Monday, October 15, 2012

Heartbroken and a lesson learned--again

This is the same post I put on the Kindness Project blog--my first post there. But I wanted to share it here, too. And for some reason I thought I was supposed to post on Monday, but it wasn't until Wednesday, so this one is up a couple of days early. Oops. So now it's all messed up and this is posting two days before the other one. Maybe I'll end up changing the other one after all. Basically I'm just a mess at the moment. And you'll soon see why. Anyway, I was so excited to do a big, inspirational post. Share some powerful quotes, maybe a life experience or two.

And then something happened. And I have to apologize up front, because this is kind of long.

If you've read our bios on the TKPblog or on here, you'll notice that my sweet little dog Charlie is mentioned in mine. That's because he's such a part of my family and my life. I've had him since I was sixteen. On Thursday of last week, he was attacked by a deer. Yes, a deer. So here's my public safety announcement for anyone else out there like me who thinks does are docile and sweet: They. Are. Not. They are dangerous and you need to keep your pets and children away from them.

I was there for the whole thing. I let Charlie outside to do his business and looked out to see him and a deer standing by each other. They were kind of sniffing at each other, following each other around a little bit. I never in a million years thought a deer--a doe--would attack my tiny, little 7 lbs maltese (who was doing nothing more than wagging his tail and being friendly). But all of a sudden, she lunged at him. And I said, "that was weird--she looked like she was going to attack him." And before I could even finish my thought, she did just that--she attacked. She lunged up on her rear legs and then crushed him to the ground with her front hooves. I screamed and banged on the door, desperately trying to get my son out of the way so I could open it and save my dog. I thought the noise would scare her, but no, she just kept going and going, rearing up and crushing him again and again. I ran at her, screaming and throwing my arms to scare her off, because she wouldn't stop. I ended up having to hit her in the side to save my sweet Charlie before she stopped and sort of trotted off. I thought he would be dead when I knelt down beside him on the damp grass and scooped him into my arms.

But miraculously, he wasn't. He was alive and as sweet as ever. During the whole attack and after he never, not once, snapped, barked, whined or anything. I was shaking and crying sure that he was dying, even though there was no blood and he acted okay. How could he survive being struck over and over by a deer's hooves?

But he did. His x-rays were clear, no broken bones, no internal bleeding. They kept him overnight for observation, but sent him home on Friday with painkillers, calling him the miracle dog. And he was. He was such a fighter.

But you might have caught that word. "Was." Because that night, he started struggling to breathe. We took him to the 24-hr emergency vet, and they put him on oxygen. By morning, he was really struggling. My husband was at work already, and I was home with my kids, so my sweet dad went to get him and transfer him back up to our normal vet and was going to let me know how he was doing and if I needed to get a babysitter so I could come be with him. When he pulled into the parking lot, ten minutes before they opened, Charlie took two gasping, coughing breaths, and stopped breathing.

My dad slammed the car into park, scooped Charlie up and ran. When he burst throught the doors, yelling that my dog had stopped breathing, the techs jumped into action. And in a stroke of providence, the vet had come a few minutes early for the day--she was literally walking through the door when they put Charlie on the table and started trying to bring him back. His heart had stopped. He was gone. But that sweet vet gave him CPR and brought my Charlie back. My dad called me, and told me I needed to come right away. There was no one to watch my kids though, and I didn't know what to do. My sister and my sweet neighbors jumped into action, helping me find someone to help out. I rushed over and got to be with my sweet little puppy one last time. The vet told us dogs that were in as bad as shape as he was, and are as old as he was, don't come back. Once their hearts stop, they don't start back up. But my Charlie fought, and came back. At first I thought he came back because he wanted to survive--but in the next couple of hours, it became clear he came back so I could say goodbye.

His lungs were full of fluid, his heart was failing. Old age and the deer attack were too much for my sweet boy. But he came back for me. I held him, and once he started struggling to breathe even with the oxygen, I finally knew. I'd been struggling all morning, not knowing if we should keep fighting to save him and prolongue his suffering if it didn't work, or if we should let him go. But when he started having a hard time breathing with a 100% oxygen mask on, I knew he wasn't going to make it. And for the first time since the attack, he whined. He was in so much pain. I held him as they gave him the sedative, as they eased his spirit out of my arms, into those on the other side waiting for him.

