Sunday, December 2, 2012

Anxiety attacks? Blame the dog

Our girl Kisses  (Photo courtesy The Saint)

When you’re a writer, you try to look at any misfortune in your life as a type of blessing, because once you know how it feels to go through whatever it is, you can write about it with more authenticity.

The operative word there is try. Succeeding at viewing misfortune as a blessing is quite another matter. Right now I’m failing at it. There are some things I’d just really rather not go through, no matter how great a blessing they may be in disguise.

As one example, let’s take anxiety attacks. Definitely not on the list of things about which I’d say, “Sure! Lemme go through some of those so I can see how they feel then write about them with more authenticity. Yeah!”

To tell you the truth, being blessed with nerves more or less of steel, or at least pretty solid aluminum, I never understood the whole anxiety attack thing. I even thought they sounded silly. When friends cried on my shoulder about being plagued by this ailment, I was sympathetic and genuinely felt awful for them, but on the inside, I admit I was secretly rolling my eyes. “Oh, for criminy’s sake, grow up already,” it was tempting to instruct. “Don’t let life get the better of you. Chin up and forge ahead.”

In my heart, I was mean. I was judgmental. And boy, was I was stupid.

Blame it on a dog

As usual, there’s a dog to blame for this life lesson. She’s one of our large herd of rescued ex-street pooches at home with The Saint (hubsy) in San Diego. Her name is Kisses. I can’t even type it without crying. Last week a veterinarian said she might have only a year or less.

Even if she didn’t have an elevated calcium level, and even if that wasn’t possibly indicative of a tumor somewhere in her body, at her age, which is 12 or more, you can’t expect a long future.

Our boy Diogenes (Photo courtesy The Saint)
In addition to her there’s Diogenes, another senior, and none of the rest of our brood are young anymore either.

They’re in California. I’m in Greece. Between us lie 8,000 miles, and at the very least another month.

The freight train

While The Saint explained via Skype the results of all the vet’s tests on Kisses, including blood work, ultrasound, and x-rays, I listened calmly, rationally, thinking of important questions we should ask, and remembering to thank The Saint for taking such excellent care of everybody during my ridiculously extended absence.

Of course I had a good cry after we hung up—a normal, healthy response. Then I had to pull my chin up and forge ahead with feeding/medicating/walking Agapi, the ill street dog I rescued in September. That’s also a normal and healthy response.

It wasn’t until I’d come back inside and was innocently washing a pot that the first one hit. Like a freight train. No, let me rephrase that: slammed like a freight train, right into my chest.

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Felt I was locked inside a box with several tons weighing down on me. Sweaty and freezing at the same time. Like I needed to scream and cry for about the next twenty years, and it still wouldn’t be enough.

The best tranquilizer

In the week since we got the news about Kisses, the freight train has slammed through here about a dozen more times. I want it to stop. Toward that end there are relaxation exercises, focused breathing, and yoga-type things going on.

My foster boy Agapi (Photo: Katerina Lorenzatos Makris)
But no amount of yoga and whatnot will erase the fact that I can’t go home till Agapi finds his home—a loving, patient adopter. Given his health and behavior issues, this could take a while.

In an upcoming post, I’ll write about Kisses, and how she found her home—namely, ours. For sure it will make me cry to remember the first time I saw her, in a ditch in Houston. But it will also make me calm, as I think about the feel of her fur, as soft as a mink's, and her compulsion to bathe everybody with slurps (guess why the name), and her silly puppy yips when she wants to be pet, which is nearly always.

All the relaxation exercises, special breathing, and yoga in the world can’t top the calm you get from the presence—or even the imagined presence—of a dog you love.

That’s a life lesson I learned a long time ago.

More on why I'm in Greece:

More on Agapi:

Read Melissa Beamish's excellent blog about her round-the-world trip volunteering in animal shelters, including a month at Kefalonia's ARK.

To donate or to volunteer on behalf of animals in Kefalonia, contact Animal Rescue Kefalonia (ARK) and Kefalonia Animal Trust (KATs).

The Dozen Dog Diaries (DDD) would be delighted if you'd spread the links to these articles. Please just keep in mind that reprint or re-post of more than a paragraph or two of the text or of any of the photos is allowable only by explicit permission from DDD, who may be contacted at youradopteddogATyahooDOTcom. Thanks for visiting!

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