Dog recovers from plastics binge

Rosa post-surgery: A little dopey, but coming back. At vet’s advice we put an old T-shirt on her to keep her from chewing at her incision.


I try to be tough but I’m a big softie.

I saw my dog post-surgery lying in the warmth of the vet operating room at Harmony Holistic Veterinary Care in Prescott. My Airedale’d had her stomach cut open and a cup of plastic junk removed. She’d been stitched back up, her shaved belly stapled to prevent her chewing loose the surgical incision.

She’d stirred to consciousness and now her little kopf poked out the swaddling blankets these angelic gals, vets and vet techs, had placed around her.

“Can I … touch her?”

“Oh sure,” said Dr. Joy Fuhrman with her distinctive South African accent. Dr. Joy had led the two-vet surgical team.

I walked into the room toward that ruffled brown head. Squatted down and petted it. Even sat on my butt on the tile floor to keep stroking her, feeling her silken ears, her neck.

Rising to my feet, back still turned to the staffers and my wife, I pulled up the front of my oversized T-shirt to tamp my eyes.

“God damn allergies.” Turning and snatching a paper towel from a dispenser, I stepped into the hall to blow my nose.

I guess all dogs do it. Grab and eat things that aren’t food.

Rosa’s quasi-culinary thieveries caught up with her. Barb thought she wasn’t shitting because she’d inhaled a good part of a chicken carcass, bones and all, or because after Barb had broken a peanut butter jar on the kitchen floor the dog had snapped up not only peanut butter but pieces of glass.

But the stuff pulled out of her stomach was neither chicken bone nor glass. It was some mysterious and still undetermined plastic. Almost hard, like a ball coating, only it wasn’t a tennis ball or other kind of ball.

Barb thinks it’s from when the dog tore loose from her grip and ran down the sloped side lot we bought to keep anyone from building there. Trailing the leash, the dog shot down the hill to a house construction site on the street. And got into something. Barb may be right.

The dog loves construction sites. I make jokes about how she flirts with construction workers. Where there are construction sites there are men; where there are men there are food scraps. Rosa will find a hot dog wrapper from some guy’s lunch from two years ago and on the strength of a lingering or imagined aroma attack and consume the thing.


She’s indiscriminate. She once stole some guy’s cigarette pack. I had to chase her, zigzagging behind her darting form like some clown chasing his hat in the wind, before I could wrest it back and, wiping off the slobber, return the squashed thing to its stunned owner. Clearly, keeping Rosa on the leash is indicated.

I had thought if anything would have fucked her up it would have been plastic bags. If I’m stupid enough to come back from our trail hike with treats still in a baggie, and I’ve got the baggie sitting out on my desk, and she’s at large, she can come into my office and before I know it snatch it off my desk and eat the whole thing, plastic and all. That’s her modus operandi.

I’d figured the accumulation of baggies had caught up with her. Thought the baggies had stopped coming out swirled in her turds and were now, finally, plugging up the works. But I’ll never know. The vets don’t think so. Barb’s supposition seems to have more credence.

The damn dog couldn’t shit.

Day after day after worrisome day she showed herself unable to really back one out, anything but these sad little dribbles. This is a dog who will have two prodigious bowel movements a day! I walk her on undeveloped, adjacent land, county land, where she seems to find rough remote areas to crap in, places so out of the way I won’t have to pick up after her. It’s one thing I love about my dog. There’s a certain delicacy about her.

If you’re wondering why Bob Gitlin, who had an Ivy League education, is always writing about shit, I don’t blame you. But let’s face it, in life, if you’re wondering what you’ve ever “contributed” to or “produced” in society, and your best prayed for answers begin to look like ephemera, wispy dodges, you begin to see that nitrogenous waste may well be a main achievement.

Anyway, leave it to me to realize Rosa needed medical attention. I had to go to work but Barb took her in.

I was stocking the grocery aisles at Walmart when she came in to tell me the vets said good thing we’d acted. There was a problem.

I am indebted to the two vets who managed the surgery, and to Dr. Roxanne Batt, Rosa’s longtime PCP, who couldn’t do it herself, tied up as she was all day in surgery herself. Dr. Rox had already saved the dog’s life when she came down with a deadly fatigue. And Rosa’s regular doctor figured strong in the huddle over what to do pending examination of the perilous X-rays and the realization that the barium enema hadn’t budged down her tract. An early worry was whether the cutting would, given the presence of that barium, invite leakage into breathing organs. You’re talking sepsis, danger of pneumonia.

After I saw the dog lying doped and swaddled on the floor, Barb and I drove her to the Prescott Valley emergency vet clinic for overnight observation. The vet there gave her oxygen to make sure her lungs stayed clear. Rosa bore up all right. Next morning we drove her back to Harmony Care so the splendid Dr. Fuhrman and crew could watch her again. And that evening she returned to us.


We’re a few days into her recovery. The dog’s wearing one of my old T-shirts so she can’t worry that incision on her belly.

Deal cost us four grand and change. Glad we had the money.

Main thing, she seems to be on the mend. Looks like our four-legged friend will be with us for a while yet.

We can’t feed her much, so no big shits yet …

And I think I’d better stop here. Before I wax rhapsodic about shit again. Though when you think about it, it is something to be grateful for.

We take so much for granted.


