I had one of those moments today where I was forced to make a choice in a split second. I had one of those moments when neither option is really what I want but the confines of time and the number of arms I have forces me to choose. I did the “right thing.” But it didn’t feel good. It did not feel good at all. And my heart still hurts.
I have told the story here before of how I fell in love with Fisher. I have admitted that he sleeps in my bed with me. But I have never spoken of the way he tears my heart out of my chest every so often, mostly because I like to try and forget.
He will hop down from the bed and then be unable to move. Or he will be in the midde of jumping up on to the couch and he will collapse. A seizure, says the vet. They do not happen often enough to establish any kind of pattern. Blood work comes back fine. No known cause.
His legs crumble beneath him. He begins to pant and drool. His eyes look deep in to mine as if he is frightened. He doesn’t move. It lasts for a minute, maybe two. If I am alone with him I hold him in my arms and tell him that I love him and that he is okay, that he is safe. If I am with MQD or my ex-husband I bawl and sob and say “Is he okay? Do you think he is okay?” repeatedly until I am kicked out of the room. (I will wait here while you make a mental note – Kelly in a crisis, bad idea unless she is the only adult present.)
This afternoon marked the first time that Fish had an episode while I was alone with him. Alone with him and Lucy.
Fish and Lucy like to look out the window in the afternoon and wait for the school bus. When it is warm they stand at the door. When it is cold they stand and look over the back of the couch. Today we were all snuggled on the couch, Fish with his feet over the back of the couch, Lucy Goose right next to him. They were watching, waiting for the school bus. They might have stayed just like that for the thirty minutes it would take for Emily to get home. I considered reaching back behind me to grab my phone and take a picture of these two but I feared my movement would disrupt this quiet calm. So, I just watched them.
And then his legs folded under him and he curled in to himself. Lucy was quick to take advantage of this chance to climb on to his back. And this was my moment. My split-second “what the hell should I do now?” moment. I wanted to take my sweet ten-year-old boy in my arms and hold him, shh-shh him and tell it was going to be okay. He was scared, he is just an animal.
In that moment, though, we were all animals. All three of us. And I chose Lucy. I don’t think I should get a medal for having the presence of mind to grab Lucy and hold her away from my ailing dog. Anyone with a pet knows that a good dog, even a great dog can be squirrelly when they are frightened. I could pet his head. I could shh-shh him but I could not hold him in my lap. I could not hold him because I had this wild thing of a 13 month-old in my lap instead. And my heart broke in to a million pieces.
Those big brown eyes. The same eyes I fell so hard and fast for long before I became a mother they tore a hole straight through me. ”It’s okay, big boy. I am right here. I am just keeping Lucy Goosey safe, baby boy, keeping her from bugging you, okay? But I am right here, I promise, I am right here.”
I must have told him in a thousand different ways that I wasn’t going anywhere and that I was just holding on to Lucy to keep her from bothering him. But I knew even as the words were falling from my mouth that it was not completely true. My big boy was hurting. And I was protecting my baby.
It was the “right thing.” But it did not feel good. It did not feel good at all.
Minutes went by and his breathing steadied. I sobbed the ugly tears on the phone and Fish calmed down. So, eventually, did I. The school bus came at 2:37 and Fisher jumped off the couch like nothing was wrong. Cautiously, I opened the door. He’d either take a few steps and slow down and I would know that this time, this time was different, or he’d leap off the porch to cover his big girl with kisses.
He leapt off the porch. I leaned against the door frame and watched those two run up the front hill, all zig-zag across the flower beds. Lucy pressed her face against the storm door waiting for them to come up the front steps. And just like that today was exactly the same as every other afternoon.
So help me, if these kids are not the death of me, this dog will be.