Dispatches from the pet hospital, the book launch, the design awards, and more; or, A very full week
Actually a week and a half, because while I was thinking about how full one week could be, another half week went by.
Sometimes all that happens in your week is that you set up an air conditioner and a couple of book cases. Then a new week starts and a Monday work day is followed by the seemingly mundane fact of a small bit of foam on the floor of your office upstairs. I said to Stephen, kind of jovial: "Someone yorked on the carpet" and went to clean it up.
Tuesday, after at least two more, increasingly weighty pukes the night before and another I found in the morning, we were off to the vet where they took blood and X-rays. Nicholas wasn't eating and was in obvious distress. On the way to the vet, me in the passenger seat with Nicholas curled on my lap, I saw a billboard advertising a medical study to stop dogs from being poisoned, followed a little farther by a building off the freeway called something like Cherished Pets, touting itself as a "pet cremation and funeral center."
Wednesday. All tests negative and Nicholas still not eating, not drinking, looking up at me on shaky, spindly Chihuahua legs with tail tucked. The vet said go to Dove Lewis for an ultrasound. We knew Dove Lewis from the time, years ago, that Nicholas ate a bit of a dog toy and it lodged in his intestine and he had to have surgery, and this was looking scarily similar to that time. Driving to the place, Nicholas curled on my lap again, Stephen said, "Oh god, I never saw that before," passing by Cherished Pets.
Park the car, head up the pavement to the animal hospital. The wall along the walk is all individual bricks engraved with the names of beloved departed dogs and cats.
Green vomit on the floor of the animal hospital. Ultrasound. Animal Planet on silent on the big screen TV in the waiting room. Consultation in one of those little rooms, and yes: obstruction in the intestine. The very jolly animal doctor said, "We're going to get him into surgery and get that puppy out!" Would the vet really have said "puppy"? I don't know. That's how I remember it.
We were back to Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary where it just so happened to be our vet's surgery day. We left Nicholas there and Stephen dropped me off at work, where I looked at spreadsheets for about three hours and waited for Stephen to call from home saying the vet had called to let us know whether Nicholas had survived.
You can't help it. You look at the phone and picture the way it will ring and how Stephen's going to have to tell you the vet called and she's sorry, there was nothing she could do.
The photo on my computer desktop was Nicholas. I sent an email. The little profile picture in the corner of the message was Nicholas. I jumped on the project management program we use and made a comment on a to-do list of one of our graphic designers, and the little profile picture next to my comment was Nicholas.
I picked up my phone to check for messages in case something awful had happened and Stephen couldn't bear to call me and could only broach the subject in a text.
It was 6ish when the phone rang. Heart pounding. Stephen's "Hello!" was cheerful, so it must be OK. He said he'd called the vet and they were still in surgery, so he had to leave now to pick me up in time to get to the vet before they closed. We drove over. We waited. The girls behind the counter were all cheerful so it must be OK.
When they finally brought him out after surgery, Nicholas was belly-shaved and dopey, the tip of his tongue peeking out of his mouth. We took him back to Dove Lewis for an over-nighter, and drove home to sleep alone. I went to the store for comfort food and we sat in front of the TV and I ate half a frozen pizza.
Thursday. June 1, my nephew's 18th birthday. It was also the day they announced the PubWest Design Awards. Crazily, I won the gold in the small format cover design category for my book cover of Jamie Yourdon's novel Froelich's Ladder.
I'd never won anything before, except for the Easter egg coloring contest at the grocery store when I was a kid, and that time I'd tied for first place with a girl who made rainbow-colored starbursts all over her egg.
There was a link to the PubWest awards page, and people were sharing it on Facebook and I was so honored, but I couldn't concentrate on anything but Nicholas. When we brought him home, we took him out in the backyard to pee and he immediately threw up in the grass. The last time he had this surgery, the recovery was just as bad as the stress of the surgery itself, with lots of hours of doggy distress and a trip or two back to Dove Lewis because he seemed to be healing up so poorly.
Dr. Prull said the critical thing in this first day after surgery was that he eat and keep it down. We gave him some of the special diet the vet gave us. He refused it. We let him rest. We gave him some of the special diet. He refused it.
Finally, Stephen called the vet and left the message that he wasn't doing well and wouldn't eat. I sat in my office upstairs with Nicholas at my feet in a nest made of his doggy bed covered in towels and blankets. The pain medication made him sleepy and he didn't seem to be in as much discomfort as the last time, but he wouldn't eat, which meant we couldn't give him his antibiotic and we thought for sure we'd be taking him back to Dove Lewis for the night.
