I reckon I’m just getting old.
I spent the summer pretty bummed out about the death of my dog Woodrow. But after several months of healing, I was starting to think about accepting a new companion.
My girlfriend Nature and I read a few books on adopting puppies, what to expect, and how to plan. We even made a trip to the local shelter. The pound was overflowing with dogs, puppies, and cats. It was a bit overwhelming, the numbers of animals without homes, and the smell. Although the facilities seemed pretty nice, the place was definitely understaffed. We just wanted to observe and weren’t planning to adopt, although we did play with some puppies and do some paperwork. I wondered how many of these animals would actually find a home.
A week or so later, we visited our friend Max and were surprised to see he had three black puppies, two which looked like Labrador Retrievers and one puppy which looked like a big, black Terrier. It turned out that the puppies had been abandoned on Max’s parent’s farm, just left on the side of the road. His parents had tried to take in the puppies as best they could, but the three of them were more than they could handle. After the Terrier-mix pup was accidentally injured by farm equipment, Max brought them to his apartment. He tried to find them new homes, but had no luck. He talked of surrendering them to the shelter.
Nature and I played with his puppies for a while. They were most friendly and it was nice to see that canine playfulness we had missed so much after Woodrow died. The Terrier-mix showed no signs of damage from her mishap. Her shy, calm demeanor and cute Terrier face kept our attention. As the night wore on, the thought of these puppies going to the pound with all those other dogs, started to wear on us. Before I knew it, we had decided to adopt the Terrier-mix puppy.
We kept much of Woodrow’s belongings after his death. With his bedding and accessories we were prepared, and Max even gave us the puppy’s crate. Nevertheless, our new friend cried all night long!
We decided to name her Elvira, after the “Mistress of the Dark” Cassandra Peterson, and after the Oak Ridge Boys classic song “Elvira.” There are not many names out there that cause people to sing a song at their mere mention, but “Elvira” is one. I bet you’re even thinking of that song right now.
Soon she was at the veterinarian’s office where the entire staff fell in love with her. The vet confirmed she was part Schnauzer (not miniature, but full size Schnauzer) mixed with something else. We assumed the “something else” is a Labrador since Elvira’s sisters kinda looked like Labs. So, we decided to call our new puppy’s breed a “Schnauzador,” or “Schlab” for short.
The days and weeks following Elvira’s arrival were mostly a joy, but caring for a puppy is a lot of work. There’s house training, discipline, plenty of feeding, and the care she needed after being spade. As the days went by Elvira became accustomed to our house, and we were falling in love with her. Elvira even tolerated loud music when The Cooters would practice (although she didn’t much care for it at first). Elvira’s shyness slowly wore off and pretty soon she was feeling proud.
In late October, just days before The Cooters Halloween show, we threw a birthday party for our friend Phillip. The Cooters played a few new cover songs, including a mean version of Megadeth’s “Peace Sells.” It was great fun. Everyone, including Elvira, was so excited.
My old dog Woodrow and his tragic end (I wrote about in Profane Existence #62), is always on my mind. But after much healing, I was determined to move forward.
Most everybody had left Phillip’s party, but there were still five or six people hanging around. Shelby cracked open the front door to say goodbye and Elvira found an opportunity to squeeze through, taking off outside.
All I could think about was Woodrow and I was not about to let Elvira or any other dog get hurt there again. She darted around the yard, carefree and totally ignoring me. She ran close enough and I saw an opportunity to catch her. I dove down the hillside towards her and I heard a sound that was similar to a branch snapping off a tree. I was in pain.
“I think I broke my finger!” I exclaimed. I had Elvira, but she was able to get away. I was stunned. She almost immediately ran right past me again. I grabbed her and Phillip took her inside.
Elvira was perfectly fine, but I was not. The pain was excruciating, but my hand was not swelling and I was able to bend my fingers. Something was wrong. Friends suggested that I had merely jammed my finger, and the thought of going to the Emergency Room for a jammed finger did seem kind of ridiculous, not to mention expensive. My injury was such a non-event that I couldn’t have possibly broken anything, right? All I did was dive on some grass.
