Tuesday, September 04, 2018

If Only

This one is a hard one for me to write. I've spent the last two days either balled up on the couch or trying to go about my daily business, but still having random bouts of bursting into tears, so pretty much all my interactions have been people asking me if I'm sick or upset about something and me trying to get it out and ending up with my face all scrunched up and sputtering that I just can't talk about it right now.  Probably no one is surprised to find out: it's about a dog.  But not just any dog, My Caraway. And really, this is just for me, but if it helps you to understand, that's ok too.

Caraway came into our rescue program when she was just barely ten days old, with no mama, her eyes barely opened. So I spent the better part of May and June bottlefeeding her and her sister Caper. It was a 24/7 thing--I took them everywhere with me, even work.  I was making goats milk based formula for weeks, so they both smelled overwhelmingly like goat cheese and realistically, probably so did I.  I didn't care. My coworkers probably did, but I didn't. It was just something I had to do.

When you wake up every 2-3 hours every night bottlefeeding and snuggling orphan puppies, it's damn near impossible to not become attached and I did. I knew fairly early on that I was maybe getting a little TOO attached.  It was hard not to, these girls were special.  It wasn't just that they were beyond ridiculously cute, it was that their personalities  were just so damned funny.  They had spunk and they were SMART. They might have looked like little airheaded balls of fluff, but they had "it." --Just something really special in their little noggins. They were lovely and playful and had this overwhelming need to be dirty and covered in muck at all times. I can't tell you how many hours I spent bathing them or picking little grass burs out of their fur, only for them to be set down, run right out the door and go roll in it some more. I stopped filling up the re-filling waterbowl because that was "the Puppy Pool" and Cara would go swimming in it every single night, flooding the kitchen.

They ran in a little pack, half the time running smack into each other and knocking each other off balance.  They'd run as fast as they could around the house and the yard (figuring out the doggie door way early) and half the time I wasn't sure where they were until I listened for the sound of the mini-wookie growl and I could tell they were just outside mauling some grass.  As much as they liked to roll in mud and rip up plants, they were so good in the house that I never bothered to put up the puppy pen like I normally do to keep our computer cords and shoes safe.  Once they tired themselves out from knocking each other into oblivion, they'd simply slip under my desk and fall asleep draped on top of one another. They slept in my bed and even as early as 7 weeks old, they'd just sleep all night and only wake me up when they really needed to go. I'll admit it, I fell hard.

I knew fairly early on that I couldn't let these girls go to just anyone--I needed for them to go to people I knew, who would let me visit or send me pictures or...something.  Truth be told, I wanted to adopt Caraway, even though it didn't make any sense for me to do so. I already have 4 dogs of my own. I don't adopt my foster puppies, that's why I get all the puppies--other people find it too hard to give up their puppy fosters, but not me. I've had over 7 litters born at my house, not to mention fostering over 350 dogs and puppies over the past 17 years. I don't cave. But this time, I WANTED to cave, pretty badly. So much so that I drug my feet about looking for a home for her-- Her sister, that was easier--she was everyone's favorite--the one that everyone agreed didn't even look like a real dog she was that cute. But Caraway was always the one for me. And so I took my time.  I had time.

This weekend was rough from the start--Caper left for her sleepover on Saturday and her leaving, even though I knew it was going to happen, hit me harder than I thought it would. And Cara missed her sissie, so I held her close that whole night, her snuggled in my arms so soundly I woke up with a crick in my back because I hadn't wanted to move her. And then on Sunday, when we were going to go to a pool party with some Rescue friends, I knew I would take her so she wouldn't be lonely.

The rest is hard to type out, and if you're Facebook friends with me, you already know the story.. of how she romped and played at this pool party.  She had discovered this tennis ball that was almost bigger than her head that she could barely put her mouth around and carried it everywhere. She swam in the pool. She delighted in wriggling up to all the other dogs there, who were equally delighted with her. She was passed around and snuggled and loved on and generally had the best puppy day you could imagine.  And then, in a matter of 30 seconds or less, it all turned to shit.

