Day 13: Georgie

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Because the coronavirus and all that surrounds it is hard and distressing, here is a story about my dog.

We’re that kind of edgy around here that even little changes make us jump. So when I was putting away laundry in my closet on Sunday, and I heard our labradoodle trying to get up in the hallway, her paws unable to find purchase on the hardwood floor, I ran out of my room.

“Georgie?” I called. “Georgie?”

I saw her tail whisk around the corner. I raced into the family room to find she’d planted herself in her brown doggy bed and was sitting there, wide-eyed, shaking slightly.

I looked up and down the hallway. Was there some small creature who spooked her? (she can run short on canine instincts) But I saw nothing.

I asked my daughter, whose room was right there, if she’d dropped something that might have startled the dog. Nope.

I went back and stared at Georgie. She was lying down now, her expression an indecipherable mix of alert and Zen. Her head bobbed back and forth, an odd kind of palsy. But otherwise, she seemed fine. I returned to my laundry.

An hour and a half, one long phone call and a bad migraine later, I walked past the dog on my way to the bathroom to get some medication. She was in the same place she’d been 90 minutes before. Not just in the same bed, but in the same, exact position.

Huh.

After I took my migraine pill, I lay down on the living room couch and I waited for the meds to work. Georgie’s just sedentary, I thought.

But she’s not that sedentary.

I called to my daughter, and asked her to take the dog on a walk. Usually, those words alone are enough to pop our pooch to her feet. But I didn’t hear any movement.

My daughter got the leash, called the dog’s name. Georgie wouldn’t move. I got up, stumbled into the family room, called to the dog. She just stared at me, her head doing that same Jello-wobble. My daughter and I looked at each other. Then, since it was Sunday and the regular vet was closed, I called the animal ER. Bring her in, they said.

The boys lifted her into the car and my daughter and I took off, Georgie slip-sliding back and forth across the floor of the minivan. Her legs seemed like they couldn’t quite bear up underneath her. But she didn’t moan, or cry out in pain. She didn’t actually make any sound at all.

When we got to the veterinary ER, we called the front desk and a broad man in a black face mask came out and carried her in the building. The last glimpse we had was of her tail, wagging lazily, as the sliding doors closed behind her.

Five minutes passed, then ten. “Do you think it’s kind of bad?” I asked my daughter at last. “Or just bad? Or really bad? I think it’s only kinda bad.”

“Mom!” she said, turning to face the car door. “Stop it! You’re stressing me out.”

Finally, my phone rang. It was the vet. She asked me to repeat the story of how we got here. After I did, she asked a question. “Is there any chance,” she said, “that there’s marijuana in your house?”

“Um…” I started to grin, picturing the two young men we’d welcomed back this month from college. “Maybe?”

The dog, she said, was showing “classic signs of marijuana toxicity.” But not to worry, Georgie would be fine. Leave her in a dark room. Let her sleep it off.

“She’s just high,” the vet said.

I started to giggle. My daughter asked what was going on. I put the vet on speaker, asked her to repeat the diagnosis. A smile spread across my daughter’s face. We said goodbye to the vet, then the two of us laughed until we just about cried.

When they brought the dog back to the car, my daughter, still giggling, covered her in kisses.

“Stoner dog,” I crooned to Georgie. “You’re just a stoner doggie, aren’t you?”

As for what she ate, apparently it was a cookie with more than just flour and sugar to recommend it. One person left the cookie out on the counter in someone else’s room. The person whose room it was failed to throw it out when the night was over.

And in the morning, when no one was looking, the dog’s excellent sense of smell led her to discover what others had overlooked.

It’s Tuesday, and Georgie seems to have forgotten any of it ever happened. And look, these are stressful times. The dog feels it, too. She’s got that little limp coming and going, the one that always shows up when she’s tense. But for 24 hours or so, the limp disappeared. It wasn’t intentional, and we don’t plan to repeat it, but for a little while, Georgie got to chill, as if none of this coronavirus stuff was even happening.

The edibles, I’ve been told, have been put away. Hopefully, far, far away.

