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Chasing A Butterfly


Butterfly is diabetic, and she has created a ritual for her morning blood test. She sees that I am going to the shelf where her testing kit lives, and with great excitement she runs to the hallway. She makes sure that I can see her, and then runs a few feet away, and then she turns back to check on me, to make sure I’m following her. She makes a dance of it, turning back three or four times down the fifteen foot hallway, bouncing on her toes in between twirls.

"Is it time yet?!

“Is it time yet?!

"Aren't you coming to the bus stop, Mommy?"

“Aren’t you coming to the bus stop, Mommy?”

Then she lands at her bus stop in Grandma’s room. And I mean lands. She flattens herself into a down position and waits for me to pick her up. Then I carry her back to the living room, sit her on my lap, and start the testing procedure.

"You can pick me up now!"

“You can pick me up now!”

At first, when it came time to pick up Butterfly for her blood tests, Cricket would escape to her apartment under the couch. She was very concerned that this blood testing idea would spread, like a virus, like a bath-giving, haircutting virus. But over time she started to notice that not only was Butterfly the only target for the needles, there was also a very reliable treat give-away after the test. So Cricket began to sit by my feet as Butterfly’s blood was tested. I even caught her sniffing the testing kit once, as if she could smell the chicken treats by association.

"We want treats! We want treats!"

“We want treats! We want treats!”

We take blood twice a day from Butterfly’s tail. We tried the veins in her ears, and her paw pads, and the callus on her elbow, but none of them worked, and then I saw a YouTube video of a dog getting her blood tested from her small cropped tail. Butterfly’s tail is long and skinny, so I wasn’t sure if it would work the same way, but there’s blood available every time and it doesn’t seem to bother her, much.

Her insulin shot goes into the scruff of her neck and usually doesn’t bother her either, but sometimes I hit the wrong spot, or maybe the cold temperature of the refrigerated insulin bothers her, and she flinches. But it’s over in a second and then she’s ready for treats. She never runs away or growls or tries to bite me. Thank God all of this isn’t going on with Cricket. I’d have no fingers left.

If Butterfly’s blood sugar is low, which it often is in the morning, she gets a special bone treat, made with whole wheat flour to raise her blood sugar just enough. Mom got this Bake-A-Bone toy for Mother’s day or her birthday this year from my brother’s family, along with books of recipes for special foods for dogs. I think Butterfly has been talking to their dog, Lilah, and trying to influence the gift choices over there.

The magical bone making toy.

The magical bone making toy.

Bones in process

Bones in process



But if the blood sugar is normal-ish, or high, the girls share a chicken treat. They know where the bag is. They go straight over to the book case and stare up at it. Cricket has even tried to climb the shelves, unsuccessfully. They pull out all of their circus dog tricks if the treats fail to come as quickly as desired. Even Butterfly has learned how to stand on her back legs with her front paws in prayer pose, though she can’t maintain the pose as long as Cricket can. Then Butterfly takes her share and runs to the hall to eat alone. And Cricket inhales her treat whole, coughs a bit, and then stares at me expectantly as if I never gave her a treat at all.

Cricket is starving!

Cricket is starving!

The other day, in the middle of the afternoon, Butterfly had a partial seizure. Her eyes started twitching, her legs wobbled, she walked in circles and couldn’t see clearly, and her body shook. When I calmed down, I tested her sugar and it was very low, the lowest it had ever been. We gave her maple syrup – applied to her gums the way the doctor told us to do, so she’d have no choice but to take it in – and within thirty seconds, she was herself again.         Her doctor warned us about listlessness and even coma, but he never mentioned partial seizures, so thank god for doctor Google.

And Now Butterfly is back to normal. I can be sitting on the couch, or at the computer, or trying to sleep, and she’ll come over as if something very exciting is about to happen. She’ll dip her head and smile at me, and then she’ll run. If I’m too slow, she waits for me, every step of the way, because she wants me to catch her. She wants to flatten out on the floor and get scooped up like a rag doll. It’s her favorite thing, chicken treats or not.


Cricket and the Sticks

"This is my stick. You can't have it!"

“This is my tree. You can’t have it!


            Cricket wants to dismantle small trees. After Hurricane Sandy, we had piles of branches everywhere on the lawn, and since the trees in our neighborhood are old and tall, the pieces that broke off were often the size of small trees themselves. And that’s what Cricket wanted to master. She wanted branches with tributaries, branches she could trip over as she dragged them by the heel across to her special chewing spot. She wanted to attack the branch that was five feet long and three inches thick. She put her whole body into it, using her paws and her mouth and all of her weight and all of her passionate intensity, her ribcage undulating with the effort. But she could barely drag the monster an inch, with all of that effort, and she couldn’t break herself off a memento to carry back to the porch. She had to settle for the two foot stick covered in grey bark that waited for her by the rim of the sleeping flower garden. It was a blow to her pride, but she got over it.

Sometimes she sneaks her sticks into the house.

Sometimes she sneaks her sticks into the house.

