Have you ever had a time in your life when you realized your faults, your failures, your inability to make the right choices?
Have you ever thought about the consequences for these faults and failures?
Those faults and failures came to a boiling point in August. For many weeks following this failure, it boiled and boiled and finally burst, sending my entire world into a tailspin!
Lucy came to live with us last winter. A friend gave her to us so that she would be free to run on the farm. She was a purebred black lab. She had been been restrained to a house in town and a very small yard.
Lucy took that freedom to run.......she ran and ran and ran. She was full of energy, full of life and full of trouble. She dug holes, she chewed garden hoses and rake handles, toys, shoes, whatever she could get ahold of. It was an ordeal for me to bring home groceries because she was at the car door trying to get some before I could get out. She actually forced her way INTO the van and licked up any and all morsels of anything on the floor. She ate paper cups and napkins if they smelled of food, and maybe even if they didn't. She just liked to eat. I fed her every morning, noon, evening and maybe again at night. She ate every bite of food she could get, plus every table scrap, leftover from every meal and anything I would decide should be discarded, she usually ate it! I did not worry about her going hungry, just how I was going to keep up with her appetite.
Yes, this is Lucy, eating an onion! We would play fetch with just about anything, and hey, it was chewable!
During the summer she got into the habit of bringing home dead animals. These animals were very "ripe", which probably led her to them. She would have made a great hunting dog one day. She would proudly bring her "road kill" up to the deck, and wait at the door until we came out to see what she had. As much as I disliked the odor and the remains that were left around, I did not worry about this habit.
I did not worry about her running freely in and out of the barns and sheds.
I did not worry about her running away.
She ran up to greet me every time I came home...sort of like my own personal "welcome wagon". She watched me leave every day and never went past the end of the lane. Our last dog was hit by a pickup. I did not worry about Lucy going onto the road.
Friday, I began inservice at school, and Lucy stopped eating. She began to hang her tongue. Her eyes were red. Her mouth and tongue were so dry, but she would drink from my hands. She would eat from my hands. not the usual amount, but some. She would stand at the door and wait for me, as usual, but her eyes were so red, and she was not eating. I became her caregiver. I still did not worry. She was just sick. I would get her well.
The weekend brought all of our kids and daughter in laws and grandkids to our house. We were cleaning sheds and they were all helping. Lucy was around, running, not quite as robustly as usual, but right in there with us. We were eating and drinking. The boys were playing fetch with her squeaky toy. They would throw it, she would go get it and bring it back to them. They would take it from her, slobber and all, and throw it again. Lucy was thirsty. Our water bottles looked inviting to her. She began to lick. We are not sure what she licked, but we just wiped them off and kept working and drinking and playing with her. I usually chained her up when the grandkids came over. She played with too much enthusiasm, expecially for a 2 year old. Lucy hated that. That day, she was not running and jumping quite so much so I let her run free.
Monday, she was slobbering and hanging her head. I took her to the vet. I had to carry her into my van, she was so weak. She vomited. The vet and I discussed some things, beginning to get a little worried. She gave her a shot of antibiotic and a shot to counteract any poison or chemical she had maybe injested. I took home 5 antibiotic pills. I was told to give one to her each day. She was unable to eat, was not drinking much except maybe to wet her tongue if I offered it in my hands. I pushed the pill in her mouth. It fell out and I tried again. I am not sure if she got it down, but I most definitely was covered with her slobber.
Tuesday, she was worse. She was what I call "drunk walking". She was unable to climb the stairs, she walked sideways. She fell down the steps. I was still thinking I could get her well. I was offering her food and water. She actually ate that day. Her last meal was leftover spaghetti.
I took her to the vet and she was put to sleep. I knealt down and looked at her face and said, "I am so sorry Lucy. Be a good girl. Say hi to Grandma Nichols. With a hug and a few tears with the vet, I left her there.
It took several days. I was sick to my stomach. I was worrying. I lived in fear.
"I am sorry to inform you, but your Dog, Lucy was positive for rabies"
My mind raced. I had killed my entire family. Too many days have passed since we were all around her and her saliva. Who touched her? Did someone drink out of the bottle she had licked? Did Braylyn touch her saliva and then touch her mouth? Who was in danger? How painful would it be? How would I explain all this pain to my grandbabies? Would the kids at school torment my daughter as she feared....She could hear it...."Rabies Girl". "Look out, here comes "Rabies Girl"! "Oh no, we drank out of her water bottle!" What would this cost? How will I ever pay for it? I am so stupid. Why didn't I get her rabies shot? How did she get it anyway? Was she bitten or scratched? Could she have eaten an animal with rabies and injested the virus that way? Did we have rabid animals around our farm? I have to contact the neighbors. Is it too late for shots? What is it like to have rabies? Are those pictures on the internet real? How could she be so big and strong and go downhill so quickly? Am I dizzy? My tongue is so dry. I am so stupid! She was such a pretty dog! I was so neglectful! I am so sorry Lucy....
I was on the phone all day....do you know you have to talk to the all of your kids, to Jennifer, to GOD, the vet, the county health department, the state health department, the state vet, the hospital, the clinic, the doctor, the health insurance, the farm liability adjustor, the doctor again, the nurses at least 10 times? Do you know you need birthdates and current weights on all 10 people involved so they can prepare the dosages? Do you know that if you call the school nurse, she will weigh your grandbabies? Do you know of a principal who will allow you to cry and talk and cry some more, allow you to go home and then call later on to check if you are OK?
I took the grandbabies for their first shots. 3 kids, 3 shots each. I explained the best I could but had to hold them down and watch them scream in pain, not once, not twice, but 3 times? In Sioux Falls, one of my kids had to have 8 shots the first day. Then it was week after week after week, trying to explain, trying to get the grandkids into the clinic without them crumbling in fear. We all made it though the shots. No one seems to have gotten sick. No one has died.
I am so sorry for the pain and suffering caused by all of this. If I can be of any help in all this, I would have to say that I am the new self proclaimed spokeswoman for having your pet vaccinations up to date. I can also be an educator through this. Did you know that the "Old Yeller" dog behaviors are not always the norm? Lucy never got mean or vicious. She never bared her teeth. She never tried to bite anyone. Did you know that you don't need to be bitten by a rabid animal? Do you know that contact with their saliva is enough to cause death. If the saliva of a rabid animal gets into the body through a cut, hangnail, scratch, or any mucus membrane, it is most certain death. There are no known cases of humans having contracted the disease and then being cured. Did you know that the vet, most likely a lover of animals, has to remove the head of the animal to prepare it for testing? Did you know that after she was sent to SDSU for testing and it came back, "inconclusive", she had to be sent to Atlanta Georgia to the Contageous Disease Center? Did you know the series of shots costs each person $4-5,000. We treated all 10 in our family. I could not take any chance. As much as I fretted and feared and cried over losing this dog, do you think I would survive if I killed any one in my family? The thing is: You get rabies, you die.
I failed to take care of you.
I miss you bounding up to greet me.
I miss your little habit of waiting at the door each day, knowing I was the one who faithfully gave you food and water each morning.
Do you believe pets go to heaven?
I had not thought about it before, but I now know that to be true.
Now you will never be chained up and you will never again be hungry and never again thirst.
How amazing that we have the assurance of heaven.
How amazing that there is always more to learn.
Thanking God for the gifts of medicine, kind doctors and nurses, friends, wonderful co-workers, caring bosses, for faith, prayers, lots of shared hugs and tears, and for family. I will not forget this Lesson Learned......