happily, licked my face and curled into peaceful sleep - my little Dusty always so appreciative of the smallest tidbit.   Since I always grow some through my association with animals, I’ll try letting this oatmeal thing grow on me.  Maybe my cholesterol numbers will shrink in the process.   No matter what, like little Dusty I’ll take time to appreciate the gift of today, the joy of the moment, the unappetizing food.

     And will you look at the time.  After some weight training we’re heading out for today’s walk.  


 You should know my personal trainer has written a popular book on safe exercise for folks with diabetes, heart disease and COPD.  One of the chapters even has a blurb about a dog. She can’t help herself, always includes a critter in her writing.  You can find it on her Books Page.

Best wishes and stay tuned for more Aging in Good Spirits posts from DUSTY and THIS OLD GIRL.


Monday, September 14, 2020

A Cat and a Colonoscopy



After three days on a low fiber diet and nearly two days of liquids only followed by sixty-four ounces of Gatorade laced with a potent laxative, back in January (pre Covid-19 pandemic) I was two hours away from a colonoscopy and terrified (yes, I know, a bit dramatic).  In truth, I shouldn't have been at all nervous, had done this twice before and, with the exception of the awful prep, both times had a comfortable experience.  The nurses had been great, the surgeon a pro and the conscious sedation meds oh so wonderful.  Despite this good history, my mind and body were a jittery mess.  Sitting in the living room counting the minutes I was trying to let my beautiful view of peaceful blue bay and snow-capped Cascades calm my nerves when Abner, my sweet orange kitty, showed up.  At first he stayed at my feet surveying the situation wide-eyed and curious.  Then he moved to my lap and sat for a bit.  From there he climbed up to my chest, pushed himself snug against me and began to purr.  Being a staunch believer in animal instincts, I took this as a sign.  According to Abner, I'd be fine.  And his tight hug was the purr-fect calming remedy.  I left for my appointment feeling a touch better.  Sitting on the bed in the operating room, I mentioned to the nurse how nervous I’d been and the loving care my cat had dispensed.  “I have a kitty and totally get it," she said.  "Now let me put the finishing touches on his work.”  She started the IV drip, helped me lay back and let the meds do their thing.  

      In what seemed like a nanosecond I was awake, feeling no pain, procedure over.  Arriving home just a tad loopy and minus a polyp I plopped my sedated bod back in the living room chair.  Abner was across the room on the couch napping on his blanket.  He opened his eyes, yawned, stretched and offered the slyest told you so look before curling back into sleep.  I dozed off peacefully as well accepting that I'd likely always be a basket case before any future surgeries and knowing I'd always have the company of a wise critter to keep me somewhat centered and sane.

       Along with the necessary prep and meds, I highly recommend doctors add  this all natural treatment to the procedure to-do list - one dose of cute kitty before and after every colonoscopy. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

The Perfect Fence


Our Grown Girl

The carpenter installed it right after we moved in.  It enclosed our entire grassy backyard that was abundant with fruit trees. There were two gates for easy access. The natural wood pickets blended seamlessly with the rustic environment.  It was tall enough to keep the dogs in and coyotes out and short enough for our neighborhood deer to spring over and share our apples.  For twenty-three years it was the perfect fence.  And then it wasn't.

I poured my first cup of coffee and meandered out on the deck to enjoy the sounds and aromas of a late spring morning.  The air was rich with lilac and mint and rosemary.  Mourning doves were cooing.  As I took my first rich, steamy sip I sensed movement in my periphery along the fence line to my left.  I turned, happily expecting to see the usual munching menagerie - fat bunnies, female deer with their sweet spotted babies, the occasional handsome buck.  When I moved closer, my anticipated joy turned to horror.  Wedged tightly between two pickets on top of the fence was a frightened, frantically flailing, traumatized little fawn.  She hadn’t cleared the barrier. 

