Only Someone Who Has Chronic Pain or Illness Knows…

“Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”
~ Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor

 

I’ve been unwell since my teens.

There have been so many diagnoses. (I won’t list them all here, although perhaps I should.)

I’ve pursued so many kinds of treatments. (Really. In over thirty years of continuous concerted effort I’ve done more kinds of diets, therapies, herbals, treatments, drugs and totally-out-there-hokey-but-I’m-doing-it-because-desperate regimes than I care to mention. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth. And I’m still here. So some of it must have worked.)

There have been times where I have only been able to see myself through the prism of loss.

But that’s soul-destroying. It makes you die while you are still alive. And I want to live. So mostly I choose to view my life by framing it up around what I can do, rather than what I can’t.

I have read deeply and widely, in order to get an inside angle on my health. I have come to understand my body better. I have become a master at hiding or managing disability and at creating a life that works on my terms. Mostly.

Some days a pain comes. Or some other symptom. After which I spend hours backtracking and investigating. Was it because of something I ate? A chemical? Lack of sleep? A million other possibilities? Did I do this to myself or make things worse? I’ve lost days to this kind of hypervigilance. It never helps, although it can gift me a temporary illusion of control.

I have a long, long list every single day – of pains and problems and freakish symptoms which it long ago became too boring to mention, even to myself. Mostly it is background noise in my life. I live with pain. I live with the kind of things that would have other folk rushing off to the doctor. After a lifetime of discussing them with doctors and having no resolution these kinds of things become your new normal, and then, eventually, just part of your life.

Mostly, just like other people with chronic or terminal illnesses, I have continued to look quite unremarkable on the outside. Maybe just a bit tired sometimes, or a bit puffy or drawn or pale.

Image from www.wallls.ru

Image from www.wallls.ru

These days I’m actually doing much better. Especially after two solid years of horrendous antibiotic therapy for Lyme. After major surgery last year ( and then the superbug I acquired) and an avalanche of new drugs (and some old favourites) and then Chinese herbs, essential oils, modified diet (again!) and intravenous vitamin C.

I feel like I’ve turned a corner. I can function better, I have more energy than I’ve had in years. Life is opening out a little more for me. People comment on how well I look.

Although that better is comparative.

I still can’t drive. My vision is still impaired. I still need early nights and nana naps to get through the day. I have a horrible startle reflex. When I’m tired. I lose words. I sound like. A badly. Edited film. With pauses and breaks in. All the wrong places. Because. Brain not working properly.

I’m still immuno-compromised. (And please, will you quit rolling your eyes and commenting about how it always seems to be one thing after another with me? Yes, that’s true. Because I am immuno-compromised after so many decades of illness. The bugs that barely register with you or that inconvenience you for a few days still have the power to take me down, or even out. Don’t visit me when you’re sick. Wash your hands more. Practice good hygiene. Rant over.) Incontinence issues? Yep. Not quite nailed the superbug? Yep. Foods that send me spiralling into misery? Yep. Exhaustion? Yep. Pain that wakes me up and keeps me up? Yep. No libido? Yep. Tendon stiffness that sees me hobble when I get out of bed, or up off a chair after sitting for a while? Yep. Pay for increased activity levels with increased night-time pain and exhaustion the next day? Yep.

Yep.

Still, I have coping strategies, and meditation, and healing foods and emergency triage treatments. I have a wonderful local GP and acupuncturist. I have an incredible husband who is my full-time carer (although I hate to think of it like that, it’s the truth.) I have a beautiful group of friends and an online community who lift me up every day.

My life is good. It’s precious and wonderful and I am grateful for every breath.

Mostly.

I am one of millions just like me. People living with or despite conditions and illness. We’re doing our best. For some of us that’s actually pretty messy and awful at times. Most of which you won’t ever see. Some of us can’t get help. Some of us aren’t believed. Some of us don’t have the financial resources or the energy or education or support to even try to get past what ails us. Some of us will fail, decline, die despite help and treatment. Some of us have trajectories that are all downhill.

So, what can you do?

