Sick Dogs

       Even peaceable kingdoms have challenging times. In the last two weeks both of my beloved dogs have had major surgery, and for too many days I’ve feared they might die. It’s been a time of gritted teeth, wrung hands, and tension. And important lessons.

       Logan, my German shepherd, ruptured a ligament in his knee and had a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, meaning that his tibia was broken and reset at a new angle with a steel plate and screws. Because of problems with his medication and arthritic hips, his pain got so great that he had to go back to the hospital for a week. Now he’s home and walking, and the surgery has been a miracle. But, oh, the worry. He has six more weeks of confinement before he can run free.

Phoebe, my beagle, had a massive tumor on her spleen, which was removed with her problematic gallbladder and a piece of her liver. For a week I feared that the tumor was malignant, but the pathologist found no cancer. A happy day! But it didn’t last long because in the next couple of weeks Phoebe must also have an eye removed for suspected melanoma. Like Logan, she has a long recovery ahead of her.

With both dogs, I keep thinking: It’s not fair! How much are such good, loving animals expected to take?

Still, if I squint just right when I look at them, I can see beauty in the hardship. Phoebe and Logan have shown courage and patience. They’ve tried to cooperate. They haven’t complained. They’ve embodied resilience. And they’ve lived only in the present, taking each day, pain-filled or not, as it came.

Phoebe was so cheerful on the day after her surgery that the vet said no one could believe she’d had an operation. He let her visit Logan, and she ran into his kennel. As he whined a happy greeting, she, in always-hungry beagle fashion, licked his bowl clean.

The dogs don’t know they face more weeks of trials, just as we humans don’t know what our future holds. Still, instead of brooding and feeling anxious about what may lie ahead, as I’d surely do, the dogs enjoy the simple pleasures they have now – warm beds, full stomachs, sun streaming through the window, human friends who visit them.

As they snore peacefully around me in the kitchen, I remind myself that animals have much to teach. With each breath, Logan and Phoebe are setting an example of grace under pressure. I hope I’ll remember them next time I face adversity.  I’d like to follow in their pawsteps.

18 Responses to “Sick Dogs”

  1. 1 Linda Brandenburg June 21, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Kristin, I’m hoping that the dogs are showing visible recoveries now. I always have an immediate connection with you because you have that gift of expressing life lessons through your animal observations.
    It’s always a concern of mine to know when it’s time to say goodbye to an aging animal child. I’d like to think that I know when a pet is suffering and to know when it’s okay to put them through surgery. Thank goodness for wise veteranarians! And since I believe our dogs have that unconditional love for us (the human members of their pack) they put up with their recoveries as if it’s just another uncomfortable day at the office. Their surgeries and recoveries are harder on us than them. Suddenly that saying from a parent “This is going to hurt me alot more than it will hurt you” transfers to our pets! So I hope that Phoebe and Logan’s tails are wagging alot today!

    • 2 Kristin von Kreisler June 21, 2011 at 3:57 PM

      Their tails aren’t wagging much, but they’re snoring at my feet in the kitchen, which has become a dog rehab center. I agree with you: It surely hurts us more than our beloved animals when we inflict something as terrible as a surgery on them. Logan and Phoebe have been so patient and good, though. I wonder if they’re trying to make life easier for us. It’s possible!

  2. 3 Kristin von Kreisler June 20, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    I guess we all sometimes wish we could be our dogs — so free and good and loyal. I often think that the world would be a better place is we humans were more like our beloved animals! Thank you for the poem.

  3. 4 Lisa Di Nicola and Admiral June 19, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    Here is a poem for you:

    Woo, Woo…woo, woo, Wooooo…By Boo Sampson (for BamBam)

    Your sweet face Your heartwarming eyes
    Loyal, carefree and true They are the embodiment of you Prance, Prance, Prance
    Through the house you go A toy dangles from your mouth

    “Woo, Woo…woo, woo, Wooooo…” Your dance is regal Your carriage proud
    You stop to show off Your voice gets loud
    Fun, Fun, Fun Free, Free, Free Your play is uplifting It carries me…
    “Woo, Woo…woo, woo, Wooooo…” Without you, I am blue Loyal, carefree and true
    If only, I was the embodiment of you

  4. 5 Lisa Di Nicola and Admiral June 19, 2011 at 10:12 AM


    I know what a tense difficult time this has been for you. The gift Logie and Phoebe have given you will heal all wounds. They taught you to live in the moment and cherish each breath.

