FORT KENT, Maine — Ever have one of those weeks? You know the kind, the ones with 87 days, each one lasting 33 hours.
Up here at Rusty Metal Farm, we had one of those weeks last week, and I’d like to say we all emerged unscathed. But I’d be lying.
It all started, as most things do around here, with a critter crisis.
Corky, the house-dog, had developed some sort of abnormal growth under her back leg and had surgery at the end of the previous week to remove it.
The good news is, the tumor was a minor, noncancerous “fat glob.” (And no, my vet does not remove human fat, globular or otherwise. Trust me, I asked.)
The bad news was Corky would not leave the sutures alone, so was placed in The Cone of Shame, a see-through, conical device that affixed to her collar and extended out over her face by several inches.
Given the outer edge of the cone is about a foot wider than a Shusky’s head, this meant a week of Corky bumping it into everything from furniture to human legs.
Some dogs freak out and refuse to move while in a Cone of Shame. Corky, on the other hand, simply plowed head, trusting the world and everything in it would get out of her way or be knocked aside.
While recovering from her surgery, she was not all that active over the weekend, but by Monday she was back to her old tricks and I found myself spending a fair amount of time addressing the destruction left in her wake.
Meanwhile, retired lead sled dog Apollo was not looking so well.
Monday morning he showed no interest in rising from his fluffy bed in the living room and had to be first coaxed, and then assisted in going outside, where it was all he could do to stand as he answered his call of nature.
Back inside, he nibbled at his breakfast and then it was back to the fluffy bed.
Later that morning my friend Kim came over and, where only a few days before he had ambled over to her for some pats on the the head, on Monday he hardly even looked up.
While here, Kim helped me get Apollo outside again for his late morning walk and again he had to be carried part of the way.
Once down on his own four legs, he did something I have never seen any of my past dogs do: He looked around for a moment, and then tottered down to the dog yard on very unsteady legs. Once there, he stopped at the run that was once his own, turned around, lay down and looked at me with an expression in those blue eyes that said, “I’m done.”
I made the final decision later that same day and took him to Fort Kent Animal Hospital where in the kindest, most compassionate manner, he was sent on to run trails that are forever impeccably groomed and never lacking in treats.
Just because it was the right choice did not make it any easier. This is the dog who got me back on a dogsled after the death of my husband and down Main Street for my first Can Am sled dog race.
For the past couple of years, he has been a permanent fixture in the corner of the living room after seamlessly slipping into house-dog status upon his retirement.
That corner sure seems empty right now.
Later the same night, I let Corky out for her last walkabout of the day. To give her a bit of a break, I removed the Cone of Shame for a few moments.
She immediately took off around the house and seconds later I heard low barks and growls.
A minute later, she came trotting back, grinning a wide doggy grin and with enough skunk scent on her face that I swear it was emanating visible aroma waves.
Luckily, I keep all the ingredients needed for de-skunking pets on hand.
My normal recipe combines hydrogen peroxide, baking powder, a bit of water and Dawn dish detergent. Mixed into a paste, applied to the affected area and allowed to stand for 10 minutes before rinsing, it really does do the trick.
Sadly, however, I was out of baking soda.
Hoping corn starch would be a suitable substitute, I gathered the ingredients, corralled Corky and commenced to scrubbing.
By this time it was closing in on midnight and I had a damp, smelly dog and that smell was starting to spread throughout the house. By Tuesday morning pretty much everything, myself included, had a faint, skunky air about it.
Did I mention I had a blind date — my first in years — for lunch on Tuesday?
Two long, hot showers Tuesday morning did a reasonable job of de-skunking me and I will say the date went well. So well, that the kind gentleman dropped by later to see Rusty Metal Farm and meet the critters — Skunk Dog, included.
There’s a lot to be said about a guy who not only likes dogs, but does not seem to mind when a Shusky attempts to become a lap dog, Cone of Shame and all.
By Wednesday the skunky smell was diminishing around the farm — helped no doubt by my picking up baking soda and re-washing Corky, whom I was certain had found enough mischief for awhile and was due for a rest.
Now, you need to know that, instead of bringing flowers to the lunch date, the kind gentleman — a retired chef — brought the most decadent brownies ever.
Guys, take a note — this is NEVER a bad thing.
But Corky somehow — despite being encumbered by that cone — managed to pull the pan off the far end of the table, remove that cover and eat about a four-inch square of the treats.
Chocolate is not good for dogs, especially for dogs with kidney issues who are on special diets, like Corky.
I knew that chocolate had to come out and the best way to do that was by inducing vomiting and the best way to do that was by administering some hydrogen peroxide.
Luckily, I knew right where THAT was.
Thirty minutes and several gooey globs in the driveway later, Corky was inside and sleeping off her brownie orgy.
That was right about the time I had to begin “prepping” for a colonoscopy scheduled for the next day.
For those of you who have had one, you know of what I speak and what the ensuing 16 hours were like. For those who have not, I won’t spoil the surprise.
Thursday came and went in a bit of a blur due in no small part to the drugs given during the screening procedure, and by Friday I could see the light at the end of that long week’s tunnel.
Then the phone rang. It was my friend Penny telling me her truck had broken down, she was at the garage and could I give her and her dog a lift home?
No problem, I’m always happy to help a friend in need.
Besides, misery just loves company.
Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.