The plan


NOTE:  I’ve been hooked on David Bowie’s “Changes,” the lyrics of it, and the lyrics of other of his songs that have saved portions of my life.  I’m excited, ecstatic about the changes Obama’s going to bring, and I’m ready to make changes in my lifestyle that might facilitate his changes.  I’ve been through a difficult block of change, a three-for-one package deal, a combo career, geographical, and relationship change that spawned this piece.  But changes in the dog, my truest friend of almost 14 years, are where my heart’s at lately.  I’ve pushed this aside since the wee hours of October 21st when it happened, but it’s been nipping at my heels so I’m letting it out into the front yard. 


NovaFriskBch2.jpg picture by pemerytx 


We’d rushed Nova to the emergency veterinary hospital.  I’d filled out the initial paperwork and been briefed by the doctor.  It looked like a vestibular episode, he’d said, and it was decided to leave him there for an estimated twenty-four hours for supportive care and testing.  I wrapped up the paperwork and dropped a $500 deposit.  Then they led me to the back so I could say goodnight.  I was afraid I’d be saying goodbye, not goodnight, and I could tell I had only a limited amount of time before I broke down.  I slapped at both sides of my face just hard enough to sting a bit to keep me with the program.  I needed just enough time to go back there and tell my boy the plan like I always do when we have to part.


The back room was a sea of tables and equipment.  Nova was lying on his side flanked by the vet and an assistant.  He was stabilized, an IV needle in his left arm.  The vet smiled at me.   Not a pointless smile, but one that actually had some love and strength in it.  He seemed a great guy, so calm, so easy going and personable, and very knowledgeable from what I could tell.  I went around to the back of the table where it looked like I could get the best access to Nova’s head, so I could whisper in his ear.  I whispered, I prayed, I spoke to him, and spoke and spoke, all the words and phrases he loved to hear.  He opened his eyes and lifted his head toward me.  I held him.  I kissed him.  I told him I loved him.  I said he needed to stay here for awhile and I’d be back to get him as soon as I got the word.


I walked back around the table and he struggled to get up to go with me, his eyes full on me, brightening with intent and hope.  That show of love and loyalty about killed me and I almost lost it.  I went back to the side of the table and told him the plan again.  I kissed him again and squeezed his arm meaning I’m serious, he needs to stay.  The assistant finally stepped in and attended to him and I headed for the door.  I wasn’t going to make it out of the building before the meltdown.  I ran into the restroom and let my heart explode.  I wouldn’t need it anymore anyway.  My sobs drowned out the world but my tears wouldn’t wash me away.  There was no escape from the pain.


In the car on the way home in between sobbing, I went over the events of the evening trying to find a reason for all this.  What had he eaten?  What vaccines had he just had the other day and could they have caused a reaction with something else?  What had his behavior been like the last week, two weeks, month?  Were there any signs of anything weird?  I was raking my brain in desperate, inefficient strokes, for something I could use, something that made sense.  I flashed back over the nightmare of waking to Nova’s desperate breathing and the scuffle on the bed as he tried to right himself but kept flopping in circles.  I flashed back over the rush to the telephone, the panicked dash for clothes, any clothes, the nightmare ride to the hospital.  It was living hell. 


The first strike against us was the time, 3:30 a.m., and the second strike was the rain that made the lights of oncoming cars on the pavement look like the surface of a glaring, blinding, watery sun.  Nick was driving and I was in the back trying to hold steady a dog that was trying to flip like a fish.  He vomited and then shit.  And I was straddling it all, holding him to the seat back talking a greased streak of his favorite words interspersed with Dear Gods and Sweet Jesuses.  Nova was all stiff and straining his head up and right, his eyes wide, wide open, the whites too visible.  “Pig eye,” I call it, all up and back like a stuck, squealing pig.


So many things went through my head.  I thought he was dying.  I thought he wouldn’t make it to the hospital.  In some sane moments along life’s path prior to this I remember trying to deal with the fact that there’d come a time he’d have to leave this planet and I’d have to say goodbye for good, and it wasn’t like this.  It wasn’t him so traumatized and out of touch that I’m not sure if he even knew who I was.  It was more like we had knowing eye contact and said a knowing goodbye during which I’d tell him the plan—he could go on ahead if he had to and I’d be there as soon as I could get there.  Then I thought maybe it would be better, easier, him not knowing me from a lamp post.  No matter how it happened I couldn’t picture my life without my best and truest buddy by my side.


And then a thought struck me, stunned me silent.  These death vibes and sobs aren’t doing my boy any good.  In the universal scheme of things they’re just dragging him down and putting trash vibes out there for everyone else as well.  Nova’s not dead.  And there’s a possibility he’ll be OK.  “Believe” echoed in my head.  “If ever there was a time, now is it.  Believe.”  And in that instant I knew where people who’ve lived through the most horrific tragedies get their power.  It had been an inconceivable concept, prior, and now I could see it had to be this sort of shift from a power infinitely bigger than the smallness of my humanity. 


