Thursday, February 25, 2016

An Ordinary Day

Ranger much prefers to work the natural underbrush at the edge of a forest clearing, 
but in a pinch, he'll settle for a few manicured neighborhood shrubs. 

Today was an ordinary day.
Today was a momentous day.

For the first time since last Sunday, Ranger went for his daily walk.

* * * * *

We were still in the outbound leg of our ritual adventure when Ranger was attacked by another dog.

The dog was playing off-leash on a soccer field adjacent to our path.
He first encountered Ranger through the chain link fence. They sniffed each other without incident.
Then, ignoring his owner's commands, the dog ran to the exit, passed through the gate and doubled back to meet Ranger face-to-face on our side of the fence.

Without warning or cause, the larger dog jumped up and knocked Ranger to the ground.
He bit at Ranger's rear end many times.
His owner continued to call to him, but he did not obey.
The sounds of this chaos, including my own shouts and screams, were indescribable.

It was a horrible, violent scene.

After what seemed like hours, the owner hauled his dog off.
Ranger jumped up and ran a few paces away.
The man began to apologize to me, but then looked over my shoulder in horror.

Ranger was bleeding profusely.

My first fear was that a major artery had been cut.
But then I remembered his tumor.

Ranger's surgeon has explained to me that the large tumor growing on Ranger's back end is essentially a ball of blood, and if opened up, can result in uncontrollable blood loss and a quick death.

That's why he deemed Ranger's tumor inoperable.

In a flash, I realized that Ranger's tumor had been nicked in the attack and was now pulsing blood at a shocking rate - his back end was already drenched and he stood in a growing puddle of red.

Ranger's eyes met mine in a moment of shared horror. And then I flew into action.

I ripped off my trusty orange fleece jacket and commanded the stunned owner to put pressure on Ranger's rump.

I bent my knee and wedged my leg underneath my poor dog, who was clearly in shock, to hold him upright. He sagged against me. With one calming hand, I petted and soothed him, while my other trembling hand dialed my husband.

Come immediately. I said, strangely calm. This is an emergency. Ranger has been attacked and he is bleeding very badly.

Ranger laid limply across my lap during the drive as I kept pressure on his wounds. I did not expect him to survive.

At the emergency vet clinic, capable women strapped him to a transport board and whisked him away.

Then we waited.

* * * * *

An hour later, a doctor explained the damage. The injuries from the attack are not too bad, she said. But he has a big tumor, she said, which will inevitably lead to his demise.

Yes, I know all about his tumor, I said.

"One option is to euthanize him tonight," she said.

No, I said. Not tonight. We will give him a chance to recover.

"Fair enough," she said. "Then we need to keep him overnight to observe him."

No, I said. He's coming home tonight.

"If that's what you prefer," she said. "Give us a few hours to get him stitched and cleaned up."

* * * * * 

So, Sunday evening around ten p.m., we brought Ranger home.

He was weak, wobbly and exhausted. I laid on the floor next to him all night long as his tumor wounds slowly bled into the towels wrapped around his back half.

Things did not look good for Ranger.

But by the next morning, we noticed a change.

Ranger was still sore and spent, but the Irish twinkle in his eye still shined.

I noticed the hint of a spring in his step as he took his rounds in the back yard.
I watched as he quietly monitored the couch traffic, and cautiously made his move up to a coveted cushion when a spot opened up
I took in the familiar perk of his ears at the offer of a treat.

The bleeding eventually subsided.

Over the next few days, his strength and spirit have continued to gradually increase.

* * * * *

I've taken a hundred pictures of Ranger lying on the front lawn after a walk. 
And today, I'm thrilled to make it a hundred and one. 

Today has been the kind of warm February day that stirs hope in the hearts of winter people everywhere. I'm particularly susceptible to this form of spring fever and this afternoon, I threw open the windows, washed an avalanche of bloodied towels, and vacuumed up the messy rooms where Ranger has been nursed.

In that heady spirit of renewal and rebirth, I came to a certain conclusion. Ranger needs a walk, I decided, even if it's nothing more than a slow sniff around the front yard on the end of his short leash. My fourth born offered to accompany him, and the adventure went so well that they ambled down the street a bit, and came back to lounge a few moments in the sunny front yard.

And while it is hardly up to the standard of our typical afternoon outing, that ten-minute stroll is momentous in its own way.

Because after the events of this week, I am delighted to find that Ranger is having anything that remotely resembles an ordinary day..

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