Friday, October 19, 2007

Sorry about that

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dillon now and on our first day together

Anna and I went to Hyde Park for dinner tonight, and had a good meal and great conversation. At the end of the meal, the waiter came up, somewhat hesitantly, and asked, didn't you used to travel with a dog? I said I did and explained that Dillon was sick -- that he was home with cancer, and retired-- and the waiter said that he’d wanted to ask but had been afraid to because there would probably be some such answer as the one I given. I get the sense that a lot of people feel that way—wanting to ask how I'm doing, how Dillons doing, and then not asking, for fear that the right answer, the real answer, might be won they didn't want to hear.

I'm doing okay. Dillon’s not -- at least as far as his physical health is concerned: his cancers getting worse, his pain is getting worse, he's eating less and less, and now he has something in his eye that the vet said, when Anna took him yesterday, is called Horner's syndrome, a nerve condition that makes the affected eye work (or not work-- I can't tell) in strange and mysterious ways: it rolls, it wanders, it looks one way while Dillon looks another. But his spirit is still good: he
• wakes up after a long nap and wants to go outside, and when we come inside from a long spell outside, he waits for me because he wants to make sure he knows what I want him to do, even though what I want him to do now is mostly what he wants to do.

So it's a waiting game, and we've gotten good at that. We learned it at M.D. Anderson last fall, and our learning allover again; the only difference is that Dillon can’t tell us -- at least not in so many words -- what's hurting him and what we can do to help him. I wasn't very good at that, either.

He's become such an integral part of our life, it's really really hard to imagine a world in which he's not physically present; I say quote physically" because he'll always be with us, always guiding, always a spiritual force to be reckoned with.

Dan and Diann -- his puppy raisers -- came to Austin for a flying visit a few weekends ago. I think I mentioned that, but now that I think about it, I'm not so sure. At any rate, it was wonderful to see them, and I'm glad that they came and glad that they got to see Dylan one more time. There's so much love there, they are really special people.

ledia and Wolf and Paul and Mason and a whole bunch of their friends have arrived in town for the makers fair this weekend. Paul is assembling, with lots of help from family and friends -- his piece for makers fair. I've forgotten the title -- Mason told me sometime fairly late last night -- but as I recall its wheels within wheels, a Ferris wheel inside a larger wheel that turns more slowly than the Ferris wheel itself, all powered by bicycles which those who ride the Ferris wheel pedal. Pretty amazing. We're looking forward to seeing it this weekend. We've enjoyed seeing all of them, and were of course enjoying Wolf -- who's even bigger now, and even stronger than he was just six weeks or so ago on Labor Day. He's got two lower teeth, and he's strong; ledia says that he doesn't like the heat very much. No doubt there are many surprises in store.

another milestone

As of this past Sunday, the 14th, Dillon and I have had each other for nine extraordinary years. what follows is from the Dillon Chronicles, which I originally sent out as individual e-mails back in 1998; in 2002, I finally gave up and admitted to myself that I wasn't going to add anything further, and I might as well go ahead and post them to the Web. This is the entry for October 14, the day I met Dylan:

Wednesday, October 14, 1998

Well. Today was D-Day. Dog Day. The day we got our dogs. Palpable
excitement all day long; I’m wiped out but not sleepy, and I think
everyone else is feeling just about the same. It’s a bout 8:40 in the
evening. We got our dogs in mid afternoon, I think around 2:00 or 2:15.

Mine is Dillon. He’s a big yellow Lab, with dark intelligent eyes,
a dark muzzle, and dark splotches of fur on his elbows and paws. He’s calm
but alert, very alert, still totally focused on Pam, the instructor who trained
him—in fact I found out she was the instructor who trained him because he
followed her movements and the sound of her voice whenever she was anywhere
nearby. Puppy love!

