She’s 180 lbs of soft, furry, brindle mastiff love – and she’s very ill. She may die, and she may pull though. I don’t know. About the only thing that I do know, is that I don’t know. That’s a hard place to be, but it offers some stunning and sometimes very painful opportunities to practice living in this moment.

Not quite a week ago, she seemed lethargic. If you know English Mastiffs, you already know that they sleep about 20 hours a day as it is. But, this was different. The light had gone out of her eyes. She was avoiding food. On Sunday (it’s always at night, on the weekend, or a holiday, right?!) she didn’t want to get up. That was frightening. We loaded a terrified and resistant gigantic dog into the car and drove an hour to the nearest emergency vet. Four hours and $750 dollars worth of tests later, we didn’t have a clue what was wrong with her.

On Monday, I took her to her regular vet, and after more testing there was a diagnosis: Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Essentially, her body is targeting her red blood cells for destruction. It’s a dreadful disease, requiring massive doses of prednisone, transfusions, and other extravagantly expensive therapies that ultimately can be quite destructive.  And, despite the best care in the world, they can crash at any moment and be a memory by the time you get them to the vet.  She’s very sick.

I’ve already made my peace with what I can afford, and what I’m willing to try, and what I’m not.  I feel very confident about my vet and about the network of specialists, holistic and otherwise.  The knowledgeable people who have been down this road already are supporting and informing me.  I’m learning as fast as I possibly can.

Not being able to fix something this serious is horrific, and at every turn I find myself struggling against a tsunami of PTSD.  The fear, the panic, and the physical strain are utterly incapacitating sometimes.  My nervous system seems hell-bent on the idea that I am responsible.  Mercifully, my rational side knows better.  When the stress becomes overwhelming though, rational doesn’t seem to weigh much.  And if all of this isn’t enough, we’ve had torrential rains and tornado threats all week.  The barn is full of mud.  Having horses in a tornado zone is a nightmare.

But, here we are.   Life goes like this sometimes.  And death goes like this.  Somewhere in the middle of the cyclone of worry, activity, suffering, and being overwhelmed, there is a still place.  Maybe it’s like the point exactly in the center of the washing machine on the spin cycle.

In that still, quiet space, there’s only the softness of her fur, the look in her eyes, and the peace that I feel from her.

Even in the midst of the chaos of caring for her while having a full-time job an hour away from home, there are still moments of just driving, just chopping pills in half, just feeding the horses.  Most important (for her), there are the moments of just being with her.  Late at night, on the air mattress that is now a fixture in the living room, she lies next to me, and I simply listen to the sound of her breath.

I don’t know what will happen, or how, or when.  It is my hope that I can be fully present for her, but I don’t know even that.  So, there are moments of simply not knowing.  That’s ok.  In an amazing way, not knowing is the doorway out of our frantic thinking minds, and into moments of grace and peace.



All photographs copyright ZenDoe

91 Comments on “Not Knowing, and other disasters

  1. My heartfelt sympathies for what you guys are going through. I know, so well, those feelings. Even if you have faced it before, nothing can prepare you though, when you face it again. Each event is different. She’s a beautiful girl. She has you. It is ok not to know. You are just “being” with her, and outside of concrete medical care, that is all you can do. Many hugs, and tears shared for Crocus and you.

  2. Your care is the gracious notes of a love song your dear dog pal and friend can “hear” and feel comforted by. And we, your blogging buddies, hold both of you in our awareness and send Love….

  3. God you made me gulp. I love your writing so much. Still wiping emotional responses out of my eyes. Keep hanging in their with her.

  4. I’m so sorry for all involved. Our pets are family. To see them suffer is awful – they are innocent and as helpless as children. They trust and love without expectation. How heartbreaking. I pray she heals and that you find peace.

    • Thank you so much for your kind thoughts. “Hard” just doesn’t cover this. She MUST take the prednisone, and she has to eat to do it. But she doesn’t care to eat. I gave her vanilla ice cream for supper. *sad smile*

  5. Oh, ZenDoe – I’m so sorry to hear about your beautiful Crocus. I know Mastiffs and they hold a special place in my heart. I just spent some time with her, sending healing vibes. Hold on to that still, quiet place and it will guide you.

    My best to both of you.

  6. Zen Doe,
    I’ve very sorry for your pain and troubles. I’m with you in my heart through these hard times and difficult decisions. She couldn’t have any better than you.
    Much love.
    PS Give her all the ice cream (or whatever) she wants.

