We Need Worry, We Need Grace

Any guesses as to why there was no post yesterday? I’ll make it easier for you by offering a multiple-choice exam…

A) Work-related stresses

B) Family-related stresses

C) Health-related stresses

D) Dog-related stresses

E) All of the above

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If you guessed E, you’d be right! Of course, if you guys are anything like me, the only one you’re most concerned about is D. Thankfully, all is well now, but unfortunately we took a SUPER fast, SUPER emergency trip to the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center this week for everyone’s favorite gentleman, Tonka.

Foster Dad and I took a day-trip on Sunday to visit some good friends and family in the Philadelphia area. Thankfully we have the best friends in the world, two of whom happen to live right here in Pittsburgh, and they offered to hang out with the pups for the day. They reported that all went well, but on Monday Tonka had vomited four times. This is very out of character for him, but as he seemed fine otherwise, we went about life as normal.

The next day, however, he was not himself. See, Tonk is the type of guy who is the life of the party. You know, the man every pup wants to date and every dog wants to be. But on Tuesday, he was no social butterfly. He seemed listless and uncomfortable, and wanted to be alone. As the day went on, he started to have a hunched appearance and wasn’t moving around normally.  I thought he might have had something going on with his spine, and had planned to make an appointment for the next day with the animal chiropractor we used. However, after dinner that night, his symptoms became extreme, to the point that he refused to move. Typically, Tonka is stoic to the extreme: I don’t think I’d ever even heard him vocalize pain at all to this point. While I panicked with a non-responsive dog in my arms, J called the chiropractor, Dr. Dave, as our regular vet was closed for the evening. Unfortunately, after explaining the symptoms, our worries were confirmed as Dr. Dave rushed J off the phone and told him to get Tonka to the emergency vet immediately. He suspected that we were dealing with pancreatitis. Essentially, this is a severe and sudden inflammation of the pancreas, and despite aggressive treatment, it can have a high mortality rate. The pancreas serves to digest the food, but in cases of pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes are released too quickly and begin to act on the organ itself, which causes a cascade of devastating events within the body.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but after a terrifying 45-minute drive to the emergency clinic in which Tonka began to go into shock, we eventually got to the clinic and were seen almost immediately. Blood was drawn, radiographs were taken, IV’s were administered, and options were discussed, but thankfully pancreatitis did not seem to be on the table. After a few hours of pain meds, fluids, and nutrients, Tonka-Tue was on his way to recovery.

In the end, the worst part about the evening’s outcome was the astounding bill we had to pay, but I know I don’t have to explain it to any of you when I say it was worth every penny. Emergency scenarios of any kind truly put into perspective that we must always treasure our loved ones.

Some of you have been here long enough to have read the post in which I wrote a letter to Tonka about how much he meant to me, and why. It is one of my favorite pieces of all time. With so much focus on the rescues, as well as the girls who require a lot of management and reminders, it can be so easy to let my special guy fall to the side. The good dog, the easy dog, the quiet dog, the friendly dog… there is nothing about Tonka that is less than perfection, and yet, he suffers for it.

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As I write this, he rests at my feet, tail thumping with every deep exhale or pause from the keyboard. There is something so special, so intuitive about this dog. When a foster comes into our home, he looks at me silently as they bump into him or try to steal his food. He sits patiently for pets from children and tugs from babies, and finds the perfect spot to snuggle when tears are shed. While out on the trail, the other dogs blazing ahead for new smells and discoveries, it is Tonka who returns to me with regularity, to check that I’m not far behind. He will always choose me… over food, other dogs, or even rabbits and squirrels, but yet he is calm and confident when alone. When Gaige and Georgia bark or growl at strange sounds in the night, it is Tonka who bravely investigates in front of the pack, forging through the darkness without hesitation. Without any practice or refreshers, or even food as motivation, he will dazzle a crowd with his bag of tricks. He has slept without complaint for thousands of miles as my co-pilot, and watched protectively from just outside the dusty arena as I spent hours in the saddle, practicing and honing my skills. He has quietly occupied himself during my study sessions, even when I would forget to let him out or write straight through his dinnertime, and truly protected me when our safety was on the line. Never a complaint, never a bad day, never an accident or mistake, and certainly never accusations, guilt, or judgement. Whenever I look to him or snuggle him or praise him or acknowledge him, he doesn’t remember all of the times I’ve fallen short, but delights in the present and the attention that showers him. Couldn’t we all stand to be a little more like Tonka?

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Tonka’s greatest gift to me is the gift of grace. How many days do I waste with worry, wondering what if, second-guessing my approach or others’ perceptions? I wonder, have I spent my days wisely? I worry that I focus too much on the have-to’s, and then stress that I haven’t soaked up every minute. How many days end with feelings of failure? Well, none of them that also end with Tonka snuggles. He reminds me that I’ve done at least a few things right in the world.

So thanks for understanding why things were a little quiet on the blog front yesterday. My man and I both needed some extra attention… for him, to soothe away the sickies, and for me, to remind myself that to him, I’m always enough.