Saturday, February 25, 2012

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY, RIGHT?

All I can say is I consider myself very lucky to still be alive to write this.

It all began unexpectedly about two weeks ago. I’d gone for my daily two-mile walk with my dogs, came home and fixed dinner, and then after eating, decided to take a nice hot bath.

The water was so relaxing, I dozed off in the tub. When I woke up, my head was tilted all the way back at an awkward angle and I couldn’t straighten my neck. Finally, after about five minutes, I managed to move everything back into position, but my neck was really sore. I thought I was fine until I got out of the tub. The room started to spin and I felt queasy. I made it as far as the bed and flopped down on it.

I spent the next two days in bed, mainly because every time I stood up and tried to walk, I felt as if I were on the tilt-a-whirl ride at the amusement park.

“You want to go to the doctor’s?” my husband asked me on the third day.

“Are you going to carry me there?” I answered.

“No, I can’t even carry myself,” he said.

“Well, I can’t take two steps without crashing into walls,” I said. “How am I supposed to make it out to the car? I sure wish doctors still made house calls!”

I soon learned just how much my dogs and husband depended on me. I also learned that the worst time to be bedridden was right before grocery-shopping day, when the cupboards and fridge were bare.

“Did you eat today?” I asked my husband when he came into the bedroom to check on me.

“Yeah, I had a corn muffin, beef jerky and potato chips.”

“That’s not a meal!”

“Well, the jerky is meat and the chips are potatoes...and the corn muffin is corn, a vegetable. So I covered all three food groups.”

“Did you feed the dogs?”

“We’re out of dog food. I gave them canned potatoes and some tuna I found in the cabinet.”

That did it. We had to get some food in the house. “If I give you a list,” I asked him, “can you go shopping?”

He looked as if I’d just asked him to climb the Empire State Building using only a rope and a hook.

“You know I can’t walk more than 10 feet without having to sit down!” he said. “How would I ever make it through a supermarket?”

“Use one of those scooters all the stores have.”

Again, he gave me the deer-in-headlights look. “I’ve never used one of those things before! What if I crashed into a big display of canned goods or something? And how could I reach stuff while sitting?”

I rolled my eyes. I was beginning to think I’d have more luck tying my grocery list around one of my dogs’ collars and sending her to the store. The problem with living way out in the woods is that we’re way beyond the mileage limits for the stores and restaurants that deliver.

By the fifth day, I was able to make it to the sofa, where I plopped down and remained all day. Unfortunately, my husband had to pick the world's worst TV shows to watch while I was fighting nausea - food-eating contests, guys in the wilderness eating earthworms and beetles, and another show about amusement-park rides.

I also felt really tired, mainly because the combined growling sounds of my husband’s and my dogs’ stomachs were keeping me awake at night. In fact, I could have sworn I saw the dogs staring at me and drooling.

There was food in the freezer – food my husband had no clue how to cook, like a whole chicken or pork chops – food I couldn’t stand on my feet long enough to cook. We needed easy-to-prepare stuff – microwavable stuff, sandwich stuff...and dog food.

I’d been hoping we wouldn’t have to bother anyone, but the situation was becoming desperate. I picked up the phone and called my aunt.

“I’m laid up and we need food!” I whined to her. “The dogs need food! I’m afraid they’re going to eat us!”

She handed the phone to my uncle, who asked me to list what we needed. I rambled on and on, trying to think of everything from milk to dog food, and all of the food groups in between.

He showed up an hour later, carrying a bunch of plastic grocery bags and a 15-lb. bag of dog food. I never was so happy to see anyone.

“I could kiss you!” I said to him.

“No thanks,” he said, “you might be contagious!”

Just when I thought things finally might start getting better, my husband said something the next day that ended up causing a lot of excitement...a whole lot of excitement.

“I don’t feel so good,” he said. “I feel woozy and really, really tired, like I could sleep for days.”

I still was feeling pretty woozy, too. Not as bad as I had been, but I still couldn’t walk a straight line, to the point where I probably would have been arrested for public intoxication if I’d tried to leave the house.

That’s when I started to get a strong feeling something may be wrong with the house...something like a carbon monoxide leak. My husband, I reasoned, was twice my size, so that’s why he’d taken longer to feel the effects. And even the dogs had been sleeping hours longer than usual.

When I mentioned my suspicions to my husband, he reminded me that we had a working carbon monoxide detector.

“But it’s down in the basement!” I said. “What if there’s a leak up here...like from our gas range? Would the detector in the basement pick that up?”

He shrugged. “I have no clue.”

