Learning from Pain (and Puppies)

Last night, we had our first puppy crisis.

If you recall, life with Mojito is pretty wonderful – he’s curious, clever, clumsy, adventurous, and full of energy.

Although I’ll never understand quite how it happened, the puppy got his leg stuck between the last step of the tiny house we live in and the tiny house itself, leading to a deep gash on his right hind leg and a late-night visit to the vet for seven – seven! – stitches (so he officially 5-upped Francois, who got two stitches in his foot a few weeks ago, but that’s a different story).

If you’ve ever had a person or animal you love get hurt, you will know how that first cry of pain (and perhaps surprise) cuts through anything you are doing and both your heart and brain are instantly on high alert.

Mojito was uncharacteristically subdued when we brought him inside to see what had happened to his leg, and in the car on the way to town – thank goodness for 24/7 vet practices!

A few shots (which Mojito didn’t like but put up with like a champ) and seven stitches later (he hated those – fought the anesthesia with every fiber of his being, too), our fixed-up groggy puppy started coming to. Once home, he of course hated the plastic cone we were given to make sure he didn’t rip off his bandage! Can you blame him?

This morning, seeing Mojito so quiet and bothered when he tried to hobble around or eat, and catching his cone on the leg of the table, fuse box, and everything else at ground level… it sucked. What I wouldn’t give to be able to make him all better in the blink of an eye!

The whole situation reminded me of the time I fractured my tibia, back in 2007, when I was still living in Bolivia. It happened while horse-riding (the only activity I love enough that it’s ok to get hurt while doing it – does that make zero sense or is it sort of maybe logical in a strange way?). It earned me in a cast that went from ankle to thigh, with strict orders not to set my foot down for two months.

In other words, my personal nightmare.

Within a few hours, I went from being more active than I had ever been (riding 3-5 horses every morning, running a business, volunteering a few times a week with the Red Cross and a few more times a week with the Children’s Hospital, seeing family and friends for lunch, dinner, dancing, and weekend escapades) to as good as bedridden.

I had crutches, true, but the cobblestoned streets of La Paz seemed to be lying in wait, transformed from avenues of adventure to the paths that spelled out my doom.

The realization that you are no longer independent, and cannot even go get a glass of water from the kitchen to bring back to your desk, was shattering. I even needed help to wash my hair!

Those two months were excruciating. But they were also fascinating (yes, mostly in retrospect): I realized just how lucky I was to be living such an active life, and both friends and family stopped by to say hello and spend time with me because they knew I was stuck. This is definitely one of the reasons I so love Bolivia and its culture centered around family values.

I adapted to my predicament and got quite good at hopping around on one leg as well as balancing on my right leg in a way that would have made any ballerina – or martial arts expert – proud.

But that’s the thing. I am not sure Mojito will see his recovery time as anything else than torment. Perhaps he will forget it ever happened as soon as he’s back to his usual self, perhaps he is clever enough to know we are trying to help even though that doesn’t stop him from trying to get the bandage and cone off to be more comfortable (similarly, I imagine, as a child would), and perhaps I am merely projecting.

For the record, he managed to get the cone off within a few hours of us waking up this morning, proceeding to lick and scratch himself in all those spots that he couldn’t reach for the past 9h. Then he took a nap. He only tried to lick his bandage once, and stopped as soon as we told him to.

This morning, in three images:

In the past, when friends or acquaintances got puppies as a stepping stone to having children – whether this was part of the plan or an implicit progression – I always thought it was a cliché. Now, I get it. I have no idea what it’s like to be a mother, but cannot help but feel slightly less unprepared (as opposed to better prepared, a subtle but important difference).

We will keep you posted as Mojito heals and gets back to his fully mischievous, energetic, self. In the meantime, we’re meant to be keeping him quiet with as little running and jumping as possible… yeah, all good vibes welcome.