Up in the mornin’
Out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do
But roll around heaven all day.

Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids
Sweat till I’m wrinkled and gray
While that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do
But roll around heaven all day

Katia and I took Bugsy to the vet today.  For those who don’t know Bugsy, he is our 17.5 year old Bischon Frise.  He was a terror for the first 16 years of his life but now old age is beginning to kick in.  His right eye has been getting worse each day to the point that some mornings when he wakes up it is completely shut.  There is a lot of discharge and gunk in there and while Mom does her best to clean it out, it’s clear it is not going to heal itself.

Bugsy began shivering the moment we got into Katia’s car.  Whenever he gets put into a car, he believes he is going to the saloon for a grooming, his idea of hell.  We hadn’t made an appointment so when we arrived at the Lisner Animal Hospital, we were asked if we could wait for a short while before a vet could see Bugsy.  We walked him in the parking lot and that seemed to calm him down a bit, although walking for him now basically means he walks in concentric circles which is his new favorite move, given his almost complete lack of vision.

After fifteen minutes we were in the dog version of the patient’s room.  A warm, cheerful vet introduced herself, and after just a brief glance at Bugsy’s eyes, said she believed it was due to an affliction known as dry eye.

Katia trying to calm a restless Bugsy

Katia trying to calm a restless Bugsy

She asked if she could carry him to the back and we of course agreed, but not before Katia warned her to put a muzzle on Bugsy as he wasn’t too fond of places like this.  The vet said she was already aware of this as Bugsy’s medical record specifically states ‘Requires muzzle.’

We waited in the reception area and to kill time we each got on our iPhones to find out what was going on in the rest of the world.  I learned that Ben Roethlisberger would not be playing this week and therefore I was going to have to find a last-second substitute quarterback for my fantasy football team.  Not good.  Two weeks ago I was sitting pretty atop of the league and now my chances of making the post-season are quickly slipping away after two subpar weeks and now this bad news.  Katia got a funny text message from a friend which she shared with me.  Our laughter was interrupted by the sound of the dog/patient’s room door opening.

We both sprang up off the bench, iPhones in pockets and rushed over to get the news.

Doctor visits are tense moments for all species

Doctor visits are tense moments for everyone involved

Katia’s initial reaction to seeing Bugsy’s snout covered in blood was, understandably, of shock.  She gasped as her hand went to her mouth.  Then she breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the red was actually the color of the required muzzle.  We approached the vet and she explained that he does indeed have dry eye and that we would have to apply this eye cream twice a day to both eyes, as well as eye drops to the eye with the discharge.  Even with a muzzle on this would be a challenge as Bugsy has never, ever liked holding still while someone is trying to do something to him, whether it is cutting his hair or God forbid, putting on his ugly sweater circa 1995.

She applied the cream to show us how it was done, which entailed holding his snout still while he wrestled to break free and at the same time squeezing cream onto his eyes.  The whole time I saw this I was thinking “yeah right, we are never going to muzzle him every day, twice a day, just to apply this stuff.”  It hasn’t been a day yet so we’ll have to wait and see how we do on that front.

Part of the reason is that we have always been very sensitive to Bugsy’s whining and discomfort and the moment we sense he is uncomfortable or in pain, we tend to avoid continuing what we were doing.  He is treated more as a member of  the family than an animal and his steady diet of human food would definitely attest to that.

She mentioned that they had also cleaned out his ears which involved cutting away a lot of hair and removing loads of ear wax.  Whatever they did back there, Bugsy seemed to have much more energy than he normally does these days and he was moving quickly around the floor of the dog/patient’s room.  And the ultimate sign that he was in good spirits: his tail was up and wagging!  Up until a year or two ago, his tail would always be up as he was going about his day.

Bugsy showing off his ugly sweater

Bugsy showing off his ugly sweater

Now, his tail is always hanging down.  It is so rare to see it otherwise that when we saw it today we both exclaimed to each other “oh my God, his tail is wagging!”  The vet must think we are the most easily amused family in Michigan.


More good news: she said Bugsy’s heart and lungs were doing just fine and it was just his eyes that were faltering.  His diminished hearing was to be expected as was the beginning of senility.  Great.  And she  confirmed what we already knew which is that he is veritably blind as both eyes have full blown cataracts.  Poor dog.  We asked whether it would help to put a cone around his neck to prevent him from bumping into objects.  Thankfully, she said it was a very bad idea, claiming that as long as we didn’t move furniture around too much, he would eventually grow accustomed to moving around.  What she didn’t mention but that we all knew to be true was that his dignity would be irreparably damaged if he had to wear a cone around his little neck every moment the rest of his life.

After getting a few more to-do-at-home instructions and thanking the vet, Katia carried Bugsy out to the car while I went to the counter and paid the $120 it cost for the checkup and the medication.  As we get into the car, Bugsy is no longer shaking.  Instead he is making for the backseat where he immediately falls down to the foot area behind our seats, moving from side to side.  He was moving with new energy and it was  great to see.

Unfortunately, the reason why he was moving around so much was not good.  We take him home and he begins moving restlessly from place to place, all the time trying to rub his eyes (or ears?) on something.  Katia panicked and said she thought the eye cream might be burning him or something.  We never did determine for sure if that was the cause but just the suggestion of it took it from possible cause to probable cause.  She called up the vet and they said to bring him in again, but that we should hurry as they were closing in five minutes.  We rushed out to Katia’s car, and this time, Bugsy did begin shivering once again.  He must know when we’re heading out and when we’re heading home.

Another vet had to unlock the door for us and right away she whisked Bugsy from us, just saying “I’ll take him to the back.”  When she returned less than five minutes later, she didn’t say what she had done to him.  She handed us a new cream to replace the one we had received earlier, claiming that he may have had a reaction to an ingredient in the first cream.

We’ll have to see how he reacts to this stuff.  Or if it was the cream at all.

The sun has been hiding for the past week but today it decided to make itself seen.  Although the temperature was still below comfortable, the sight of the late autumn sun was too tempting not to be outside.  A short while after we returned home from our second trip to the vet, I took Bugsy and his ugly sweater on a grand walk, down the sidewalk by our home, into Southwick homes which connects to our subdivision about half a mile in and then back home.  It was a solid 45 minute walk and amazingly he managed to walk it all himself.  He would do this weird thing where he’d tug on the leash and I’d turn to see him just standing in place, eyes directly facing the sun.  I think he was actually able to see something and he was enjoying it.  After a couple of moments I’d tug his leash again and say “C’mon Bugs” and his little legs, half-hidden beneath the red rings of his ugly sweater would rev into rapid motion again.

We used to play this game years ago where we’d guess how many times Bugsy would pee during a walk.  The winning number was always greater than ten as he would stop to paint practically every rock, mailbox, fire hydrant we passed, even if it was just leaving behind a drop or two.

For whatever reason, he seems to have lost all interest in that activity as his total for this walk was zero.  His hind legs have become weaker and he doesn’t even lift his leg to pee any longer, instead just doing this newfound squatting pose.  Or maybe he’s just given up trying to be macho and painting every mailbox and fire hydrant he passes.  Or maybe he just can’t see them.

I like to think that he’s just matured and he realizes that in the end what really matters is not how many times you leave your mark, but whether or not you are able to go on the walk.  Even if you have to wear an ugly sweater to do it.