Friday, January 20, 2012

SHOOT THE ROOSTERS (And while you're at it, take out the sheep and dog)

In the middle of Paradise, away from the cold and snow and dark, dark days. What else could one ask for this mid-January?

Well, I hate to complain (I know all my friends back in Chicago won't have a whit of sympathy), but the roosters, sheep, and unattended dog that live a stone's throw away from our casa have forced me to wear earplugs at night, turn up the iPod during the day, and generally curse the management company that never bothered to mention the friggin' farm next door.

Now I've lived a few blocks away from the el in Chicago but never felt like blowing up the tracks. I've had neighbors in Evanston whose hot tub gatherings late at night pushed me to call the cops. (The neighbors finally got the message and shut it down by 11 p.m.) But now, here in the "quiet" colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, I'm itching for a BB gun.

From what I'm told, roosters crowing at all hours of the day and night have started feuds, forced people to move, and sometimes led to violence like the kind I'm considering. I mean, I can handle the bah, bah, bahs of the sheep. Even the whining, barking dog is manageable. But the piercing crowing of the damn roosters reverberates through my entire body like a nightmarish audio electric shock.

The web offers all kinds of advice to rooster weary neighbors and owners: Create a "blackout" effect in the coop to trick roosters into believing it's still night; use cages that allow the rooster to sit and stand comfortably but not to stretch (apparently, roosters stretch when they crow); make sure there are plenty of interesting things for the roosters to do (yeah, right!); and my favorite, clipping the vocal cords. Alas, this is merely a temporary solution because roosters will apparently learn how to crow AGAIN. There used to be a hormone called DES that was used to stop roosters from crowing, but it produced bad side effects and is now illegal in many countries.

No offense to all you animal lovers. But if I could get my hands on this DES stuff, I'd gladly feed it --- better yet, inject it --- and stop the roosters from crowing. Anything to shut them up. In the meantime, I'm off to find a pair of Hearos Earplugs that, according to one obsessed person who conducted years of research, actually "reduced the pounding sounds of the jackhammer to a pleasant thud."

(If you call and I don't answer, you'll understand why.)

Mi dios, yo pienso que puedo tener que disparar a los bastardos

Monday, January 9, 2012

San Miguel: Take Two

Groggy with sleep and dark skies outside, I rolled out of bed on this our departure day to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where Alan and I were to spend the next two months. We'd both finished packing the night before, save for a few toilet articles to be stashed in our suitcases.

As usual, I'm the front traveler, up earlier and responsible for those last odds and ends like washing a dish, feeding the cats, packing some fruit to take on the plane. Things moved along on schedule and, by the time I woke Alan, I was dressed and ready to hit the road.

"I've rolled my big suitcase to the top of the stairs," I said. "It's too heavy for me to lug. Please carry it down for me."

"No problem," Alan said as he tied his shoes.

For anyone who doesn't know Alan, he is always late. I can't count the number of times I've spent egging him on, telling him to hurry up, scolding him for making me wait --- not to mention others who may be waiting. It's a tiresome task, believe me.
But today he was moving right along. I think he realized that it's no way to start a two-month trip aggravating me before we get out the front door.

We arrived at O'Hare in plenty of time before out 9:20 a.m. flight. The cab driver unloaded the suitcases and went on his way.

I rolled my small bag from the curb to the attendant, got in line, and waited while Alan toted the remaining suitcases.

"We have three suitcases to check," I said when it was my turn.

"Where's the third bag? I see only two."

I spun around and looked at our remaining suitcases. The big tan one with all my clothes was missing.

"It must be in the cab," I screamed. "Cab Number 212."

Alan took off running as if he were going to be able to catch up with the taxi. I frantically dialed 4-1-1 to get the cab company number.

"We have an emergency," I said to the dispatcher. "Cab 212 drove away from O'Hare with one of our bags. You've got to reach him and tell him to turn around."

"Stay on the line," he said much too calmly for my satisfaction.

While I'm hanging on the line, Alan returned to the curbside check-in, out of breath, mumbling something about he can't take this and he's never going to Mexico again or to anywhere else. "How could you forget your suitcase?"

"Did you bring it downstairs like I asked you?"

"I can't remember. I can't remember anything."

The dispatcher started talking, telling me that there was no suitcase in cab 212.

"It's not there," I said, fighting back the tears.

"Maybe someone walked away with it while we weren't looking," Alan offered.

I tried to restrain myself and mimic those twosomes on "The Amazing Race" who seem to be gentle and kind to one another even when one of them has lost his passport or driven on the wrong road. "I don't think that's likely. If it isn't in the cab, it's either on the street in front of the house or upstairs" because you forgot to bring it down.

"You're not going to blame me, are you? It's your damn suitcase."

He was right: I should have accounted for all luggage before we walked out the front door. But I hadn't, and it looked more and more likely as if we would miss our flight to Mexico.

"Did you try to call any neighbor? They could at least look to make sure it's not sitting on the street."

By then, it was 8:30 a.m., and I was sure the neighbors on either side had left for school or work. But I fumbled with the phone, called each one, and listened to unanswered rings as long as I could bare.

Then Alan had the brilliant idea of calling the taxi company again, asking if one of their guys close to the house could drive by, maybe look in the front window to see, if by some chance, the missing suitcase was sitting in the vestibule, forlorn. While the minutes ticked away and other, obviously happy, organized passengers checked their bags, I realized we were shit out of luck. Still, we persevered, hoping for the first time in our lives that the plane would be late. Very late.

