As if the summer holidays aren't a challenge in themselves, throwing in a few extra dramas is just what we need to spice up life. I have been getting by minute by minute, with military style organisation, and keeping my joints lubricated with rum. And just as I was thinking this summer was going to plan, an accident has thrown us into disarray.
Two days ago Dave took Lucie for a walk before work, and returned ten minutes later saying something was wrong. She had been in the woods, and running toward Dave when she stopped dead. No crying or drama, but came to him, went quiet and stood still. So he brought her straight back. My bleary eyes at 6.30 gave her a once over, thinking she had slipped and lost her footing, I was looking for a reaction to muscular pain or something caught in her pads. No reaction to my poking around, so she had breakfast and looked her normal self, so we decided to watch her, and she had a kip. After a couple of hours, I went to check again, and she was very calm. Again I felt all round her paw, leg, back, hip - nothing, no reaction. Then she tried to lift her leg. I am not squeamish but holy heck I was stunned at what I found. Right up high on her inner thigh was a huge gash, around 3 inches long. No blood,just a big hole, I couldn't believe I missed it, but it was tucked right in, and a furry bit. So straight on the phone to the vet and rushed her down. It must have been a piece of wire or metal rubbish she had run over which caught her leg.
The event would have been fun in itself had my day not already been planned to the minute. Tom was due to leave for a residential break at midday, and I had to pack for him, and fill in some forms, thinking I had all morning to do this, I had not worried. But now I had to go elsewhere, so no idea how I was to get him packed and to his bus in time. Its hard enough to prepare an ASD child for his first trip away, but not even being there to organise, or know if I could get him off was not helping my stress levels. I quickly phoned a lady (ha - that makes her sound 55! she is a spritely 20 something, what term is right these days?) who helps us with Alex a few hours a week - I don't like talking about other people on this blog, as its fine to write all about us, but I don't like to assume others mind being mentioned - but I hope she won't mind me saying, she has been like an angel to us this summer, just her being there to help for a few hours stops me falling through the cracks. I phoned her in a mess, a garbled mush, panicking about how to take a dog and two autistic kids to the vet whilst moving her injured - it was - well - not happening - and true to form she dropped everything, and came straight over to watch kids so I could concentrate on Lucie. Thank goodness I am surrounded by great people.
Lucie was upstairs, and it took a lot of time, and bits of ham to coax her down and then into the car. She is 31kg, and injured, so I could not lift her. So off to the vet. They were a little casual at first, making the same error as me in assessing her, not seeing the problem. I had to tell the triage nurse to stop feeling around, as she may hurt her soon, and stand back and look - when she did, I could see the shock on her face. Quite. Me also feeling slightly queasy now. The vet jumped into action, and said to leave her while they started to stitch her up. At least now I could get home, and get Tom ready and off on his trip.
Later that day picking up Lucie stressed me more and my feelings and reaction over a dog surprised me. I straight away realised how close I have got to Lucie, and how much her work with Alex has meant to us. She is so much more than just a dog. Alex waited in the car with the lady, so I could deal with Lucie. She looked so bad, disorientated from sedation, a big horrible cone on her head, shaved and stitched. Our poor baby girl. And they casually say leave her like that for two weeks till the stitches are out. And then it occurs to me. Our family holiday is starting on Tuesday, our only break this year, just driving to Warwick, and visiting my sisters - but still our version of a family holiday. I realised at that point how much Lucie had become an important part of our lives. I immediately had thoughts rushing through my head of all the things which would now be hard without her, our holiday in disarray, seeing her in pain - it all hit me. I could feel the tears were not far off - and even a £200 bill didn't cause me to flinch. I just about got her back to the car, and then the reality of Alex kicked in. He saw her get in the car and went ballistic. Screaming, kicking, crying. I don't know what was worse, seeing her not moving properly, dazed, or the cone on her - whatever it was it took nearly half an hour for him to calm down. I realise quickly it is not just me who has come to accept Lucie as such an important part of our lives.
So back home now and settled. I immediately discarded the cone as Lucie could not sit and was very stressed. I have ordered a fancy one from the internet made of spongy stuff that is more comfortable. Its crap enough feeling sore, but no need to be uncomfortable too. And so I had to sit with her the whole time to make sure she left her wound alone. She just cried and cried, it was tough. I've never seen her ears low, tail still and whimpering.
The 'family support worker' - a sort of social worker - was due within the hour, I thought of cancelling, but hey - this is our life - who's to say tomorrow will be calmer?! So she came and sat on the floor with me chatting :) And bit by bit things are getting better. I knew, like kids, she would bounce back with astounding strength. My sister reminded me I may have more problems when she is back to strength, but still need to take it easy. Two days later I am delighted to see her tail wagging, walking round the house and greeting visitors. Alex has been fascinating, bringing her toys from her box, stroking her, really interactive. I am sure he knows she is unwell. Go figure - this autism dog support role works both ways - it seems they get to look after each other. I have no idea what will happen for our trip, and what the plan will be, but will know more after the next vet check up tomorrow.
I am sure any of you with animals have been through all this and more, and I do sound all very operatically dramatic with my reaction to a straight forward injury. But it really has surprised me how much one hitch can affect us, both in how we feel for Lucie, and the impact on our lives. All the panic thoughts of what would happen if it had been worse, cut her in the torso, or been more severe, made me realise how close we are to losing her as a working dog, and that scared me. And whilst the next two weeks will be tougher for us all with her out of action, the really warm feeling is that it is pure affirmation of how much she has helped, and works. A reminder of how important an Autism Assistance Dog is.