I hate being one of those bloggers who has to start things with a “sorry I haven’t posted in forever” but that’s what I’m going to have to do here. You see, while most people have spent the last week either enjoying the last few days of vacation or going back to regular life, taking down the Christmas tree and signing up for gym memberships they will quit in one month, Howie and I just overcame the worst week of our married life thus far, Monica’s life was in jeopardy.
In a nutshell, this is what happened:
- Dec. 30: Monica threw up. No big deal
- Dec. 31 & Jan. 1: Monica seemed perfectly normal
- Jan. 2: Monica couldn’t keep anything down and started looking very lethargic. We realized this wasn’t just something she ate.
- Jan. 3: Took Monica to the vet. He suspected it may be a severe case of pancreatitus, we got her blood tested.
- Jan. 4: Vet called early morning, was surprised to tell us it’s not the pancreas, it’s her liver. We took her in for an x-ray and the vet discovered her liver is too small, that’s why she is extremely nauseous and unwell. She has hepatitis. Monica was taken to the back where she was put on IV fluids and antibiotics. She would need to eat some food and keep it down the next day as a sign her liver would improve. If she looked no better, her liver was shot, and we’d need to prepare to put her down. Vet told us her chances of making it through were less than 50%.
- Jan. 5: Monica appeared no better in the morning. She had eaten some food, but only time would tell if she would keep it down. After many tears, hours cuddling her in a dog pen, and lots of prayer, Monica appeared to be getting better. By the evening, we were able to take her home. $1300 dollars later, we were overjoyed to have our little buddy back. Her liver issue will be managed through meds and supplements.
We were so not prepared for this. How could a seemingly healthy six-year-old dog go from perfectly normal to at death’s door in just a matter of days? We will never know exactly why or how her liver is small, but now that we know we can help prevent an episode like this week from occurring again.
It is incredible how much two people can be in love with thirteen pounds of a little scruffy dog. What is it about loving a dog that brings so much joy to life? The mere acknowledgement that we needed to prepare ourselves to make that awful decision of letting her go brought on such a terrible feeling of pain in our hearts that we weren’t sure how we could go through with it. But when all is said and done, part of loving a dog is needing to be able to say good-bye, even when we don’t want to.
For us, Monica is more than just a pet, she’s become the third member of our family. The only thing she desires in the world is our love and affection, and no matter what kind of day we’ve had she’s always there waiting for us to get home. After close to five years of being bred for puppies, her “retired” life with us was a new and exciting chapter, we didn’t want to have to say goodbye so soon.
The Wednesday morning after the vet called with the bad news about her liver, I flopped back in bed and started crying, a lot. Though Monica was in an ultimate stage of pain, nausea and lethargy, she mustered up the most strength we’d seen in days to crawl over Howie, sit by my side, and place a little paw on my arm as a I bawled my eyes out. I love that dog.
The thought of her sitting alone in a strange animal hospital stall, frightened and sick while receiving treatment was a situation we wanted to mitigate as much as possible. So, call me crazy (and I’m sure the vet staff did), but I spent the greater part of two days curled up in her stall, along the other rows of dogs, just keeping her company, hoping she’ll get better.
When the first signs of recovery started to surface on Thursday, we were cautiously ecstatic. When the vet told us we would be able to take her home, the worst was over, we were jubilant. Thursday night was either going to be one of the worst nights, or one of the best. We were so thankful it was the latter.
Going through this taught Howie and I a lot of things about marriage, pain, tough decisions, and getting through hard times. Every single couple in the world is going to have these times, many problems far worse than a sick pet. But ultimately, it’s how you handle the “downs” in life as a couple that can either break or make your relationship. Here’s what we learned about dealing with the low times:
1) Take turns being the “strong one.” It’s not fair if one person always, all the time, without fail, has to pull it together for the other. Every human being needs space to be weak and break down. Howie and I found that we pretty much alternated between breaking down individually, and then comforting the other one. It’s a roller coaster, but taking turns being the “strong one” lessens the burden on the both of you.
2) Recognize your differences. Each person is going to have their own way, and possible multiple ways of dealing with a major low time. For Howie at times, this took the form of incredulous anger toward the state of pet healthcare costs. Other times, it was silence. For me, I ranged from tears to a disparate attempt to rationalize the situation and talk about every minute detail that indicated a possible positive outcome. Don’t judge or become frustrated with the way your partner deals with emotions. Just recognize that all of these outlets point back to the same pain you each feel.
3) Agree on what’s important. Four weeks ago Howie was insistent that we didn’t have a spare $200 to spend on a used washing machine. This week, we somehow managed to find room (on credit cards) to fork out $1,300 in vet bills. For some people, maybe that would be way too much to attempt to keep a dog alive. To us, it was worth giving up a few other planned allocations of that money in order to keep her around. As a couple, we decided what was important to us and used our resources accordingly.
4) Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. One of the first things I did when we found out the situation was dire, was logging onto facebook and spreading the word that we needed prayer, and lots of it. For two days, at various points in time, we found ourselves praying at home, in our car, at the vet’s, and huddle on the floor of an animal hospital stall. We felt the support of friends and family as they held us in prayer as well. God is not a genie, but he hears prayer. And whatever the outcome may be he provides the strength to get through it.
So in conclusion, apologies for the lack of pure comic relief in this first post of 2012. I promise that the next one will provide much more cause for laughter. In spite of this, my wish is that our little New Year’s miracle story has brought a sense of hope, inspiration and anticipation for good things yet to come in 2012. Miracles happen everyday.