He’s going to be a great dog. Right now he’s on the other side
of the bed, I mean lying on the floor, on his new fleece bed, on
“tiedown”—that is, there’s an eyebolt affixed to the wall,
and a strong cable attached to that, with a clip at the other end attached to
his collar so he can’t go far if he decides to get up. He’ll stay
there the rest of the night, except for when I take him out for “leashed
relieving” at 9:00 o’clock. There’s a cement area that looks
like a driveway (maybe it Is) where we’ll take the dogs to relieve
themselves. There’s a tight schedule:

  • 6:30 AM: Watering and relieving

  • 8:30 AM Relieving, just before we go downtown to work

  • 11:30 AM Watering, when we get back from working out

  • 1:00 PM Optional relieving session, strongly recommended

  • 4:15`Feeding, watering, relieving

  • 7:00 PM Watering

  • 9:00 PM Relieving

Somewhere in there we groom them once a day, for 10 minutes or so. And
in between we do obedience and control work in the mornings, then guidework in
the afternoons and maybe a little in the late mornings as well. I’m not
quite sure. There’s a lecture every day at 5:00 o’clock; dinner at
6:15, and they like us to be out of there by 6:50 so the staff can clean up and
go home. Great food, though, just not enough time for a leisurely, pleasurable
meal with good conversation. And of course no wine with dinner, no alcohol of
any kind.

It’s oddly ascetic here, very very focused: it’s all about the
dogs and about making us and the dogs work well together, or rather training us
to work well together. A dog just barked down the hall, and there goes Kelly,
the instructor who's on duty tonight, to find out why; they’re not
supposed to bark or whine.

Many of us are having to learn firmness and clarity. Certainly I am.
Poor Dillon is doing very well despite my ineptitude—I must be giving him
a lot of mixed signals even for such simple tasks as heeling and walking up and
down the hallways. But he’s very patient and just does his dogged best to
figure out what I’ve asked him. The instructors seem pleased.

There’s something very comforting in knowing that he’s over
there on the other side of the room, sleeping peacefully in his light yellow
coat, his big head on his paws. He’s smart, and calm, not easily flappable
it seems, yet friendly too; he’ll keep me safe, he’ll help me move

There was a time earlier today when I put away my cane and almost wept,
whether for joy or sorrow I don’t know. I’ve carried it for 17 years
and then some, and it’s been part of me. It’s odd to leave it behind,
and wonderful too.

The dog is so much more complex and interesting than the cane! I
don’t know him well yet. I’m happy to have him. There doesn’t
seem much to say somehow. I’m thirsty. I wish Anna were here to share
this. And now I’m going to take him down the hall and out onto the
Relieving Patio or whatever it’s called, and then put him to bed.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dillon in pain

Dillon’s in a lot of pain today, and he seems also to be confused by my use of Dragon Naturally Speaking, a program that allows you to dictate to the computer instead of typing to it. It's very hard to hear him panting so hard, and know that he's suffering so much. I don't know what to do and he can't tell me what he needs. He's such a wonderful dog, and I try saying the Buddhist prayer that Peg taught me -- May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering; may you be at ease; may you enjoy happiness and the fruits of happiness -- and it just makes me want to cry. So I do. Anna says she got up in the night and gave him some Tramadol because he was breathing so hard. This is in addition to the hydromorphone shot Anna gave him at 11pm (and it usually lasts until 7a.m. or so.)

Thanks to all those who've asked about him and his health. He still feels good -- that is to me -- and people who can see him say he looks good, too. But today he can't seem to get quiet. For a while he wouldn't lie down for more than a minute, and he got up and came over to me every time I said anything to the computer, as if he thought I was trying to give him a command or tell him something; but now he's lying beside my chair, and is quiet. I'm glad he is able to rest.

I'm going to end this now. For some reason -- it happens often -- Jaws won't read what I've spoken into Word unless I go one word at a time, and I've told you the essentials, anyway. Thanks again for asking about Dillon, and you will hear from me again soon in a more cheerful tone.

It's Tuesday night now, and Dillon was waiting for us by the door when we got home from having dinner at Asti with Zipporah and Gretchen. I took him out and he seemed much friskier and more alert that he had at midday when I wrote the earlier part of this message and I'm very glad that he seems to be feeling better for now. More later...

Love, John, Anna, and Dillon


Dillon update