sun rising over trees You would not believe this day I’m having. And it’s only 12:24 p.m. (yes, the noon hour) as I start writing this. It started off well enough, and most of it has been just fine…pretty good, in fact. It’s this last hour and a half that has been unbelievable. Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes? No matter how much good we generate, we get hung up on the last worst thing. Well, I do, anyway. I’m working on trying to not judge myself so harshly, but it’s hard. Some days, it’s too hard. Like this morning. Let me tell you about it. I awoke just before 6 a.m. to use the bathroom, which was good because that meant I pulled an all-nighter! Of course, I had a companion on my short trip, but lucky for me, Rocco (and the other two) let me climb back under the covers and take a quick nap before they demanded their own bathroom break and morning food. Anyway, it is trash day, so I had to get the bin out to the curb. After I fed the dogs, I made coffee and had my own breakfast of oatmeal and applesauce. So far, so good. I sent a text to my sister, as I do every morning. It’s me “I’m alive so no need to worry” text that I send every day. Since I live alone except for the dogs, who have yet to learn how to send text messages or make phone calls, we have an arrangement such that if she doesn’t hear from me by about 8 a.m., she is to call a neighbor to check on me, in case I can’t wake up or tripped over a dog or fell down the stairs or something. It’s the cheap alternative to a Life Alert button. So far, so good. I checked my Facebook feed and a few other news headlines. I wrote my three Morning Pages, a form of journaling and brain dumping, to get my mind and my soul ready for a new day. Then off to the shower, put on my face, get dressed, and make the bed. So far, so good. The sun was shining, and after a gloomy, rainy day yesterday, I offered a quick prayer of gratitude. I know the plants and lawn were getting thirsty, so I appreciated that I didn’t have to start watering yet. Everything looks vibrant and fresh, and it smells clean and earthy outside. A few days ago the four eggs of an Eastern Bluebird hatched, and now a pregnant iris has revealed her purple offspring, too. I love Springtime here in the Tidewater area! The azalea is blooming now that the daffodils are done, and the hostas have all woken up. I laid 50 bags of mulch last week, and a quick trip around the yard to admire my hard work convinced me to take the dogs for their morning walk. It was not quite 10 a.m. So far, so good. Our usual route is around our Circle, which is a half-mile, and then depending on the weather and what else is planned, we go another mile or so, or we go home. Today we went for the long walk, around the Circle, out to the Boulevard, and up to the Oxford village. We said hello to a few neighbors we saw, but mostly we sniffed the grass and trash bins, we checked pee-mail, and we leisurely admired the various planting styles from house to house. We returned home about 10:45, feeling invigorated. And thankful again that we live in such a beautiful neighborhood on such a fine spring day. I grabbed a smokey quartz crystal and a flourite, and I sat on the deck to meditate a few moments. So far, so good. Sasha tried to jump up on my lap, while Bo put his paws on my left thigh, touching a tender spot where I have an old IT Band injury. As I lifted his paw off of me, I noticed that his toenails were rather long, and his dewclaws were almost sort of curling in toward themselves. And this is where “so far, so good,” became “this far, not good.” My dogs are not fans of getting their nails trimmed. Usually, I take them to a groomer to have it done because I hate doing it by myself about as much as they hate having it done. Most dogs I know, and most people I know who have dogs, agree that cutting dog nails are the WORST part of having a dog. It doesn’t matter how gentle you try to be, how much you love them, how sharp the clippers are, how fast you try to do it, how much peanut butter you bribe them with, it’s never a good time for anyone. Now, Sasha will go so far as to offer her paw up for a manicure to the groomer, but when it is me, its muzzle, its leash, its restraint, it’s hell. I am the one with the scars to prove it. So far, I’m anticipating more not-so-good. Maybe it’s my own anxiety that comes through and causes the dogs to get uptight. I don’t know. But I do know that just because I start does not mean I will finish today. I have 12 paws to do. I might get 1 done, or maybe 4 but not on the same dog necessarily, and it might be 7 or 8, but it is never 12 on one day. For clarity, each paw has 4 nails, and then there are the dewclaws, at least 2 per dog. That’s 54 nails to be trimmed. There is bound to be a bad snip here or a jagged edge there once in a while. It doesn’t matter if you use a Dremel and grind them down or clippers or scissors. It does help if you get the grooming clippers out and shave the hair off the paws as much as you can so you can actually see the nails, which I did. It does not help if some or all of the nails are black instead of white so you can see the quick. Which they are on Rocco. Yeah, so far, very not good. I started with Rocco because he’s the easy one, the one most likely to be distracted by peanut butter. I shaved. I clipped one nail. He squirmed but he let me go on. I got nail two done. I got three and four done, all on the same paw, talking to him all the time. I moved on to the next paw and easily got one nail done. This was almost too easy, but I went on to the second nail as I noticed the peanut butter was almost gone. And then I saw the blood. So not good! I wasn’t sure where it was coming from but it was all over the mat I had on the counter. I guessed I had cut the quick, the vessel inside the nail, but I couldn’t see for sure where it was coming from – black nails and black fur and all. I reached for the small bottle of styptic powder, but it wasn’t in the basket of grooming tools. I couldn’t leave him on the counter, and I didn’t want blood on the floor. I disconnected him from the leash things and picked him up. He was still trying to finish up the peanut butter and wasn’t happy. Blood is now on my grooming smock and the sleeve of my white tee shirt. I hustled him to the laundry room where I keep the Doggy Rx Basket. I dumped everything out and grabbed the powder but there was no room to set it out and dip his toes, so back to the kitchen. He is increasingly not happy. I am not happy either. I am remorseful, berating myself for having cut him, apologizing, and getting worked up because he is now in full-fledged Not Having It mode. So bad. I held him under one arm and opened the styptic power jar, sprinkled some on the lid, and tried to dip his toes in it. I still wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Maybe I had clipped the skin instead of getting the nail too short? Crap! Now it looked like there was blood on the back leg as well. As I tried to grab the paw I had clipped nails on, the front paws sent the bottle of styptic powder flying across the counter and onto the floor. I asserted my larger physical self and forced him to the sink to rinse his paw, or paws, as the case might be. Good Lord, there was a continuous bright streak of red! Oh crap! Maybe I had really, really hurt him. Was he going to need stitches? How could I have done this? I had two more dogs to do – and half of this one yet – and I was the one who was having the meltdown now. So far, very very bad. I apologized through my tears, and I held him tight. I grabbed a towel and swaddled him in it. He calmed down for a few seconds before he got his second wind and let me know just how furious he was. I told myself he just wanted the peanut butter, that he wasn’t actually in pain, but I don’t know that for sure. Back to the laundry room to get the doggy first-aid kit, tape, and gauze. Have you ever tried to wrap up a dog’s paw when the dog was not cooperating? He may be only 8 months old but he has four feet and you only have two hands. He’s also got a mouth full of teeth, and I didn’t want to traumatize him so horribly that he got desperate and decided biting was the way to defend himself, so I wrangled him over to the dog crate and put him inside, hoping he would calm down a little., while I addressed the crime scene and got myself under control. So bad. A glance at the clock told me it was now barely just a bit after 11. I scrubbed blood off the counter and the floor got the peroxide and Neosporin out and gave myself a pep talk about the necessary evil of tending to his foot/feet. I went to get him from the crate only to discover the pillow, blanket, and door was covered in blood. I mean, OMG, yes, blood everywhere! I started crying again as I opened the door, and he stepped out on the oriental rug, the white part of course, with one small bloody paw. My penance. I’d have to look at it every single day if I couldn’t get that stain out but now wasn’t the time. I had an injured baby to attend to. I debated calling the vet, and then I decided to make another attempt at stopping the apparent hemorrhage. I used a pantiliner (I had them on hand for when I had female dogs in heat) and sticky tape, followed by paper tape. It worked. Then I tackled the second paw. I still couldn’t tell if there was a nip there or not, but I plunged his nails into the recovered styptic powder. After cooing and cuddling did not work to calm him down, I gave in and offered him half a diazepam, which is doggy valium. Really. I have had it on hand for years to give to Bo when traveling because he sometimes gets anxious in the car. Maybe I should have taken it myself, but I had work to do yet. A half-hour later he finally slowed down, and I put him in another kennel to rest while I cleaned up the first one and started a load of laundry. By now it was just about noon. I was exhausted. I cleaned up the mess, again. I ate a piece of chocolate cake. And I checked on my baby, now napping. I beat myself up for being a bad mama, a lousy groomer, an incompetent nurse. And then I realized what I was doing. I mean, I really was fully aware of the negativity I was feeding off of. Ooh, awareness is good. Okay. Yes, this is good. Now I can see my way to What Next?

