This holiday season was loaded with the best gift of all – presence. We spent time with my children, a little time with my sisters, time with Mike’s children and his family. Not a lot of gifts were exchanged, but hugs were plentiful.
In the midst of it, Hercules the legendary puppy (now going on 14 years old) got an injury. He’s old, the veterinarian has told me during our last couple of visits.
He repeated it again as he examined Herc in my car on Wednesday. “His back legs seem to have stopped working completely,” I told him. “He’s old” he said patiently. “But if it happened suddenly, it’s likely a disc. I’ll give him a shot of steroids and then give you some pain medication for him.”
He gave him the shot from one side of the car while I held his head from the other door. “Will he let me do this?” he asked. “If I’m at his head, he’ll allow anything.” And he did.
I brought him home and got him out of the car. It wasn’t any easier than getting him in. You see, he weighs about half what I do and his back legs were not working at all. But, with his big Chow front end, he dragged himself to his blanket.
When Mike came home, I sent him out to the storage shed for my old kerosene heater. “We have to get this garage warm for him.” He can’t come in the house anymore, my allergies and Mike’s don’t allow it.
We made a bed out of old blankets and coaxed him to lie down on it. I watched him drag himself around by his front legs for most of 3 days. He pulled himself to the edge of the blanket when he had to throw up, so he wouldn’t get it on his blanket.
He struggled up to go outside to do his business. The first time I opened the back door, he looked at the step to get out and sighed. Then he turned and went back to his blanket. A few minutes later, he went to the door again and this time he went out, half dragging his hind legs up over the step.
He stood on his blanket and tried to shake after being out in the snow. His back legs gave out and he fell over. He curled up and looked at his hind legs like they were traitors.
Now, we’ve long held the belief that Herc is quite human. He seems to understand our conversations. I became completely convinced this afternoon. I was sitting in the garage near his blanket and talking to my son on the phone. Herc had just tried to walk around in the garage and fell over twice. I told my son “I can’t stand to see him like this, he’s obviously suffering. He hasn’t eaten in 3 days. I don’t think he’s going to snap out of this one. I made an appointment with the vet to have him put down. It’s just not fair to him.”
That’s when it happened. He stood up, and carefully walked – with a rather stiff legged gait – across the garage and back. He faltered a time or two, but he made it over and back. I tried putting another piece of our leftover ham in front of him. This time, he ate it. So, I got another piece. He ate it and looked at me expectantly. I got more.
By the time he finished, all the ham was gone. Somewhere in the middle, I sneaked a pain pill in for him. A few minutes passed and he stood up and went to the back door. I opened it and he stepped carefully out in the snow. The next thing I knew, he was at the other end of the yard, grumping at the dog next door as always. I called out to him to be careful of his legs. He ignored me but didn’t fall down.
He’s back on his blanket in the garage now. Curled up by the heater resting. I’ll be canceling that appointment I had for tomorrow. My first miracle of 2010 has brought me the gift of presence. My companion of 14 years will still be with me. Happy New Year. Welcome to 2010, the year of miracles.