"Reb," comes The Voice from downstairs.
Paddy's voice, calm but hard on the edge. In that tone that says something is really wrong. That tone that takes me from 7:30 a.m. doze to wide awake in half a second.
I get there, and it's bloody. Blood on the tea-towel, blood on his hands, blood in the sink. He's cut himself, cutting bread for his breakfast -- the reason why sliced bread is supposed to be so great is there's not so much blood involved in breakfast.
The cut is not so bad, really. It only needs a pressure bandage to stop bleeding, and those require two hands. A person can't apply one of those to himself, Paddy explains. Otherwise, he never would have wakened me.
("I never ever wake up a woman," he says, ad nauseum. "They are no trouble when they are asleep." And he is serious about that. Can't tell you how many times I've overslept, outslept an alarm even, because he will not wake me up.)
When I heard That Voice, I knew. Thank God I hear it rarely, and even less on weekends. When accidents or illnesses happen on weekends, we are well and truly up the creek, especially when there are animals involved. There is no emergency veterinarian within 50 kilometers. The nearest open pharmacy is nine kilometers from here, the nearest medical help 13 kilometers. And Paddy does not drive cars any more.
I am extra careful now when I climb ladders. I ask for help a lot more than I ever did before. I cannot afford to be injured.
We keep many animals, so the two of us rarely go anywhere together for any length of time. When we do go away, there's always a nagging worry that someone will chuck a wobbler and the house-sitter won't know what to do. And
When I go away on my own and Paddy stays home alone, I worry even more. I never know what Paddy's going to get up to when I am not around. Or the dogs. Not to mention the ^%%$ cats.
Today we walked the dogs together, seeing as Paddy was one-handed. We discussed my upcoming two-week odyssey in Portugal, who is coming to help out here, what jobs need to be done. We walked down to the labyrinth and picked up a load of litter. Lulu the greyhound leapt through the high green grain, showing off for the many pilgrims. She is spectacular, a picture of grace and speed, loving and silly and dumb as a box of rocks.
Back at the Peaceable a Canadian-Ukrainian pilgrim came for a chat. I planted-out courgettes and zinnias and yellow wax beans, assembled two lawn chairs and a little table, made a lasagna for dinner. Paddy was out on the patio, pottering around with paint. Bob sang along to the Vienna Philharmonic.
I grated cheese, careful to keep my fingers out of the blades. I tore lettuce leaves, lovely lettuce from out back.
And That Voice came from out on the patio, over the Beethoven. Again. "Reb. Reb!"
I dropped the cheese and ran outside, and Paddy was kneeling beside the dining table. Lulu was underneath, pitching her head back, arching her spine, kicking her legs in a bizarre parody of her perfect run. Her eyes were wide and staring, her mouth drooling, her teeth clenched. She was having a seizure.
I got myself under there, and Paddy and I put our arms under Lulu's pointy head, so she would not smash it so hard against the tiles. I spoke quietly to her, calmly, trying not to let the horror slip into my voice. I stroked her neck, and after a few seconds she seemed to calm a little. Her heart was racing, she breathed so fast... I slowed my breath, I slowed my words, I cradled her snout in my hands and tried to give her peace.
She was dying, I thought. I told Paddy that. A stroke. A heart attack. Poisoned, maybe. She might die, Pad. Get water, I said, and water arrived. She was not interested. She stared into my eyes, but she was not seeing me. "Lulu. Lulu. Quiet now. Breathe with me," I told her.
And she did. Slowly, eventually, she rolled up onto her haunches and came back to where we were. She lapped some water from my hands, she licked Paddy's fingers. She shook. For a moment it seemed like we were losing her again, but after a deep breath she was okay. I told her that. I told Paddy that, and I tell myself. It's over now. We all are still alive.
No veterinarian until Monday. The online vet advice says there's not a lot a vet can do anyway. We will just watch her, and see.
She is back to herself again now, maybe a little embarrassed. She ate all her dinner, and kicked Harry off her end of the sofa in the barn.
Pad and I, we keep looking at one another, wondering if this is a one-off, or do we have an epileptic dog? There is no cure for epilepsy, and the only real treatment available for dogs is heavy tranquilizers. That would erase the very thing that makes Lulu what she is -- mad joy.
The day is beautiful and productive, everything that is green is suddenly lush. Bob sings, the swallows swoop, the little grackle-bird chuckles and waves his wings from atop the internet aerial. We have turned down the philharmonic, though. Just in case. It's not as if we could hear Lulu having another fit out in the barn.
But if That Voice calls "Reb!" again, I've gotta hear it.