Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!" - From "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by Robert Browning

Friday, May 11, 2012

Maggie Goes to the Veterinarian

There's something I have to tell you. I'm ashamed to tell you, but I have to tell you. I'm horrified that I let it happen, but I want to tell you about it so you can prevent it from happening to you. I don't know. Maybe this would never happen to you. Maybe it's just me, and I really am neglectful. I'm still going over that one in my head.

I've mentioned before how busy we stay here at 5~Acre Farm. My last post focused on that. Well, it's really easy, when you're busy, to see something (one more thing) that needs your attention and think to yourself, "I need to take care of that, but I don't have time right now," as you're running to your next responsibility. Then, the something you noticed slips your mind until you see it again. Then, when you see it again, you realize it's worse because you didn't take care of it when you first saw it, and the shame rises in you, but not nearly as profoundly as the sudden fear.

I think it was on Tuesday evening that I noticed our dog, Maggie, had a raw spot on her back, near her tail. It was only the size of a quarter, but it was raw. I was on my way out somewhere, and she was bouncing around quite a bit, so I told myself I'd look at it later. Then I forgot about it, even though I saw Maggie on Wednesday. But she looked fine, and was bouncing around as usual.

March, 2012
Maggie is around 12 years old, and came to us four years ago, along with Lucy, who is 15 years old. A close relative of mine lost her home in the mortgage mess that was going on back then, and we agreed to take her two dogs since she wouldn't be able to keep them anymore. She'd had the two dogs for more than 10 years, and it was terrible to think of them going to a shelter after so long in a family setting. Since John and I already knew Maggie and Lucy, and we loved them, bringing them to the farm was an easy decision to make.

Maggie is a favorite, and our most vocal yard-baby. She is always the first to greet us at the gate and announce our arrival home to all the other dogs. She practically sings, she is so vocal, and you'd swear you can hear her saying "I love you!" when she's going on so. As I'm opening the gates, it's common for Maggie to head-butt me in the rear-end, and then slide between my legs affectionately. It's her most emotional greeting, and I've become strangely accustomed to it. Maggie is a large dog, and very furry, but she isn't clumsy at all. In fact, she's very delicate and feminine in her ways. I could say so much more about this adorable dog, but let me just add this, that Maggie is a blessing, a beautiful blessing, and we thank God for the day she and Lucy came to live with us.

So, Maggie seemed okay on Wednesday. When I saw her, she seemed normal and fine, her usual self. I did spend a minute trying to look for the wound, but she wouldn't hold still, and I couldn't see anything, but I know now, I didn't look close enough. And that is why I feel so ashamed. I should have been more deliberate in checking Maggie out, even if she did seem fine.
At the Vet's office, Thursday evening

Thursday morning I had a doctor's appointment and left. Maggie wasn't there to see me off. When I came home, Maggie was the only dog who didn't show up to greet me. I was aware of her absence, but I kept moving, things to do, you know? Later, in the afternoon, John had to go out. I walked out with him and realized Maggie was nowhere to be seen, and I realized at that point that I had not seen her all day, and that was unusual. John had not seen her either. We both started looking for her. Our house and yard has a six foot chain link fence around it, so if she hadn't gotten out of the fence, she was somewhere in the yard. I soon sent John on his way so he wouldn't miss his appointment. A moment later I found Maggie under the front porch. She was sitting up against the foundation, looking at me, but she wouldn't come when I called her. Big sign to me that something was wrong.

I went inside and got some bologna to coax Maggie out from under the porch. When I came back, I went to the side of the porch where I would be closer to her, and that's when I saw them, the flies, swarming around her back, and I knew, dear God, I knew what was happening.

I got Maggie out from under the porch and she was able to walk with me. I took her inside and put her in the bathtub right away. I still couldn't see the wounds through her heavy fur, but I knew what was happening. I began pouring warm water down her back, and rubbing the area with a wet cloth. She sat there quietly letting me, looking at me with such trust in her eyes, but I knew she was in terrible pain. I didn't think the water was accomplishing much, so I ended up pouring two large bottles of hydrogen peroxide down her back where I thought the wounds were (I still couldn't see them).
Today, back shaved. Red area indicates infection
I called our Veterinarian's office for advice, and waited for the doctor to call me back. In the meantime, I called John too, and told him what was happening. He cancelled his meeting (which was a very important one), and he came right home. The vet's office called back, and I told them we were bringing Maggie in.

