Good Boy: The Life of Sparky

An article on Cracked today went over a few science myths that we learned in kindergarten class as kids. Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but we most certainly didn’t go over the Coriolis effect or introductory aerodynamics. The origin of diamonds and how dogs do or do not sweat , however, did come up.

Those two items got me thinking about something that meant a lot to me as a kid, though.


My grandfather—Big Dad, as we called him—was a hunter. He got a puppy with the intent to train him as a hunting buddy. He was this pretty little golden collie mix—I don’t know what he was mixed with, but he looked like a fluffy lion-wolf thing. He asked me and my cousins to suggest  a name for him.

“Sparky! He’s all gold and sparkly!” I suggested and with my five-year-old self tried to go up and pet the little guy, but then my cousin shoves me. I eat a  mouthful of hardwood floor.

“That’s a stupid girl name.” They both laugh. Stupid boys.

I get reprimanded by my grandmother for what I’ve done. I’ve already learned to try to ignore those—they were the boys™ and they were special, because they were the only boys in this generational family chunk. Mom and Dad had taken me aside for this a long time ago and I’d had time to make an almost-peace with it.

By the time I’ve managed to stand myself up, the name Sparky has been accepted, but only after one of the boys™ has suggested it. Then he lets us play with the little guy.

As it turned out, Sparky was the brightest little pup ever. He learned at an amazingly fast rate, and by a couple weeks in he knew Sit, Stay, Roll Over, Take Cover, Down, Shake, Bring The [this is where you point at the thing and say its name a few times while he processes it] and It’s Too Cold Huddle Up.

My problem was, he grew up.

As in way up.

As in he got so big he started to scare me.

After a while the cousins started using the threat of turning him loose to scare me. Sparky was a beautiful, majestic beast, all golds and glowing and beautiful rippling muscle. And I was—am!—a tiny little preemie kid that never really caught up to the family standard size, with spindly little bones and no muscle on her body. I seriously thought he’d mistake me for a Milkbone one day and eat me as a snack.

So the day Big Dad picked me up on a lark and dropped me on big Sparky’s back was terrifying.

Then Sparky took off.

In D&D, halflings have an option for a canine mount. I don’t THINK my Big Daddy had any contact with a D&D module, but he had a sense of humor, and he knew about how much Sparky could haul, and I was a little 30-pound thing at five (IF I WEIGHED THAT MUCH!).

So here I am riding on a big golden dog with a huge cheesy grin on its face as it does laps around the ludicrously huge backyard. Big Dad’s grin is a matching one to Sparky’s, I see, when the dog turns around and brings me back.

I was never afraid of Sparky again—he’d charge at me but he’d slow down, nose boop and then cuddle when I was there from then on—with permission from Big Dad we’d run laps to keep him in prime hunting condition. The two of them helped to expand my palate—at least, as long they remembered not to TELL ME what the meat was before I tried it, because I didn’t like knowing the food had a face before I ate it. (Squirrel’s pretty tasty, if you can believe it.)

The day Sparky died, no one saw it coming. The Midwest has a bit of a spider issue—I’m not a fan of those bastards anyway—and the beautiful guy was bitten somewhere we couldn’t spot, between the toes of a paw, so we didn’t know until he was gone. He hadn’t responded to an offer of laps, and only bugged me and Big Dad for a few cuddles before lying down to go to sleep. He didn’t wake up from his nap.


We buried him that day in the shade of his favorite tree. It took a while to do—I kept patting him, hoping he’d warm back up and wake up.

It didn’t happen.

“We have to put him in, Grasshopper.”

“But it’s Sparky. Sparky always gets up.”

“Sparky was tired. Now he has to sleep.”

“But it’s Sparky.” I patted his nose. His nose had never been that cold. It was like ice, and there was no breath. That’s where I started to realize it.

“Do you know what happens to good dogs when they’re gone, Grasshopper?”

I shook my head. I was rubbing Sparky’s ears now. They were cold.

“When you bury a good dog,” Big Dad said, “the Earth takes special care of them. One day when your children’s children’s children come to this spot, they’ll be able to dig here and find a diamond, and Sparky will protect them through that diamond for all time.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Old Injun man told me this—the one with me in the war.” Big Dad stopped to adjust his false teeth—the ‘Injun’ wasn’t a racist slip, it was his teeth slipping. They slid back into place with a paklok that made me smile in spite of the situation.

“Okay.”

After we lowered him into the hole, a squirrel kicked off a branch over is, jarring enough leaves to let a brief flash of light onto Sparky’s fur so that I could see how shimmery he was one more time. I stopped Big Dad in the middle of a shovel of dirt so I could jump in the hole for a second. I had to do one thing first.

