How do you come to terms with facing the same loss over and over again? Most goodbyes are final. You grieve and then learn to live without. But what happens when you are gifted and denied your passion repeatedly? I am once again facing the same loss I have grieved four times before, and determining how to hope without setting myself up for disappointment, and how to proceed cautiously without dreaming too small. Continue reading to see how I’m facing this and what a stubborn beagle has to do with my newest challenge.
Walking is my thing. I’m not an adrenaline rush seeker. I don’t play sports or enter competitions. I walk. Since childhood I would proclaim, “I’m going for a walk!” And I would be gone for a couple of hours. During university I walked from my rental place to campus, then all over town for errands. I moved to a tourist town as an adult where I would walk the trails every evening after work to unwind. People saw me everyday. It built community as I stopped to chat with others on the trail or visited over the fences of friends’ homes as I passed. When I became ill, the first thing to go was walking.
My way to destress and problem solve was taken away by fatigue, and circulatory and mobility issues. My mind runs wild when stuck inside resting, but I held on to hope that I would return to my long strolls. Two years into treatments, two years after being mostly couch-bound I did walk again. I was given a portable IV pump which allowed me to move outside while taking meds.
One winter day I overdid it and ended up with terrifying results. My body became more weak and my heart more strained than ever before. All I could do was lie in bed for weeks, short of oxygen, staring out the window at my beloved hills. But once again, by spring I could attempt short jaunts again. A similar outcome occurred the following summer. So back to the couch with legs elevated. Walk, fall, walk, fall. This cycle was getting old.
During these times of relapse I would look at pictures of the mountain trails and local coulees and hills I used to wander. I would study these photos and reminisce the feel of the breeze, or recall the smell during each season. Days are long when sick and much time can be spent brooding or praying. Or both. Which I did. But soon I used these images as prayers and intentions. I willed my body to strengthen and recover by envisioning the hills and trails and peace that comes from nature.
The next spring I was back at it and felt myself returning to the land of the living. Again I had to start slowly, which is a frustration on its own. I always want to pick up where I left off. But by that summer I hiked a mountain trail with my husband’s cousins. I needed meds and blood thinners to make it, but I walked a trail with switchbacks! I quietly rejoiced with each step.
My doctor was elated. Progress! I had to keep this up. Not daily mountain hikes but at least twenty minutes or more in my neighbourhood. I was still quite isolated and sick. Being able to walk does not mean a return to work and socializing. But I needed something. She prescribed a dog.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. I was so excited to leave the clinic with a prescription not for pills or injections but a dog that I didn’t research. I went home and checked kijiji. I was having a “good” day (where I could drive and function) so picked the first dog available within an hour radius! Yep, this Type A, OCD Lymie lost her mind and personality that day. I was spontaneous! I drove to an acreage and saw a little beagle trembling in a too-small kennel. The man who advertised the beagle didn’t own him but saved him from another situation. Copper leapt at me when the cage door opened and, well, I didn’t ask questions, just picked him up and came home.
Have you ever walked a beagle? Have you ever referred to a list of what they require? Copper was the worst possible choice for a walking companion. Not only was he a neglected adult with poor habits but he had never been on a leash! He was frightened of it (and tin foil, flies, dryer sheets, and the dark). Initially his paw pads were too tender to walk on cement more than ten minutes. That was fine. We took a few months to build up his tolerance. This was great conditioning for me as well. Many short walks each day was conducive to my healing. I was planning on running a marathon. My name will never be Runs with Coyotes or Dances with Wolves.
Right when Copper overcame his fear of a leash he discovered he was a beagle. The sniffing and pulling commenced. He followed his nose and not my instructions. The twenty two pound beagle dragged me around town. I had to see a chiropractor for shoulder pain! But I loved the little duffer and his sweet nature and companionship. He faithfully sat with me during bad days or treatment sessions. Having him in our room at night put an end to my nightmares. Without knowing it, Copper was a therapy dog. I loved him, and I loved walking. I was not going to give up. So I sent him to a trainer.
I watched as she put him in a halti and led him outside. He looked at me like I betrayed him. For the next half hour Copper walked up and down the street on his hind legs like a dancing bear, using his front paws to attempt removing the halti from his nose. They returned after he finally relented and walked normally without pulling, and then it was my turn. He obeyed only because he was tired and wanted to go home. On the drive home he wouldn’t look at me. This was not a fun outing! The next morning we attempted the walk. And the next. He pulled the dancing bear strut again. Later, in the middle of a busy intersection, he feigned injury and threw himself down in the road, refusing to get up. I had to carry him out of the way and another block further before taking off the halti and letting him pull me home. Now what?
I bought a halter. And we practiced. Soon he was walking well 80% of the time. He barked at other dogs, still a trigger, sadly. But he was able to walk alongside me better. And we both enjoyed the strolls. Townspeople witnessed these training walks and much waving and honking ensued. Copper was given water and treats all along our morning route. These walks were met with enthusiasm because I was back WALKING! A sign of healing to all. A tangible sign of hope.
And then last year, against all odds, I became pregnant. Copper was my cheeeleader for that, too. Lots of snacking and longer walks. Copper and I walked five kms every morning before breakfast. I even hiked in the hills with my husband, Copper explorign off leash. I was feeling well and in condition. Nothing should have gone wrong. I had released the anger and sadness over the previous episodes of immobility and cabin fever. And then it happened. Again…
Setback. Injury. Illness. For the fifth time walking has been taken away. And this is where I am. Again. M visions of putting Baby in a carrier and walking the town have faded. The stroller that was ready in the entry was put downstairs. Any attempts with either have caused serious pain and problems. I am devastated. And angry. I can’t be the active mom I wanted my baby to have. I can’t show him all the beautiful places I love. I am facing another medical setback, one that was not necessary and could have been avoided. Perhaps this is what causes the anger. What am I to do? This time was the breaking point. I allowed the disappiontment to fester. I dwelled on anger towards the lack of skill and care during delivery and after. I mourned the loss of beautiful fall days that I had to stay inside. I felt guilt that my baby couldn’t attend playgroups and outdoor events because I was too weak and in too much pain to move.
But, this anger and guilt are not conducive to healing. I picked myself up just before spiralling into depression. I had lost the outdoors before, I could do it again. I was going to walk again. I began researching. I have found physiotherapy specialists. I have come to terms with resting. If I rest now I will be walking by spring. If I push it now, permanent damage will result. Writing a letter of complaint and launching an investigation is not going to help. It will just keep the story alive. I want to write a new story. I want to heal. I want to only relay the good parts. The part of a healthy baby boy entering the world. The part about a husband and grandmas staying round the clock for weeks to love and nurture Baby and me. Now Copper, well, he was angry and depressed, too. He lied in bed with me. Each morning he would jump up expecting me to grab his collar and go. But there was no movement. My husband has taken over the walks with Copper. Copper is still mourning but mostly out of jealousy over my new baby, who has dethroned his position. But I am doing what worked before. I am pursuing treatments. I am meditating and pouring over photos of my previous walks and turning these into prayers. I will walk again. I will be outside. My baby will have an active mother who explores and plays outside. And Copper will be given his human mother back.