Friday, January 29, 2010


When my sister Kathy's four kids were small, she couldn't watch any television show or movie that depicted a child or parent in peril. It didn't matter if it was fiction, non-fiction, comedy or drama, watching a young boy or girl suffer was completely unbearable for her. Remember the delightful 1988 comedy blockbuster "Big," starring Tom Hanks? One of the earlier scenes of this movie involves Hank's thirteen year old character, Josh Baskin, waking up a "full-sized" man after making a wish on a carnival machine the night before. He descends the stairs of his home and is confronted by his mother, played by Mercedes Ruehl, who believes he is a man who has kidnapped her son. She chases him around her kitchen with a knife, screaming "What have you done with my son?!!" Kathy got as far as that scene and turned the movie off. She couldn't stand watching Mrs. Baskin suffer over the loss of her child, even for a few seconds in an otherwise heartwarming, lovely comedy. Once Laura and I tried to simply EXPLAIN the plot of "Sophie's Choice" to her, and got about two sentences in before she grabbed her ears, squeezed her eyes shut and shouted, "Shut up, shut up, shut UP!! I can't hear you, la-la-la-la-la."

I could make fun of my sister, but I'm actually even more pathetic. I can't bear to watch ANY scene depicting an animal in distress. I mean ANY animal. A possum could get a splinter in a scene from the movie-of-the-week, and I am immediately reduced to tears. The image will stay with me for days, and will ultimately be the object of countless nightmares. "Old Yeller" is my "Sophie's Choice." I will never, ever view it. I watch scenes portraying historical civil war battles in which hundreds of yankee and rebel soldiers are being shot, cannon-balled in the gut, and bayonetted, yet I cringe and cover my eyes only when the horses on which they are riding are fatally wounded. Like I said, pathetic.

Alan is very aware of my disability and has developed a fantastic system for surviving these disturbing scenes. When the scene in question begins, I immediately cover my eyes and focus my hearing on his voice. He continues to watch and lets me know when the coast is clear to rejoin the viewing. Eyes closed, I hear Alan say, "Not yet...not yet...OK." It's not perfect, but at least I can enjoy the REST of the movie without my soul feeling crushed for the remainder of the evening.

It's not just movies, either. The other morning, Alan retrieved the newspaper from the driveway and scanned the headline on his walk back to the house. Apparently, some local stupid, evil, shit-for-brains, waste-of-space, repulsive, vicious, vile, worthless teenagers got bored one night and decided to physically beat a mixed-breed stray dog within an inch of his life. Someone discovered the poor thing clinging to life at the bottom of a trash bin. Alan scanned the article as he entered the house and met me in the kitchen where my arm was outstretched to accept the paper. "I don't think you should read this," he told me, "Why don't you let me cut out the front article before I give this to you?" It was only after Alan finished the article, which reported the dog survived and was now recovering nicely, that it was determined I could "handle" the morning paper.

So, with this ridiculous disability in mind, you can imagine my intense distress these past two weeks as my sweet, dear, sixteen year old companion, my dog Trixie, became very ill. We started noticing something was wrong when her trips outside to relieve herself were very frequent and produced only a small substance resembling blood. This was followed by complete loss of appetite, vomiting, and lethargy.

Unlike Kathy, I'm not a parent. Trixie (with the exception of two small birds) is my only charge. I apologize in advance to all parents who read this and might be insulted that I am comparing my distress over my dog's health to that of what they may feel for their own ill children. I know the intensity of the parent/child bond is far greater than that of mine to Trixie. But she is mine, and the idea of her suffering is simply unbearable to me.

For the past two weeks, we have spent many sleepless nights on the couch together, her looking at me to "fix" her, me looking back in complete helplessness. Three trips to the vet and many tests have revealed perfect blood work and a normal x-ray. He administers penicillin, gives us some drugs equalling doggie Maalox, and sends us on our way. Her health improves slightly, then slowly slides back down again a few days later, so back to the vet we go.

On our last visit (the third in two weeks), the vet very gently explained that he felt the need to "prepare me for the worst." He pointed out that at Trixie's advanced age, illnesses that can't be diagnosed often just mean her body is simply shutting down.

I appreciate his candor, but I don't believe I can comply. How do I "prepare" for life without this precious dog of mine? How do I "prepare" to say good-bye to a companion who has seen me through countless weeks when Alan was out of town (or the country) on business trips, accompanied me on visits to nursing homes to cheer up the elderly, and entertained me hour upon hour frolicking in the pool? Trixie's been with us as we've lived in three different homes, always panicking when the packing of boxes began, but ultimately relieved and content when she realized she was coming with us. She's celebrated job gains and promotions with us. She sat on my lap and let me bury my face in her neck that evening of March 19, 2007 (Worst Day Ever), the day that we simultaneously learned that Alan was being laid-off and that my tests were positive for lymphoma. She's traveled with us on several misadventures, staying in flea-bag motels and air condition-free cabins. Trixie never cared, as long as she was with us.

