“Look back and laugh? I doubt it.”
DorkyDad said that the other day as he was leaving the room, and it has stuck with me. It’s the perfect summary of our current life.
It’s not often that our little family finds itself in a situation where we can’t see the funny side. Even in some of our roughest patches, we have been able to find moments of light and laughter to help push us through.
But right now? There are not a lot of laughs. With the exception of DorkyDad’s cancer treatment, I’m not sure we’ve ever been through such a relentlessly joyless spell.
We are four weeks on from DorkyDog’s total hip replacement surgery – three weeks since she arrived back home, although it feels more like three months.
There have already been milestones worth celebrating, so let’s start with those… She had her stitches out at two weeks – Dr Shannon at The Dog Clinic did a brilliant job with some very tricky sutures – and the incision looked absolutely amazing. Big hurrah for that!
Because her wound had healed so well, we were able to ditch the big plastic cone. Another big hurrah! No more banging into things, or scraping her way along the wall when we take her outside and along the narrow passageway that runs down one side of the house.
We sent Southpaws a video of her two-week-post-surgery walking, and the surgeon came back saying that everything looked good. That was definitely a hurrah. He told us that with every day that passes it becomes less likely that she’ll do something to seriously damage the implant, and I am holding so tightly onto that reassurance.
I am trying to think of other hurrahs… and struggling a bit. I guess we have dropped the codeine and the antibiotics, so that is three fewer pills that we have to poke down her throat each day. And we’ve discovered that she’ll settle pretty well on a mattress pad on the front porch if it’s sunny, so we have spent a few hours sitting out there with her.
That’s probably the only time we have with DorkyDog that feels close to normal – when she gets to feel like a normal, happy dog lounging in the warmth and watching flies, and we get to feel like normal owners hanging out beside her and brushing her floof.
Now what about the other stuff? The un-hurrahs.
Our single biggest challenge at the moment is that we haven’t yet found the sweet spot with her remaining medications. And until that happens, everything is going to be difficult.
She is on two different sedatives, which taken together are supposed to give us 6-8 hours of calm so that she’s happy to be resting in her crate and avoiding any activity that might damage her hip. Ideally, we would be giving her those twice a day.
Perhaps with an older dog the theory translates into practice. But with our high energy, impatient, fidgety young dog, the sedatives only last 2-3 hours before they wear off, and then we are left with 3-5 hours of her acting like a massive dingbat before she’s able to have another dose.
It makes taking her out to the toilet a challenge because she’s far too amped up and bounces around, and it makes keeping her in the crate a challenge because she tries to dig her way out.
No amount of human attention, snuffle mats, stuffed Kongs, antlers, rope chews or Nylabones can appease a one-year-old dog who believes she should be out running free but finds that she’s stuck in a crate. And while we should be able to start taking her on 5-7 minute lead walks in the next week or so, there’s no way we’re ready to venture beyond the garden gate yet.
Our vets are being hugely supportive in trying to help us find a solution. We have been tinkering with the dosage, and splitting up the pills so she’s getting less of a big hit and more small hits spread throughout the day. We’ve also tried introducing a third sedative, but that one caused incontinence (serious unhurrah…) and made her very wobbly on her feet, which is the last thing we want. She is taking a break from it at the moment and we’ll only add it back in if we run out of other options.
Additionally, the anti-inflammatory she’s supposed to be on upsets her tummy, so at the moment we’re trying to give her that every second day instead of every day and see if it’s enough to lessen her stiffness without causing her further discomfort.
All this means that physically handling her is super stressful because we are on high alert for jumps, bounces, twists, runs and side steps that might damage her hip.
But it’s also emotionally really draining to deal with a clearly bored and unhappy dog who we are struggling to pacify. She feels fine, and she doesn’t seem to be in pain, but that makes her all the more confused about why we’re not letting her out to play.
From 6.30am when we get up, to 9pm when we go to bed, there is not much of the day that doesn’t revolve around trying to meet little DorkyDog’s needs, and while we love her heaps and don’t grudge it, it’s not leaving much mental space for anything else – like work, family or fun.
We had our first visit from the physio/rehab vet last week. I’m hoping that it becomes retrospectively hilarious. For now it still just feels like a cringeworthy disaster. Picture if you can, DorkyDad holding DorkyDog at the head end, me holding her at the tail end, and her still managing to wriggle free of us to jump up in excitement at the physio – NEWPERSONNEWPERSONNEWPERSON!
Probably the single worst thing she could do for that still-fusing hip implant.
Needless to say, while we talked our way through a lot of gentle exercises, we didn’t actually manage to get any done.
“Maybe we’ll arrange another session when we’ve got her sedation a bit more under control,” said the rehab vet on her way out, looking slightly shellshocked. “I definitely don’t think she’s ready for the underwater treadmill yet though…”
Yeah, nah. I don’t think so either.
I’ve been so grateful over the last couple of weeks for the reassurances from friends who have been through similar experiences with their doggos. The doggos who have had knee surgery, or been confined for weeks during ringworm treatment. The doggos who suck the peanut butter off a pill, before stashing it in their cheek to be discreetly hidden in a blanket later. The doggos who can spit a pill several metres across a room in disgust. I feel better to know that other hoomans have been left crying in despair and frustration – and I am reminded that it’s only so hard because we care.
If we didn’t care about their pain or their boredom or their misery at being separated from the family, then it wouldn’t be so rough. But I suppose it is the price we pay for letting these fluff monsters into our lives, and committing to do our best for them.
There may not be much laughter right now. But there will be again. There will be giggling sofa hugs, stolen slippers, muddy paw prints on the bed, and holes dug in the front lawn. It will be joyful. It will be a delight.
Four weeks down. Eight weeks to go.