Relocate! Relocate!

Allayne came out of the office to pet sweet Dawny who, once I had opened the door, was doing her best to barge headlong into the place.  We had arrived at this small campground in eastern Louisiana (Lake Bruin State Park) earlier in the day and came by the office after settling into our campsite to tell Allayne, who had checked us in, what a pretty park it was.

“Yes, most of the people who work here have been around at least ten years. It’s such a beautiful place.”  The peaceful look on Allayne’s face told all there was to tell.

Dawny found her beautiful place by Allayne’s knee so she could scratch behind her ears while we chatted.

Whenever we walk by any building:  shed, restroom, office, cabin, outhouse… it doesn’t matter… if it has a door, Dawny wants to go inside.  If I give her enough leash, she approaches the door, sniffs, and waits, anticipation tugging each wag of her tail.  Dawny can’t read, so all she knows is that, if it has a door, there might be someone inside who will give her love and/or cookies. Preferably both.  This day she lucked out with the lovin’.

How nice a life my girl has had that closed doors hold such sweet promise.

I asked Allayne about the local wildlife, especially the creepy-crawly kind, which I am increasingly beware of the further south we travel.

“Oh, yes, we get some action here.  We had an alligator get into the swimming area–”

“There’s a swim beach here… with alligators in the lake?” I asked, my wide eyes betraying any semblance of the cool, seasoned, old-lady traveler that I may have constructed up to that point.

“Sure.  And snakes.  I was out here on my cell phone one day and right over there,” Allayne pointed to a small gully that ran under the sidewalk leading to the campground office, “I saw something slither out.  It was slithering and squirming… totally creepy.  It must have just shed its skin and stuff was stuck to it all over.  It looked awful!  I quickly called the ranger:  ‘Relocate! Relocate!'”

My politically incorrect and fearful mind silently screamed:  Oh my God!  Relocate?  What if it came back??  Did they relocate it far enough away???  Kill it!  Just kill it!!  At least blindfold it, pick it up by the tail, spin it around until it’s good and dizzy, then toss it somewhere over there by Arizona!!!

“Relocate!  Relocate!” Allayne interrupted my neurotic thoughts, recalling her call for help.  I recognized a kindred spirit looking out from her wide eyes as she continued the story.  Help arrived.  It was a water moccasin.  They relocated it.  All was well with the world and this was once again a peaceful place.

Leaving Allayne to get back to her job, Dawny and I continued our walk around the campground, including wooden docks and platforms that stretched from safe, solid ground through the dark, moss-draped shoreline into the blue of the lake.  Absolutely beautiful.  Albeit not free of alligators, snakes, or bears…  A fellow camper reminded me that the namesake of the lake was, indeed, “Bruin” for a reason.  Bears used to be quite plentiful in the area.  Sheesh, I thought I had at least left the threat of bears behind me in the Appalachians.  Apparently not.

Unlike my dear traveling companion, closed doors signify something very different to me.  They make me nervous, hiding the unknown.  Turns out it’s mostly just local life living out its local life.  The nice part is that the more familiar it becomes–by staying a while, taking time to chat, or through repeat visits–the less scary it becomes.

So, Dawny and I pick up our tails and continue with our own version of ‘Relocate,’ in this case joining the snowbird ranks migrating south for the winter.  Our current journey will cover about 2,000 miles from northern Virginia to east Texas, with a stop to visit friends near Dallas.  By the time we reach Dallas, we will have visited nine campgrounds, all of them new to us.  Our route is a new one, too.  I am proud to say that we survived the tangle that is Atlanta for the first time.

It is a good life.  Each door opens to another beautiful place, filled with lovely views, friendly faces, and kindred hearts.  We need only to open our own hearts, to recognize and relax, to give and receive.  Dawny, for all of her simple brilliance, has that part down pat.

