Surgery Day PM

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For the moment, I’m actually feeling a little calmer than I have maybe at all

over the past few weeks.  No doubt that’ll pass quickly.  I don’t really do calm for long stretches of time.  But I think the one thing that has passed is… The surgery is over.  It’s done.  There’s no taking it back.  There’s no putting his leg back on.  The decision is well and truly, irrevocably made.  And there is some calm in that.  Right up to the moment this afternoon I had weird little panic daydreams about calling the hospital and saying, “Stop!  Don’t do it!”  I imagined some poor vet tech running down the hallways and bursting into the operating room as the scalpel descended…


Now there is no more if-maybe-instead.  It’s done.

I have made the choice, and now all there is to do is live with it.  It bothers me a bit that we both have to live with it.  But that has been what’s so hard about this decision all along.  That R can’t choose for himself.  That R can’t even really tell me what he wants.  That I choose and R loses the leg.  It’s such a responsibility to this little life I picked up from some rundown shelter in Indiana a decade ago.  I made a promise that day that I would make this little creature my family and I would take care of him.  Not just feed him and keep him warm, but love him, make him happy.  And now I’ve done something that I know, short term, is going to make him very unhappy.

What I have to run nightmare thought experiments about now is: Will he live long enough to be happy again?  We traded in his leg for a chance that he’d get to play fetch again, tear around the living room in psychotic-love-ecstasy when a friend visits, stalk squirrels that dare enter his domain… or maybe just happen to be on the sidewalk when he comes by on his morning constitutional.

There will be no way to know I made the right choice until after the fact.  Or, maybe, to be more fair, there will be no way to know I made a ‘fortunate’ choice.  This was the only choice that had any chance for any of that happy down the road.  So we gambled.

I just wish I was gambling with myself, my limbs, my happy, and not with his.

The profound responsibility of owning an animal is that they are utterly innocent and utterly at your mercy and you play God and for the love of G** we are only too human and shouldn’t ever play at the Big G because we muck it up at least as often as we get it right.

But sometimes we don’t have a choice.  We have to choose.

I’ve always weirdly tried not to choose too much for him.  I’m the total weirdo that tells my dog, “I’d like to cuddle, but you don’t have to.  You are your own little life.”  The only rules I really enforce are the ones for safety mostly: We walk on a leash so we won’t get hit by cars.  We don’t eat shit off the ground because that’s just universally a bad idea.  Etc.

But this was a big choice, a Big G moment I couldn’t avoid, except I’m not omniscient so I don’t have the benefit of knowing the future and knowing the benefits will outweigh the costs.

This whole thing has just pretty much sucked.  There’s no real way to pretty that sentiment up.  Sucks.  It sucks.

I think I’ve prepped the house as much as any house in the history of houses.  I deal with anxiety by doing, by researching, by planning.  I imagine 10,000 ways things can go horribly, horribly wrong and then I try to convince myself I have a plan in place for every single one of those completely outlandish apocalypse scenarios.  So I: Washed all R’s bedding.  Vacuumed.  Mowed the lawn.  Built a DIY raised feeder.  Washed all R’s bowls and treat Kongs.  Went grocery shopping so we won’t have to do that next week.  Cooked up some ground beef in case we need help eating.  Sweat in a t-shirt and tucked it under the blankets in his bed so it will smell like me.  I mean, you name it, I’ve probably tried to do it.

Now all I can do is sit here and wonder if I forgot anything.

And then start researching wound care, of course.  And start going through those 10,000 scenarios of all the ways wounds can go bad.

Fun times.

I hear the most important thing is not to be a bundle of nerves and neuroses when I pick him up tomorrow, so I’m trying to brace myself to see my baby missing a limb.  I think there’s this human instinct to shy away from the wrongness of a body that doesn’t fit the heuristic we have for that body.  Dogs have four legs.  When I see one with three – I’m kinda ashamed of it, I guess? –  I have a momentary feeling of wrongness.  I don’t want to feel that for even a second with R.  Or, at least I don’t want him to feel that I felt that.

So… I guess I’m going to go look at incision pictures for a couple hours before bed?  Partially as desensitization and partially to work through my 10,000 wound-nightmares?  Solid plan.

My coping mechanisms are so healthy, aren’t they?

I just want my fur-beast back.  The house is too quiet without him.  I can articulate practical benefits to him being gone, especially knowing how much work the next few weeks are going to be, both physically and emotionally.  But the benefits don’t outweigh the missing of him.  He’s who I put my arm around when I’m watching my British murder mysteries.  Right now I’m just a weirdo sitting in an orthopedic dog bed all by myself.

