At the Corner of Old Dog Road and Route H1N1

So far so good, I’ve been sitting here for five minutes, and I haven’t been struck down by disease or stopped by an old dog ailment. The two seem to have in common me working on my blog or even jut setting aside time to write. I’m referring to two different days in the last six weeks that I had actually reached my computer without procrastination, distraction or all the other -ions luring  me away from my creative passion. It was regular old life that struck.

About a month ago, I got hit by the dreaded, much-worried-over swine flu. I understand that the pig farmers don’t want us to relate it to their smart farm animals, but, really H1N1 sounds like a nice scenic alternative to the interstate. It’s not. Not at all. In fact, I propose that the nasty virus critter be called “Chihuahua Flu.” It bites you in the ass as soon as you turn your back on it. I’ve seen this little-dog phenomenon. I used to walk a fiesty chihuahua named Max on the sidewalks of Chicago. We’d pass someone, and all of a sudden he’d be launched at the unsuspecting person’s backside. (I think their anger comes from their ancestors being buried alive with royalty in a long-ago era. A breed doesn’t get over that.)Max

So it was with swine/chihuahua/scenic-route flu. I had been fighting off a low grade cold, fever, something for about two weeks, but then felt better, even good enough to start drafting a post. The next day, bam, kapow, down you sucker, I was blasted by the flying pig disease. You don’t want this even if it is trendy and all over the news, and even if you don’t know its name.

I was in Chicago at the end of September, and on my first afternoon, I was greeted with a hug by an old acquaintance. He then said, “Oh, I should have asked first.” I was confused and thought to myself, “sexual harassment awareness was more of a 90’s thing and besides, we’ve hugged before.” I asked why, and he said that it was because of H1N1. I’m not a big news watcher or newspaper reader so somehow I had missed this letters and numbers combo or more accurately letter/number/letter/number name. Besides, Helena hadn’t really been hit by the virus. So I happily shared my ignorance, and he explained it to me. “They don’t want you to call it Swine Flu.” Okay, note to self. Love the swine, hate the sickness. By the time I arrived back in Helena ten days later, the not-S flu epidemic had begun.

I don’t know if I picked it up on the plane coming back with the recycled coughing-spit air or on a cart at a Helena grocery store. No matter, I had a lot of time to think about it during the week that I made my way from bed to couch to bed. I pictured a new seating arrangement on planes. First boarding group would be the ones with a cough from the depths of their lungs and those feverish-looking. They would be seated in the front section where they could cough forward. Pilots would be safe because of their sealed compartment. The airline could assign an infected flight attendant. It would be like a “swine flu party” that is mentioned on FAQ on the internet. “Is it good to go ahead and get infected to get it over with by having your infected friends come over with your non-infected ones?” (Stupid question because of the expense of the stretchers to get the sick people there. Anyway, the answer is no.)

Postcard I received while I was sick from my health insurance company about fighting the flu.

Postcard I received while I was sick from my health insurance company about fighting the flu.

Second boarding group would be first class. They are most likely to have good health insurance so no special treatment, and they already get free champagne and warm cookies.

Final group would be the well middle-lower economic or frugal-with-good-health-insurance-rich-people class. There would be a $20 fee, but they would get a face mask with the airline’s catch phrase (“Delta Sky Team”) printed on it, some handi-wipes, and a Flu Marshall monitoring coughs and sneezes with Lysol spray. Hopefully the masks would help with any allergies to lemon freshness. For another five dollars you could get extra wipes or rubber gloves to go with your ten-dollar meal to kill any lingering germs from food prep to flight attendant handling. Passengers would be on their own liability dollar for pillows and blankets. These are for the gamblers, usually smokers, that have a “health-be-damned, I-will-survive” attitude. Just you wait, when you’re down with the chihuahuas calling for your mommy, you’ll think again.

Many friends asked via telephone what my symptoms were: aforementioned “I want my mommy” cry not uttered in 40 years; sudden onset of high temp with aches in every bone, cell, nerve ending, etc.; tight chest that feels like every air pocket is full of rubber cement; loss of appetite (this is where it veers off from pig-like); and lethargy, which is actually good because if you stand up too much, you pass out. There are other intestinal maladies which I was spared. Then after one feels better, the attention-grabbing deep cough goes on for about two weeks while the ability to sit up for more than 6 hours increases. Three weeks or so it’s done unless you do too much and the chihuahua is lurking. Don’t ever turn your back on one of them.

For the time being, keep some 12-hour Mucinex, cough syrup, Advil, Tylenol, kleenex, thermometer, salt water, bland soup, ginger ale, tea, honey, lemon, and saltines in stock (with this, whiskey doesn’t even sound good). CVS would be smart to have these at the front of the store in an emergency pack so no one passes out in their building while gathering all the items. Get cough drops early because when I went, the cheaper ones were all out, and I didn’t have the strength or nerve to knock down fellow flu sufferers to get the last of the Riccolo. We knew each other by our glassy eyes.

Three weeks pass and it’s last Thursday when I’m almost back to health, can sit in front of the computer with a nearly clear mind, and Emma the 100-year old golden retriever that owns me starts having trouble with her back legs. I’ve been told by other owners of old goldens that this can happen suddenly, but it seemed too sudden so off we go to the vet. She gets a spine adjustment treatment during which the vet feel the lump just under the surface of her skin. This is alarming to her and says Em needs to have it taken out right away. Blood test follows and reveals acute pancreatitis and high glucose level, which could be why her legs are weak. So $700 and 24 hours later, I get a dog back with tumor removed and instructions to give her insulin shots every morning. Those who have spent any time with me know that I have a “benign familial essential tremor” (meaning it’s no big deal, my brothers have it, but it’s weird) so the mix of my shake and a needle are a bit daunting and humorous. Good thing it’s a tiny needle and Em isn’t a young bouncy golden. TIME TO GO, ALREADY.


She is fine now, back to her happy self, legs stronger, and the tumor wasn’t the really bad kind. I still have a lot of gripper rugs in a line on the wooden floors so she can get places without sliding down with legs in all directions. It hurts to watch even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal to her. Dogs really don’t sweat the small stuff, just smell the hint of meat from three rooms away.

Stay well, smell the meat (roses for you vegetarians) along the way, and never ever turn your back on an ass-chomping chihuahua.

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