* * * * * *

Short review of Lake Bruin State Park’s campground:  Five out of five stars.  Please keep in mind that this is from the perspective of someone traveling in a 25 foot motor home with no tow vehicle and who does not need sewer hookups.  Although not very convenient to I-20 (the park is over 35 miles south of exit 171), it was well worth the trip.

Lake Bruin is an oxbow lake formed from an old loop of the Mississippi River that was cut off from the main river channel ages ago.  It used to be a fishery and was donated to the state park system in 1958.  Fish, turtles, and alligators were raised in basins that now cradle the park grounds and some of the camp sites.

The campground road and the sites are paved.  Most are pretty level and fairly spacious.  Each has 30-amp and water hookups and there is a decent dump station available.  There is a nice mix of sun and shade.  It is a good idea to scope out the sites before picking the one that best fits your needs.  I was able to get a good Verizon signal and several over-the-air TV stations.  The restrooms are modern and immaculate, and there is a laundry room on site.

Park staff is incredibly friendly and helpful, matching the charm of their surroundings with the best of southern hospitality.

Time

Dawny update here for any and all who care… and, honestly, who doesn’t care about sweet Dawny Virgil???

Bottom line:  She is doing GREAT!  I have certainly seen the difference.  Friends have commented on how wonderful she looks.  But it is always good to have solid clinical data to back up what our mere human senses detect and suspect.

The main thing the vets have been tracking through Dawny’s battle with kidney disease is her creatinine level.  Creatinine is a perfectly normal waste product produced by our muscles and filtered out of our system by the kidneys.  Kidney disease inhibits this process, though, and that is why creatinine builds up in the system and is a handy marker to test disease progression.

When Dawny was first diagnosed in March of this year, her creatinine was at 2.2 (1.6 is considered too high).  When I had her tested in May, the creatinine had more than doubled to 4.7.  The vet said she would not be able to survive another doubling of that value.  I figured that if she lived to see August it would be amazing.  She lived.  And she is amazing.

This visit, her creatinine level had only climbed from 4.7 to 4.9.  Incredible!

After the May appointment, I returned to the vet to be trained in subcutaneous fluid injections to help keep my girl hydrated, critical when combating kidney disease. I nearly fainted just looking at the needle and the bag of fluid I was expected to try to slowly squirt into the back of her neck somewhere, somehow.  Yeah, I failed.  And it made me miserable.

So I doubled down on the food side of the battle, shifting most of her meals to home cooked, supplementing with a prescription food from the vet.  In my post of March 21, I talk about Dawny’s diet, specifically what nutrients are best for someone with ailing kidneys.  I will repeat some of that here, although I go into more detail in the earlier post.  If you would like to check that out, you can find it in the archives box to the right.

Here is what we have been doing for the past six months:

Morning and evening meals:  Ground beef (not lean–fatty is better because it is lower in protein) mixed with a roughly equal amount of white rice (not brown, which can contain toxins in the hulls).  Add some sweet potatoes mashed with green beans.  Mix with water to make it like a stew (hydrate hydrate hydrate!).

Lunch:  Hills Prescription Diet K/D dry food (add water) and a heaping spoonful of plain yogurt, which helps her intestinal health–the evidence of which can be seen when she poops nice, solid poops compared to the horror that was exiting her backside last spring.  I feed her the prescription dry food so that she will get some of the nutrients that she may not be getting from my home-cooked meals.  You do need a prescription from a vet to get this food, but the nice thing for a traveler is that you can pick it up at any PetSmart around the country.

Since her original diagnosis last March, our girl has clocked in roughly four more years in human terms.  Four good years.  That is how it would be counted if you figure one dog year equals six human years, which is about what it is for a doggy of her size (30 pounds or so).  That is a lot of time.

In that time, sweet Dawny Virgil has enjoyed our journey from Florida to workamping jobs in Virginia and Pennsylvania, followed by a non-working trip through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to discover new smells and see old friends in Missouri.  A sharp turn back to the east brought us rolling through beautiful Kentucky and Tennessee and then to more jobs in Virginia.  She has witnessed a rare eclipse, celebrated a major birthday (mine), and relished cookies and lovin’ from the hands and hearts of so many, many dear friends.

