Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sweatin' Like An Oldie

This week, we had a rather unexpected heat wave in NY. It's only mid-June, but for the last three days, the temperatures have been in the mid- to upper-nineties, with a heat index (that is, what it actually feels like) in the 100-105 degree range. In a word, brutal. Some schools districts that don't have air conditioning dismissed school a few days early for the summer because, they figured, why torture everyone? No one is learning anything now anyway.

So leave it to me to drag my kids to a sporting center for their final day of after-school sports. Think 'giant warehouse with multiple rooms'. Think 'high ceilings'. Think 'completely impossible space to air condition'. Yes, on the second to last day of school, with the temps in the upper 90s, I dragged my kids to said location to wait for the teacher, who was running late. This gave the kids ample time to run around inside a building that had no cross ventilation, no windows and just a couple of ceiling fans about 40 feet above them circulating the hot air in the room. This helped them to work up a sweat so that, by the time the coach arrived, they were nice and slippery and oh-so-ready to wrestle with other equally slippery, sweaty kids.

I told myself it was the last day, the classes were already paid for, and we were going for ice cream afterward so they could tough it out. I schmoozed with other parents to take my mind off the fact that I was sweating profusely and becoming downright offensive myself, even more so than usual. And I looked at my watch every four minutes or so to see when class would end.

Ultimately, the kids did great. Sure, they finished the class more flushed, dripping and uncomfortable than usual. But they wrestled, played soccer and ran around like kids should, which is all I wanted. Honestly, once they got started playing, I don't think they even felt the heat. OK, maybe they did, but it didn't stop them, bless their little hearts. In fact, they didn't once say to me, "Mom, can't we just skip it today? It's soooo hot!" It never even occurred to them.

It occurred to me though. Truly, the last thing I wanted to do was sit there sweating on the sidelines while they ran around for an hour (OK, maybe that was the second to last thing. Doing what they were doing was the last thing I wanted to be doing). But they never suggested blowing it off. So I did the right thing and kept my mouth shut, rather than walking into the building, declaring it way too hot and giving them permission to cut class. As much as I wanted to, I thought staying would send a better message. Their choices and chances to cut classes will come soon enough, and I'll likely never know about it when they do it. Why encourage it now, when it's not even an option on their radar?

When we finally dragged ourselves outside, the temperature had dropped to about 86 degrees. There was  a hot wind blowing. But after being inside, where the temps were probably closer to 112, it felt like a cool spring day in comparison.

And the ice cream only made it better.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pharm Dogs

Getting old stinks. Just ask my dogs.

Bailey, even at age 11, still acts like a puppy: he loves to play, and will go pick a toy from his basket and drop it in your lap to get you off the couch and running around chasing him. But he has seasonal allergies, not unusual in Labradors. As he has gotten older, the "season" has gotten longer so that it now runs from March until about September. It's also so severe that, unchecked, it will cause him to scratch himself until he's raw and bleeding. Even a cone doesn't seem to help. After experimenting with various diets, vitamins, shampoos and medicines, we finally got him on Claritin and that seems to be doing the trick. Take twice a day with food.

Flash, at 12, has always had plenty of energy. When he started slowing down and eating and drinking less, we attributed it to his getting older. But when he started vomiting every day, I took him to the vet. Several visits, questions, and tests later, we have him on antibiotics for an infection and anti-nausea for his stomach. We're to keep watch on his enlarged prostate (is NO aging male immune?) and take necessary steps if that progresses as well. Two meds, twice a day with food.

Like a caretaker in a doggy nursing home, my mornings go something like this: wrap doggie meds seperately in bread crusts. Dip into some gravy-like substance to add appeal. Insure bread ball/meds have been swallowed. Mix warm water with kibble and serve immediately after meds to insure proper digestion. As soon as all kibble is consumed, walk dogs, preventing them from eating grass as much as possible so that medication stays down. Repeat procedure at dinner time.

Having the kids grow up watching these dynamics helps them to understand the responsibility involved with owning a pet, and caring for them as their needs change. But at the same time, having your kids become more independent at the same time your pets are becoming more dependent is a tricky path to walk. Just as I am starting to enjoy the benefits of having my kids step up around the house and need less of my attention, I have to increase my attentions to the dogs, as well as the time spent cleaning up when they are sick or incontinent in the house. The meds help with symptoms, but the pets are still getting older. Looking toward the future, I know that if it's not one thing, it will eventually be another. It's not easy and, while I'm not exactly a member of the 'sandwich generation'--adults who are caring for their young children and aging parents at the same time--I can kind of relate to the juggling involved and the mixed emotions that go along with it.

I have to sigh when I think of generations past, when an aging pet would suddenly be gone from the home, and the kids told "he went to live on a farm" to spare them the pain of hearing that their pet had died. As sad as it is to think about, though, the alternative seems rather bittersweet: today, through the wonders of medical technology, our pets can stay at home much longer--aging and ailing--because we can bring the 'pharm' to them. If our pets could talk, what would they think of all this?