When I have the energy, I throw the sticks for her in the front yard. I throw sticks one after the other to different parts of the lawn until she is out of breath from retrieving, and has given Butterfly a work out jumping over her leash to get out of the way. She especially likes to overcrowd her mouth with as many sticks as she can fit without gagging. And even then she gets mad if she can’t pick up just one more stick. She can do five, including one big one, if she’s feeling ambitious. It weighs her down so she can’t run the way she’d like to, but she still won’t give up a stick. It’s her trophy.

When she is exhausted, or her mouth is too full of sticks to take on anymore, she picks her favorite stick and goes to her own corner to chew.

Cricket holds a stick like a flute, as if she’s about to make music and blow into the mouth piece and play notes with her paws. She can be very delicate with it. She sits eagerly in the front corner of the yard, when she’s supposed to be focused on peeing, and she chews at her stick.

She seems to recognize different flavors of stick, like different wines and cheeses. She carefully sniffs for notes of moss and fungus, dirt and flowers, the pee of other animals, and the must of day old rain.

This one has notes of fungus, raspberries and lawn-aged pee.

This one has notes of fungus, raspberries and lawn-aged pee.

For the first month or two, Butterfly had no interest in sticks. She tried to run after Cricket on the lawn, but she didn’t have the stamina, or the interest in chasing flying things. She finds running after squirrels equally inexplicable. She tried chewing on a stick or two, but it didn’t taste right to her and she gave up and came over to me for more scratchies.

But some time in the past month, she walked over to the corner of the lawn where Cricket usually chews her sticks, and she sat down, and started chewing on a very small stick. It was so tiny that Cricket wouldn’t even look at it twice, but Butterfly thought it was the perfect size.

Butterfly in the field of mini sticks.

Butterfly in the field of mini sticks.

She still doesn’t run after sticks, or leaves, or squirrels, but once she’s attached to her long lead, she’ll wander over to Cricket’s stash in the corner and see if anything looks tempting, and then she’ll start chewing. Or eating, rather. She’s a messy eater, so we now have a covering of bark pieces around the area when she’s done.

I wish I could see this as progress, but the fact is that they’re both supposed to be busy peeing, and I have to stand around and wait while they chew contentedly and ignore their bladders. God forbid I try to bring them back into the house before they’ve deigned to pee, they’ll both look at me like I’ve condemned them to the gulag.

When I have the energy, I’m better off taking the girls for a walk. Preferably some place where there are no sticks to be found.

Bella, The flying Dog


Cricket and Bella do the sniff



            We first met Bella when she was four months old and too small for the pink harness tightened around her chest. She looked like a sling shot, popping out of the harness, leaping from it, trying to fly.

Bella is a tan and silver Yorkshire terrier mixed with some unknown, big-headed dog. She lives down the hill from us and we see her leaning out the passenger side window of the car when her family drives up the hill. She gets great joy out of hanging her head out of the window like a daredevil.

Cricket likes Bella, up to a point. She likes that they are the same size, and both girls. She likes that Bella seems happy and friendly. It’s only when Bella starts to invade personal space that Cricket rethinks her feelings. Cricket mistakes enthusiasm for aggression and growls, and Bella mistakes the growling for an invitation to play, which gets dangerous and requires lifting Cricket up so she doesn’t attack Bella with her teeth.

One day, we came home to find Bella running loose down the hill.          It was a shock to drive around the corner and see Bella running down the hill towards us. It was raining, just a little, but enough to make the sky grey and visibility a little muffled. Bella was racing down the middle of the street towards our car and her parents were waving frantically at us.

Mom parked the car at the top of the hill, in front of our house, and was about to walk down the hill to help, when Bella’s parents called out and asked if we could bring Cricket in case Bella would run to her and then be easier to catch. They told us that Bella had slipped her collar off and gone racing around the block.

Cricket was thrilled to have her leash put on and she was very excited to see Grandma and Bella’s Mom, and she seemed to know that something important was happening. Bella ran to Cricket right away and came almost close enough for us to grab her collar, but then she sped away again.

We created a three pointed trap, with Cricket and Grandma at one corner, then me and Bella’s Mom at the others, all blocking potential escape routes until Bella had no where to go. Bella was soaking wet after running through wet grass for half an hour. And once she was caught, her mom held her, belly and legs out and dangling, ready for the towel her Dad had brought out for her.

Cricket was ready to go for a walk of her own after all of that excitement, but I was wiped out. Just walking back up the hill was more than I could handle, once the adrenaline wore out. But I also wanted something more to happen. I’ve felt that way after every dog-saving event. It’s not that I want a reward, though a little statue of me catching the dog would be nice for the top of my bookcase. Cricket and I were at loose ends for a little while, but then we were ready for our afternoon nap. We were pooped.


The three girls, momentarily untangled

We met up with Bella the other day for the first time since Butterfly has been here. Bella was her rambunctious self and Cricket stood back a bit, but Butterfly went up close and examined her new friend. She stood there without budging, no matter how many times Bella raced from side to side and flattened into play pose.

Eventually, Bella calmed down, and Cricket inched forward, and the three of them did some mutual sniffing. Butterfly didn’t seem to mind being the peacemaker between Cricket and Bella. She accepted their different energies and knew how to manage them. She’s very Zen.


Zen Butterfly