I told myself that I wasn’t the first human to ever slip up and nip a dog. In fact, I had done it myself previously with another dog. That is why I had the styptic powder on hand, why I had two sets of clippers and a Dremel, why I had made myself a smock for doing the dog grooming, why I had tape and gauge, and diazepam on hand. I was a prepared mom. I used to have help to do the grooming, but since Kevin passed on, I usually took them to a groomer, but these were extenuating times due to the Covid19 virus. I told myself a good mama would not want her babies’ nails to get too long and be a source of discomfort in themselves. So far, so good, again. undefined I debated about running to the pharmacy to get some new, fresh styptic powder, but I checked online first because I couldn’t find an expiration date on the bottle I had. It turns out there is no expiration date. And I learned also that styptic powder can sting a little, which might be why I got the reaction I did…if it wasn’t peanut butter envy. It turns out you can use regular flour, or cornstarch, or even baking soda (but that also could sting). The appropriate thing to do is to clean the “wound,” (which I did), to stifle the flow of blood with styptic, flour, or cornstarch (which I did), to put gauze and tape on it (which I did), and to try and calm the pet down (which I also did). I did everything right. If you don’t count cutting the quick in the first place. But nearly everyone does, professional groomers and loving parents alike. It happens, especially if you have an active puppy (which I do), who has a furry paw (which he does), and black nails (which he does). I had good intentions, and I took appropriate, quick action to fix the problem. Well then, so far, so good.

