Beauty on the Bad Days: Find beauty during an emergency

Four days ago, I gathered four pills into my hand that I needed to take at four o'clock that afternoon. I carried them toward the kitchen, pausing to let my dogs out and back in, then emptied my hand onto the counter.

There were only three pills.

I panicked. I must have dropped my muscle relaxer. I knew my dogs would be quick to eat anything they found on the floor, so I retraced and searched the path I had taken. Twice. No sign of the small, white tablet. Unsure of which dog, if any, had discovered the pill, I hesitantly returned to my routine. About an hour later, I realized the consequence when my youngest dog, six-month-old Riley, began vomiting.

I rushed to her and found she was barely able to stand on her noodle-like legs. Her snout was covered in thick, wet saliva and her eyes were unfocused. I carried her to a chair (grateful she only weighed seven and a half pounds), held her in my lap, and scrolled through my contacts list with a shaky hand until I found my vet. I pressed the call button three times before it finally dialed.

I attempted to explain the situation but was losing patience with myself. I tapped the speaker button, threw the phone on the hall bench and sat down to dig out my sandals, the only shoes I could put on since Riley was still in my arms. I interrupted the receptionist, "I'm bringing her in."

"We're actually closing," she said regretfully. "You'll need to take her to the emergency pet clinic."

With my sandals and unbuttoned coat on, I slung my purse over my shoulder and walked as fast as a dared to the door. I had never carried Riley for this long, and briefly wondered if I would safely make it down the steps in the garage to the van. However, I pushed the thoughts away, determined to get her help, and carefully descended each step.

I decided to forgo a seat belt since Riley was still in my lap and I had no other place to put her in the van. The clinic was less than ten minutes away, and when I pulled up to their front door, they had just opened. I was trying to figure a way to get out of the van safely (I have to use both hands for support) when a man walked out of the building. He looked at me and stopped, as if he knew something was wrong. 

I called out my plea, "Can you help me?"

Riley had vomited again on the way, but he didn't flinch as I handed the dog over to him and got out of the vehicle. We walked up together where an emergency technician met us inside the door and was able to take over. I thanked the gentleman profusely and apologized with a wince for the vomit. He gave me a wide, genuine smile saying, "Good luck."

I had called my husband, Shawn, from the car and he walked in just as the other man was leaving. While we waited for the doctor to examine Riley and give us an update, I leaned on Shawn and cried softly thinking, I've poisoned my furry child. He seemed to read my mind as he consoled, "It's not your fault."

The vet came around the corner and I sat up expectantly, looking for visual cues that Riley was still alive (she was) and that she would be okay (probably). She had ingested a toxic dose, but it was an amount that she could potentially survive. He wanted to give her intravenous lipids to bind to the drug and flush it out, and she needed to stay overnight with a constant heart monitor. I eagerly signed the credit card receipt, as if it would ensure her recovery, and we were led to her kennel to say good night. 

At home, my prayer was constant. Lord, please send your healing energy. Don't let her die. And I reached out to friends and family for support, too, texting and calling with updates. Though peace was fleeting, I found moments of comfort in faith and community.

The next morning, we picked up a greatly improved but not yet fully recovered dog and brought her to our regular veterinarian. Shawn went to work and I drove to my parents' house where my mom made me scrambled eggs while I waited to hear an update from the toxicologist. The call came around nine.

"Riley is doing a little better, but this drug can stay in her system for up to seven days. We don't know yet if the neurological effects we're seeing will be permanent. You'll need to take her back to the emergency clinic at least one more night."

What little hope I had gained from seeing her that morning was threatening to fade. As I drove home with teary eyes, I slowed my breathing and began to look for the beauty. It came as a gratitude prayer, aligned with my breath, and I exhaled each sentence aloud.

--Thank you for a reliable vehicle so I could drive to the vet. 

--Thank you for Riley's small size so I could carry her to the car.

--Thank you for the compassionate, knowledgeable people to take care of her.

--Thank you for both clinics and their close proximity to my house. 

--Thank you for the kind man who helped me get Riley into the clinic. 

--Thank you for a credit card to pay for the costs.

--Thank you for the lipids (a treatment that is only available for fat-soluble drugs like the one she ate, that likely saved her life).

--Thank you that of the four pills in my hand, that's the one I dropped (the other three would have been much worse).

When we brought Riley to the emergency clinic for the second night, she was still drooling and quite wobbly as she walked, and she had had an irregular, slow heart beat earlier in the day. Despite this, I felt a bit more secure in her future, and I was also continuing to give thanks and couldn't help but see the beauty in each step. 

The vet called the next morning at seven and said Riley had a quiet night, was eating and drinking on her own, and was ready to go home. When we arrived, her puppy energy seemed to have returned, and she wiggled her body in joy with the sight of us. She had made it through the dark valley and was evidence of the power of prayer, faith, and community. We have held her close and loved on her since.

We are forever grateful for both the emergency clinic, Pet Emergency Trauma Services (PETS), and our regular clinic, All West Vet, including all of the caring staff. I highly recommend them to care for your pets!

Looking for beauty didn't come easy at first, and it didn't take away the pain completely. But it did provide comfort when I was slipping into despair, and that was just what I needed. 

Some doorways from this week:

  • After Riley came home, my sister made me taco soup and she, my brother-in-law, and my nephews came to visit when they dropped it off. Riley loved the company and attention, and the soup was delicious!
  •  When I took my other dog, Nita, for a haircut, the groomer met me in the parking lot to take her so I wouldn't have to use the energy to go in. I was pleasantly surprised and took advantage of her generous offer.
  • We bought my four-year old nephew a book for his birthday, and my sister sent me a video of him saying thank you and I love you. It made me smile!


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