Thursday, November 07, 2013

Puking Tiki

In early September, Tiki-Granger had a bout of sickness that lasted for several days in a row, where she would vomit up her dinner in the middle of the night. Tiki tends to be a puker anyhow; she doesn't have many teeth and the ones she has are quite worn, so she will literally bite off more than she can chew, swallowing things whole, which invariably come back up. But this was quite unusual, so I took her in to work with me.

The first step was a physical exam, which revealed maybe a bit of discomfort on abdominal palpation. Then we took x-rays of her abdomen, which revealed some arthritic changes that weren't there the last time she was x-rayed *insert guilty mummy feelings*, and showed that her stomach looked thickened. I was instantly panicked that she had gastric carcinoma, a form of stomach cancer, which Staffordshire Bull Terriers are predisposed to. I felt awful. I didn't want my Tiki to be dying.

Why did I instantly think Tiki had a terminal illness? Harriet Lerner, the psychologist, discusses connecting current anxiety to the underlying emotional field; being mindful that unconsciously we tend towards reactivity during stressful times, either due to a current stressor or when we have unresolved issues from a past experience. I thought about my history with Tiki. I had adopted her after graduating from university, a consolation prize for not getting into vet school on my first try. Here is what I wrote about her shortly after I adopted her:

The first photo I saw of Tiki-Granger, taken at Guelph Humane Society

Adopting her was the best decision I could have made. She has lifted my spirits and helped me resolve grief from the death of my last dog, over 5 years ago, grief that I didn't even know I was still holding on to. She has gotten me out of the funk that I've been in for the last few months after I didn't get into school.

I decided to adopt her just weeks after getting engaged, and a week before my fiance and I moved to a new province; a time of starting out in life, of hope for the future. Now, here we were, she had just turned ten and my divorce had just been finalized. How poetically cruel, I thought, that Tiki's life with me, which started in a new beginning, would be ending as I end that chapter of my life.

The next day Tiki had an ultrasound and a biopsy. While I waited for the results, I consoled myself by cooking and pureeing special food for her, which she happily gobbled down. Her ultrasound and biopsy came back just fine. I thought more about it, and remembered that I had taken all three dogs into the office with me the day before this started, and Tiki had found a dental chew that she quickly gobbled. Likely it had started the problem, but had passed by the time we started working her up.

Sometimes cases are set against an emotional backdrop that we are unaware of. We may even use the issue as a way of dealing with an underlying anxiety. By the time Tiki's biopsy result came back, she was back to normal. I let go of my attachment to our past, and opened myself up to our new future together.