Tag Archives: dog

Our bear passed on…

21 Mar

10:58 am

On Saturday, March 17th, our “son” (beagle mix, almost 10 years old) passed on to the next realm, or whatever you believe exists after our brain turns off and we take our last breath.  We were beside him on the bed as the house-call vet (who happened to have gone to vet school in the islands, which was actually quite comforting–we just moved here, and it still feels quite foreign) stabbed some “feel good” drugs into his heaving frame, and then followed that with barbiturate.  I have had people and pets die, of course, but I have never been in the room as the creature took its last breath.

I almost took my last breath as, a moment later, our dog stopped breathing and his eyes went glassy and still.  It was heart-wrenching, and it was seared into my brain.

As I’ve written, he was such an intimate part of my island life, and was everything to me for the 6 years that I knew him:  coworker (I work from home), confidant, best friend, higher power.  Once, when I was still drinking and had just arrived on island to visit the man who is now my fiance, I drank and blacked out and yelled; and our boy was so scared he hid outside under the truck.  That was before I knew what a gentle, sweet soul he was, apt to cower at even the slightest expression of frustration, the smallest rise in voice.  I vowed never again to scare him like that, and it was that memory, along with so many nights of love, comfort, and simply his presence that kept me from uncorking a bottle of red wine.

As my mind, however, begins to do what I could not imagine a few days ago–accept the unacceptable, normalize the horrific, move on from death–all I’m left with is a sense of awe and anger:  the mind is an amazing, if not entirely effed up, place.  Haha.

As we moved through the first hours without our little man, I couldn’t help but recognize in my actions the similarities between coping with death and dealing with a hangover!  I spent the day clinging to “micro-goals,” like, breathing, like thinking about my next breath without having a panic attack; putting some food down my throat; paying my bill; rearranging the pillows on the couch; forcing a smile just to know that my face was still there.

And I gasped when I suddenly realized that EVERY one of my hangovers was a small death–a little death, but a death all the same.  And, of all the horrific events of the last few days, that realization was kind of the most horrifying–that we, as alcoholics, put ourselves through a death every single day, for months, years, decades.  How cruel are we to ourselves!  Our bodies, minds, and souls deserve so much more; we deserve to be sober, we deserve to live.

I have wanted to smoke a cigarette the past few days, when my heart has felt so tight I could barely think; but not drink.  I can’t imagine going through this trauma and being drunk or hungover.  I still think about my old drinking buddies, some of whom are still using booze to coat, soothe, forget; and I wonder, how is it that I got here, that I GET to be free, to actually live through this pain alcohol-free–such that I can, again, transform it to something else, something positive, something light?

It was interesting to watch our other dog sniff at death and then immediately move away; it was saddening but also interesting to watch myself caress my boy’s corpse right after he stopped breathing, check his eyes (I was like, Is he definitely gone?) a couple times, and then…move away.  We instinctively move away from death.  Likewise, eventually, we instinctively move away from drinking alcoholically; drinking alcoholically is death, and we move away from it to life, to light, to clarity, to actually processing our reality.

I miss him, but I know I have to be grateful for all the life he gave me, the love he allowed me to see in myself, the thing that we conjured together by loving each other–that lives on, I have a strong sense.  And for that I am grateful.

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Emotional support animals for alcoholism

15 Dec

3:21 pm

This past week has been rough, and Monday, especially.  I think it’s all just hitting me now.  And by all, I mean the two hurricanes and the aftermath that has changed entire lives, some in the forever sense.  We are recovering, and things are starting to settle back down…

And then…a few weeks ago, we discovered a couple swollen lymph glands on one of our dogs, took him to the vet, and the vet was like, Oh, Wow, and scheduled him for a biopsy.  Our little man had his biopsy yesterday, is wearing a cone, and is still sort of out of it.  (While the vet did prescribe him the usual course of antibiotics, which I think covers a number of different infections, they haven’t seemed to significantly lessen the swelling.  I am more optimistic than I was on Monday, and I am not sure why–he could have swollen lymph nodes for many reasons, but of course, we can’t help but jump to the worst possible conclusion.)

My sweet bear.  He has been with me these past 5 years through it all:  love, addiction, aging, hurricanes.  I honestly cannot imagine a life without him!

I have written (with my science journalist’s cap on) about emotional support animals (ESAs) for recovery from alcoholism and substance use disorders, in general.  There is no doubt in my mind that my recovery was helped by my two dogs–having them to care for and love helped to negate the triggers, lessen the cravings, and simply kept me from drinking when I really wanted to drink.  Did they understand my mental health crises far better than I, in terms of how to manage them?  Probably.

Walking the dogs–in the morning sun, through the heat, with the gleaming blue water reflected off every green leaf, decaffeinated coffee in hand–was something I LOVED doing when I first got sober.  It was something I relied on to start another day, sober; something that served as a touchpoint to both staying sober and then, growing emotionally and psychologically; to becoming a loving human being again.  I loved all of it–that I could get up and feel so good in the morning, that I had “someone” to care for, to not let down (dogs don’t understand hangovers).  These two dogs were my higher power, my pink cloud.

Both my dogs were my emotional support during my PAWS period, too–a post-acute withdrawal that lasted 18 months.  They quelled my fear of “what now?,” eased my anxiety, helped to block the triggers and numb the cravings with their physical (soft fur, dog scent, warm presence) and psychological support–unconditional love.  My boy was strong for me when I could not be, and did not want to be–if I drank, I would yell, and he would hide under the car, and I NEVER EVER wanted to scare him like that again.  So I did not drink when I really, really, really wanted to.  He was there for me when work frustrated me, or I was (am) beyond frustrated at the pace of my writing life/career–one whiff of his odor was like a hit, one touch of his soft ear like a balm; a belly rub, a roll, and his dog laugh and furious shaking it all out before jumping up on my knees for more.  I adore him so much, and I love what he has meant to me, through my recovery–what he means to me, present tense.  No one knows this but me; even he might not know it, but I truly believe he does.

Now, to imagine the possibility of my boy going down is just…very saddening.  When I watch him struggle a little bit on the walk route he used to BOUND along, tears come; when I obsessively feel his lymph nodes, hard and nodular and big under his neck and behind his legs, and notice they aren’t any different than yesterday, I tremble a little inside; when I kneel on the floor in front of him sitting on the bed, and tears rush down my face, and he licks them away–there are no words for this growing fear.

GAH!

I cried all day Monday, which is not something I want to repeat–too draining, and not helpful to anyone.  I have since started to feel better, optimistic, even.  He’s had his biopsy and all we can do is wait for the results, and then go from there.

One step in front of the other, that is how this is done.  What will be, will be.  I want to accept the things I cannot change, but sometimes I feel so very helpless amidst all this “breaking down,” all this ending, aging, dying–in essence, renewal, but I can’t see it like that through my self-conscious ego.

Maybe I am overreacting–I think I’m just bracing for the worst so that I’m not floored when the worst happens.  Life goes on and things will get better, but why does it feel like we’ve lost SO much of our lives here over the course of a few hours of hurricane activity?  The storms took so many of our physical landmarks and mental and emotional  signposts, all of which are now only memories; why do they have to take my boy, too?  And, at the very moment that we are planning to move on, start over someplace new?  I want to show him the world…  We have SO many more walks to go on…

 

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