Blagetty Blogetty Bragitee!

My Photo
Location: United Kingdom

Some people know me as OrangeBlossomer because that's me on Twitter. This blog is a random collection of daily musings about life and stuff I love, such as journalism, dog (sadly my dog died in 2010 so probably no more), women, love and lack of love, boobs (only seldom but it does get me extra online traffic), taichi (I practise) and spirituality (should practise more). I have a day job as a jetsetting publishing foreign rights manager but I am also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and a writer/columnist at heart. Writing is my opium.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Lights Out

…And so one day, the dog woke up and could no longer see.

It happened to our dog Binks less than a fortnight ago. One day he could see, the next, the lights went out on him. Just like that.

It wasn't until Thursday, over a week after he lost his sight, that he got to see the veterinary ophthalmologist and received a diagnosis: SARD – Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration. It is a disease of the retina, whereby the photoreceptors, or transmitters, in the retina suddenly die off. It can cause blindness overnight or in just a few days. The loss of vision is permanent and incurable.

It was bad news, but in view of the circumstances, it was relatively good. We had been dreading a brain tumour linked to the testicular cancer he had removed only last February, but the doctor thinks the possibility is minimal.

The onset of blindness made Binks fall into deep depression. He was totally apathetic and non-responsive for a full week, eating very little, not interested in playing or going out, even his favourite treats got ignored.

All this happened a day or two after he came back from the pet hospital where he had been operated for a cut on his paw – a minor accident that happened during a walk. We first thought the lethargy was a side effect of the antibiotics he was taking, or the anaesthetic, or the stress of having to wear one of those horrific lamp shade-shaped collars that prevent your dog from chewing off the stitches on its paw.

I cannot believe the veterinary world has not as yet invented a more humane way of preventing pets from damaging their own stitches. It is unbearably painful seeing your dog look like a four-legged gramophone, getting stuck in narrow corridors, or on the stairs because the collar is so wide and cumbersome. We tried our best to reduce the amount of time he had to wear it by only putting it on him when we could not personally keep an eye on him – at bedtime or when we had to leave him alone in the house. Even so, we could see the stress showing in his exhausted expression, the heavier breathing, and the constant body shaking. Most nights he had a temperature, and his nose went dry and warm.

Then came the blindness, and we noticed it as he started bumping into furniture and feeling disorientated in the house even without the collar on.

The ophthalmologist said in 18 years he had been practising, he had only seen twenty-something cases of SARD, so I reckon it is not such a common disease. Then why our dog, I ask? Why? Why?

As Binks came to terms with his new world without light, we felt ourselves sinking into deeper and deeper darkness. I could not bear to see him so limp and droopy, as if life didn't interest him anymore. Watching him bang his head on doors, the fridge, the stereo, going round and round, trying to find the exit of the room and not finding it simply broke my heart. His food untouched, his carrot stick rotting uneaten under the table, his toy rat lying forlorn in a corner.

This is the dog that only a few weeks ago was playing let's- race-down-the-stairs games with me, swimming in the sea to fetch sticks – his favourite pastime of all (he simply loves the water!) – running along our bikes when we went cycling in the nature reserve. This is the dog that belonged to my other half, and I came to love as if he were my own.

I never had a pet as a child, or as an adult, as I never lived anywhere where pets were allowed. When I first moved in with my boyfriend, I didn't know how to walk a dog. I had to learn to control the dog on the lead, instead of "being walked by it". I had to learn to give him commands, bribe him with treats to make him obey me at first. I had to practise holding my breath and scooping up dog poo with a plastic bag.

There were plenty of compensations too. The lick-kiss I got in the morning when Binks climbed on the bed to say good morning. The way he started offering me his paws to scratch sat on his bum. The affectionate way he went to sleep with his head resting on my lap.

The joy of having a dog is that however much love you give it is returned to you in equal measure.

When the lights went out on Binks, it did on us as well. We cried incessantly during the day. At night, we slept badly, waking up whenever we heard him shuffle restlessly round the room.

