As a Motherless Daughter, I dread Mother’s Day and I try to lay low and let the day pass by. However, this year, I had some lessons to learn.
I went out of town Saturday night and while away, I got a call saying my German Shepherd, who was staying with my dad, was not well. After many questions, I was reassured she would be OK until I got back. I certainly didn’t think it was something serious.
The next morning, as I and a friend traveled home, I called my dad to see how Lola was doing. The news was not good. She had been down and in the same place all night, unwilling to even lift her head, and certainly not eating or drinking.
I know some people don’t think of pets as anything but animals and they don’t see what the big deal is about having them. But Lola is my daughter in every sense of the word. I am responsible for her health and welfare, I have taught her nearly everything she knows, I spend time and money on taking care of her and making sure she’s happy and well-adjusted, and I have built some part of my life around her.
My mom was my champion, my cheerleader, my best friend and a huge part of my support system. When I was little, she was my protector and my provider. I am now all of those things to my dog. I have become a mom.
I raced home to my little girl thinking how cruel it would be if my daughter died on Mother’s Day. I was already missing my mom, who died two years ago. Could the day get any worse? Indeed, it could.
Lola’s fever was high. She couldn’t even stand to greet me. She barely lifted part of her head, just enough so one eye could meet mine, and just the tip of her tail tapped the floor twice. My dad had called two strong men to carry her 95-pound body to my SUV. They carried her in a blanket and laid her down gently. (I’ll never forget the sight of those three grown men standing at the end of the driveway crying as I pulled away.)
Road construction and traffic hampered my drive to get Lola to the emergency animal hospital as soon as possible. But although I felt like I was dying inside, I handled the crisis with clarity and some sense of calm. My mom had always done the same when, as my dad likes to say, sh*t hit the fan. She was cool under pressure, doing her best to push off her feelings until the storm passed. I now did the same during the two-hour drive to my dad’s house and another nearly hour to the hospital.
But I have to confess that as a doctor and a tech put Lola onto a cart and rushed her through the double doors that said “No unauthorized entry,” I did not think I would get to bring my daughter home again. I had been at this point three times before in my life, with a shepherd in crisis that would not get to return home. There are few things I can think of that are as terrible as heading to the vet with a sick dog, hoping they will make it better, but instead coming home with just a collar and leash.
Five days later, I am sitting in my chair with my beloved child at my feet, writing this column. Every day and night, I have kept her quiet and safe and as comfortable as possible. I have slept little, waking every three to four hours each night to make sure she has her various medicines and that she’s resting comfortably. I have eaten smartly, so I can keep my strength up and not get sick while my daughter is counting on me not to fail.
Lola has two days of mandatory bed rest to go, and she’s getting better every day. I feel relieved that we’re at this point today. I feel thankful for my mom teaching me how to do the hardest job in the world. And I think she would be proud of the mother I’ve become. Here’s to a better Mother’s Day next year!