We were at the Vet's office at 5 p.m., and by now, Maggie couldn't walk. John and I put her in a blanket and carried her to the car rescue style (the way we'd learned in CERT training), then into the Vet's office and straight to the back where we put her in a tub. The assistant began shaving Maggie immediately (no small feat for the amount of fur she has); and here's the awful, shameful, disgusting part... Maggie's wounds were filled with maggots! That's what I knew when I saw the flies around her under the porch.

The doctor was so upset by what she saw, she wanted to accuse us of neglect, and I was so distraught, I almost let her, but I knew we'd missed it primarily because Maggie is an outside dog, and her fur is so thick. This whole incident had happened in less than 48 hours!
"She isn't out of the woods yet," the doctor told us. They had shaved most of Maggie's back, cleaned out all the maggots, and pumped her full of fluids and antibiotics.  If they didn't tell us that Maggie was too far gone to save, I thought they'd want to keep her overnight, but she was well enough to go home by 8 p.m., and it was an added blessing that her blood tests came back with positive results. The doctor didn't expect that at all!  We'd caught it in the very nick of time!
Resting at home this evening

Maggie is fighting a massive infection! She'll be on antibiotics and pain meds for a while, but she is showing strong signs of recovery. She spent last night and most of today just resting inside. This evening, she is walking around a bit, sitting, scratching, and doing normal dog things. Her appetite is good, and she is drinking sufficient amounts of water. She's able to go out to use the bathroom, and John or I have gone with her to make sure no more flies bother her. My dad even went out today and bought a liquid bandage (for dogs) to use on the wounds when she goes out.

We've got a follow-up visit with the veterinarian on Tuesday afternoon. I'm confident that Maggie will show marked improvement... at least, that is my prayer.

I am so grateful that Maggie has survived this ordeal. John and I have talked, and we realize that we need to stop letting the chaos of other people's lives, and unexpected events, take us away from our primary responsibilities here on the farm. What are our primary responsibilities? Each other and my dad, our animals, and then the house and land.

John and I have always had a tendency to drop what we're doing and run to the rescue of others in need. It's been our ministry in some respects. We have poured out ourselves and our resources for the sake of others. However, when doing so means that serious problems develop at home, because we aren't there to deal with them, then our ministry is tainted, and we aren't truly honoring God. We aren't being good stewards of those lives and the property that He has put in our care. Home is and should be, our primary ministry. Home is every Christian's primary ministry. We should work outwards from there.

Although John and I want to continue doing whatever we can to help those who call upon us, and others who are in need, we realize that it's time for us to pay more attention to our responsibilities at home; each other, my dad, our animals, and the house and land. In other words, we need to get our house in order, or we're not going to be any good to any one!

Things are not as important as life, any life. This is a really important piece of wisdom that busy people need to realize and hold on to when the tornadoes of life are carrying us away. Somehow, lately, I've let "things" distract me, and I haven't given adequate time to "life"; my yard-babies, my dad, my husband, and, frankly, myself.

If I don't take care of my car, and it dies, I can get another car. If I don't take care of my garden and it dies, I can plant more vegetables. But if I don't take care of the lives that have been placed in my care, and they die, they cannot be replaced, and their loss will be felt deeply and profoundly.

If you live a very busy life that tends to push you around a lot, I hope you are (or will be soon) making time to take care of life; your life, your family's lives, and your animals' lives (especially if you have a small farm, and those animals live outside all the time). Life is more important than anything, and it is meant to be appreciated, and enjoyed!

Time to change things up, don't you think?

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, its so brave of you to share this story. We had a similar (though less severe) incident with one of our dogs, who had a sore on her back that we noticed and then thought it was getting better and forgot about it, only to find it again later, and it had grown, and off we went to the vet. Lucky it was winter, so no flies, but we could so easily have had the same problem as you. It is very hard to keep up with everything that's going on, ok when everything goes to plan, but if an animal gets sick it can take so much extra time and work to look after it. Anyway, its so important that we share these stories and don't be ashamed, it was an accident and doesn't mean you love you pets any less (also I loved your explanation of Maggie's greetings, our dog does exactly the same, she makes so much noise, it makes me happy to be home with her).