Monday, February 6, 2012

A Dog Story. A Family Story.

Sweet Riley.
As I waited for the vet to return with my sweet golden, numerous thoughts ran frenetically through my mind.

Cancer of the brain?

That tic I found a few months ago...did that do something horrible to her?  We should've brought her in immediately after we found it.

We should have.

Why. Why?  Why didn't we?  

I should have brought her in last week when it started.  The drooling.  The not eating.  The depression that seemed to have deepened since.




The should have's.  The why's.

What, what, what???  Could be going on with my 7 year old pup?

The vet finally entered the room and Riley came right over and propped her chin on my knee waiting for a pat.

A familiar gesture that made me want to weep.

"She seems to have facial paralysis."

I swallowed and blinked backed my tears that wanted so desperately to fall.

Blink.blink.  Blink.blink.

I absentmindedly stroked my pup's soft, golden head, the thick drool from her mouth seeping through my jeans.  My annoyance at this drooling for the past few days quickly dissipating.  Seeming so petty.  She's my girl, the only other female I have in my household and yes, she is a dog.  But. She is part of our family.  She was good 'practice' for us before we had our boys, though nothing compares to the world of newborns we had to train her, taking her outside throughout the night to ensure no accidents, sleepless nights when she got sick.  The one time when she was hit by a car was absolutely devastating.  But she made it.  She survived it.

She's been so good to us.  So wonderful with our children.

If she could survive getting hit by a car.  Surely...surely she would get through this.

I needed her to make it through again.


Hard swallow.

"What does that mean...exactly?"  My voice sounded thick.  Shaky.

"We're not sure.  I've never seen a case like this before.  It could be her thyroid but looking at her weight and profile that's unlikely.  It could be idiopathic...which means there is no reason for it.  If it doesn't clear up within a week, her facial normalcy returning is unlikely."

It had been almost a week already.  And it wasn't getting better.  It was getting worse.

It could spread.  It may not.  It could still go away.  It may not.

I blindly paid for the way too expensive eye drops because she couldn't even blink normally and made my way to the truck.  I helped her into the back of the vehicle, kissing the top of her head a few times.  Then a few times more, scratching the back of her ears, massaging her neck.

Talking softly to her, reassuring her she would be okay.

She would be okay.

She had to.  

This is what I kept telling myself in contrast to all the dark, horrible images of her leaving us.  Too soon.  Far too soon.

I sat in the parking lot.  In the truck.  My hands on the steering wheel.

I saw nothing but a blur.

And then the tears flowed freely.  Soaking the front of my jacket.  I could no longer hold in my sobs.

This cannot be happening.  

I cried all the way home.

And then I cried some more, recalling all the times I got mad at her for destroying the kid's toys.  Yelling at her for being a nuisance.  Making her stay outside because it was easier than dealing with her rambunctious nature with the boys.

Then the memories came.

The first time I saw her as a wee puppy, eyes barely open, stumbling around.  Love at first site.

The first time I held her.  She really was my first baby.  Our fur baby.

I was the one that spent the time teaching her tricks.  The fun stuff.  How to speak, shake a paw, sit pretty.  She never did get fetching. Or roll over.

Our first walks together when the only way I could get her to walk on a leash was to run beside her.

The winter walks as she romped and rolled in the snow.  Winter is her favourite season by far.

How protective she was of Adrian as a baby.  She'd sleep curled up beside him as he napped in the car seat, the pac 'n play.  At my feet as he slept in my arms.  Keeping my toes oh so toasty.

The first weeks of sleepless nights when Aidy was a newborn.  Walking into our bedroom as I nursed him in the early hours of the morning, looking just as tired as we did.  John and I laughing at how tired she looked.

Yes, dogs can look tired.

Watching her swim.  Just for the sake of swimming, no sticks to catch, no ball to chase after.

Chasing ducks on the beach.  Bunnies in our backyard.  Though never would she purposefully harm another animal.  Truly.  She wouldn't know how.

