There is a bone-aching weariness that sets in after several nights spent only dozing lightly listening for the unmistakable sounds of a dog wretching. Every cough, every slight wheeze, each little sneeze has me awake and on-edge. I lie awake for an hour or more after every time, afraid I might miss the actual heaves and one of my furry kids perish before I can get to them. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and call each one by name to reassure myself they are still there, alert, alive. The stress has played havoc with both my physical and mental health.
At work, most don't understand what these dogs mean to me. They are essentially my furry god-children. I was there at most of their birthing, raised them from their first breath of life. They are my companions, and for my team, we share a one-ness of soul. No one will understand our bond unless they too have felt the call of the pack, run with their team, gloried in the poetry of motion to the rhythm and beat of padded feet. There is something wild, primal, exhillerating in the comradarie of a musher and their dogs. Off the trail, they speak to me, comfort me, tease and play like any good friend. I delight in their antics as they delight in my attention. They are my heart and soul.
The thought that I may have to stand by and watch them die an agonizing death before my eyes is beyond horror, beyond the scope of my worst nightmares. I would gladly face a deadly torment of a thousand terrors before seeing harm come to my pack, but in this I am near helpless and at the mercy of fate. Even so, I search daily for the miracle, the key to safeguard that which is so dear to me. I beseach the winds, the waters, the fires and the earth to be kind. I pray to our creator to spare them, and try the remedy that others have found helpful that my scientific mind tries to reject. My heart knows not the logic, only the fear and pain of losing those in my care. The aching hole in my heart where Bandit so recently warmed it is like a howling wind that whispers my name.
A day passes, then two, each odd behavior, each quirk magnified a thousand times as I keep my vigil. Days pass in a blur, the fear clouds everything, always lurking. One dog is sluggish and my heart accellerates as adrenaline flows through my veins. I check them carefully, their eyes, their gums, their belly temperature, their smell. Though some seem slightly warm, they are still eager to receive their food, and I sigh as I let the high alert slowly drain from me. I watch them carefully to be sure they are taking in water, and follow them outside.
After seven days it is still hard for the reality to sink in that Bandit is gone. We have given the Parvaid remedy to our remaining dogs for five days, the recommended time period. Their last dose was administered this morning. It has become a waiting game as we have done all we could. It remains for us to keep vigil for another five days to be on the safe side. I don't think we will ever be able to relax again.
This morning all the dogs were frisky, alert and happy, almost enough to make me think the danger has passed, but I know in my heart it is still lurking like a monstrous predator waiting to strike. That monster will be lurking for another 7 years minimum, hiding under the surface of the soil laughing as we lower our guard. It is patient, merciless, relentless and without remorse. It is a cold hearted killer.
Jim has picked up Bandit's ashes and my heart aches anew. I know when I see them, it will finally release a tide of pain and anguish that has been kept at bay. At home I have some mulberry saplings that I am raising from the seeds of a mulberry I picked and dried. When I transplant them, some of Bandit's ashes will be with them, giving his spirit a place to return should he wish, an anchor in the tides of forever. They will be his trees, his fruits, his love returned to us. Two of them will go with our orchard, and the rest will be planted in front of our home. They will be a living monument that will hopefully stand for many generations.