I've seen two separate neighbor friends whose dogs were the one constant friend & companion who saw them through broken relationships, moving, deaths and general loneliness with unconditional love. I understood their human/dog relationship more, but pragmatically still thought that wouldn't be me. What’s more, is I was judgy (yes, that’s a word) towards the extremes people went through for their pets.
Our family adopted a dog when our 3 kids were very young. In hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest time. A couple years went by and we had our 4th baby. I was in the midst of living with my yet undiagnosed bipolar disorder. The reality was that I was trying to cope with a life of severe depression mixed with the manic "highs" of anger and irritation while parenting four young children and soon after, helping my husband with his new business. (you can read that heart wrenching story here.)
We loved him and he was important, but with all of the other circumstances, he was “just” the dog.
Years passed, kids matured and we were in those beginning stages of thinking about getting another dog. Almost as soon as that happened, our neighbor posted a picture on Facebook of this sweet little thing that needed a family.
She put us in contact with her co-worker and we made plans to go LOOK at the dog. We were very clear to tell the kids we were just meeting her and seeing if she might be a fit, but we weren't going home with a dog.
We stood on their porch and passed the puppy around. Dale and I were off to the side of everyone and he turned to look at me. I raised my eyebrows, flashed a cheesy grin and gave him a thumbs up.
|Her first crate was an upside down laundry basket.|
days months were spent naming, training, and playing with our newest family member. I was tether training her so she was always with me.
Ugh - the naming. Six people giving their opinions and insisting their pick was the best. We actually all agreed on one name, but it was shared with a family friend, so we knew that was out. We all finally settled on Nala and had an appropriate naming ceremony for her where we sang the Lion King intro and Dale walked her around the dining room raised up like Simba.
I can't tell you what is different with her than with Bodhi. She’s smaller so she sits
next to on us, sleeps next to on us and lies next to us when we eat. Bodhi was 3x her size and while he would be in the same room as we were, he didn’t have the access to the close proximity she does. I think the tethering training has a part in it. There was only so much training we could be consistent with when we had Bodhi given everything else. It probably mostly all boils down to good or bad timing.
One thing for sure, Nala is dear to us all and has become my shadow and friend.
When I’ve been sick, she stays by me. My son would joke that we were like Elliot and E.T. When more serious illnesses happened, like my sudden gallbladder surgery two years ago, she would not leave my side. When I was in bed for 5 weeks with Influenza this January, she was next to me the whole time. There’s no way to measure or test for it, but I can tell you for a fact that having her in my life has had a hugely positive effect against my depression.
My social media posts became more and more about Nala. We've made her own Instagram hashtag. I've thought of ways to dress her up and just as quickly thought, “WTH!? Who am I?” but then continued to entertain those thoughts. (I did finally buy her a piggy Halloween costume that she would have NOTHING to do with.)
I made her natural dog biscuit treats. (Thanks internet!) I refer to her nail trims as "pedi/pedi" (since she has no "mani").
We joke about her personality and traits. She has a belly like a piglet and a butt like a waddling duck. She buries herself, or sometimes just her face, like a sand crab, she’ll give a teeny “baby lick” on your leg as she walks by, like a lizard and she walks on the back of the couch like a cat. Oh, and when most dogs turn in circles to lie down, Nala raises her front legs up and comes down on the bedding repeatedly as she turns like she’s a prancing horse.
I’m sure my stories are similar for many of you, but again, I didn’t get it before.
Last week I got it.
I took Nala in to get her yearly vaccines and have them check her for what seemed like a bladder infection. We’ve always taken her to a animal wellness clinic where they do affordable check-ups, vaccines, and non-emergency care. When the doctor went to ultrasound her bladder (they take a sample through a needle) she didn’t see enough urine to draw. She gave us some pain medication for her and asked me to bring her back early the next week. When we came back to try again, she identified what she thought were stones in Nala’s bladder. She gave me some referrals to a traditional vet’s office where they would need x-rays to confirm. I made the appointment with the vet and the next day Nala started to decline. Quickly. I called the office back to see if they could get me in that day instead of the next, but they were booked. As the day progressed, it was obvious things weren’t ok. Her breathing was labored, she was panting and would even let out little groans. I called the vet again, trying to hold it together, and barely doing so. She referred me to the veterinary emergency care and we drove right over.
Over the next few hours, we learned that yes, she has bladder stones that at some point have to come out. What was most urgent however, was the stone lodged in her urethra. Since her body couldn’t get rid of the waste, her kidneys would start to shut down and give off enough potassium that would stop her heart. The vet said it was good we brought her in and that she probably wouldn’t have lasted until that night.
There were two procedures. The first was to clear her urethra, and that was an immediate issue. The second was surgery for the stones. If they weren’t cleared, not only would she be in mild to severe pain, but it would happen again. The option they gave was to do the first procedure immediately, and then I could choose for them to do the surgery, or bring her to my regular vet. (that I’ve never actually been to before.) The hospital gave me their estimate that includes a low to high range. Guaranteed it will be at least the low number, but it could also go as high as the second. Oh, and you have to pay for the higher cost in full right now. I called the vet’s office with the estimate in hand. Best ballpark with the line items, their low estimate was only $100 less. Their high end was about $450 less. Taking into consideration the risk factors of moving her putting her under anesthesia twice, I decided leaving her in one place would be best.
I was trying to decide this all by myself, because I couldn’t get a hold of my husband at work. I was freaking out over the cost. The potential bottom line was way more than I expected, (isn’t it always!) way more than anything we would ever decide to spend without talking about it first, and way more than we said we would ever spend on a dog.
Remember the “not getting it” I talked about? We used to matter-of-factly say we had a dollar cap on animals. Not out of callousness, but practicality. We have four kids and a responsibility to provide for them. How could we justify spending so much on an animal? On the other hand, it’s a life. I believe God created animals and the Bible says God told Adam, “Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” Gen 1:28 (MSG)
My husband called and we talked through reality. Either we choose to approve everything, or we walk away…from her. We would have to relinquish her. I mean, that was the choice we were looking at. The animal hospital is dedicated to the health and welfare of animals so of course they would go forward with her treatment. Then they would release her to foster care until they could find another home for her.
We chose her.
And we chose to put our hope and trust in the Lord that He would provide the money. There isn’t an unrealistic expectation that provision comes from a bucket of money falling onto our porch. I’ve been trying to think of creative ways to earn money or work with a flexible schedule. My mental health has been in a good, balanced state for a while, but we’re all too aware that something like a big change in stress/routine etc. such as a traditional job, can upset that. A few people mentioned gofundme. After some thought, I figured it would be worth trying. I know I've given in the past to help out people, and the idea of lots of people pitching in a little, makes sense to me.
In the mean time, I am tending to my girl as she heals. She’ll have quite the battle scars after her stitches come out (where I’ll follow up with the fabulously helpful vet I’ve yet to meet). She can’t use stairs, so I’m carrying her up & down to go outside since our old house is raised above ground level. I’m crushing pills and hiding them in her food. I’m sleeping in another room with her so I can take her out every couple of hours, and so she won’t try to jump up on my bed to sleep as usual. And as much as I shake my head at this myself, I am feeling the princess ice chips. Little Miss does not drink nearly enough water. I’ll add some to her food, but that’s all she’ll drink. She has however, shared my love of ice ever since I’ve known her. I break them into tiny bits to be as gentle to her teeth as I can. I wish I knew where I could buy that awesome pellet ice.
Anyhow, it’s all worth it. She’s worth it. However long I need to sell things on Craigslist for is worth it. Having her has made me less judgy against other pet lovers. That’s worth it.
She’s more than just “a dog”, she’s family.
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