So I put it into my head we had a leak, a slow leak that little by little was going to do us in. I was afraid to sleep at night, because I’d read that nighttime was when most people succumbed to carbon monoxide. I even turned off the heat for an entire afternoon, just to see if it made us feel any better. All I succeeded in doing was nearly giving us hypothermia.

Finally, while my husband was taking an afternoon nap and I, still feeling weak and dizzy, was stretched out on the sofa, I impulsively picked up the phone and called the local fire station. I explained to the firefighter who answered that I was worried we might have a carbon monoxide leak, and my husband and I were feeling as if we’d just downed a case of wine.

He said they’d be right over.

I’ll tell you the rest of the story next week.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wooo! Oooh! Means "Ouch!"

The other morning, something that sounded like, “Wooo! Ooooh!” woke me.
For a moment, I thought I’d just imagined it, so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

“Woooo! Ooooooooooh!”

That did it. I climbed out of bed.

I traced the sound to Willow, one of my rottweilers. She was lying in her dog bed, her head resting on her front paws, and whining.

“What’s the matter, girl?” I asked her. “Are you in pain?”

“Woooo! Ooooh!” came the answer.

I touched her stomach, her sides, her legs, waiting to see if anything got a reaction, all the while knowing that if I did touch a really tender spot, I might end up missing a few fingertips. No body part I pressed seemed to affect her. Still, after I stopped, the howling and whining continued. Puzzled, I called the vet and was told to bring her in.

The minute we arrived at the vet’s, my howling, whining, lethargic dog turned into happy, playful Willow. She bounced into the waiting room, wagging and trying to play with every dog there. She’d never looked so healthy.

“And what seems to be the problem with Willow today?” the vet asked me.

“She’s in pain,” I said, as Willow ran over to her, wagged and licked her hand.

“Any idea where?” the vet asked.

I shook my head. “I sure wish dogs could talk, don’t you?”

She rolled her eyes and laughed. “God, no!”

She then gave Willow a thorough checkup. Only when she touched and looked into Willow’s ears did the “woooo” sound return.

Wouldn’t you know it, her ears were the only things I’d forgotten to touch during my pain-searching marathon that morning.

“Ah!” the vet said. “She has an ear infection. What’s in a dog’s ears is supposed to be the same color as what’s in our ears. Hers is black! The poor dog must have an earache.”

A culture showed that the black gunk was a yeast infection. The veterinary assistant flushed out Willow’s ears, and we were sent home with ear cleanser, eardrops and a bottle of tablets for pain and inflammation. I also was given a quick lesson in eardrop dispensing.

“Have Willow lean against you,” the vet said. “Then lift her ear flap, gently insert the nozzle down into the ear, squeeze the drops into it and then massage the base of her ears to make sure the medication gets evenly distributed.”

She made it sound so simple, I figured it would be a snap to do.

The next morning, I called Willow so I could administer the drops.

She came running and sat down in front of me. The minute I picked up the bottle, she dashed off and hid in the laundry room. I cornered her in there, then lifted the flap of her left ear and looked inside. That’s when I learned that a dog’s ear has about 25 more nooks and crannies than a human’s ear. The problem was, I had no idea into which nook or cranny I should shove the nozzle.

I poked around a bit until I found an ear hole. Then I tipped the bottle upside down. The nozzle on it looked about six inches long. The minute I put the tip of it into Willow’s ear, she went into an alligator roll, nearly knocking me over. I ended up squirting eardrops all over my pants.

So I took a new approach – bribery. As long as I kept feeding dog cookies to Willow, she let me put stuff into her ears. After I squeezed the drops, I massaged the base of each ear, as instructed, then said, “There you go, Willow! You’re all set now!”

She thanked me by violently shaking her head. Her ears looked like airplane propellers, she flapped them so hard. Everything that was in her ears came flying out everywhere...but mostly all over me.

“How does a dog get a yeast infection anyway?” my husband asked. “From eating too much bread?” He chuckled at his own words before adding, “What have you been feeding her? Dog Chow on toast?”

I’m not certain how she got the infection, or why Raven, our other rottweiler, who shares everything with her, didn’t get one...at least not yet.

And I’m praying she never does. Unlike Willow, Raven has the temperament of a lion with a thorn in its paw when it comes to tolerating any medical treatments. Trying to put drops into her ears would all but guarantee that my sleeves would end up looking as if I’d shoved them into a paper shredder.

Maybe, just to be prepared, I should invest in some really long tongs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

THIS CHIRPING WAS FOR THE BIRDS

The electrician who wired our house when we built it must have heard rumors about my cooking skills because he installed eight smoke detectors. All eight are wired so when one goes off, they all do. And believe me, when they all start blaring at the same time, they sound like an air-raid signal. People in Canada probably can hear them.