After we’d got back home I lay in bed in what was left of the darkness, eyes wide open, my brain whirring, stuck on high.  It was weird not having the boy lying at the bottom of the bed crowding my feet.  But my main thoughts had become about supporting him with my belief.  This episode of his could be a fluke.  And I’d be no good to him if I was dead tired when the vet called in a few hours.  I looked at the clock.  5:37am.  I’d sleep until 8:30 then start a coffee IV drip in preparation for the vet’s call at 9:00.  But I couldn’t sleep.  I heard the Blues Brothers’ Peter Gunn Theme in my head.  The sassy horns and the lazy-rolling, growling R’s of a sax army ran as background music to an abbreviated inquisition, “You know the ‘Nova Series’ kids’ books you were supposed to have written years ago?”  Yeah.  “Write them now.”  Ah…OK…  And Nova?  “He’ll be OK…”







Click here for more on prompt “#136–Changes” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.


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15 responses to “The plan

  1. I read this a couple of times because so many pictures and emotions went through my mind. When I was seventeen, my precious Theo was run over by a neighbor boy carelessly speeding through our neighborhood. No one was home but me so I jumped in my car and rushed him to the vet. He died on the way and I was never the same. You are lucky to have such a beautiful friend in Nova. There is nothing in the world like the relationships we have with our truest buddies.

  2. Alisa: oh how bottom-of-the-earth unbearably heavy and sorrowful! This is the tears exchange, right here. On reading about Theo my brain spun questions and sought details, and as painful as it was to imagine your trip to the vet and the days and months and years after, I’m so glad to know this. I got a king-sized wake-up call on 10/21 but I’m still like an accident victim hanging between consciousness and unconsciousness. Your story is smelling salts and Reality slapping my face, “Stay with me, now!”
    Thanks for coming by again, btw! Your comments are good stuff :-)

  3. Oh how sad. Your and your doggies trauma. We all have lost beloved pets and we never forget them. Your writing here is so heartfelt. You had me right in the moment with you.

  4. Having had to release my precious little lady, Trixie, who was my companion for 15 years and more, last year, I can relate to this between time, the awful realisation that our dogs won’t have the time we may. My heart goes out to you.

  5. Looking at the picture, I had to smile. What a wonderful shot. It gives us insight into Nova’s playfulness. The story, extremely well written by the way, made me cry. I felt your pain. My Willie is 9 years old. He’s a large dog and already having hip and leg problems. He seems more gray each day. I know I won’t have him another 9 years and that makes me very sad. If anyone would have told me I could love a dog this much, I would have thought they were crazy. Now I am. The Blues Brothers clip was the perfect ending. BJ

  6. Brooke the dobe, Sophie the bullmastiff, Lucia the neopolitan mastiff, Thunderheart the majestic red bullmastiff, and now Blue the wonderdog blue heeler: spirit guides all. We are all so much the better and fuller for them. I’m sure Nova knows just how to go to the heart of the matter. You and he and Nick are in my prayers.

    Funny the calls to change. This amazing human being we just elected wasn’t just about changing for us, but changing with us. Those millions of us who were willing to listen deeply into the words, the voice, spirit could feel that he was calling us to pick up all our Nova Series dreams scattered across our backbrains and get on about them. A woman or man who sez, “Well, I’m going to challenge that,” meaning the line of demarcation that sez no black human shall be elected “in our lifetimes,” is pointing to all the lines that “demarc” our own stunted locations. That’s change worth birthing, nursing, diapering, nurturing, and most assuredly buying Legos (“Legos are my destiny,” sez my own soon to be 10 year old changemaker) for.

    Much love to you, Lady Alister.

  7. oh this was a tear jerker.. i am the mama of two senior dogs and i am emotionally ill prepared for this scenario.. i know what i am supposed to do,, i have gone over it a million times in my head,, but the reality of a moment like this is not something one can ever really prepare for… please write again and let us know how he is…

  8. This was heartbreaking — such a beautiful dog.

    Dogs are the very best of family: loyal, sweet, ready to play when you are, and sensitive enough to know when you need to snuggle. No wonder it breaks our hearts when we think we might lose them.

    That calm you caught, though, sounds like a real gift. I hope it steadies you through these days, and I hope for you and Nick, and Nova all the best

  9. Yes, this made me cry. It is so vividly written that I felt that I was there with you. I hope your story has a happy ending, for Nova, for Nick, and most of all for you

  10. miss a – i know your pain – only too too well – try to feel me there with a huge big hug for you!!! — no words, cuz there really aren’t any for these heart stopping things, are there???

  11. Welcome, Linda May! I was just checking out your pix of Ruby, aka Chaos ; ) Dogs are so cool—born to love unconditionally and game to do anything anytime! And your reassuring words are very much appreciated : ) Glad you liked my words as well. I’ll be back over later on to do justice to your change piece.

