Amidst a big juggling of kids' activities and trips to the 24 hour East Island Animal Emergency Clinic on the other side of HK Island with tunnel traffic, JD rather abruptly came home. She's not out of the woods by any means. She looks almost like she did before, except with 3 out of 4 legs shaven, dotted with IV needle marks she obsessively licks in turn. Also, she's a delicate balance of the functionality of several vital organs that, if aggravated, would send her crashing and us rushing her right back to the emergency room. I learned not to be squeamish when asked, "Do We Resuscitate? What About A Second Time?"
The hospital was taking no chances, the transport van we rode back in even had a tank of oxygen in case she started hyperventilating, or whatever the correct medical term is for freaking out, causing her throat to close up, her lungs to fill with liquid.
It occurred to me that if anything happens I wouldn't be able to finish writing this, so I'm rushing it. After everything, she may still be terminal.
I had travelled a couple times almost every single day to the hospital, desperate that if she was going to die, it should not be terrified, in the Animal Emergency Clinic because of another person's thoughtless actions. JD has been with me since before I was married, when I had a bad day at work I would turn around to find her quietly curled up as close to me as she could get. She has given all of us too much unconditional love, for her life to end in the way it almost did. And so I prayed hard for a bit more time. That prayer was answered, she made it home for now, for that I must be grateful.
Obviously I didn't take pictures when she was in bad shape because there were times I was very, very upset. What she looked like coming out of the crash and intubated is also quite disturbing unless you have some experience with that, which I don't. Your pet is still an animal, the way they have to tie back her snout, the way her tongue lolls lifelessly... and they said it was much worse before I got there
Note of caution
JD had initially collapsed, probably triggered by a panic attack that caused her throat to close and her lungs to fill up, during a fairly routine checkup at the Mid-levels Animal Clinic, which she has been going to since we arrived in Hong Kong more than a decade ago. That day I went to the clinic 3 times, around the kids' start-of-school schedules, my heart first sinking, then soaring, over the next few hours, as qualified and dedicated staff worked so hard to fix her, finally allowing me to bring her home on a very strong note of caution over the next 24 hours.
I communicated this both in writing and verbally to our helper, including that JD had almost died that morning, so she would understand the extent to which she needed to be careful with the dog. Then I went to take the kids to after-school activity. Less than 2 hours after I first brought JD home, I received a call saying JD had collapsed. My initial reaction was disbelief - how had her condition escalated so quickly?
I found JD at the main entrance to our huge development, surrounded by a group of helpers, some holding Park and Shop bags, and an older white gentleman who introduced himself as a vet - who proceeded to give me an almost identical diagnosis to the one JD had received earlier that morning. Lots of people run or walk that route, he had been passing by when he saw what happened.
In the taxi, JD continued to expel lung fluid. Several times she grew so still I wasn't sure if she was still alive. I dialled the 24 hour Animal Emergency Clinic number for the first time, and the initial response (because they haven't seen the dog and I haven't said much) was along the lines of, "(Of course) we're always ready, we're an emergency clinic. <pause> I know you're worried about your dog, but unless it's really life or death, there's still a queue."
"Ok." (Thinking: Wait'll you see her. I really don't think we'll be queueing tonight.) It was a little surreal.
As I race out of the taxi carrying JD the 50 feet or so around the road barriers into the clinic and beg them to save her, my helper is still texting It Was Only Fusion (Park n Shop). Few Minutes Only. Sorry.
Those of you familiar with the area will know that Park n Shop from where we live is a good 15 minute walk, one way, possibly longer, in this blistering heat. JD had been walked all the way there AND back (so easily 40 minutes) before collapsing close to the entrance of our development, not including the time she must have been tethered outside in the heat while our helper (who was fully aware the dog had nearly died that morning) and her friends shopped.
That was how JD first landed in the emergency room of the 24 hour animal hospital.
On our way back home after finally being discharged, I texted our helper that she was NOT allowed to walk JD EVER AGAIN. The reply I got was So Today Walk Or Not? And Next Time Walk On Level 5?
I AM NOT KIDDING.
Animal lovers had been increasingly incensed by what she did, asking me if she tried deliberately to kill our dog or whether she is pathologically stupid. I don't think it's either. She has been working more than 10 years, completing several contracts predominantly in Singapore with jobs including she says - get this - caring for the elderly.
That night I think she "just" wanted to go out with her friends to the supermarket. Even after everything that happened, her first thought when we got back appears to have been going out for the walks again and using the dog as an excuse (obviously she already gets all public holidays and Sundays off and she is out doing grocery shopping at the places of her choice on Saturdays as well - she had previously said her friends call her to meet at certain wet markets and supermarkets to do grocery chores together. That was perfectly fine with me. But it is NOT fine to take a dog you know could die on a long, hot walk, pretending you don't know that's bad for her, just because you want an extra trip out. Especially when you already get out so much.)
That was why I struggled with accepting that after so long with us, this is how JD might die.
One "small" thoughtless act, very easily made - to devastating consequence.
These kinds of mistakes are too easily made, but the cost is unthinkably high. The probability your helper deliberately commits a serious crime is a lot lower than her proverbially "innocently, helpfully" taking your dog for a "nice" long walk.
There ARE people who DO care. Local, non-local, all living in Hong Kong.
