Last Friday morning, I was lying in a hospital bed, thinking about the nature of reality and its relationship to memory. I was waiting to have a colonoscopy and the doctor had already been by to introduce himself and discuss the procedure. He let me know that he preferred his patients to be conscious, but that I’d be somewhere between Cloud 5 and Cloud 9, wouldn’t feel anything, and would probably not remember the experience. I was less than enthusiastic about that, but if I wasn’t going to remember it anyway, did it really matter? Wouldn’t it basically be like it had never happened?
Answer: No. Even if your mind doesn’t remember, your body does.
Also, though, he was wrong about everything: I was not on any clouds, I did feel it, I do remember it, and it sucked. Apparently my colon is “loopy,” so it was a struggle to get the probe through and the tech had to try to rearrange my insides from the outside. I assume that was effective, since they did manage to get all the views they wanted, but it was super uncomfortable — I was complaining while on the operating table, which surprised them at least twice — and I’ve been sore for a couple of days now. Even if I didn’t remember (but I do), my body would be letting me know that it was an unpleasant experience. I’ve even got a painful bruise on my wrist from the IV.
(That said, my colon is now stamped approved for the next seven to ten years, which is nice, and maybe a decade from now, technology will have improved so much that no one will be doing colonoscopies anymore. I’m going to choose to believe that, anyway. And, of course, my day of unpleasantness is a whole lot better than treatment for colon cancer would be, so worth it in the end.)
I think my philosophical question, though, was really whether forgetting could be the same thing as healing. If you can fully forget a painful experience, could it be the same as the experience never having happened? I’m pretty sure the answer is still no, still that the body remembers.
Speaking of remembering — although this time in the context of sharing a story I expect I’ll probably remember myself — on Saturday, I was at the farmer’s market with our next-door neighbors when a vaguely familiar face said hello, and then added, somewhat tentatively, “Do you have a black dog and a small black-and-white dog? Because they’re playing on Dan Hauser’s lawn right now.”
I hope I said thank you, but I’m not sure I did. I rushed home, not quite running but moving as fast as a not-quite-run would take me, not seeing any sign of them in the neighbor’s yard as I got close. I’m reminding myself that they’re both micro-chipped; that they’re together so noticeable; that they’re reasonably street smart these days, at least to the extent of understanding that the people are worried when they go out into the road… but there are no dogs, no dogs, no dogs.
I’m making a plan — I will dump my purchases inside the tiny house and grab the bag that usually holds treats and then start searching. Sophie, most likely, will have followed our usual walk and gone up the street to the park… But then there they are, lying by the neighbor’s garage door, on the side of his house. And they see me and say, “OH! Our person! We’ve been waiting for you!!” and both of them come running.
A couple, just ahead of me on the sidewalk, was rather taken aback by this. I think they were already speculating on whether those dogs were loose and now both dogs were tearing toward them at full speed, one of the two being rather large. (One might even say exceedingly large. Bear is a BIG girl.)
But both puppies followed me very happily through our gate and into the yard and were super-excited and pleased with themselves. Oh, such a good adventure, they were saying. Much tail wagging and pleasure.
The explanation for the escape was pretty easy to discover: we have a concrete block sitting in front of a hole in the gate between the back and front yards. It blocks enough of the hole that the dogs can’t go through, but the cat can still go in and out. Someone — and Suzanne is blaming Riley — someone shoved that concrete block out of the way, letting the puppies into the front yard, which has a short fence that both of them can leap over effortlessly. I think we will be boarding up that hole before the dogs get left in the backyard alone again.
And I can’t believe I don’t have a recent picture of the two puppies together, but I don’t. I’d go take one, except Suzanne is away for an overnight with both of her dogs, so I can’t. Size-wise, though, Sophie is turning out to be smaller than I expected: I thought she’d be a medium-size dog and she’s only medium-size if she’s standing next to a chihuahua. Here in Arcata, where chihuahuas are few and far between and pit bulls are plentiful, she’s definitely small.
And Bear — well, Bear is ten months old this week, so she still has a few months of growing to do, and she’s the size where people say things like, “Wow, that’s a big dog.” Or, as I said this week when I saw her trying to sleep on the dog bed — head and feet both hanging over the edges — “Holy cow, she is immense.” She’s easily twice Sophie’s size now.
Suzanne is away again this week. It’s her sixth (or maybe tenth or eleventh, depending on if one counts overnights) trip since I came back in August, I think. When she returned from her last trip, Olivia Murderpaws — who is supposed to be an inside cat — was on the roof of the chicken coop, refusing to come down. I was also worried about one of their royal majesties, the chickens who joined the Mighty Small Farm in the summer of 2020, and rightfully so: she passed away that night and Suzanne had to bury her the next morning. Pet sitter fail.
Not that I actually blame myself for either of those things — I didn’t let Olivia out, and chickens, sadly, do sometimes die. She wasn’t even the first chicken to pass away on my pet-sitting watch. I didn’t write about it at the time, but one of the very old ladies died while Suzanne was away last year, probably on her Oregon trip. It would have made a good post, actually, because I thought she was dead so I dug a hole in which to bury her. But when I picked up the dead body, she opened her eyes and wiggled. Ack! I nearly dropped her, which I would have felt terrible about. Poor dying chicken, dropped from two feet up. Instead, I set her down gently and when I came back a couple hours later, it was easy to see that she was dead, because one of her comrades had started testing to see if she was meat. Chickens are such dinosaurs. I buried her quickly, before the rest of them could get in on the action.
Back to pet-sitting. Back in January, when Suzanne first retired, we were making grand plans for this spring. We were going to head off on a long road trip adventure: wildflowers in Texas, family in Florida, opal mining in Idaho. But Gina, #notmycat, is very frail these days. She eats a ton, but the food rushes right through her, and she’s so skinny she looks emaciated. Her fur’s coming out in clumps, too, and she’s very cranky. Suzanne was pretty sure she wouldn’t last until spring, but sometime around mid-February, she said, “Not sure I can leave Gina with a pet-sitter,” to which I replied, “Oh, absolutely not. Of course not.” That would be horrible, to leave Gina to potentially die with a stranger. (As it happens, gas prices might have killed this trip anyway. Long road trips and $6/gallon gas do not coincide in my mind.)
Except… I really don’t want to be the pet-sitter on duty for her death, either. Every time Suzanne leaves, there’s a little repetitive prayer running through the back of my head, “Please, please, please don’t let Gina die.” Suzanne is gone tonight, then back for a couple days, then gone for five days, then back for a few weeks, then gone for another week. Pet-sitting would be a lot easier without Gina — she’s really the only pet that feels like much of a responsibility, because she needs to eat five or more times a day and produces waste commensurately — but I really, really hope that she lasts through spring and into summer.
And maybe come summer, I’ll get to take a trip of my own. It’s feeling like time!