If you’re one of the millions, try to find some small thing each day to focus gratitude upon. Look at what you can do. That’s a big ask at times, but I’ve come to realise that what we focus on magnifies. I’d rather focus on the pleasure of savoring a cup of tea than on the fact I can’t see the bloody thing clearly anymore. When I focus on what still works and what’s still good, peace comes to me. You can heal or endure when you’re peaceful, more than you ever can when you are stressed or angry. (I know this from experience, but I won’t say ‘trust me’ – it’s better if you experience this yourself too, so that you can own it as truth in your body rather than just a concept in your mind.)

If you’re not one of the millions yet, know that it’s entirely possible that one day you might be.

If you’re not one of the millions, please stop pandering that New Age drivel to us about how this is all a beautiful learning experience, or that our souls chose this, or that we somehow created it, or perpetuated it. Or how we can turn this into a wonderful soul-growth opportunity. Or that God only gives us what we can handle. Don’t hang that judge-y guilt-trip on us. It’s not helpful and it’s not kind. Especially when we are having a bad day, which, incidentally, may be invisible to you. If you are one of the millions, stop hanging that guilt-trip on yourself.

Know that if a vegan, paleo, superfoods, raw diet, prayerful contemplation, soul-searching, vibration lifting, better exercise routine, detox or no-negative-thoughts regime actually worked for everyone there would be no more cancer or depression or chronic illness, or genetic abnormality or disorder already.

Don’t hang judgement on us when the network-marketing-product, special diet, cleanse-in-a-box, worked-for-your-neighbour or someone-you-read-about-online cure, doesn’t work so well with us. Or when we just don’t want to try one of those things. Again. For whatever reason.

Don’t tell us we’re heroes or warriors. We’re only dealing with the hand we’ve been dealt. Don’t tell us that you don’t know how you’d ever cope or that we’re incredible the way we are coping. Some days we don’t cope. Don’t perpetuate the myth of the incredible brave-warrior-ill-person. It’s just one more pressure we don’t need.

Please don’t treat us like we’re invisible. Please keep including us and inviting us. Even when we’re unreliable, or can only attend for a short while or not in the way you (or we) would prefer.

Unless you’re going to be mean or judge-y. In which case it’s actually better if we’re invisible.

Let’s not hide illness and disability anymore. Let’s bring it out into the open where it belongs, instead of shaming ourselves and each other around our perceived frailties and failings.

Every single one of us will know illness or injury or critical failure of something we had previously taken for granted at some stage in our lives.

Let’s treat this with kindness. Kindness isn’t a cure, but it’s a very helpful medicine.

Holding you in my prayers and meditations,

Nicole ❤ xoxo

Sneaking Back to Bed

“Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired.
Smile, even when you’re trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision.
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy.
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to.
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see.
Frolic, even when you are made fun of. Kiss, even when others are watching. Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what the dreams might bring.
Run, even when it feels like you can’t run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience—you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don’t live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.”
~ Alysha Speer

 

I’ve had a big few days, lovelies.

A big month actually, between having intensive IV therapy to combat my superbug, and doing a load of readings and coaching for clients, and of hand-holding souls at the end of their lives, and of supporting people I care about through hard times.

This morning I woke up after a restless night, did my healing meditation for the world and all my loved ones (that includes you!) and then thought I would write my blog and get onto my avalanche of unanswered emails and messages that keeps growing while I have been busy attending to more urgent matters.

But I changed my mind.

My husband is sleeping in a dark, cool room. Harry dog has snuck up beside him.

And I am still tired.

So I am going back to bed for some more sleep and cuddles with my loved ones.

Because that’s what self-care looks like.

I hope you are looking after yourself too!

Hugs and love, Nicole ❤ xx

Saving Dudley Dog!

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.” ~  John Grogan

 

Australia is in the grip of a ferocious heatwave right now. Late yesterday afternoon I lay down on my bed in our air-conditioned bedroom, thoroughly exhausted and grateful to be in the cool. I’ve worked a few big days, and been on call outside work hours too. So many people have been affected by the moon, and the energies of February. It’s been a time of high stress and peak transformation for many. Even my spare hours have been crowded with lending support to others. But that’s okay – it’s why I’m here.

As I was almost asleep I heard a loud but insistent voice. A squeaky, childlike voice.

