Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
My friend Hilary is celebrating her grandmother’s 98th birthday in Ohio and my friend Jack went to Denver, so I’ve been left to my own devices for several days.
In addition to my dachshund twins, Nicky and Freddie, I am baby-sitting Hilary’s crazy dachshund/Chihuahua mix, Huckleberry, who makes my guys look positively sedentary by comparison. Huckleberry is quick on the trigger, flying out the dog door at the first sound of a motorcycle or passing pedestrian, yipping his high-pitched screaming yip while I, with my bad ears, try to figure out whether he’s gone around to the front or is yipping at the back gate. If I open the front door I can hear him in the back and vice versa and by the time I get him inside and lock the dog door I’m in a froth, threatening to cut his darling little throat.
Hilary is the official dog-walker and by the third day all of the pups were going out of their minds with restlessness and mourning. They sat on the big old pink recliner chair, staring dolefully at the door, praying for Hilary to arrive and to hear the magic W-A-L-K word.
Maybe it’s the smoke from the fires or maybe it’s the meds, but I’ve been a little low on oxygen levels and am just finishing up a prescription for a “burst” of steroids to kick-start my system. This mean taking a whole lot of steroids over a short period of time, resulting in squirrel-like activity on my part.
When I’m on the steroid burst, my back pain miraculously disappears and I run around gathering my nuts in preparation for the lows lurking around the corner. I cook, I store, I freeze, I bake rhubarb pies from the prolific patch in my yard (everybody used to have rhubarb in their back yards here), I clean the refrigerator and take a whack at filing my “papers.” I can get in a hot bath without being afraid I might not be able to get back out, file toenails while the steroids let me bend my knees.
“Why not just stay on them?” my friends ask, but prednisone takes its toll in other ways if you keep ingesting it – a miracle drug that screws up your eyes and your blood sugar and your metabolism goes down to that of a three-toed sloth and you eat, eat, eat and get fat, fat, fat. In a week you can double your weight just by looking at food commercials.
On Saturday the dogs were running in circles and I was feeling on top of the world on drugs, so I decided to collar and leash them up and take them for a small neighborhood walk. No big deal for a fit person, but a giant step for me – three dachshunds on three leashes and me pretty unsteady on my pins at best.
The puppies were ecstatic. Something was, at last, happening – we were going for a walk. Outside, into the world. They snapped at each others’ leashes, ducked and flirted with the collars and, by the time I had them all in tow ready to go out the back gate into the alley, my throat was as dry as a bone and I was ready for a lie-down.
The dogs charged the gate like greyhounds after the fake rabbit and we hadn’t gotten to the end of the alley when two Pomeranian-type dogs appeared in front of us. It turned out that I had put Huckleberry’s cat collar on him, which flew open the second he lunged for the fluff balls. Intent upon pulling Huckleberry out of the fray, I dropped Nicky and Freddie’s leashes and minor pandemonium ensued, finally resolved when all the leashes were re-gathered and untangled and we proceeded in a surprisingly orderly fashion around a couple of more blocks and back home.
I was parched and feeling a little bit dizzy and disoriented in the total elapsed time of perhaps six minutes of the duration of the Walk. That was when I realized that I had been wearing my reading glasses the whole time.
The next day, I was better prepared. I got out a pair of “sensible shoes,” though I’m not sure how sensible it is to put on shoes you haven’t worn in several years. I made sure that Huckleberry was huckled into a regular dog collar, not the easy-escape cat collar. I brought chewing gum, an effective antidote to dry throat. You would have thought I was embarking on an expedition to Everest instead of a short jaunt to the foot bridge over the Roaring Fork River at the end of Hopkins Avenue.
The river was high, the walk was lovely through the flowery rock gardens along the way. I thought of the day when I had cast my dachshund Rufus’s ashes into the Roaring Fork from the Cooper Avenue bridge. I thought it would be a cloud of white fluff, but the ashes were tightly wrapped in plastic in the box and what looked like a kilo of something else had flipped into the river, no doubt to be discovered by an eager fisherman somewhere downstream. Rufus didn’t go easy into that good night.
There’s not a point or a moral to any of this. The dogs behaved perfectly, walking in symmetry and didn’t poop, a good thing because I forgot the plastic bag. Summer was in the air, we had had a great and needed rain and, as you read this, the days are already getting shorter. Where did May and June go? The leaves will turn in August, zip-zap, but it’s the season most of us love the best.
Maybe I can build up my degenerating back day-by-day or maybe I can’t. I picture it as a pile of crumbled sand and bones, a ruin. But on steroids, watch out. If you see me coming, better step aside.
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Vagneur: Today’s the big local’s day, even though the celebrating may need to be a bit different this year.