    • Thank you, Alice. This is stinkin’ dreadful. I haven’t had time or brains to follow your adventures for nearly a week now. I’m still thinking of you though. Thanks for the love. Means a lot to me.

      • I’m just this person out here braiding my belly button hair in public with words.

        You’re focused on the most important thing and what you need to be focused on. Take care of your pup.

        Keep me (us through your blog) posted when you can.

        I big hunk of love is coming your way right now, my friend. Also from my husband and kids (I tell them about you and your animals).


        • Please, give everybody hugs from me. I’ll be taking that big hunk of love to bed with me tonight.

  7. Oh, oh. I have tears for you and your beautiful doggie. How difficult and impossible to go through this and for any of us who have had a dear heart friend in the form of a dog. Sending love and blessings and prayers and hope you have good support. His Holiness Dalai Lama is in Sydney, Australia tomorrow and I will do prayers for Crocus, in his presence, so no matter what, Crocus will be looked after.

  8. please know that I am honored reading your beautiful words shared with me and others regarding your dear love Crocus…you account truly touches my heart. My pets are truly a part this family of mine–I hurt when they hurt and I ache in frustration when I cannot help them (both cats were rescues with one, Percy being nursed from an almost abusive death…) My prayers for Crocus and for you, her mom……….

    • Thank you so very much for your kindness, Julie. And you’re right, it’s never “just a dog”.

  9. Oh Zoe. Oh Crocus. Oh, I am so, so sorry for your pain. I hope that you continue to find grace and freedom.

  10. Crocus is a lucky girl to have you. Thinking of you. Zen, I just had a flash. Being a vet, I see these stories with regularity, they never become old or jaded, but are a huge lesson, as you say, of being in the moment. The flash was how today it seems mostly to be people with animals that see it, the living the every-day creeping (more obviously than we see it in ourselves and our children) approach of the end… because in many places in the ‘developed’ world, we distance ourselves from our older family members. We are linked to MORE people, by the internet, etc., but are we still linked to those who raised us, and our parents? Our “oldies”, as they are called down here in NZ… Communities which still take care of their old people as part of their family group would see this, and probably have more support than those of us, often isolated from our family, with geriatric or approaching-death animals. How much better equipped would we be to deal with death or impending death if we were in a whole-family living situation, where there were people who had learned from their family, how to live in the moment and be there for their old ones, whatever form of life they were. I’ve been writing my 1860 novel, there is death involved, and there are Indian tribes involved… One begins to think on interesting levels. I don’t know if this will help anyone, but it may give some clarity to those struggling. Many people today have no human children and their animals begin to take their place. The grief they feel can be overwhelming when an animal who has become their “child” passes from this life … Perhaps your older family members can be of help to learn to deal with it.
    Thinking of you and Crocus, and those of you out there dealing with these situations. Take heart.

  11. Aww Zen. You do write you love so beautifully that there is no doubt in my heart that Crocus knows you are “present”. You are one hell of a human being with an amazing connection to your animals, and they to you. I agree, you are both lucky to have each other. All my love and hopes for a peaceful whatever is to come… Hugz to you both xo

  12. I got tears into my eyes when I read your story. (We have had four dogs, so I can imagine what you are going through.) The last sentence of the post is simply gorgeous. “In an amazing way, not knowing is the doorway out of our frantic thinking minds, and into moments of grace and peace.” Give a hug to Crocus from me!

  13. Dear Zen Doe, Such a beautiful and sad photo of Crocus, her eyes, sending her heart to you. I am so sorry for your troubles, for Crocus. I lost my wonderful wolfhound in august last year, a long time nursing him and he was so patient with me, those same eyes, the still point. I hope Crocus has a peaceful time left, and to you, Zen Doe, to have an animal to love is a gift, blessings to you both.

    • Thank you. Ohhhh, you had a wolfhound! They’re wonderful! This picture of her was taken a few months ago. Mastiffs almost always look sad. 😉 She could still pull through this! I’m trying very hard not to make assumptions either way. One day at a time.

      • Yes, one day at a time Zen. My Wolfhound had joint problems all his life. I was advised to have him put to sleep when he was just one year old. Couldn’t do it of course, but with careful nursing, he had a good life until he was almost ten, a good age for a Wolfie. We shared a lot of happy times. I am very grateful to have the memories of him. Wishing you and Crocus many more happy days.

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