Sparky looked just like he was sleeping. It was a simple matter to believe his spirit would wait there until the day his body was new and shiny, waiting for someone to find it and bring it in as an amulet of protection. I smoothed his fur down and arranged him so he was in his favorite comfy curl, and when I was satisfied that he looked happy, I gave him a pat on the head.

“Good boy.”

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The Verdict Is WAT. No, seriously, that's the verdict.

Friday morning began with me rolling over and smashing the front of my phone with the palm of my hand. The phone’s face is made from Corning-brand Gorilla glass, though, so all that was doing was—actually, it wasn’t making my hand sore, I couldn’t feel my hand. I’ve come to terms with that recently, it seems that 90% of the time, I can’t feel my hands in the morning. Since it wasn’t damaging the phone or my hand (I hoped), I kept banging on the front of the phone until the alarm stopped. I didn’t know if I hit the snooze button or the dismiss button.

I’d spent the entire week up to that day like a paranoid ungulate, chewing over the same terror cud over and over—what if it’s cancer? what if it’s lupus? what if it’s some hitherto undiscovered SUPER LUPUS? what if it’s none of the above and I’m some new freak of nature?!

I stopped the train right there and made a glass of cranberry soda. And then another. And then another. And then for good measure, I had one more. Because frankly I was freaking out. Then I got off my ass and got to the doctor. By this point one arm was flipping between on fire and “where the fuck is it,” but I brought things to read and do so I wouldn’t have to think about it.


The doctor’s office was damn near vacant, considering that I thought I was running late—I was not, in fact, I was running early—and I got in right away. I explained what I was in for, pulled out my phone to browse news links on reddit (and, let’s be real, look at cute cat pictures because when you’re feeling bad, cats) when the doctor came in with a handful of papers.

“Do we know what’s caused it?” I ask almost immediately.

His response?

We’re stumped.

We can’t find a cause for the neuropathy. We can’t do anything but treat the complications of the neuropathy as they come up. And apparently if it progresses long enough I might have the loss of digestive function to look forward to. YAY. Basically, deadened nerves would paralyze my gut and bladder, as well as making my arms and legs more often than not numb and/or painful. ANOTHER sweep of the blood work ruled out it being caused by any of my meds. This also fails to explain the blisters inside the sinuses and the roof of my mouth. To turn bad into worse, this is affecting my leg as well—after all, that was where the FIRST bad nerve came up, back when I bricked the damn thing three years ago now. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if that’s what set this whole thing off.

Before you think I’m going to stand idly by and just take that, I’m planning on fighting this shit—there’s got to be something out there provided by Mother Gaia to fight this shit, and I plan on finding it and taking it, regardless of the risks. I DO NOT plan on being on incontinence wear by my thirtieth birthday (the neuropathy is moving fucking fast).

We are now down to House-ing it: We’re taking everything that my system is torturing me with, treating it individually, and seeing if it does any good—except the neuropathy itself, since the one prescription medication approved to treat that is something that I can’t take with my current medications. Killer interaction, you see. Next on the list is an antiviral—because the blisters apparently kind of sort of behave like shingles. If it doesn’t work, we’re back to square one.

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Content-related announcement.

Actual content–interesting things, 100 Things, challenges, fic, original content, basically me NOT being a reclusive dick–will return on Saturday, October 19th.

Why then?

That’s a day after I get back from my NEXT doctor’s appointment.

The fact is, things keep getting worse. My leg has flared to the point where it feels just like the beginning, the muscle having wasted to the point where it is visibly thinner than the other leg. My arms and legs are a searing, burning pain throughout half of the day, my eyes are a painful, scrapey mess, and–the most annoying thing right now–motherfucking ESTROGEN. My brain is so scrambled, it’s like the brainzaps are the norm now and sudden bursts of clarity are the brainzaps now. Friday, I’m hoping to get some answers. Right now, the act of physically positioning my body into positions that work to write is INCREDIBLY painful.

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Doctor update~

The good news is that we’ve got more blood work results in from the doctor today, and the good news is that I’ve tested negative for all of the factors for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That’s a breath of relief if there ever was one.

The problem with that is, that is one of the things that could be causing this peripheral neuropathy nonsense, and with that one ruled out, that means that there’s something else still there that could still be causing it, as this is the type of thing that doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere without provocation.

See, I’ve also tested negative for any blood sugar abnormalities (diabetes) and negative for any anemias that would cause this. That means that the things that would have caused this would be something else, possibly bigger and badder.

I get to go in to the doctor and get poked and prodded at more in two weeks. Whoo…

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