Pollen, Life and Death

Feb 25, 2013 at 5:48 PM
I live right on a beautiful park with a lake and a dog park and a ton of trees, which is normally a good thing, but not right now. Right now, I'm looking out at a beautiful idyllic landscape and cursing it hoarsely. I'm dealing with insufferably bad allergies. I can't take allergy medications, so I'm stuck with the full force of it.

Oak pollen season has struck with a vengeance. Huge piles of oak pollen on the windshield, everything coated a nauseating shade of goldenrod. My front yard is indiscernable beneath huge massive pollen drifts.

I feel it might be necessary to become an oak tree vigilante.

But If I do become an oak tree assassin, it will have to be at some other time of year. As of right now, the trees win. I don't dare step out of doors, and a knock at the door is dreaded. I sweep constantly, as there appears to be some secret way that pollen is entering the house, piling up under the dining room table and by the doors.

I've got a pot of water bubbling on the stove for humidity, an ionizer, an ozone machine, an air purifier, aromatherapy, and all-natural household air spray going. Nothing helps. I'm in migraine land nearly all the time, constantly dealing with sinus issues, and every breath is a chore.  The allergies used to be just sneezing, then coughing, but now it has devolved into a terrible wheeze, and my throat feels coated in chalk.

I find sleep evades me. So, early yesterday morning, I was up early. Very early.

A knock at the door. Damn. Urgent. An appeal through the closed door for help. I peek and it's a woman who is frantic. Crying, panicked. Her dog collapsed in the street outside my house, on the way back from the park. Having seizures or something, and she can't lift it alone, needs to get it to the vet in a hurry. I couldn't see a dog, I could only see a mini van. All the childhood memories of being warned about walking up to a van flashed through my head, of shows with cheesy black/white cutaway shots and shaky camera moves designed to make you feel nervous, talking in deep tones about side-of-the-road killers and their penchant for pretending to be in distress to lure victims. All this flashed through my head but I still said, Give me a minute, I'll go get my sweetheart, he's strong.

I though this because labs are large, and collapsed, unconscious or dead life forms are oddly far heavier than live ones. Without a soul to lift it up, a body is a tremendously heavy thing. Makes me wonder how much a flower weighs before you pick it.

I ran for Isaac, but he was sprawled out and totally asleep. He had somehow taken up the entire bed in the short time I'd been away.  I woke him carefully. He's not fond of surprises. I tried to express both patient kindness and extreme urgency, so as not to upset him. Early morning Isaac isn't my favorite Isaac. He's a very particular and methodical day-starter, and life shows up behind the eyes in the morning at exactly the speed it will, clothes go on at one speed only.

As Isaac very slowly began to show signs of life behind the eyes, I quickly realized the dog would be dead before I could get Isaac out there to help.

And suddenly it dawned on me. Oh yeah! I'm fucking search and rescue trained! How could I forget? I took courses in triage, I moved an "unconscious" 350 pound firefighter 50 yards! I was drilled and drilled on how to get injured and sick over to medical help. I ran through smoke and fake fire to find fake dead people and fake injured and triage them.

So, I dashed about the house, created a home-made stretcher made primarily of my favorite table cloth - the only thing in the linen cabinet that wasn't an antique or the wrong size, meanwhile, Isaac's head had mostly cleared from the morning fogginess that strikes hardest when woken unexpectedly.

I heard him talking the devil's advocate on my actions, reminded me that I put myself at risk of a lawsuit if I help. I pondered that, but decided I couldn't leave the dog to die. Which actually was against my training. I'm supposed to refuse to help a stranger outside of specific situations, and this was one of them. Had it been a person, I could have been charged with manslaughter upon the death of the person, even if I helped. Oddly, the fact that it was a dog was what made it possible to help. I'm not likely to get in trouble for being a good samaritan, end up in jail or sued for all I'm worth, when it's a dog. I gambled, right or wrong, on the side of doing what's right over what's legal. As I usually do.

I told Isaac I'm going, so either help or leave me be. I've got it.

Isaac wasn't nearly ready, so I told him not to bother, but he did put in one more useful thought, reminding me to don gloves as he sat back down on the bed.  I grabbed up a pair of latex gloves from the kitchen - one thing about Isaac, he's a bit of a dirt-o-phobe, so there are hospital-style latex gloves in drawers all over, in case of dirty chores like gardening or changing the oil.

Panic freezes the mind, makes people shabby useless versions of themselves, and I've seen plenty of it. People panic easily, but for some reason, I don't. I keep my head and start taking charge. So, when I arrived, I took in the pollen-soaked scene. Pollen was splattered everywhere, all over the dog, who had fallen into a gutter that was lined with pollen siz inches deep. I sighed, resolute. With firm commands, I helped the woman move about, and prepare her dog for the stretcher. The dog, an obviously well-cared-for, well loved golden retriever who was having seizures, onto the stretcher beneath him and then heave him into her car.

Afterward, I remembered so many things I did wrong. I didn't ask names, or calm her down first, or anything. I handled helping her with the dog just fine, but I stuck to work, more like a busy field medic or Joe Friday. "Just the facts, ma'am."

As she hovered over her dog, panic stricken, I was struck at how incongruous to see such a sad sight painted onto the canvas of my bright, cheerful tablecloth. I firmly reminded her to drive straight to the vet, but she said, "I think he's already dead."

And at that exact moment, the dog was. I am not certain that it wasn't her saying so that made the dog give up, but it did, right then. Death is such a curious thing. No backdrop makes it seem congruous. Suddenly what usually might just appear to be a slight tangle or muss in fur sudden turns into a grotesque mat of fur, twisted and wrong, not the way a dog would have arranged itself. He was very dead. No matter how many times I see it, it always seems so absolute, so HUGE. Nothing is just dead. It's very dead. I've seen plenty of death, and it never ceases to be extreme, and difficult. I wasn't upset by the dog's death, but I did recognize that there was no longer any reason to be wading in a literal puddle of pollen.

I know it seems as though perhaps I was being heartless, and I was not interested in imposing myself onto her moment of grief, and, let's face it, there was no further help I could be...  I chose not to force the grieving owner to experience with me the impending inevitable sneeze fit that was looming. I booked it.  I left her to take the dead dog to the vet, and went back home fast.

Well, despite that the whole thing took less than five minutes, yet life rolls onward here in this house, and I'm still paying out the nose. Too much pollen during that experience has left me with deeper migraines and more sniffles.

The sudden arrival of unexpected death into my life, and an emergency that was not quite as close to home as it could have been did serve to remind me that I am good under pressure, and that I want to get a new batch of search and rescue training.

Whatever help I can be, whatever ready I can be, I'd like to try. It's better than being incapable under stress.

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