In January of ’09, while we were making the decision whether or not Charlie should have the surgery, my 95-year-old Baba (grandmother), was debating whether to undergo laser eye surgery. While we were at lunch one day in the Forest Hill Village, she told me how her friends, who were mostly younger than her by a decade, were making such a “stink” about her upcoming surgery. They were saying things like, “Tillie you’re 95, haven’t you SEEN enough?” My Baba, who could easily pass for 75, and was in better physical shape than most people I know, explained to them that she didn’t feel the need to sit around losing her eyesight, when modern day technology could fix it. She was still driving, going to movies, and reading books. These were all things that you needed your sight for.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t even think twice about it,” I told her.
Even though the surgery was risky due to my Baba’s age, the rest of my family agreed that she should have it done. My Baba ended up having the surgery and it went perfectly. She had recovered by the next day, and went to see a movie, a few days later.
About a week later when I was on the phone with my friend from “The Centre,” stressing about Charlie and still unable to decide if he should have his surgery, my friend turned my attention back to my Baba.
“I don’t mean to point out the obvious,” he said, “however, you guys are all freaking out about Charlie going under anesthetic, yet you were so gung ho on your 95-year-old grandmother going under.” I laughed. My God, this guy was good. He continued,
“It’s true. You have been driving yourself nuts over this, worrying that he won’t pull through, but you didn’t even give it a second thought when you’re Baba asked you your opinion.”
I presented that argument to my parents, and the next day the appointment for Charlie was made.
“Charlie seriously owes me one,” my friend at “The Centre” said, when I told him we were going ahead with the surgery. “I saved his life.”
My mother and I took Charlie back to Oakville to have his surgery, and once again when the technician came out to get him, I cried handing him over. We had been told that if Charlie made it through the surgery, his recovery would be slow. Since he was an older dog, it would take longer, but we should see improvement within a few weeks. The vet called later to say that the surgery had gone well and Charlie was recovering in ICU. He would need to stay in the hospital for at least three or four days, so that they could monitor him closely. Relieved that Charlie had made it through, I went about my day with a little more ease. The next morning my mother received another phone call from the vet, telling her that she could come pick up Charlie. He was ready to go home.
“What??? What do you mean he’s ready?” I asked my mother, when she called to say she was on her way to get him. It hadn’t even been 24 hours yet. Wasn’t he groggy and weak like they said he would be?
My mother said they had told her Charlie was doing great and clearly did not want to be in the cage anymore. He wanted to go home. They also asked what in the world she feeds him that he has so much strength? She listed off his food, but I knew it was the wheatgrass. If I knew 16 years ago what I know now, I probably would have named him Popeye.
A couple hours later, Charlie walked into my parent’s house, or should I say ran into my parent’s house. In a million years you would never have guessed that he was the same dog that I had carried out 24 hours earlier.
“They said that he needs to be kept quiet,” my mother said, as Charlie chased Molly, my youngest Lhasa, down the hall. It was unbelievable, like magic.
It’s now been almost a year since Charlie had surgery. Unfortunately, over the summer he developed arthritis in his back legs, and his movement has been deteriorating ever since. People say that a dog will somehow let you know when he’s ready to give up, or when it’s time. A month ago, after feeling totally exhausted from being up with him all night, for three nights in a row, I looked Charlie in his eyes to see if I could find that answer. Was it time for both of us to give up? However, that night he happened to sleep through it, and by morning was back to his lively, happy, self.
“It’s almost like he can sense that you’re about to pull the plug on him, so he tricks you into thinking he’s fine,” my friend at “The Centre” said.
It was true, every time I thought the Charlie-party was ending, he would make a bigger comeback than Britney Spears. It was at that point, that I decided that I would know when Charlie was ready to go. It would be if he stopped eating, stopped wagging his tail, and no longer showed interest in Molly and Lucy. So far that has not happened. His vet, Dr. Krebs from the Willowdale Animal Hospital, said that Charlie wasn’t sleeping well because older dogs get confused and disoriented at night. She gave me a low dose of Valium to give him half an hour before he goes to sleep. I kid you not, when I say that the friggen pill had no effect on him, whatsoever. He must be the only creature on earth that is immune to Valium!
Next, we tried a combination of a natural pill called “Herbal Calm” and drops of “Rescue Remedy,” that the naturopath vet gave him. Thankfully they worked because I was just about to start back on "Happy Town," a television series, and needed to sleep.
As well as getting him on a good sleep pattern, we also needed to try and get him to start walking better. According to Dr. Miller at the VEC, who you will later hear more about in regards to Lucy, Charlie was a good candidate for physiotherapy. He referred Charlie next door at the ARC Rehabilitation Services. My dog was going to get to go to physio, while I can barely afford an effing massage. Within no time, they had Charlie walking on the treadmill, in water. Currently he’s had three sessions and each time I’m amazed not only at his progress, but how much he enjoys the session. It’s like watching a puppy playing. Last time I was there, his physiotherapist, Delita, told me how amazed she is by Charlie’s improvement. She said that his willingness to fight is a very a special quality. She thinks there's hope that he will keep showing improvement.
I am completely aware of how fortunate I have been to have this extraordinary spirit in my life for the past 16 years. Sometimes I believe that Charlie toughed it out this year because he knew how much I needed him to stick around for me. Although 2009 has taken a huge toll on my own spirit, through Charlie I have found the strength to never give up. You see, it doesn't really matter where your inspiration comes from, as long as you have the courage to find it. Every time I look at Charlie or hug him, I know that I have to keep letting him fight the fight because he loves his life and is not ready to quit. I’m realistic that he won’t last too much longer, but in the end at least I will know that I did the best I could to keep his magic alive. I know Joanne would have been proud.
Love and Silver Linings