“Wake up, wake up!” the voice said. “Dudley Dog is in trouble.”

It was my fairy friend, Sokli. She sounded quite agitated.

“Hurry up,” she said. “You have to call his mum. He’s too, too hot and there’s no water and no shade and he’s in big trouble. You have to help him NOW!”

Immediately I thought of a friend, and her dog Dudley. But she would never leave her old dog out in the backyard in a heatwave! I struggled to think who Sokli might be talking about.

“You know his mum,” she said. “The Jo Anne Lady. She just moved houses and she isn’t allowed to have a dog inside. You have to call her!”

Suddenly I did remember a Joanne lady who I haven’t talked to for over a year, possibly longer? Yes, that was the one. I turned on my computer and found her phone number. Joanne was still at work in the middle of the city, and surprised that I was calling her. Did she have a dog called Dudley? Yes, she did, a German Shepherd cross. He was a rescue dog, about four years old. She’d had him for six months and he was the love of her life. How did I know? Joanne’s surprise soon turned to panic as I told her he was having problems with the heat. She promised me she would leave work straight away and go home to her pet.

I hadn’t been off the phone ten minutes when Sokli began yelling in my ear again.

“TOO SLOW. SHE’S TOO SLOW! She has to hurry up or Dudley won’t make it!”

I called Joanne back. She was just leaving work, and still had to catch a bus and then walk the rest of the way home. The trip would take an hour. Maybe more if the traffic was bad.

Joanne moved to this house last weekend, after taking a transfer to a new city. She hadn’t met the neighbours yet. She didn’t know anyone who could check on her dog for her. “Call the RSPCA,” I urged her, “or your closest vet. I promise, it’s a genuine emergency.”

That was all I could do. I did a healing meditation for Dudley, and I called on every energy and entity I could think of to help him until someone turned up at his door. I put a post on my facebook wall, asking my friends to send love and energy to him and his mum too. I figured it would help both Dudley dogs and both mums.

Late last night Joanne rang me back. Someone from the vet’s office had rushed to Joanne’s house and found Dudley collapsed in the back yard. He was dangerously dehydrated and in severe heat distress. If they had found Dudley even an hour later they may not have been able to save him.

Joanne had left two bowls of water out for Dudley before she went to work, and he had a doghouse to shelter in too. But in a heatwave a doghouse becomes like a sauna – and offers no protection from the heat at all. In the late afternoon Dudley had absolutely no shade, and his water was long gone.

Image from www.vetary.com

Image from www.vetary.com

Joanne texted me again this morning. Dudley is being moved from intensive care, and they expect he will make a full recovery. The vets are quite amazed at how well Dudley has bounced back. What a lucky thing that Sokli was paying attention yesterday afternoon, and that so many caring people sent love and energy Dudley’s way. Thank you to all of you who helped. I know it made a difference!

Please, if you are experiencing a heatwave or a hot day, think of your animals and do all you can to provide them with a cool shady place to rest, and lots of water in multiple locations in case one gets knocked over. Shell baths with water or ice are good too. If possible, let your pets come into the cool of the house until the heatwave has passed.

There are some excellent suggestions for keeping your pets cool here.

It’s also a kindness if you can leave bowls of water out for the birds and the wildlife. Everyone is affected by this kind of heat.

Thank you again, and lots of love from Sokli and I,

Nicole ❤ xx

Picture Zak Simmonds - from The Townville Bulletin

Picture Zak Simmonds – from The Townville Bulletin

Rain, Birdbaths and Melbourne Breakfast Tea

birdbath

“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.”
~ Victor Hugo

 

Yesterday was Friday.

Friday in our household is also now our official Nicole and Ben Day.

It’s a day that we have chosen to dedicate to spending as a couple. Not a day of leisure – that’s what our Unplugged Sunday is for. Nicole and Ben Day is a day where we sit together and talk about our plans. We discuss our long-term dreams and goals, and our shorter-term projects. We talk work. We talk farm stuff.

It’s a day for doing things together. Home maintenance, tax, business and creative projects. We get to go on expeditions – yesterday it was a trip to the Farmers Markets, and then into Lismore, our closest big town, so that we could visit an office supplies chain, the rural produce store and do a quick grab of some dry goods groceries. Which also meant lunch at Steve’s Bakery! (One massive cheese and salad sandwich and one egg and lettuce sandwich and a pot of tea for two to share – deluxe!)

