Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Death and Sh*t.

Posted on | October 19, 2022 | 1 Comment

Where were you?

Yeah. Me, too.

So we’ll just have to be old friends. You know–the ones you don’t see for several years and then, when you finally run into each other at CVS buying rapid COVID tests, it’s like you were just hanging out yesterday. Sure, there’s a lot to catch up on. But that takes more time (and whiskey) than is appropriate for the aisle at CVS. Better just to start here. Right here:

That’s Florence the Granddog. She lived with me for a huge chunk of COVID times. We tore up the trails around here, sometimes hiking twice a day . Then Florence moved back in with Pretty. Olivia the Cat resumed her position as High Priestess of our household. The High Priestess is not into trail hikes.

A couple months ago, Pretty and Florence the Granddog moved in down the street. So now it’s an easy stop to pick up the granddog on my way to the woods. And we’re back in action–mountain loops, biking trails, forest preserves, and walking paths. There’s a lot of joy in watching the granddog during her off leash romps. Flying around curves at full speed, zigzagging through the trees on scent trails, crashing through underbrush, splashing into creeks and bounding up river banks. Take that joy and mix in a bit of fear that the next person you run into is gonna shame you for letting her off leash, add in adrenaline from rushing to keep up, include the kick of endorphins when you pass the 2 mile mark, and it’s a refreshing emotional and physical release.

Of course, our first hike back together wasn’t exactly the same as our last hike.

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Ever since Covid I’ve struggled with shortness of breath and a racing heart rate with exertion. Not every time, not during every activity, but sometimes it is very noticeable. Once on a trail that I hike several times a week, my friend abruptly stopped and stepped off the path. I almost crashed into her.

“What? What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said, “I thought I heard someone with a dog coming up behind us. Lots of heavy panting.”

That was me. I was doing the heavy panting.

I don’t recommend hiking with skinny friends. I mean, I’ll do it. It’s just not my favorite.

For a while I was convinced that a bout of Covid left me with myocarditis. I insisted my paramedic partner run an EKG and then run another one after I jogged in place for 5 minutes as a DIY stress test.

“I don’t think this is going to work,” he said. “An EKG isn’t the best tool to diagnose this and I’m not gonna know if it’s myocarditis.”

I assured him that he was entirely adequate for the task. Then I jogged in place for 3 minutes and told him to run the EKG again.

“Um, this really isn’t that same as a stress test. And I thought you were gonna jog for 5 minutes.”

“I jogged for 3 minutes and I’m feeling stressed! That’s good enough for government work,” I insisted.

Our highly sophisticated testing method did not reveal anything diagnostic of heart problems.

Unfortunately, the most reasonable explanation for my huffing and puffing appeared to be that I was fat and old. My friends and I conferred. It was decided that fat and old did not explain the entirety of my symptoms such as brain fog, nightly legs cramps, and 3 chin hairs that could be plucked at bedtime only to reappear and be 3 inches long by sunrise. No, this was perimenopause.

Oh happy day!

Because perimenopause meant menopause was approaching. And menopause meant I would no longer have to reach into my EMS pocket, not knowing if I would withdraw my penlight or my emergency tampon. It’s 50/50 when you’re wearing gloves, people. 50/50.

But the endocrinologist found my estrogen and testosterone were just fine. Adrenal glands and thyroid were working just fine. Turns out I was just anemic and needed some iron supplements to get back on track. And I should cut myself some slack until I had some more red blood cells. Which meant by the time Florence the Granddog was back on the scene I was used to taking little breaks. Resting on inclines. Mapping an easier route.

That’s right. In case you forgot, as fascinating as my menstrual cycle is to everyone, we were actually talking about the return of Florence the Granddog. With her leading the way I was forced to pick up my pace on the trails again. Turns out there are lots of health benefits to that increased speed. But for me, it was really just that joy of a dog cut loose in the woods, the birdsong, the rustling leaves, the breeze from my quicker pace drying the perspiration on my forehead and ruffling my chin hairs.

Until, on the first day back together, Florence the Granddog came dashing past reeking of muck from bottom of the River Styx. Somewhere she had discovered a pile of sh*it or a dead animal or its decomposed mushy remnants. She actually smelled as if she pulled off the ultimate dog hat trick—rolling in the remains of an animal that sh*it itself just before dying then partially rotted away in its own feces over several 90 degree days.

I encouraged her splashing in the creek to get most of it off. But huge chunks were rubbed into her ruff and the backs of her ears and embedded in the clasp of her dog collar. This was the act of a professional. On the way home, she grinned madly out the window as her odor encompassed us. My nose wrinkled, my eyes watered.

And I laughed.

Because I am 49 years old now. And 49 year olds don’t rage at death and sh*t. We don’t curse and gnash our teeth. We don’t weep or wail. We just laugh at the simple joy of a happy dog, very well pleased with her stink.

Because death and sh*t can only steal your joy if you let it.

It reminded me of when a friend and I pulled up at a restaurant for dinner. Before we could even open our doors, her daughter called with bad news. The daughter’s geriatric cat had not just been sleeping in the couch for the past 2 days. The cat had died in there, the daughter couldn’t reach the stiffened corpse, and she didn’t know what to do. Of course, we headed over, removed the dead cat, tore off the soiled lining, and bleached the body fluids off the floor. Then we took her daughter to dinner and later drove off with my friend’s dead grandcat in a box in the backseat. You know, back to my friend’s house for a proper country burial.

And we laughed.

Because there is such simple joy in helping your child in a time of need. Our adult children rarely ask us moms for help anymore. Yet it fills our hearts to be there. (So call us. We got you.)

Besides, death and sh*t can only steal your joy if you let it.

Yeah, I had to bathe Florence the Granddog when we got home. But then we got to hang out on the couch together, watching Better Call Saul, until she was dry. My friend and I missed a relaxing dinner in order to clean up that dead grandcat. But we spent spent the ride home reminiscing about Sacrifice Stump, something we hadn’t thought about in years. I’m still trying to get my anemia under control, but I get to meet a friend at Big Bob’s Grill for a thick greasy bacon cheeseburger as big as my head, guilt-free, on occasion. And now I’m finally writing a blog post again, despite years of death and sh*t trying getting in the way.

I’m here for it all. All of it.

Hike with me.


One Response to “Death and Sh*t.”

  1. Jane Taylor
    November 21st, 2022 @ 7:18 am

    you made it through
    so glad the death & etc
    didn’t get you
    and i kept checking
    your blog in my favorites list!

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