Pain-Cowboy Up


By the time people reach senior citizen status, most have endured various levels of physical pain. There’s childbirth pain, broken limb pain, headaches, toothaches, surgeries and maybe pain from a car accident or two. Pain becomes an unwanted acquaintance as you roll into old age. That’s how I viewed my appointment with a dentist this week; the pain would be like an unwelcome visitor I hoped would not stay too long. The event was minor gum surgery to prepare for a crown. The prescribed drugs were on the kitchen counter waiting to get me through the expected agony. The refrigerator was filled with a week’s worth of groceries in anticipation of being laid up. Bring it on. Like Scotty in the Star Trek series who happily spent his shore leave in his quarters, I was at least looking forward to having some quiet time. There are necklaces and bracelets to bead, books to read and dog training tapes to review. No problem. This was just another experience to endure. Life goes on. Suck it up. Cowboy up. This too shall pass. There was no way to postpone or cancel the necessary, dreadful dental surgery, which in the end would result in healthy teeth and gums.

What I wasn’t counting on was waking up the day of the procedure to a sick dog. Border Collie Catcher was lethargic and had a slight fever. He ate and drank water, which was a good sign. I urged him to get up and walk outside in the big yard. He walked with no problem, although without a spring in his step. No diarrhea or throwing up. Catcher’s eyes were clear and his breathing normal. He couldn’t tell me where it hurt though, which was frustrating. Instinct teaches dogs to hide their pain so they do not show weakness to other animals and therefore leave themselves open to attack. By lying still he was masking his discomfort. But I knew he wasn’t himself and even puppy Tommie couldn’t get him to play. I can deal with my pain. As my dog’s keeper it’s more important to monitor Catcher’s health.

I believe it is crucial that dogs be allowed to eat certain grasses when their stomachs are upset. They know instinctually which grasses, weeds or herbs are beneficial to them. My neighbor said when he grew comfrey in his yard, his dogs would nibble on it occasionally when they didn’t feel well. Sure enough, Catcher nibbled on greenery in my yard that he had previously ignored. Who knows what he got into to make him lethargic. There are so many wild creatures, bugs, snakes and dead animal parts that make their way through my Florida yard. I police the area daily, removing any mushrooms, as well as bird bodies that the hawks may have decapitated.

It occurred to me after the dental surgery that how people deal with pain can be an indication of how they deal with life in general. It would have been easy to take all the prescribed pain meds but I’d rather be alert and aware, even if it means discomfort. I don’t escape into drugs and booze and won’t take this opportunity to start. Life has taught me to deal with what happens head on. As much as I’d like to wallow in self-pity and the haze of drug induced euphoria, I have to face reality eventually. So my motto has become to just deal with it. Not that I’d judge someone else who does use drugs to get through severe pain. That is a personal decision for each person. I’m only saying that at my age I’ve discovered that my tolerance level for pain is high so I weigh the discomfort against the risk of certain drugs.

Update: Catcher became more alert as the day progressed. A blood panel taken a few weeks ago came back with excellent levels so there was no reason to panic now. Catcher was lethargic, nothing else, something only a dog owner would discern. No reason to rush him to the vet for an expensive visit. Mother Nature’s pharmacy, the grass and weeds, appeared to have treated him. On a humorous note, those of you that have animals (farm or pet) know that they always seem to get sick on holidays, weekends, at night or, in Catcher’s case, the vet’s day off. It never fails.

As it turned out my own pain was a point-five on a scale of one to ten. But I was warned not to do yard work for three days. Move over, Scotty, I’ve got a three-day pass to be a lazy bum.

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