There will always be unexpected challenges that pop up; sometimes pleasantly surprising and other times testing us. During the month of January my delicious dog, Orchid, and I faced some of these challenges. However, with love, devotion, and adaptability we met them head-on as Orchid learned to talk to me and I learned her doggy language. Let’s talk about how to survive big challenges after 50…and how Orchid and I are surviving, even thriving!
Our delicious dog, Orchid, has been challenged for exactly nine months to the day.
Last May she was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This disease starts in the back of a dog’s legs, numbing them and eventually traveling throughout the entire body. Both of Orchid’s hind legs are now completely numb, therefore she can no longer walk without our assistance. But with help, Orchid is fighting back against her illness. And despite her challenges, she still looks beautiful; she eats her kibble and chicken like a little trooper, drinks lots of water, wags her waggy tail, and kisses us.
When the illness began she was able to move on her own, despite her right leg already losing feeling. Her left leg was fine. Over time, walking became harder and harder so we bought her a little red wagon to pull her around, as well as a special strap to support her hind legs. She is now almost completely immobile, only able to pull herself to the left or right or forward to make herself more comfortable.
As of today, Orchid and I have crossed the language barrier.
Challenges are not for sissies, and Orchid is no sissy, darlings. Wheaton Terriers love to socialize, so I have gotten into the habit of taking Orchid from room to room with me so she has constant companionship. And while she senses this is a challenge for me because she weighs 41 pounds, I know she also senses my deep love and concern. This has created an even stronger bond between us.
Orchid knew she had to figure out a way to communicate with me because of her inability to move, so she learned to talk, and I learned a new language. Yes, Orchid Good talks to me. And yes, I understand.
My Orchid has two ways of talking, including a variety of barking sounds and different types of cries. At times she barks softly or loudly. Other times, she cries deeply or wines. And through it all, I understand her. Do not ask me how. I just do.
A few nights ago, in the middle of the night, Orchid began to bark. Her barking woke us up. My husband was alarmed, thinking perhaps there was a prowler outdoors, but I told him not to worry saying, “Orchid is asking me for water.”
“What did you say?” Shelly questioned me.
“I said Orchid is thirsty and asking me for water,” I replied.
“How do you know that?”asked Shelly incredulously.
“ I just know,” I insisted.
I got up, filled her bowl with water, and helped her up to drink. Orchid drank and drank and drank until almost the entire bowl of water was gone before falling back to sleep.
My husband was shocked. “How did you know that she needed water?” he asked.
“It’s called love,” I answered.
Orchid signals me with barks or cries for her every need. If she wants to be moved, she barks. If she wants to go outside and lounge in the sun or wants a treat, she whines. If she has to go potty, her whine has more gusto. If she wants a little table food, she barks strongly as she looks up at me or my husband whom I call my ultimate concierge.
Our lives go on. Each day we meet our challenges with purpose. Each day I am grateful to have Orchid by my side. There have been many instances since she became ill when I thought to myself, ‘I should have named her Wise.’ But then again, she has always been my darling beautiful flower, my Orchid.
This is National Heart Month, darlings. Take care of your heart. And give your heart to those around you, especially to those you love. Because giving and receiving love is the very best way to meet all of the challenges we face at every age.