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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