Friday’s also a day where we can just be together.

I’m tired right now from all of these treatments I’m on. So after our busy morning we made a pot of tea (Melbourne Breakfast – it’s a robust black tea with a hint of smooth vanilla) and sat on the veranda, watching the rain and relaxing with Harry Dog at our feet.

There is a birdbath under the jacaranda tree, just across from where we sit. It’s one of my great pleasures, watching all the birds come down to drink and to bathe. All spring and into summer it has been unseasonably dry here at the farm. Ben or I have hauled a hose over to refill that birdbath every day. But the last two days there has been enough rain to fill it for us.

And finally, after I got my hands into the dirt and planted new seedlings in the rain yesterday afternoon, we went for a swim while it rained. The rain was cold. The pool was warm. It was glorious.

But what was most important was that we had an entire day to consciously connect, and to talk about and work on what matters most to us.

How about you? Do you have dedicated time for yourself, or time for being with your partner or family members, where you can deepen communication and focus on personal projects and plans? I highly recommend this as a practice.

Sending much love to you, on the wings of happy-dancing birds, Nicole ❤ xx

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Unexpected Gifts – Nurse Bert!

Kerry Warnholtz

The talented Kerry Warnholtz, on a recent photo and video shoot at our farm.

“Acts of Kindness:
A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.”
~ Roy T. Bennett

 

It’s been a hard few weeks, with the loss of our precious dog Bert.

It’s also been rough because I am still fighting the antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection that I picked up in hospital last year. It’s manifested as a persistent urinary tract infection that has made my life quite miserable. Right now I’m on aggressive treatment, which is working, but which also involves regular IV therapy, acupuncture and lots of herbs and essential oils.

So you can imagine that I have been feeling a little glum…

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Ben and Harry and I have been greatly buoyed by all of your kind comments and love, and the outpouring of stories you’ve shared with us of your own pets and loved ones.

Thank you. ❤

It has made a tough time more bearable.

I also received two other gifts on Wednesday which have overwhelmed us with their kindness.

The first was a little book, made by my thoughtful friend Monique Sinclaire. Inside were a collection of pictures of Bert which she must have found online. In an act of deep synchronicity the photo at the beginning and end of the book were the same ones I chose for the beginning and end of Wednesday’s blog about Bert’s passing. Thank you, Monique. We’ll treasure this!

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The other was a short video, made by the ever-kind Kerry Warnholtz. Kerry is an incredibly gifted and heart-centered photographer and videographer. Last year Kerry spent a week at our farm and one of my retreats to shoot footage for a short documentary for me. The aim of the documentary was to capture the work and care we put into preparing for and running our retreats.

I’ll show you the results soon. It’s wonderful!

Of course Kerry shot oodles of footage. Of everything. And somewhere in all of that she had the sweetest piece of video, of Ben, me and Nurse Bert, in the back yard at the end of the day, as we all enjoyed a cup of tea and the leftover treats from our photo shoot. (A big shout out to Jessie and Andrew from Home Amongst The Green, whose delicious treats feature on the plate that Bert can’t take his eyes off!)

It was such a glorious and unexpected wonder, to look at our beautiful boy once more, being his irrepressible food-oriented self. Watch his eyes, which tell you quite repeatedly that he would like a treat please!

Thank you, Kerry. It made us laugh and cry, and all of that is good medicine.

If you’re ever looking for someone to capture the heart and soul of your family or business in images, look no further than Kerry. I can’t recommend her highly enough. You can find her at Truth Seeker Images Multimedia.

And here he is, Nurse Bert, one more time…

Death Of A Friend – Saying Goodbye to Bert

Nurse Bert

“We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan.”
~ Irving Townsend

 

And so it seems that for the next installment in my Wednesday series on death and dying that I shall be writing about something very raw and close to home…

On Sunday January 15 at 4am Ben and I made one of the hardest decisions we have yet made for our little family. We chose to euthanise our darling dog, Bert.