She had been playing with this Golden Retriever who was there.. PLAYING.. And we were all watching them-- this was a party of rescue people. ALL of us had multiple dogs, years of dog experience. These two had been around each other for over two hours at this point with no cause for concern.   I say this so you understand that she was not unsupervised. We weren't being careless. There was literally someone less than 5 feet away.. when the Golden suddenly stopped playing with Cara and just snapped her up in her mouth and shook her violently.. I think in crocodile terms, they call it "the death shake"-- not to be all dramatic, but you've seen it before. You've seen dogs pick up a stuffed toy and just shake it from side to side. That's what this dog did, like she thought Cara was a toy.  We were all watching and IMMEDIATELY, the person nearest grabbed the Golden and made her drop Cara. 

The rest of this part is awful:  There was a lot of panic and yelling.. Cara was screaming this sound I had never heard come out of her before and thrashing and the first two people who tried to help her got bitten pretty badly. She headbutted one of them in her thrashing and knocked two of the person's teeth loose.  She was in fight survival mode and anyone who touched her, she lashed out. And then she was passed to me and I bear hugged her and wrapped her in a towel and she quieted.   We checked her for any obvious signs of bleeding and didn't see any. We probed her tum and she didn't yelp. We thought maybe she was ok. But then, very obviously, she wasn't "ok." She just.. stopped being OK.  She wasn't responding to me and I knew she was probably starting to go into shock and so we booked it to the ER. Probably less than 25 minutes after the shaking occurred, I was sitting with her in the ER waiting room. They got her in pretty immediately and confirmed what I knew--that she was in shock.  The young vet that came and spoke to me told me that they wanted to put her on IV fluids and pain meds and keep her overnight. They'd check her for internal bleeding, but they didn't find any looking at that first ultrasound. They let me go in the back to say goodbye to her and I went and held her for a bit. I kissed her little fluff head and apologized for having to leave her there overnight and let her know I'd be back for her in the morning, first thing. I stroked her little body and told her I loved her. She didn't seem to know I was there, I assumed because the pain meds they were giving her had taken effect. I don't know why I did it, but I snapped a photo of her in her warming bed at the ER.  It was the last time I saw her.

The rest of the night is a blur of phone calls back and forth from the ER.. she wasn't responding to fluids.. the ultrasound was now showing signs of obvious internal bleeding.. they wanted to do a blood transfusion to buy some time.. and then, finally, call around 1am from the ER vet who choked out that "Your little girl, she didn't make it, she tried really hard, but she just couldn't do it."  And I sat there, stunned. And I whispered an answer to their question about what to do with her little body. Then I hung up the phone and wailed. And I didn't stop, haven't stopped really. Even if I'm not crying on the outside, I feel like screaming on the inside, all of the time.

It's just.. heartbreak. There's not been a minute I haven't thought of her. Every time I walk into a room and there's not shredded toilet paper, I miss her. When I go to leave the house and I don't have to give her a chewie, I miss her. When I wake up and she's not gnawing on my duvet, I miss her. When I go to fill the water bowl and I realize I can actually fill it up without her swimming in it, I miss her.

There's a tremendous amount of guilt I'm trying to work my way through. She was so young, only 3 1/2 months old. If Only I had tried to find her a home with somebody sooner (other than me), she wouldn't have been there at that party and she wouldn't have been hurt. If Only I hadn't felt the need to take her to that party and show off how cute she was, she would be alive. If Only I had been holding her, instead of letting her run all over, she would never have gotten close to that dog. If Only.  I know, in my brain, none of that is true. I know, in my brain, there wasn't anything any of us could have done. I know, I do. But my heart still hurts.

Truth is, it was just a tragic accident. But. My baby girl is gone and I can't really wrap my head around it. I'm telling you all this because it's hard for me to communicate right now--so much anger and guilt and no one to direct it towards but myself.

I just. Miss her.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Lee,you are broken right now,understandably. I am praying for you. Know that you are loved by many.And this is not your fault.