Sunday, October 28, 2012

Octo Mom: Filling the Void

Personally, I would not give a fig for any man's religion whose horse, cat, and dog do not feel its benefits. Life in any form is our perpetual responsibility. - S. Parkes Cadman

Gus and Lily Hunsaker
I've never heard a dog fart so loud as I did tonight. I thought it was Andy. But Andy is 30 miles from here, on stage playing Edna in Hairspray right now. (That's another story). There was a human-sized burst of blustery wind followed by noxious gasses that could only belong to a dog on steroids. Which is true right now.

Gus stopped walking about two weeks ago. It freaked me out just like it did ten years ago when Piper stopped in her tracks and a year ago when Lily was exhibiting the same signs. WHY do I continue to buy dachshunds?!?!?


A year ago, we took Lily to the vet - seemed to be a virus in her spine and $750 later she was bouncing around again. Gus usually bounds out of the kennel every morning and straight out to the grass. But, it was starting to get really cold in the morning and he was getting slower and slower at the bounding.

I attributed it to the fact that choosing a "potty place" for Gus is serious business. He might as well be choosing shoes or cologne. Now that it's late October in Utah County, walking through cold, dewy grass for Gus is like going through a doggie car wash and paying to have your undercarriage done with imported water from Antarctica.

So the morning he stopped wiggling to get out of the kennel and I had to get on my hands and knees to dig him out, I cocked my head to the side and furrowed my eyebrows a little. Knowing Gus, I said "I know it's cold buddy, but you know the rules." I lifted him out, opened the outside door, sat him down on the cold cement and gently pushed his butt toward the stairs. But he didn't move. "Gus! It's freezing out here! Get to it!" I picked him up in frustration, walked up the three steps and set him down in the grass. He didn't even pull his legs under him. About 5 second later I saw steam rising from under him and I realize that he is relieving himself without standing up. He was laying in his own liquid.

I a.m.a.b.a.d.m.o.m.

I walked about three steps from him and called his name. He didn't come. I offered him a treat. Still he laid there. My worst fears had come true. If Gus won't come for a treat, he is surely dying. Start the steady stream of prayer. I did not have the time nor the constitution to lose a dog that day. This was opening night of the Fall Feaste, a Shakespeare recital also on steroids.

Luckily, Andy was on Fall break from one of his jobs. Poor Andy, he can't even have a break. He had to perform for the school that night and I had a thousand things to do including make a costume for him, the Lord of the Feaste, the plot pusher, the dinner driver. He would set the tone for all Feastes to come. He would show our constituency what we can do with a few Shakespeare scenes and a caterer. I needed him to be ON that night.

I've been accused of favoring Andy at our new job. They've never had a married couple working at their school, so I get it, but if they only knew! Consequently, I FIGHT that biased stereotype and Andy is always getting the short end of the stick. "You'll have to do this...You'll have to do that...OH and by the aren't getting paid for any of it because people will think I'm favoring you."

I digress.

So Andy didn't get to sleep in on his vacation day. He went with Gus to the vet and I went to the dollar store to get everything I still needed for the sold-out show that night. You do what you gotta do when a show is opening the same night as your dog is dying, you just do it with a lot more stomach acid, a lot more impatience for store clerks and a NO regard for the law.

I bought 100 beer steins, salt, two wooden bowls (which we never found later), 12 forks, 10 tiny fishbowls for tips (thank you dollar store) and stopped by the fat lady store to get Andy some tights for the show. I was breaking every traffic law...all the while praying "please Heavenly Father I can't lose Gus today, I can't lose Gus today." I was sure that if I got stopped, no cop would believe why I was hurrying if they looked in my car. "You're carrying 100 beer mugs, you're husband wears tights and your rushing toward a paralyzed weenie dog? Here's your ticket ma'am."

Gus had five compressed vertebrae and was nearly paralyzed from the waist down. He was given three prescriptions, a page full of instructions including, "you might want to think about acupuncture."


But not today, I thought. Today we will put him in a drug-induced coma so he can't move while we open a damned show. Tomorrow we will look around for an animal acupuncturist... if there is such a thing in this state...if he lives until then. "Please Heavenly Father, can you help me [keep Gus alive] until this show is open? I just need time to properly deal with the two colliding storms." How many times have I said this prayer, inserting a different subject between the brackets...[not have a migraine]...[keep this car running]...[keep my eyesight]....[keep this baby]....

