Friday, January 6, 2012

Planned Parenthood

Some people have the luxury of planning when to expand their families -- waiting until the time feels "right," finances are in order, space is adequate or whatever physical or psychological obstacles once believed to exist are removed. There is excitement and anticipation imagining life with the new addition -- activities like family walks and cuddling on the couch. There might even be a practice run conducted first, spending time with a friends' family -- possibly a trial-by-fire opportunity to test one's patience and limits before launching headlong into the expansion program.

I recently underwent a process of considering whether my home and my life were capable of taking on responsibility for another. It's been an interesting learning process that showed me I have more patience and compassion than I used to (largely due to living with Moose for the past two years), and that maybe 'things' that could be destroyed by some knee-high creature running around aren't as important as relationships, and I like feeling needed (thanks again, Moose!).

In preparation for my growing family unit, I had several talks with Moose. This is not unusual, as I talk his cute triangular ears off regularly, but this time I was explaining to him that soon he wouldn't be the only one getting all my attention, but that doesn't mean I love him less.

There was a practice run when this cute little beagle-chihuaha mix named Winston came and stayed with us for a weekend. I had imagined a scene where Moose and Winston were frolicking and playing (which I saw Moose do at the shelter with this little dog Eddie I have wondered about ever since), but instead, they gave each other respectful space and/or climbed all over me while paying little heed to each other. They didn't seem to hate each other, and both were ecstatic when leashes and keys were picked up and it was clear we were going for a ride. Winston is lighter and leggier and can jump up onto my bed, while Moose hops alongside like a little circus performer, and Winston once looked down from the bed at Moose and growled, but I was optimistic we can move beyond this.

A few weeks later, Moose went off to a lovely pet resort in the Tennessee countryside while I went home to New England. He was surrounded by dogs of various breeds and sizes for twelve days and came home either tired or depressed, because for the first few days back he slept, rejected his food and seemed mopey. I took this as a positive sign that he would be agreeable to another dog being around all the time, but I have been known to be way off the mark on my assessments of a variety of relationship situations (especially when I'm involved) so who knows.

I reminded myself that I was ascribing human emotions to a dog, and maybe that was a little neurotic. But I do fear Moose is lonely -- the most playful I've ever seen him was that day two years ago at the shelter when he was so happy and playing with Eddie, and it's bothered me ever since that my little guy's happiest times may have been while on doggy death row. I even went back on Petfinder looking for Eddie shortly after getting Moose, but without luck.

At least it's finally being fixed. I am as ready as I'll ever be. Moose shall be a lonely only fur-baby no more. Winston, our test-drive houseguest, is coming to live with us. Last weekend, Moose and I went to PetSmart and got extra chew treats, toys and femur bones. Fancy Christmas collars were on clearance, so I bought two, imagining next year's Christmas portrait of my two little guys, maybe with Santa. Or maybe even forthis years now-too-late-for a Christmas / New Year's card -- maybe a new arrival announcement instead? I can probably get it out for Groundhog Day.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting Physical

I like to study and analyze things I'm interested in. I love research. Sure, it can become obsessive, and friends may occasionally slip into a comatose state when I frequently slip into yet another recitation of the latest bits of knowledge upon which I have been bestowed during a late night spent with Google and YouTube learning about roller derby or wire wrapping or glass cutting or lead soldering or belly dance makeup. Sometimes EBay is the research vehicle of choice for weekends awash in viewings of vintage dresses or belly dance costumes. A Civil War project at work involved reading journals written by women in Clarksville from 1862-65 and narratives and interviews with freed slaves in the years following the war. It was heaven. Well, my version of it.

Years of ballet classes that began at age six, topped by years of a casual participation in yoga and four or five years of belly dance lessons have generated a reasonably high level of body consciousness and an interest in how muscles work and movement happens. It was interesting to me when my ballet teacher told us our balance on one leg would be better if we lifted through the torso and held our weight over the extended leg. Leg extension could be improved by focusing on pushing down in the hip, instead of raising the foot. In a recent belly dance workshop deeply rooted in yoga movement and anatomy, we learned to move the torso to the right by contracting the left oblique muscle, and executed chest lifts by contracting the muscles between the shoulder blades. Fascinating stuff. Well, to me.

Undergoing physical therapy has been an interesting learning adventure. Many of the movements and actions in my program are dance moves, or darned close to them. Except for the fact that I am there to rehabilitate an injury, it's kind of fun. That is, until the first therapy appointment of the new year that began with the first two days spent virtually immobilized with a wretched cold.

The third day of the new year was marked by my full-time return to work since what I now refer to as "the incident involving the leg" and the return to physical therapy after a trip home for Christmas that involved much overeating. Therapy opened with my attempting to ride a stationery bike and whining about my knee that keeps clicking like a party noisemaker, then attempting various ways to to actually feel some stretch in a flexible gastrocnemius muscle, and other assorted actions involving weights and towels and heel raises.

On the bike, we taped my knee with the three-inch surgery scar to stop the rubbing/clicking annoyance. Later, we discussed the big thick pad on my knee at the incision site that prevents my ability to kneel. I asked how long it would stay like that, thinking about yoga and the kneeling poses. Mr. Physical Therapist said "a year." He kids around sometimes, but this time he wasn't laughing or even smiling. In a standing exercise with weight shifts, I was supposed to raise the front of my foot. In spite of attempting this movement for many weeks, the stubborn left foot doesn't cooperate because the big toe doesn't flex no matter how hard I try. It's kind of a big deal, because it replaces smooth walking with a Frankensteinian walk that I despise at every step. My right foot rolls smoothly and silently while my left foot starts with the normal meeting of heel to ground, followed by a very ungraceful slap. No silent ninja action for me. Silent roll. SLAP! Roll. SLAP! Absolutely the worst sound I can imagine coming from my body. Worse than a loud, public fart. The big toe doesn't register feeling, so I don't walk around barefoot at home for fear of breaking my toe and not realizing it.

The physical therapist spent time addressing the issues of my colossally limp big toe and partially dysfunctional foot. In the midst of it, he said three words that sucked the air out of my otherwise good day. "Possible nerve damage." My bright mood dimmed. He had me close my eyes and he touched my shin, ankle, foot and toes, and I had to tell him when I could feel the touch. Half the time it seemed as though he had abanded me at the padded table upon which I sat and gone out for coffee. This seemed to confirm his suspicion, which he reiterated, only this time he left out the "possble" and just said "nerve damage." My mood became downright dark.

He explained to me about the nerve that runs down the shin (at the area of the fracture site noted by a lovely two-inch scar), through the ankle, over the top of my foot and to my toes. He said he'd call my surgeon. He assured me that nerves can regenerate, albeit at the rate of about a millimeter a month. Freeking great. Let's see, the length of the dead span of my ankle and foot plus a miniscule growth rate means that maybe by the time I'm 80 I'll be able to walk normally again and maybe even wear scuff slippers without constantly losing the left one in transit. Plenty of time to research ways to disguise a limp / Frankenstein walk. I already know of one -- deliberately hiding out at home. Much like the past two months.