How to banjax a back

First, have a root canal treatment.  This involved approximately an hour in The Chair at the dentists.  Now, I’m not someone who has a dentist-phobia – in fact, I worked as a dental nurse for a couple of years.  But no matter how cool a patient you are, you’ll still tense up while someone is yanking things out of one of your teeth.  Part of the root canal process involves scrubbing out the tissue from inside each of the three roots (yes, it was a molar) with a little thing called a broach – it’s like a teeny-tiny bottle brush.  One of those kept getting stuck.  Much yanking was needed.  And no, it’s not at all reassuring when the dentist says “Phew!” as he mops the sweat off his brow.

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Culprit #1 Root Canal Treatment

Second, try to get a room painted before Christmas.  It was all done bar the skirting boards and the radiator and I was determined to finish it before we went to Chamonix to spend Christmas with our daughters.  The skirting boards needed three coats.  That’s a lot of time to be hunched over on the floor, but I got it done.  Then the radiator had its first coat.  More sitting on the floor, slightly twisted this time as I was turned to face on the radiator.  When I finished, I stood up, my back went TWANG and I said “Oh, fiddlesticks.”  Well, I said something that began with an F.

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Culprit #2 Still needs a second coat

Third, go down to the local Christmas market the day after the aforementioned TWANG.  I had taken some nurofen, and the back was feeling a bit better, so I thought I’d be fine.  The market was lovely – very small and very local, with free vin chaud.  Yum.  After wandering around in the cold, looking at all the stalls, I was getting a bit sore again.

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Culprit #3. No, not Santa and his donkey. The whole Christmas Market thing. (This was before the donkey said “Stuff this for a lark” and headed home with Santa hanging grimly onto the leadrope)

In hindsight, I should have gone home at that stage, but instead we adjourned to one of the local hostelries for a meal and a few drinks with friends.  By the time we left, I was in agony.  I made my way very slowly and very painfully up the stairs that night (our loo is upstairs, our bedroom downstairs) and didn’t come down again for three days.  Those three days were spent flat on my back on the bed in the spare room, or making brief forays into the bathroom or kitchen, leaning on walls or furniture as I inched my painful way along.

My lovely osteopath friend saw me as an Urgence on the Monday.  She had never seen me quite so crippled.  She treated me again on Thursday, to do whatever she could to make the six hour drive to Chamonix on Friday bearable.  Thanks to her and the wonders of Volterène tablets, we made it – and we had a great Christmas!

The whole back-banjaxing thing was very disappointing, on many levels.

I had survived a summer of forking hay and straw around the place, mucking out stables, dragging water troughs around and generally doing lots of physical work.  I was a bit achey in my lower back, but nothing unbearable.  It was mega-frustrating to be pole-axed by a series of seemingly trivial things after all that.

On the advice of my doctor and my osteopath, I’ve been following a strictly gluten and dairy free diet since mid-September (anyone who knows how much of a cheesaholic I am will know how difficult this has been for me).  Apparently my colon had lots of gas (quelle surprise! Doesn’t everyone’s?) and they were both suggesting that this is the root cause of my back issues.  Nope.  Don’t think so, folks.  This was the very worst back pain episode EVER!

I had also been working very hard to keep up-to-date with the horses’ hoof-trimming, and I’d been doing a damn good job, if I say so myself.  Three weeks of no care at all meant that Aero’s front left splayed happily to the inside and re-opened the white line separation I’d been working on, while Flurry’s Famously Enormous Frogs grew too big and developed little pockets of bruising on his back feet.  The farrier visited last week and gave them a good trim, taking the pressure off me for another two weeks or so, but I’m still not even up to picking out all eight hooves, let alone doing a two-hoof trimming session 😦

Anyhoo, onwards and upwards.  I rode today for the first time since Dec 15th, just fifteen minutes walking in the arena, working with the neck loop (cordellette in French), and then back down to the field.  Aero and I had been progressing nicely ‘hands-free’ before the back episode, even braving a little canter one day.  There’s another thing to be frustrated about, but we’ll get there again!

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New Year, New Blog Post

First of all, thanks to everyone who left messages here or on Facebook, sympathising over the loss of Cinny.  Social media is wonderfully supportive through the sad times, and I appreciated every word.

I’m not going to do a ‘Goals for 2017’ post, nor am I going to do a ‘2016 Retrospective.’  I’m just going to carry on blogging sporadically about my horses, my dogs, whatever is going on in my life and occasional totally random things.  I’m not going to moan about how awful 2016 was, because although it may have been a bad year for many of my music heroes and a bad year for the world in general, it was a good year for me.  We bought our house in Provence and our Year in Provence became permanent.  Woohoo!

There’s one other thing about 2016, though.  It will forever be the year I did this :

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I’d been thinking about a tattoo for a long time.  Ten years ago, we had the Summer of the Swallows in Cork.  Forty eight swallow chicks fledged in our yard that year and I almost got a swallow tattoo.  I went so far as visiting a couple of tattoo shops in the city and looking at swallow pictures, but none of them looked right – they were all too stylised.

Then I saw a lady who had a couple of paw-prints up her arm.  It was simple, pretty and not too in-your-face.  That gave me the idea of mixing paw-prints and hoofprints, but of course they’d have to be barefoot hoofprints!  And then I thought there are two other creatures who have left rather large footprints on my life path…

So this is the end result.

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I like to think that the lowest paw-print, which peeps out under t-shirt sleeves, is for Cinnamon.

I’m tempted to continue across the back of my neck and down the other arm.

My Mammy will have a fit!