    Imelda: Trixie’s Days was the second thing I checked out on your site when I first found your SS “Sleep” piece in February of this year. Trixie is so unbelievably cute! I don’t feel ready to do what you had to do on her behalf. What you wrote after her spirit had moved on kills me. Maybe that’s what this between time, as you so aptly put it, is all about, a step in the preparation process. Thanks so much for coming by to add your good vibes : )

    Hey there, BJ! yeah, I love that picture. It was taken when Nova was five years old. Certainly, he loved the seashore worlds more then than now! These days he’s rather curmudgeonly about it, will set foot on the sand only long enough to make a beeline for the water to cool his belly. The days of long, frisky-wild walks and running and swimming are gone. So I’m in a front-row seat to feel for you with Willie doin’ the hip and leg thing now. “They” say, there’s a reason dog is god spelled backwards! And George Carlin, bless his ever-loving funny soul, did a routine to take a tiny bit of the weight off. I remember part of it: “What happens when you get a pet? You have ‘em for awhile, they get old, they go away…It’s inevitable when you buy the pet. You’re supposed to know it in the pet shop. It’s going to end badly. You’re purchasing a small tragedy…” Man, can I relate! And I say that Nova’s the last dog I’ll have, for what act could follow his? Thanks for being here and liking the clip as much as I did!

    Why, Paschal, my A-list guy, you are just gushing love and hope above and beyond divine these days. I do believe this supremely amazing Obama-happening has turned you into an on-fire, and I’m talkin’ blazing, preacher of the goodest thing that can come down any one kinda pike. It has maximized you, the brother with the gargantuanest gift of words what can rattle the biggest, baddest houses of worship down to the simplest of dwellings down to the purest bone, metal, wood and soul.
    I didn’t dig deep enough into Obama’s words to feel any kind of calling, although I can see very well what you mean after the fact. Pre-election, I couldn’t give a rat’s patootie about a single thing besides knowing that Obama’s what Michael Capellas was to a sorrowfully bankrupted and beat-low-low-down MCI/WorldCom, and I was gung-ho, on board, in good hands, no questions.
    Back on biggest and baddest, that’s one highly sophisticated, pedigreed doggie list you rattled off there, I must say. And it just so happens that Nova is the crème-and-apricotest king of the Lhasa Apsos. All of them royalty and spirit guides indeed!

    Hi Paisley! Thanks so much for your comment. It’s been the best thing to read what you and other dog lovers have had to say here. Right, no one can be emotionally prepared. I certainly was not, am not…not for this emergency and not for the end of the line. Like you, I’ve gone over and over what’s required. I did find, in this particular case, that the going over and over emergency procedure helped, in that while I couldn’t be prepared emotionally, I was somehow able to watch as a barely-able part of me went through the mechanics of the checklist.
    Of course I’m tickled that you want to hear how Nova’s doing : ) None of the tests done were conclusive, so the diagnosis is open, presumed geriatric vestibular disease suspected. Another episode or more episodes could happen or none at all. When we picked Nova up later on that same day, he was walking, but listing to the left, having a little trouble balancing. As the vet suggested, we had him on dimenhydrinate (Dramamine ©) for about two days until the listing stopped and he was markedly better. It took him about a week to return to normal, although on two occasions at bedtime he appeared to show signs that were similar to what we noticed prior to the episode. So back out came the dimenhydrinate, which seemed to help, along with a lot of soothing until he fell asleep. So nighttime in general seems a culprit, maybe loss of light means loss of bearings for him. Like Tom Bodett, I leave a light on for him : )

    Hi anno! You got it down—dogs are all that and more : ) When I was 20 I had a English Sheepdog for a brief time. It was a crazy creature and I wasn’t ready for the responsibility in general, so I ended up giving the dog to a woman who had a farm where the dog could go as crazy as it liked. That was my “tester dog.” I never had another dog until I got Nova at four months old. So Nova is it—the Buddha dog, my Zen teacher, my humane-treatment-of-all-sentient-beings instructor, translator of the knowing that dogs have souls, too. I’m his big, but slow-learning, success. It’s taking all his life to prepare me for graduation, but from what I can tell, he feels it’s worth it ; ) Thanks for your just-right-words. And you’re so sweet with your wishes—the calm is underneath and holding and we’re doing well : )

    Thank you, Granny Smith! For stopping by and for leaving this comment that I love, that is helpful in all ways. You know I like feeback on what I’ve written and your hope for a happy ending (so far so good) is a needed heart-warmer : )

    Ah, my good friend danni who knows : ) So glad you came here with that hug. I didn’t have to try to feel it. The comfort jumped out and took care of me. You just can never really know about loss of a huge chunk of your heart until you experience it, can you? So I still don’t fully know. I know about almost losing a huge chunk of my heart. And in the almost losing I felt a little piece break off and get sucked into a deep and impossible crack in the earth, irretrievable.

  12. Ooh, devine! Thank you for reminding me, my dear. Of course I was compelled to revisit… Be still, my heart…

  13. Your doggie story touched my heart. I hope Nova stays snuggled at your feet to sleep well at night, even with a nightlight, and wakens to many more bright mornings. I applaud your courage in thinking through the pain, in writing about this experience, and in sharing your love and insights.

  14. Hi Beth! I hope the little guy gets many more happy and healthy years against my legs and feet. I’ve shouted that request into the infinite universe. Your expression, ever eloquent, of your appreciation for all of this—the event, the riding and writing it out—touched my heart : )

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