**This is Part II of my first post about Rupert’s health issues. You can read Part I here**
Reflections, seven(ish) months later.
I’m having a lazy day and writing this from bed, propped up by pillows with the laptop on my knees. Rupert is curled up, sleeping at the end of the bed. He snores like a person, sometimes punctuated by little whimpery barks if he’s having a particularly vivid dream. Posie is, of course, busy doing her ‘job’ of guarding the house – patrolling windows and French doors, watching for any wayward neighbourhood cats that dare enter our yard.
I have a theory about dogs, that they love having a job to do. A raison d’être. Just like people. I suppose it makes them feel important, or like they are contributing somehow. Nathan’s childhood dog Marshal would help bring the shopping inside, waiting by the car for someone to give him a bag to carry. My childhood dog, the million dollar globetrotting Xiao-Gui, was a bit of a Florence Nightingale – she would take up residence on the lap or bedside of whoever was sick, or in need of some comfort, and stay with them until they felt better. Posie looks like a bit of a princess, but she’s a fantastic watchdog. The barking can be annoying, but there have been times when I have been endlessly grateful for it.
I’m not sure what Rupert’s job is, but today at least, he’s off duty. Or maybe he’s retired now. After everything he has been through, he’s earned it.
His eventual diagnosis was idiopathic pharyngeal dysphasia, which ultimately doesn’t say a lot. The veterinary team that cared for him at the hospital started with a long list of suspects, but ruled them out one by one, until we came to this – a condition without a name, a reason or a cure. The first few weeks after he came home from the intensive care unit were harrowing. Apart from twice-daily steam sessions, multiple rounds of tablets and constant supervision, Rupert required hand feeding three times a day, then being held in a sitting position for half an hour to ensure all the food went down. At first, he was so exhausted just from having pneumonia that he gave up after only a few morsels.
It was touch and go for a while, but eventually, things started to look better. Not all at once, of course, but a series of little moments that gradually gathered momentum. Rupert wagged his tail when my sister came to visit him. He got out of bed by himself to go searching for a teddy bear to snuggle. He started giving me his big-eyed, pathetic Oliver Twist tragic face again, when he’d eaten all of his dinner and was hopelessly full, but still wanted more.
It’s about seven months since his ordeal. He snores and coughs a lot, and still has to be hand fed (luckily, only once a day). We have to be vigilant about signs of pneumonia, but he hasn’t had a single relapse. He spends his days sunbathing on the lawn or napping on the sofa, but runs around like a madman and bucks like it’s a rodeo whenever he gets excited. And he’s still Posie’s BFF. Looking at the spirited, vibrant little dog he is after less than a year of recovery, I can’t believe how many people expected that we would just give up on him. It’s just a dog. He’s had a good life. He’s done his dash. It’s not like he’s a child.
He is not disposable. And we will not give up on him. The vet staff have mentioned many times that Rupert is lucky to have been adopted by us, and that we were willing to do whatever we could for him. But we are the lucky ones. Rupert has done (and is still doing) his job – loving us – unconditionally, unwaveringly, without expectation. Dogs are so selfless and giving of themselves, and after everything Rupert has gone through in his life, it’s amazing that his love for us (and everyone he meets) just keeps coming and coming. The very least we can do for him is love him back.