I’ve thought about writing this blog post for years. I finally did it the other day while I was sitting at the vet with Tasha (the inspiration for my mystery series) and waiting for her to go in for an MRI. The lesson was powerful for me, and I hope it someday helps you, too. Then again, perhaps you’re smarter than I am and don’t need it. 😉
|Tasha-dog recovering from her MRI with best buddy Teddy
Love comes to us in packages we don’t expect—some we may think we don’t even want.
Mine, as most of you know, lives in the form of a 100-pound German shepherd named Tasha. An animal who has changed my life in so many ways. An animal who is the inspiration for my mystery series. An animal who has connected me with some of the best people in my life. An animal without whom, I wouldn’t be writing to you today.
But our life together has been far from easy.
When she was four months old, Tasha started exhibiting significant health and behavior problems. In spite of the best veterinary care, four trainers and three animal behaviorists, by the time she was two, the problems had gotten worse. Euthanasia was mentioned more than once as a reasonable option.
I never considered it.
Then she hit age three, and we had a particularly bad day. I remember thinking that night—perhaps even muttering it out loud—that my life would be easier if Tasha died.
Tasha and the universe discussed it for two weeks, then decided to grant my wish.
The only noticeable symptom on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving eight years ago was that Tasha didn’t want to go on her afternoon walk. By six that evening, I cradled her head in my hands and told her I wasn’t mad at her anymore. At eight, I told my husband, “I have a bad feeling about this.” He thought she was fine, but didn’t argue. We took my lethargic-but-otherwise-healthy-looking dog to an emergency vet.
At nine, the emergency vet told me that Tasha’s spleen had twisted. If there was no cancer—a big if—Tasha had a fifty percent shot of surviving the surgery to remove it, and then a fifty percent shot of surviving the forty-eight hours after surgery.
Then she handed me a hospitalization and surgical estimate for an amount most people would pay for a used car and gave us a choice: pay and take our chances, or euthanize. Tasha wouldn’t live the night otherwise.
Euthanasia was not an option.
I collapsed sobbing outside the clinic, convinced that I had made this happen. That my stupid, not-even-true wish was going to take my dog’s life. My husband, being smarter than I, said something like, “Well, if you wished this, take it back!”
I never prayed so hard in my life.
By midnight, Tasha had obtained two blood transfusions so she’d be stable enough for surgery. At three a.m., I received a call saying that she had survived surgery. Forty-eight hours later, the vets let her come home and agreed that she would live provided there was no cancer. The cancer-free biopsy came back a few days later.
I could finally breathe again.
Why do I write about this? I will never forget that night or the gift of getting my girl back. She mellowed as she got older and the behavior issues lessoned significantly, but no matter how bad the day—and there have been a few bad ones since then—I have cherished my girl.
Every night I say a prayer thanking God, the universe, and whoever else is listening for giving her back to me. I know that every day I’ve had with her since then has been a gift. Each prayer ends with the mantra, “May Tasha have a long and happy life.”
We all have days that seem unbearably tough. Times our loved ones disappoint us. Times we disappoint ourselves. My challenge to each of you is to find gratitude—and express it—even on those days.
Every one of them is a gift.