In the first two episodes, I discover a fast growing tumor (the elephant) on my doxie’s head, at Christmas. After denial, we’re headed to surgery. We don’t know if it’s malignant.
Brain surgery on my baby.
It was yesterday.
But the lobotomy was really mine.
It happened in the O.R. of an OR country vet.
It might as well have been Hollywood – the end result was a Nip, Tuck on Doodle’s melon. His dog face. His brain.
Just a little face-lift. On my boy toy doxie.
He came home, shaking. Poor baby was fragile. He had hollow eyes and looked like he’d seen the devil.
Glistening eyes guy (my nickname for him, when I adopted him at the shelter) was on the edge of resignation.
One eye was sort of square shaped, not round. Not liquid lava. Not his usual sparkle face.
He didn’t want to drink water.
None of the usual swagger.
That “I own the world” attitude, shriveled.
His sweet little red carpet face was scarred, with big, black stitches taking up half of his forehead, which altogether measured maybe four inches tops, on his biggest brain day.
The square eye was only half open and the good eye, sagging. Gone was the light.
But then he saw me, square eye and all.
He bounded down the hall
(well, at least those last ten feet) at the vet’s…
… like a greyhound…
…. and my eyes lit up, too…
… arms wide open….
… running to each other…
… like a slow motion movie scene...
… those… last… ten… feet… before….
REUNITED – AND IT FEELS SO GOOD!!!!!
And it was…
“SO, WAY BETTER THAN WHEN YOU COME HOME FROM WORK!”
… like that Cone wasn’t there and the head zipper was no big deal and nothing had ever happened back there behind that lobby door, down the dark hallway, in the OR O.R., under anesthesia.
I picked him up, like a fragile newborn (so, not my norm.) Usually it’s….
Get yer butt up here right now, my little rug rat!
But Mother Theresa, that thankfully I was instead, cradled him gently in her arms.
It was the longest eight hours… in history…
…between the time I dropped Doodle off…
… and that longest day…
… that day I worried and paced.
Finally, late afternoon the vet called…
“It went well. He’s groggy, but he’ll be ready for pick up at 5:30.”
… Another eternity…. hours and minutes and seconds… and split seconds later until…
REUNITED – AND IT FEELS SO GOOD!!!!!
It was a black hole of time and worry and nervous energy and angst and irrational thinking.
Hopefully I didn’t balance any checkbooks during that time, or write important dossiers on world peace.
And of course, not a wink last night.
Fits and starts, for the last few weeks, since I booked the surgery.
I was so afraid to hurt my little zipper head, but I needed to share our heartbeats, chest to chest, like puppies.
In a lobby full of people.
Hey, they’re dog moms and dads. They know.
But it was such an intimate moment; ideally no one’s watching.
I pressed him close (OK, maybe I crushed him to me…)
I was there for him.
He was there for me.
One big, long moment of silence.
Time stood still.
With so much to say, in so few words.
As only a dog can do.
While I paid about a thousand bucks to bust him out of that happy/sad, awful/hopeful place.
That place that could change his life, his fate, his future.
Nice people. I am SO THANKFUL they are there.
But it’s a dirty little secret that all vets know; that I learned working at a zoo – animals don’t like, or trust, their vet.
Avoid, hide, avoid, hide!
This is not their happy place. Or yours.
Shame and cones and please make it stop
Doodle needed pain pills four times a day. I hoped he wouldn’t become an addict - there are some holic tendencies in our genes.
Now, antibiotics were urgent, too.
He couldn’t go outside, he couldn’t get wet or dirty.
What does a dog do, without wet and dirty?
A dog that lives to surf with me, that can’t get wet?
Heck, I can’t live without getting dirty. Isn’t that the whole point? Hence my surf spinster lifestyle, surfing with dogs, well into my 50’s. When normal people know better.
In the surgery scuffle, Doodle had dental work, too.
Poor baby had a front tooth pulled. He couldn’t chew.
I had to feed him soft food, like a geezer.
Might as well add a diaper while we’re at it.
The indignity of it all.
Speaking of…. The Cone of Shame. Closing in, like a vice – squeezing down on your joy, your independence, your ego, and your happy-go-lucky-doggie-attitude.
Your ability to cope.
To surf. Anything. Everything.
Dudes and Cones
No dog I ever knew, not even my Dude, the Dog of Dignity Despite Dire – could handle the Cone Of Shame.
But that Cone deeply pissed him off.
Poor baby Doodle was barely holding on. Post anesthesia, my stud muffin doxie that normally owns the surfboard, was fragile and listless.
It hurt to look at him.
I hand fed him food and pain pills.
He shook violently, even under heavy covers.
I flattened him against my body and my heat filled him up and my heartbeat ticked along with his.
Tia, the cat, flattened right in there too, purring.
Heartbeat syncing up, 3:1.
Her fuzzy fur coated one side of the doxie. I was the other half. After about an hour, my soft-oozy-white-middle-of-the-Oreo-cookie baby dog finally fell asleep.
We curled up and stayed in bed and watched bad TV - murder mysteries on desert islands, secret life of pets, sappy romances.
And we spooned up together like it was good TV and all that bad stuff in the real world couldn’t get in. Like bed was our safe place. Home.
It was nothing but that torrential Oregon rain and grey of January and that bad stuff was laughable on TV -- far, far away; outside the warm and fogged-up windows. Spooned up with this tiny dog of mine and an obese cat and this big ‘ol Cone that we all tried to ignore, like the elephant in the room.
And the laptop that lived in bed with us and our other bff was there, spooning with us too - Netflix.
Old Blue, our creaky historic farmhouse, sheltered us from the storm.
We could hear our quail friends, calling outside. Just like normal.
Vet lady’s post-op instructions said food and water in small amounts after anesthesia and fasting. Soft food only, every few hours. Feed, wait 30 minutes or more, then feed just a little more. Do not give a full meal.
We started with a handful. He wasn’t fooled. He knew I was short changing him. For once, I didn’t cave, because I am his mom and I need to care for him when he can’t care for himself.
So we snuggled up and waited an hour. Then he got just a little more baby food, and he gulped down the antibiotic in a smoky pill pocket. And we rolled back to bed and he was out for good.
I drank a lot of wine for medicinal purposes and was so glad he finally checked out and slept the night away. All three of us did.
The vet had a hard time getting Doodle under. I know that feeling, it’s his special gift. Sparkle of joy. Life force energy. Way outweighs the dinky doxie.
When he first started traveling with me, carryon bag style on airplanes, I tried every pill they had to chill him out – anti anxiety medicines, mellow yellow homeopathic drops, doggie downers - nothing worked. I didn’t want him out; just slower.
Finally, I tried a quarter of Elvis’s old Tramadol pain pill – and, bingo! In small amounts, so he didn’t become a stoner - a statistic in the US opioid epidemic.
His inquisitive little brain and liquid eyes and proud barrel chest and curlicue tail usually weighs 16 pounds. But he was 18.8 at the vet’s today.
My baby is… Good God, he’s middle aged! 49 in dog years! How did that happen? Is he filling out in middle age, like the rest of us?
Did he get a little fatter this winter? Did the tumor make him gain weight? Was it too many Christmas snack sessions? Or was it my fault, after losing both bassets in one year, and spoiling my only remaining dog son?
Does Jenny Craig do doxies?
Life after surgery – a.k.a. three words:
BACK TO NORMAL
(whatever that is)
LIFE IS GOOD.
There’s a but…
… well, everything except that nagging feeling…
… the gut-punch that won’t go away.
That terrifying ten day wait…
… to find out…
- Continued- in Part 4, the finale, next week.