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Why having a sick dog is the same as having a sick child

“The only time that I can remember feeling like this is when my baby was born 10 weeks prematurely and spent two months in intensive care.”

If I had a regular out-of-the-home job I would have had to call in sick today. In fact I might have to take leave for the next four weeks and I’m just not sure how HR would respond if I had to tell them I needed leave to watch my dog sleep.
I’ll take a moment to acknowledge my privilege while I give you the back-story.
Henry is my dog, also known amongst family and friends as my second child. He is a 10-year old spoodle who is as high in maintenance as he is in beauty. But right now he is not well and the mother in me is having a really hard time coping.
With both a ruptured cruciate ligament and spinal problems, Henry is unable to stand, he is just lying on his fluffy bed being hand fed and occasionally taken outside in the hope he’ll be able to get his ablutions done before he’s cuddled up and taken back to his bed. It may not sound like he needs me to be at home with him but I can’t seem to separate my mind and my body. And Henry is taking up a whole lot of my mind.
The only time that I can remember feeling like this before is when my baby was born 10 weeks prematurely and spent two months in neo-natal intensive care growing, learning to breathe, fighting off infections and dealing with a hideous case of necrotising inter-colitis.
I remember having this same feeling of angst and anxiety that I am experiencing with my dog right now. While I am keenly aware of the difference between my child and my dog (my child is not covered in soft, golden fur) it hasn’t diminished the way I feel. And it’s not so much about the person (or pet) at the centre of the situation but the powerlessness I feel.
When my son was in hospital the awful truth was that I was no help to him in a practical way at all. Ventilators breathed for him and he was fed specialised nutrition through a tube. Even when I was able to express milk, human milk fortifier was added to my breast milk because he needed that extra bit to help him get stronger. Nurses handled him with love and care and a practiced skill that I felt I’d never master. I was a very loving onlooker with just presence and tears to offer.
I couldn’t even cuddle him as he was so small and fragile that just touching him would cause his oxygen levels to drop. If I could describe powerless to anyone that’s how I would define it; not being able to comfort your baby when they cry.
Many years have passed since that awful time and my son is now a strong, happy and healthy 15-year-old and I’m the only one bearing the scars. Maybe it is because of these scars that I’m feeling my dog’s sickness so profoundly.
I have a dog that loves and trusts me completely but doesn’t understand why he’s in pain or why I am allowing the vet to prod and poke him. I am consumed with love and worry for him but that’s not enough to make him better. I have to surrender to the vet and it’s hard to explain that to my dog.Maybe this is the way all people feel about their pets, or maybe I am just a neurotic (people who know me are nodding their heads) but my dog is as much a part of my family as my son is, although admittedly my son is a much better communicator.
It’s tough seeing someone you love in pain but I’m glad I have this opportunity to sit at home and watch him recuperate, even if he is desperately trying to find the words to say “do you really need to watch me sleep?”
And who knows, maybe in this time I’ll get over the trauma of my human son’s early days in the hospital and I can replace my anxiety with a whole new canine dimension.

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