Wednesday, October 31, 2007

" Brothers and sisters I bid you beware..."

None of the antibiotics or drops or ointments touched Molly's ear problem this time. Emy, the vet who has been treating her had asked around and found a friend in Plerin, a quite posh satellite of StBrieuc, whom she knew as an excellent animals' orthopaedic surgeon, would do the ear canal op. She recommended the woman's personal qualities highly.

The quickest way to Plerin is by the Route National, which in that particular area at that time I shirk from taking on, even when not worrying about Mol and the vet, so we all went.

The clinic was very small and modest but the atmosphere friendly. A large fluffy grey cat sat on the mat (really!), and regarded us with equanimity. It turned out he had only three paws; he was found as a stray and an accident victim, Claire, the vet, patiently fixed him up, saving one of his mangled paws but unable to rescue the other, and kept him. She was someone we immediately took to, tiny, neat grey hair, smiley, openly warm, I told her the cat looked very well. "Fat, you mean. I have three cats, they are all fat." Trembling and unhappy as she was, Molly offered to give her a kiss as she bent over her. One of the miseries of this persistent trouble, and the accompanying painful pokings and peerings into her ears, has been that she has grown a fear of the vet she didn't have before. She never liked them, of course, but was characterisitically hopeful of an upside, and fairly stoical. Now she anticipates pain and cries even before it comes.

Claire ended up calling in her colleague, and knocking Mol right out to do a thorough exploratory. We left biting our lips to kill time for an hour and a half. We sat in bar and drank two cups of hot chocolate, and the young barman was a real tonic, just a sunny and charming chap who seemed to animate the whole place. We watched a funeral (cheery! but they are a major aspect of French life, I don't remember being half so aware of funerals in the UK, perhaps because they often take place at a remove, in crematoria. Here town centres are regularly commandeered for the event), then we went and bought radishes and onions from possibly the most beautiful fruit and veg shop I've ever seen, where steel tubes around the walls intermittently puffed out dry ice to keep the produce conditioned, and you could buy little jars of different coloured sugar, including pink for barbe a papa, candy floss.

When we returned, we were greeted by a solemn but friendly moonfaced French bulldog. He followed us into the surgery. "Don't worry, he's mine," said Claire " that's Monsieur Socrates."
" It suits him." I said.
" Oh yes. He is very philosophical."

It seems to me a good sign that resident animals are so happy to hang around, dogs and cats together, in a place that smells so, well, vetty, and possibly they might exert a calming influence. However, poor Mol was beyond being calmed by them. She was coming round when we took her back, and came to howling and unreachable. In the car on my lap on the way home she quietened, but was continually straining as if to get up on her feet, while her head lolled and she shivered and twitched. Once she was home though, she seemed to become properly conscious at last, and staggered round and round in drunken circles, occasionally getting stuck in corners that she had to be extracted from like a clockwork toy. But she didn't stop wagging her tail. It seemed as though she had to check every room, every item, even her box of toys, which these days she rarely bothers with, reorienting herself and pleased to find it all still there. Tom and I knelt on the floor, initially to be down at her level, but looked at each other then clung together weeping, until Molly had to be extricated from between two dining chairs.

And that was just the preliminary. There's no alternative but to take her back to have the the entire ear canal removed. It's the more drastic but simpler and safer of two surgical alternatives, and the most effective for the problem. Her ear drum will still work. When she wants it to. She'll have to be in all day on Friday. I hate to think of her coming round like she was yesterday and our not being there, but we can't collect her until the evening. The weekend will be spent with a traumatised dog with a bucket on her head and a drain in. The drain can, it's hoped, come out on the Monday, but the bucket will be on for a couple of weeks. She have to have a lot of painkillers and antibiotics.

I can fully understand why children who have to have a lot of treatment and operations when small become spoilt tyrants and cry-babies. I can't find a cross word for her, and have to resist the urge to give her anything and anything to make up to her. It troubles and distresses me that she cannot possibly see any reason why I repeatedly take her to one place after another to people whose sole function, however nice they might come across, is to torture and frighten her, I hold her down while they do it, and she still clings to me and loves me. Animals can tolerate a low level of pain and discomfort far better than we can, as she has with the infection, without paying too much attention, because they don't have the capacity to worry about the possible implications, the future, death itself, which anxiety, with us, often makes the pain worse. On the other hand they cannot fortify themselves against the pain and shock of medical intervention, as we can, with the rational knowledge of why it's happening.

But this morning she is up and ready for breakfast, curled beside me here, looking forward to jumping on Tom to wake him up, and whatever else the day brings. Tomorrow is behind her, and she doesn't know about Friday. It's for us to torment ourselves with that. And of course for us too, there is the baleful spectre of that more than likely last visit to or from the vet, which she doesn't know about either. But that is a long way off, and not to be thought about. Cowards die a thousand deaths. She is blessed and brave, we are the cursed cowards.

25 comments:

Tall Girl said...

Sending fortitude for Friday

Avus said...

I feel for you (and Molly) My German Shepherd, Sabre, is just getting over ear problems - he will let me put in drops and "gouge around" - but the vet could not get near his ears and beat a quick retreat (he has extremely impressive canines and a way of curling back the upper lip - the dog, not the vet!)

Jean said...

Hugs and courage to you and Tom. Yes, as you say, Molly has forgotten Tuesday and doesn't know about Friday.

leslee said...

Ach, I'm sorry. This was so sweetly written, though. I wish you all the best of luck getting through it all. It'll be past before you know it and she'll forget all about it again.

jzr said...

