I lost my first pregnancy.
I found out in the doctor’s room, ultrasound wand slipped politely out of my body, followed by the soft, “I’m sorry”.
Where there was a heartbeat only a week before, there was nothing. I had a D&C the next day. It was clinical and cold.
A week later, the same doctor called me back into her office with more bad news. There had been another baby, hidden by a wall of scar tissue dividing my uterus. Another heartbeat lost. Another impersonal hospital procedure. Only this time, I had to wait a few days.
I had to walk around knowing that there was a stilled heartbeat tucked inside of my already scraped and scarred uterus. My baby. It was too much to handle.
To cope, I found myself in a pet store, holding the most fragile and warm Basset Hound puppy I had ever met. She was white, with signature long droopy ears and sad, round eyes. Something in me knew that she needed me just as much as I needed her. So, one phone call to my husband for permission later and I found myself swaddling our new puppy in a blanket and taking her home. We named her Daisy.
At first, I thought she was just having trouble acclimating to her new environment, or was frightened by being away from her brothers and sisters—but something wasn’t right. She was sick, frighteningly sick. Her tiny puppy body shook though an entire night. I did everything that I could, but it wasn’t enough to soothe her.
The next day, we took her to the vet and it was confirmed—she had Parvo. A deadly disease by dog standards. Her odds were not promising. I lost it: the kind of gurgling hysteria that involves rhythmic rocking back and forth. The kind of overwhelming grief you can’t articulate. I remember breaking down at the vet and my husband trying to convince her to “do whatever you have to do, but you can’t let this dog die. You absolutely cannot.” She understood, but couldn’t promise.
I had the second D&C later that day. I remember coming to awareness in the recovery room and asking about my puppy, as if she had been a patient there are we had suffered this traumatic event together. The nurse kept saying she would ask. We phoned the vet every other hour from that moment on. All of our hope and sorrow burrowed in that one remaining heartbeat, in keeping her alive. She was the one we could save.
And we did…more than once in her lifetime. She became our medical miracle. She survived Parvo, suffered a broken leg, Ringworm, two slipped disks and an emergency spinal surgery, not to mention countless other random illnesses. She never complained. She simply loved, as all good dogs do. We went on to have a baby and she became the family dog. After months of her clinging to our pant legs as we were trying to get out the door and scolding, “No Pants!” we renamed her—Pants. It was a perfect fit.
She was the perfect fit to the gaping hole that had been dug out of our lives. She held us together, gave us something to hope for, something to save at a time when we were most helpless. She was a barking, wagging reminder of impermanence and how to live each moment regardless. She was one of our greatest teachers.
Pants died early this morning. We didn’t even have to think about how old she was either—one year older than our firstborn son. Although that’s not a very long life in dog years, we are trying not to mourn. Her life was a gift and anything less than gratitude for her sharing it with us would be denying that and the lessons that she taught us: save what you can in this world, work on letting the rest go—gracefully. As Gandhi said, “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
I will never forget what it felt like; days out of the hospital, acutely broken and afraid, holding her warm puppy body against my chest, recovering from this fragile life together, comforted by the feel of her strong heartbeat.
In truth, Pants saved me. And for that, I am ever grateful.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Megan Merchant
Editor: Travis May