Read Dog Stays in the Picture Online

Authors: Susan; Morse

Dog Stays in the Picture (17 page)

—I know what you're going to say, Siegfried. Yes, I was probably drinking too much coffee and I do love chocolate. But this is serious. I have no idea if I should trust this doctor, and I'm in a real situation here, so please don't yell at me—

—Take the doxycycline.

—Say
what
??

—I've seen this up close, Susan. Antibiotics are the only solution available. Tick infections are real, underdiagnosed, and devastating. Keep in touch with the mainstream doctors if they want to look for something else, but do not even consider letting a possible tick disease go untreated.

—Wow. I was totally not expecting you to say that. Are you
positive
? Because this other doctor told me all I have to do is rest and—

—SUSAN.

—Yes?

—Take. The. Drugs.

Well I guess that's that. When a holistic purist like Siegfried says take the chemicals, the battle's over. Score one for the quacks.

12.

Coincidence?

JULY 2011

I
'm on a genealogy binge. Everyone's home this summer, and for some reason I feel an urgent need to acknowledge our shared roots before the children run off again.

—Kids.

—Yes?

—Your ancestors had slaves.

—SLAVES?

Each night at dinner I update them on the fruits of my research. They're only half listening—this stuff bored me, too, when I was their age, and I used to tune out whenever my mother brought it up. Maybe interest in family history is a developmental thing, something you can't access until you pass your own half-century mark.

Hoping to keep our kids' attention, I focus on dirty family laundry.

—The Draytons came here from England via Barbados in 1678. They settled in South Carolina, and established two plantations—

—With
slaves
?

—Yes, sorry to say. But our Philadelphia branch redeemed itself by moving north before the Civil War. Two Drayton brothers, Percival and Thomas, actually fought directly against each other, on opposite sides of a big battle. How's
that
for family dysfunction?

My mother's mother, long deceased, produced two batches of children divided between different marriages, and there are caches of family memorabilia scattered all over the globe. One cousin, Nina (the eldest of my generation and a product of our grandmother's first marriage), shares my newfound drive to keep old stories alive. She and her husband, John, are putting together a web archive, and they've requested any interesting specifics concerning the family of our grandmother's second husband, my grandfather, Harry Coleman Drayton.

I've been putting this project off all year because I haven't felt up to rooting around in our cellar. There's a trunk down there somewhere, full of old leather-bound albums—family photographs dating back to the Civil War era. Nina and John have been patiently waiting for me to sort my body out so I can get down to it. I think the health scare and months of confinement have acted as a sort of catalyst, sparking my need to pass on history to future generations before it's too late.

Good news: I am myself again.

I took my doxycycline religiously, and spent most of the four-month course bouncing back and forth between sofas here in Philadelphia (Lilly snoozing happily by my side) and, when I could manage it, down in New Orleans. The O'Briens kindly offered Lilly an open invitation, which allowed me to admit that it's best not to rock her boat with a disruptive trip. I was happy to be free of that worry, but sad, missing her. Our rental's little backyard is so perfect for a dog, chosen just for Lilly, and it sits barren, like an unused nursery.

When a second blood test finally cleared me of the tick co­infection, I couldn't understand why I was as lame as ever. Dr. A's response was unsettling:

—
That's normal.

—Normal? When will I be able to walk?

—Give yourself time. Doxycycline can cause inflammation. That's probably what you're feeling.

—Wait. This drug is supposed to cure my tick disease, the symptoms of which are inflamed joints. You're saying the doxycycline has been actually
increasing
my pain?

—Give it time. Come back and have your blood drawn again in a few months. Try walking a little, see if you loosen up.

Easy for her to say. Siegfried didn't have much more to offer, and, at a loss, it suddenly occurred to me I might as well work on that one ankle I'd twisted walking Lilly last fall, back before this whole thing started. The fossil who found the tendonitis told me to stay off the ankle until it was better (which, obviously, I had been doing) but it never occurred to me to try a treatment Eliza had success with back in high school. After missing two sports seasons due to Achilles tendonitis, physical therapy wasn't helping, and Eliza needed to play tennis in the fall. When we stumbled on something called Integrative Manual Therapy, the results were staggering.

Figuring I'd better address my ankle before embarking on a walking regimen, off I went to the local IMT center. At the first intake, Ginger the IMT lady (a fully licensed physical therapist) observed my general condition and offered to try working her magic on all of my joints, not just the twisted ankle.

—
You think you can fix the rest of me too?

—Might as well try!

Why not?
I thought.

IMT sessions are so pleasant you almost feel as if you're being duped. All they do is place their hands on you and breathe. I lay there, chatting with Ginger, playing with my iPhone, reading, napping, whatever, wondering why on earth any insurance company would actually pay for this. I didn't feel any better when I got off the table at the end of my four-hour treatment, but to be polite I scheduled another, figuring I'd cancel later.