The sweetest dog that ever was.  The sweetest by miles.

Everyone says when you have your first child, your dog, that was your whole world once upon a time, becomes just that.  A dog.

And while this, no doubt, is true, she is still an integral part of our family.

A huge part of our family memories that will go down in time.

And so there I went dealing with the sickness of my dog.  Our family pet.

Giving her eye drops as often as I remembered which wasn't often as it should have been.  Massaging her face and her eyes, dealing with the grossness of the drooling that streaked our floors, a daily ritual of cleaning  it up off of her, the walls, the furniture and the floors. My 4 year old constantly telling me that her mouth needed to be wiped.  Finley pointing out "mess".  The matted fur on her chest from all the saliva.

She smelled.  Bad.

She needed desperately to be groomed.  But what was the point?  The drool from from her slackened jaw would continue....

And then, miraculously, a few weeks ago...slowly, bit by bit the drooling stopped.  She started to blink.  Her eyes seemed brighter.

She had the skip to her hop back.

Just. Like. That.

We have no idea what could have happened to her.  Animal Bell's Palsy?  Not sure.  Possible. I try not to think about it and just hope it never comes back.

But she is back.  Riley Girl is back.  She's aged a few years in the past couple of months.  It took a toll.  I've no doubt she was seriously depressed, wondering why her body had betrayed so.

She's been groomed.  She's feeling good.  Better than she has in a while.  She's happy.

And we've never been happier.

Our whole family is still intact.

Adrian's guardian.
 She was so protective of him....still is.
 Truly bonded

****I highly recommend visiting all the wonderful writers at Yeah Write who've poured their thoughts, feelings and love out into their piece.  Return to Yeah Write on Thursday and you can vote for three of your faves. Or just vote for me.  ;) ****


Galit Breen said...

Oh, good. Intact. {That's the very best way for a family to be.}

Kristin said...

January! We had a golden retriever as well that had that SAME thing happen. It seemed like his face was paralyzed, he frothed and drooled and it was worse when he tried to eat or drink anything. He lost all his muscle tone in his face and he looked sunken in on his head bones. And then suddenly it went away and he returned to normal. Again, no diagnosis. It was suggested that he may have eaten something, a fungus I think they suggested. Sadly, our Buddy succumbed to seizures and we had to say goodbye. They suspected a brain tumour. He was 12. My oldest girl has so many great memories with him. Happy to hear that your pup is doing well and is happy again. This post resonates with me.

Jen said...

Oh my goodness, I was literally holding my breath for a happy ending. I'm so glad it turned out happy. Those pictures just sealed the deal for my tears to drop.
SO glad your pup is OK.

Anonymous said...

I was really worried there wouldn't be a happy ending. So glad that there is.

Your golden is beautiful, btw. :)

We've had many dogs through the course of our lives, especially during the years when we rescued and fostered.

One thing that we learned is how durable these pups are. They like to scare you with big, freaky illnesses or run underneath cars and break their legs, but so many times, they just pop right back to health.

(We have one who likes to eat towels, get horrible stomach pains and drop 10 lbs like water, and then poop out towel turds for a week. As soon as we get the weight back on him, he's after the towels again!)

Fox in the City said...

I too was worried that this would not have a happy ending! Phew!

*Kimberly Speranza said...

As I read your words, it took me back to a time when our Cocker Spaniel had to be put down. I can relate to the flood of powerful emotions and memories during the time when you are hoping for the best outcome. Glad Riley is doing well.

Ado said...

Oh this one got me.
You had me at the first photo of her at the top.
And then the words.
She is so adorable, and all the family photos with her in it.
I had to speed-read because I was so wanting to know what happened.
So glad she's ok.
She is loved.
I was thinking it could easily have been Bell's Palsy - have you had her tested for Lymes? One of my friends kids had Palsy from Lymes. Could very well be...
glad she's ok!

Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms said...

Release of breath. So glad for your happy ending. -Ellen

Kate F. @katefineske said...

