Sunday, November 25, 2007
A State of Grace
A State of Grace is defined as the following:
1·· (Christian theology) a state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
In the crazy aftermath of Beth's coming home, in what I thought would be that respite between Halloween zaniness and the business of the holiday season, I took Quincy in for eye surgery. Quincy is the patriarch of our doggy pack. The last of a trio of dog boys whose antics inspired stories and whose living affected our family so deeply that their loss is still very painfully felt. Aging now, with a gray muzzle and salt and pepper eyebrows, Quincy is the one we call our benevolent buddha. The dog has never passed a day in his life unhappy. He loves everyone. He sees no bad or evil in the world. He'd recently developed a bump on his lower right eyelid. It didn't seem to bother Quincy much, but it wasn't exactly attractive. Sarah kept complaining about it and wanted it removed. I hated to spend what I knew would be a chunk of change to have something rather harmless removed. At his checkup the vet said it would be an easy matter to freeze it off, and the price wasn't bad, $150.00. I set the date. By surgery day the bump had decided to grow a large pink nodule that burst open and threatened to quickly do it again. It seemed more certain that this had become a necessary surgery rather than a cosmetic one. A good thing in the end.
But when I took Quincy in, he did something he had never done before. He refused to walk in the office. Once in the office, he tried to get back out. When the tech came to get him he refused to move. He braced his feet. I had to trick him into following me to even get him to move. He looked at me. Let's go home momma. Let's forget all this. I really don't want to go. Alarm bells rang. Why, why is it when we get this messages, these instincts we don't listen? In the parking lot I nearly went back in. On the way home I began to really worry. I remembered my sister's cat that fought all the way to the vet only to die on the surgery table. I rememberd my father. Never sick a day in his life and then a fall in the snow and a sniffle. Then a cough that didn't go away. Three weeks later he was gone from lung cancer so advanced it had spread to his bones. The knot in my stomach would not go away.
Quincy came home from surgery smiling but looking rather bedraggled. The sight of his eye alone that first night had me in tears. The bump had been a tumor and had extended below the eyelid about 1/2 inch. As that first evening wore on the eye began to swell and Quincy became more stressed and by morning there was little doubt he was in pain. We went back to the vet for an additional shot of pain meds. and a steroid injection to help his lungs. By day 3 post-op his breathing was gurgling. By day 4 there was little doubt there was respiratory problem. He wasn't eating or sleeping, his breathing was rapid and shallow. I made more than 10 trips back and forth to the vet in that first week. Quincy got so used to going that he would just stand at the garage door waving side to side with weakness when he heard my keys. By the weekend there was no improvement and Quincy was straining for every breath. The vet was completely bewildered. Said the surgery had been very routine and uneventful. There seemed to be bronchitis in his lungs.
By Saturday morning I truly feared he might not come out of it. He was that weak. Unable to eat, unable to walk, barely keeping himself hydrated, Quincy looked as though he had aged 10 years overnight. The weight was falling off of him and we had taken to calling him Sticks as he looked like a wrinkled and sagging balloon held up by stick legs. In secret I was calling him Sticks the Lunger (only someone who has seen Tombstone is going to get that reference to Doc Holliday). This happy little guy, who had never been sick a day in his life, who had recently been more active than we'd seen in years, in the span of a few days been reduced to this, and it was all my fault. I begged him to forgive me for not listening.
When I looked Quincy in the eyes, I saw the look of someone who has given up. He wasn't fighting anymore. Maybe it was his age, maybe it was because he is such a happy fellow that he fell into such a depression. Those eyes frightened me and in that most desperate of moments I did what everyone does. Beg. Make bargains. I promised him toys and treats, anything if he would just please fight harder. I plied him with McDonalds kids burgers and bits of beef tenderloin. I tried chocolate chip cookies, his favorites. Anything to spark his interest. I planted hundreds of kisses on the black smudge on his forehead. We always called it his thumb print from God. Fight. Fight harder.