So, as my girl and I celebrate another Thanksgiving together, I am most grateful for this gift of time–both its quantity and quality–with my best buddy.  I hope each of you have many wonderful things to be grateful for in your lives, as well, and that you enjoy a safe, peaceful, yummy holiday season.

Where’s the Beef?

Where’s the beef???  In Mom’s freezer and, pretty soon, in my tummy!!!!

Mom and I went camping with our Texas cowpoke friends in Missouri a bit ago.  I love the fella, Mr. John.  Those are his feet that I am cuddling up to in the photo to the left.  He knows just where and how to pet me.  As for the lady, Miss Carol, I worship her.  She always has a pocketful of my favorite cookies, and she loves to dole them out to me piece by piece.  It is a lovely game.

Better yet, Miss Carol transferred half a dozen packages of ground cow from her freezer to ours.  She knows I am on a special diet and wanted to contribute to my good health and longevity with beef straight from their personal herd.  Mom says it is magic meat and will probably get me at least through Christmas.  Not bad for a sick old girl that she had all but written off a few short months ago, eh?

Mr. John says that I look great and that Mom is just overreacting to stuff the vets told her.  I really like how that guy thinks.  I also totally agree with him, but I am not letting on.  I am enjoying all the special treatment I’ve been getting, especially the home-cooked diet.

Anyways, we had a great time together.  Lots of walks and visits.  Mr. John and Miss Carol’s house-on-wheels is bigger than ours.  We all fit in there just fine and nobody stepped on me once, though I have to admit I tried my best to trip Miss Carol a couple of times when she was on her way from one spot to another carrying food.  Even if I couldn’t get her to drop what she was carrying, I was hopeful more cookies would spill from her pockets if she went down.  I suppose it is just as well that I did not succeed.  Something tells me that Mom would have banished my old bones from our get-togethers should I not be on her definition of good behavior.

One day we spent a couple of hours outside and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  Mom and our friends were trying to see something funny that was happening up in the sky.  They put weird, dark glasses on their faces and stared up at the sun.  Silly people.  Don’t they know that will give you a headache?  Things did get funky for a while, though, when the sky, trees, and grass all shifted to deeper, cooler shades, the cicadas stopped singing and end-of-the day critter songs took up the oddly-slacking chorus.  But it didn’t last long, and I knew all was well with the world when the cookies and walks resumed.

Our friends didn’t just treat me really special on this visit.  They were super nice to my Mom, too.  Mom had a birthday while we were together and they spoiled her even more than they spoiled me!  That’s all right.  Even Moms deserve a little spoiling now and then.

Back to me.  I was really sad when our visit ended.  Mom and I rolled out of the campground and she told me that our friends were going to head back to their ranch in Texas.  I cried and whined for a bit, then I took a long nap.  Everything looked better when I woke up, even though my ears hurt because Mom was howling (she calls it singing) along with the radio.  Mom says we will get to see these friends again in just a few short months and, before then, we will get to see other people that we love.  Meanwhile, I can enjoy the gift that is in our freezer and–to get to the real meat of the matter–I can relish the memories of all our good times.  So many, many good times.

Yes.  Dogs have great memories.

Especially me.

(Note from Mom to all scientifically-minded readers out there:  The picture of the eclipse included above–taken with a simple i-phone and no filter–shows the brightness of the eclipsed sun (around 98%) at the bottom of the photo.  How many observant eyes noted the curious crescent shape above and to the right?  Somehow, the eclipsed sun’s reflection ended up in those clouds, masquerading as a crescent moon.  Please explain.  Because I cannot.  Feel free to use the comments section so that others can see your explanation.  The prize will be another mystery-puzzle based on a ground photo taken around the same time.  So, come on people, make an educated–or intuitive–guess!)