able/disabled, cats, disabilities, Dogs, health, loneliness, loss, pets, Uncategorized

TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY

The first thing I did when I got home from the hospital was to lie down and cuddle my girl. She seemed to enjoy it, too. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

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Many of you know that I have been incapacitated since mid-February. At first, the doc thought that my problems were respiratory– bronchitis and perhaps pneumonia, so he sent me to the ER.

My daughter met me there, and after I was finally admitted and assigned to a room, we noticed a couple walking two large therapy dogs down the hall. We invited them in. One animal was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and the other an Akita. It lifted my spirits just to have these animals near me. Nuzzling the furry ruff of the Akita and wrapping my arms around its neck brought me great pleasure. Of course, I know that when we pet an animal, our blood pressure goes down. Aside from the science, when embracing another living creature, it makes us realize that all’s right in the world, or more precisely, I was going to be all right. And eventually I was after surgery for unexpected two compression fractures of the spine and a one week stay in a rehabilitation facility.

Therapy dogs at Las Cruces Memorial Hospital. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

 

Decades ago, I wrote a paper called “The Horse Bar Mitzvah,” that became a chapter in a veterinary medicine textbook.* I presented examples and analyses of the relationships between humans and animals in different settings: horse bar mitzvah; cat mitzvah; dog wedding; festivals honoring the human/animal bond, for example, Blessings of the Animals. In addition, I researched the role of service animals: therapy horses, war dogs, rescue dog, therapy dogs.

Since publication (2000), dogs have increasingly played a vital role in our culture, e.g., at airports, sniffing out the taboo garlic and sausages, as well as drugs. And since 9/11, new roles have developed especially at airports, with the focus on explosives and terrorism.

Human/animal relationships keep evolving. Comfort dogs is a new title given to animals that  show up at scenes of disasters. I was moved seeing televised dogs disembarking from a van within 48 hours at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida. Who could not be cheered by seeing these eager animals there to be stroked and embraced by traumatized children and staff?

 

Doesn’t your heart melt at the sight of these comfort dogs brought to the school by a Lutheran Church Charity helping to dispatch K9 Comfort Boots and Paws on the ground?

 

New duties for dogs progress. Yale University has developed a program utilizing rescue dogs in New York low-income public schools. The dogs become reading buddies and foster social development. At my local university (NMSU), dogs are brought in at exam time to lower the distress students feel during this time of high anxiety. Courthouse Dogs allow specially trained service dogs to accompany children during testimony in a courtroom.

Since my return home from the hospitals, my cat, Sweetie Beattie, is never more than inches away from me. At first, I employed a caregiver to help me with pain issues during the night. Whenever, she came into the bedroom to take care of me, Sweetie Beattie lay at the foot of my bed skeptically eyeing all the caregiver’s movements. Or else she sat on the dresser warily watching the activities. During that time, I called her the Night Nurse for she acted as if she were supervising – definitely looking out for my interest.

The Night Nurse, aka, Sweetie Beattie supervising my activities. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

As aloof as she may ordinarily be, Sweetie seems to sense that I need more of her attention now. Even as I am here at the keyboard, she is on top of my desk backed up against my computer, and with my extended pinky I can stroke the fur on her back. Can that compete with steroids and antibiotics? No, but she is a fantastic supplement.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is mad about her Sweetie Beattie.

 

*Companion Animals and Us:Exploring the Relationships Between People and Pets. Eds: Podberscek and Serpell. Cambridge University Press, UK., 2000.

Visit my online museum: Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture, https://flpcgallery.org

loneliness, Los Angeles Times, loss, senior online dating

“The Number You Have Reached Is No Longer In Service.”

My heart sank when I heard the above message while trying to reach a friend by phone.  Optimistically, I called again hoping I had mis-dialed the first time.  No. the message repeated.

Old Fashioned telephone.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Old Fashioned telephone. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

In this most recent experience I was calling a gentleman I had met online, someone I used to see before I moved from California to New Mexico.  We became good friends, but he had severe health problems that worsened after I left.  His condition deteriorated so dramatically that that was our main topic of conversation when we talked by phone.  Nonetheless, he regularly tried to liven up the dialogue by asking, “Are you running for Mayor yet?”  Now he was dead.

Loss of friends and family members is painful, but that is the price we pay for having outlived them.  I remind myself daily to be grateful for each moment that I have when I can do as I please, something as simple as getting out of bed on my own.

When we are young we don’t think about our physical moves.  I used to drive my car into the garage and make numerous trips sprinting up and down the front stairs while carrying groceries and children.  No longer.  Now I plan each move, especially when getting in and out of the car.

Another significant loss occurred when a friend called to say she saw a high school friend’s name in the Los Angeles Times obituaries.  I called his home and confirmed that he had died.  He was my boyfriend from junior high school.  We remained friends from then on, albeit with many time gaps of non-interaction as we moved our separate ways.  But over the last decades we had renewed our friendship, mostly via e-mail and an occasional phone call and attendance at special occasions.

When close friends and family members die, especially mates, loneliness is a realistic expectation.  But it isn’t a given.  One must continue to honor and cherish the gift of life that we have been given.

After my husband died in 2007, I co-authored a book with Fredda Wasserman called, Saying Goodbye to Someone You Love: Your Emotional Journey through End of Life and Grief (Demos, 2010).  We included a pithy quote from someone in a grief support group.

“Do you believe in life after death?”

“Yes, MY life!”

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who, despite widowhood and infirmities, is grateful for every day that she has.