Panic at the disco, but no disco

Hello again! Happy over-a-year-of-our-new-hellscape, and I hope you sensibly celebrated by getting takeout or something. I, apparently, decided to celebrate one year of lockdown by telling both my regular depression and my seasonal depression to hold my beer, and then proceeding to plunge into the pit of despair for most of February and March. I remained as sensible as possible during this time (which is to say, not at all) and every week got online with my therapist and defended my ridiculous behavior as if it was all totally normal and fine, because no longer talking to anyone or doing anything was PERFECTLY LOGICAL because I was just TIRED and also EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE felt objectively true so obviously that was why I was crying so much. And then when she would sigh at me I would just shrug and say it’s fine, whatever, everything’s fine, whatcha gonna do, it is what it is.

I am an utter fucking delight (especially while depressed).

ANYHOODLE, I would love to tell you that’s all over now and I’m good, but that’s not quite true. I am better than I was. I am still not great, but Otto is no longer looking at me like I might spontaneously combust at any moment. While trying to quantify it the other day, I explained that I had been moving through a giant vat of peanut butter during the worst of it—sticky, heavy, and very constricting—and now I am in a vat of Jell-O, instead. I am not unimpeded but at least things are a little bouncier than they were. ALSO I got my first coronavirus vaccine shot, and I think that helped my mental state a lot more than I realized it would (even though it made me pretty ill and I am not looking forward to the second one).

On the up side, I am one of those people who has gained quite a bit of weight this past year due to mistaking “sheltering in place” for “bake and snack all day in place,” and during this time of hating everyone and everything I shed about half of those excess pounds. I only have to be miserable a little longer to get back into my favorite jeans. (Yay…?) (#brightsiding)

Also it turns out that as much as the dogs enjoy having people home all the time, they especially enjoy an unmotivated, exhausted me who lies around with them while they nap all day. Licorice is still a dog in the conventional sense; although she will nap during the day, she also patrols around the house, chases squirrels outside and destroys toys inside, etc. Duncan, on the other hand, has decided his twilight years require more rest. Much, much more rest. He does not play with toys. He doesn’t like going outside. And he sleeps—no joke—somewhere between 20 and 22 hours each day. (I can’t remember if I’ve ever said it here, but we sometimes refer to him as furniture we feed.)

Duncan’s typical schedule at this point in his spoiled life is to get up between 5:00-5:30 in the morning, go outside to pee, have his meds and some breakfast, pace around until he’s ready to go outside for a brief constitutional, and then he gets back up on our bed to return to sleep. He will then sleep until it’s nearly dinnertime. Once he gets up, he will go outside once or twice and pace around wondering why there is no food in his bowl. After dinner, he will go outside, and then the evening hours are passed in a combination of napping, pacing, barking at nothing, and peeing on the floor. At around 10:00 we feed him a snack and give him his meds and he goes to sleep for the night.

We wish he would sleep later in the morning, but other than the early wake-up and the confused evening piddling inside, he is hardly a high-demand pet. He’s old and this is just how it is, anyway.

Spring has sprung here in Georgia, which means we are currently experiencing The Pollening: a thick yellow crust has descended on everything and everyone’s allergies are going nuts. Licorice gets a monthly-ish allergy injection at the vet, which I schedule whenever it looks like the last dose is wearing off. When allergens are low, she can go longer between shots. When they are higher, shorter. And of course between my mental state and the beginning of The Pollening, this weekend I noticed she was scratching like crazy, so I made a note to call the vet first thing on Monday (yesterday) to get her scheduled. They were kind enough to offer me a same-day slot at the end of the day, so I thanked them profusely and hung up. I asked Monkey if he would come with us, later, as Licorice gets very nervous in the car and I prefer to have someone else hold her/calm her if possible. He said sure.

Then I realized that the timing was such that we would need to probably wake Duncan up, take him out, and then put him in the crate in my office briefly while we went to the vet. Somehow I’ve been scheduling these shots in such a way that someone has always been home with Duncan, I guess. If I really thought about it, I couldn’t remember when either of the dogs had last been in the crate, actually. It’s a great big one, plenty big enough for both of them, and it has a nice memory foam pad in there so it’s comfy, and in the Before Times when Otto worked and Monkey left for classes and I occasionally left the house, the routine was always that people leaving = dogs in the crate. But it’s been… well, probably a year since either of them have been in there. And lately I just camp out in the bedroom with my laptop and the dogs, so neither of them have spent much time in my office at all for months.

