In the past year, I've noticed my dog, Grace slowing down. She's had trouble jumping up in to the car, had to consider whether a trip up or down the stairs was worth the effort, lagged behind on the occasional walk to the Dairy Queen. She's 11-1/2 years old so this is to be expected. In the last two weeks though, I noticed a steep decline. This came to a head on Thursday night when I arrived home late and found her panting heavily, and a panic-stricken look in her eyes.
I had no idea what was happening. She'd been panting heavily all summer, but I thought it was related to the heat and humidity and though the weather was cooler, this panting episode was heavier than ever before. I though maybe she was having lung or heart problems. It was only after Googling "canine+heavy panting" that I discovered this was a symptom of pain. It finally registered to me the look in her eyes was not panic but one of intense suffering.
I researched how to treat her symptoms and realized I had none of the over-the-counter remedies available at home. About 10:30 pm I made the decision to take her to the Emergency Vet office where they examined her and described all her joints - hips, knees ankles, neck - as "crunchy". The very word makes me cringe. The vet gave her an injection for her pain and some oral meds which helped slightly. On Friday evening I followed up with our regular vet office, where they gave me additional meds which seem to alleviate her pain somewhat, but not nearly enough.
As I reflect on the past 12 months I see so many signs I missed, where I could have had Grace treated earlier, possibly forestalling the "crunchy" joints and the pain that accompanies them. At one time I had been giving her Glucosamine to keep her joints lubricated, but ran out and never got around to buying more. When I was unemployed, regular vet visits fell victim to budget cuts. When I was more gainfully employed, I just never made it a priority. I used to walk my dogs often, which keeps their joints flexible; but when I got a job with a long commute I settled for just letting them run in my backyard. Dog care took a backseat to "Barb-care".
Many of my reasons for putting off the dogs' care were legitimate, financial and time constraints being two of the biggest. But, truth be told, in my own self-absorption I ignored the needs of both Grace and Dora and now they (Grace, primarily) are suffering because of it.
Sin is like that. It causes us to see only our selves and our own needs, blinding us to the needs of others. Much has been written about the story of the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite walk by, see the injured traveler and ignore him. The Samaritan sees him and stops to take care of him. But I wonder, how many walked by and never noticed the injured man. How many were too busy thinking about their own troubles that they never saw the bleeding, beaten man on the side of the road?
In Genesis, God gave man charge over the earth and all that was in it. With this authority came responsibility to care for it. In this most recent case with Grace, I flunked.
Lest you think I am beating myself up over this, I am not. There is forgiveness for the repentant and I have apologized to Grace and to God. Because of Jesus, God has forgiven me... and so has Grace.
Theologically speaking, it's said dogs do not have souls. Only man was created in the image of God and only to man did God breathe in His breath of life. But I have a theory on this. Note: my theory has no biblical basis. In addition, in case you haven't noticed, I am totally biased in favor of dogs.
Knowing dogs the way I do, I think that after God created them, they followed Him everywhere. Sure, they chased the squirrels and the occasional cat in Eden, but they ran back to their Creator, happily napping at His feet as He sat on His throne.
So, when God created Adam, the dogs were all there milling about. As God formed Adam from the dust of the earth dogs were watching excitedly saying, "Wow, it smells like dirt!". Being the curious and obtrusive beings they are and loving dirt as they do, they were right there surrounding Adam when God breathed His breath into Him. I think they might have caught a bit of His draft, an overspray you might say; which is why like God, dogs are able to forgive so easily and so often. Maybe that's why dogs find such joy sticking their heads out of car windows. They're trying to re-experience that invigorating, life-giving breeze from so long ago!
Lesson learned, I will be paying more attention to Grace, administering her meds, trying to make her comfortable, alleviate her pain and prayerfully considering the next steps. Deciding when my beloved dog has had enough is a great responsibility, one for which I seek His guidance.
I thank Him for giving me grace and for giving me Grace.