Editor’s note: Amy used to work with us, and she wrote this post about a terrifying situation that happened when she was in no condition to deal with any emergency. We’re republishing it here (with her permission) so you Dogster readers can comment on it.
I dropped myself to the floor, ignoring the abrupt angle at which my useless broken right leg was splayed out beside me. Grabbing the neck of puppy Teddy in my left hand, my fingers forced his jaws open, grabbing the mottled red pill from his teeth as I sobbed “no, no, no, no, no, no…”
I’d been in the bathroom, which, these days, is no small feat considering how many points I must have grounded to the floor, as well as the fact that no one was within hearing distance if I passed out on the linoleum from pain.
As I tugged up my oversized, cast-friendly sweatpants, I heard a muted clang of metal hitting carpet. It didn’t register at first, while I fumbled with tying pant strings with one hand, but then it hit.
My little pups had knocked over my pill cups, meaning there was a pharmacological dog smorgasbord on the bedroom floor.
Arriving home from the hospital was challenging. In addition to just moving to Oakland a month and a half before (yep, nowhere close to unpacked yet), we’d adopted our little muttastic bundles of joy soonafter. Our new industrial loft, while light-filled and triple (!!!) the size of our SF flat, included the feature of no elevator and four flights of stairs up to my bed. Not exactly conducive to a one-legged Amy scooting the whole way up on her butt.
Faced with a severely broken leg and an indeterminate healing period, I did what I tend to do: I found some ways to enact a measure of control over every other aspect of my life. As one way, every day I measure out all eight doses of the day’s medication into small, metal mise en place cups, labeled in a Pinterest-worthy way [HA right] with Sharpie on roughly torn painter’s tape.
Those little cups sat on a bedside table, stacked in chronological order, making it easy to take whatever painkiller or muscle relaxant or fancy calcium supplement I’m supposed to take at predetermined intervals. On my phone, alarms are set at three-hour intervals, starting at 6:30 a.m., loud and annoying to prevent sleeping through doses (an all too often occurrence recently).
This week, my pain has been acute, and these little dishes of painkilling goodness keep me on the edge of bearable discomfort and tear-inducing pain. They sit near my command center, an antique sleigh bed my husband restored, brought upstairs after surgery, in close proximity to bathroom and kitchen, with a mismatched folding table on one side and a stack of office boxes on the other serving as end tables.
When confined to bed for more than 22 hours a day with 14-week-old Poodle/terrier/mutt puppies running about, I highly recommend baby carrots as a snack. They have a crunch that doesn’t contribute to an expanding sedentary ass, and they’re also a great distraction for hyper pups who can’t understand why the human won’t just get the hell up and take them for a damn walk.
This fateful day was my husband’s first half-day back at work, after his employer so gracefully let him take a week off to care for his crippled wife. By myself and unable to entertain the pups beyond providing a comfy lap to sleep on, I placed the large bowl of baby carrots on the bed-level side table, next to my pill stacks. Teddy and Ellie slept soundly at my side.
A trip to the bathroom without shooing them awkwardly out of the room with my crutches didn’t seem unreasonable. I’d done it twice that day already, and I was tired and in pain.
Never once did I think about how close the table was to the bed. Never once did I think about how the path to the pups’ delectable carrots was blocked only by my tidy stack of pharmaceuticals. Never once did I think about them waking up, and smelling a treat, and SEEING the treat, and thinking about how awesome it was that Mum left them so close to their little maws.
These are things I think about now, every time I get out of bed.
As I frantically called the Park Centre Animal Hospital in Alameda, my hyperventilated mantra of “no”s became sobs as a nurse picked up the line and started asking question. I gasped out what happened.
I have a broken leg. Yes, a severely broken leg. Home by myself? Yes. Can husband come home? He’s a half an hour away. Can I move around? On crutches, but yes.
Did I count the pills? Yes, and I’m missing two.
At that point, the nurse stopped asking questions and told me to gather hydrogen peroxide, a plastic syringe and the puppies. It was puking time.
Until that point, moving at all had been exhausting at best, excruciating at worse. With adrenaline on my side, however, my inner Captain Canada emerged as I threw myself around the apartment gathering supplies (and a steely reserve). Falling to the ground in the bedroom, I begged, cajoled, hell, BRIBED the pups to join me (I now owe them a million liver snaps). Forcing their teeny mouths open again, they swallowed the hydrogen peroxide like it was no big deal (Can I be proud of that? Hmm.)
And then I waited, crying on the phone as the poor (I imagine startled) nurse did her best to calm me down. Waiting for two little furry creatures to vomit up their breakfast all over our apartment in the hope of removing potentially lethal substances from their bodies. That I’d left, unknowingly, in a place they could reach.
All this, and it wasn’t even lunch yet.
So, the pups are fine.A frantic phone call brought my husband home. After we determined the pups hadn’t eaten a single pill, as all were accounted for, he cleaned up after the resulting purge and I pulled myself together. After shooting me stink eye and bitch face for the hour after the ordeal, the pups jumped right back into barking at flies and finding sunlit sections of the concrete floor to take naps on.
While 90 percent of my tears were from the horrible fear of losing one of these gorgeous mutts we’d only recently adopted (did YOU know how toxic acetaminophen is to dogs? I didn’t. And now I do,) 10 percent of that fear came from absolute frustration.
The first week of having a severely broken leg is bad, but not devastating. You struggle through things you normally take for granted, but your brain is at least absorbed in figuring out each puzzle. Folks visit, awesome hubbies bring you popcorn, you do the ab exercises you should have been doing anyway. The break, the physical disability, is an obstacle, but just that, not the entire focus of your day.
But then you get home. People go back to their jobs. There are no nurses to chat with (er, bounce bad jokes off) or doctors to question. At home, it’s just you, your leg, eventually decreasing pain and the memory of a life you’re working on rejoining.
It sucks normally, and it sucked more when the incident struck. Struggling on the floor to find lost pills. Realizing you can’t pick up your dogs and take them in another room. Finding yourself on the ground with no feasible way to get up. Cursing the instability and awkwardness of crutches. When an emergency strikes, there is nothing. You. Can. Do.
We dodged that one. The pups are beside me, napping as I type this. Ellie seems to be chasing a sassy squirrel in her sleep, as she keeps twitching her legs and smacking her little mouth. Teddy is passed out, stretched alongside the length of my leg.
I feel so naive even writing this. For those with physical disabilities, obstacles like this are everyday life, and here I am, lamenting about my inability to bend down and pick up a puppy. Only now have I noticed these two things. 1. there’s no elevator to our unit. 2. Our built-in-1920 stairs, while possessing character and oozing industrial charm, are actually an out-of-code death trap for anyone on crutches.
I’m learning. This injury is humbling.
Recovery is hard, and I’m hoping I can handle it.
And if you’re asking, yes we bought a locked pill container for my meds. The pills are now safely kept away from prying pups.
Got a Doghouse Confessional to share?
We’re looking for intensely personal stories from our readers about life with their dogs. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and you might become a published Dogster Magazine author!