Thursday, October 12, 2023

Get well soon - before I have to bite you

Over the years, I’ve lived with dogs who were genuinely concerned when I got sick or injured. My Terv, Jamie, was a gentle soul who would have been a medical doctor if he’d been a human. Even Phoenix, the crazy-ass Malinois, was incredibly perceptive when I wasn’t feeling well.

I’ve also lived with dogs looked at me in disappointment when my health was less than five stars. I could hear them thinking, “Damn. Who’s gonna feed us if she expires?” I currently live with dogs whose style of nursing care may reduce the number of days on this planet I’ve been allotted.


Earlier this week I came down with The Plague: chills, fatigue and horrible chest congestion. I did what any sensible person would do—staggered out of bed to take care of the dogs, ransacked the medicine cabinet for OTC remedies and went back to bed. The Farmer was exempt from applying TLC because any good farm wife knows she’d need to be waving a severed limb in order to justify getting him out of the tractor this time of year.


This is where Disney-esque dogs would leap into action, curling close to keep their beloved owner warm as she sleeps. Treating her with gentle concern. Displaying their utmost devotion during her hour of need.


My dogs are less Walt Disney and more Stephen King.


In the last two weeks, Banner has come into the house smeared with blood after dispatching a rat, then dispatching and partially consuming a tree rat. This dog will literally eat anything that will not eat him first. He would survive the zombie apocalypse in fine form.


Raider, well, Chaos Goblins are generally not known for their nursemaid qualities.

Gratuitous photo of my questionable caregivers.


For a minute, I questioned the wisdom of falling asleep—ill and weak or just plain mentally feeble—without putting the dogs in their crates but in my feverish state, I thought they would just curl up with me and we’d all have a nice nap.


So I crawled back under the blankets and contemplated imminent death. The dogs were busy barking at the Farmer through the front window as if they had never, ever in their lives seen him drive around on a tractor, doing morning chores. 


When the tractor entertainment vanished down the lane, Banner came to check on me. To his credit, he gave me a careful sniffing and licked my nose. Possibly to see if I was still alive or a candidate for second breakfast. I made a grumbly sound that soon turned into trying to cough up a lung and Banner decided he wasn’t having any of that nonsense. However, being allowed on the bed is not a privilege to be wasted so he went to the corner as far away from my infected carcass as he could get and went to sleep. I had no idea where Raider was or what he was doing but the house didn’t seem to be on the brink of imminent collapse so I didn't worry. Too much. Raid does have house manners. Most of them are bad.


Banner napped and I napped and everything was good until Raider ceased whatever mayhem he was committing in another part of the house. He bounced into the bedroom. And onto the bed. And after assessing the situation, onto my head. Because jumping on your owner’s head never fails to generate some sort of response.


I suspect it was not the response he wanted.


I managed to croak, “WTF are you doing?” and he backed off. Then he belly crawled to within an inch of my face and stared at me. I had one second to think, “Aww, he knows I’m sick and he’s actually going to calm and sensible for a—,” before he raised a paw and poked me on the nose. When I failed to respond, he did it again. 


More grumbly noises ensued. Banner stomped across the bed to put the smack down on the noisy offender(s) who were spoiling his nap. This resulted in much chaos being committed in a single space, most of which I was already occupying. It also resulted in me being treated to repeated, up-close views of male dog anatomy. 


My wheezing, rattling lungs eventually imparted the message I did not want dog nuts in my face and would their owner please take them somewhere else. He did. I didn’t know what Raider was doing and as long as the house wasn’t on fire, I didn’t really care. Banner went back to his corner and peace ensued for about three minutes, just long enough for me to drift into a chemically-induced dream state where my loved ones were not trying to suffocate me by sitting on my face. 


Then Raider came back. Not discouraged by my previous lack of enthusiasm, he decided to display his affection by sticking his nose into the neckline of my hoodie. This is very sweet if the dog just gives you a quick snuffle, then cuddles in for a nap. It is not sweet at all if the dog starts burrowing like a badger on crack. I don’t remember what I said. It probably included four-letter words but my dogs have heard them so often, they are rather impervious. But they both left. Fine. Go kill something. Preferably not each other. 


Then Raider came back and jumped on the bed. He took one look at me, flopped over and rolled on me. Literally. On top of me, on his back, feet in the air. Paws and legs and all parts of anatomy waving madly around.


He also rolls on dead bugs in exactly this fashion, so I didn’t find this to be an encouraging expression of get well wishes.


