As I write this post, I am lying on my sofa in my apartment with an icepack on my elevated, swollen ankle, and 800 mg of ibuprofen wending their way through my bloodstream. It is 11:07 on Saturday night, but I don’t know what time it will be when I’m finished writing this up.
To start, my mom is a psychiatric nurse practitioner. At the moment, she has several jobs with that authority, but in all of them, she is essentially one step below a physician … and she deals with crazy people. Not “oh, man, the cash register at Target was crazy today! Back-to-school sales, amirite?” or “That woman totally ordered the wrong wine with her dinner. Is she crazy?”
No: I mean the kind of crazy that inspires new indie films and pharmaceuticals.
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One of her jobs is right here in good ol’ Columbus. I don’t see her every time she’s in town, but when she doesn’t work too late we will usually have dinner when she’s done.
Such was the case today. She picked me up at my apartment and, on the way to the restaurant, says that we need to stop at Sephora because her favorite Starbucks barista is quitting her job and my mom wants to pick her up a bottle of her favorite perfume as, I guess, a “Sorry you won’t be making my lattes anymore” gift. (Nurse practitioners make good money, in case you haven’t guessed that by now.) She also wants to get ice cream at Jeni’s (an amaaaaazing local chain).
Also, my mom has to stop by the address of a patient recently admitted to the psych hospital where she works.
Good thing I had no other plans for my Saturday. Because shit was about to go down.
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(I don’t have real photos of the events of this evening, but words alone do not suffice, so I’m doing the best I can.)
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This patient (I don’t know her name, so let’s just call her … Patty) was picked up by the police and admitted to the hospital for delusions, I believe. While she was there, I guess “Patty” was talking about her dog that she still had at home. Since Patty was delusional, and since they hadn’t heard anything from the cops, none of the hospital employees knew for sure she was telling the truth about the dog. This was the same woman who was convinced that her neighbors were out to get her and they were drug dealers and I don’t even know what else.
But my mom, being the animal lover that she is, got the woman’s address and decided to just drop by her place and see if there was any sign of a dog. She was pretty sure the dog was part of her delusion, but she wanted to check anyway.
So we go to dinner, which did not bode well for the evening because we went to our favorite Columbus-area Chinese restaurant, only to find a weensy cockroach peeking out at me from behind a picture frame on the wall.
Then we go to the mall (no ice cream yet), to Sephora. Fortunately, my mom is feeling generous and, on top of the perfume for her favorite barista, she buys me some makeup and tweezers. (Just realized I should have taken the opportunity to get some perfume of my own. Damn.)
She stops at the mall restroom while I browse the Avengers toys at the Disney store. Had I known the events that would transpire, I also would have had her buy me an Avengers Tshirt, a Nightmare Before Christmas Tshirt, and an Iron Man doll.
But I didn’t. So it’s off to the Mystery Address.
Now, “Patty” had been picked up by the cops 3-4 days prior. She claimed to have a friend who would be coming to get a key to her house to use to take care of the dog. As far as the hospital workers knew, no one showed up, only adding to their doubts that Patty knew what the hell she was talking about.
So after our trip to the mall, my mom, fully convinced that nothing would come of this because she thought the dog was another delusion, drives me with her to the apartment.
We laugh in particular about Patty thinking her neighbors were drug dealers, because the GPS took us into this bright, shiny, well-groomed condominium complex that looks like someplace anyone’s grandmother would be thrilled to live in. Straight-up Pleasantville, y’all. You could practically hear the theme song to “Leave it to Beaver” as we drove slowly around, not at all looking suspicious while we looked for the right address. This place has it all: picket fences, manmade ponds with ducks and bunnies running around, not a speck of litter, well-trimmed lawns, all of that.
So with an air of “Oh, whatevs,” my mom pulls up to the address, and as I wait in the car, she goes up to the condo door and rings the doorbell, and …
There is barking. Even I heard it from inside the car.
