Rough Going

standard | Published on June 11, 2017 by Michelle Wirth

It’s Pride, my third Pride without my partner of 20 years. Fresh pain, more than I expected.

Two days ago I brought my dog Harry to the veterinarian for knee surgery. His first surgery occurred over a year ago, near the first anniversary of the death of my wife. That winter I was so crushed that I went to the veterinarian wearing my pajamas. I sat on the floor with my dog to comfort him because he held me and would not let go. I remember how a vet tech became openly hostile and condescending. I assumed it was a “kill the weak” response, unchecked. At the time I shrugged it off. This Friday I drove to the veterinarian knowing the ghosts of that winter appointment were waiting and no one could see them but me.

Harry came home yesterday. The surgery went well but I have to keep his meds constant or the pain and fear are inhumane. When he is awake he fears the yard which hurt him the first and last time he tried to poop. He fears his sister who was near the door when he walked out into the yard. He looks at me, ears down and eyes sad, like I am punishing him. He cannot understand why he is in pain.

When Madeleine died I threw away the prescription drugs but kept the bottles. Maybe because her handwriting was on them. Maybe because I can’t stand more empty spaces she will not come back to fill. Maybe because without the shock of the horror of the medication bottles, all that is left in her nightstand are the things that bring me to my knees – her eyeglasses, a pen, ear plugs. I cannot understand how she cannot come back.

I have to make a meds chart for Harry, so that he doesn’t miss a dose even first thing in the morning when I am bleary eyed. So that I’m free to keep my attention on how he’s doing, how he’s feeling, to support him if he wakes and rallies enough to move through the house to the yard, to do what little he can do.

It’s Pride and I can’t leave the house because I have unraveled – this grief and these memories of something that cannot be real, this sweet dog here and now in pain he cannot understand – and I have to tie these strings together in the form of this med schedule chart like the one I had to write for my wife – “Gabapentin every twelve hours, 8 am, 8 pm…”

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