It was one of the saddest weeks in my life. I talked to him as often as I could and told him again and again he would be all right. At night, I cradled his sleepy head in my arms, I stroked his body and visualised a bright white light – the healing energy of the universe – going through my body and into his. I summoned all the healing spirits to use me as a tool to restore health in him.

A dearest dog-lover friend in London, had strictly instructed me NOT to cry or show sadness in front of Binks, or he would pick up on it. So when the dog was in the same room as me, I tried to sound cheerful and sing happy songs. I invented ridiculous songs randomly inserting his name in the lyrics. I could see Binks was not finding it funny at all, but I needed to do it - if not for his sake, for my own. But the more upbeat I tried to sound, the more my heart broke inside. I reached the end of the day feeling drained from the effort. The sadness in the house hung low and heavy like a dark cloud before a storm.

With the diagnosis, finally came closure. While Binks gradually livens up and goes back to being his old self, we must learn to adapt to living with a blind dog, guiding him round the house, removing any obstacles he could fall over, being patient with him, as everything now takes a bit longer. I need to re-learn to walk him, this time as a blind dog, without feeling so lost and helpless myself.

After a week of feeding him home-cooked chicken instead of dog food, his appetite finally returned to normal. Nothing delights me more than watching him devour the chicken dish I carefully prepared for him the night before.

Binks came to rub his face against my leg a few minutes ago and gave me a paw for me to scratch from under the desk. This demand for attention is very familiar behaviour and a clear sign that he is coming out of the depression and back to being his usual spoiled self again.

Soon, the vet tells us, we will not even be able to tell he is blind, as dogs use their other senses to compensate for the loss of sight. For Binks the loss was too sudden, and it may be a few months before he is completely comfortable.

It is an odd thought that we will be living side by side, in parallel worlds, us in the light, him in the dark.

Had it happened to me, I cannot imagine recovering that fast, if ever, from the shock of losing my sight, but Binks is already wagging his tail again. Animals have an amazing ability to accept the vicissitudes of life with grace and serenity. No matter what tragedy befalls them, they don't resist, or whinge or moan. They simply surrender.

I wish, I so wish, I could live like that. He is a little hero, my little Binks.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

I am in a weird/crazy mood today, so I thought I'd post a blog just for the heck of it.

I was convinced the Media Law mock exam was scheduled for today, but it turns out I got my dates mixed up, and it is actually next Tuesday, not this week. Phew...! I'm glad I thought it was today though, as it forced me to start some serious revision since Sunday. The real final exams are looming in the horizon - early July is not that far away - so it was high time I got stuck into the books and handouts and make sure I don't panic at the last minute - me being a professional procrastinator... LOL!

I had been stiff with tension the past few days because I was so behind with my revision. The pain on my neck and shoulders was getting worse by the minute. Okay, these are just mock exams, not the real things, so even if I fail, it is not the end of the world, and I don't need to panic. BUT....try telling me not to panic if I manage to fail my mock exam:

If it wasn't enough that "student nerves" were getting the better of me, my boyfriend's best friend's wife came to visit from Germany, and is staying with us for a full week. This very affable lady can hardly speak a word of English. Which was fine until last night because HE was here to keep her company and talk to her in his fluent German while I nodded and smiled politely by his side, great ambassador that I am...

I must add a footnote here that I have about 10 years of German behind me, and, at one point, my competency in the language was enough to hold a conversation on fairly serious subjects with a native speaker, usually the teacher (Lol!). It has been years since I last switched on the Deutsch cells of my brain, however, and the possibility that I may have to be forced to formulate full sentences this week in a rustier-than-rusty German when my brain was bursting to aching point with journalistic legalese was simply too much to contemplate. By Monday night I was feeling physically ill at the prospect, and I knew it wasn't just the idea of taking a test, even if it was a make-believe one.

I just felt like shrinking down into a teeny little person and disappearing into a hole - please ignore me; I am not here.

