Friday, 11 October 2013

Doggy decisions: When grief takes over



In the end, Dr. Gordon J. Blackstone, professor of puppy philosophy, wasn't rocking Addison's Disease after all.
It cost us a couple hundred bucks the other day to hear the news. We didn't care. We were just happy that Gordie would live a better life over the coming months.
At twelve and half, he is a modern veterinary miracle. At age two, Gordie developed stones in his bladder which blew up his tummy like a hot air balloon. It took two operations to set him straight. The first one, the vet botched because she had trouble sewing up his fat tummy. We were grateful that she offered another vet to fix her handiwork.
The second health crisis came a couple of years later when he developed pancreatitis. The resolution of this situation required us to make him homemade dog food with brown rice, vegetables and meat for years. The smell of shepherd's pie still makes me nauseous.
He doesn't need that concoction any longer. Now he eats regular chow. I often wonder whether cooking his food made any difference, but of course it did. It made us feel less helpless.

I am ashamed to admit it, but Gordie was a pet store dog. My daughter Marissa bugged me to get him so we would have a matched set of pugs, Gordie the black, Ming the fawn. Anyone who knows Marissa understands how persistent she can be. She wore me down and we brought the little guy home as an impulse buy.
In spite of his less than illustrious beginnings, Gordie managed to outlive both Ming and the lovely Hannabelle who both died two years ago within months of each other, Hannah from cancer, Ming from respiratory failure during dental surgery. Gordie was along for the ride to get his teeth fixed and when he woke up, he was an only pug.
It was heartbreaking to have to cremate one beloved pet and bring the other home, eyes all aglaze, tongue splayed on one side.
Gordie was never the same after that operation.
Something changed in him.We believed he had had a stroke.
The pug we took in was feisty and belligerent. We had to separate him from my newly born granddaughter because we thought he might kill her.
The new Gordie was indifferent to the baby and the two new dogs we got to round out our family. He was even indifferent to his food.
Gordie became lethargic.  No lethargic is not the right word.
He was inanimate and has been so for months now.
I feared the end was near.
Had he suffered a broken heart?
Of course not, you tell yourself. That's simply ridiculous.
But he was not the same. He couldn't walk. He didn't bark.
He was like a little black statue, a sad little fellow who would have been in a nursing home had he been a human.
A couple months ago, I had an epiphany. I was watching Cesar Millan to find out why my new dog Finnigan was so aggressive. He suggested that bringing a new dog into one's home after the death of another gave the new dog a chance to become Alpha, to take over the house from the weak owner.
Had my grief blinded me to reality?
In my grief over the two dead dogs, had I simply projected the same fate on his little head?
In my clarity, I realized that Gordie was exhibiting the same symptoms as my son who has had hypothyroidism all his life.
His hair was falling out. His weight ballooned. His paws were cold.
He hobbled around in a haze.
But I was so afraid to take him to the doctor because maybe, like the other two, he wouldn't come out.
Courage is a hard thing to muster when a person is in a state of perpetual grief.
Inaction, helplessness, fear, anxiety.
They are the bed partners of grief.
But muster I did, thankfully.
And sure enough, Gordie was suffering from an endocrine crisis.
And so pills were dispensed, and as a result, his hair grew back, his back legs grew stronger and yesterday I watched him barking at the street.
The Addison's was just a theory and fortunately not a reality.
So Gordie's good to go, on regular food, asking for the door, whining crankily to be picked up.
As for me, my grief has become dormant.
Until the next time.
 

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