Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Ups and downs

A vast improvement.  Or, "Avast!  Improvement!"

It's been a roller-coaster few days in the Good Plates house-hold.  A birthday dinner with my Dad for the first time in a very long time, some housework and a pretty cruisy Mothers' Day.  But the highlights were watching our youngest minion make a breakthrough at karate and building a better wardrobe.  The lowlight was definitely responding to the realisation that one of our dogs had eaten a lot of rat poison.

A karate breakthrough

On Saturday afternoon we went to our third karate lesson.  A few weeks ago Mrs G suggested that the family learn karate together, and I thought it was a great idea.  We could all do with something fun to do as a group, not to mention improving our fitness.  Our youngest, with high functioning Asperger's Syndrome, could also benefit enormously from a structured activity like this.  We want to give him something to build self-confidence, to present a challenge, and to improve his coordination and balance.

We have a private family lesson on a Saturday afternoon, just the five of us, while we all learn the basics.  With her less than reliable knees, Mrs G helps our young minion stay focused while the instructor teaches us all the basic stances and moves.  Minion X found the first week very challenging, and the second week he was afflicted by a bout of colic and missed it.  We had to cajole him into the third lesson.

He started well enough, but then he and his sisters got a bit silly, laughing and falling over when they couldn’t get something right.  This isn’t a good thing to happen in a discipline like karate, in which decorum and respect are highly valued.  However, rather than getting stern or cranky, our instructor decided to break things up by getting out a big pad and have us do flying kicks at it.  And our little man excelled.  He had so much air-time that the instructor challenged him to do a double-kick at the target on the pad.  He wound up, took a running jump and landed them both before hitting the ground.

You could actually see the confidence and enthusiasm grow in him, expanding like a time-lapse movie of dough rising.  The realisation that he’d just done something remarkable kindled a light and a smile and a twinkle in his eye that were wonderful to witness.  Mrs G, the instructor and I exchanged a couple of looks and we knew we had him.

We'll have to remind him of that moment, but now he has an amazingly positive experience to plug into, and that will help him stay engaged for future lessons.  It also speaks volumes of our instructor - if he didn't know what he was doing he certainly knew what he was trying.

A better wardrobe

Sunday was Mothers’ Day.  We don't tend to make much of the Hallmark holidays in our family, on the basis that they purport to celebrate something on one day that ought to be a part of every day.  However, we usually do something special for each other, and this year involved a sleep in and a perfectly nice breakfast which Mrs G didn't have to lift a finger to prepare.  A large portion of the day was then given over to renovating the master bedroom wardrobe.

I know in the theatre world it can take days to put up a set and only hours to pull it down but, when you didn’t build something in the first place, and you need all the walls intact, demolition isn’t so fast.  In this case I spent as much time taking out the old wardrobe fittings as I did putting in the new ones.

Now, I understand the desire to cover countersunk screws with putty or filler to create a nice finish, but it also makes it very hard to take things apart, especially when you think you've found all the fixing points and it turns out that they also banged a few nails in here and there for good measure.  It's certainly not helpful when half the screws are horribly burred, and one or two are quite different from the rest.  And then, of course, there's that helpful moment when you're drilling a pilot hole for an anchor point and you hit something impenetrable, which reminds you that the house is steel-framed and the object here is to avoid the studs.

All of this occurred while Mrs G was out with the two elder minions, doing some necessary shopping, so she missed the swearing that went along with the demolition process.  When she got back I'd come to a halt because I needed direction on the layout of the fittings, and at that point we discovered I'd biased the whole thing to the wrong end of the space.  Some small amount of chip-spitting later I worked out that I only needed to move one thing to rectify the problem, and we were away again.  It all went together marvellously quickly from that point, and the rest of the afternoon was spent happily storing stuff in it (results pictured above).

Puppy with a death wish

And so to Monday morning.

In the course of making lunches and breakfasts I normally produce some food scraps, but they aren’t often delivered to the chooks until after everyone gets home in the afternoon.  On Monday, however, in amongst all the chores, I found the right gap to accommodate that one as well.

As I walked across the dewy back yard I couldn't help noticing the pile of torn up cardboard and plastic under the washing line, and so I had to pause to check what Milo, our 3-year old black Spoodle, had found to take outside and destroy this time.  I quickly recognised the packaging of the rat poison Mrs G had purchased on Sunday and which hadn't yet been deployed in the roof space.  Not good.

I gathered up all the bits of packaging and went back inside to take stock.  Sure enough, he'd taken two separate packages out of a plastic bag (thoughtfully leaving the weed-killer alone) and smuggled them out through the dog-door in the laundry.  He’d then ripped each packet open and consumed the contents.  This involved two separate stealthy trips and a bloody-minded focus to not eat the packaging.

So, I advised work I'd be late or absent, dropped off the family variously at work and school, and took both our dogs to the vet - both, because I couldn't be sure the other one hadn't eaten any poison as well.

Mrs G had taken Milo in to the vet to have his annual vaccinations on Saturday morning, so when I walked in with him on Monday it only took a moment for the staff to recognise him.

I opened with "Hi, either one or both of these dogs has eaten a lot of rat poison some time in the last 10 hours.  Please help!"

The lovely young lady behind the counter said "Isn't that ...", I helpfully inserted "Yes, he was in here on Saturday ...", and she concluded "... the dog that ate all those Easter eggs?"

Oh yeah.  I had to admit that, indeed, this was that dog they made vomit right after Easter, when I made a similar discovery in the back-yard.  On that occasion he ate a lot of the foil packaging too, and the resulting regurgitation, I was informed, closely resembled Nyan Cat.

So they gave both our puppies an injection to make them vomit.  Thankfully blonde boy Farley only brought up breakfast while Milo was proven to be our perpetrator by producing a prodigious pile of undigested poison.

Yesterday we learned that rat poison works by preventing the blood from clotting.  The little blighters die from internal bleeding that just won't stop.  Those readers amongst you who have been present for the birth of their own minions will know that it is common practice for a vitamin K injection to be administered soon after birth.  This minimises potential neo-natal complications by enhancing the immature blood clotting ability of the newborn.   

The same therapy is given to dogs who have eaten rat poison.  Yep, we're giving vitamin K tablets to our certified criminally insane dog for three weeks, which is how long the poison could persist in his system.  And since the effect of the poison is gradual and cumulative, and it wasn't in his stomach all that long, there's every chance he will be just fine much sooner than that.

On the upside, because he’s such an indiscriminate piggy, we can just put the tablets in his food and he eats them without noticing.  Small mercies.

I shudder to think how much worse it could have been if I hadn't found time to take out the chook scraps.  Fate's funny like that, isn't it?

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