Day 12: Stiff Drink

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Last night, the five of us logged onto the ultimate Zoom call — 54 members of my husband’s sprawling, mutually-devoted Irish-Catholic clan, crowded onto the screen. We usually only see this group once every other year at Thanksgiving in Scranton, Pa., where the original six siblings of my mother-in-law’s generation grew up (though many of them also get together each summer on Cape Cod).

At times on the call, the cacophony grew so acute that our moderator — clear-minded Priscilla — broke us up into separate “group rooms.” Who knew you could even do that? We were in Boston, and Philadelphia, and a phone-in from a cabin in West Virginia where there is no WiFi, and Chatham, N.J., and the Jersey Shore, and Greenwich, Conn., and Lancaster, Penn., and Aspen, Colo., and Syracuse, N.Y., and Seneca Falls, N.Y., and Mar Vista and West LA and Torrance and Santa Clarita.

I learned that all the liquor stores are closed in Pennsylvania but beer and wine can be found at Whole Foods; that you cannot drive from your Pennsylvania home into Delaware to get said liquor, because you will be turned around at the state border; that here in West LA, vermouth is still on the shelves at the City Target at the corner of Santa Monica and Westgate; and that certain brands of beer have stopped production altogether, which admittedly is ironic in the age of coronavirus.

(I learned many other things besides, including that all 50-plus relatives are healthy and relatively happy, given the circumstances, which is the most important thing of all).

These are tough times, and if alcohol didn’t give me migraines, I’d be joining my friend Susan in figuring out, finally, how to make a proper martini. Marijuana, my balm in college, started giving me coughing fits just about the time it became legal in California.

So stone cold sober, I confront the news. The head of the English government is in the ICU. U.S. health officials say this week will be our Pearl Harbor of death and disease. The City of Los Angeles just begged residents to simply stay home. Even avoiding the grocery store, officials say, would be a good idea if you can manage it.

For weeks, I jolted awake at 5 a.m., unable to fall back asleep. That was particularly annoying when I was sick and trying to get better. Now, I can usually manage to sleep until 6:30 a.m., which is a far more humane hour.

My anxiety, instead, has taken a new form. I’ll be talking about disease symptoms, or even watching a show on TV where death comes up in the plot. Suddenly, I have to cough. My breath feels somehow limited. Maybe I’m nauseous. I panic. It’s back! Or, it never arrived in the first place, but it’s here now!

And then I go, Oh. Right. Vivid imagination.

I roll my eyes at myself.

Today, my husband called me from the hospital. I was in the dining room, working on an article, reluctant to pull away and break the concentration that is particularly hard-won these days. But when I heard the tightness in his voice, I turned away from the computer. A patient coded, he said, and it was only afterward that they realized he might have had COVID-19. They weren’t wearing proper protective gear, because they didn’t know, until later.

What do you say to that?

I said, “You know, I think the virus has already been through our house, and you had it but were asymptomatic. I’m think you’re fine. You’re going to be fine.”

I must not have sounded that calm, though, because when I hung up, my oldest son, who was eating a bagel in the kitchen nearby, looked up and asked me, “Does Dad have it?”

So casual, like it might be a baseball he caught at the kind of game none of us attend anymore.

“No,” I said. “He had a patient who might have the virus who coded, and he wasn’t wearing PPE.”

“Oh,” he said. “Okay.”

It seemed like an inadequately dramatic response. But these are times we live in, it was too early in the day for a stiff drink, and anyhow, as far as alcohol is concerned, I’m the state of Pennsylvania in permanent, reluctant lockdown.

My son returned to his bagel and the Netflix show on his iPad. I swiveled my attention back to my computer and peered at the words on the screen. I tried to remember what I’d been thinking when the call came in and for a moment, the world shifted.

A minute passed. Two. Then I started typing again.

Featured photo credit today to @uttaranatarajan, who is using her COVID-19 downtime in the most productive way I can imagine, recreating art masterpieces with her cat and other reluctant household items. Cat -- he of the truly nine lives -- is Mauricio.