 

The Very Last Adventure of a Small Brown Dog

Once we got home, we settled into a new routine.  We continued to put Cinny into the cage to sleep, and found that she settled more quickly and slept for longer in it.  Feeling that she had benefited from the mental stimulation of the trip to Chamonix, we took her for special Small Brown Dog walks when the weather was good.  We also took to feeding the three dogs separately, to avoid further conflicts with Cookie.  I could see there were times when Cookie struggled to contain herself if Cinnamon bumbled into her, so the best thing for both dogs was to keep them separate as much as possible.  Rosie, on the other hand, is incredibly placid, so we considered her a safe companion for a blind, elderly, senile, Small Brown Dog.

Cinny’s tongue healed, but remained crooked in her mouth.  We fed her very wet, sloppy meals, which she ate really well, but we were still concerned that she wasn’t able to drink properly.  For the first week, I continued to syringe water into her mouth, but after that we just gave her watered down milk a couple of times a day, which she lapped up happily.  On the advice of a veterinary friend,  I took to giving her a tiny dose of paracetamol every day for general aches and pain, and we gave her a dose of Kalm Aid every morning and evening to help her relax.  She was still lost and confused at times but, for the most part, she was content; eating well, sleeping well, and enjoying her little walks.  Everything was stable once again.

Aideen went from London to Nepal to do some long-planned charity work at the start of November and would be coming to us on her return.  Was it possible that Cinny would still be with around to see her ‘Mom’ one more time?  It was looking more and more likely… but first, I had a trip to Ireland to visit my own Mom.

While I was in Ireland, it happened.  A third panic attack.  This time, surprisingly, it was caused by Rosie.  We have no idea what happened, but both dogs were in the laundry room downstairs, while the LSH was making a coffee upstairs.  Mealtime was well past; they had all had been out and had had a good wander around the garden.  Cinny and Rosie were expected to snooze the morning away, as usual.

The only sound the LSH heard was a soft bark from Rosie.  Then Cinny started screaming and he could hear her crashing around the room as he tore down the stairs.  She was in full-on panic mode, the worst yet.  Nothing calmed her this time.  He ended up phoning me to see if I could think of anything – I could hear poor Cinnamon screaming on the other end of the phone.  The only suggestion I could come up with was to put her in the car.  Maybe she would be distracted if she thought she was going somewhere?

It didn’t work.

We hung up.  There was nothing I could do.

The panic attack lasted almost an hour.  An hour of terror and trauma for a much-loved pet; an hour of helplessness and worry for the LSH.

Later that evening, we spoke again.

We couldn’t allow this to happen again, we agreed.  We had reached a stage where we could no longer keep our Small Brown Dog safe.  Given her tendency to get stuck in corners, behind the washing machine or fridge and even underneath the car (I didn’t mention that before – she practically wound herself around the axle of the Fiat one day) her days would have to be spent in the cage if we wanted to keep her out of harm’s way.  That’s no life for any animal.  We would make an appointment to have her put to sleep when I returned to Provence.

I got home late on Friday the 11th.  In the space of the week I’d been away, Cinnamon had weakened visibly.  She struggled to get out of her bed and was wobbly on her back legs.  There was no doubt that we’d made the correct decision.  We spoiled her for the whole weekend.  Lots of treats, cuddles and teeny walks.

I made the phone call on Monday morning, calm and collected.  No shaky voice, no blanks in my French vocabulary, no tears at the edge of my eyes.  The receptionist offered me an appointment at 11.30 the following morning.  Part of my brain screamed “No, not yet, that’s too soon!” but the rest of it knew the truth.  It was time.

Tuesday morning came and went too fast.  Cinnamon was in top form.  Toddling around the garden.  Following me at top speed (and paying the price by tumbling over a hole Rosie had dug).  Snapping treats out of my hand.  Giving me a little kiss when I picked her up for a cuddle.  I alternated between thinking “What a lovely last morning she’s having” and “She’s not ready to go yet.”  But every time I thought of the torment she suffered with her panic attacks, I knew it was time.

I cuddled her on my knee all the way into Apt.  The staff at the Veterinary Hospital were understanding and kind.  Cinny slipped off to sleep with us both caressing her.  Once she was asleep, the vet gave her a second, lethal dose of anaesthetic.  My fingers were over her heart and I felt the last few beats.  Then she was gone.

But what a life she’d had, our Small Brown Dog.  Full of adventures, full of fun, full of love.

Her very first adventure was a trip to a horseshow in a wicker basket along with her two brothers at the age of eight weeks.  Her mum’s owner, a showjumping judge, figured that she’d be bound to find homes for puppies at an event packed with children and animal lovers.  She was right.  She went home with an empty basket, and we went home with a tiny brown puppy that somehow smelled of cinnamon.

In between that first adventure and her final trip to Apt, Cinnamon learned to sing along with mobile phone ringtones, bark at the postman (and other visitors) and sleep in the still-warm rugs taken off stabled horses.

Back in Cork - curled up in a warm rug on a cold morning

She nursed hungover teenagers…

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…and older people with broken wrists.

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She was an avid fan of Simon’s Cat

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and a regular Skype user.

Skyping Mom

Skyping Mom

She spent many happy hours hunting mice, rats…

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…moles and lizards.

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She was incredibly proud of herself when she learned to swim at the ripe old age of ten…

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…which was definitely a good thing, as she fell into the swimming pool in Cereste twice, just before we moved out.

She crossed the sea many times and travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres around Europe.  She begged at many kitchens, made friends wherever she went…

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and of course she perfected the Hypnodog stare.

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She has left a deep, gaping Cinnamon-sized hole in our lives and tiny paw prints all over our hearts.

I probably have a thousand photos of Cinny, but I must thank Stephen, Bob and George for their photos which I have included here.  Huge thanks also to our kind vets in Apt – Bassine, Pfister & Gibier, and all their staff.