The Voices Vic Conference sweeps us from on speaker to the next, feeds us in crowded spaces, moves us quickly through different messages, personalities, styles of delivery, personal perspectives. I’m swept along with it, soaking up amazing different ideas, putting it all on mental record and knowing I’ll need a week to sift through it all and digest it. Home life with all its complexity doesn’t stop while I’m away and it’s often a challenge to stay focused. I end up missing a couple of talks I was hoping to attend while I pull myself together.
I get a call from my co-facilitator of Bridges, who’s been unwell and off work all week. Our third facilitator Cary is injured and unable to attend it. What can we do? I do not have contact details for everyone, and those I do have are in a secure location I cannot access at the conference. There is also the chance that a new person will turn up any time. I name a few people who are familiar with dissociation who may be able to sit in and hold the space, to apologise to those who turn up and offer a social catch up rather than have reception turn people away. I call back at the end of the day to see how things went but can’t get hold of anyone. I feel guilty and anxious. I go back to the conference.
I get a call from the vet to say that at his checkup my little sick dog Charlieis not improved. His ear infection has not been at all reduced by the medication and they are concerned it is very serious. They want to run expensive tests to culture the bacteria and work out what is going on. I accept. Then she tells me that his eyes, while improved and no longer ulcerated, are permanently dry. In fact, apparently this is a common genetic trait in a dog of his breed. It is the cause of his blindness. My poor little dog has scratched his dry itchy eyes to the point where he is totally blind due to the scarring on his eyes. A $12 bottle of eye drops could have saved his sight. None of the previous vets I’ve taken him to have caught this or mentioned anything like this. I am furious. I cry. I feel terribly guilty. My hands shake. I go back to the conference.
I get a call from family to say my neighbours have called them because Charlie is in my backyard howling and howling and upsetting everyone. He is getting two visits a day for meals and meds and a walk but as soon as he is left alone and he howls and they cannot quiet him. Day and night he howls. I am horrified. He is incredibly difficult to care for and the howling which was only an occasional problem is becoming steadily worse. I arrange for him to be collected and stay with someone else while I’m away. They inform me he howls at their place too, wakes at 4am and howls to himself. I have already sent my cat Loki away to try and keep him and my neighbours happy. I’m afraid of losing my dog. I go back to the conference.
I get a call from the vet with the culture results. The bacteria found are the worst possible result. It is a highly antibiotic resistant strain, and is completely unaffected by any of the many antibiotics Charlie has been on over the years. It is also known to cause ulceration in the ear and to damage the inner workings of the year when untreated, perforating the ear drum and destroying the delicate inner mechanisms. If this has happened he will also likely become deaf and have balance problems. I am to start him on an expensive course of antibiotics immediately; they may take up to three months to have an effect. He will also need eye drops three times a day and ear baths twice a day, along with the baths three times weekly to keep his coat clean and ensure the incontinence issues don’t cause flystrike problems. He needs another vet check-up in a fortnight. I mention the howling. I am told by the vet there are three likely causes: he is deaf and can’t hear himself. In this case I am in serious trouble and it is unlikely we will be able to stop him. Possibly he is going senile and getting confused and separation anxiety. There is a medication that boosts blood to the brain that may help. Taking him off the restricted food diet he’s been on to reduce the strain of extra weight on his heart and arthritis is risky but it’s possible leaving low fat high quality dog food out for him all the time would be comforting and reduce his distress. The other possibility she thought might be making him howl is he’s in pain. He’s certainly in some level of pain with all the conditions although the vets have felt it’s not severe. It’s possible a painkiller twice a day with a mildly sedating effect will reduce the howling.
It may be that’s he’s lonely. He had a permanent dog friend until she passed away last year. The vet was concerned that efforts to get him another friend may not work considering his sensory losses and total disinterest in all other animals including other dogs when we’re out walking. My council also only allows for one dog in a backyard of my size – irrespective of the size of the dog.
I feel totally overwhelmed at the effort of caring of Charlie and trying to keep my relationship with my neighbours good. I cry for a bit and go back to the conference.
I get a call from Housing SA to tell me one of my neighbours has complained about Charlie. I explain that I’d heard yesterday and removed him from my place straight away, and won’t be leaving him there again when I’m away. The Housing SA officer sounds satisfied and happy with my actions. I wonder if my neighbours will be. My hands are shaking. I remind myself that I am an expert at compartmentalising things. I remind myself that I do not have to prove anything and there is nothing further I can do about any of these things at the moment. I mentally put them all in a box and put it in a dark room and go back to the conference.
Life is complicated.