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The Broken Butterfly

There’s a special value in rescuing a dog, beyond knowing that you’ve saved someone’s life, or feeling like a good person: a rescue dog is a reminder of the broken things in the world, and of how sacred they are. My rabbi told us that the broken pieces of the first set of tablets of the ten commandments – the ones Moses smashed when he saw his people building the golden calf – were kept in the ark along with the pristine final set of tablets, as a necessary part of the whole.

           Butterfly, with her missing teeth and adorable protruding tongue, her heart murmur and lumps and bumps, is an important part of the whole story. Not all dogs are born to happy families, or adopted by happy families, and taken to the vet each time they have the sniffles. Happiness is only part of the story.

Beautiful Butterfly

Beautiful Butterfly

          Butterfly was recently diagnosed with diabetes. She had a urinary tract infection back in the fall, but with antibiotics it went away. We were curious about why she’d gotten it, but assumed it had something to do with how low to the ground she was when she peed, compared to long-legged Cricket, who practically hovers in the air.

Cricket  hovering, with help.

Cricket hovering, with help.

          As soon as she started to pee in the house again in February, we took her straight to the doctor. The vet on duty did some tests, took an x-ray to rule out kidney stones, and gave us antibiotics for another suspected UTI. We wrapped the pills in chicken and peanut butter and hot dogs and all of her other standbys; we crushed the pills and mixed them with water and then with her food and parmesan cheese. We did everything we could think of just to get the antibiotics into her system, against her will. But not only wasn’t she improving, she looked sicker and sicker every day. She was noticeably lighter when I picked her up, she didn’t do her usual poopie dance, and she stopped waking me up in the morning, waiting instead for me to wake her up and convince her to go outside.

Butterfly, not eating? Cricket is unconcerned.

Butterfly, not eating? Cricket is unconcerned.

          My concern has always been her heart, because she has a prolapsed mitral valve and is at risk for heart failure. I knew this when I adopted her. But it’s a hard thing to remember when she is running and jumping and smiling at me. I was afraid that after a year of watching her flourish, I was going to lose her.

          We collected some of her voluminous pee and brought it to the clinic to be tested, and made an appointment with a different vet. As soon as we met the new doctor he took a blood glucose test, to confirm the results of the urine test, which, he told us, showed very high sugar. In the office that day her sugar was over five hundred. It’s supposed to be under a hundred.

           I was relieved. I’d been so scared that this was heart failure, and she was dying, but diabetes is treatable. The doctor showed me how to give her a shot of insulin in the scruff of her neck. He also gave us a liquid antibiotic to try on her, instead of the dreaded pills, because the UTI was clearly being maintained by the diabetes and needed another round of antibiotics to wipe it out.

          Every morning, and evening, I give her a dose of the antibiotics which she hates, making angry toddler faces and sticking out her tongue, and I give her a shot of insulin, which she doesn’t seem to mind. Some days I do a better job than others. It still feels strange to stick a needle into her skin, and I can be too tentative, but mostly it gets done, and she’s improving.

          The rest of the day, I follow her around with pee test strips to see how the insulin is working.

          The first time I saw her run again after her diagnosis and treatment began, I thought my body would crack open from all of that joy.

Hopefully this is what she'll look like again soon.

Hopefully this is what she’ll look like again soon.

          There is a sort of halo of white light around Butterfly, that could just be the highlights in her hair, but the light could also be coming through her broken pieces. And I want to keep that light going for as long as I can.

Butterfly , spreading the light

Butterfly , spreading the light

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

178 responses »

  1. Rachel, You have Angel Pets…have you seen the Angel Animals website? I’ll bet you have some stories for them!

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  2. You describe Cricket and Butterfly so intimately, I feel as if I know both of your girls so well, I can feel their personalities though your words 🙂

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  3. Max loves butterfly and always nudges the laptop or the ipad when he sees her picture! We send our love, hugs and kisses to both patient and nurse!

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  4. Wow, Rachel – this piece alerted me to some changes with my little Zoe. She is 15, and I was thinking some signs – lightness when picking her up, peeing accidents in the house (something she has NEVER done) were signs of aging and general deterioration. Now I’m thinking something else. Thank you.

