Sunday, July 16, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dog Tales and Tails

This weekend we face the sorrowful serious illness of Zelda, the 16-year-old dog who has been with me, my kids, and the Love of My Life through many of life's adventures. Stories and poems about her have appeared in my book and my blogs, and she has her own loving group of fans. As we go through this very difficult time that is inevitable for any pet parent, I'd like to share one of the stories about Zelda and the other dogs who have shared my life. All brought me joy, happiness, and at times, crazy adventures. This dog tale appears both in my book "Treading Water" and in "Dogs: Heart-warming, soul-stirring stories of our Canine Companions," edited by John Cali. 

Zelda's beauty shot. Note her mustache. :)

Dog Tails     

     A few days ago, my 10-month-old puppy, Zelda (who, yes, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, must, on a regular basis, be locked up) decided to take an unauthorized tour of the neighborhood. She escaped from me as I was attempting to put her outside on her chain. I had just gotten home from work and was still dressed in my work clothes, complete with pantyhose and red high heels. As she dashed down the driveway and across the street, I followed her as quickly as possible, a demented Dorothy in ruby slippers trying to retrieve a very poorly behaved Toto.       
     Zelda was not trying to run over the rainbow, but rather indulge in a neighborhood-wide game of “Chase.” Looking over her shoulder she would let me get almost close enough to touch her, and then she would bound out of reach. It was a great entertainment for my neighbors, who, for some reason or another, were reluctant to join in the game. Well, it could be the fact that Zelda often appears with a muzzle on (a vain attempt to discourage constant barking and grass-eating) or perhaps the huge Beware of Dog sign on my house, meant to discourage unwanted visitors when I am not home.       
     So, my neighbors stood behind their fences, laughing and pointing as Zelda, a golden retriever mix with a huge tail held up like a flag, raced back and forth, with me hobbling after her in my workday finery and red shoes. Finally, I was able to corner her against a fence and drag her disobedient furry butt home. She immediately drank an entire bowl of water, and collapsed on the floor, with an expression on her face that clearly said, “now that was fun.”    
     She had the same look on her face when it was discovered that she had chewed my daughter’s entire wardrobe of underwear – an act that clearly warned the dangers of leaving unattended laundry baskets on the floor. It’s an expression that Zelda sports anytime one discovers her chewing on things she shouldn’t, such as vacuum cleaner cords and watchbands. To add to the aggravation, she usually has her own dog toy right next to the illegal object, as if to say, “Oops, I chewed the wrong thing.”      
     Having this puppy in the house brings back memories of all the dog mischief I have been subjected to my entire life. Now some families are not dog families and cannot comprehend why we are willing to subject ourselves to this. To those families all I can say is — you haven’t lived until you come home to find your house has been gleefully redecorated with the fragrant contents of your kitchen garbage can, or the family is reduced to sitting on folding chairs to watch TV, because, the couch belongs to the dog.      
     However, if you are a dog family, you understand that the joy and companionship far outweigh the chewed up camera straps and stained carpeting. And the stories of the dogs that spend their lives with you become the stuff of family legend.      
     The dog that I grew up with was a good-natured Bassett hound named The Red Baron. A show dog with a championship bloodline, I occasionally would show him in the Junior Showmanship section of American Kennel Club dog shows. But unlike the professional dogs who arrived in crates with fancy grooming tables, Red would ride in the car like one of the kids, his paws resting on the back of the front seat and his nose constantly knocking off my father’s hat. This was also the lazy, slow moving dog who, at the mere mention of bedtime, would be off like a shot, flying up the stairs as fast as his short little legs would carry him. If you weren’t able to catch up with him, he would jump in your bed first; settle in the exact middle with his head on the pillow, forcing you to sleep, blanketless, on the edge.           
     Later, as a single young woman living alone, I felt the need for a dog not only for companionship but protection. This was naturally what I was looking for when I fell for a miniature dachshund in a pet store. I named him Max, after the song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. I can’t explain why I felt the need to name my dog after a musical serial killer; however, I think he took it very seriously. Max was the only schizophrenic dog I have ever had, and all I can say is, thank goodness he only weighed 5 pounds. 
     At certain times, Max would station himself under a chair and attack anything, including my feet that passed by. Attempts to clip his nails induced a mania that required 3 people to control. And once, while romping in the yard at my parent’s house, he bit down on a stick so hard, the ends snapped off, leaving the middle of the stick firmly lodged against the roof of his mouth. It took the entire family to hold him down, open his mouth and yank out the stick. He promptly rewarded my father by sinking his teeth into his hand. Biting the hand that fed him was Max’s hobby.    
     Gypsy was the dog who served as the “first child” when I was married. A devoted and well-trained German shepherd she was popular in our circle of friends. But friends are in short supply when your dog goes out in the yard and meets a skunk. No one wants to come over and help you douse her with tomato juice, orange juice, baby powder and vinegar. Kids run away screaming, slamming their bedroom doors and yelling “she’s not sleeping in here tonight!” So much for all her years of loyalty.        
     So, now we have Zelda. Born in a junkyard and bottle fed by a kindly family who rescued her from a malnourished mother, Zelda still feels the need to be cuddled and held. The problem is, she is almost 50 pounds, with a tail that would be more appropriate for a horse. Days and nights are spent keeping her body off the furniture, her paws off guests, her head out of the fishbowl and her tail away from anything not nailed down. Her extreme distractibility means that she often takes a drink of water, forgets to swallow it, and proceeds to dribble it all over the first person she encounters.     
     I’ve been trying hard to come up with a solution that keeps Zelda occupied and doesn’t involve house demolition. Finally, yesterday, I turned down a road I don’t usually take, and passed a huge facility called Canine Academy. There, behind sturdy, tall fencing was an elaborate dog obstacle course, complete with things to jump over, squeeze under, crawl through and run around. The perfect place for Zelda and her Olympic-style dog tricks. I made a mental note to call the school right away and get information on how she can join in — just as soon as I catch her.