I said to Stephen,"When she calls back, let's ask if we can try giving him cottage cheese," which was part of the bland diet they'd suggested before the surgery.
Stephen said, "Just try it."
So I did. And he ate it.
Joy. It wasn't until Nicholas started eating again that I finally shared the lovely news about the award. Clicking share was somehow like saying cheers and sipping champagne to Nicholas.
Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Me at my computer doing design work, sometimes with Nicholas in his nest on my lap, sometimes with him asleep at my feet. The ritualistic feedings, hiding pills, squirting antibiotic in his mouth with one of those syringes. At night Stephen slept in the bed and I slept upstairs curled up on three pillows on the floor with Nicholas in his nest next to me with the cone on. He had one of those blue cloth cones, but he still hated it, and I'd wake up here and there in the middle of the night always to find him lying, eyes open, staring at me.
Other bits of life happening around all of this. Our realtor gave us fresh cut peonies for a vase on our dining room table. I had a visit from writer Alex Behr with an advanced reader copy of her book Planet Grim and a handmade pillow as an extra thank you for the design work I did on her book cover. On facebook there were pictures of more advanced readers, this time for the second in Jeff Johnson's Darby Holland crime series, which I also did design work for. There were literary readings we couldn't go to. And protests and antiprotests in downtown Portland, and don't even get me started on politics, with tweets and covfefes heading into Comey's testimony.
Monday. Back to work while Stephen stayed home with Nicholas. It was the first time I'd left him since the surgery. At the door on the way out, Stephen made an impatient face before I could say anything and said, "Don't worry. I can take care of him." In the car, I put on my seat belt, switched on the radio and put the car in gear, one hand out instinctively to protect Nicholas, invisible, in the passenger seat, as I pulled out of the driveway.
From work, I emailed Stephen at two hour intervals asking for progress reports.
Tuesday was a scheduled day off because I was speaking to a graphic design class at PSU. It was a wonderful hour and a half in which I showed slides of various book covers and outtakes and told stories and took questions about inspiration and process and working with publishers. There were, oh, fifteen to twenty students, all eager and interested. They asked lots of great questions. It was fun to talk about my self-taught, DIY process, fun to tell them that they undoubtedly had more skills and knowledge, already, than I do and yet, look what I can do, meaning my gosh, look at what they can and will be able to do.
I told about the first time I used Adobe Illustrator: "I was so excited about the program, but there was something wrong with it! There was a pen tool but when I tried to draw with it, the line turned into this weird object, and there was an eraser, but it wouldn't erase anything in my pictures!"
Big laughs from these students who knew exactly what I meant. I felt glowy inside. These were my people.
Wednesday, a full week since the surgery. Nicholas in his bed on the kitchen floor as I cooked breakfast and lunch. His recovery was so much better than the time before. So much better. He rarely seemed uncomfortable. He rarely seemed at all interested in the incision place. I worked all day and then that night was the first time we left him alone by himself, to go out and celebrate Bradley K. Rosen and his novel Bunkie Spills.
I spent years in Tom Spanbauer's basement reading, critiquing, and having a love affair with that book as I sat next to Brad at the workshop table. Brad's reading that night at Powell's City of Books has got to be one of my favorite book launches ever. (Thank you to Laura Stanfill for these pictures.)
One hundred plus people packed the place and Brad's reading was quirky and hilarious and heartfelt, and he had complete, self-deprecating command of the audience. Doug Chase's intro was perfect. Brad's entrance, playing a harmonica like Bunkie, was perfect. His "reverse moment of silence" where he got the whole crowd to holler admiration to Tom Spanbauer, was better than perfect.
And it was an evening of such community. His Dangerous Writing friends, other writing friends, musician friends, Oregon Country Fair friends, family.
So much to pack into little over a week. And more, still. Some things I feel jinxy to talk about, some things that I feel best to just give a quick line to because of their import. A loved one's pregnancy. A loved one's senior class project, which I just read. A loved one in the hospital. A loved one getting married (today) (now). Yesterday was the ten year anniversary of the death of Stephen's father, which I can't quite believe. Ten years. Last night we got together with the family and went around the room and talked about him and told stories. What everyone said: I'll just say it was beautiful.
Saturday now. Me on the computer. Nicholas curled up in his bed at my feet. This morning, as I slept in (in bed with Nicholas for the first time since the surgery) we had our first hummingbird visit to our garden.