Love of animals is a universal impulse, a common ground on which all of us may meet. By loving and understanding animals, perhaps we humans shall come to understand each other. — Louis J. Camuti [Click to Tweet this quote]
As I write this, Sasha is sleeping peacefully at my feet.
Nothing new there. She always sleeps at my feet when I’m writing.
But I’ve written that opening sentence three times. Three beginnings to this blog post.
What is it about, really? What do I need to convey?
I’ll start with the facts:
- Sasha had the TPLO operation on her right rear knee last Wednesday morning. So far, she’s had no setbacks or surprises. For the first two days, three times a day, we cover her incision area with an ice pack and hold it in place for 10 minutes. For the next two days, we do the same with heat. This is harder than it sounds for she likes to lick my face and I’ve watched her eat mice.
- Three times a day, we give her three separate medications, always with food. She’s currently on an antibiotic and two pain medications.
- We walk her, but only far enough for her to “do her business.” We must take great care that she does not use her leg any more than is absolutely necessary.
- And we watched her constantly those first few days to be sure she didn’t lick open the incision.
Here’s a photo of Sasha last Thursday night, her first night home, leaning up against my leg as I sit on the floor with her. That’s my slipper there on the right side.
Yup. She’s got a poodle cut on her right rear quadrant. That was to expose both the incision and the epidural areas. I’m glad we didn’t wait until winter to have this done. That would have been really cold on the bare skin.
But for me, the interesting part of this process has been how I came to the decision.
And that’ll be the question at the end: How do you make difficult decisions?
I’m talking about ambivalence here.
the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.
Once upon a time I was led to believe that ambivalence showed a lack of care, concern, or even interest. Somewhere along the way, I learned better.
By the time I wrote my memoir (At Home on the Kazakh Steppe) I’d become quite familiar with ambivalence and knew it meant having strong feelings about the outcome, but in opposite directions. Two mutually exclusive pulls, two directions, me in the middle.
I felt it when we first joined Peace Corps; I felt it when we were about to leave for home. And I felt it as I weighed our decision over Sasha’s operation these past two months.
So, how does one break out of ambivalence? [click to Tweet]
Yes, that’s what I’d like to know. How did I come to the decision?
My rational list of positives and negatives really didn’t help. It almost felt as though the more information I gathered, the less important any of it was. Did I want her to have an operation that intentionally breaks an otherwise healthy bone?
Even what Woody calls my “algorithm” didn’t help me.
What’s my algorithm, you ask? First, you must know that this works ONLY with mutually exclusive choices.
“Do I go or stay?” “Do I eat it or not?” “Does she get the surgery or not?”
It takes a bit of envisioning for it to work. I imagine my life five years out (maybe ten; it depends). And, I regret my decision. I try this on with each option.
- I go? OK, I imagine myself five years out, looking back and regretting going. How do I feel?
- I stay? OK, five years out I look back and regret staying. How do I feel?
With my Peace Corps decision, this worked like a charm. For, regretting NOT DOING something is generally more regrettable than regretting the DOING. It was Lucille Ball who famously said,
But this decision involved someone else (can I use “someone” when referring to a pet? Feels odd). I could not escape the fact that I was responsible for this living being. There was no doubt I wanted to make the right decision. The best decision. For us.
Life is life–whether in a cat, or dog or man. There is no difference there between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is a human conception for man’s own advantage. Sri Aurobindo
Turns out, this was an emotional decision at the end. I found that the more information I gathered, the less important any of it became. It was a gut instinct I went with and my gut said, “surgery.”
This surgery is not a quick fix. It is painful, invasive, and expensive. Sasha deals with the first two; Woody and I deal with the second two. Yes, it’s invasive in our lives too.
I talked to many generous people these past two months, both those who are glad they had the surgery done and those who are glad they did not. Many here wrote me to offer your support, both emotional and financial. I appreciated hearing from each of you.
But in the end, this was something Woody and I needed to tackle ourselves. The money became less and less of an issue as we settled in to the inevitable decision to be aggressive in our decision. We are not destitute; it just feels like it somedays. And sometimes, when there is a shock, time is of enormous value.
Thank you for your support, your belief in me, and your friendship.
We are all on this journey we call life together. Even the four-legged ones among us. [Click to Tweet]
How about you? What’s your decision-making process?