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  5. Gosh I am sorry to hear of the diagnosis and hopefully things will pick up: she is truly a beauty and I hate to think of either of them hurting.**hugs** from Me and the girls

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  6. I’m so glad you were able to find out what was wrong and that it is treatable. You are all so lucky to have each other!!!!!

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  7. I hope the diabetes is treatable and not painfull. They look very happy and thats the best care a dog could have.

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    • My girls believe that petting and treats are the best (and only) medical care they require. So I try to sprinkle both of those health care necessities in with the insulin shots.

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  8. What a beautiful post. Butterfly couldn’t ask for a better mummy to help mend her wings!
    Hugs, Carrie (Myfie, Ellie and Millie) x

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  9. Helping dogs as you have is a beautiful experience. Your blog is quite wonderful in that you share these tender moments with others. That in turn may serve as a catalyst for others to be equally as warm-hearted as you are. You’ve got 2 lucky doggies there – I see how they smile in all the photos 🙂
    AnnMarie

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  10. Aw, I am glad they found out what was going on. We had a dog who had diabetes, cushings, and other issues. She lived until 14! I am sure with the love, care, and treatment you provide her she will live long and well. 🙂

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  11. Lucky baby girl to have you! So many pups with disabilities aren’t so lucky. Love the name Butterfly!
    P.S. Is it wrong that it made me smile to think of you out there with your pee strips?

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  12. What a beautiful tribute to the love and devotion that you have for you dogs. I have two dogs as well. I know how much they mean to us. My husband has diabetes so I know what a change it has been in your life style learning how to give medical treatment to your dog. I thought it was difficult for a human who can understand what is wrong. It must be much harder to treat a dog with diabetes. Keep up the good work it gets easier. She should gain her weight back. Muscle mass takes more time.
    Honey

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    • I bet treating a dog for diabetes is easier than treating a human. Especially a dog like Butterfly who just shrugs and accepts most things. She doesn’t get up in the middle of the night and raid the fridge, however much she wants to. She goes to all her doctor visits on time, because I carry her there. Yep, people are much more difficult.

      Reply
  13. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful and touching story and like Colina above, I too smiled thinking of you running around trying to test her urine lol

    She’s very lucky to have such a wonderful, caring mum.

    Adele
    x

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  14. Hello Rachel,

    Could it be that your wee doggie’s halo is already evident, as some animals are because they are on lone to us from god? I say this because whenever a fur baby of mine should have gone to the bridge but has remained earth bound, because of medical intervention, I have noticed an aura. Thank you for visiting my site and I wish you and your canine babes many hours of walkies.

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  15. Awww what a lovely story I do hope butterfly continue to grow stronger and be well and happy for many many years.

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  16. I have been there before, pleading with the dog to take their medicine. It is not a fun place to be, but I want to commend you for being an advocate for your dog and for doing what’s necessary for her health and comfort. Too often I hear people say, “I can’t do it, I can’t bear to watch, I can’t stand needles, it’s too difficult.” Diabetes is not a death sentence. Good job, mama!

    Reply
    • I finally managed to figure out the glucometer, after sticking my poor baby on the ear ten or fifteen times. She’s been so patient with me. She’s much more accepting of needles than taking medicine by mouth. That horrible “oh my God Mommy, that tastes disgusting!” look, it’s hard to get past that.

      Reply
  17. Reblogged this on maggiesblog0019 and commented:
    What a great story from a special dog lover!

    Reply
  18. Giving pets medication helps one grow patient — and inventive about how to “trap” and administer the medication.

    I have a Persian cat with high blood pressure and a heart murmur. Andy knows all my tricks by now, so we go through an hours long waiting game, where I do what I need to do around the house.

    At some point Andy shows up after hiding from me, I grab him, wrap him in a towel, and administer his tuna-flavored (!) medication with a syringe gizmo his veterinarian furnished with the medication. Easy, once you catch the cat!

    It’s in liquid form. I can’t count on administering a dose in food as cats can be fussy about eating for reasons they know and we can only guess.

    I can appreciate what you go through with you sweet dogs, and wish you — and them! — my best for improved health and happy dogs in future!

