The sickala (this is a term of endearment my mom and I used to use for our sick pets, and silly as it is, it’s stuck with me) is, for the second time since I adopted her last fall, Val, my 9-year-old Greyhound. Last time she had lepto, with severe liver symptoms. This time it seems to be her urinary tract, either an infection or stones or kidney disease of some kind.
As Gina’s written, there are so many times when being “hooked up” with the veterinary world is worth more than the salaries we get for the work we do. I’ve had the advantage of some of the best, most caring advice from some of the top vets in the country. That, coupled with the care of my regular vet, who I like more every time I talk to him, and my own absolute determination to protect and care for Val in every way possible, more than outweigh the bad start we got at the ER.
All that said, right now I’m sitting in my local Starbucks, taking a little break from Val’s intense neediness. When you live alone, and especially when you’re in a new place where you have few friends, none really close by, and no family, caregiving can become overwhelming.
And now the part I’m leading up to: Caring for Val is triggering my memories of caring for my mother when she was dying. (Those who think comparing my mother to a dog is insulting can leave now; I assure you, my mother would have welcomed it.)
Like my mom, Val has to get up to pee every couple of hours, all night long. I’ve actually got my bed covered with my mom’s quilted, washable incontinence blankets. And while the sleep deprivation is only a few days old, the memories of the months of it I went through while my mom was dying are crowding into my mind all the time.
I needed a break. I’m not good at taking breaks, not from work or caregiving. But if my experience of losing my mother, and the hell of workaholism I got trapped in afterward, have taught me anything, it’s that if I don’t put myself first, I won’t be any good to anyone else.
Hence, Starbucks, where someone else made my coffee, and everything is clean and cool and impersonal, which will hopefully give me the serenity I need to go back home and take care of my girl.
We’re heading for Michigan State University for a comprehensive work-up to get to the bottom of her condition on July 10. I think we can manage until then, as long as she keeps improving or at least, doesn’t get worse, and I remember to care for myself half as well as I care for my dogs.
Wish us luck!
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