Satori on a camping trip

Resting the legs that just got her through an ass-buster hike, and relishing Margaret Atwood, is my wife. Barb’s being kept company by the world’s most stalwart terrier, also recuperating from the unforgiving but panoramic Bill Williams Trail.


Just because I don’t use drugs anymore doesn’t mean I don’t get high. I’m the same headbanger I was in college.

Just spent a half-hour enjoying Spotify on my laptop and Bose speakers, rocking out to: “Everything Is Broken,” the Dylan song nailed by Kenny Wayne Shepherd; off of Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses), “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad (Not Fade Away),” “Johnny B Goode,” and “Me and My Uncle,” the original full-throated rock ‘n’ roll roar and cosmic twang; and, because that country spirit moved me, old “El Paso” by Marty Robbins.

Got my eyes closed rocking back and forth in my swivel chair, not caring how loud it is out the windows. Jerry Garcia still makes me tingle.

Just because I don’t smoke cannabis or snort coke or drop acid anymore doesn’t mean I don’t get high. Just because I don’t gape at internet pornography anymore doesn’t mean I don’t have a sex urge. Just because I live in austerity doesn’t mean I don’t live.

Ever find you had to redefine happiness? It’s not just about doing everything you “want.” I will meet my maker; this aging Hebrew needs some metaphysical lambs to throw on the fire, as well as some new kinds of celebration to mark a new stage on his trek.

Barb and I just went camping at Dogtown Lake near Williams, a four-day trip. Even after hiking Bill Williams Trail, a seven-mile ass-buster (my calves still hurt), I got back to Prescott weighing five pounds more than I’d set off at! We ate good. Cooked on a grate over an open flame, partly because I spazzed and spilled a pan of water onto the propane burners of my camp stove. I love eating outside on a camping trip. I do enjoy the woods.

I’d crawl out the tent in the dark or dawn, start a fire, put my bashed-in camp percolator on the grate, and wait. Ah, those first cups tasted so damn good … warming your hands on the fire, feeling the woods waking around you.

I dig Williams, that whole area. I read where Sam Shepard loved Williams, so I’m in good company.

Barb and I spent a lot of time at our campsite reading. She’s become quite the bookworm. She’s in a book club, says I should join, there’s only one other guy. Maybe I will. But I’m too bossy in my opinions. She’s in love with Margaret Atwood.

Me, I’ve been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, relishing the poetic moments, where a phrase might break through the personal-historical murk into a nugget of crystalline truth. I’m not sure Toni Morrison’s right, that he’s our generation’s James Baldwin, but his argument for reparations, available on The Atlantic, is riveting and important.

I enjoyed Zadie Smith’s latest essay collection, the spare Intimations. She embraces the moment in all its nuance and complexity. Whether she’s talking about warring cultures, drugs, or politics, she’s keen-witted and amusing. If Nigella Lawson taught England how to cook, Zadie Smith taught the world how to think.

Blasted through Bari Weiss’s How to Fight Anti-Semitism on my Kindle. And I’m going back to temple. One of the things I love about The New York Times these days is the mix of liberal and conservative voices. Bret Stephens and David Brooks balance off Michelle Goldberg and Jamelle Bouie. My favorite columnist is tart-tongued, laconic Maureen Dowd, who can take down a pompous braggart in four seconds. Bari Weiss is a liberal with conservative guard rails. Everything she says about the hatred leveled at Jews over Israel is brave and correct. We both don’t like Netanyahu but feel Israel must be defended and supported by Jews, who hold her to account! Weiss chronicles a phenomenon as old as the ages. It’s refreshing to hear her assert and reassert her ethnic and religious pride. The old poison from the far right is easier to deal with than the insidious, censoring voice of anti-Zionist bile on university campuses. I get why Seinfeld won’t play colleges anymore.

But maybe the big prize has been the book I’m still getting through, one I should have picked up a long time ago and did finally secure on Amazon. The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, has changed me. My therapist tells this quacking neurotic he must work on improving his self-image. I’m trying to see in my life the delineations of an actual hero journey. Who has this kind of scholarship anymore? Reading this makes me see things anew. It’s vast yet hits home in moments of intimacy. Wisdom comes from the heart, not the head. Dreams and myths beyond our ego impel and shape our journey. Campbell offers a guidebook on how to say yes to this crazy world, beyond stifling shoulds. He teaches us how to love, how to dig the trip we’re on.

I know a fine woman who didn’t think she had it in her but insisted on tackling that mountain. I might want to pull my head out of my ass and pay attention to her. I’ve found that’s generally good for a better return on investment.

It’s nice being back home, having bathed the foot stink away, and re-immersed myself in all the old household rhythms.

I finished watching a two-part Western on my Roku feed, Broken Trail. You get a good story when Walter Hill’s in charge. (He directed The Warriors and 48 Hours, perhaps guilty pleasures, perhaps acknowledged gems.) Here, Robert Duvall’s aging cowboy says he’s not as brave as he appears. Says he wakes up in the dark and remembers all he’s done and not done.

Asked what he does when that happens, he says he tries like hell to get back to sleep.

Being awake has been fairly kind to me. But I know what he means.


Below: “I know, girl, my tongue’s hanging out too.” At the top of Bill Williams Mountain, better than 9,000 feet up, in the pine wonderland of northern Arizona.