Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Five Dog Night

My oldest daughter Christina has three dogs. The S.P.C.A. has an adopt-a-pet program during the Christmas holidays so that pets can be taken into a home for a few days relieving S.P.C.A. staff and volunteers the task of looking after a great many animals over the holidays. Chris brought Hayden home for the holidays a couple of years ago and Hayden just stayed. He had found a family. Earlier this year Hayden was joined by Copper. Copper was an S.P.C.A. rescue dog who had been badly, badly abused and was to be put down but the staff wished to give him a little time in a situation where he would know love. He came to live with Chris and Ace joining Hayden. Copper is not doing well these days and his time is short but he finally came to know the love and kindness he needed all his life. Hayden and Copper were joined by a non-de script, mongrel puppy named Buddy. Buddy is a mammoth thing, a one man, or, as the case may be, a one dog wrecking crew.

Because Copper is so old and feeble, he has slept in the house since coming to live with my daughter and her family while Hayden and Buddy have, until recently, slept outside. Now that the deep cold has come they are allowed in at night and all three dogs sleep in the living room together although Copper is prone to wake up in the middle of the night and wander into Chris and Ace's bedroom.
Hayden, Copper, and Buddy are part of the menagerie of cats and horses and a lama as well as chickens and turkeys who live on Chris' farm.

They live in a remote rural area with only a few other houses on their road. In the country most animals, even if well treated, are not 'house' pets. They are provided with adequate housing to withstand the cold and expected to stay out. This includes the two dogs belonging to one of Chris' neighbors. These two often wander over to Chris' to play with Hayden, Copper, and Buddy.

The other night Hayden, Copper and Buddy were brought in for the night, fed, and had bedded down in their usual spots when there came a scratching at the door. Opening it, Chris found the two neighbor dogs. It was a cold, cold, night and they clearly wanted in and, amused, she allowed them in "for a moment." They promptly went to the living room, layed down with Chris' dogs, and went to sleep. Chris and Ace found this funny so she allowed them to stay the night. In the morning they wanted out and went to their home. The next night, promptly at bedtime, they were back and again came in to visit Chris' dogs and to spend the night. They have been back every night since. It appears better to sleep in the neighbor's living room warmed by a wood stove than in a cold doghouse and this pair have learned that they are welcome on cold night's at Chris' house.

Now, while amusing, I am sure most of you are shaking your heads and thinking, "Oh brother." That was my initial reaction as well but you know what? Dogs have feelings and preferences as well as humans do and these two are clearly expressing their desire for a warm night's sleep over a cold one. I am kind of proud of Chris and Ace that they have gentle hearts and express love and kindness to four footed friends.

The visiting dogs have no desire to live with them. They know they have a home and they return to it. They just want the warmth and the company at night and Chris is prepared to give it. My daughter is a softy. Surely she is accumulating good karma.

Speaking of dogs, at the end of her life my dog Kitten had developed a bit of a breathing problem and she huffed and puffed when climbing stairs. With her arthritic hips she had a peculiar gate as she climbed stairs as well. The huffing and puffing and the ragged walk made a distinctive sound. It was easy to tell when Kitten was coming up the stairs quite apart from the clicking of her nails. My father tells me that Kitten paid a 'visit' last night. He woke up hearing her huffing and puffing, her nails clicking, and her odd gate on the stairs. He says it gave him quite a start.

Well, who knows. Many would say he just woke up from a dream that Kitten was in. But you never know. Kitten was as attached to us as we were to her and perhaps her spirit paid a visit last night. I would like to think so anyway.

I saw my psychiatrist this morning. We had a small discussion. He said my depression was quite normal. That was qualified by his saying after that it was quite normal for me, anyway. I had been off my medication all summer as I got healthy, winter was a traditional time of depression for many like me as were the shorter hours of daylight this time of year. In addition he allowed that is I had been exercising as heavily as I had been and then had to reduce it suddenly because of the weather then the sudden decrease in endorphins would upset my system as well.

I told him that I thought I had been cured and he just shook his head and said, "No.' There is, of course, no cure for bipolar disorder although their is hope it 'eases' as I get older.

I did not want medication that would put weight back on which sent him to his manuals while he looked up likely drugs that might work to lift my mood without putting on pounds. In the end he selected one that I immediately dismissed for various reasons and we finally settled on one we could both agree to. Anyone who thinks psychiatry is an exact science is mistaken. The selection of anti-depressants is a guessing game anyway based on what has worked in the past, presenting symptoms, and a careful look into the Magic 8 Ball.

I will begin a new medication tomorrow and try it for a few weeks to see if it helps. If not, we go onto another one to try until we find one that lifts my mood. Then, once we find one that works, I am to go back on my lithium which I haven't taken in several months so I will not become manic during the anti-depressant therapy or after I recover.

Mania sucks every bit as much as depression but right now I just want to feel better and not be seeing "grey skies from now on."
It is a temptation when depressed to think that one's thinking has caused the depression when in reality it is the depression that has caused the disturbed, or, disturbing thoughts. I struggle to remember that and to pay the thoughts little attention. It is hard and harder still when within these thoughts there are kernels of truth that have always been hard to deal with and with an episode of depression become harder yet.

I cherish and value all of you who have expressed your care and concern. You do not know how much I treasure your warm wishes as I hurtle into the abyss. The ride is rough and dark and painful and bleak. At times it is near unbearable. Logging in here to your prayers and encouragement really helps. Thank you all.

(Originally posted to Multiply December 17, 2008)

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