Saturday, March 3rd was the date of an annual curling bonspiel called The Sinners' Brier that I make a habit of participating in every year. Brier because it takes place on the first day of the Canadian Curling Championships every year, traditionally called "The Brier," and Sinners, because it it is hosted by the "Sinners Section" of our club, so named because we get together and curl on Sunday mornings, when we should be in church (the fact that we tend to drink too much and tell off-colour jokes has nothing to do with it).
My regular men's team was all set to enter the Sinners' Brier for the third straight year together when that schedule was changed. Remember that picture I posted a couple of weeks ago of the new patch I got? That was for winning what is called an OCA (Ontario Curling Association) Zone competition. The province is subdivided into 16 zones, and we won ours (I was throwing second rock on a team of guys I don't usually curl with in the Intermediate division - over forty).
Having won our zone, we were eligible to compete in the Regional Playdowns, the winners of which would go on to compete in the Provincial championships. And when do you think the regional playdowns were scheduled to take place? You guessed it, the same weekend as the Sinners' Brier. I was going to have to find a spare to take my place.
Now, the spare (which my vice - our friend bpslider - ended up tracking down) was for the Sinners' Brier, not the regionals. See, the Brier is a big drunk up, as opposed to a serious competition, so there was never any doubt which I was going to curl in.
OK, that's enough from the cheap seats. I was going to curl in the regional playdowns, because I had never curled at that level of competition before, and likely would never again, and damn it, the Sinners' Brier will still be a big drunk up next year.
Which brings us to Saturday night. We drove home from the Port Perry curling club that evening feeling pretty good about ourselves. We had won two games that day, and were scheduled to play in the 'A' side final on Sunday. My ride (hi John) dropped me off at the curling club in Richmond Hill, where I had left my car. Before I headed home for the night, I decided to drop in and see how my guys had done in the bonspiel.
Now, I've been curling in this thing for years, always hoping to do well, and never quite managing to crack the top five spots or so. My vice - that bpslider guy (hi Brent) - was even more avid about doing well than I, and understandably, more disappointed each year when we failed to play as well as we believed we were able.
As I walked in the front door of the club, I was greeted by a chorus of, "hey, Little, looks like you're out of a job," from the first row of seats clustered around the TV watching the actual Brier competition.
"Why's that?" I asked. I shouldn't have asked. My team...my team without me...had won the whole freaking bonspiel. Number one with a bullet! First four to the prize table. Big trophy with their name on it. Holy freaking cow!
I was mildly jealous. Only mildly jealous, mind you, because I was well on my way to a berth in the Ontario Provincial Intermediate Men's Championship. And then they'd all be jealous of me. You see where this is going, right?
Which brings us to Sunday morning. After having gone to bed relatively early so as to be well rested for our game Sunday afternoon, I was awakened shortly after one A.M. by a commotion in the living room of the house. I thought the cats were chasing each other around, or being themselves chased around by Shadow (you remember Shadow, right, my 1/3 Border Collie, 1/3 Aussie Shepherd, 1/3 Wooly Mammoth cross?). I cursed, swept aside the blankets, and jumped out of bed, imprecacious maledictions spewing from my mouth. I stomped down the stairs, slapped on the light, to find my 88 pound behemoth of a dog lying on his side on the living room floor, and convulsing.
My heart, lungs, brain, the whole package. I went completely blank.
Then I was on my knees beside him, one hand holding his head, the other frantically feeling for a heartbeat, breath movements, anything to tell me my dog was not dying. I had no idea if his convulsions were due to him choking on something, or a seizure from some other cause. I tried to open his mouth and look to see if there was anything in his throat. That was a mistake. His jaws were convulsing along with the rest of him, and he bit down on my finger, drawing blood.
After what seemed to be several minutes, but was more likely only thirty seconds or so, his involuntary movements began to slow, which only made me more frantic. As far as I could tell, he was dying. I desperately clung to him, shook him, leaned in close to his nose listening for breath, moved my hand around his chest feeling for a heartbeat. My wife, who had been scouring the telephone book looking for an after hours emergency veterinary clinic began shouting at me, "Paul? Paul?"
I wasn't listening. I was busy shouting, "Shadow? Shadow?" His heartbeat and breathing were slowing, but were they returning to normal, or were they on their way to stopping? I had no idea. Finally he lay still. "Paul?" my wife whispered. I didn't say anything for a moment. Waited. Then saw it. His chest moving up and down. "He's breathing," I said. At which point, we both started doing so once more.
He lay totally still for several tens of seconds, and then, in a sudden surge, he lifted his head, and looked around. He scrambled to his feet, and began running all around the house, sniffing at every surface, peeking into every corner. He seemed aware that something was amiss, but couldn't quite put his
Pat had found the address of the local emergency animal clinic. I got dressed, a wad of bloody paper towel clutched around my finger, pulled on my coat and boots, grabbed the leash, and loaded Shadow into the car. He was eager to go. Loves car rides, he does.
The vet checked him over, tip to tail, and found nary a thing. Later in the week, we would take him for a follow up with our vet, where he would be checked over thoroughly again, and a full blood workup done. Nothing out of the ordinary would be found. The conclusion? He might have another seizure that night, or the next day, or week, or month...or never. No way to tell.
So we spent the remainder of the night trying to sleep, but in reality just lying in bed listening for him. Shadow? Yeah, he got more sleep than we did. For some reason, he was plum tuckered out. Eventually, I fell asleep.
The real Sunday morning - not the wee hours - was a sleep in occasion. Go figure. Luckily, the curling team's excellent performance of the day before meant we played at 1:30P.M., rather than 9:00A.M., so a morning of catch-up was possible. I headed out to meet my skip (hi John) at about 11:30 feeling refreshed and optimistic. After all, we were in the 'A' side final. Even if we lost the first game, we would have a second chance in the 'B' side final later that afternoon. Two games. Win one. Go to the provincials. Seemed like a pretty good equation.
You see where this is going, right?
We lost both games. Should have been able to beat both teams, but we just weren't as hot, as "clicking" as we had been up to that point. I blame the curling Gods. They allowed me to get my hopes up that I would actually compete at a high level in this game I have loved all my life, and then cruelly crushed them. And then they added the painful irony of the fact that "my" team, the team I should have been playing with that weekend, won a bonspiel I have been competing in for years with little success. Yeah, they're good, those curling Gods.
At least we won our Monday night men's league game. Things are looking up.
I'm sorry I don't have a more up to date picture of Shadow to show you. I'll have to take one this weekend. In the interim, here is a picture of an evil alien robot devil cat sitting on our neighbour's roof that my wife took through the kitchen window. "Ooh, scary."