Eventually, I fell asleep. I have no idea what the dogs did while I coasted along in pharmaceutical dreamland but the house was still standing when I woke up and there weren’t any firetrucks on the yard so I’ll take that as a win.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Can you hear me now?

When the Farmer and I got married in 1991, we had one landline phone in our house. We didn’t call it a landline phone, just a phone-phone, because there weren't any other phone options. It sat on a little stand in the kitchen. The receiver was attached to the base (for you youngsters, phones had two parts back then—the handset and the base) by an umbilical cord that, if untangled, probably would have reached out to the barn.

As it was, it reached about 12 inches because the rest of it was a snarly mess that looked like it had been mauled by a rabid badger. I routinely forgot this and would go walking around the kitchen with the receiver, mid-call, only to drag the base off the little stand and have it crash onto the floor. That was the original “dropped call.” 


But it was a slimline, push-button phone which was a 110 percent improvement over the rotary dial phone anchored to the wall in the house where I grew up. Those of you who remember rotary dial phones will remember the very real possibility you could forget where you were in the string of digits you were dialing by the time the dial completed its spin and was ready for the next digit. Forget winning any radio call-in contests if you had a rotary phone. Girls’ teen magazines of the era recommended using a pencil so you didn’t chip your nail polish while dialing.


 n those early years, Jeff spent a lot of time coming into the house to make calls as needed during the course of the farming day. If I was home, I spent a lot of time carrying the phone out to him on the back porch so he didn’t have to take his boots off to come inside. If you raise cattle, you understand this.


If someone called for Jeff and he wasn’t in the house (which was 98% of the time), I had to take a message. Depending on the urgency of the call, I had the option of waiting until he came in for a meal or jumping in a pickup and going out on a recon mission to find him. If he deemed the message important, he would come home to return the call. How did we ever get anything done back then?


After the derecho in 1998 flattened a machine shed on the home place (that was back before derechos were a Thing like they are now—we just called them straight line winds and everyone went on about their business), we built a new machine shed and had a phone line trenched in to the office there. Talk about the height of luxury! No more “Honey, can you bring me the phone?”


I don’t remember what year we got our first cordless phone but boy wasn’t that exciting! Now we (and by we, I mean ME) didn’t have to get up and run to the kitchen to answer the phone when it rang in the middle of “Friends.” Kids today will never understand the concept of having to go to another room to answer the phone.


Now we could be interrupted 18 times a night by telemarketers without ever having to get up out of our La-Z-Boys. This new technology also created the risk of losing the phone when it got buried under last week’s newspapers on the end table or in a blanket, something that never happened when it was firmly attached to the base by 27 feet of badger-mauled cord.


 At some point, we got a phone with multiple handsets. One could stay on the base in the kitchen, while a second handset could sit on a charger right next to a recliner in the living room. 


Soon after that, I bought an answering machine and became a professional call screener (also known as hiding from people who can’t see you in the first place). Wowza—were we on the cutting edge of space age technology or what?


The answering machine was a tremendous time-saver as we no longer had to find the TV remote, turn the volume down on the TV, answer the phone and listen to the spiel for some oddball product or service we didn’t want. Nope. Now we turned the volume down on the TV and sat holding our breath in silence, waiting to hear if it was some loony sales pitch or a real, live person we wanted to talk to. If it was the latter, we had to wait until they committed to leaving a message, then there was a mad scramble to pick up the handset and punch the “talk” button while yelling “Hey, I’m here, don’t hang up!”


Somewhere in all of this, we had a bag phone in one of the farm pickups. This was all fine and good but if whoever was in the pickup was calling whoever was in the house, and that person wasn’t in the house, we were right back where we started. Carrier pigeons might have been easier.


I got my first cell (an LG flip phone) in the early 2000’s and Jeff got one not too long after that. We kept the house landline because the home computer we had at the time required it. I can still hear the electronic beeps and buzzes of that 56K modem connecting. By the time we’d traded our flip phones for the early series iPhones, we’d found an internet provider who could bounce a signal from a tower to somewhere in the general vicinity of our house and on a good day, we could catch hold of it and connect. We finally ditched the landline phone because the only people who called us on it were telemarketers.


 Now we have satellite internet out here in our cornfield in the back of beyond. Jeff and I each have a cell phone and a laptop. I can sit outdoors on the patio on fine evenings and order things from Amazon and Chewy to my heart’s content because the Wifi signal reaches that far. My cell has replaced our landline, answering machine, telephone book, hand-held calculator, and to some degree, the TV. 


And I remember the days we were excited to have a phone in the machine shed.