Friday, May 12, 2006

Tortellini Time

At this writing, Mary is napping in front of one of the last fires in the woodstove for the season. A rainy Friday evening after a hard work-week is a good time for a fire, even in mid-May. Sparkey is resting at her side, Tina is wandering the house looking for a handout, and I can't resist some writing time accompanied by the hum and swirl of the dishwasher.

Sparkey is really hanging in there. With a fairly good appetite, he's gobbling up most of what we offer him, as long as it includes fresh meat of some kind. This week, in a fit of canine culinary creativity (and desperation), I broke down and bought some cold-cuts (bologna, cheese slices, and sliced chicken breast) as a way to offer meat that I didn't necessarily need to cook. It turns out that the bologna is an excellent way to conceal Sparkey's pills---no more stress for all of us as we force them down his recalcitrant throat---and add a few calories by including the meat slices in quesadillas. (He may be sick, but he's no fool. This is gourmet hospice care, folks!)

Now, it's 9:30pm, and he keeps coming to the kitchen, seemingly in search of more vittles, and who am I to refuse this dog who is literally skin and bones and fur (and those soulful eyes, wagging tail, wet nose, and floppy ears)? So now I'm cooking up some cheese tortellini which I hope might prove to be a way to get some carbohydrates into him. I imagine what all that protein is doing to his kidneys and I cringe.

Since Sparkey came home from the hospital, we've moved our bedroom downstairs and put a gate at the bottom of the stairs to prevent him from tottering up the stairs and falling or breaking a bone. Just this week, Tina has accompanied us upstairs when we've gone up to shower or put away laundry, and every evening for the last three, Sparkey has also ventured up the steep stairs to join the party. Worried about him falling either on his way up or down, we try to spot him and protect him, but he's actually managed to navigate his way several times while we weren't looking. Once he makes it into our old bedroom where there is just a folded futon couch and our dressers, he rolls on the floor (not quite making it all the way onto his back) and growls in what we have come to know as sheer delight. Tina does attempt to engage him in play with one of her partially disemboweled stuffed animals or a tennis ball, but after one feeble lunge he backs down and gives up. She must notice the difference, perhaps missing those long and ferocious games of tug o' war that they used to entertain us with in the not too distant past. But his skinny self is beyond that now....

As we may or may not have mentioned before, walking Sparkey is now an act of patience as he has a grass salad here and there, sniffs a great deal, and dawdles in his inimitable old man style. If I have time, I always just sit down beside him when he decides to take a break, this often happening just as we pass our next-door neighbor's house towards the end of a walk. Now that Sparkey knows that Mary and I are both leaving the house every morning, he does his best to elongate the walks, often delaying our departure for work.

Just yesterday, Mary having left earlier in her own car, I was walking the dogs and trying to get the old guy to make it home so I could get to my first patient on time. He demurred, and lay down on his side in front of our neighbor's house. I sat down next to him, attempted some cajoling, and failing that, had a heart to heart with him, explaining that it would be my greatest wish to sit in the dirt with him for hours and smell the morning air, but I had to leave as soon as possible. He regarded me in what seemed to be a thoughtful manner, but was still his recalcitrant self, maintaining---and perhaps even deepening---his regal repose on the ground. Faced with a very busy day and a dog on strike, I did what I had to do: I lifted him into my arms and carried him to the house---about 150 feet---apologizing to him for the indignity as I carried his bony self up the walk to the front door.

Deposited in the doorway, a puzzled Tina at his side, Sparkey watched me leave down the sidewalk from the window next to the front door. My heart ached. All I wanted to do was spend the day in the grass with him and Tina, listening to the Piliated Woodpecker and watching the local beaver ply his way through the still pond waters. Alas, those moments are reserved for after work and weekends. The mornings are relegated to cursory walks and bereft dogs watching us abandon the pack for parts unknown, returning nine hours later with strange scents on our clothes and fatigue in our auras.

Well, the tortellini is done and it's time to see if it might tempt an old man for a late-night snack. That's the news from Sparkey Central. Bon nuit.

---Keith

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I can picture it all now, as you write with such love...I can remember the look in Sparks eyes and the impatient Tina Bean trying to understand. It is odd how life works, we all start as helpless babies and end almost the same. I wish for a dignified end for Spark, but really, I wish to be one of those children again--not believing that there has to be an end. As the days linger and everything gets harder, I think that the old boy knows myself and so many others can picture him, can remember his looks that perhaps meant more to us than he ever intended, and feels as so many hearts reach out to his. Peace is the most we can hope for.