On the evening of the first Saturday in April after getting home from the Farm, my world changed. One of the hardest things I did in my life was text Mike that night to tell him I didn’t know when I could come back to work. Both he and my husband knew that day I was very ill though none of us knew just how bad it was going to get.
After several excruciating months I was diagnosed with Primary Sjogren’s Disease, a systemic autoimmune condition, and began treatment. Since the disease varies and no two cases are alike, there is no “set” protocol to treatment. I now find myself with an army of doctors. An internist, retinal specialist and husband and wife team of Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture doctors join my GP, dentist and my long-time oncologist and wonderful chiropractor under the governing eye of a rheumatologist. He is amazing in his concern for my condition and his encouragement to seek treatment beyond Western Medicine, accepting alternative modalities himself.
I am learning how Sjogren’s is affecting my physcial and mental health, adjusting to allow my best chance of managing the day-to-day symptoms and avoiding or at least minimizing destructive flare-ups. I consider myself blessed to have a great team of doctors – and especially blessed to have the support of a team of dear friends led by my very best friend, the world’s most amazing husband. Sometimes remaining patient is challenging though I know God has a purpose for me to fill and trusting in the process is key. Amidst doctors and friends the star that has shined on the brightest, especially during the worst days before treatment, has been my girl Boo Rowdy.
From the time she was a young dog, Boo alerted to oncoming migraines often a day before I began to feel an aura. The one time I blew it off, I dealt with a migraine full-force for the usual two and a half days. I never doubted her again.
During the months that led to a diagnosis there were some very bad days. I began to notice patterns in Boo that alerted to symptoms before I felt them. She began to guide me away from bumps in the yard, the edge of the pool and other areas that she worried about me being in. She became very watchful of people around me. Sleeping was non-existent due to symptoms and pain and lying on the couch and attempting to rest passed the nights. Boo slept in the chair beside me, opening her eyes about every half hour to stare intently at me. Several times a night she would lightly leap down and silently approach me, put her nose just over my mouth and nose and sniff as I exhaled. If she were worried, she would softly snuffle my ear – signaling an episode of a “symptom de jour” onset. Otherwise, she would retreat satisfied.
Though flattering, there were some behaviors emerging that caused me concern so I sent my dear friend, trainer and mentor Laurie an email describing what I saw in a layman’s observation of my dog. Laurie trains medical alert and service dogs for several national services – her “purpose full” life’s work enabling people to live more full and safer lives through service dogs is far more than amazing.
I asked her about the “new” behavior Boo was displaying. Her answer was a learning curve – I would like to think it would be for most people lacking classical dog training education and credentials.
“Think about this – what if,” she wrote back, “this is not “new” behavior at all – it is actually Boo reacting to your new behavior? This is a gift from God He allows us to share with dogs. Now, we must understand it and work with it.”
She further explained how Boo was intuitive to the chemical changes in my body and their result long before I felt them and suggested we begin work on training Boo to hone her natural skills. This would help Boo feel productive and not become anxious by taking the behavior and molding it into a job.
Last weekend Mike’s new puppy, Essay, joined the Draxen Farms Posse and there was no way I could miss the homecoming. It was more than great and somewhat emotional – though I did my best to conceal it – to be at the Farm and to see Mike, Laurie, Lisha, Trekker-Dog, Mara, Conor, Seren and Rhys and so cool to be there when Essay came “home.” Donna and Boo’s “Big Sis” Maya joined us too. It was an excellent day and though I didn’t do anything, it took a lot out of me.
On the hour and a half ride home I was tired though amped from seeing my friends and the dogs and meeting baby Essay. Boo, who gleefully worked with Mike for the first time since March, was snoozing fitfully. Between working and seeing her Posse and some of her very favorite people in the universe, she was tired and passed out as soon as we hit I-95.
About forty-five minutes from home I heard Boo sit up in her crate and checked the rearview – her eyes were directly on me with her nose up in the air sniffing. She made eye contact with me in the mirror and issued three sharp barks – high-pitched though steady. I assumed she needed to do business and stated that to her – usually she settles when I acknowledge her. She sniffed again, smelling my breath as I answered her and gave three more sharp barks, ears up now, eyes fully attentive. This was different. The last rest stop on the way home was four miles ahead and I pulled over and parked. In about three minutes a huge wave of fatigue hit and neuralgia began to numb my legs. I looked in the rearview to see Boo watching me intently.
“Holy cow, you,” I whispered as I reclined the seat and reached back to her. “How the hell do you know?” There was no wriggling or giddiness – she was all business as she sniffed the air and steadied her eyes on me. Boo was doing her job.
The episodes of sudden fatigue and neuralgia are debilitating though not emergent or life threatening as a seizure, reaction or vertigo. I could have made it to an exit and pulled off and sat in a parking lot, though the rest area was much more comfortable and safe and I was glad to be there. After a drink and sharing some Ritz crackers we were on our way in about a half an hour. Once on the highway, our trusty Go-Kart hit cruise control, Boo sniffed the air and satisfied, settled back to snooze control, assuring me that my alertness level was once again road-worthy.
I marveled at this miracle referred to as “dog” as we headed home. Emotion flooded me as my mind played out our journey as if watching a movie reel.
Six years ago July 28, 2015 we brought Boo home. Our beginnings were tough – I had a lot to learn and a lot of work went into “Raising Boo.”
If I hadn’t listened to those who joined our walkabout – so willing to help us – many of them professionals – others keen on the mind of the Border Collie – and others dog people with years of experience – all giving out of the goodness of their beautiful hearts – Boo would have merely been “managed” for the rest of her life. Instead, she blossomed and confidently thrives, living in the big, wide world she was meant to absorb and experience.
Ironic how until this year, I had always believed it was about me – that I was the main figure in this relationship and responsible for “saving” her.
Who knew that another purpose of our relationship would reveal itself in Boo saving me?
Happy, happy Gotcha Day, Tonto. I love you beyond words.
Here’s to our journey continued, “purpose full.”