I'm feeling a bit... blah. For the past 3 years, I've had this constant, consuming fear of Sahara, my dog, hurting herself again, and have lain awake night after night wondering where that would leave us both. Now she's had her surgery for the exact thing I spent all that time worrying about, it's actually more acute fear than before. The first day was almost euphoric - I had my girl back, she didn't have any severe complications in surgery, she was alert and didn't seem in too much pain; all seemed well. As of this morning, she seems to have regressed and is refusing to put weight on her leg, and as usual, the first sign of anything wrong makes a cold hard lump of dread knot in my stomach. I called the vet clinic, but being Sunday, they only offer an emergency service, so I made a deal with myself I would wait a few hours to see if she shows any improvement before calling her specialist or surgeon on their emergency mobile numbers. I've dosed her with pain relief. I've given her more toys to play with, and some cheese to cheer her up. I've done all I can for now, but nothing takes away this awful feeling, like I'm being weighed down with worry.
I wonder why I keep doing this to myself - this was ultimately my decision, and one I thought long and hard about for weeks (if not months in the dark of night whilst I couldn't get off to sleep). I considered the other option - the only alternative being having her put down. As much as the very thought brought me instantly to tears, I had to consider it for her sake, as she was in pain and had very little quality of life for a few weeks there. But I know how resilient she is - heck, this is the girl who had a 90% rupture of her anterial cruciate ligament and presented, repeatedly, as less than a 10% tear, and who has flown through the previous surgeries with attitude and aplomb. It wasn't the surgery having an impact on her that really worried me; I knew she would be sore, stiff and restricted for movement for a few weeks, but I knew it was something she could handle. Here's the bad part...it was me that I was worried for. 8 weeks of not being able to leave the house for any period of time longer than to grab some milk from the corner store. No random trips to the shops to waste some time; no ability to enjoy daylight savings riding my horses into the sunset. No nights out with friends. No trips to see Harry Potter. A quiet, excitement free Christmas, and canceled weekends away i the weeks before. A special dog minder to take her when I leave for Africa, which I have meticulously planned her x-rays, surgery dates etc around, simply so I could go and not worry about how she was doing whilst I was away.
Yesterday was fine. I did things around the house, and spent all day with her, moving her bed around as I moved room to room. I got the downstairs room painted, a feat I had talked about for over a year. All in all, it was fine, her first full day out from surgery. But already, this morning, I am struggling a little. Sunday is my day to go to the market, go grab breakfast out, have a lazy day shopping or walking around garden centres or riding my horses. That's fine; a week or so off doesn't bother me at all, I'm quite happy my man and I are home to put in a whole irrigation system by ourselves and do the sorts of things we never seem to find time to do. But one look at Sahara's pinched and drawn face, one glance at her leg hanging limply, and I'm plunged into doom. What if she has done something to the pins in her leg? What if she needs surgery, at a cost of $5000 again tomorrow morning? Where does that leave me? And then, the overwhelming guilt - I had a few moments wishing I could duck to the shops for a coffee and mooch around the garden centre, but felt I couldn't leave her yet, and felt kind of pissed. Guilt for wanting to have a normal weekend, when I knew what I was getting myself into. Guilt for maybe a tiny bit wishing I didn't have this burden of looking after her, especially when I feel so utterly alone in doing so. Carrying her out to the toilet - all 36kg of her - at 2am in the cold, dark night while all I can hear are people my age screaming and shouting and singing drunkenly at parties...there was a split second of wondering why I chose this, and quite a bit of wondering why it is I feel so lonely in my choices.
My man backed this surgery financially, and I am eternally indebted to him for doing so, but emotionally... I feel completely unsupported. I have all these emotions running rampant, while I've got a sleepy dog dead weighted in my arms as I trudge around the garden to find a spot she'll wee in, and I feel I have no one to share them with. When he marvels I can hide 3 tablets in a single piece of cheese and get them down her throat in a second, or am elbow deep cleaning up the mess when she couldn't control her bowels due to her medication giving her problems, it makes me feel a bit shitty (no pun intended). Why is no one handing me the correct dosage of medication to hide into a sausage?Why doesn't he have her specialist, surgeon, local vet and 3 emergency vet clinics listed in his speed dial? Why am I told there's so much guilt I have to stay home with Sahara he's canceled all the plans I never knew he had, and have to be grateful to be second best?
And, as I carry her wiggly butt outside for another wee, spraining a muscle in my back in the process, it clicks. How can I be alone when I have this writhing mass of fur in my arms, looking at me with eyes so full of love that I'm so close to her warm little body? I've got my best friend not just by my side like most dogs, but right there in my arms, utterly reliant on me - and completely trusting - that I will make this all alright for her. I can quite honestly say she's never doubted me for a second the way I doubt myself, she doesn't mind we're not out chasing sticks or swimming in the ocean; she's just happy she's got me all to herself. And, like that, I realize this is going to be hard, and painful for us both at times, but we're both in the same boat here - we're both sacrificing things we love for her to get better, we're both feeling sorry for ourselves and wishing things were different, but we're also both lucky to have each other. And that's going to more than make up for all these other niggles - I've always said I'd die for my girl, but I guess now we both need to work on the living part, and enjoying the moments we've got together, not worrying about what's going to happen tomorrow, or next month, or next year. And as I was scrolling through pages on the dogs old blog last night, giggling at old photos and smiling at memories I'd forgotten, I came across this quote by Gene Hill, and it seemed a bit too much like an omen not to share...
"He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds.
He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog."