Shiva has had a myriad of firsts this year. Her first overnight stay with a dog-sitter, her first time in a hotel, her first time welcoming another dog into her home. Much to our horror, she has now also had her first visit to the emergency vet.
It was a Sunday evening. A completely typical Sunday evening. Thoughts of Monday had begun to seep into the forefront of my mind and I struggled to dash them away. Shiva and I were just wrapping up a very positive walk in the ravine. Shiva had met a little grey Am Staff friend on the trail and since the other dog was already off-leash, I decided to take the risk and let her go free to play.
Fatal mistake? Am I the worst dog owner in the world?
It didn’t appear so at the time. Yes, this part of the ravine is “technically” on leash only. As a homegrown rule-follower only seldom do I take the chance. But it was late evening on a weekend with enough snow on the ground to deter cyclists. The trail was empty except for the other dog and owner who clearly didn’t mind. The two dogs played very well together as I knew they would. They are similar in size and enjoy the same types of play. The other dog was about a year old so wouldn’t mind Shiva’s wild energy. Young dogs and puppies are usually Shiva’s favourite companions.
All was well. All was better than well. The other owner and I chatted as we kept an eye on our dogs. After fifteen minutes or so the sky had darkened and I figured it was time to head back home. My practically husband had started making dinner before we’d left and I was getting hungry. I waved goodbye to the other dog and owner, promising to meet up with them again soon, and headed back down the path with Shiva jogging in front of me.
This is when I screwed up. This is the part I for which I will never forgive myself. If only – if only – I had put her back on the leash right then the rest would have been averted. But I didn’t.
I try to remember that Shiva has zipped through nigh zillions of forests before. Forests much deeper and much more dangerous than this one. Just a month ago we had let her off leash while we walked on a trail in the Rocky Mountains. This urban ravine should be nothing in comparison. I probably shouldn’t blame myself for something that was a one-off.
But I do.
Shiva is a dog with no self-preservation. I know this. Heck, it’s practically the entire theme behind this blog! Every time we let her outside without a helmet and bubble wrap we are taking a risk! You better believe it won’t happen again.
Those of you who read yesterday’s post will know the whole sordid tale. Since I didn’t witness the event, we actually can’t be sure of how the injury happened. We only know that the skin of her chest had been sliced and she suffered a major laceration requiring thirty minutes of surgery to stitch her back up. It’s likely she sustained the wound while leaping over a tree – something she has done almost every day of her life – and was caught on a protruding branch. The length and location of the lesion suggests she had been in full extension at the time. We’ve all seen her take two agility jumps at once before. It wouldn’t stun me if she had been attempting to overreach her stride once more.
It is something that could have happened a hundred times before and didn’t. It only takes once.
The vet also said we were lucky. The laceration was longer than most he sees at the clinic but it wasn’t very deep. It was all skin. If whatever it was had stabbed her further, possibly penetrating her ribs or organs, it would have been an entirely different conversation.
As it was, it was still pretty much the worst night of my life. Thank goodness for friends and family for being there otherwise it might have still not have ended as well as it did. It isn’t easy to come up with $1,300 on the spot, especially when one is only just beginning to re-grow her financial legs. More than that even, it was very comforting and humbling to know we have so much support. That there are many people out there who understand. That when something so awful happens, we aren’t alone.
The waiting was brutal. It felt like she was in surgery for days. In retrospect, it was not much more than four hours between the initial injury, getting her to the vet, the surgery, and then bringing her back home again. Again, we are so lucky the clinic is less than a ten minute drive. They sent us home to hang out and we attempted to eat the dinner my PH had prepared but neither of us could taste a thing. I think we watched a hockey game on television to distract us but I can’t be sure.
We just kept waiting for the phone to ring.
Once we did bring her home, the next twenty-four hours didn’t pass much better. I was so grateful to have Shiva with us, that she was alive and breathing and safe, but she was having trouble coming off sedation and was obviously in a lot of pain. There was nothing we could do for her but offer comfort. I hope we never have to go through something like that again.
It’s been a week now and I am thrilled to report Shiva is doing well. She has at least another rest of solid crate rest in front of her – no running, no jumping, no stairs, no chasing the cat, no counter-surfing – which is going to be a challenge for a tornado. It’s a challenge I am happy to meet. Her spirits are high, even with the cone of shame. She is amazingly resilient. It’s like she has just accepted the presence of this thing on her head and wants to get on with life. After just a day of severe pain, she is over it. According to Sheevs, it is time we moved on.
Thank you for all of your concern and for keeping Shiva in your thoughts. She is going to be just fine. In fact, I am sure she can’t wait to get out there again. No doubt she already has a great story to tell the other dogs about how she earned her kickass scar.
If only we all could be as tough as our dogs.