Next morning I lingered in bed for a while as usual, gathering my courage for that first awful trip to the bathroom. (Mornings were the worst. The whole process of getting myself upright was tedious and excruciating: Roll over on least-painful shoulder—
ouch
. Slowly tuck arm under rib cage so I can use best elbow instead of impossibly dysfunctional wrist to push myself into sitting position—
ouch, ouch.
Haul feet over side of bed, gasping, put on ankle-support strap, and then, leaning heavily on bedside table because knees are not strong enough to straighten on their own—
ouch, ouch, ouch
—use bad wrist to haul myself erect because there's no other option, and finally, stand for a while recovering, breathing.) It would take about ten minutes to go thirty feet, Lilly hovering, stretching, and yawning, waiting politely for her breakfast and a pee.

The morning after that first IMT appointment, I braced myself for the agonizing roll out of bed. Was it my imagination? The shoulder seemed a little better. Did the arm bend a bit more easily? And the elbow—there was
no pain whatsoever
in the elbow for the first time in six months! The wrist was still kind of sore when I leaned on it, but the knees, the knees actually almost worked! It was stunning.

Waiting for my next session, I regressed a bit. But each morning after a treatment things would again dramatically improve, until one glorious day I leapt out of bed like a normal person and burst into tears. It's been over a month now. Aside from one toe that's still a little funky, I'm out of the woods.

I don't know if I'll ever be sure what was wrong, or what fixed me. But I do know this: If the slightest whisper of joint pain returns, I'll let the tick lady test my blood again at some point, but I will go to IMT immediately. To all interested parties seeking a local practitioner: Google
Integrative Manual Therapy Connecticut
to pull up the website for their headquarters. Best of luck.

The boys came home from college last month just around the time Eliza graduated and David finished the second season of
Tremé
. (They plan their schedule around the heat of summer and hurricane season, so he'll be on hiatus till mid-October.) As before, Lilly shunned each male arrival, skulking around, emphatically dodging all attention. David is philosophical about being treated like an intruder in his own home, and has applied himself to re-seducing her. He was feeling generally good about his progress until Linda O'Brien's husband, Richard, stopped by to pick up David and the boys for an adventure at his trapshooting club the other day. When I opened the kitchen door, Lilly jumped to her feet, racing past my crestfallen husband to greet Richard like a long-lost brother, completely confounding our theory that all men have to work for her trust. Richard tells us Lilly likes him so much because he's been feeding her when she's over there, which does not make David feel any better, given all his
Bong-bong-bong
dinner-bowl maneuvers.

I still carefully plan my outings with military precision, trying to avoid leaving Lilly home alone, ever, but at least now that I can walk again I'm feeling more hopeful we'll be able to keep her. She continues to trail me everywhere, flopping onto the floor strategically so she can keep me in her sight line. Even when it seems like she's dozing, the kids tell me Lilly's ears swivel back and forth, bat-style, rotating motion detectors tracking my movements around the room.

We may never understand why Lilly prefers me to the Morse men. David thinks there must be a tall, mean male kennel hand in her background. A rescue dog of any kind is an enigma, and with a racing greyhound you have the added mystery of the past career. The identification tattoos inside Lilly's ears both fascinate and upset me, a disturbing reminder that Lilly was nothing but an exploitable commodity in the world she comes from. A number. Like the sudden urge to retrieve our abandoned family history, I wish Lilly could tell me her story—how she lost the tip of that ear on the right, and what the cruel-looking scar on her front leg is about. If I knew more about where she really came from it would be so much easier to figure her out.

But despite unsolved mysteries, little by little this dog is coming out of her shell, revealing herself on her own terms. Our neighborhood greyhound group arranged a really fun play date at a canine agility-training space last February for a half dozen locals who'd been cooped up all winter. Lilly was in top form, just like all the other dogs, and it became clearer than ever how they thrive when surrounded by their kind; parading gaily around the arena like a gaggle of preteen girls cut loose at the mall, tails thrashing, leaning into one another shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip—a twenty-four-legged amoeba automatically switching directions on some undetectable inner groupthink cue. I have to press for more of these get-togethers.

And I can't get enough of Lilly's glorious thirty-second speed demonstrations. I have to catch her in the right mood, usually sometime in the late afternoon when she rouses from her nap and starts hinting about dinner. We have a pretty decent-sized lawn out back, and if I take Lilly out there and dance around a little (I can dance now!), she gets this goofy grin on her face, spinning madly in place for a while sort of winding herself up, and then she's off for a few gleeful laps around the yard, just for the joy of it. I've learned to stay very still when Lilly's on a tear, because she loves to dash straight at me and veer off at the last second. Lilly knows exactly where she's going, and if I mess her up by trying to step out of the way, she's likely to knock me right over. Eliza's been trying to capture her on camera—not easy to do.

We hardly worry at all about Joey anymore. Lilly has no interest. Even if she did, this cat takes care of himself.

It's such a relief to be able to go down the cellar stairs so easily now. In the trunk, I've unearthed US Adm. Percival Drayton's Civil War belt buckle and red tasseled sash, and I've found photographs of him and his brother, Thomas, online. Percival, commander of Union warship USS
Pocahontas
,
spent a rather stressful afternoon shooting directly
at
his Confederate brother, Gen. Thomas Drayton, who was holed up on shore at Hilton Head. There's a picture on the Internet of a dazed crowd of Thomas's former slaves flanked by a few Union soldiers the day they were officially freed.

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