Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
Warning: This is not a blog post filled with pictures of a dog and his goofy owners.
Okay, so yes it is. But it's more than that.
Hang tight and go for a little ride with us.
The adventure begins! Meeting Rusty for the first time.
Bringing Rusty home
He earned nicknames rather quickly: Russell, