Read Dog Stays in the Picture Online

Authors: Susan; Morse

Dog Stays in the Picture (16 page)

We find a printer easily at the OfficeMax in a shopping district near our house, and stop at the mall on the way home. This is where a déjà-vu sensation begins to overpower me.

David has a date with a Genius at the Apple store. He also needs a special pillow from Bed, Bath & Beyond, which is off-limits for him because of their pumped-in air freshener. So he drops me off to find the pillow and meet him at Apple when I'm finished.

Malls are pretty much the same everywhere, but that's not what this feeling is about. This feeling goes back decades, to when nobody had heard of OfficeMax, and the Apple store was just a twinkle in Steve Jobs's eye. It goes all the way back to our first months in Los Angeles, sometime in the early 1980s, when I could walk like a normal person, and David could use a public restroom without a handkerchief clamped over his face because of the toxic cleaning fluids. When we floated everywhere in a haze of early love.

We had moved to a completely new city for a TV series then, as now, and we had only one car. Even the dullest errands were fun because we were usually together. With the arrival of children, time became a valuable commodity. Now, partly because of Lilly's separation issues and partly out of habit, we still take solo turns for Philadelphia shopping runs—so I literally can't remember the last time I spent an ordinary day like this out in the world with my husband. Laboring across this Louisiana mall, the weightless sensation I felt as a blissed-out new bride some thirty years ago floods back incongruously. I'm struck with awe at our good fortune. After all these years, even if I'm falling apart at the seams, I still feel a catch in my throat when I spot my man bending over the latest gadget in an Apple store.

is an ensemble show, which means
David only works two or three days most weeks. He did have to go in early this morning, though, and after breakfast I putter around acquainting myself with the kitchen, then settle on the sofa to do a little thinking. Amazing: nothing on my mind but my own work for a change. Children squared away, dog temporarily stashed, mother in another state entirely. Toward the end of the business day, just as my body is telling me I've done enough laps between the kitchen and the living room for tea and so forth, and it's time to turn off the brain and pass out in front of Wolf Blitzer's news hour on CNN, my cell phone rings.

It's an urgent request from Ben in Texas. He skipped the dorm lottery because he wants to move into an apartment with some friends next year. They've already missed out on one place they found because they didn't move fast enough. He needs me to print his e-mailed application, cosign, and fax it to the new prospective landlord immediately so he and his roommates can snag this other place—if Ben loses it he's basically homeless next year.

This is not the kind of job you want to do when your cognitive abilities are on self-imposed investigation due to mysterious tick-related possibilities. Glad we opted for a printer with fax at OfficeMax yesterday. David set this thing up last night at his desk in the living room and it prints great. Checking my e-mail, there are a couple of dire-sounding ones from the O'Briens. Apparently Dylan and King got overexcited and went after each other this afternoon. There was damage done in the form of ripped throats
(ripped throats?!)
and a frantic dash to the emergency clinic. King, identified as the instigator, is on probation now, wearing a muzzle.


Good grief. I call Linda. She says Lilly was in a completely different room when things went down; this was just between the boys. The miracle is the O'Briens had to leave Lilly home alone when they rushed the boys off to the vet for stitches, and when they returned a few hours later, she was asleep. No crazy leaping through windows, not even the slightest trace of doorknob chewing. What's that about?

Linda seems calm about the situation, but I can't help assuming Lilly's future welcome at the O'Brien household is kind of in the balance. Now what will we do? Our housesitting tenant Gaillard is great about pitching in, but he has a day job, and Lilly's not safe home alone yet. I can't stand the idea of a kennel. Greyhounds don't fly, and that drive, with or without a dog, is still out of the question for me.

Wendy is right. Everything points to the fact that I've been impractical adopting a delicate new animal right when it's time to start traveling, and I feel like a jerk for causing this impossible situation. If I try to rehome Lilly, the rescue association will insist on taking her back into their system, and I don't know if I can stand it if she ends up in greyhound limbo. (Eliza's Child Protective Services episode all over again! Or like Ben, under a bridge, if I don't fax this stuff in time!) Linda says retired greyhounds are much harder to place these days, given the economy. Practicalities aside, I've fallen in love with Lilly, and when I think of her with some other person, it breaks my heart. To be honest, I'm jealous. She's

This can't be about my needs. What's important is this gentle dog has probably never had a real relationship with a human before. Lilly has earned her Forever Home, and she's offered the gift of her love and trust to me, of all people. I don't want to let her down.

Am I truly going to have to decide between a life with my husband and a commitment to a dog? And if so, what exactly does it say about me that I think there's a choice? I really am an idiot.

I print Ben's forms and fill them all out, checking and rechecking for mistakes, make a note of the landlord's fax number, and, just to play it safe, keep the printer instructions on hand when I settle down at David's desk to perform this fax operation. It's extremely important I type in the number correctly. The lease application asks for our bank accounts and social security numbers, and you definitely don't want to fax private information to the wrong person.

There's that déjà-vu sensation again. What is it this time? Back in the 1980s in L.A., faxing was not even something you could do. Never mind.

I've learned (given current handicaps) to assemble all necessary materials before beginning a job like this. There is some urgency because business hours are almost over, but I carefully take my time gathering everything I can think of next to the printer before settling in. (Fax number?
. Reading glasses?
Got 'em
. Printer instruction manual?
Right here
. Application all filled out?

My cell phone starts ringing in the kitchen—oh no, is it about the dogs again? Whatever it is, I'm not going back there. They'll have to wait till I'm sure I've got this exactly right.

