My dog Chaussette may be dying, but apparently she never got the message about that inconvenient fact. It’s been over a month now since I loaded her and my son Sage into the car and drove them to Sage’s school.
“You should probably say goodbye,” I told Sage as he got out. “Chaussette might be there when you get home, but she might not.”
He understood why; she’d been having seizures every few minutes since 5:00 that morning. He also knew about dogs going to the vet and never coming back—it had been less than nine months since I’d had to take our dog Peri in for the final time. The decision to put her to sleep had been clear at that time; Peri had become paralyzed and, though probably not in pain, was obviously terrified.
My course of action wasn’t so clear in this case. Chaussette had been having seizures since she was six months old, but no episode had been this prolonged or unresponsive to extra Phenobarbital pills. When I’d described her symptoms to the vet over the phone, she’d been grim about Chaussette’s prognosis. “Go ahead and bring her in,” she’d told me, but her tone lacked all traces of optimism.
It takes more than a few uncontrollable seizures to daunt my little dog, though; in the minutes between her convulsions, she was up and trying (unsuccessfully) to entice a gigantic St. Bernard to play as he loomed apathetically over her in the waiting room. The vet was surprised that Chaussette was even walking, let alone trying to socialize, but she warned me that the long term outlook wasn’t good. She gave me a bottle of potassium bromide and sent us ruefully on our way.
Chaussette didn’t pick up on her pessimism, though. The combined medications have reduced the seizures’ severity but haven’t eliminated them entirely; even so, Chaussette picks herself up and is ready to run within an hour after she has an episode. This dog is undaunted. She wants to live.
Her resilience was tested from a new angle last week, though, when a speeding Amish buggy ran over her hind leg while we were out for a bike ride. The horse was tearing along at a brisk canter, rather than the sedate trot of normal Amish travel, and it had just finished passing a wagon as it came level with us. Chaussette realized too late that she had to get out of the way; before I knew it, she was on three legs rather than four.
Fortunately, there was no blood or obvious fracture, so we walked home. I normally would have panicked, but I knew that Shep, one of our neighbor dogs, spent most of his life on three legs since, despite being repeatedly stepped on by horses, he could never resist coming just a tad too close to them. Chaussette’s injury resembled his, so I was hoping that she’d recover just as he always did—although I was also hoping she be a quicker study than Shep was when it came to learning that herding buggies was a bad idea.
Our neighbor Jonas approached us apologetically as we came level with his driveway. “I’m really sorry I hit your dog,” he said, and went on to explain that he’d been trying to cure his colicky horse by having it race up and down the road.
His equine workout/colic treatment seemed to have worked—though the horse had spent the morning on its side, almost unable to move, it was almost back to normal after its run. Jonas felt terrible about hitting Chaussette, though, and apologized profusely while I reassured him that this would be a teachable moment for her.
As for Chaussette, she was as stoic and resilient as ever. Nary a whimper came out of her during and after the accident, and, when she understood that one leg didn’t work properly, she simply hopped around on three. Losing a fourth of her available limbs did nothing to dampen her enthusiasm.
After the better part of a week, she was fully recovered. Now her legs are functioning so well that she’s able to jump up and beg to play even as I type, so it’s time to finish writing and start throwing the Frisbee for her. (That’s our new energy burner now that it’s too cold for bike rides.)
Chaussette has joined my grandmother and my snowman-building son in my Gallery of Resilient Inspirations.