Grateful For My Emotional Support Dogs

I had another surgery just recently. This time it was a selective procedure for my thumb osteoarthritis on the right hand. I had the left-hand thumb repaired with ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition (LRTI) a few years ago. My right hand has been in terrible pain as well for years, and I was finally ready for LRTI on this side.

It's been tough picking things up and using this hand to unscrew bottles or cut a good steak. I've put the surgery off long enough for a few reasons, firstly, due to other more necessary surgery for my spine due to spondyloarthritis (inflammatory arthritis). Other reasons being that I use this hand so much; it's been difficult to be without my dominant hand for work, cooking, or crafting.

The pain became unbearable

Having minor pain as I first began to heal and strengthen my hand following surgery, I began to notice more pain and redness in the wound after 2 weeks. My fingers began to have less movement. Swelling worsened. Infection has embedded itself in the allograft joint over the weekend, and the pain has ramped up to almost intolerable levels. It's obvious the pain affects me as I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I wince often and use it less and less over the next few days and nights, while the antibiotics do their job.

My emotional support animals noticed

My two loving ESA's (emotional support animals - dogs) have noticed. They've been at my side for weeks offering calming vibes and loving warmth throughout the healing process. With one on the floor at the side of my bed, the other lying over my right leg, I find a kind of peace with the pain and make it through the rough nights. And, for this I am grateful.

When I first returned home following surgery they immediately smelled the anesthesia on me. It was the first sign they knew I was hurting. They’ve been through this before. I've had many surgeries over the past 10-12 years to stabilize my neck and spine, replace my hip and ankle on the same leg, and bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction for preventive measures - to name a few of the larger surgeries.

They comfort me, lie with me, breathe with me

As I make my way in the door, they are immediately on both sides of me, walking me to the bedroom where they know I am most comfortable following procedures. Instinctively, they know exactly where I am headed, and they are always there if I begin to tip to one side or the other to stabilize me. They know this is my safe place for the next few days to a week. Here is where they comfort me, lie with me, breathe with me, and remind me to take in nourishment. And, for this I am grateful.

My ESA's (one a 95-lb. black lab, the other a 50-lb. corgi/terrier/collie mix) are very supportive, especially during times I find it difficult to cope. When I am shaking and crying, they cuddle closer and snuggle in deeper, both watching for the pained expression to leave my face. It is then that they rest, when I am settled and still. They are close by when I need to get up to the bathroom for a shower or to brush my teeth. Always at my sides or lying on the rug watching and slowly waiting for me to finish, eye-tracking my direction, and seeing I am taking down my meds.

They gave me solace

And, they are there if I cry out suddenly in pain, very reactive to my needs. It is they who give solace throughout my whole recovery process; reminding me life is waiting, reminding me that it will take time to get better. I am not sure I would have recovered from past surgeries as quickly or as well as I would without them. It would be lonely and miserable. And, for this I am grateful.

My two guys are patient and kind when I am not. They take the brunt of the pain when I spew words of frustration. My ESA's don't take it personally when I feel miserable on high pain days and tumble over them unbalanced and unwell. They plant themselves there and let me lean in on them. They tend to always look up at me with loving eyes and an open heart, those eyes silently telling me I am going to get through this, I will be better. This is when I realize they are responsible for helping me make it through the tough days and nights following surgery, helping me to find peace with my chronic diseases. And, for all of this, I am truly grateful.

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