Honestly I didn’t think about it too much.

Well, the day passed and at the appointed time Monkey took Duncan out (he peed! he pooped! what a good boy!) and then I put him in the crate. We loaded up Licorice and took her to the vet for her shot. They were very quick with her and we were on our way back home in no time. On the way home we debated whether Duncan would be napping again or if the unfamiliar surroundings would mean he was awake and barking. When I pulled into the driveway and parked, I told Monkey to go ahead inside with Licorice and I would be in after I grabbed the mail. I headed to the mailbox, got the mail, and went in the back door, into my office. Both dogs were running around, happy to be home and free.

“He was barking,” Monkey reported. “He was definitely upset.”

“Poor buddy,” I said, thinking it was good that the vet is relatively close and he hadn’t been pent up for long. And then… I saw a little something on my office floor. I leaned down to inspect and then I… smelled something. With unfurling horror, I said to Monkey, “Is this POOP??”

Reader, it was poop. And it was just the beginning.

When you or I am upset, we may respond in a variety of ways. When Duncan is upset, and crated after not having been in said crate for a year, and finding himself in it ALL ALONE in a totally EMPTY HOUSE, apparently his reaction is to… completely panic. Which included a panic pooping incident. Said panic pooping in this giant crate could’ve easily been deposited in an area far from where Duncan was standing, but: panic. Near as I can tell, Duncan had himself a panic poop and then stepped in it. Several times.

And in the minute it had taken me walk up the driveway for the mail and return, Monkey had opened the crate and gone on his merry way, and so had Duncan. Duncan had tracked poop all over the foam pad in the crate, and all over my office floor. And the kitchen floor. And the family room floor.

This would’ve been unpleasant under the very best of circumstances, and I am not at my best right now. So I’m sure my calm and collected response to this literal shitshow began with “OH NO OH GOD NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” and finally I found the words to exhort Monkey to catch the dog and pick him up ASAP. As he grabbed Duncan, I grabbed a bag and some paper towels and spray cleaner to pick up the, erm, chunks. It quickly became clear that the MULTITUDE of shitty footprints in this disaster required more than this, so I switched gears. I abandoned the floors in favor of directing Monkey to join me at the sink, where I tried to clean Duncan’s feet while Duncan squirmed and flailed and Monkey tried to hold on, not get touched at all by said feet, and oh, I don’t know how he missed the stench initially, but I can assure you this was not a pleasant-smelling job as we wrestled the dog’s feet. (Side note: know how dogs have pads on their feet? with hair/fur between them? Have you ever tried scrubbing poopy dog feet? It is not as straightforward as one would wish.) Eventually Duncan’s feet were clean enough and Monkey had gagged enough that I sent them away, instructing my son to close himself in my room with the dogs so that I could mop the floors. Alllllllll the floors. Thank God Duncan’s unable to jump up on any of the furniture, at least.

I mopped a million tiny poop-paw-prints off the vinyl, the laminate, and the wood. I stripped the cover off the foam pad from the crate and wiped the crate down and put the cover in the washer. I sprayed odor remover on the pad because I couldn’t see anything on it once the cover was removed but I was sure I could still smell something. I kept creeping through the house sniffing things, because I could still smell poop no matter what I cleaned. Eventually I freed the boys from the bedroom and by this time Duncan was so stressed out he was having one of his kind-of-a-seizure low sugar episodes, so I sat on the (freshly cleaned) floor of the kitchen with him and fed him some honey and petted him until he was stable again. I knew he needed a full bath but I obviously couldn’t do it while he was so stressed, so I checked his feet again (clean enough for the moment) and regaled Otto with the story of the panic poop when he arrived home. We fed the dogs, ate our own dinner, and then I gave Duncan a full bath. He got all stressed out all over again, and I alternated brushing and blow-drying him with feeding him treats to try to keep him calm.