There was definitely a dog in that apartment, and it definitely hadn’t been seen by human eyes in at least three days.
The next-door neighbors are not answering their door. When my mom tried knocking at the door of the neighbors on the other side, the woman behind it shut it and locked it as soon as my mom waved and said “Hi.”
OK, so … no June Cleaver here.
My mom, not quite planning for this to be real, has me text her friend Cheryl (hi, Cheryl!) on my dying phone to get the non-emergency police number for the Columbus area. Meanwhile, she is on the phone trying to clear up something else happening with another patient, after which she returns to the matter at hand to go through several channels to find out what can be done.
The short answer being: On a Saturday evening, nothing.
Had the police department been British, they probably would have said “Piss off,” based on how helpful they were. As it was, I don’t actually know exactly what they said to her. What she learned, though, was that the Humane Society is the only department with authority to pick up a dog from a private residence (I think? details are escaping me now…), and they can’t do that until Monday.
But my mom is not about to leave the dog any longer. She calls some people she works with and has someone talk to Patty, who says yes, if my mom comes to the hospital where the patient is staying and picks up her house keys, my mom has Patty’s permission to enter her house and feed the dog.
Meanwhile, as my mom is on the phone, I was closing the condo’s front gate and a neighbor walks by with HER dog and says “Is she okay?”
My mom gets off the phone and we’re talking to this woman, who tells us some extra information about the patient.
The dog is friendly, but “hyper” she says, he’s a black Lab named Willie.
This neighbor also talks about some of “Patty’s” strange behaviors, like leaving her apartment in the middle of the night just to drive around the neighborhood in circles.
And, very important: She does not park her car in the garage, and she also keeps her dog food in the car. The car is either parked God-only-knows where, or it has been impounded.
The neighbor gives my mom her name and number for additional info if necessary, and my mom and I leave to go to the hospital to pick up the keys to come BACK to the apartment and feed the dog.
On the way to the hospital, my mom says “If she doesn’t park her car in the garage, I bet she’s a hoarder. That usually means the garage is too full of crap.”
I, on the other hand, am terrified that we’re just going to find dead bodies all over her apartment. Because I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho too many times at too young an age, plus corpses really do terrify me. However, since I am not as knowledgeable about mental illness as my mom, she explains to me that the woman is delusional, but most of the time she is functional (she knows what meds she takes, etc.) and fairly lucid (I think? … sorry, I’m tired). Ergo, not the type to have dead bodies strewn about the house.
So we drive back down to the hospital so my mom can pick up Patty’s keys.
However, we will be damned if we’ll let a crazy lady and a starving dog get in the way of our ice cream, so we stop at Jeni’s before driving back to the woman’s condo. There, at the ice cream place, my mom TELLS the young guy at the cash register that we’re taking it to go because we’re on our way to save a starving dog … but we still had to get ice cream first.
So the guy is like, “Oh, well, priorities, right?” while clearly laughing at what despicable human beings we are.
Then, at Kroger, we miraculously find a big ol’ sack of Iams Lamb & Rice food, which was apparently the “special diet” this woman’s dog was on. So we went our way up the highway, in between my mom’s texts and calls to my stepdad and her friend Cheryl and some coworkers.
When she is off the phone, I pull out my iPod and play the Avengers theme. Which was totally appropriate for saving a starving dog. See for yourself:
Whatever. Captain America would have done the same thing.
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By this time it’s dark, and about 10pm, and we pull up to the apartment again.
I’m holding the sack of dog food and blocking the gate to the front-stoop-fenced-in-area so the dog doesn’t smash it open if it comes to that.
(Have I mentioned I was facing a very legitimate fear at the time? I was attacked by a dog as a child, and to this day I am still very very very nervous around strange dogs. Especially big ones. That bark. So this is kind of a big deal.)
My mom is at the front door messing with the keys, and finally unlocks it. She has to push and push the door to get it open. The dog, meanwhile, is panting and scrabbling at the door.
