I’m back from the hinterland. After four days of limited sleep and abundant fretting, discerning, praying, and nursing a sick dog, I am back – at least physically. Let me tell you, where I’ve been is a pretty weird place to be.
Our family dog fell seriously ill this past Saturday. Not to be gross, but she started throwing up chunks of blood Saturday morning. By that evening, it was clear that there was something really bad going down, and so we took her into the pet ER.
The vet presented an extremely bleak picture. The blood clots indicated internal bleeding that likely was caused by either an obstruction, foreign object, or ulcers. She was dehydrated, weak, and in danger of bleeding out. The only way to save her, the vet said, was to hospitalize and stabilize her. She’d probably require surgery.
Ms. Daisy, now five years old, is a lost and found that we adopted four years ago. The second she entered our home, she dug herself deep, deep, into our hearts. Her sweet temperament makes her irresistible, even to avowed dog-haters. The affection is mutual – Daisy obsesses over our well-being. She glues herself to anyone who is sick, preferring to lay right on top of the sick person, with her head on his or her chest so that she can gaze into the person’s face at all times. Sounds lovely, unless you’ve got the stomach flu. “Nurse Daisy” can detect a wound a mile away and, if allowed, will incessantly seek to provide wound care (think Lazarus in Luke’s Gospel, 16:19-21). She agonizes over our departures, standing at the front door, looking out onto the street, first with tail up in hopefulness of our return, then falling to half-mast, then pitifully drooped in defeat. Finally, she’ll stretch herself out in front of the door and moan pathetically (yep, she moans) until someone can think of a way to distract her. She has our voices, footsteps, and even the sounds of our cars ingrained and goes wild at our approach. She’s been known to recognize our oldest son’s motorcycle while he was more than a city block away. Ms. Daisy is our dog, and we’re her family. Period.
The thought of losing Ms. Daisy was incomprehensible to me. Still, I had to force myself to think practically (read: act like a grown-up).
“And, what kind of costs are we talking about?” I asked her.
“Well, she’ll need to be re-hydrated, we’ll have to stop the vomiting and then find the cause of the bleeding. For starters, it would be around $1200.”
Daisy’s condition was critical, and she was suffering. I couldn’t let her suffer. She’s such a great dog, and an important part of our family. In an odd sort of way, she’s become the focal point of our family, the central figure that draws us all in. I couldn’t let her go.
On the other hand, we are not a family of unlimited resources. If I ever did have an extra $1200 laying around, I’d darn well better spend it on my kids, not a dog. Not even a dog as awesome as Ms. Daisy.
I sat there, wrestling back-and-forth in my mind and heart. What was I supposed to do? What was God saying to me?
“I don’t have that kind of money to spend on a dog,” I told the vet. “We’ll have to put her down.” My heart ripped right down the middle.
To affirm my decision, I requested X-rays and begged God for strength and wisdom as we awaited the results. The films showed that there was no obstruction or foreign object; therefore, it most likely was bleeding ulcers. It would be risky and difficult, the vet warned us, but we could try to care for Daisy at home. She gave Ms. Daisy medications to stop the vomiting and stall the bleeding and set her up with subcutaneous hydration that made her look like a bizarre cross between a bernese mountain dog and a camel. Then she sent us home with a long list of instructions and three prescriptions.
Four surreal days later, Ms. Daisy is almost her old self. Only time will tell if we’ll beat this ulcer thing, but at least we seem to be on our way. In the mean time, I’ve got to figure out what God’s saying to me through all of this.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isa 55:9)