He was up for a little bit and is now napping again. Snoring, in fact. So I am going to let him be for a while before I attempt to change his dressing. I don’t know why I do this to myself, play his nasty game of blaming myself for being the worst kind of parent, for one mistake in a long time. I can’t even remember the last time I have had this kind of mishap. It must be months. Well, I’ve had other mishaps and missteps, but I mean where I have caused an injury to someone or something else. At least this time, for the first time I think, I did not blame Kevin for not being here to help me, to hold a dog while I quickly got the job done. I did not blame the dog groomer for being closed during the pandemic we are experiencing. I did not blame the politicians for closing down businesses or ordering me to stay home. I did not blame anyone but me, and luckily, I caught myself fairly promptly. I took responsibility for myself, and for poor Rocco. I acknowledged that I am a good mama, that I had on hand what I needed to remedy the situation, and I took action. Not only that, I even corraled the other two dogs and started progress on their paws as well. It needs to be done, and I’m the one here to do it. I am extra cautious, although I may need more peanut butter soon. So far, so good. I could have used a hug somewhere along the way, so once I was done doing what had to be done, I went out and hugged a tree. I have recovered my wits and self-esteem. So far, so good. But there is a lot of daylight left…


  1. Two weeks ago I was between doing CoCo’s trimmings or calling the vet and having them do it and then I remembered what a disaster it had been the couple of times that I tried doing it and
    an even worse outcome when Bob tried to help. I called the vet and with the world as it is we just had to call the office upon arrival, they came out to get her and bam 7 minutes later she was done.. $10.00 well spent…

  2. Such a sweet plumb. And your yard looks amazing! Have I told you lately you’re one of my heroes? I love your self-awareness. Miss you!

  3. Such a sweet column. And your yard looks amazing! Have I told you lately you’re one of my heroes? I love your self-awareness. Miss you!

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