A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy Ending

(Left: Alexia. Right: Rosco. Photo by Miguel Buchwald.)

For Rosco the puppy, last Friday was the second-best day of his life, second only to the day five months ago when he was adopted by Kate McFarland of Oakland and her parents, Rick and Carolyn.
Rosco, a 7-month-old, brown-and-white fluffball with a black button nose and two coal black eyes, was playing with his favorite squeaky toy when the doorbell rang.
In walked his sister Alexia, whom he hadn't seen since they both survived a medical ordeal that shouldn't happen to, well, a dog.
Both dogs jumped for joy. He chased her around the room. Then she chased him around the room. Then they rolled around together and wrestled. Then, totally bushed, they flopped down and curled up together for about five minutes. Then they jumped up and started the whole routine all over again.
This continued non-stop for more than three hours. The puppies were in ecstasy. And so were their owners, watching them.
"When I think of how close both of them came to dying, it's a joy to see them so happy and healthy," said Sandy Buchwald of Vallejo who, with her husband Miguel, adopted Alexia.
Rosco and Alexia were part of a litter that were rescued last March by Paw Prints Rescue in Yuba City after they were abandoned by their mother. The two puppies were so devoted to each other, the staffers at Paw Prints dubbed them "The Twins."
Roscoe was adopted by the McFarlands after they saw his picture online and were instantly smitten. Ditto for Alexia and the Buchwalds. They were headed for happy homes, but it was doubtful that they would ever see each other again.
But a few days later, Rosco developed severe vomiting and diarrhea. His worried owners rushed him to PETS Referral Center in Berkeley, where Dr. Shea Cox, the veterinarian on duty, diagnosed parvovirus, a highly contagious and potentially lethal disease, especially in puppies.
The next day he was feeling better, so he was sent home to continue his recovery. Two hours after he left, another puppy was brought in with the same symptoms.
It was Alexia, and she was even sicker than Rosco. Pneumonia and anemia set in on top of the parvovirus, and she was soon struggling for her life.
The next day, Rosco's condition started deteriorating again, and he returned to the hospital. It was only then that the McFarlands and Buchwalds finally met. They put two and two together and realized that their puppies were littermates.
Dr. Cox put Rosco and Alexia in side-by-side cages in intensive care, hooked them up to IVs, and worked day and night to keep them alive. By now, they were down to less than three pounds.
"I had to stop the vomiting and diarrhea because they were dying of starvation and thirst," she said. "I gave them anti-emetics, antibiotics, sugar and potassium supplements, and plasma transfusions as a protein source. Plasma contains small proteins - not enough to do a big dog any good, but enough for small dogs like them."
But the best medicine of all was each other.
"It was so comforting knowing that Alexia was no longer alone in the isolation ward," said Sandy Buchwald. "I knew that if either of these puppies ever had a chance of fighting this illness off, it would be now, when they could comfort and support each other."
And she was right. After a week of medical treatment and loads of TLC, the puppies were well enough to return to their respective homes.
But they haven't seen each other since then. Alexia had to be spayed, Rosco had to be neutered, and their owners wanted to take time to let the incisions heal for fear that in their unrestrained joy at seeing each other they might tear their stitches.
That waiting period ended last Friday. By now, Rosco has grown to 15 pounds, and Alexia isn't far behind at 13 pounds. They are the picture of health and high spirits.
While the puppies cavorted, their owners compared notes and were amazed to discover how similar their personalities are.
Both love tummy rubs. Both love to chew flip-flops. Both love to ride in cars. Both like to lick the water from their owners' legs when they emerge from the shower.
Both are voracious chowhounds. Both are addicted to their squeaky toys. And both are utterly devoted to their owners - and each other.
About three hours into this play date the doorbell rang again. It was Dr. Cox, who stopped by to say hi to her former patients.
The puppies exploded with joy at seeing her again, and she wiped more than a few tears from her eyes.
""They made it!" she said. "They really did it! They were so weak when I first met them, they couldn't even lift their heads. And now look at them!"
And will there be more play dates in the future?
"Are you kidding?" says Carolyn McFarland. "After all they've been through together? These dogs will never be apart again!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Squandering The Spirit of 9/11

I know this sounds crazy, but I miss 9/11.
It even sounds crazy to me because that was the worst day of my life, and I suspect it was for you, too.
Each of us is haunted by memories of that day and the ones that followed. I will never forget the sad sight of the victims' families placing missing posters at Ground Zero, putting on a brave face and hoping against hope that their loved ones were still alive. I don't miss that.
What I miss is the wave of national unity that swept the county. My first column after the attacks began with the words, "Well, the 2000 election is finally over," and I had high hopes that the bitterness of the Bush/Gore election would be swept away by the realization that, to paraphrase Jefferson, we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats, united by a common dream of a land with liberty and justice for all.
Pretty naïve, huh? It didn't take long for us to get back to normal. And by normal, I mean dysfunctional.
Ronald Reagan used to ask, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" And by any measure you use, we are worse off than we were in 2001.
Our Bill of Rights, economy, military, schools, infrastructure and international reputation are in tatters. Crucial problems such as immigration, climate change, the decline of the cities, the growing gap between the rich and poor and the pernicious influence of big money on our politics, have been kicked down the road - some, I fear, past the point of no return.
But the worst problem, the one that underlies all the others, is that many Americans hate other Americans more than they love their country.
And they're being egged on by cynical politicians and partisan media figures who tell them over and over to fear their fellow citizens.
The 9/11 tragedy isn't the only anniversary we're observing this year. It's also the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War and the 70th anniversary of our entry into World War II.
In the first case Americans split apart, and the result was more than 650,000 deaths. In the second case Americans came together, and they saved the world.
Now it's our turn. It's time to decide what kind of country we want to be. We are at a crossroads, and it can go either way.
There are some dangerous tendencies at work in the land. A lot of loose words are being thrown around about secession and "Second Amendment remedies." People are showing up at political rallies with loaded weapons. And some crazies are going even further - witness the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
This kind of reckless talk was common in the years leading up to the Civil War, too. Sure, we don't think it will come to war this time, but that's what people thought in 1860, too.
Lincoln, of course, described it best:
"All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came."
United we stand, divided we fall.