No exams today. That was a relief. And, psychologically, the fact that I am now finally AHEAD in my preparation for the mock next week, gives me a moral boost. I don't even mind now that I only slept 4.5hs last night and that I felt so disturbed, I dreamt that my mother was trying to meet with me, but she was emaciated, looking grey, just skin and bones, dying of terminal cancer. I woke up with a nauseating sensation in the pit of my stomach. Aah, the things stress can do to you!

The journey home from the college today should have been a relaxed one after such an intense 24hs, but deep within I knew the real test, as it were, was still to come. Tonight, my bf is working (a night shift), so I was to entertain the German friend. Alone. Make dinner and eat with her. Sure! Kein Problem! ......errmm....NOT.

Call me a chicken if you like, but having overfried my ever so fragile grey mass with journalistic legal matters, the last thing I needed was to come home and have to play the perfect polyglot hostess in a mad language in which all the verbs and particles come at the end, and every concept in the universe, that is to say, all the nouns, have got 3 blooming genders: masculine, feminine and neutral. Not to mention that adjectives have declinations - the kind of knowledge expectation that, in my humble opinion, should be restricted to Latin-speaking clergy and researchers of ancient lingos such as sanscrit.

If there is one useful thing I have learned in the past couple of months, apart from how to write and sub-edit news stories, is that two of the most useful words in the English language in a situation of extreme stress are - excuse my French - "f**k it"!

I would even daresay it falls outside the "expletives" category. It is more like an interjection, much in the same way as an Italian would spontaneously blurt out "Mama mia!" in the face of adversity.

And so the 2-worded French saved my life and helped me improve, or should I say 'improvise', my German tonight. There was no way out. I could not pretend not to see her and go to bed without having dinner just to avoid the situation. I could not expect the dog (who is also German) to translate for me. I could not sit there and say nothing all night - those are not the kind of manners my mother taught me (if I behaved in such a way, she might waste away, as in my dream, from shame and embarrassment).

Therefore I did it. I said F** it, and the fear instantly disappeared.

A sudden memory of morphine being drip-injected into my body after a major abdominal op a few years ago came back to me. The pain gently dissolving with each drop... Sweet oblivion. Now I'm on a high.

I made spaghetti bolognese. And a salad. "Ein Salat!" Luckily, spaghetti in German is Spaghetti, so I didn't have to consult the dictionary before announcing dinner. "Spaghetti und Salat". Plan A was to bombard her with questions to keep her talking throughout dinner and thus avoid being on the receiving end of them. The latter could be potentially embarrassing, especially if I mis-understood and she's asking, so how was school today, and I'm saying, yes, it's bolognese. My listening comprehension - Hörverständnis - has never been too good.

Yet, Sod's Law dictated that as soon as we sat down to eat, she wanted to know all about me and what I thought about this and that. Darn it. I am the reporter here. I ASK THE QUESTIONS; do you mind?

It wasn't to be.

On to Plan B... Darn, I didn't have one. F** it! ("Ad lib! Put all the words you know together and concoct a story, even if it's not true as long as it is grammatically intelligible...") In my panic, a stream of pidgin German came pouring out of my mouth like lava out of an erupting volcano. The only way I could trick myself into believing I hadn't lost fluency without any alcohol to lubricate my tongue was to keep my mouth moving, und not juzt wiz spaghetti eating. Ja ja - ich kann gut Deutsch sprechen!

You get the picture.

I can assure you telling my life story with German subtitles was a somewhat slow and painful experience I hope I will not have to repeat for a long time.

An hour later, clean plates, and we were still talking... I had set my mental stopwatch for half an hour, after which I intended to stand up and start washing the dishes as a subtle signal that my vocabulary repertoir had expired and she should now retire to her room. But nearly an hour had elapsed, and she was laughing at my jokes (or was she laughing at my poor vocabulary?!), and - to my horror - started drying the dishes. I couldn't remember how to say, "why don't you go upstairs and watch TV while I do the dishes" in German, so I let her carry on.

F** it.

I think we're best friends now.

Moral of the story: sometimes we just have to let go. Give up resistance. Open up. Let whatever is waiting outside come into your moment.

And laugh.