    The love you have for the creatures touches us all in a deep place and the world is a better place because of you. Logie and Phoebe will pull through this. They have the best caretaker on the face of the earth.

    I am there, I am right beside you. I hold Phoebe and Logie in my arms every time I touch my Addy.

    Bless you and your darling doggies.

  5. 7 Gisele June 18, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Your sensitivy, atunement and empathy for your beloved dogs (and for all animals) is a profound eye openner for me, an inspirational model beyond anything I’ve seen or known. I’m grateful for the window you’ve openned onto compassion for animals. It will have a significant ripple effect. I and, I’m sure, so many others that you reach, will respond to animals with an expanded awareness and kindness. It means a lot to me to be show by your example a way to grow my love towand all animals. I deeply appreciate your view/mission for its metaphorical as well as literal teaching. Thank you. I hope your dear dogs and you will soon be experiencing greater ease and well being.

  6. 9 Kristin von Kreisler June 17, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Thank you, Wendy! I wish you were here with us as you were 30 years ago!

  7. 10 Dr. Shelton-Paul June 17, 2011 at 12:11 PM


    I have such warm memories of meeting you when your dog was sick (over 30 years ago) that your scene feels familiar. No less difficult from your end, but I know you handle it like the pro you are and the dogs can tell you will look after them. I, like all of us, need the reminder to trust in the present.

    Love & miss,


  8. 11 Green Knight June 17, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    funny that i might have knocked on your door for Greenpeace when you were in Marin and i was in SF, in the early ’80s. you can see a couple of photos of my friends and me burying Isis on my Facebook page. this tune is the theme song for the event, one i’ve always liked:

    (WordPress has problems posting links, arrgghh. and the thunderstorm just arrived, no trip to the grocery store for ME for a while. harrumph!)
    meanwhile, check out the Hazard Hot Sheet, my enviroblog. i try to keep it interesting as well as informative.

  9. 13 Kathy Renner June 16, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Lovely, and god speed both recoveries.

  10. 15 Green Knight June 16, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    awww, what sweeties! i feel for ya, Kristin. this past Sunday was World Pet Memorial Day, and i lit a candle and some incense for all my departed friends. hard to believe it’s been almost a year since i had to put Roscoe the geriatrikitty on the “magic elevator.” (that’s my term instead of the rainbow bridge.) i wrote about it on the Hazard Hot Sheet; i don’t just do enviro stuff on there, i also do animal stuff.

    i first became a fan of yours when i was selling your Bea book, back when there were still bookstores to work at. that was always my fallback job, but they’re gone. i promoted that volume as well as other animal-oriented ones, to great effect.

    with help from friends, i’ve been doing a TNR event (trap, neuter, & return) for a tribe of feral kitties in a vacant building 2 doors down from me. we got 5 adults, and grabbed 3 kittens who are now in foster homes. i had to bury another of the colony that got run over after some neighborhood teen thugs harassed the cats. arrgghh. but she’s resting in a friend’s beautiful backyard garden. there are still two adults left to trap, one of whom is the matriarch of the clan and wily. we’ll get her eventually.

    best wishes for Logan and Phoebe! you’re on my short list of nominees for sainthood.

    • 16 Kristin von Kreisler June 17, 2011 at 10:05 AM

      Thank you for your kind words! And it’s fabulous that you’re doing TNR for that colony of kitties. I once had a tiny colony of feral cats living on my front porch, and the TNR was almost impossible. YOU are the nominee for sainthood, and I know that the cats greatly appreciate you. Keep up the wonderful work.

  11. 17 elsawatson June 16, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    What wonderful news about Phoebe! I know the next stage is still ahead, but thank goodness that big tumor was benign. And knowing Logie, I bet he’s doing better and better every day. The dogs are so lucky to have you watching over them!!

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