It was an entirely unexpected place to find ourselves in. Although, if you have read last Monday’s post, you will see that I was in fact forewarned, after having chosen the oracle card for the week ahead earlier on Saturday morning. A card that I discounted and put down, so that later I might choose another, better card.

That card was such a portend; a heartbroken woman, tears running down her face, cradling in her arms her dead dog – the little ginger pup with the red collar.

Grief

Who would have thought on a sunshiny Saturday morning, with our two dogs Harry and Bert well and happy and flourishing, that by Saturday evening it would all be going horribly downhill for one of them?

Dear readers, this is so often the way death finds us and our loved ones. This is the way the world is. One moment life is fine and normal. The next moment everything is different. Changed forever.

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Our Saturday started as Ben and I grabbed a coffee and the weekend papers in town then headed home to sit on the veranda. We did some writing together before the heat of the day while Bert and Harry sat at our feet, went off for a little wander, and then came back to the shade again.

The farm is in the grip of a heatwave. As I sat down mid-morning to do a little prep work and then start a day of skype readings with clients the boys all retreated to our air-conditioned bedroom – the one cool room in the house. Bert stayed there all day, happy on the bed. Harry and Ben did a little farm work and then came back to the bedroom. It was just too hot for anything!

When I finished work just before 6pm we all headed up to the pool. While Ben and I swam Harry and Bert ran around the edges, following us. Eventually Bert tired of the game and lay down. He’d only been lying there a few minutes when he stood up suddenly. He was violently ill. After which he pooed everywhere and began to shake. Bert looked at me and our eyes locked. I got a terrible cold feeling and a sense of certainty that he was going to die. He collapsed in front of me.

It all happened in seconds.  But even now those seconds feel like hours. I called to Ben that something was wrong and we jumped out of the pool and hurried to Bert’s side. Ben thought he might have eaten something. I was sure it was more urgent than that.

I ran back to the house, my heart pounding, and began to ring the local vets. Frantically I called vet after vet. Most were on holidays. No-one answered the phone. Finally, on the sixth call a vet in Lismore, a thirty minute drive away, picked up. If we came straight away she would meet us at the clinic. By this time Ben had brought Bert down to the house. Our beloved dog was lying on our bedroom floor, his gums pale, his breathing laboured, his heart beat erratic, his body twisted with pain.

I was sure it was a snake bite.

Leaving Harry in our room, Ben carried Bert to the ute and placed him in the back seat, where I climbed in beside him to cradle his head and comfort him as Ben drove us to get help.

Our poor dog. He was in a bad way, and as I felt his heart race and slow and flutter beneath my fingers it was all I could do to stay calm. I poured every ounce of love I had into him, and told Bert stories to keep him quiet and listening to my voice.

While our world spun, life went on as normal for most everyone else. Families came to the dinner table, or sat in front of television. People went about their lives. This is how it is when your world is falling apart. Other people’s lives are progressing as they always have. The only sky that falls is yours. It’s as if you move into a parallel dimension.

The vet was young and inexperienced. She was not sure what to do. She kept walking out of the surgery room, leaving us alone for long periods of time. It did not instill us with confidence.

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It took several goes for her to find a vein. She did a coagulation test, and told us it wasn’t a snake bite. She thought our sick dog might have eaten something. Meanwhile Bert was increasingly distraught, and then began to poo an acrid foaming mess of faeces and blood. The vet thought she might give Bert a drip and then leave him alone in the clinic overnight, after which the senior vets could assess him and give him some scans the next morning.

Our dog was shaking and moaning and the vet wanted to leave him alone and unattended in a cage all night.

Ben asked for other options. The vet suggested an emergency vet hospital on the Gold Coast. But less than an hour further up the road and we could be back in Brisbane, with a place to sleep, and close to our trusted family vet come Monday morning. As soon as the drip was in place we paid the bill and Ben carried Bert out to the car, our plan already decided.

I sat in the back with Bert’s head on my lap, wads of towels under him to catch the stinking bloody waste that kept oozing from him. We strapped the drip to the door frame and raced away.

Ben hugged the speed limit as he drove us home to the farm. The familiar country roads went by in a blur. Night fell. It was still stinking hot, and I was grateful that the car was cool and quiet.

