Sunday, March 3, 2013

When Things Get Hard, Remember This...

When things get hard... and at some point they usually do... take a breath and remember some of the best advice I have ever received:

live in the past (focused on memories of your young dog frolicking, running and jumping with not a bit of grey around the muzzle) and in the future (worrying about what catastrophe is going to happen next).

Am I hungry? Am I warm?  Do I have water?  Am I in pain? Where's my toy?  What's that smell?

Oscar enjoying some ice-cream

Even when Oscar was walking as crooked as he has ever walked, tripping, falling, and at the point that he would prefer to lay on the ground and drink with his head IN his water bowl rather than bother to stand over it -- he couldn't care less! Seriously.  He didn't care.  As long as he had his basic needs met, he was content.

I remember times where I was laying on the floor with Oscar because he was walking crooked or in pain.  Sometimes, I was able to ease his pain or get him to settle.  Sometimes, I was only able to steal short naps throughout the night.  Those were long nights.  Such long, long nights.  They happen and they are going to happen.  But the sun rises in the morning, you talk to the vet, you change your treatment plan, try new things, alter medication schedules and usually it gets better.

In the beginning, my poor vet once got a desperate email from me that I wrote in the middle of another sleepless night when Oscar has having a lot of trouble walking.  I was blabbering saying stuff like "is this going to be it?  Is this going to be the end for Oscar?  He's not walking much at all and I'm so afraid that this is IT!" I am sure I sounded like a lunatic.  But I was convinced 'this' was it. That was 18 months ago.  Oscar is fine today.  And my vet probably still thinks I am crazy.

The thing is -- they are our babies and like the mother of a toddler: you feel every fall, every stumble and every pain -- probably more than they do!

I still worry that each fall is going to be the one that is irreparable.  But Oscar has had MANY falls and each time he heals.  Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes a few weeks.  But each time he has healed with rest, meds and his treatment plan.  This isn't saying that that ONE time may come.  It may.  It could have happened already.  But worrying about it is NOT going to do anything.

Some nights when Oscar's pain is keeping him up I have learned to "let go" a little and to literally say to him "honey, there is nothing else I can do tonight, but I promise I will call the doctor in the morning."

I am so lucky that on only one occasion was Oscar's pain so bad that we had to go to the Emergency Vet.  That night they believe he herniated a disc and he was so upset he immidiately when into respirtory distress and almost stopped breathing -- from the pain!  He spent 2 days in the ICU on oxygen and pain meds.  He was in SO much pain that that night was the first time I seriously thought to myself if his pain did not improve I would have to make the most difficult decision.  It was so bad. I was a basket of emotions and I was convinced that he would not get better. But after two days he began to heal and he was ready to come home and he DID HEAL!

Oscar with his IV catheter in at Georgia Vet Specialists

So remember dogs have an amazing ability to heal.  Give them time to do so!! I repeat that GIVE THEM TIME TO HEAL!  You will be surprised at what they can do!

Give them rest, medications (sedation is often useful), whatever therapy you can give them and TIME! You can try to limit their chance of re-injury, but just like a teenage kid, know you can not prevent everything!

And remember, you may be heartbroken watching your baby walk slow, really crooked or not at all.  But they live IN THE MOMENT and are usually a lot less bogged down by the emotional stress we feel so deeply. If they are excited about treats and still want to cuddle, let them enjoy that and turn your "human" brain off and enjoy your old dog!

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