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Stories of Connections with Animals & Humans

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

It takes a Village…even when you don’t ask for help, that Village steps up.

Grace is a rescued Aussie mix  (and the dog of this blogger) who perfectly fit into that sliver of my heart, plugging that empty space of my last dog, making herself at home like she had lived with me a decade.   Nuzzling all people, wagging at all dogs, showing dignity in the presence of cats, merging with the rhythms of my day, thinking everything on her plate was the most scrumptious meal ever, including any medications, and playing senior dog with exuberance.

So I was spending a carefree holiday in Wisconsin when my pet sitter friend Ann back in California made the call we pet owners dread. There’s something wrong with Grace.

But it was Christmas morning.  Are you sure I asked, as if by being Christmas couldn’t mean it was true.    She is having trouble walking, her eyes and head are tilted to one side, and she didn’t eat her breakfast.  This sounded major.

A whirlwind of activity followed.  I told Ann, her voice shaking, to get Kim my neighbor.  I’ll stay on the phone. Okay, No wait, I’ll call Kim and call you back.  Ok, no, you go over and I’ll hold. Ok, no, I’ll call her.  Thoughts were racing faster than my mouth could speak them.

I hung up and called my neighbor.  She has two dogs. Her first words after Merry Christmas were I’m going.  Never mind whatever plans she had for the day, it was only Christmas.

She called me back a minute later.  We’re taking her in.  We’ve got her.

Kim, her friend and Ann lifted Grace in the car….she weighs 70 pounds.  Grace was trembling, she was scared.  I was scared.

From 2000 miles away, I navigated that vehicle ( the one with my heart inside) to the location of the 24 Hour Emergency Animal Clinic.  Except that it was closed.  My family sitting at my mom’s kitchen table sprung into action.  My sister Googled emergency animal clinics in the area.  I called my normal vet and was referred to another 24 Hour Emergency Animal Clinic at the same time my sister shoved the number in front of me.  Another neighbor Elaine gave me directions and she called Grace’s ambulance to instruct them en route.  I called ER#2 to let them know Grace was coming in, her behavior and my financial info.  My mom, a retired nurse, analyzed the symptoms and came up with stroke.  My brother’s girlfriend shared her experiences with a dog of hers that years ago had collapsed.

Kim called back to let me know they were pulling in the parking lot.

The ER doctor put her on a stretcher – my poor Grace.  Her eyes moved back and forth, she could hardly stand.  Kim called me back with Don’t worry, she is in the best hands.  That was when I broke down; I wanted to be where she was SO badly.  My family comforted me.  My mom hugged her dog and my sister hugged me, and then called her pet care givers in Denver to make sure her dogs were OK.

The Vet called me back and said he thought it was vestibular syndrome – vertigo in dogs.  Really?  He said she would get over it eventually.  Really?

I was coming home the next day and the vet called me in transit and said she was worse, not typical of the vertigo ailment.  We scheduled a next-day appointment with a canine neurologist as I was boarding my next flight.  I finally arrived at the clinic at 9pm.

Grace couldn’t stand in her large cage.  Her head was tilted so far to the right, it was like she had cerebral palsy.  I wasn’t sure if she could see me.  Her eyes were glazed bluish and were fluttering back and forth.  She was miserable and trembling.  I sat with her, her cage was large enough for me to sit with my back against the wall.  I had my book from the plane and I read it to her while her breathing became steady.

The vet techs let me stay past visiting hours.  They looked in on me, brought animals in and out, covered post-op patients with warm blankets, gently cleaned the bums of incontinent fellows, busied themselves with paperwork and medications, calmed nerves, breathed life and had an overall air of we’ve-seen-it-all and everything is going to be okay.  Tired Christmas lights hung on the walls near the ceiling.  The vet on duty was a fellow Midwestern transplant.

The neurologist conducted an exam the next day and Grace showed neurological symptoms (less reflex, etc.) on one side of her body, again, not typical of vestibular syndrome.  The neurologist scheduled an MRI that would diagnose a brain tumor, pituitary tumor or embolism (blood clot).

Good news, no tumor, no embolism!  Grace is not typical!  But we already knew that.  That night, Grace wagged her tail when I walked into the room of cages.    She still couldn’t walk, it took two vet techs to get her outside.

The next day Grace was better and I took her home.  Later I thought about how a village of people connected to get Grace back in my arms in our home.  My angelic pet sitter Ann and my saintly neighbors led the way, followed by the support of their friends and their dogs.  The emotional support of my empathetic family, all the dogs we have had and have, and their friends.  Vet referrals, ER#2, several shifts of a dozen or so dedicated vet techs, four veterinarians, a neurologist, late night office personnel, pet owners in the waiting room whom I had befriended.

Had it not been for being a dog owner, I wouldn’t know two thirds of these people.  The others I wouldn’t know half as well.  I wouldn’t have shared stories, tails of love, and heard with loving interest of their experiences.  I would never have cried with them.  Honestly I am not the type of person to ask for help.  Here’s the kicker.  I didn’t have to ask, it just came.    They came.  Animal tribes are powerful forces; they make things happen, they are tenacious and gritty.

The support of others brings value to my life and makes my relationships more meaningful.  As Grace gets better each day,  I am blessed to live in a universe where my connections with animals fuel connections with humans.  My animal lover friends and family  lavish in the joy their pets bring them, celebrating each day that outpouring of love their pets invite of us… just like me.