His lungs were full of fluid, his heart was failing. Old age and the deer attack were too much for my sweet boy. But he came back for me. I held him, and once he started struggling to breathe even with the oxygen, I finally knew. I'd been struggling all morning, not knowing if we should keep fighting to save him and prolongue his suffering if it didn't work, or if we should let him go. But when he started having a hard time breathing with a 100% oxygen mask on, I knew he wasn't going to make it. And for the first time since the attack, he whined. He was in so much pain. I held him as they gave him the sedative, and as they eased him out of my arms, into those on the other side waiting for him.


Me, Trav and Charlie when we'd been married for just over a year. Boy are we babies!

Why am I sharing all of this? Because kindness for me this weekend was in the form of my father, who went above and beyond to help me, to help my Charlie. It was in the loving way my husband made him a casket and helped me bury him beneath a beautiful tree. It was in the kindness the vet showed me, in the way she hugged me, holding her arm around me when I first came in to the room to see him on the table getting worked on. It was in my neighbors and friends and family, helping to watch my children, sending me kind messages, letting me know they understood and cared why I was so upset, even though he was "just a dog."

And it was in the tender mercy of having Charlie come back so I could hold him one last time, alive. Have you ever thought about how amazing dogs are? That no matter what happens, or how they're treated, they always are ready to lick your hand, to curl up in your lap, to snuggle in your arms. At least, my Charlie always was. I loved him so much and I will miss him so much. He was never just a dog to me. He was my comfort, my sweetheart, my cute little puppy who would always give me loves when boys broke my heart growing up, who layed his head on my belly when I was pregnant with my first son, who let my kids pull on him and play with him and never bit them or snapped at them. He was a part of our family.

When he got older we eventually stopped torturing him with costumes. But he's pretty cute as Santa's reindeer, don't you think?

Do yourself a kindness and don't take for granted anyone or anything in your life. Because they could be taken from you at any minute. For anyone who has been following my blog, you'll remember how we found that out earlier this year with my cousin's husband getting taken from us because of cancer at the age of twenty-four. We found it out again this weekend with Charlie. And then, shortly after all of this happened, we found out that a friend of mine and my sisters' lost her son in a drowning accident while she was out of town. She had to fly back home knowing she was going to say goodbye to her son, who was on life support just so she could get there and see him one last time. As hard as it was to lose Charlie, I am SO grateful it wasn't one of my children who got attacked by the deer--because it could have been. It's been a VERY hard, sad weekend.

I took SonA to visit him at the vet when we were still hoping he'd pull through...

Since I joined this project, I've tried very hard to make a conscious decision to be kind--even to people who aren't kind to me. Who maybe don't "deserve" it. One thing that helps me is to think, "What if this were that person's last day on earth? What if I knew they were going to die tomorrow? How would I treat her (or him)?" And when I remember to think that way, it's amazing how differently I feel and act toward others.

So here's what I keep learning over and over again in many different ways: Show kindness to everyone, including yourself. Because you just never know when that chance you had to do something, anything, might have been your last.

7 comments:

Colene Murphy said...

Oh my...broke my heart for you and your sweet pup...I'm so sorry that happened, and I'm sorry you lost your lil boy. I totally understand the heartbreak, but it is wonderfully amazing that you had so many people near to step up and rush to action for you both.

That's truly a beautiful great thing to always keep in mind when interacting with anyone, being kind always. Needed that reminder today, haven't been as kind as I could have already. So thank you for that, and I truly am sorry for your loss.

Lisa Schroeder said...

I am so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to your sweet Charlie. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Kathryn Purdie said...

This story made me cry--not only because of the tragedy, but also because of how much you expressed of your love for your sweet dog. I'm truly so sorry. But I'd like to thank you for your kindness to me and your gentle example of being kind lately. Thank for paying it forward, and I'm so grateful so many showed kindness to you during this difficult time and helped you and Charlie. <3

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I'm so very sorry, Sara. This made me weepy thinking of the loyalty and love our pets give us unconditionally. So glad you got those last moments with Charlie. I know he wanted to give that to you as you had given so much to him.

L.T. Elliot said...

When I was first married, we had our own Charlie who was also taken from us too early. After his passing, someone told me, "What the heart has once known, it will never forget." And as hard as it was, those words helped.

I can say with all honesty that the phrase goes both ways. Charlie knew you loved him and he loved you too. You'll never be forgotten to him. I'm so sorry for your loss. God bless.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

This was so touching, and now I know the story behind such a bizarre incident! I'm so, so sorry for your loss. I teared up reading this. I know how important and special animals are, and it's truly a tragedy to lose them. I am so happy you got to have him in your life, though, along with some really kind people who obviously love you so much. *HUGS*

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