At home one of us stayed with Bert while we took turns picking up Harry Dog and locking the house and sheds. I grabbed a bottle of essential oil and my computer. There was no time for anything else.

We were soon on our way again. Ben concentrated on the road, and Harry Dog sat in the front seat, twisted around so that he could see Bert and I, his eyes worried and fretful.

I rubbed Peace and Calming Oil (the same one I used when I helped my friend Angela to pass) on my hands and then let Bert breathe it in. I rubbed it along his spine. It took away his agitation and helped him to settle. It helped me too.

I noticed everything. The velvety feel of Bert’s muzzle, the raggedness of his breathing, Harry’s gentle and frequent sighs, the steady drip of the saline from the bag into the tube that was bandaged to Bert’s leg.

As we drove I patted Bert, and talked to him. I breathed in his pain, and breathed out love. I thought about the fact that here we suddenly were, pushing ourselves on this frantic journey to get help for our loved one – enroute to an excellent animal medical facility. I was monitoring Bert’s drip, we were safe, and yet there were so many people in the world in that same moment who did not have the care, attention or even the rudimentary treatments afforded our dog.

Bert settled under my touch and rested. But his eyes tracked our movements and he did not sleep. If I stopped patting him or talking to him he nudged me until I began again. He seemed unaware of the smells and the ooze. He became peaceful. Almost content. I filled the car with gentle talk about burgers and walks and adventures and lots of food stories. Bert loved his food, and burgers most of all.

When we arrived at the veterinary hospital it was just before midnight. Ben went ahead to get help and soon orderlies came with a stretcher. They carried Bert away, Ben following, while Harry and I stayed with the car.

As soon as the heavy doors shut and we could no longer see them, Harry began to whimper. I could not quieten him. He did not want me to put essential oil on him. I understood. He wanted to feel his feelings. He did not want to be pacified. Eventually the whimper became a howl. I crawled onto the front seat beside him and held him in my arms. I couldn’t cry, so Harry did for us. Nothing I did gave him any comfort. It was awful.

Ben took forever. Enough time for me to wipe up most of the shit and the blood from myself and the car. Enough time for me to use the remains of a bottle of water to clean things as best I could and to dump all the filthy towels into a vet waste bin.

Finally Ben returned and beckoned us to come inside. The vets had suggested that we bring Harry too, so we clipped him onto a leash and he trotted in beside us.

Reception was similar to a hospital waiting room. While Bert was being attended to by the vet team a nurse brought me a cup of tea. Ben couldn’t stomach one. We sat in uncomfortable chairs and waited, Harry lying pressed against our feet. Above us the minutes ticked by on a gigantic clock.

Then they brought me Bert’s big red leather collar, which I stuffed into my bag.

Ben kept one hand on me, and one hand on Harry. Somehow his hands steadied us enough that we could breathe again and be calm.

The night dragged on.

The emergency vet came and talked to us. The young country vet in Lismore had not forwarded Bert’s test results and records like she had promised us. They were running new tests but it was clear that Bert was a very, very ill boy. I asked if she could run the snake venom panel again, and the vet told us that the first test in Lismore would have been done too soon, and therefore was possibly unreliable. The best way to test would be with urine, but they’d need to insert a catheter. Bert was dangerously dehydrated so they were currently pumping him full of fluid. The vet agreed that it looked like snakebite, but the tests would take at least an hour. She was quietly reassuring. They were getting things under control.

I still felt cold to my core. It didn’t seem real and at the same time every detail was seared into my memory. I was certain we were losing him.

The vet went back into the surgery to do her work and a nurse took us to another room where we began filling in forms and giving our credit card details.

Finally we were asked to come through into the big, airy treatment room. There were several dogs in crates, most of them sleeping. There was medical equipment everywhere, and teams of people in scrubs working at lab stations.

It was three in the morning and Bert was now resting on a comfy bed in a large open cage on floor level. The nurses had given him a pillow for his head and a stuffed toy to keep him company. The vet was sitting beside him on the floor.

Harry went over and licked his face and cried a little. Bert rallied and licked him back. Suddenly Harry pulled away and went and sat on his own with his back to us, near the door. Ben and I gave Bert cuddles and hugs, and told him what a good boy he was and how much we loved him.

