By Monica Turenne
Thunder is loud and booming. While the Thunder in this story is not, his message is loud and clear.
I recently started to read a book by Michael Brown called The Presence Process. It tells of the author’s journey from being entrenched in a debilitating, painful illness to incredible self-awareness and Presence, such that he no longer considers his disease an enemy, but a friend. After years of searching for treatments and relief, he realized that “healing” was not the answer but rather, “integration” was what was needed. He needed to embrace his illness to become whole and Present.
As I read this book, there was so much that reminded me of what happens with pet parents and Pet Hospice.
Let me introduce you to Thunder and his pet parents.
Thunder. Thunder is an amazing, sweet 17-year-old (!) Husky mix. He has a full brother named White Lightning and lives with his pet parents, Todd and Lara. Thunder broke his front leg last year and had to wear a splint for a long time. As a result, he compensated so much with his other legs that it led to spinal problems. A few month ago, he began having problems with his back legs – he was weak, could not walk well, and was swaying and falling down a lot. He had to be carried outside to relieve himself and often could not maneuver from one part of the house to another.
Todd and Lara. When I first met Todd and Lara, they were very concerned pet parents. They wanted to do everything possible to make their boy better. Acupuncture, herbs, supplements, chiropractic. Whatever it took, they wanted to try it. They wanted him to be out of pain and walk well. They wanted to heal Thunder and what pet parent would not? And so, we did it all, including having a chiropractor come to the house weekly. Todd and Lara’s dedication was incredible — they made sacrifices with vacations, made special food, and spent many long nights awake helping him, but all the work was paying off — Thunder was improving and healing! Todd and Lara were ecstatic.
Then on one of my visits, something suddenly seemed different. Something had changed in just a few short days. Thunder was quiet, reserved, and there was no longer any shine in his eyes. I sensed he was tired and was giving a clear indication that he was ready to say goodbye. After a long discussion, we scheduled an appointment for euthanasia. It was a day of defeat for all of us.
Then the magic happened.
I received a text from Lara that she did not feel Thunder was ready. She felt he wanted to die peacefully on his own and wanted to continue the treatments. I will admit that, at first, I thought this was denial, but when I went to their house the following week, I could not believe my eyes. Thunder was stronger than he had ever been. He was walking straight, not swaying, looked so happy and the shine in his eyes was as bright as the sun!
From that day forward, there was an unspoken shift in their goal. “Healing” Thunder was no longer their purpose. Rather, they began to “integrate” Thunder into themselves, into the Present and into their Family more than they had ever done before. And I believe this was exactly what Thunder wanted. I can only think that on that sad morning, he wanted us to wake up and listen! “Stop trying so hard to heal me,” I could imagine him saying. “Just enjoy the moment; don’t hang onto the past, and don’t fear the future.”
Thunder now has acupuncture and chiropractic once a week, and he has good days and bad days, but the shine has always been in his eyes. It is truly remarkable to see him now and witness the interaction between him and Todd and Lara. It is beautiful the way they care for him with such Presence and acceptance of who he is now and who they are now. Thunder is not in any pain and is thoroughly enjoying his life with his family.
When the snow melted, it was incredible to see Thunder walking in the grass. He was swaying like crazy and fell a few times, but he was truly jubilant to be standing on all four paws smelling the air and having his Mom right next to him to keep him steady.
When Thunder was younger, they would walk to the duck pond near their home and this gave him great joy. Over the past few months, this walk has not been possible. In this video, you will see how Todd and Lara have embraced Thunder’s disability and are living in the Present.
Thank you, Thunder, for reminding us of the true meaning of living, and thank you Lara and Todd for reminding us of the true meaning of loving.
Monica Turenne, D.V.M., C.V.A., owns Four Paws Veterinary Wellness, an integrative veterinary house-call practice in Ann Arbor. She has been a veterinarian for 15 years and is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. She is also a member of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. For more information, visit fourpawsvetwellness.com, call (734) 385-7161, or firstname.lastname@example.org.