Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Just Wanted A Dog

“Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” – Kinky Friedman

I just wanted a dog.

This will all no doubt sound very self-pitying, but perhaps – sometimes – that’s okay. Perhaps – sometimes – we need to do that. We need to wallow. We need to let ourselves feel what we feel, even when what we feel is heartbreaking disappointment.

I shoulder all the burdens for my little family. I earn the money. I worry about the insurance. I pay the bills, the taxes, the mortgage. I drive everyone everywhere and coordinate doctor and dentist appointments and violin lessons. I do the shopping and teach the kids right from wrong and good from bad and how to cook and do laundry and remind them to do their homework.

I am The Parent. The Adult. But it’s just me. And the weight of this world gets heavy. I am strong, but I get tired. I don’t have anyone who takes care of me. There are no arms I can crawl inside and feel protected by when the world becomes too much to bear. I am not so fortunate as those who have a partner to share their load.

I will take my companionship where I can get it. Even if it happens to be the canine variety.

We have been planning for months to get a puppy. We lost our French Mastiff, Bones, to cancer in March. He was a big, solid, wonderful companion of a dog. He made me feel less alone. He was goofy and ornery, but smart. He also had an amazing sense of knowing when I was ill before I did.

I made arrangements with Lone Star Mastiffs to have a mellow, fawn male English Mastiff puppy reserved for me from an early November litter. My intention was to train him as a therapy dog to aid with my PTSD and anxiety. My hopes were high for this. My girls were looking forward to the end of December when we would bring him home.

Well, you know what they say about making plans...

My youngest has had ear problems her entire life. She began having surgeries on her ears when she was less than a year old. When she was in second grade, she began losing her hearing and had her first major surgery on her right ear in an attempt to restore hearing to that ear. That’s when we discovered one of her hearing bones was completely gone. The first surgery didn’t work so she had to go back in for a second even more invasive surgery a few months later. The first hearing bone implant wasn’t working, so the surgeon replaced it. He also had to rebuild her eardrum with cartilage grafted from behind her ear. I won’t go into gory details, but it was extremely complicated and messy. It was far more intricate than the surgeon had originally thought it would be.

We thought it had worked. Her post-op check-ups showed the ear was healing nicely. Sounds were coming back in that ear, her audio tests were improving. We were excited. Of course, then the house fire happened and the world went pear-shaped. But we continued follow-up every six months until her specialist cleared her. Her hearing wasn’t perfect and never would be, but it was much improved.

Until her ear started hurting again late this summer. We thought it was a simple earache, maybe too much swimming, too much activity over the summer. We visited the doctor and it was a little red so we got the ever-present ear drops and went on our way. But the ear drops hurt and they shouldn’t have. We saw the ENT here and she said the words I didn’t want to hear: “I’m so sorry, but you guys need to go back to Dallas.” We don’t have a specialist of the caliber that we needed here in Tyler. Our specialist is located in Dallas at the Dallas Ear Institute. He is wonderful: compassionate, intelligent, human, and supremely knowledgeable. So back we went on Halloween, 2016.

Bad news.

She needs surgery. Again. The big surgery. Again. Dr. Specialist doesn’t know why her eardrum is failing. She is a medical mystery (much like her momma). For the 5th time in her short life, my daughter will be placed under full anesthesia. Her body will be cut into. I was given this news in front of my daughter. I could not react poorly. I could not be frightened or gloomy. Emma would base her reaction on my own.

On the drive home from Dallas I could not get lost in my head. Emma would notice my facial expressions. She always does. The drive was long. I was actively not thinking about the surgery. As soon as we got home, Emma changed into her Halloween costume so I could take her trick-or-treating. By the end of the night, I was exhausted from a long day of back and forth driving, upset by the news, and had been unable to process it as yet.

My daughter is hurting. And now she is scared and hurting. I comfort her as best I can, telling her that it is perfectly okay for her to be scared, that she is allowed to feel any way that she feels. I will always be here to support her no matter what. I just sometimes wish I had someone here for me. Someone I can lean on.

Surgery is going to be expensive. I have insurance through my job, but the out-of-pocket copay is going to be thousands of dollars. My daughters come first. Of course, and always. So the new puppy will not make it to our family this December. Mastiffs are pricey, and I simply cannot afford to spend the money on him. I told the girls there were no boys in this litter of puppies. Otherwise, Emma would have blamed herself and nothing I could have said would have comforted her. I hate lying. But I love my daughter more than I hate the taste of the lie. It would have been nice to have a companion, to begin training a therapy dog. I had already named him in my head. It shouldn’t have to hurt to say goodbye to a dog I’ve never even met.

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