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The vet staff urged us to go home. Bert was stable, they had given him pain meds and he was getting dopey. Soon he would sleep. They would call us as soon as they had any results. We could come back and see him in the morning.

One final round of cuddles and we did go home. We scrubbed ourselves clean under long hot showers and then slid into bed, worried and exhausted.

We’d only just gotten to sleep when the phone rang. It was 4am. The vet had news. She had decided to do an ultrasound of Bert’s belly while they waited for the snakebite kit. She’d found a large mass on his spleen that was bleeding heavily into his abdomen. Then the snakebite test had come back positive. Bert needed urgent surgery for the mass, but his blood wasn’t clotting because of the snakebite. If she attempted surgery in his current state he’d bleed out.

He was bleeding out anyway.

On top of that it was likely he had damage from the snake venom. Heart damage. Nerve damage.

The vet was distraught but professional. She began talking surgeries, transfusions, risks, medications. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Months. Pain management.

Everything was risk. Everything was a gamble. All of it would mean more suffering for our beautiful boy. But she could try.

Meanwhile Bert was resting comfortably, finally asleep from the pain meds and a sedative.

So, Ben and I told her we’d call her back.

We sat on the bed with Harry beside us and we didn’t even need to talk. We just looked at each other and both of us shook our heads, tears running down our faces. It was enough. We couldn’t let him suffer.

So we called her straight back and asked her to euthanise him. We didn’t want for him to have to wait for us to travel to see him one more time (although we wanted to, but that was about our needs, not Bert’s), or to wake him up when he was finally calm and asleep. The vet explained that it was easy for her to do. She just needed to add a little extra medication to his drip. The vet promised us that she would hold him and stay with him until he passed. She had been unable to be with one of her own animals a few weeks before when her elderly pet had taken ill and had needed to be put to sleep. It was something she wanted to do now for Bert. I knew she would help Bert to feel loved, and one more time Nurse Bert got to comfort and support someone in need.

Because that’s what our beautiful dog always did. He loved you and stayed with you and looked after you until he was sure you were okay again.

It’s been ten days now.

Our home feels emptier.

Harry Dog is pining and clingy.

There’s too much room on the bed.

If I drop food on the floor it stays there.

Even though we are grieving our hearts are full, because this goofy dog who came into our lives when I found him abandoned and near death one hot summer afternoon – in a cardboard box at a suburban shopping centre – turned out to be one of the greatest friends we’ve even known.

We’d had him nine years almost to the day.

Nurse Bert. Our dog. Our friend. ❤

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A Quiet Wednesday Today

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“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

 

Wednesday is my day for posting about death and dying.

Today just happens to be Ben’s birthday as well.

And for us, death and dying just came right to our front door, with the recent heartbreaking and sudden loss of our dear friend, Nurse Bert, the bestest and goofiest dog we have ever known.

I have tried, but I still can’t bring myself to tell you what happened yet. It was a little like being in a war zone for those last few hours of Bert’s life. We are still running on adrenaline and not enough sleep. We’re all still bruised and traumatised and too numb. We’re all still raw and feeling too much and not numb enough.

That’s what death brings to those who remain. A deep grief and sorrow. A total disorientation. An ocean of feeling and a desperate need to be able to find a way to navigate that ocean without our flimsy crafts being tossed around and going under.

On top of all of which I am undergoing procedures to help settle this intractable antibiotic-resistant UTI, which has been making life a misery.

While enduring a heatwave.

And with a dog left behind who is mourning the loss of his brother hard, and for whom there is currently only sadness in this world. Poor Cafe Dog, our sweet Harry, needs extra cuddles and care right now.

So, today we are having a very quiet day at home. We might just retreat to the only room with air-con – the bedroom – and all have a cuddle and a cry and try to catch up on some sleep.

Thank you so much for your outpouring of love and support. It has been such a comfort to us all.

Hug your loved ones, and be kind to yourselves and each other, today and always,

Much love to you from Nicole, Ben and Harry xx

Vale, Good Sir Bertle, the most distinguished Nurse, companion and burger connoisseur.

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Nurse Bert