Eventually everything was done, and Otto popped up some popcorn and we sat on the couch and shared it with the dogs. (They love popcorn.) I kept asking Otto if he could smell poop. He lovingly assured me it was in my head. At one point after I’d given the rest of my popcorn to Monkey, Duncan walked over to him to beg for some and… peed on the floor. So basically everything was back to normal.

At 10:00, we fed Duncan and gave him his meds, and after his trip outside, he was snoring away on our bed in no time.

Was it a stressful day for Duncan? Well, remember how I said he gets up between 5:00-5:30 every morning? This morning Otto got to sleep until his alarm went off at 6:30. He got up and went all through his morning routine and Duncan was still snoring at 8:00 when he left for work. When I got up a little later, he was still asleep. And when I left to go out and pick up our grocery order at 11:00, he was still asleep. Duncan didn’t get up for the day until 12:15. After which he peed, ate, and went right back to sleep. Less than an hour in the crate + panic poop + the following Bath Indignity meant he needed over 14 continuous hours of sleep to recuperate, evidently.

I may need considerably longer to recover, but I guess I have to be awake for it.

tl;dr: I am slowly emerging from a bad funk, Duncan is both exhausted and smells like flowers, and the floors are nice and clean now.


  1. Brenda

    I am exhausted at just thinking about handling a dog + poop! These days it really doesn’t take much for our quiet routines to be completely shaken up. I’m just hoping I handle the changes that are going to start coming with the vaccines rolling out better than Duncan did.

  2. Lisa

    Guess I’ll stop complaining about our senior cat who has been vomiting everywhere – everywhere that’s carpeted anyway. Congrats on progress to jello. I’ve been immersed in it for a month or so. Hope yours is a good flavor at least!

  3. Mary K

    Note to self: DO NOT uncrate dog until poop verification has been done. OY.

    In my case, it’s DO NOT enter cats’ room barefoot until barf verification has been done.

    And I’m a slow learner…

  4. Liz D

    I really for you with the regular depression, the winter depression, and the extra-special pandemic depression. Seriously, why would I ever get up and do anything?

    And the pandemic pounds! How did you start losing them? I can only stick to less food for about half-a-day!

  5. Mary K. in Rockport

    One big OY for you! It is good to hear from you from the deep hole you have partly climbed out of. When you emerge at the top of the vat of jello, you will find yourself in Georgia – the vat of jello might be preferable!

  6. StephLove

    We have an 18-year-old cat who sleeps most of the time, but not 20-22 hours a day. That’s a lot.

    I’m sorry things have been hard. I hope you continue to feel better.

  7. Pop C

    Welcome back to the blog world. I missed you. Sorry it took a day like yesterday to get you to write again. Your blog is my first stop every morning – after processing all my junk e-mail.

  8. Liz

    Thinking of you.

  9. Little Bird

    Hugs to you, for the funk, and the poop incident. This past year has been a doozy.

  10. Jeanie

    So good to hear from you. I hope you’re completely out of your funk very soon. Believe me, I can relate. I also have feelings for Duncan, the poor little guy. He must have felt abandoned. Hope all is back to normal for you all.

  11. Jenine

    May the longer sunlight hours have as good an effect on you as they do on me. I get angry sometimes by how much my mood depends on that stupid ball of fire in the sky.
    Happy Spring and may it bring less pet excreta.

  12. Sheila

    So many of us out here are pulling for your full release from jell-o (and poop) captivity.

  13. Chris

    Sorry to hear about your recent peanut butter and poop challenges. I would encourage a walk a day as you are looking to move through the final stages of jello. I know it is a cliché but the outdoors has truly kept my sanity this last year. Cant wait for real spring (this morning’s walk was done in my winter coat with hood up) but still feel better for have left the house (where I otherwise spend 24 hours a day).

    Hang in there!

    • MH

      Sending positive vibes your way!

  14. Vickie

    Have you had your blood work, especially vitamin D, checked recently? My January and February were much like yours and then March blood work showed an incredibly low D level. I am on prescription supplements for the next 6 mos and then checking again.

  15. Kim

    So many hugs….

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