Weeping, I phoned the police for assistance. Husband Jim heard the call and rushed upstairs out onto the deck.  Sobbing uncontrollably, unable to speak, I pointed and Jim acted.  He shoved a sturdy lawn chair under her head then went around to her legs. She froze in terror enabling him to grab her back hoofs and gently shove her through the fence, the lawn chair breaking her fall.   By this time the police had arrived and our injured fawn had flopped onto the ground where she lay motionless. The officer donned heavy gloves and inspected her little body.  "Except for that cut on her side, she doesn't look badly hurt, but she's pretty scared," he said.  "Let's stand back and give her some space.  She'll either recover or she won't."  I held my breath.  Our little girl raised her head, but didn’t seem to notice us.  Soon, she stood on wobbly legs.  And then she bolted off into the thick pines.  "She may just make it," said the cop.  "But you can never be sure."  I glanced over to the trees.  Right at the very edge stood a large female deer.  Her trusting, liquid brown eyes looked straight into mine before she disappeared into the foliage.  Given my writer's imagination I decided it was Mama and I was sure, like any mom, she understood and was grateful we had helped her baby.  Reminded me of my belief in our universal connection, the vulnerability we share, the help we're all capable of offering.  Standing there in the sunrise, barefoot in ratty pajamas, I was crying again.   

Back out on the deck about a week later I saw several full-grown does munching our apples.  They had three growing fawns in tow.  One of them had a healing wound on her side.  She looked up when she saw me, our eyes meeting for just a second before her clean leap over the fence.  She landed graceful and tall glancing back with pride and in that magnificent shared moment I was captured in the oneness of all living beings.  Embraced by the power of unity, the uncomplicated beauty of life, I reminded myself to live each day simply with joy and deep gratitude like all the sweet critters on either side of the perfect fence.       

Monday, August 31, 2020

A Childhood Vision on the Road with Dusty Quinn

Dusty Quinn

It started out an ordinary walk.  Dusty and I ambled the familiar neighborhood paths here on the end of our peninsula.    We had passed the small farmhouse many times before, but this day was different.  Dusty stopped, turned to face the house and sat.  In the yard beyond the picket fence was a small child, a little girl wearing a pink dress dancing in the patch of wild daisies, a tiny black kitten romping alongside her.  With the pause in our walk I was given the opportunity to take in a bit of life’s sweetness.   I felt a little teary as we continued on our way, my heart holding the sweet moment, my mind resurrecting a long ago memory.    


Have you ever visualized your ideal place?  My vision was a farm.  I saw my farmstead when I was eight, the day I rescued the little black kitten from the middle of the street.  I ran straight home with the tiny stray and begged my father to let me keep him.    “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I know how much you want a pet, but you know how Mother’s allergies are.   We’ll take him to the shelter.  They’ll find him a good home.  And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to someday see you in a big house of your own full of cats and dogs.  You can do it, my spirited girl.”   I saw my farm right then. The graveled driveway was winding and tree-lined. The house itself was a large, two-story white structure with a set of forest green shutters on each of the five upstairs windows. A screened porch ran the length of the front of the house. Two long, cement steps bordered on each side by pots of sprawling, unkempt ferns led to the middle screen door. To the right of the overgrown lawn were several white Adirondack chairs around a stone fire pit. There was a large, rickety chicken coop off by itself on the left.  Snippets of glistening bay peeked through the tall pines that lined the back of the property. And there were animals, mostly cats, dogs and chickens on the porch, on the lawn, around the coop.

The clear image as seen by a little girl was fleeting, but I’ve come to realize that childhood visions can live on the edge of possible until resurrected by chance or design.   My home today isn’t quite that farm I envisioned, but close enough.  There’s property for peace and quiet, a magnificent view of blue bay and snowcapped mountains through the towering aromatic pines, Adirondack chairs on the deck and always room for animals.  In the company of critters I am alive, engaged, present.  When Abner bumps his cool kitty nose against mine I acknowledge his sweet greeting with pats.  William’s sharp feline stare at six and four keeps me in line with the proper feeding schedule. And the unconditional love and quiet wisdom of my dearest Dusty invites personal growth.  Mother would likely be appalled at the cat hair on the couch and dog poop in the yard, but on stormy nights with warm, furry bodies cuddled on my lap and wind blowing down the chimney I hear my father whispering – “You can do it, my spirited girl.”  

That walk with Dusty, a mere blip in time, made my heart happy, my spirits soar.  It opened my mind to experiencing joy in the now and the long-lived power of thought.  My positive childhood vision is alive and well today.  If not for Dusty, would I have witnessed that beautiful moment?  Would I have paid attention?  Sometimes a seemingly simple life choice (a walk with my dog) overwhelms me with the richness of encouraging possibilities.    It’s just a matter of hitting the pause button, ditching mundane distractions and taking notice.  Seems I do that best in the company of critters.  So I’m on the road with Dusty Quinn being aware, embracing the moment, appreciating the good stuff always available when I stop and see and, perhaps, shed a tear of gratitude.