ORANGIE: Our Daily Ritual

ven at 5:00 am in the heat of the Sonoran Desert summer, it has become too warm for our nearly 14 year old dog to walk the sandy paths near our home. Where once we regularly hiked three to four miles every morning, this aging behemoth simply can’t endure the stress any longer.

When we relocated to Arizona from Northern California several years ago, the dear old dog and I were accustomed to a brisk walk and/or hill climb every morning in the forests which surrounded our home there. But we came to the desert during one of its’ wettest monsoon seasons ever on record and our morning ritual may have caused the dear old pooch to contract Valley Fever; in any case she was stricken with it almost as soon as we arrived. Valley Fever is a nasty condition; a fungus which grows inside the lungs and can spread, much like tuberculosis, to other parts of the body (i.e. muscles and vital organs) to take up its’ lethal residence. Even now, she continues to test positive for it, but in very minute amounts. We have her on a fungi static drug and that seems to keep the disease at bay, although its’ presence remains in her system.

During this time, we also learned about the abundance of opportunists in the greater Tucson area who pose as veterinarians. What a scam that profession has developed! Having lived for so long in a rural area, we were surprised and appalled to see what has morphed from the practice of animal care into a heartless corporate industry designed to take full advantage of pet lovers and WASPs with seemingly plentiful retirement funds. Several thousand dollars and the navigation of a number of predatory veterinary offices and hospitals in Tucson were required before a satisfactory remedy was found for our dear dog.
As it often does, it seems that the fever, though mainly receding, has taken up residence in our dog’s adjacent shoulder and front leg muscles, causing her to tire easily and to have less endurance for long hauls. I have worried that we might walk too far one day and not be able to get back. And since old dog weighs 97 pounds, carrying her home would not be an option for me. So we have taken to walking shorter distances in the mornings and supplementing her regimen with a feisty round or two of an afternoon game we call “Orangie”.

Though it sounds rather sporty and perhaps sophisticates in the canine realm, “Orangie” is basically an upgraded version of “keep away”. That is, the adults who are present around the edge of our pool, pick up a little orange squeak toy (which is shaped like a ball and has two stubby feet and two little horns) and toss it back and forth. The high pitched screech made by the little orange orb (about the size of a softball) causes our sound sensitive dog to be entranced and she does whatever possible to try and take the little orange fellow from us. We in turn, trick her into running all around, diving into the water and basically exhausting herself in the endless pursuit of “Orangie”.

By staying wet and cool, she is able to play longer and exercise her lungs more. She feels very special to have so much activity and attention centered around her. As well, the old dog gets enough exercise to keep her mature self spry, without overdoing it.

At our house, we all love a good vigorous game of “Orangie” and play it as often as our schedules allow, certainly every day that we are in Arizona during the toasty summer months.

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