©2008, 2009, 2012 Noreen Braman

Monday, July 10, 2017

Foot Follies – Week 8 Can a broken foot affect the brain?

Can a broken foot affect the brain? 
Studying the brain is very stylish these days. What was once thought by ancient Egyptian embalmers as a spongy, useless skull filler has now become the favored organ to poke, prod, scan, and monitor. A quick search of the internet (and you know if you see it on the internet, it is true) reveals places such as the University of Texas seeking subjects for the following important brain studies:

Recent studies have looked at why people are so resistant when their political views are challenged, the effects of diabetes and weight on brain function, and one that states that a sleep-deprived brain will actually eat itself. There are so many brain studies that Forbes Magazine actually selects at top 10 each year. And there are some pretty interesting ones covered over the years.

So, it is not so far-fetched that this eight week broken bone journey may include some effects on my brain. Effects that have led me to do things, like, say, forgetting to put the filter basket back into the Mr. Coffee and plopping the paper filter and coffee grounds into the empty compartment, starting the coffee maker, leaving the kitchen, and coming back to find a flood of French vanilla coffee spilling into cabinet drawers and onto the floor. Little things like that, not anything that might start pointing to any kind of other brain problem, just stuff caused by a broken bone.

There is the rare possibility of a fat embolism from a broken bone, but that is going to happen right away. According to the Mayo Clinic, a fat embolism in the brain can cause symptoms that range from “drowsiness, to seizures, to coma.” It doesn’t say anything about “stupid mistakes.” (Although, that “drowsiness” part is pretty tempting.) But at eight weeks out, I have to cross fat embolism off the list.

There is a study that says a broken heart can actually hurt like a broken bone, but that doesn’t apply. There is a song called “Brain Dead” by a group called Broken Bones, but the sad and scary lyrics about a person on life support thankfully don’t apply here either.

There is a great article in Science News from June 2017 indicating that there is really a bone/brain communication connection. Previously thought of as “dead” matter, bones turn out to be dynamic machines, pumping out new cells, and releasing hormones that communicate with the brain about quite a few things. Included are, appetite, energy level, blood sugar, and — wait — “memory and mood.”  BINGO!

The science is very new, has only been done in mice (see my previous articles about mice and rats) and “researchers are finding new ways these hormones might work.”

Science fan that I am, this news is enough for me to extrapolate a theory that bones that release important hormones to the brain could actually suffer an interruption in that process if a bone is broken. And I can further theorize that possibly, the Fifth Metatarsal is the bone that controls most of the “memory and mood” hormones. Combine that broken bone with my recent recurrence of thyroid hormone troubles (the thyroid being the body’s hormone thermostat) and I conclude that I just might be suffering broken bone induced memory loss. If this is not an official diagnosis yet, medical researchers can feel free to quote me. Braman's Syndrome is not yet taken by any other condition as far as I know. I will happily volunteer for the "This is your brain. This is your brain on a broken foot" PSA.

So, leaving the lovely card for yesterday’s bride and groom in the car at home wasn’t really my fault. The French vanilla coffee flood this morning was actually a medical issue, as well as the keys left in the door, the cell phone that is never where I left it and all the other assorted brain freezes of the past eight weeks. It is all the fault of my broken foot! The broken foot that I took to the doctor at 10 AM this morning for x-rays. Unfortunately, my appointment was for 3 PM.

Forbes Top 10 lists

Science News

and PS: kudos to all who discovered that the Broken Bone Effect affected my grammar.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Stacking Up the Complaints for Filing - a poem to dump my troubles in and a laughter exercise

Complaint Litany

Depression and poor sleep
never good
blood work out of balance
cause for lethargy and weight gain
fuzzy thinking
bad memory
To Do lists growing longer
office stuff undone from last month
broken foot unhealed
achy joints and itchy skin.

Caring for an elderly dog
mobility impaired
Half blind
two weak legs
digestive issues
and incontinent
we mirror each other in our inactivity.

Wonder about the family
whispering  “here comes the trouble fairy”
I’m also sick of listening to myself
so writing them down
the litany of complaints
to get them out of my head
and make room for something productive.


©2017 Noreen Braman

Have a complaint litany of your own? Make a list, with each complaint on its own line.  Then, read each line out loud, and at the end of the line, say HA HA HA, next line say, HO HO HO, next line, HEE HEE HEE, and repeat to the end. When you are done, take a deep breath smile, then laugh. Start off with pretend laughter and see if you can break into real hearty laughter. No worries, even the pretend laughter tells your brain to release endorphins which help you feel better. Still feeling lethargic or anxious? Try a little mindful breathing. Below is a poem to help you with that, alternate breathing in and out deeply with each line.  I'm doing this with you! We can lift our spirits and forge ahead!


breathe in calm
breathe out fear
smile: even if you don't feel like it.
release the anxiety

breathe in healing
breathe out pain
smile: with your lips and eyes.
release the worry

breathe in happiness
breathe out catastrophes
smile: feel love in your life
release the sorrow

©2017 Noreen Braman