One of the things that I miss most about being an every-day, hands-on, kids-in-the-house Mommy is the happiness that I used to feel every time I was able take care of a child who really needed me. I was a slightly strange Mom, I think. I hated when my kids were sick, but I loved being the one who made them feel better. I sort of loved those long nights in the recliner with a sick child in my arms, rocking and soothing and watching the moon rise and fall.
Of course, like anyone with severe sleep deprivation, I complained and moaned about how tired I was. I felt like hell as I stumbled my way through the next day, headachy and bleary eyed. But in the deep heart of the night, with a needy baby to hold and kiss, I was in my glory. I felt my strength as a woman, holding that hot little body next to mine. I knew my role, recognized my place in the universe, felt myself to be worthy of praise and admiration. I was a MOMMY. And I loved it.
So last week, when my old dog Sadie had to go in for a biopsy under general anesthesia, it was only natural for me to want to nurture and love her. She has severe allergies (Just like my children!) and she was feeling very sick from a secondary infection (Oh, been there and done that!).
She endured the hour long ride to the specialist with her usual grace, but then we had to leave her in their care for the day. It broke my heart to say goodbye to her that morning, kissing her big warm head and hoping that she wouldn’t be afraid.
Sadie came to us at the age of six. She had been owned by a woman and her son, but they were moving into an apartment and couldn’t keep her. She was given up. Abandoned, in a way, by the people she trusted to take care of her. And that wasn’t the first time that some owner gave up on my girl, and left her to the care of a stranger.
So my heart was heavy as we left her with the vet. Would she think that this was another abandonment? Would she be afraid? Sad? How could we make her understand? I laid my cheek on hers, and whispered into her ear, “I will be back for you before sunset!” I hoped that somehow she understood.
When I came back to get her, late that afternoon, the vet assured me that she had endured the procedures beautifully, had not barked or whined or seemed scared. She had had three skin biopsies, had her ears cleaned and clipped and her infections cleaned and treated. She had stitches, sore spots, and open wounds, but she would heal.
She was brought out by the vet tech, wearing a silly compression Tshirt to protect her itching skin. Her head was down, her ears limp. She didn’t even look at me as I knelt down to greet her; she simply turned away and pressed her head against the door, as if to say, “Please get me out of here!”
The ride home was quiet and long. Poor Sadie was still groggy and dull from the anesthesia. She panted, but made no other sound. “We’ll be home soon.”, I kept saying, hoping that my voice would give her some comfort. “I’ll give you some cool water, honey. Want some cheese?” In my desire to be the Mommy again, I hoped to offer her the physical comforts of food and water, but I couldn’t tell if my words or my voice were reaching her.
When we got home, Sadie needed me to help her climb the stairs. She was slow, clumsy and confused. She came into the living room, where our other dog, Tucker, greeted her with gentle “woofs” and a lick on the nose. She circled, sniffed her water dish but didn’t take a sip, then sank onto her bed to sleep.
It was a long and restless night. We were supposed to give Sadie some pain medication by 8pm, but couldn’t entice her to take anything by mouth. Even her favorite glob of peanut butter failed to interest her! I tried to settle her into her usual spot beside my bed, but she was restless, no doubt in pain and feeling ill. I dozed on and off for most of the night, but couldn’t stay asleep, listening to her panting and pacing and circling around. I got up at one to offer her medication, but she wouldn’t take even the piece of cheese that wrapped her pills. I watched the moon crossing the sky from my position on the bed, one hand resting on Sadie’s head.
Finally, at about 3 AM, she began to whimper, and I got up with her. The house was cold and dark. Tucker raised his head from the couch, but then fell back to sleep. I went into the kitchen and found the bottle of pain medication. I wrapped two pills in Sadie’s favorite slice of American cheese, and held it out. Gently, slowly, she opened her mouth, and took the offered treat. Then she went to her water dish and drank.
We made our way back to the bedroom, where Paul lay fast asleep. The moon cast its silver light in the window, and I sat on the edge of the mattress, waiting to see if Sadie would settle down. She continued to pace for another ten minutes, coming past me every minute or so to rub her head against my leg. Finally, she sat down, her back to the bed, facing the moonlit window. I bent down toward her, and she raised her head, her nose pointed toward the moon. As I lay may cheek on the top of her warm, hard head, she gently pressed back against me. I wrapped my arms around her chest, feeling her rapid breaths and trembling muscles. “Oh, honey.”, I whispered. She held herself in my embrace, leaning solidly against me. Then she gave a big sigh, laid herself down on the rug, and went to sleep.
I felt as if she had spoken. I heard her say, “Thanks, Mom.” I felt her fear and her pain leave her as she rested her trusting head against my face. She knows that we will keep her as safe and as healthy as we can. She knows that we won’t ever leave her.
Thank-you, Miss Sadie! I needed one more chance to feel like a Mommy, and you gave it to me.