Finally she gets it open a crack, steps back, and says, “Oh. My. God.”
She opens the door enough to let Willie come out. He bounds out, but despite the neighbor’s assertions that he is hyper, he is clearly an older dog, with some white around his muzzle, and not as hyper as the neighbor led us to believe. He sniffs at me and the bag before running around the porch area to start relieving himself. It’s clear he’s not going to try to jump the fence (or me), so I step forward and look through what I can of the open door, my mom having already gone inside the house.
And there is shit (by which I mean, “stuff”) piled EVERYWHERE. Crap. So much crap I couldn’t begin to list it all. So much crap that my mom could barely open the door.
The below photo was pulled from a Google Image search (and links to the original source), but it’s a very accurate representation of the actual house we saw, right down to the layout of the kitchen.
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At this point, looking in it, I’m close to a freakout because I’m almost having flashbacks to my late grandma’s (and my late aunt’s, actually) house in her later years, and I refuse to go in. SuperMom does, however, and gets through the pathways that Patty had made among the crap. As you can see from the example photo, it was absolutely uninhabitable.
From the doorway, I spot a bowl that my mom fills with water, and then she finds another bowl that I fill with food. After relieving himself multiple times, Willie is scarfing down the food. However, he was apparently as starved for attention as food, because he would eat some, then come to either me or my mom to be petted, and then he’d go back to eating.
Meanwhile, my mom is taking pictures of the place and texting them to one of her coworkers, and saying that it’s enough now to send in Adult Protective Services—which I guess they have, which the patient had refused, and now they have the evidence enough to mandate it.
And Willie is panting like CRAZY, and he doesn’t jump, but he runs around the little fenced in porch area, and goes back to eating. We’re petting him, and he’s actually very sweet and well-behaved (sits on command, etc.), and he’s a bit overweight, but otherwise looks healthy. But my mom really wants to take him for a proper walk before we leave, so she kind of pokes around the piles of crap. Again looking through the door, I see a leash, but the dog has no collar. So we grab this stretch belt-y thing for a makeshift collar.
Outside the fenced-in area, this MacGyver’d collar works for about a minute but it’s too stretchy, and my mom (the one holding the leash as did I mention I am also allergic to dogs?) thinks he’s about to slip out of it. As she’s calling for me to grab him, I’m already running to try to head him off. Unfortunately, in my slip-on flats that are a smidge too large for me, I am not stepping correctly and twist my ankle, bending my foot VERY much the wrong way.
And yes, I INSTANTLY thought of Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility and wished that there was a Mr. Willoughby around, cad though he may be. Because I am nothing if not in possession of a sense of humor and a loose grip on reality.
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But in real life, the dog did not get away. However, I’m frozen standing in place because I CANNOT walk for a minute. So my mom is struggling with the dog and wondering why I suddenly can’t move, until finally I just had to sit on the curb for another minute to hiss and groan until I can stand again. At last I can walk, so I limp back to my mom’s car, she finishes up with walking the dog, and we finally face the fact that I have a twisted ankle and my mom still has to drive 2 hours back home tonight, so Willie must be returned to the house, as abhorrent as that idea may be.
So we put him inside with the fresh water and a bowl of food, and put the rest of the food in my mom’s car, as she plans to go back tomorrow because she’ll be in town again for work. (Yes, her commute is 2 hours one way and yes she usually likes it like that.)
15-20 minutes later, we’re back at my apartment and my mom makes me up an icepack, I take 800 mg of ibuprofen, she is on her merry way back home, and I am on my sofa to blog about the whole thing. And thinking I will probably skip church tomorrow.
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(And now it is 1:18 on Sunday the 19th)
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(What happens next? God only knows. No, seriously. Only He does. We have no clue.)
Update 8/20: My mother just texted me that Willie was picked up last night by a vet assistant, and he is now being kenneled at a vet, so he is well and being taken care of. My foot is still swollen and sore, but better than it was yesterday, I believe. I don’t yet know what is going on with “Patty.”