April 2012- April 2013
For a year, we try to keep things under control. We reinforce “settle” and “calm” once MJ’s tail gets going, but inevitably the tip opens up and we’re applying pressure, wiping down walls and bandaging her tail. We pad sharp corners and rearrange furniture. We invest in rolls of gauze and suture tape. We should have bought stock in Clorox wipes.
Our coddling and furbaby-proofing does us no good. The carpeted floor inflicts as much damage as a table leg. We just can’t get MJ’s tail to heal.
Happy Tail has foiled our efforts. We’re running the risk of infection or exposed bone now. The vet tells us it’s time. We hang our heads and schedule the series of appointments.
Our little girl- the forever baby of our family- is going to have her tail docked. We confer with the vet about how much versus how little to amputate (ugh, that word). We discuss traditional versus laser surgical options. We understand the follow-up visits and medication and what will likely be MJ’s journey back to health.
We tried. It sounds so lame, but we did our best. This is our mantra. We did our best. We’re not electing this procedure. It’s not cosmetic, it’s necessary.
And yet, we feel SO guilty. Like we’re somehow letting her down. During the week leading up to her surgery, James and I talk to each other. We put both dogs on the couch and try to explain to them what’s going on. We cuddle with MJ alone and try to make her understand.
“I would feel so much better about this if we could actually explain this to her and know she understands. She doesn’t get a say in the matter.”
“Yes, but we’re her voice. And we tried.” There’s that sentiment again.
We (I) call the vet and ask all sorts of questions:
– Is this going to change her personality? (Probably not)
-Are you sure there’s nothing else we can do? (You’ve done what you can. This is the next step.)
-Do other furparents feel this guilty? (You feel worse about it than she will. And we’ll do a good job managing her discomfort.)
-Are we doing the right thing? (Yes)
-Will this impact her balance or mobility at all? (Nope)
-Can I keep the bit of tail you remove? (Uh….)
I take a video of her tail as evidence that she once had one.
The morning of her surgery , I drop Miss off at the vet on my way to work. James gets a text message letting him know that the package has been delivered. And then we wait…
To be Continued, again.
MJ’s annual vet check-ups and boosters occur in April. It’s sort of a big deal for her: she sits up front in the car, looking out the window, jamming along to the radio. She wiggles her way through the parking lot, charming all of the macho-men with their neon sneakers and mesh shorts as they strut to and from the Gold’s Gym next door.
The Vet Techs know Miss is coming, and they’re ready to pounce with snuggles and squees and cameras and treats. She gladly rolls to her back to proudly display her tummy for rubs, giving kisses to anyone her tongue can reach. Thwap thwap thwap goes her tail on the floor, against the legs of the waiting room chairs, the corner of the exam table, and the shins of doctors, techs and other patients. She’s happily in her element.
Little does she know that in 15 minutes, after she’s poked and prodded and injected and rewarded, she going to have her nails trimmed. It will take three vet techs to hold her down. She wails and fights, but wiggles her tail the entire time. Weirdo.
During this struggle, the tip of her whip-of-a-tail splits open, splattering red along the walls, the floor, my jeans, the vet. As she’s released from her veterinary hug, she bounds about the exam room, tail flapping, banging on every surface as she leaves a crime scene behind her. This has never happened before. She needs to be sedated in order for the vet to clean up her tail and survey the damage.
I’m sent next door to a diner for a snack, where I send James a text message with this picture:
45 minutes later I pick up my groggy girl. She’s wearing a plastic test tube stuffed with gauze on her tail to provide some protection, and it clicks as she weakly thumps it when she sees me. Anti-inflammatories and pain killers and cleaning instructions are distributed.
I carry her to the car. She curls up on the passenger side floor, whimpering the entire ride home.
Once home, she neatly tucks into a chair and sulks woozily.
Thus begins our year of Happy Tail.
To be continued….