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Surgery Day AM

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I’m trying really hard this morning to adjust my thinking from: This is the day my dog loses his leg.  To: This is the day my dog loses his tumor.  It’s not totally working, but the second sentence is also true and it’s the reason for the first.  It’s important.  It’s the non-negotiable.  

It was weird, sleeping alone in the living room last night.  I don’t want to be morbid, but I admit the thought was with me all yesterday afternoon and evening.  That: This is what it will be like when R is gone.  Very quiet.  Lots of objects scattered around my house that no longer serve a purpose.  Lots of colorful toys without anyone to play with them.  Three big beds with no one to sleep in them.  Which, all in all, creates a strange, abandoned feeling, like everyone in a family up and disappeared right in the middle of a meal and never came back.  

It’s also just weird that I can know R is going to have his leg chopped off today, but here it’s so calm.  It’s that general weirdness that comes from the dichotomy that something really important, or really bad, or really violent can be happening a hundred miles away and you can be going about your daily life and not even know it.  Like when the Twin Towers came down and for the first however long I was still sitting in my middle school classroom, no doubt preoccupied by silly middle school girl worries.  I was giving a presentation in my social studies class, I think, when my mom probably died.  

It’s that same weird dichotomy today, on a much smaller scale.  That I know five miles down the road R is losing his leg, but here it’s just a perfectly still morning, unusually quiet and still even because R isn’t here and there’s no breeze and the rain clouds are lingering low in the sky and that always feels a little like a blanket hushing over the whole world.

I wonder what it would be like to be one of those people who love their dogs in moderation.  Those people who treat their dogs well and seem to get real joy from them, but don’t seem to suffer paroxysms of grief when things go poorly or the end is near.  Or, maybe I’m just particularly practiced in grief.  Or, maybe this is why I have built most of the rest of my life around the very foremost tenet of: Keep yourself even keeled.  This is why.  This right here.  

I’ve lived most of the rest of my life trying very hard to set things up so I’m not likely to feel wild swings of emotions because I wonder if my wild swings aren’t a bit more wild than might be…  I don’t know the word.  Reasonable?  Healthy?  Whatever.  Just ‘too much’ works.  So the rest of my life is very calm and orderly and I feel nice gentle ups and downs of emotion like casual friendships and mistakes at work that don’t really cost anyone anything.  But then, is this experience an argument in support or opposition of that general Even Keel Plan?  On one hand, clearly it hasn’t completely gone to plan, right?  That wild swings will still sneak in, in the most banal places.  On the other hand, this is certainly an unpleasant experience.  If this is a wild swing, it’s certainly not one I’m keen to repeat in the near term.

Or, am I?

I wonder if I’ll choose to get another dog at some point down the road, once we’re through all this, once I’ve gone through the final grief.  All of my other immediate family members have what might look to the outside like a weird tradition of only ever having one dog.  But when you get down to the heart of it I think it’s because maybe we are all a little overly emotional and both my dad and my sister basically summarized single-dog-ownership as, “There are heartbreaks you can avoid.”  Basically that there are sad situations you can’t avoid in life, relationships with people mainly, but that you know you are in for a sad ending with a dog and so both of them have gone through it once and decided they’d rather avoid the heartache in the future.

Of course, then you also miss out on future puppy cuddles and panting grins when you tell that little fur creature what a very good boy he is and the sound of snuffles as a little body curls up beside you to sleep.  You don’t get to pull another pup from a shelter and feel pretty certain you gave that little creature a better life than the one he’d been living.  Those are nice things.  I guess it’s just the emotional arithmetic of whether the benefits outweigh the costs.  Complicated math, hard to figure, but that’s it.  Do you end up in the black or red?


The night before surgery…

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I’ve found reading others’ blogs helpful, and I’ve already been journalling pretty much every day about my wildly careening emotions as my fur-man and I face his cancer diagnosis, so I figured I could do that journalling here just as easily and maybe someone else will… find my melodramatic teeth gnashing… helpful? … Or something.

For backstory.

Tomorrow is surgery day.  I dropped him off this morning and felt like shit about it even though I honestly think it’s the best of all the really bad choices we had.  I spent the rest of the day actively trying not to think about it.  I will spend tomorrow, no doubt, alternating between guilt and mind-numbing work and television.  His surgeon is going to call me before and after his amputation.  Just in case we’re part of no doubt extremely outlier stats on surgery complications, I tried to make sure I gave him a good morning this morning before I took him in.  (His terror after we got there kinda cancelled out the morning fuzzies, but it was a nice thought.)

All of this would probably be less distressing if I were not a pessimist, huh?

Note to self for future heart-splintering scenarios.