- The vet who was passing by and saw what had happened actually tracked JD down to the clinic she was admitted to, to see if she had survived. (Yes, he really did!!)
- The attending vets (that I know of, one senior doctor is from California, used to their native big breeds, others I think are local, maybe also Australian or British) at the Animal Emergency Clinic diligently discussed her case, shared notes, even checked with the aforementioned vet who had passed by and then tracked us down, for any information that could be used to make JD well again. They left no stone unturned. They and the nursing and office staff, again a multitude of races and nationalities that include local, Indian, maybe Aussie and British are also constantly swamped with a never ending queue of sick animals at all hours. And terrified as she was with all the sounds and smells of other sick animals and medical equipment around her, when she heard their voices she would still calm down a little.
As a little girl, I once wanted to grow up to work with animals. I would earn a Kukkiwon-certified black belt in taekwondo despite a moderate medical condition growing up, I can jump out a plane at 15,000 feet, yet I balk at doing this - I couldn't take a "bad day at work" being animal cruelty cases and seeing animals put down because people no longer wanted them. These people who work in the veterinary clinics and animal rescue are the most amazing brave people who love animals. They experience heartbreak and disappointment in their fellow humans regularly, and they just. Keep. Going.
- JD's original attending vet, an older Aussie gentleman at the Mid-Levels Clinic, returned my distraught call in the middle of the night, the night JD had been admitted to the 24 hour Animal Emergency Clinic in critical condition. He wasn't even supposed to be working the next day, he had been handing over JD's follow-up checks to another vet when I came to pick her up, the evening my helper caused her second and far more serious collapse. I mention that while both clinics have a wide range of ages of veterinary staff, there are definitely a few older vets and nurses as well - how many crash cases in older animals have they seen, to still be able to respond kindly to this one dog owner, how do they stay so dedicated?
- The vet I probably least got along with had been the one on night duty during JD's most recent crash a few nights ago - I learned not to flinch at stuff she said like, "So you need to be prepared she may crash a second time, you still want to resuscitate or not? Because you do need to consider that would really be the second time in a night..." I would however find out the next day that when JD had been found, all blue-tongued and unconscious in her cell, her lungs filled with blood-tinged fluid, as this doctor tried to revive her, at one point she had thought JD was already dead (another vet happened to mention that she'd remarked that). She had intubated anyway. JD had revived. Had she given up then, JD wouldn't be home and happy now. For all the "you need to be prepared..." and "you need to consider.." that I got from her, she had kept going.
- People cared so much. I got emails, text messages, prayers, JD had visitors - whom she was finally willing to eat for haha - they even fed her her kibble, one morsel at a time.
Pong-pong is a 16 year old Pug who had just undergone throat surgery and then been discharged, when he and his fourth* owner dropped by. He looks absolutely ancient... but they have to watch the front door because he'll stage a dramatic, joyous (and surprisingly sprightly) jailbreak out onto the street if you don't close it quickly enough.
*Goodness knows what the first two owners were thinking, but the third owner abandoned him in a pet grooming store at age 1.5 years because he was ugly.
It takes me awhile to understand, I ask her to repeat that (it's Cantonese) because initially I don't believe I have heard her correctly. Don't all pugs look like this??! It's got two eyes, a pug face, what did they think it was going to grow up to be, a Golden Retriever???
This is the paradox of adoption, the people with their hearts in the right place all think they wouldn't be able to do it, they couldn't give an animal enough love and attention, and then the fruitcakes think "let's get us a dog because I saw a freakin' Golden Retriever and it was so cute/clever/cuddly/whatever"?! And then there are people like Pong-pong's owner: "I adopted three. But when they called me about a fourth, I simply didn't have any more room." They could use a bit of help.
When we got JD, getting a Border Collie was the furthest thing from our "life plan." We were just starting out in banking, worked 13, 14 hour days - just like this breed of dog. American blogger Heather Armstrong likes to refer to her Australian working dog as a constant contender for "America's Next Top @sshole", and guess what? Then her neighbour decided to get one too! 😀 As for JD, we survived because of this nugget of advice:
When you bring a pet home for the first time, they've probably not had nearly as much attention as you or your kids are likely to give, and because its expectations are really low, that's your best chance to train it. Much harder to say "no," having said "yes," than if you never said "yes" before. I... may have applied that to Rockstar and Xbox.
A big mistake adopting families make when they bring a pet home over the weekend is to play, play, play with the animal all weekend and then come Monday when everyone is at work or at school the animal goes batshit at being left home alone because it didn't get the memo about weekdays. I gave up gym classes for JD (and lost 9lbs that I did not want to lose, from walking her), and for several weeks we never took JD out during "working-hours," even on weekends. She got her long walks and runs at night. (I had a former (senior) boss who said whatever time at night that he got home from entertaining clients, however much he had had to drink, he had to walk his Golden Retrievers and it forced him to stay active)
Almost 15 years later with JD, we've never looked back.
The Hamster Ninja promised JD her playmat, if she made it home. She threw in this Ikea cloud pillow off her bed too. JD sleeps with it all around the home now.
And we line the playmat with leftover disposable baby bedliners. She gets stronger listening to all the sounds around the home that she has always listened to, even the loud noises of the kids
swinging from the light fixtures bouncing off the walls.
We're resting, for what'll soon be the next battle ahead.