Monday, March 31, 2008

Deep Tissue Massage Impostor

My friend Elissa sent this silly video to me with the message: “Nigel and Leo!” Nigel is her cat.

The video cracks me up to no end. And it got me thinking that maybe Leo could use a massage (though not by a cat; he’d sooner engage in extreme fighting with a cat than allow it to “massage” him anywhere). He has arthritis and hip dysplasia and judging by the looks of his x-rays, he’s probably in pain most of the time: the “c” joints in his hips have been worn to resemble more of an “l” joint. There’s nothing really left to support his back legs, which explains his stilted gait and overall clumsiness (stairs are a challenge).

The night I adopted him at the Humane Society, one of the volunteers who worked closely with Leo told me how they had brought in massage therapists to give the dogs massages. Leo had a reputation for being aloof and wary with strangers, she explained, but once the massage was underway, he stretched himself out and reveled in the contact.

When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be a masseuse. Something I saw on TV must have planted the seed—it was probably a soap opera. I used to pretend that I worked in a very fancy spa. First I would carefully fold one of our bath towels (it had to be a white one) over my left arm. Meanwhile, I would make my 5-year-old brother take off his shirt and lay face down on my mom’s ironing board. Standing on tippy toes, I would liberally pour baby oil all over his back. Then I would spread the oil around, give him a few rapid chops like I’d seen on TV and call it a day. (I was never quite sure what the towel was for but it came in handy for mopping up the baby oil.)

When I had one of many identity crises a few years back, the masseuse idea resurfaced. Why not leave my comfortable marketing job in San Francisco and become a massage therapist? I took classes in basic Swedish massage at night and quickly determined that a) I’m not comfortable touching people I don’t know b) I like getting massages a whole lot better than I do giving them and c) I just plain suck at giving massages.

My hands are always cold; that was the first hurdle. And I would get so nervous before giving a massage that my hands would tremble uncontrollably. Cold, shaky hands are not a recipe for a great massage.

But Leo doesn’t seem to mind my cold hands. And touching him doesn’t make me nervous. In fact, petting him is quite relaxing and enjoyable. Maybe it’s time to study up on canine anatomy and really work his muscles instead of just luxuriating in his thick fur. This time, though, I’ll skip the baby oil and the ironing board.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flossin’ the Clean Chompers

For as long as I’ve had him, Leo has had foul breath, the kind that makes you recoil in horror when he gives you a kiss. I knew I should get his teeth cleaned but I balked when I heard the price: $360 minimum, plus extra if extractions were required.

Sheesh. Don’t people have anything better to spend their money on? (Shoes, for example?) That was my thinking. But after a conversation with his vet where she warned of the potential health problems that could occur as a result of plaque and tartar build up, much like in people, I decided it was time to drop the cash and invest in this old dog’s mouth.

Cleaning a dog’s teeth is no simple task. Like surgery, it requires general anesthesia and monitoring of vital signs. I dropped him at the vet’s office early in the morning, after a quick walk and no breakfast (the first assault to his system that day). In the afternoon, the vet called to tell me that the procedure had gone well but that Leo’s teeth were badly worn. “It looks like he’s been chewing on a chain for years,” she said.

Well, he probably had been chewing on a chain for years—in New Orleans, I explained. She went on to tell me that three of his teeth were cracked and beginning to get infected around the gum line, and so had to be extracted (bringing the cost up to $460). Yikes! I’d had a bunch of dental work performed recently myself, so the sensation of having teeth pulled was still fresh in my mind (double yikes). Poor Leo.

When I went to pick him up, his eyes were glazed and he was bouncing off the walls. Apparently, he’d been given something to bring him out of the anesthesia. He was agitated and restless in the car on the ride home. I decided to skip his evening walk and brought him inside.

Leo is always hungry, and always underfoot when we’re trying to make dinner. He’ll position himself wherever you happen to be chopping the onions, peeling the garlic or grating the cheese, waiting for any small tidbit to drop from the sky and become fair game.

With no breakfast and three teeth missing, he was hungry as ever. But the vet had warned that anesthesia can cause nausea so I was advised not to feed him that night.

Dinner was not in the cards for old Leo—the final assault of the day. As we went about our dinner prep and ate our dinner and cleared our plates, Leo wandered slowly behind us, head hanging low, stopping now and again to stare at the floor.

Poor guy. He looked like Eeyore. A sad, broken Eeyore with gleaming white teeth and minty fresh breath.

Alas, Leo will never appreciate the importance of good dental health (and if you have any doubts, you should take a look at the findingDulcinea Dental Health Web Guide), but I will certainly appreciate a healthier dog and better-smelling doggie kisses—a far better investment than new shoes, eh?