Between sewing a costume for Andy, setting up the room, decorating the room and getting 50 kids in their new costumes, I called my good mom throughout the day to see if Gus was moving at all and he was not. Just laying there. He was, however, still wagging his tail, which I knew was a good sign. A year ago, Lily wasn't even moving her tail. THAT is a freaky thing if you ever see it on a dog. A dog's tail is the window to their soul.

I felt at peace knowing that Gus was with my parents instead of alone at home. That was a blessing. Maybe that's why we're having such a hard time finding our own place. My parents were able to watch him while we worked. I wish I didn't have to work away from home.

And the Feaste came off with about a dozen hitches, five hot flashes and over $1000 in TIPS alone. WOOT! Good thing I bought those jars. It turned out great...the laundry's done and it's packed up for next year. Ah!

Two days after Gus started his treatment and the Feaste was over it was obvious that he was not bouncing back like Lily did. I could not face the possibilities. One of the scariest things to see is your dog trying to cross the room to get to you by using his front feet to claw at the ground as he drags his back feet behind him. But Gus wasn't incontinent and that was a great sign, and Heavenly Father had indeed helped us find time to focus on him apart from school. We decided no amount of money was too much to keep a dog alive and enjoying his life as long as he wasn't in pain. WHY CAN'T THEY JUST TALK?!?!  It's so frustrating.

When you don't have children of your own, your dogs become your children. Would you put your child "down" before you had exhausted every single therapy known to man to keep them alive? (Depends on the day...never mind, don't answer that.)

So we found a vet in West Valley City that was about the nicest woman I have ever met. Dr. Kim at West Valley Vet is a certified animal acupuncturist and also a certified awesome dog lady. It's true. And there are apparently...a dozen solid reasons that acupuncture exists and one of to fix dachshunds, because she sees a couple of them a week. She said Gus wasn't in (much) pain and he was "fixable." She said it wasn't 100% effective for a million reasons...but she had seen dogs bounce back in three days.

Dad and Gus...both freaking out a little...
Gus had three visits to Dr. Kim over 8 days between rehearsals for Hairspray, Legally Blonde, sleeping and teaching and will have another visit this week...because he's back on his feet! He isn't jumping up on anything, or taking the stairs at all, but he is running again and I thought that would never happen. He's going to be fine. I'm so grateful.

Despite the trouble, the money, and the worry, they are 100% worth it. They eat two cups of food a day, they are completely entertained by nasty, hairy tennis balls, they have no interest in the latest immodest fashions, they will never be addicted to drugs or break their curfew. They never tire of my lap or licking my face.

So tonight when he farted...after I buried my face in the nearest blanket to avoid death myself, I said a little prayer of thanks for those medications that are causing his flatulation, and those doctors that love dogs as much as I do.

Gus, the perpetrator, didn't even move from the couch after letting that fart into the atmosphere. He just opened his eyes really wide and then looked over at me like "Whaaaat was that?" Then he yawned and buried his head in the blanket again like he had just played a joke on me.

All those years my dad blamed our dogs for breaking wind and we knew it was really him, maybe it was the dogs after all.

So that's why I haven't been blogging lately. I've started three blogs in the past about my niece Shayne who submitted her mission paperwork about three minutes after the church announced the new age requirements (waiting for the call to add the smash ending!), one about Andy's new alter ego Edna, and one about doing things you feel are beyond your capacities...but all of those things have been eclipsed by the need to showcase other people's kids and the journey of keeping a little dog alive. Because everything stops when your children are sick. That does not change even if your children are not human.

When you're a mom, the primal, innate and God-like passion for creating things and keeping things alive, does not go away even if the plumbing is broken. Dogs are indeed man's best friend, but I also think they fill an infertile woman's empty nest. I didn't give birth to these two but I'm awfully grateful to the bitch that did. (I meant that in a purely scientific way...;-)

He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds... He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for living by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to take care of me...He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace...his head on my knees can heal my human hurt. He has promised to wait for case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. 
                                                                           Gene Hill