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Best laid plans

Working in New York City and living in the Upper Delaware River Valley has its own set of challenges. We commuters usually have a routine that helps us get out of the door in the morning—at least I do. Although we can predict and plan for certain things, many things are out of our hands. Among these unforeseen bumps in the road include traffic, weather, accidents, mechanical breakdowns and the odd tree that may fall across the train tracks. Our collective patience depends on being able to put everything in perspective; deep breathing helps, as does a prayer once in a while.

My morning routine usually starts the night before, checking the weather and laying out appropriate clothes. We have two dogs that are part of my nightly routine: a Corgi and an Aussie mix. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to get them back in the house as they’re chasing deer, turkeys, squirrels, or our grandchildren makes for a delayed morning schedule.

One recent Sunday was going as planned. The dogs were out and I was doing my thing, but then everything went woefully wrong. The dogs returned early to the screen door, and as I let them in, I noticed Marshall, our Aussie mix, had what looked like feathers in his mouth—a bird, I thought, until I took a closer look. To my horror, his mouth was full with porcupine quills.

I’ve had dogs all my life but never experienced this. The pup was pawing at them, trying to get them out; he had 16 quills in his lips and snout and a few more in his leg. Judging from the sad, hurtful look in his eyes, he was in obvious pain. My wife was quickly online to see what could be done as I called our neighbor, who looks after the dogs, to see if she had any thoughts. Her suggestion was the animal hospital in Middletown, over an hour away. She came over with a pet cone to try to stop him from pushing the quills in deeper; if they were dug into the mussel, they would need to be surgically removed. At 10:30 p.m., a call went out to another neighbor to come help pull the quills out, something he has done before. It took two of us to hold the pup down while, one by one, he pulled them out.  Panting and thrashing about, poor Marshall felt the pain with each quill pulled.

A half hour later, they were all out, and we gave him a pain pill and something to help him rest. He was drinking okay, but we knew he needed to go to the vet the next day. We were still up with him at 12:30 a.m., realizing our plans for Monday were just shot to heck.

Marshall made a full recovery, and the vet said we did a great job. We are grateful to have such wonderful neighbors. A few days later, I found a notice from our dog sitter. It was an instruction sheet for what to do when a dog gets sprayed by a skunk. I read this as a message from her, “Don’t call me for that one.”

As best laid plans get screwed up, it’s always good to have a plan B... or great neighbors.


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