Yea! I am SO happy for you and your happy ending. SO happy. Because I can totally relate - and if it where our dog (our 4th and oldest child) I would have reacted the same way. Thanks for sharing such a great (and happy) story...

Kim Pugliano said...

TEARS. If you ever read my blog, ever, or just look at my 366 Project, you will see that my pups are my everything and all (and yes, I enjoy my child too). I work from home so they spend more time with me than anyone. You broke my heart into millions of pieces and then glued them all right back together and now I will stop reading for a bit to get in some pup snuggles.

So happy for you.

Laura@Catharsis said...

Oh. Oh, oh, oh. I teared up for sure. I feel so terrible. Ever since our kids came along, our dogs have taken the back seat. I love them dearly, but sometimes, they're the ones to get the brunt of our exhaustion, frustration, and sometimes, anger. I am SO GLAD she's okay. I have a grin from ear to ear. :)

Jennifer said...

Thank goodness everything is okay! I'm in a puddle after looking at the pictures of your sweet pup and little guy. Just so dear!

Gia said...

Ohhh I'm so glad things are okay with your pup. Because that story was very very sad and scary and I didn't know if it was gonna have a good ending. What a beautiful dog!

Janice said...

We're dog lovers here, and your post made me cry. So beautiful.

I'm glad she's okay. I have a 10-year-old chihuahua who is my daughter's special pet.

January Dawn said...

Thank you ALL so much for you beautiful, kind words. I know many people can relate to how it feels when your pet leaves you or becomes very sick. And even though once kids come into the picture they tend to take a back seat it is still incredibly heartbreaking. All of your comments and wonderful feedback is why I love Free Fringes...or Lovelinks...or Yeah Write. ;)

Lenore Diane said...

Wow, wow, wow. I started tearing up instantly, thinking Riley was not going to make it. Thank you for being patient and waiting the thing out... I'm afraid some owners would thrown in the towel.
The pictures are super sweet. Yes, yes, so glad Riley girl is back. Dogs are an asset to every home - well, in my dog-loving opinion. (smile)

The Video Game Voyeur said...

I get frustrated with our ridiculously sweet pup WAY too easily. Thank you for reminding me how important he is to our family and that I should not take his time with us for granted.

Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy said...

Beautiful. I'm SO glad she's better. This brought tears to my eyes. I remember how hard it is to overcome the sickness of a pet, to care to their special needs when others may think you're crazy. I had a diabetic cat. We gave her insulin shots twice a day for nearly two years. Love is a powerful thing. But they love us back SO MUCH that it's a small price to pay. So glad your Riley is doing better.

Abby said...

I was crying before I was even halfway through this post. SO relieved to find out your girl is alright. We lost a kitten to an undetected heart condition just 2 days after his 1st birthday. I was absolutely devastated. They are truly our four legged family members.

Jackie said...

Thank God your gals okay! That last photo, please tell me you have that one framed? It's so freaking adorable!

Anonymous said...

"I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry." (That's what I was telling myself as I read this.)

I cried.

I'm a dog person too. And no matter how crazy he drives me sometimes, I cannot bear the thought of him suffering. We had a close call earlier this year. It still makes me weepy just thinking of it.

Glad she's okay! Great pictures, sweet family!

Jamie said...

I love me some family dog stories. I wrote about our sweet Lab, Boomer back in November. He's waiting for us on the Rainbow Bridge for now. I'm so glad you're Riley Girl is better!!

Christine @ Quasi Agitato said...

I am so glad i got that happy ending. I couldn't have handled it, the other way around. And I'm not even a pet person.

So glad she's up to her old tricks.

Mel said...

This is such a sweet post. I am so happy she is feeling better and will hopefully live a long, happy and healthy life with your family.

Louise Ducote said...

Oh, my heart! What a wonderful, rollercoaster of a post. SO HAPPY for you, and good for you for standing by her through those terrible months.

danneromero said...

The love of an animal. Nothing like it.

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