So, my dear vet, I really do appreciate your warning, but there will be no preparing. I will fight for this treasured charge of mine with every fiber of my being, until her last breath. If the time arrives when all attempts at fighting this mystery illness have failed, and she is in visible pain, I promise I will do the right thing and end her suffering. But if sheer will and the intense power of prayer have anything to do with it, that last breath will not be exhaled for a long, long time to come.

Thanks for Reading!!


LucyCooper said...

Oh, Trixie. That picture mirrors everything you wrote about her. I hope you two have as much time together as possible. And pets ARE family, no doubt about it.

Mia said...

I'd go to a different vet.

And Old Yeller wasn't that great.

Kellyansapansa said...

OMG, you have me in tears. I totally understand the bond you have with your gorgeous dog and wish you all the very best as you help her through this. I hope you have many more years together. xx

Elena said...

Get a second opinion...and just love Love LOVE her. I'm crying as I write because I'm far away from my own baby and can't even imagine. But, I'm sending my Little Girl a message to send Trixie healthy doggie vibes. Squeezing you both in my heart!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I so understand this! And the pictures were perfect. I myself was never an animal person. Then I got a new chocolate lab puppy and I can't believe how I have changed and how she had made such a mark in my life. She is part of our family now and if she were human I would get a 2nd opinion so why not my dog?

I would do anything for her like you would Trixie. I won't bore you with my experience but I was told to do one thing and I knew in my heart it wasn't right so I went my own way and I now have a very healthy happy 11 month old who is no longer sick. And the vet didn't believe it was possible.

Please let us all know how the 2nd opinion goes.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I'm so very sorry to hear this. I'm not quite as bad as you when it comes to hearing about animals in distress, but I had to skip over parts of your post very quickly. I hope you can find a different vet who can offer some help.

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

I can't believe how many of my new "blogosphere" friends have commented on this!! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it means more to me than I can say! I love this new cyberworld I've discovered and the amazing women writers that are blogging out there! I look forward to learning from your expert examples!!

Quick update on Trixie: we now believe it was just some sort of intestinal infection, because the antibiotics (the vet upped them every time) finally seem to have "taken." Her "leavings" this morning were completely normal, and after bursting into tears of joy, I hugged her neck and told her NEVER to put me through that again!! She's now acting like her normal, silly self. Happy sigh!!

Thanks again for all your wonderful support! Have a great weekend, everybody!! (I know I will now!!)

Marie said...

So glad to hear trixie is back to normal! Stay well xx

Bill said...

That's equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. Glad she's in the improve.

Regarding your "disability," I can relate. And I think I have an idea why. People know what's going on if they're sick. People know when they're innocent and that the perpetrators of cruelty are bad people.

Animals might know too, but we don't know if they know and that doubles the heartbreak of the suffering itself.

Just my theory....

megs said...

Glad things are improving!
Tagged you here -

Erin said...

Oh Joan, I sympathize. Sir Winston Wiggles, my pup of over 15 years passed of old age 2 years ago and I cannot go home to my parents house and not weep when I walk through the front door and he's not there to greet me. He was with me through my toughest childhood years. When I was ill for an entire 2 years, in and out of the hospital, he would not eat or leave my bedroom doorway when I wasn't home. He knew when I was in the hospital. He was by far my best buddy. It's so so hard imagining life without that companionship but as much of a baby I am about it, I think of all the joy Wiggs brought to my life and I wouldn't trade it for a second! I will pray and pray for you and Trixie! I've seen through your blogs what an incredible bond you have and how much Trixie is loved. What incredibly lucky pups we had and how lucky are WE to have had them in our lives!? Terriers really are the best :) (mine was a yorkie, but I love all terriers!!) You and Trixie are in my thoughts and prayers.

Laurie said...

Whoopee! I was so sad until I read your update :-) Yay Trixie!

Thank-you so much for your nice comment on my blog. I have been following you for a few weeks now but I've been the absolutely worst "commenter" lately! Not just with you, with everyone!! I will work on that; I re-commented to you on my blog ...

Wish you could come to Blissdom (see my blog if you don't know "Blissdom"). It would be fun to meet! I'm going to another bloggers conference in early March in Baltimore. You should think about coming ...ask me if you're interested!

Heatherlyn said...

I think compassionate feelings for animals can be just as strong as the ones we have for people. Especially when animals have a relationship with us. I think that being sensitive to the distress of others is a spiritual gift.

The Dogged Pursuit said...

Old Yeller. The Yearling. Bambi (and that one's an effing cartoon!) I will not, not ever, watch any-freakin'-thing that shows an animal being harmed. Ditto for old westerns. Ditto for shows where the cat or dog is even neglected.

The truth is, my fingers are shaking and I am currently crying remembering my beloved Stinger and precious Percy. I have also declared "no mercy" on anyone who is dismissive of the pain I feel at their loss. It's one of the few things left that will bring out "vicious Stasha."

Thinking about you and happy Trixie is feeling better.

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