Dear Dog Diary – dear dog friends and dog people:
I’ve been afraid to write, afraid to speak about it. Afraid to jinx the outcome, while my sweet old boy, my dog son Dude, came back from a traumatic head wound, three weeks ago.
The cone is off, there’s no open wound, the swelling is gone – but he looks like a California Condor.
You know, those critically endangered birds with a bald pink face? I saw them up close when I worked at San Diego Zoo and that face is almost cute on chicks. On adults - not so much.
Just for the record, I think Dude is the cutest dog on the face of the Earth. Without eyes. With a condor face.
I witnessed the poetic release of condors back to the wild in the Grand Canyon. Soaring, symbolic. Conquering all. Back from the brink – from a 1980’s world population of two dozen birds, to a hundred more by the year 2000.
Dozens, flying free, soaring cliffs and raising young again in the wild. Phoenix rising.
Like my Dude.
He’s acting normal. Then again, he did all along – even with a gaping head wound and massive facial swelling.
One more challenge in a lifetime of health challenges (glaucoma, blindness, Alzheimer’s, cancer…) It didn’t phase him a bit. It sure phased me. I was afraid to leave the house. Afraid to breath. Afraid of what it might have been – and still could be.
The only thing that phased him was the cone of shame. Next time, I’m buying two more cones - one for Doodle and one for me. We’ll be the cone of shame family - proud and mighty. Talk about not so cute…
Like you, I would do anything to protect my kids. I worry about Dude all the time. He recently lost his best friend, Elvis – who was Dude’s Seeing Eye dog. There’s a hole in our hearts from the loss and no one misses Elvis more than Dude.
OK, well, maybe me.
Friends cautioned that when two dogs are so intertwined, losing one can mean the partner follows right behind. Like you hear about with married couples that have been together their whole lives.
Dude has such a sweet old soul. He’s so brave and has such a fighter spirit. It makes me fight that much harder for him. His will to live, his willpower alone was not enough to fight this thing. We needed our vet, we needed the great maker above, watching out for him.
We needed you, rooting for us.
This is me. Norman Rockwell had it right.
I have framed this old magazine cover for the wall of the dog room where Dude and Doodle live.
Nothing can prepare you for sudden trauma of a family member, right before your eyes. I found a flap of his scalp, with hair still attached, lying on the dog room floor. Blunt force trauma to my gut - sickening shock - crippling fear.
The left side of his face was grossly swollen, with bloated, raw hamburger skin. I don't know what happened first- the injury or something that caused him to rub his head and injure himself further.
It could have been a tumor. Or a snakebite, a spider bite, a bee sting. He is blind, so he could have bumped his head in the dog run fencing. It was a gaping, gory injury and it came out of nowhere.
Luckily we have medical supplies – lots of them. Dog moms that live in the boonies, like me - have to. There’s no animal ER twenty minutes away, like the big city. If it’s after hours, there’s no local vet access.
Unfortunately Dude’s Cone of Shame has been used a lot.
The next morning, a large bloodstain seeped through the thick gauze of his bandage. Our vet got us in right away - she said we needed it to “just be a snake or a spider bite.” Dogs recover from those.
We had to wait and see if swelling came back after the prednisone wore off - if that happened, there was something ominous beneath the skin.
As much as you never want to know the bad news – knowing is so much easier than waiting and wondering and worrying.
I willed into being, the healing. I willed into being, the bite. I willed away the bad stuff. Dude deserved so much more than that for his last year/s of life. He is almost 14 - 98 in dog years.
Not living life the way you want to- is the hardest part of an injury. How come Dude didn’t seem to feel that way?
This is what dogs teach us. Let it go. Be free. Don’t stay in your head. Live in your heart. Don’t dwell on what-if’s. Hug your dog. Savor the day. Be in the moment. This moment is GREAT!
That’s dog 101.
The Dude is back!
This is why we live in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area - amazing scenery - small town spirit. Healing energy.
We lived in a big city (San Diego, and Portland) for years. We chose small town life. People care – people who barely know you. You wouldn’t think a sick dog would make national news, but in a small town, everyone knows and everyone asks about him. Even cat people.
We’re so thankful for the day – and the gift of time.
I am happy to report that this is the only swelling that has come back – right in our front yard:
Thank you – near or far - for being there for us.
Surf dog mom Barb, with Dude, Doodle and Tia the cat