Maybe its because I spent so much of my own life in a state of bronchitis or pneumonia that I suffered so with his every breath. I knew what it felt like. How exausting it was just to breathe. That breathing too deeply brought on coughing, and coughing hurt so badly it was to be avoided at all costs. Quincy didn't want to be alone, and he didn't want me to leave him. The house was so hushed. The other dogs never barked or squabbled. They stayed close. We needed help, and the vet and his endless medicines were not going to be enough. My prayers alone were not going to be enough.
I sat down at the computer with Quincy at my feet and composed an email. I sent it to everyone I knew asking for their prayers and happy thoughts. Beth and Sarah both posted bulletins on My Space and their blogs and favorite hang outs asking for help too. The responses began to come back almost immediately. My friend Ricky in Georgia, whose partner is a vet offered any help they could. Our vet had promised to check back with me but it had been nearly 36 hours and still no call. I emailed my dear friends immediately with Quincy's current status and all his medications. I told them what the vet had told me about the surgery. Jeff emailed me right back. It sounds like aspiration pneumonia. Turn on a humidifier or take him in the shower. Run the hot water and get that steam going. Start doing coupage (percussion treatments) to the sides of his chest several times a day for 5 minutes at a time. Check his gums and make sure they are pink. Pink means he's staying oxygenated. Gray is bad. We had to help him expel all that bad stuff out of his lungs.
Not 10 minutes after that email came in, the vet finally called. He told me word for word exactly what Jeff had just said with one caveat. Oral antibiotics can take up to 5 days to take effect. That was news I could have used earlier. No wonder he seemed be getting worse. He was.
We kicked into high gear. I showed the girls how to do cou'page. My niece and nephew had suffered from asthma for years, and we all knew how to do percussion from them. Cup your hand. Now pat quite firmly along the sides of his chest where his lungs are. Do along his back too. We sat in the steam until Quincy was panting from the heat. Pounding, pounding. After just one treatment he began to cough and phlegm seemed to be loosening. We took turns getting soggy. We pounded him while we watched tv. Mike pounded him when he walked by.
At the same time the letters were coming in. One email. Five email. Fifteen. My Space and Ain't It Cool News, blog readers, they all responded. The power of LOVE is a wonderful thing. With each and every one Quincy began to improve. Throughout the weekend and into the coming week we kept this up. After just one day, Quincy began to lead me to the bathroom. By Tuesday a.m. I had a tail wag. When a pug drops his tail, and can not curl it, something is very wrong. To see that tail lift and curl, if only momentarily was a very big deal. We were on the mend. Still gasping but able to breathe a bit deeper, Quincy began to ask for the steam and chest beating. His attitude improved. He smiled. He barked. And with that the antibiotics finally began to do their job.
Thanksgiving came and I really was thankful. Thankful for friends and family. That people from all over the world would come to the rescue of a little pug they had never met was a testament to the power of love. Imagine what else it could do? I felt as though I was being carried along on a river of benevolence. This doesn't mean life has suddenly been picture perfect and sunny. The opposite would seem to be so. We have had a string of rotten luck and unexpected expenses that has put quite a crimp in life as well as Christmas gift giving. I'm upset, angry even, but this glow I'm feeling makes it all seem very trivial. Each and every day is a precious gift. Why waste it fighting or being angry? The important bit is the living. And the love. And when Quincy looks at me from the depths of his shining eyes I am thankful that dear puggy wug, the last of a trio is with us to celebrate his 10th birthday on December 6th. I think Joe and Maverick are watching from Dog Heaven and smiling. This truly is what Christmas is all about.
So, despite dishonest businessmen, new boyfriends, lost paychecks, broken cameras, out of work daughters, screaming bosses, grumblings about who is or isn't doing their share of work, husbands spending more time in the air then on the ground....
I feel blessed for a chance to know this state of grace.