The Sheba Chronicles: Episode 1
I’ve always been able to help my life. Until somewhere in 2009 when it all changed. After twenty years in law, a profession certain to engender a false sense of control and feeling of authority, I lost the ability to control anything.
Since then, I adopt the Buddhist philosophy of letting go and noticing…
This morning, I cannot not help but notice, as I am washing my Shepherd’s excrement off my arm, I have to let go the need to control what I prefer to be doing and embrace my new role of playing nursemaid to my stroke-afflicted Shepherd mix, Sheba. Despite my best intentions, life is calling me to turn back in her direction and tend to her most basic biological needs as I would have been doing had I ever born children.
Her most recent downfall from the effects of a stroke four years ago has left her unable to relieve her body of anything. It appears we may be running out of the borrowed time we’d been given.
Still in all, I’m determined to keep her with me as long as is humanly possible.
She doesn’t want my help – but I am summoned by duty and obligation and irrational love to give it anyway. I take her gently by the scruff of the neck and walk her over to the grass on the side of our mountain log home. Laying her willful self on her side, I place my hands around her overly full bladder, pressing as hard as I can, but not too – just enough to get her to eliminate, the neurologist said.
Meanwhile, she struggles and cries and I wince – I don’t know who is hurting more – and the round of Gabepentin for her pain seems to have little effect. She bites hard and kicks at me with her hind legs.
I carefully lean my knee on her neck all Dog Whisperer like to calm her mind. She doesn’t appreciate nor understand our new process. I speak to her in as gentle tones as I can, the way I used to calm my carriage horses on Michigan Avenue during a traffic jam. Easy, Sheba…
It’s like asking an elephant to chill – sometimes, if the goddesses have parted the skies, I can get a stream of urine – until wait – there is something else.
I try hard not to lean in too close. The smell makes me gag, I turn my head away. I am forced to watch, because the neurologist said, This is how I got her to eliminate…you should have no problem…
I tell myself that I deserve the excrement smeared on my forearm, that warm blob and more coming, because I am pressing on the system where it all comes from. I would prefer the coveted number one, not two – and it comes but sporadically – meanwhile her flailing strong legs are kicking and smearing more number two at me.
Finally, neither of us can take any more. I have to be satisfied with this go-round of output. I know I’ve gotten at least some of the important things, mostly because it’s all over the inside of my arm.
I let her up and she turns to look at me and I feel I am the worst human being in the world. I feel she hates me and is wondering why we are spending our otherwise peaceful mornings with her on her side and me kneeling over her.
She turns to look at me before she trots away, heading down to the creek to drink some more water. She is thirsty from the Prednisilone prescribed for her inflamed bladder. I objected to the steroid that seemed to kick off this whole nightmare. Her bladder is inflamed, she needs it, the neurologist said.
I follow her down to the creek, needing to wash the contents of her stomach off my arm. I try to return to my writing or accounting or the phone call I was tending before I interrupted it all, because I know it is only a matter of another hour before we’re back at it again. I watch her lap up more water with conflicted feelings of appreciation for her healthy thirst and dread for the next episode. She turns to stare shamefully at me.
Or so, I infer.
Sixteen days ago, we were relaxing on our front porch, when it became increasingly apparent our dog had stopped being able to eliminate. We’d already been at it for an entire week of ER visits and we thought we’d gotten the issue under control.
After calling the ER veterinarian from two days before, we slammed a cup of coffee, fed the five cats and other two dogs, loaded up the car and headed for one of the best places in the country for animal emergencies – Colorado State University. It’s the Grey’s Anatomy version in the veterinary world, a teaching hospital staffed with some of the highest and best looking talents in the country.
I felt so responsible, this was my dog before we met. I should have come into my new marriage with a healthy mutt. My poor husband has footed the Five Thousand Dollar veterinarian bill and counting.
After the long two-hour drive, we waited the politely appropriate time for a team of beautiful veterinarians to greet us in the lobby. Our dog’s bladder is about to burst! I explained to the receptionist.
Please have a seat, she responded.
I sat reluctantly, dread spinning my mind into a downfall. I just need you to help her live, I explained through sobs to the young veterinary student. She takes the leash from my hands.
I watch her lead away my beloved dog and disappear down the hallway. We wait. An eternity later, another polite and inordinately good-looking white coated professional appears: You have to leave your dog here, she said. I can’t help but notice her long blonde tresses. Are all the new veterinarians this good looking?
We’ll catheterize her, continue her meds, she explains.
How long? I ask. We don’t know. We’ll need to have her here until the meds kick in.
The next day, I made the long drive back up with Linus, our Lab Shar-pei mutt. I brought him to see that Sheba was still with us, just in the hospital for a few days. He freaked when we returned without her that Sunday afternoon.
Linus and I and are led into a room where another new veterinary student of feminine prowess, strength and talent and her gorgeous sorrel-haired resident meet us. I feel confident, like we are in the hands of Dr. Christina Yang herself. Sheba saunters in, dragging catheter behind.
We have her on the meds, the sorrel-haired resident explains, but we are waiting to see if they kick in.
How long, do you think? I ask. I’m not expecting any answer that will soothe my mind. I haven’t been able to get one so far.
Four days, at the very least, the Bethanecol and Prazosine will take some time to kick in, she offers weakly.
I leave the veterinary hospital, feeling the weight of the week before me. I am determined to visit her every day, so she doesn’t feel abandoned. She is a shelter mutt, after all, a dog who understands what it’s like, to feel thrown away. I feel her best chance for recovery lies in my hands and it is up to me to keep her spirit bright.
Or so, I tell the little gremlin of control residing in the dark recesses of my mind…
Stay tuned for Episode 2 of The Sheba Chronicles…