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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5 thoughts on “Surgery Day PM”

  1. Oof. Knocked me out, again. I know you have a lot on your plate right now but I do hope you keep updating because …. I’m really invested now! Haha. Also, truly, thank you. From one stranger to another, your writing is giving me a modicum of unexpected non-anxiety (I was gonna say peace, but no — that word has left the building is probably isn’t coming back for a while). Can’t wait to hear about R’s wound — you sound ready and he sounds like the luckiest dog in the world.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through this too. I do think the summary, “It sucks” kinda covers it. There’s just no upsides to facing these kinds of decisions and I think as people who really love our animals it is agonizing. Maybe moreso than making a decision like this for ourselves. I tried to weigh out how likely I thought more time was (which is a total crapshoot because he has cancer and a suspicious lung lesion) and the fact that he was already in some pain (so I’m trading one pain for a different pain really, not putting him IN pain when he’s not now) and ultimately… Someone framed it to me: Which would you regret more? Not doing the thing and wondering if you should have or doing the thing and having it turn out poorly? Someone on here suggested I write down all my reasons for either decision. I’m still not positive how I’ll handle it if R doesn’t get more joyful time out of this gamble, but he really didn’t seem ready to leave this life yet. Just in case you haven’t found it yet, I seriously considered calling the tripawds hotline to talk to someone, and I was totally in the chat for a while the night before and tearing up the forum with questions. You sound like you’re on a time crunch, but I think the hotline calls back in 24hrs? Might help to have one more person to talk to.

  2. Today is the day, yes? If R is doing ok, right? You got this! You are all over it and I know you will be thrilled to have him back where he belongs. It won’t matter that he is one limb shy, and you will be surprised at how well they do.
    Hang in there, we are all routing for you!
    Jackie and Huck
    PS I am so glad you started a blog 🙂

    1. Thanks! His surgeon is going to call midmorning to let me know how he did overnight and what today looks like. I’m both looking forward to and dreading having him home. But I know he’d rather start his healing in his home than stuck in ICU so even if his standard of care isn’t quiiiiiiite up to hospital standards I think the comfort he gets will outweigh the downsides.

  3. Just catching up and I can already see huge progress between your state of mind last night, and what you shared in the Forums today. You’ve GOT THIS!

    So glad he’s home. Can’t wait to see more pics.

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