I know your pain. It is so difficult to watch our favorite creatures be sick. Molly and you will be in my prayers that all will go well and life will be fun again.

zephyr said...

i, too, will keep you and Molly in my thoughts and prayers.

a couple of years ago, i woke up to find my dear Spike (my black cat) with a "dead tail," as a result of a hair ball getting stuck...long story short: it was such a difficult ordeal for both of us. i was so worried he wouldn't trust me again after being the one who took him to the vet and held him down so hard multiple times over multiple days. But, being the wonderful soul that he is, he seems to love me and want to be with me even more than before.

They teach us how to be better creatures than we are.

Catalyst said...

Only briefly was I around my children but I am sure that taking one's loved pet to the vet is akin to worrying over one's child at the doctor.

Your problems with Molly are achingly beautifully written, Lucy.

Avus said...

By the way - liked the Kipling quote - I am a great fan.

Lucy said...

I don't know what we'd do without you all now. Thank you so much, for compassion, wisdom, thoughts, prayers, shared experiences, all of it precious beyond rubies, and it really does help.
The patient has been very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed today, with only a little extra clinginess and occasional bouts of 'telling us all about it', and only a little bit of an eye for the main chance with regard to our tendency to be extra indulgent! She's a fairly tough little cookie, and I'm optimistic she'll pick up well after Friday.

zhoen said...

You and Molly have my heart with you. Such love in your home.

Robin Starfish said...

You express so well the love we have for our pets because of what they unconditionally give us. And Molly knows that you'll pull her through, day by day.

Lucy said...

Zhoen and Robin, thanks for such loving messages.

rr said...

Many many good vibes for tomorrow. Who was it who said pets are like children who die before you do? And that knowledge is hard to bear but makes their presence more precious. There has to be compensation for that pain! But is it cowardly? I think not. It is brave too. Brave to love despite the pain. And you know that what you're doing is best for her and that conviction probably has its effect on her too.

Lucy said...

Thank you ,dear Rachel, for such a thoughtful comment. The 'cowards die...' motto is something I say to brace and berate myself when I find I am getting too morbid and miserable anticipating one day losing either Molly or Tom, when I'm in danger of spoiling the time we have with fear about future events. But you are right, who would be without those that they love just because parting is at some point, in some way, inevitable? Love must be an act of courage, and sometimes the hurt of it doesn't always wait until the price is exacted in grief! Love is the price we pay for love.

julie said...

"Love is the price we pay for love."

So true, Lucy. I'll be keeping all of you in my prayers this weekend; It's wrenching to see them in pain, and to know that to help them we must first inflict more pain. Hopefully, soon, she will be free of the misery of ear infections and will instead be driving you crazy with demands for more treats, more play, and more attention.

Isabelle said...

Oh dear, I feel for you! I hated taking the catlets even for their injections, and as for the neutering...

What a perfectly lovely baby. And yes, I've always thought the Nancy Mitford quote hilarious - though entirely unfair.

meggie said...

It is Friday here. I will think of brave Molly all day- our times must cross somewhere. It brought tears to my eyes to think of her, & you & Tom. Hope all goes well for all of you.

marly said...

I see my husband's chocolate lab Hanna showing absolute trust and faith in him, no matter what is happening. And when a creature has absolute trust and faith, what is there to explain?

Now, how to get some of that for poor mortal men and women!

Love the moon-faced philosopher.

Lucy said...

Thanks again and again, Meggie and Marly, and Marly, of course, you're right.

Lucy said...

Oh, and many thanks to Julie and Isabelle too, sorry, didn't realise I hadn't replied since you'd been on.

apprentice said...

This was such a thoughtful piece, you have a great ability to put yourself in others' shoes Lucy.

I hope today goes well.
My Gus hates the vet too, he has rear end problems with glands, and his anchor goes down if we merely pass the vet's!

I hate seeing animals suffer with no way of explaining that thing will get better.

We face doping Gus tomorrow to get through thhe town's Bonfire night display.

And you are right about funeral, like much else we tidy death away into a corner here. I watched a lovely programme called Screen Scotland archive interviews of ordinary Scots. They did one on death, and in the outer islands once the dead person had been washed and laid out they took the water outside and dug a hole and buried it, treating it with as much respect as the corpse. It was very touching hearing and old lady explain the process.

Sheila said...

Lucy, I do hope that soon Molly will be happy and healthy again, and that you may be at peace. Seeing animals in pain is one of the hardest things, especially when we have to help initiate the pain....I harbor a secret hope that they are understanding more than we think. They may not understand our spoken language, but I hope against hope that they might pick up on the thoughts I send so hard their way!

I'm glad you all have each other.

Lucy said...

Sheila, bless you and thanks.
Emy, our regular vet, is kind but fairly unsentimental and down to earth, but she says she does believe that the animals do understand on some level that she is trying to help them, and do their best to co-operate. I too, hope they do!

herhimnbryn said...

Lucy,
I have not been reading blogs for a while and come back and find this. My thoughts are with you and and Tom and Molly.
They break you heart these creatures, but we wouldn't be without them.

Lucy said...

Apprentice - sorry, I missed you there somehow. Thanks, I think sometimes I'm better at empathy where dogs are concerned than people! And interesting observations about burial practices, etc. Though the openness and, well really sometimes enjoyment, of funerals here is refreshing, on the other hand I don't like French cemeteries, they are fearfully sterile, blank, controlled places, where any greenness or natural growth seems to be dreaded. There is also a really deep fear and suspicion about cremation, though it is becoming a little more common.
HHB - thank you, 'tis true.