I dropped Bruno at the vet this morning. It’s been two months that he’s been with us; two months since his heartworm-positive diagnosis. Today was the day we’ve been waiting for….and dreading: the first “kill” shot of his treatment. I am so grateful for the time we have had with him until now. So grateful for how sharing space with us (and by “us” I most certainly mean to include his doggy pack) has enabled him to ease away from his worries about life, has left room for him to reveal who he is underneath and after all…in spite of what life has thrown him.
Bruno is a good pup who wants very much to be loved. But, first and foremost — like most animals who have experienced abandonment, neglect, or abuse — Bruno wants to feel safe. We have worked hard on that for him. Gordy has especially, because Bruno’s worries show up more with men. I can love on Bruno all day long and it doesn’t have half the impact on his mental health and development as when Gordy patiently sits, speaking softly, waiting until Bruno came to him. A man could not “tell” Bruno he is safe. That was for Bruno to decide and understand. Bruno is relieved, I think, now that he knows that. Every day he wakes up and it is the same; he is loved and he is safe.
I tell you all of this because I have worried that we are going to seismically shift that understanding with the treatment we have now irretrievably undertaken. The shot hurts like hell and, in its aftermath, he will hurt like hell and feel crappy for quite some time. It would not be unreasonable for him to become body-defensive — a tendency he had when he first came to us — to be concerned about being touched, believing that the touching will be to hurt him because he hurts already and doesn’t understand why. So we made the decision to get a soft muzzle for Bruno. It is to keep bad things from happening if I unintentionally bother him when I am handling him, controlling him, confining him as I must do now for the next two months. I feel so badly about this, like it is a mark of distrust, but it is not. I trust Bruno. It’s the pain I don’t trust and from that we both needed something to keep us safe.
Here is Bruno on the way to the vet. That boy is serious about his co-pilot responsibilities and this ride was no exception. He is carrying his muzzle like a little back pack, looking like the first day of school and I am supposed to be chin-up cheerful when what I really want to do is cry and keep my baby home with me.
There is only one path to better though, for Bruno, and that path includes this rough part. The vet called a bit ago and said he took the shot like a champ and is resting comfortably. They will observe him for the afternoon and I can pick him up at the end of the day. I am so grateful for my sister, Kim, who is with me and will help us get a routine figured out. I am especially grateful because her two little pups, Nissa and Nya, are very kind to Bruno. They seem to enjoy his company and, though he must be crated, I am hopeful they will continue to lend companionship to him during his long hours of downtime.
I am also hopeful that the rest of the pack, especially the maremmas, will rally around him. Maybe they will all take turns being on buddy shift.
The hardest part will be when I go down to the barn, morning and evening, for chores. Bruno loves the barn! For the last several days, I have been giving him an extra dose of time down there, including walking the pasture with me to bring in horses, a personal favorite of his.
It is startling to think his life for the next two months will look like this:
We have a fixed-floor, traditional crate as well, but I am hopeful about this arrangement. It is lightweight and I can lift it and place it over him which means all he has to do is settle in on a nice dog bed and I can do the rest. His outside options aren’t much more spacious, I’m afraid. No walking around, not even on a leash. He must be walked from his indoor crate to his outdoor pen and then marched right back again. Oh, how I feel for the little guy! Please, let this time go acceptably well for him!
There are so many bigger tragedies playing out right now in this world. I am especially mindful of the great impact Hurricane Harvey is having on the lives of people and animals; unspeakable devastation. It has started to rain here and the harder it comes down, the more my heart weeps for Texas; for what has been endured and for what is still to be faced. I have spent the afternoon exploring and making donations to rescue efforts. My choices have been animal-focused, but there is so much need, so many ways to extend support. In the meantime, I wait for Bruno. I send him warm thoughts and wish him to know with great certainty that I have not let go of him. He is safe. It is the one thing I can do. One pup. Bruno.