Our dog, Wolfie, only has three legs left, out of the four that he started out with as a puppy five years ago when he joined our family.
When Wolfie came into our lives, half our family was super stoked and the other half was decidedly irritated. However, Wolfie grew on us, and at this point most of us, and I say that with intentional exclusion, have grown to love him. So when he developed a wound on his left front paw about five months ago, we were concerned, and did all we could to heal the wound.
He was treated with antibiotics and later with bandages and anti-fungal medication and painkillers. We kept his cone on so he wouldn’t mess with it, and we covered his paw with plastic when we took him on walks. We logged many hours and many dollars at various vets trying to figure out what was wrong with him as the wound got worse and worse. We were referred to a dermatology clinic in Akron that did not have any openings for four months, and one vet kind of gave up.
But finally we were referred to the Ohio State veterinary clinic and my son and I spent the day down there trying to figure out how to cure Wolfie from this mysterious wound (important note: Columbus has kosher Krispy Kreme). They recommended that he stay overnight, but at $5,000 a night, that was a luxury that we had never afforded ourselves, let alone our dog without pet insurance. So we brought him back to Cleveland with strict instructions to have the leg amputated by the next day.
After the surgery, the wound was biopsied and sent to the lab where the suspected diagnosis was confirmed: cancer.
It’s been a very interesting ride. I never considered myself a huge animal lover, but on the day of the surgery I was inconsolable. I was grieving the loss of Wolfie’s leg, and as he looked at me with his trusting and innocent eyes, I felt that I had somehow failed him. I worried about how he would cope after the surgery, and about how our kids would handle this significant change in their beloved pet.
It took awhile for him to adjust to having three legs, and he was putting a lot of pressure on his remaining front leg. But the vet told me that animals are resilient and that he would learn to become a “tripawd” and manage just fine on three legs, with an excellent prognosis for quality of life.
Since the new Jewish year started in September, I’ve been keeping a log of significant events that are happening in our family and the world so that next Rosh Hashanah I can look back and see what events and occurrences were decided for this year. Wolfie’s amputation was the first event significant enough to enter in my log.
I think there’s a lot we can learn from him. He doesn’t seem to be grieving as a human being would. He just looks at what’s available to him and uses it to achieve his goals. The greater intelligence that we have as humans also affords us a greater possibility for rumination and angst. But the Torah teaches us that there is a lot that we can learn from animals. I think I have learned from Wolfie to try to be a little more flexible in the face of unforeseen difficulties. I know that many of us are feeling very burned out with this pandemic, and as we try to peer into a murky future, we are all a bit stuck in terms of how to move on with limited mobility in a world full of germs.
But I see how Wolfie has adjusted to his new reality and seems to have maintained his good cheer. So I am going to try to be more like Wolfie, and try to be more resilient with what is, instead of ruminating over what was, or trying to anticipate what will be. Be like Wolfie – that’s my new motto.
Read Ruchi Koval online at cjn.org/ruchikoval. Connect with her on Facebook at ruchi.koval and on Instagram @ruchi.koval.