After a bizarrely hot summer, things were just getting back to normal in our house when Tanner, and his 2-legged daddy, were thrown another curve.  Back in August I had undergone outpatient surgery.  The procedure was minor but the bill, as anyone who’s been there knows, wasn’t quite so trivial.  Having covered my insurance deductible, I decided to see a specialist about my achy left hip.  I knew there was some wear and tear (thirty years of marital arts will do that) but I was stunned to learn that the cartilage was gone, leaving me with bone on bone.  Since the condition and pain would only worsen, Eugenie and I decided I should have it fixed asap.

On October 4th, we drove to St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, where Dr. Andrew Yun and his team worked their magic performing a minimally invasive surgery that left me with a matched set of bionic joints (the right hip was replaced in 2006).  A mere thirty hours later, I was back home in bed.  While I could stand, shuffle a bit and even climb our four flights of stairs, albeit with great difficulty and some pain, walking Tanner was out of the question, and so Eugenie stepped into the breach.

First thing each morning, she got me out of bed, tugged on my TED socks and shoes, and got me moving.  Then hit the road with Tanner, who was sorely miffed that she didn’t know, or didn’t care about our routine, which included a long stroll on the grounds of the church next door. Back at the house, Eugenie focussed on getting us fed and making sure I did my walking and PT, leaving no time for morning ‘play’.  Tanner was forlorn and confused.  “Why was dad acting so strangely, and why was he neglecting me?  And what was he doing walking with that scary black stick?”

At first, the painkillers made me queasy and just eating breakfast left me exhausted.  About the only thing I could manage was lying in bed, blowing through the detective novels (Daniel Silva’s ‘Rembrandt Affair’, Michael Connelly’s ‘Echo Park’) I had stacked up like planes at LAX.  Tanner seemed perplexed to see me horizontal (It’s rare I even nap) but that didn’t deter him.  If dad couldn’t or wouldn’t fuss with him, he would fuss with dad.  Ignoring a mound of pillows, and the cords from the portable ice machine, he popped up onto the bed and nestled up against my ailing left leg.

The patient, with ‘Florence Nightinbull’

It went on that way for a week, until I finally recaptured my chi and abandoned the bed for the upstairs recliner.  Once I quit our Tempurpedic, Tanner returned to his own bed where he could keep a watchful I on me.  When I made a run to the kitchen for ginger ale or Gatorade, he shadowed me. If I mummy-stepped my way upstairs to the bathroom, he tagged along and flopped down on the rug until I made the trek back down.  When I joined Eugenie and him on the afternoon walk, he slowed his pace out of respect for his gimpy owner.  Around the 2-week mark, I finally shed my cane and a few days later I took the reins for our morning walk, as if nothing unusual had taken place.  Tanner’s brief nursing career was over.

Although he’s quit nursing for the time being, Tanner stills wants to be of service to his fellow creatures, both the 2-legged and 4-legged sort.  That’s why he said to mention our dear friend, M.C. Callahan, a terrific ballroom dance instructor, who generously devotes her free hours to two animal charities in the Coachella Valley where she lives.  Healing Horses in Indio, CA offers equine therapy to improve the lives of special needs children.  Located in Desert Hot Springs, Save-A-Pet offers food and shelter to dogs in need.  It’s an outdoor facility so, with the cool desert winters nights coming, they need donations of old towels, sheets, and blankets.  So clean out those closets and put your old and unused items to a good use.


Those of you familiar with Tanner’s story will remember that, when he first left the shelter, he was one very skittish pup.  A scuffed shoe or a dropped plate would send him flying.  Thanks to Eugenie’s constant affection (she never took her hands off him) and my concerted efforts to reform my foul temper, he finally began to relax.  First, we were able to coax him up onto the sofa for TV cuddles.  Then, he learned to stretch out on our bed when invited.  Of course, he stayed in the middle, close enough to let us touch him but far enough away to avoid us when he chose.  Just recently, though, that’s begun to change.  When we’re watching movies in bed (been enjoying Ric Burns epic documentary New York) he been allowing Eugenie to drape her legs across his body.  And the other night, he curled up in my lap!  I’d been busy working at probation and doing a hurry-up rewrite on my play so we think it was his way of saying that he missed me.  Regardless, it was awesome to see him acting like the beloved family dog that he is. 

We’ll see how he handles the fireworks and firecrackers this week.  Even if he freaks, we’ll be there to buck him up. 

note:  Since I penned the ‘June Gloom’ headline, we’ve had most blue, sunny skies.  Maybe my public kvetching moved the weather gods.  Either that or we’ve been lucky for a change.