Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Will to Live

I didn’t expect that my weekend would start out so dramatically. We were planning to be very low-key and do projects around the house and the yard. As I was about to go buy dog food yesterday afternoon, I realized that our 13-year old dog, Pepper, hadn’t moved from my husband’s office all day. She has very bad arthritis and a heart murmur and digestive track problems and takes thyroid medicine. We usually have to help her stand up and negotiate her way around. In short, she’s fading. She hadn’t eaten her breakfast and was stretched out limp as a dishrag. I had a hard time getting her to wake up and when I tried to lift her up, Pepper’s legs kept giving out and wouldn’t support her. She couldn’t walk.

It was four o’clock on Friday, starting a long holiday weekend, and I knew that I better talk to a vet right away. I called a large-animal doctor who makes house calls and is a friend of my neighbors. He was on a farm call several towns away, but his answering service paged him. After he didn’t return my call in a half hour, I called our regular vet. I knew I couldn’t get Pepper there in time before they closed. It turned out that only a new vet was at the hospital, but she was able to speak to me. She said that worst case was that the problem might be with Pepper’s spleen. It might be enlarged, have a tumor or might even rupture. She also looked at the dog’s record and suggested that I give her a Pepcid in case her stomach was upset. She pointed out that it was about to rain and maybe this was just a severe arthritic reaction. We decided that we should bring Pepper in first thing at 8 am, and my husband offered to stay downstairs and sleep on the couch next to her in the living room. The other vet phoned back and when I explained the situation, told me that he was on-call all week-end. If I had an emergency, he would come help us. Throughout the evening, Pepper couldn’t stand on her own or walk and continued to refuse to eat.

So, anxious, but feeling better that there was some kind of a plan, I fell asleep. I woke at 4:30 am and went downstairs to see how Pepper was doing. My husband groggily told me that she had thrown up twice. Then, he fell back to sleep. I sat on the floor with my dog and wondered if this was the end. I didn’t know if she could even make it to the vet’s office and if she would come back from there. I decided to talk to Pepper. I told her that we loved her so much, but if she was in pain she needed to let me know, and it was okay for her to go. We didn’t want her to suffer. I said that she needed to tell me what to do. I stayed with her and had a cup of coffee while she listlessly leaned on my leg. No response. Finally, it was time to feed the horses.

I started crying when I put the hay in Silk’s stall. I explained to Silk what was happening and stood with my arms around her neck. Suddenly, in my head, I heard, “Pepper loves you so much that she doesn’t want to leave you.” I was startled by that, but I knew in my bones that it was true. I woke up my husband since it was time to go to the vet. After he drank a cup of coffee, I started the hard conversation about at what point would we know that it was time to put Pepper to sleep. I knew it was really important that we both agree on the decision and that he is very deeply attached to our dog. I didn’t want to be in the waiting room at the vet’s office trying to discuss what to do. Pepper was within ear-shot, still sprawled out motionless on the floor. Then, it was time to go.

We helped her up, and suddenly, she walked to the back door, went out in the yard and pooped and peed like she always does. Then, she came back into the house and ate a bowl of food and drank a lot of water. I couldn’t believe it. I called the vet to say that we weren’t going to come and that I would bring Pepper in on Tuesday if she seemed to be in any distress. The vet consoled me that if something was wrong with her spleen, she would be getting worse, not better.

I hung up and remembered a previous time, when Pepper was younger and had the second operation on her back legs. They had to put pins in her legs because she popped her kneecaps. They had a hard time waking her up from the anesthetic, and then, for several days, she refused to eat. Our vet told me that he was afraid that she had lost the will to live. That day, one of my daughter’s little friends who was terrified of dogs came over to visit. I carried Pepper out to the patio, with a huge cast on her leg, and the girls made get well cards and petted her. By the time the little girl left, she was hugging our dog and begging her mother to let her get one. Immediately afterwards, Pepper began to eat again and was on the road to recovery.

So, I wonder, did Silk communicate to Pepper this morning? Twice since I’ve owned my horse, I’ve witnessed her pull back from death’s door and have always believed it was because she felt the strength of my love. I took another trip to the barn after Pepper’s miraculous change and thanked Silk for her help. I know that this is a day-to-day delicate balance for our dog, and my husband and I are both so grateful that she’s still with us right now.

I’ve been marveling at how I was actually able after all to relax and do the projects that I planned to do this afternoon. Checking my email, I found this poem from someone:

What you can plan

is too small

for you to live.

What you can live


will make plans


for the vitality

hidden in your sleep.

From “What to Remember When Waking” by David Whyte


Callie said...

Glad to hear that Pepper perked up. Hope she continues to be well. It's tough when they're sick and you have to make that decision. So glad you didn't have to do that now!

LJB said...

These are times of being right on the edge it seems.

Thank you for sharing the poem, and for sharing your wonderings about Silk's communications. I needed that reminder today. Something about the trust our animals offer us, about the trust that we will hear the answers to the questions we ask...