When they first were installed, one of the detectors was in the habit of randomly setting off all of the other alarms whenever the mood struck. We weren’t living in the house at the time because it still was being built, so an assortment of joggers, dog walkers and people on bikes could hear the alarms blaring when they passed by and called 911. After the third time, I was pretty sure the local fire department was ready to form a lynch mob and string us up.

Naturally, the faulty detector wasn’t in an easy place to locate. The culprit turned out to be up in the attic – the attic that has no stairs leading up to it and is accessible only through a hole in ceiling in which no one weighing more than 100 pounds could squeeze through without needing the jaws of life.

The detectors also have backup batteries in case of a power failure. Unfortunately, when one battery gets weak, all of the detectors intermittently “chirp” to let us know that one of them needs changing. Then it’s a guessing game, trying to figure out which one of the eight it is. I’ve never understood how, when every battery is replaced at the same time and from the same new package, one of them always manages to die before all of the others. I suspect it’s part of some evil plot among the batteries, just to irritate us.

So last Saturday night, when my husband and I heard the familiar high-pitched chirping of the dying-battery signal just as we were sitting down to dinner, we both looked at each other and groaned.

“Any guess which one it is this time?” he asked, rolling his eyes.

“No clue,” I said. “But you realize if we don’t find it, we’ll have to suffer with that annoying chirping all night, even when we’re trying to sleep.”

By process of elimination, I finally tracked down the battery that had the death wish...out in the garage. I stood with my hands on my hips and glared up at the detector. It was on a rafter that looked about 10 feet high.

My husband can’t climb ladders because of his bad knees, and I won’t climb one because they terrify me. Usually I’m able to climb only a couple rungs before my legs start turning to Jell-O and I feel lightheaded.

I went back into the house, grabbed a kitchen chair and brought it out to the garage. I stood on the chair and extended my arm as far as I could toward the rafter. There was so much space between my fingertips and the detector that even if I’d been born with orangutan arms, I still couldn’t have reached it.

So the chirping continued.

“Well, we’re sure a great pair, aren’t we?” my husband said. “So what do we do now? All of this chirping is driving me crazy! It sounds like deranged birds or mating crickets!”

I remembered a small, folding stepladder tucked away in the closet. Stepladders don’t scare me as much as regular ladders because they have steps instead of rungs and they’re not nearly as wobbly.

I found the stepladder and set it up directly below the smoke detector. Then I climbed one step, two steps, three steps...and froze. I could tell I needed to climb at least one more step before I’d be able to reach the detector, but I couldn’t move. My brain was saying, “Go ahead, you big coward! Do it!” while my legs were saying, “Noooo! We’re not budging! If you fall, you’ll break us!”

I climbed back down, went into the house and said to my husband, “I need you to come out to the garage and stand behind me while I’m on the stepladder. If I feel safer, I just might be able to make it up to the fourth step.”

He followed me back out to the garage and positioned himself behind me as I climbed up the three steps. I then tried to gather the courage to climb onto the fourth, but my legs started to get wobbly again.

“Hang onto my hips!” I shouted at my husband. He grabbed me by the bottom of the seat of my sweatpants and gave me an unexpected boost up to the next rung. I reached down with my left hand and grasped a handful of his hair to steady myself.

“Ow!” he complained, tightening his grip on my pants. “You’re yanking my hair!”

“And you’re giving me a wedgie!”

Cautiously, I extended my right hand and finally touched the object of my quest...which chirped into my ear as if to mock me. The ladder made a creaking sound.

“There’s a label down here on the ladder that says not to be used by anyone over 200 pounds,” my husband said. “When’s the last time you weighed yourself?”

I tightened my grip on his hair and twisted it. I used my other hand to unscrew the cover of the detector. When it was off, I spotted the demon battery, just within my reach. With my fingernail, I popped it out of the detector and then dug into my pocket for the new one. Trying to keep steady on my rubbery legs, I snapped the battery into the detector and screwed the cover back on.

The chirping stopped.

Very slowly, I climbed back down the ladder. When my feet hit the concrete floor, I knew how Neil Armstrong must have felt when he first set foot on the moon.

“We did it!” I cheered, hugging my husband. “Do you believe it? Now the next time this happens, I won’t be so scared! It should be a snap!”

“Yeah,” he said, rubbing his head. “As long as I don’t go bald before then.”

Maybe I should buy him some Rogaine, just to be safe.