TRAINING FOR COVID SNIFFING DOGS - RIGHT - OVER 95% ACCURACY SO FAR WITH LABS! - PHOTO CREDIT ANON.
THE THORN IN THE LION’S PAW
COVID- 19. A word that steals smiles, freedom, and lives. No one deserves to be happy during this crisis, right? Any laughter and “good times” seem so very disrespectful. Due to San Diego’s strict closures, I couldn’t even take my dog to our park’s pond, where the blasé mallard, teal and widgeon ducks ignore humans, and even dappled dachshunds like my twelve-year-old Smokey.
Since everything seemed so dismal, I decided to embrace the dark, and undergo a knee replacement surgery I’d postponed for a year. Before surgery, a fall at midnight without my trusty cellphone scared me to death. As I lay hurting and helpless on the kitchen floor, all I could think of was the commercial where a woman cries, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Eventually, I staggered back to bed, and the dreaded appointment was made.
Before I went into the hospital, I saw that my little dog’s rear hock was swollen. Since this had happened before due to age and arthritis, I wasn’t too worried. The vet gave him anti-inflammatory meds and a recheck in two weeks. We were back in five days, the swelling twice the size. The vet diagnosed an abscess, cut a hole in the elbow, flushed out the inside with antibiotics, and sent him home with three different bottles of meds.
Four days later my eleven-pound dog had a ping pong ball sized knot on his tiny elbow and was crying in pain. I rushed him in for emergency surgery. A deeply embedded, broken off rose thorn was discovered and removed. He needed five medications, daily flushing, no bandage over the stitches so the wound could drain, the hated cone of shame, and worst of all, he whimpered with pain. My heart was breaking, and I was terrified my senior dog might have complications. He didn’t, but his whole medical crisis took five weeks to resolve, and his stamina was way down. He wasn’t bouncing back, despite my husband’s and my care.
Then it was my turn for the scalpel. My sister, mother, father and two friends had knee replacements. All were upbeat about the surgery and the “wonderful” cure; no more falls or wobbly knees. But none of them had complications. I did. My blood pressure after surgery dropped to 80 over 40, and remained there. That meant oxygen profusion to my brain was dangerously low. It also meant no opioids. Ice and prayers to God got me through day one—with no husband at my side. COVID meant “No Visitors.”
By day two, I was in agony and asked for a discharge. I wanted home with my husband and Smokey. My husband is a retired Navy corpsman (medic) and could monitor my blood pressure until it was safe to take opioids. I sobbed in pain through day two and that long night while he stroked my forehead and held my hand. His love got me to day three, where my blood pressure returned to normal. I could finally take the blessed pain pills and sleep, Smokey at my side.
Hubby now had two senior patients—dog and human—to tend. Neither of us walked much save for potty breaks. Smokey and I huddled under the blankets, dreaming of the rainbow-catching spray of water from the huge bronze seahorse fountain in the park's duck pond. Instead, we both ate on the couch and watched too much TV.
Then it got worse. My physical therapist started coming to the house, teaching me how to use a walker and exercise. Despite his stitched hock, my hurting, cranky, yet protective little dachshund escaped from my grandson’s arms and bit the therapist hard on the thigh. No human skin was broken, but still… Luckily, the therapist himself owned and loved dogs, and didn’t make a formal complaint, but he never returned. He scheduled me for out-patient therapy instead. When my husband drove me home from sessions to Smokey, I watched the depressing TV COVID stats from the couch and felt so low.
Then I thought, “Should I really let COVID-19 do this to me? I’m taking care of my dog, but he’s miserable. Maybe because I’m miserable. COVID or no COVID, this ends today!”
First, I ordered Smokey an inflatable neck balloon and exchanged it for the plastic cone of shame. Since his dachshund legs were so short, the cone edge kept tripping him, which hurt his bad leg. Now he perked up, to my delight. Next, enter the “old lady” scooter. With a dog pawprint mask on my face, and my healing dog in my lap, we went for our first sidewalk ride. Smokey was nervous about the scooter, and my knee hurt going over the bumps, but we were free! My husband walked along as backup, and all the days after that. Smokey soon walked more and rode less as his leg healed. It took me longer, but by the time the park reopened, Smokey, my husband and I, cane in hand, walked to the duck pond again.
My husband and I became closer. My dog and I became closer. My husband and Smokey became closer, because he’d taken over my regular role as Smokey’s caretaker and nurse during my illness. Our happy trio bonded like we never had before! We three put aside the traumatic memories of surgery, embraced the California sun, embraced each other, and in doing so, pushed hard against the dark cloud of COVID. Yes, the virus is terrible. Yes, I pray every night for the afflicted and a cure. But I’ve kept our precious bubble of hope and happiness intact, even when my brother and my son were both exposed to COVID-positive coworkers.
Their tests were thankfully negative, but I could never have waited for the verdicts without hysteria before Smokey’s and my surgeries. The sun sets over our Pacific beach here, yet every morning it shines again. In the dark times, I hold tight to the light I found, thanks to a thorny rose…and my Smokey.
MAY OUR WORLD HEAL SOON.