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Driven to distraction by cats and dogs and sadness

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Illustration by Caty Bartholomew

Midsummer hours and it is humid and somnolent in Clare this afternoon, the rooks flying high, the swallows flying low, the silver birds out of Shannon Airport taking off with hoarse throats, and it is raining cats and dogs and that's appropriate for me just now. The welfare of our cats and dogs is high on the agenda in the cottage.

Our 16-year old black terrier Friday is famous in the parish. They call her Cormac's Roundabout because she sits in the center of the road daily and traffic has to negotiate around her. We have often wondered how she survives.
I've tried often the find the secret hole she uses to get through the hedge and reach the road. Total failure on that front.

She is deaf nowadays, suffers increasingly from the canine version of Alzheimers, does not know where she is half the time. But she has been healthy physically and quite spry.

Her luck ran out last Sunday when she did not hear the car coming. She was knocked down. We thought she was dead when we heard the bang.

She was not dead. The left hind leg was broken. Her eyes were huge with pain. The Dutch Nation and I brought her to the vet shortly afterwards.

The fracture was very bad and she is a very old lady. The vet gently mentioned our options.

Surgery and plates and screws would probably be too much for this old patient. Splints might be possible. Otherwise Friday would be best served by being put to sleep.

There were X-rays and splinting was accomplished with a 50-50 chance of success. She returns for checking out on Friday evening.

If the splints are successful she will become a traffic roundabout again. If not then the vet will come to the cottage at the Dutch Nation's request and will put Friday asleep.

Meantime, the bandaged and splinted hind leg is almost as large as the rest of Friday. She is dining only on smoked ham and uncooked hot dogs and is being spoilt rotten.

Outside you can hear the traffic slowing down, expecting her to be in her usual position, then speeding up again. And it is raining cats and dogs.

It is midsummer, and priorities somehow surreally shift in these long hours of days and nights. I can't explain it.

This is a slight routine story of animal welfare at a time when the world is in chaos on all fronts. But it matters hugely to us and to my grownup children too.

Friday was taken out of the Galway Pound by the Dutch Nation the day before she was to be put asleep there. She grew up with the children.

She was part of the family, like old Penny the terrier before her, and thought of her being so close to the end of the road affects me much more than I thought possible.

Do we never get fully hardened to the reality of passings? I've seen enough of them in my time to be tougher than I am.

Meanwhile, in a sharp reflection of the world's mortal realities, our black tomcat kitten Aonghus, again taken out of a pound, is making hay.

The fact that Friday is handicapped by her leg means that the little black wastard, cute as a fox, is able to steal her smoked ham slices unless very carefully watched. The poor bitch is barely able to bark at him in response. Hitherto she kept him very firmly in his place.

Now he knows he can raid her food with relative impunity. He is a rascal anyway, causes a lot of hassle in the house, is always hungry, and goes up on high shelves to toss down breakables about every day. I have my hands full when the Dutch Nation is away for the day, and that's for sure!

I know this is trivial stuff. I'm not at all concerned today about Sarah Palin or Enda Kenny or even Niall's tilt at the presidency of Ireland (he's making a good impression on the Irish media so far!) or about social and economic problems generally.

I'm not even agitated about the Belfast rioting because this is the start of the sectarian marching season anyway. I'm mildly delighted at Rory McIlroy's success and not too downhearted at Fermanagh being knocked out of the football championship.

The focus is very firmly on the hind leg of an old dog who may never be a traffic hazard on the Carhue road again.

It is raining cats and dogs in midsummer, and I'm probably slightly cracked at the moment.

Do you ever have days like that?

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