Anonymous said...

That was amazing, I'm glad Pepper seems so much better

Bones said...

Silk! That horse is full of amazing talents. I'm glad you have the heart to listen to her.

I'm also very glad Pepper came around.

AnnL said...

What a stressful start to your weekend! I'm glad Pepper perked up and hope she is still doing well. You and Silk have an amazing connection.


billie said...

Sending good thoughts to Pepper and your family. It's hard when the older ones begin to have bad days.

Grey Horse Matters said...

It is so good to hear that Pepper is doing better. Silk is a special horse and it is wonderful how she helped you to know what Pepper was feeling. You and she have that special bond we can only hope to know with our animals. Again, I'm so glad Pepper is feeling better, she is a sweet dog and you can tell she loves you and her family so much.

Ewa said...

what an event... our feelings are thoughts are powerfull. Both: positive and negative as well.
This is very moving post.

Gecko said...

Pepper is beautiful. Hopefully she just went through a little rough patch last night, and will still be around for you, happy for many months to come!

Trée said...

All the best to Pepper. Horses and dogs do seem to have a special bond, a mutual respect.

Carolynn said...

This has me crying. I lost one of my fur clad soul mates over 3 years ago now and I'm still unable to talk about her last night with me.

There is no question in my mind that we communicate on some psychic level with the animals we have a strong bond with.

I will say this about her though. It amazes me how valiantly she struggled to hang on to that thin wisp of life while I held her in my arms. She let go after I whispered "I love you" in her ear.

My heart still feels her void.

I wish for you and Pepper and both of your girls, long, healthy, happy lives together.

The end always seems to come too soon.

M. C. Valada said...

Ah, Victoria, I'm so sorry that your dog has been going through this. It is so hard when members of the family are in trouble and can't tell you exactly what is wrong.

Our Muffin, who is 13 1/2, had her spleen removed last summer. It somehow had gotten twisted and was enlarged. We had it removed. She's still with us, but she also has arthritis and has trouble getting up in the morning and sleeps most of the day these days. I worry about being able to get her to the vet if her legs give out, because she's a very big golden retriever.

I'm glad that Pepper has come back around. Dogs are good.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing story. You are certainly attuned to your animal friends and they to you. I feel sorry for people who have no connection to pets. It is an enriching relationship that we share.

Twinville said...

Wow. This is truly beautiful the relationship you have with your animals. In your heart and soul you listen to them. I have no doubt that the human-animal communication connection is there, as I, too, have felt it before.

There is almost no words to describe how amazing it it, though.
Thanks for sharing your experience.

And I'm especially happy for you that your darling Pepper has such a strong will to live.



Strawberry Lane said...

So happy about Pepper! Isn't it amazing how animals help us with life's decisions!
There is something wrong (very wrong) with my computer and I've wasted so much time trying to have it fixed.)

I cannot access my list of friends to check what is going on in their lives. The only way to reach you is to click on a comment you have left.

My point it ... I need your suggestions on a post I just put on about a starving horse. I'm so stressed out about it.

I'm trying to reach people to get their suggestions ... but as mentioned, cannot reach them. Maybe I can click on via your replies.

If you can pass this along ... that would be great !!

Thanks, Marvel

deejbrown said...

Thank you for writing so beautifully about where your heart is. Your horses are wonderful guides, and you are an amazing teacher.
I will hold you all in the Light, and give thanks for friends like your Arlene and her gifted daughter.

Janet Roper said...

That is so beautiful, a testimony to communicating with animals. Thanks for sharing, and our best to Pepper.
Janet & Shiloh
Dogs Emmie & Teddy
Cats Billy, Mitzie & Raven

mansuetude said...

i just wanted to say you made me cry a bit; it cleared my heart. Thank you.

Popped over from Bill Evertson who mentions the quality of your talks here. Its beautiful.

I think I needed this exact post today -- my dog was just diagnosed with kidney failure... and it helps to stay in the love. Thanks.

Cactus Jack Splash said...

You have an award!

Mrs Mom said...

Keeping my prayers going to you all and Madame Pepper!

Amazing how the horses can "help" in situations like this, isnt it? ;)

Bill Evertson said...

I can so relate to this post having had a similar experience with our lab Cleo two weeks ago. When we picked her up from the kennel after our vacation she didn't seem herself and started to slip over the next couple of days. She's old and has more medications than my 92 year old mom. Listless, not eating or drinking and her back legs wouldn't support her. Karen and I were having the pre vet "discussion" when we decided to call a friend who is Reiki practitioner and Cleo recovered so well we canceled the vet appointment. The world is full of mystery.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

We do not accept the agedness of our dogs the way we accept the agedness of humans. Seems like our minds are made for deciphering human wrinkles, not pooch wrinkles. I find scotch to be the most beneficial when I have a dog that's up and gone.

Sounds as though your old horse is God.