“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Monday, May 14, 2012

Part II, Day 34: Sunday House Call

It's Sunday, 8:30 AM, and the Doctors T are coming for home acupuncture.

When Zoe saw Dr. Don T. last, she ended up having minor surgery for a scabrous cyst and I am relieved that our intrepid dog doesn't hold this against him.  When she enters the house, damp from the rain, from the morning gentlemen's walk, she runs directly to him and does her version of a hug, otherwise known as the lean-in.  When she rolls on her back for a belly rub, we know she's ready for a session.

This is the second time the Doctors T have met at our house to talk shop.  The first time, (which you can read about here), they spoke about Amy's acupuncture course in Florida, for which Don has made some training videos.  When Amy arrives, Don jumps into his instinctive role as mentor/teacher.  She tells him about a horse she treated this week.  Its leg was sore and stiff, but massage didn't help.  If I have understood their conversation correctly, one of the key questions for deciding which points to use is to decide if the problem comes from blood stagnation or xi stagnation.  Blood stagnation creates the kind of stiffness that doesn't feel better after you start moving, and often feels worse.  With xi stagnation, the animal just needs to get the energy moving again, and all is well.  The trouble is, if the horse doesn't like your approach, you might get kicked in the head.  And certain places on the legs that would be good to put needles from a therapeutic standpoint are very tricky to get at with an agitated horse.  I stand back and drink my tea and try to imagine myself in her place, walking into a barn for the first time and trying to approach a horse who is ailing, a horse who has never had needles put in its legs, a horse who doesn't know her.  Dr. Amy T is patient and good-humored, and I can see why the farmers around here want her to be the vet in the practice that makes house calls.

Today Zoe is getting six needles.  Stomach 36 and Large Intestine 10, for immune system stimulation and xi tonic.  Spleen 6 for yin tonic.  Bladder 23 for kidney tonic.  Stomach 40, an influential point for phlegm, which is important, I guess, when there are tumors.  Lung 9, the grandfather point to the original tumor.

Zoe backs up into a corner and tries to hide under the desk.  Sometimes she welcomes Chinese medicine and presents herself to her healers, but today she makes them come to her.  If you look at this picture, the humans are bent over what looks just like a black hole under the desk, but that's our girl.

After the needles are in, she withdraws into herself and nods off.  Don T tells us that he has discovered that less is more--only six needles is fine for Zoe.  Recently he gave quite a few needles to a geriatric dog and this old guy didn't want to move for 13 hours afterward.   Acupuncture can really relax an animal, but as you can imagine, this was not an ideal scenario. 

I do notice that Zoe is exceedingly mellow after today's treatment.  She asks to go outside after the sun dries away the rain, and she sleeps away much of the morning.  I peer out at her once and see her kick her paw once in her half-sleep.  Perhaps after eavesdropping on our conversation, she is dreaming that she's a stiff and cranky horse getting an acupuncture treatment for the first time.

Back in the kitchen, my husband, Dr. Amy T and I all admire Don's medical bag.  I remember when old style medical bags were sold as purses at Anthropologie and I coveted one.  My husband makes a joke about the animal doctor carrying his medicines inside the hide of an animal, but Don laughs and says at least it's not naugahyde.  We try to explain naugahyde to Amy, but we need to give her more background.  "Picture polyester pants suits, shag carpets, and fake leather black couches.  It's funny how bad taste can be like an epidemic."  And I realize this is the second time in a week that I've found myself explaining something about the seventies to someone younger than I am.  The other day it was to Zoe.  She had objected to the song "Y.M.C.A.," which we heard blasting on our walk, and even though this serenade happened to take place the day President Obama finally came out in support of gay marriage, Zoe did not want to dance.  This dog prefers mellow, alternative music like the kind Sonya and Alex played for her yesterday when they dropped by to return a book.  Alex turned on his phone and put on the music of the Canadian songwriter Feist, her song "1234," and Zoe wagged her tail.  

A few hours after Zoe's treatment, our friend Eve comes over.   Zoe wakes up from her nap to chase  Blue, Eve's border collie, around the yard.  Inside the house, she runs and pulls her favorite plush squeaky toys out from her box: the skunk, the fox, the beaver.  She darts in and out of tables and legs and rolls on her back and grunts and then asks for a long walk, which we are happy to provide. Our conversation is often interrupted by her demands for attention. 

Eve says, "Wow, I haven't seen Zoe with this much energy in years.  She wasn't like this even before her surgery, before she had cancer.  She preferred to be calm and mellow, and to just sit there looking regal."

It's been about eight weeks since Eve has seen Zoe, and I trust her perceptions.  It's easy when you're with a dog day after day to forget what her baseline normal looks like.

I feel so lucky to have all these people on Zoe's team.   Who knew that in a village of 6,000 people I would find veterinarians who do acupuncture and make house calls?

While I loaded these photos onto my computer, Zoe was outside my window relaxing in the grass, watching the house, waiting for me to feed her dinner.  A day that included two long walks in the woods, a photo shoot in the trillium, an acupuncture treatment, and a mad chase around the yard with a border collie is coming to a close soon.  This is just life as Zoe knows it.  Not bad or good, not special, just normal. 

But every day that feels normal to Zoe is a gift to me.

Hello, I am mellow; I just had acupuncture.  If you want to talk, you'll have to come to me and speak gently.

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