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    • I’m so lucky it’s Butterfly who has to deal with all of these meds and needle sticks. If I had to do this with Cricket I’d be missing fingers by now. I just thought it was hysterical the way Butterfly hated her liquid medicine – it smelled so good! It was like a Pina Colada, and she tried to spit it out at me every day. On the other hand, she thinks her poop tastes like ice cream. Go figure.

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  19. What lovely stories about your pets. I already feel that I know Cricket and Butterfly. They sound such lovable dogs.

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  20. Pingback: A Potpourri of Family Perspectives | Better Endings

  21. Hi Rachel,
    I ave reblogged this (again?) in a post about Famlly. Linda

    Reply
  22. Hi Rachel,
    I am so relieved that Butterfly has been properly diagnosed and you are a good mommy to make sure she has her proper meds.
    Paw Licker Annie made a big production of appearing to take her pills with the countless goodies I wrapped them in – and then she would look me in the eye and spit them out after chewing around them and eating the goodies.
    So I feel your pain with Butterfly. You will persevere because you want her to be healthy and happy again and you will be rewarded for your perseverance. I sincerely hope this for you and for her and Cricket and your mom, too.
    Forgive me for being out of touch lately. We’ve had our paws full with leaving Texas
    We will do better.
    Thank you for hanging in with The Red Man and his family. We appreciate you and send Paw snaps and Twirls from Casa de Canterbury tonight.

    Reply
    • We’re lucky Butterfly is done with her antibiotics. She’s so much more amenable to blood tests and insulin shots. Cricket doesn’t understand this at all. Congratulations on the big move, and I’m so glad that The Red Man is adapting to the new placement of the rocking chairs.

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  23. Hello Thank you for liking a post .I am glad Butterfly is ok. She’s really a cutie.. I don’t like it when pets get sick it really is a feel I don’t like and when hey get better it’s the most wonderful feeling. I wish Butter fly lots of luck:) I am also glad she is doing well.. Have a nice evening..

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    • Thank you! Butterfly is doing so well that she is barking more than ever before. She knows what she wants and she tells me to get it for her, even if it’s six o’clock in the morning!

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      • Kids:) She a sweetie:) She sounds happy and I am sure she is really grateful of what you have done in her doggy ways:)

  24. I will send some reiki healing energy to you and your dogs 🙂 I love animals, too!

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  25. What a sweetie. Great love in your posts. And thanks for the follow!

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  26. Anyone who loves dogs as much as you do (and I) – I admire and must follow. What a beautiful creature he is and I’m so glad you are his mom….

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  27. Highlights or a halo. Such a nice thought.

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  28. I am glad that Butterfly is getting better. I had a cat with diabetes and she lived a long time and had a lot of other adventures. Injecting them does get easier. When the vet first told me she needed (twice) daily injections I assumed I would have to take her to the vets each time. I nearly fainted when they said I had to do it. I got used to it though. Butterfly and Cricket are so lucky to live with you.

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    • Thank you! The first week of the insulin shots, and then the first week of getting used to her blood glucose tester, was very hard, but we’ve built up a steady routine. Butterfly has set up a few rituals that make it work for her: there’s the before insulin chase through the apartment, and the post insulin chicken treats and the little whispering sessions with her sister where they plan how to squeeze more treats out of me. It’s working out well!

      Reply
  29. What a lovely story about a lovely little spirit and your special connection. Thank-you for trusting your instinct and for continuing to need to find an answer for little Butterfly. Diabetes is not a game ender, just a game changer and dogs & cats do way better with it than we humans do. I can hear the love for your girls come through in your words.

    Reply
    • Once Butterfly and I got used to the twice daily blood draws and insulin shots, things around here have been better than ever. She has all of the energy in the world and she loves her new food and she has her bark back (I didn’t miss that one quite as much as she did). I feel so lucky that we found a vet who took her seriously, and was also willing to shake her paw at the end of the visit.

      Reply
  30. This is a beautiful article by an animal advocate who truly interlinks and MindLinks with her animals; it is heartwarming in the extreme ❤ ❤ ❤

    Reply
  31. hi
    thanks for the encouragement!
    I like the doberman puppy!
    all the best!

    Reply

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