Monday, September 10, 2007

Bring her home

There are no such things as ambulances for animals, at least, not to my knowledge. Sometimes I wonder if there ought to be. Fortunately we didn't need one last night.

Rory heard Nikita moaning, thank goodness, before he went to bed. She'd gotten stuck under the porch, probably wanting to hang out with the young whipper snappers that like to hang around and dig and wrestle and get dusty under there. Or maybe she wasn't feeling well and wanted to hide. Either way, there she was and Rory crawled under there to help her while I herded the sea of unconditional love into our upstairs bathroom so they wouldn't 'help' too. After much coaxing and help as he could offer her, Nikita finally emerged but she couldn't stand up on her hind legs. She was in obvious pain. While Rory comforted her I got her medication and we gave her a double dose. I volunteered to drive her in so that Rory could sleep, as it was now 10:30 pm and he had to go to work at 5am. We had no idea what they'd say. Maybe it was her time.

I didn't want it to be, but I recognized the selfishness in that. Keeping her with us while she was in horrible pain would be beyond awful. On the other hand, she might be willing to endure that pain to remain with her pack. We've been together for sixteen years. She's seen other dogs come into the pack, and die, and new ones rush about oblivious to things like loyalty, duty and the steadfast protectiveness she's always honored us with. Beast might run off for five days like an idiot and come back wondering what all the fuss was about. Nikita will not wander more than a hundred yards from the house, because she might be needed at home, and the only reason she'd leave would be to investigate potential trouble, which more often than not translated into looking in on the neighbor's dobermans of whom she always took a dim view, them being inclined to bark at her people. Barking at her people is not acceptable. They are also owned by He Who is Not to Be Trusted. I'm not sure why she never took a liking to Chuck, but there you have it.

But I digress.

Rory helped load Nikita into the car with the firm admonition of 'you call if you need help with her.'
"I'll bring her home," I promise.

So on the way to the emergency clinic I sing "You're My Best Friend" by Queen and "Wanderlust" by Heather Alexander. I think about passing on, and how lonely that is and I hope with all my heart that in whatever existence she finds herself in after this one she'll not be by herself but with someone or something loving. I wonder if Frey might not be waiting for her, and it chokes me up to hope that he might be waiting for us both, with his big, goofy grin and his shock of dark brindle fur, the love child of a teddy bear and a huge ball of lint who was never convinced he was a dog, like our others. He was a man, and he sat in a chair like a man, and he had his own ideas about everything. He wasn't a fool or disobedient like Beast. He was independent without being aloof, and self-reliant while being a complete slut for attention. And he was never pushy. He was always nearby, just in case you might be inclined to pet him. His head would be right under your hand.

When I'm on the freeway my hand nestles into Nikita's fur while I sing and tell her she's a good girl. She relaxes, and her breathing softens. The only reason I know she's still with me is because her head is leaning on the car seat rather than lolling over. It's good that she feels warm and that she's not shivering in pain.

Finally we reach the clinic and I park. I try to get her out, but she's a large dog and I'm afraid she might have broken her hip, though she doesn't seem to be in that much pain. I settle her back on her side and close the door. I lose my prevailing cool as I enter the emergency room. "I need help with my dog!"

"How big is he?"

"She's about eighty pounds and I'm afraid I might hurt her."

They get a stretcher and a muzzle. The tech is so good--a tall, slender blonde woman with a firm but compassionate voice. Nikita is typically mistrustful of strangers, but this woman she accepts as someone who's okay. "I get along with big dogs," the woman tells me.

It takes me coaxing Nikita and two techs to get her maneuvered onto the stretcher. They strap her in so that she can't get up and take her away. I can't go with her, just like with a person. I have to stay behind and do paperwork while the doctors do their thing. And then I wait. It won't be long, the nurse says, but even a short wait takes forever. They put me in an exam room because they know. Now that I have nothing to do, the tears will come and it's good to have privacy for that. I don't cry but tears trickle down my face and my eyes feel hot and swollen and my throat is cramped tight around the anger and resentment I've grown toward mortality. It's not fair to Nikita, who loves us. She shouldn't have to be separated from us. Screw grief, screw our pain. What really pisses me off is that she deserves to be with her packmates as long as she wants to be.

The vet comes in and she's smiling. A sense of calm settles in. Good news is coming. We've had a reprieve.

"I can't believe she's sixteen years old," the vet says. "She's in such good shape." And then we talk dog. The vet probably knows this role well. All she has to do is sit and listen to me brag about my dog and spill my little guilts about not grooming her and how she hates to be groomed and how we have these humungous puppies who are both a boon and a bane as they lavish her with attention and in so doing knock her down. She talks back to me in all the right places. The verdict, probably soft tissue damage from being stuck. "When I saw her my first thought was this is an old dog with weak hind legs," the vet tells me. "There's no evidence that anything's broken, and she let me move her legs through a full range of motion. There's no guarding in the abdomen, she's well hydrated, no sign of internal bleeding or shock. It looks like she's going to stay around a while longer. If you'd like, we can keep her overnight, take X-rays just in case ...?"

"She's going to want to go home," I say. "She'll be less stressed if she's with her family."

"Does she have somewhere comfortable to sleep?"

"A carpeted dog house."


She gives me a prescription for a pain medication and anti-inflammatory that can piggyback on Metacam safely, and then I go home with my dog. Rory comes out and asks about her. "I brought her home. She's okay," I tell him. "You can go back to sleep."

We can all sleep easy now, at least for a little while. Nikita is home.


Kai Jones said...

Whew! So glad everything turned out okay.

Carole said...


Ris said...

I just can't imagine the Miller pack without it's Nikita. I'm glad that, for a while longer, I don't have to.

Yay for Niki!

And I choked up when you wrote about Frey. I still find myself looking for him, every now and then when I'm over.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I think Nikita has an abundance of positive, healing energy at home to draw on. Ever heard of being loved to death? Well, maybe it works the other way, too.

KamiZM said...

Thanks everyone for all the hurrays. Nikita is still doing really well. I think it was one of those situations where her heart was willing but her body, well, wasn't up to hanging out with the other dogs on the moon, aka the cratered area under the porch. She's especially quiet today, but other than that she's her old self.

Good girl, Nikita.