No such luck. The plane was on time, and the second taxi driver verified that the suitcase was neither in the street in front of our house or in the vestibule. Either someone did swipe the bag (highly unlikely) or Alan had never brought it down the stairs. Whichever way you sliced it, we were headed home, not to San Miguel.

Exhausted, we dragged our luggage into another taxi and headed home. What if my suitcase weren't there? I'd have to go on one major shopping spree in just an afternoon and spend all the money I'd saved for the vacation. I shut my eyes and tried to repeat my mantra in a failed effort to relax.

"Give me the house key," I said a block before pulling up in front of our house. With the key in my hand, I ran up the front stairs, unlocked the door, hightailed it upstairs and, for a moment, saw nothing but my dear cat Zuni who'd had part of his tail amputated just days before. (But that's a story for another time.) But as I turned my head slightly to the left, there was the infamous suitcase staring back at me as if asking "What up?"

So, tomorrow we do it all over again. Alan has already carried it downstairs. We're leaving nothing to chance.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Tail End

I stepped on my beloved cat's tail not once but twice.

In over eight years, I'd never stepped on his tail. Why now? Why me? I really have no answer. He got underfoot when I was opening mail and, without knowing he was there, I took a step forward toward the dining room table.  Crunch!

The scream echoed throughout the house. I'd heard Zuni complain in the past but never anything like this.

I bent down to see what I'd done, but Zuni ran for the hills. He wanted nothing to do with me. I was his caretaker, his mommy, and I'd let him down. Even his cat brain understood that.

I felt like such a louse and prayed that whatever I'd done wasn't that bad.

The first vet was unable to get Zuni to settle down enough to get a good look.

"We'll have to put him under."

That seemed rather extreme.

"And what if you find that his tail is broken? What next?"

"We put him on pain medication and antibiotics, if necessary. Beyond that, nothing. Cat's broken tails usually repair themselves."

"Then give me the pain meds."

With difficulty, I maneuvered Zuni back into his cat carrier, put him in the car, and raced for home.

Over the next few days, as the pain subsided, I was able to investigate his tail. I didn't see any open wounds but did feel what I thought were possibly two scabs. Thank god. He was going to be just fine.

Almost a week later, I was in the basement putting a load of laundry in the dryer. I didn't see Zuni around my feet, focused as I was on not dropping a wet sock or small kitchen towel. And it happened again. I stepped on his tail!

This time, neither Zuni nor I was so lucky. The tip of his tail protruded like a small hot dog, red and glistening. Whatever hair had covered the tip was miraculously gone. Something was terribly wrong.

It was the afternoon of December 31. Our vet had closed his doors at noon. So, it was off to Animal 911, a 24/7 care center about a 10-minute drive from my home.

"You'll be fine," I mumbled to my wounded cat as he sat stoically in his pet carrier stationed securely on the passenger car seat.

Zuni was whisked away by the attending at the emergency pet hospital. I felt like such a bum. And I was embarrassed. What I'd done, albeit unintentionally, made me look like an abusive pet owner who had absolutely no awareness or consideration for my cat. It was if I'd broken a child's arm not once but twice.

"I have a theory," the vet said. "I think the damage was done the first time you stepped on his tail. He's been operating at half mast and, this second time, he just didn't have enough control to move his tail out of the way."

I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe it was an accident waiting to happen.

"Still, there is no doubt that we'll have to amputate."

My stomach turned.

"How much? How much will you have to cut?"

"I won't know until we get him in surgery. My best guess is about three inches."

"There's no other option?"

"No other option. The tip of his tail is almost dead. The injured section has sustained nerve damage, and there's no way of restoring it."

"What about the hair?"

"It will grow back. In time, no one will know."

Right, except me. I'll know. That long, bushy tail won't be long enough to wrap around his legs like a winter scarf. It will no longer stand like a periscope when he walks.

"What's the healing time?" I asked, worried because we had only eight days before leaving the country for two months.

"Ten to twelve days."

My heart sank. "We don't have that long. We're going to Mexico and leaving Zuni with a house sitter who likes cats but . . ."

The vet explained the protocol. He'd be given antibiotics twice a day for a week and pain medication, as needed. That meant we could finish that part of his treatment before leaving.

"And the stitches?"

"They'll dissolve on their own, so you won't have to worry about that. But he'll have to wear a collar to prevent him from licking and scratching."

There was no way. Zuni was a wild man who bit attendants during routine exams. To stick one of those plastic Elizabethan collars on him and expect him to get used to it was as likely as asking me to move to Alaska during the winter.

"Good luck getting it on him," I muttered, suddenly exhausted.

They did manage to attach the collar. And he hated it. The minute we arrived home and I opened his cat carrier, he catapulted out and flew through the air, landing on his feet, and then running up and down the stairs, bumping into walls at every turn. When he came to a halt, he was panting, his little tongue hanging out, his breath fogging up the plastic collar. It was pathetic, really.

The next morning, we found Zuni sitting calmly in the upstairs hallway, his collar crunched up against an adjoining wall. Our little Houdini had somehow squeezed out of a collar that was good and tight the night before. My husband and I knew then that we'd have to take turns making sure that he didn't bite or lick the stitches until they dissolved.

It's Day #4. Zuni seems more and more like himself despite the missing 3 inches of tail. Still, we're not out of the woods yet. I caught him licking his stitches earlier this morning and have had to sequester him in my office where I can keep an eye on him.

Small penance for the harm I've caused.