I tried to sleep on it, but sleep was not something I engaged in that night. The pain was so bad I had to lay on the floor, away from my girlfriend. By the time morning came, I could still bend my fingers, although my ring finger was now bending towards my pinky, and my pinky was bending towards my ring finger. I looked like I had some sort of alien claw.
I phoned the local orthopedic office and before I knew it I was getting x-rays. I feared the worst. I just knew I had broken it. That sound I heard when I fell to the ground was permanently imbedded in my psyche. I’ll never forget it. I would have been totally shocked if the doctor had told me my hand was not broken.
After examining the x-rays, my doctor gave me the news I was prepared to take: I broke my ring finger inside my right hand. Then he gave me the news I was not prepared to take: If I was planning on playing bass guitar ever again, I had to have immediate surgery.
My world went black. Everything seemed surreal. It was as if the earth had just shifted out of orbit as far as I was concerned. The doctor said my finger would probably grow back together eventually, but the fracture was a spiral fracture, which accounted for the way my fingers were bending. It would be different. Only surgery and inserting screws into the metacarpals of my ring finger would ever even give me a chance to have straight fingers and the possibility of playing like I once did. How many screws would it take? He wasn’t sure until he could cut me open and observe. It might take three screws and a plate.
I’m not much of a fan of doctor visits, hospitals, and especially surgery. It all creeps me out to be honest, and although I could go into much detail about this subject, let me just say, if the pain of your ailments isn’t bad enough, the endless supply of bills will surely be just as bad.
“How soon do I need surgery?” I asked.
“You need surgery immediately,” my doctor replied. “Tomorrow morning.”
The Cooters Halloween show was definitely off. My heart was already sunken just from that. We have literally played every Halloween for the last 15 years, and our Halloween show was often the biggest of the year. But the thought that I might never play again was heavy. Thinking of being put to sleep and cut into was unbearable as well, but it took me all of a few minutes for me to agree to it.
I’m not sure how I slept at all that night. You can’t eat or even drink water the night before surgery. Thinking about my 5:00 am rendezvous with the surgeon’s knife was nerve racking. I’ve heard those stories of people not actually going to sleep with anesthesia and being aware of the surgery the entire time. I heard those stories of people waking up during surgery and something going wrong. I’ve heard those stories of some people never waking up from surgery.
Before I knew it I was in a hospital gown, being prepped and wheeled into an operating room. And before I knew it, I was waking up in some other room, groggy, with something really bulky wrapped around my hand.
“I’m alive!” I thought. A sigh of relief came over me. I was sleepy as could be and I could tell my hand was throbbing, but they had me on something that was making me care very little about the pain. In hindsight, “The Sword of Damocles” would have been an appropriate song for the moment.
I must have slept for two days afterwards. I could never fully wake up. It took a few days to regain full consciousness, and it also took a big, gigantic cup of coffee too, despite my friend’s wishes and efforts that I not drink it.
In the days following my surgery, I was fitted with a custom cast, one that is completely removable from my hand. They made this for me to get my tendons working again and to get back to playing music. My doctor started me in hand therapy with a specialist who helps me three times a week to regain control of my fingers. The bills are pilling up of course, and I have a long way to go, but I’m determined to persevere.
As I write this, I’m now one month removed from surgery and starting to regain control of my hand. The very fact that I can type this lengthy column on my own is a victory. I have my good days, and my bad days, but my therapist says I’m ahead of the game. I can’t pick up anything heavy, and I can’t grip much, but the stitches are gone and I’m starting to make a fist. I played music with my buddy Raw Cooter this past weekend, and I feel like I’m making progress. I hope by the New Year, The Cooters can finally play some shows.
By the way, Elvira is fine. We found a dog trainer who helps us speed up the training process. Elvira is doing well.
But there’s one thought I just can’t shake: I reckon I’m just getting old.