Okay. Put the form in the tray and type in the fax number. Check it to be sure it's correct. Check it one more time. Yes. Time to hit Fax. Here we go!

A little round thing lights up in the window on the machine. It spins promisingly. Waiting, waiting.

Still waiting. Still spinning. What's going on? Why is it not faxing?

I ransack “Frequently Asked Questions” in the manual, trying not to lose hope. It's beginning to dawn on me what my déjà vu is about this time: that frigging Ivy U Common Application! Come on, people, let's get this over with so Wolf Blitzer and I can take our nap!

FAQs say,
If you can't fax, first check all your connections.

Okay. I look behind the printer.

Power: connected, obviously, or the machine would not light up.

USB to computer: not necessary at the moment, but yes, there is one of course. I just printed the forms.

Phone cord—
. No phone cord? Didn't the printer come with one?
, I'll steal the one from the phone in the kitchen. Where
the living-room phone jack? It must be around here somewhere. …

Unbendable knees do not lend themselves to looking under a desk in an unfamiliar house to see if your husband has connected everything thoroughly. (I challenge anyone over fifty to get down on the floor while maneuvering completely straight legs—just try it. Picture a giraffe confronting a half-empty watering hole.)

Finally I'm lying on my back, most of me under the desk, legs flailing feebly, like an upturned beetle (please, my reading glasses—where are they? I can't see a thing) and this, of course, is when my cell phone rings again, all the way back in the kitchen; I'll never get there in time. Hopefully it's not Linda about the dogs, or Ben with some new urgent housing-related need. Most likely it's Ma, either forgetting I'm not home or wondering if I got here all right. I don't want to talk to my mother right now, not with this Lilly problem in the forefront. If she worms the Lilly business out of me, one thing will lead to another, and I'll be hurling accusations about puppies in barrels. Let it ring, for both our sakes.

After a brief flirtation with despair (upon discovery that there is actually no phone jack
at all
under this desk—David is just not the faxing type, I guess) somehow, miraculously, I find my second wind. Like a marathon runner at the twenty-mile mark when single­-minded determination replaces lactic-acid burn and exhaustion, I rip the printer from its moorings and lurch across the room with it (David would have a conniption if he knew what I was doing) to the only phone jack to be found in this hell-hole, which of course is down near my ankles and there is no elevated surface whatsoever handy. I dump the thing on the floor, do my giraffe/beetle routine again (ow, ow, ow—
, where's that fax number?! Oh. Found it. Never mind) and plug the thing in. It is 5:54 p.m. in Texas when, finally, Ben's application is on its way. Now I can die.

It is true what they say: The nest may look empty, but it is not. Not till the fat lady sings. Or something like that.

When David comes home from work, Wolf Blitzer is blasting. I'm lying flat on the living-room floor next to the printer with my legs sticking straight in the air, determinedly reflecting on all there is to be grateful for: Our children are thriving. The O'Briens are in love with Lilly. (Linda's vet thinks the dogfight had something to do with their catching the scent of a whelping fox in the woods by their house, and things will settle down once the season's over.) David has a job. We are together. All is well.

Next morning it occurs to me I never got around to checking those cell-phone messages from yesterday. Turns out it wasn't Ben, Linda, or even my mother—both calls were about test results.

Dr. A has come up trumps: according to her special quack-type tests, I do have something, but it's not Lyme. It's called anaplasmosis, a tick-related coinfection usually found in dogs, not humans. (Somehow that figures.) The symptoms seem to match too (joint pain, muscle aches, confusion). The best news is that of all the tick problems I could possibly have, this one's the least dangerous cognitively, and the simplest to fix. The treatment actually is what I've been taking: oral doxycycline. My various fossils insisted that any quack I went to would try to trick me into one of those costly/risky IV situations for months. It's encouraging Dr. A is not even mentioning that route, but still, she wants me to continue the oral doxycycline for a total of four months before having another blood test.

While I'm digesting this information, I follow up on the second message, from the fossil that ordered the MRI. According to this highly respected doctor, my only problem is I have tendonitis in one ankle. (That's
?) I do remember twisting an ankle walking Lilly last fall, but when I bring up the quack's anaplasmosis diagnosis, the fossil gets kind of huffy on the phone. It's up to me if I want to be stupid when all I really need to do is take Advil (
with the Advil!) and rest the ankle (which,
will not be a problem given the incapacitating knee trouble I am supposedly imagining).

So: Here I am, right in the middle of a war zone. I'm the last person to take chemicals if they're not really needed. We all know how antibiotic overuse can turn your system into a hive of drug-resistant bacteria. But still, it would be so nice to get back to normal and this may be my only chance.

It's time to consult with Siegfried, our homeopath in L.A. If anyone can talk me off this ledge, Siegfried can. Siegfried knows me, we have history, and at the very least he will be comforting to talk to. He'll definitely understand that this is more than a twisted ankle, that it's not normal for me. But most important, Siegfried hates antibiotics like the plague—I don't think he's ever really forgiven me for ignoring his advice one time when Sam had strep throat and Siegfried wanted him to cut out ice cream and treat it with herbs. If he has a better idea than Advil or four months of controversial chemical ingestion, I'll try it.

It takes a while to get through to Siegfried because of the West Coast time difference. Just hearing his familiar voice on the line gives me a tiny taste of what it might feel like, having a helicopter's rope ladder drop to the rooftop of your storm-flooded Gulf Coast house. I gulp out my story.

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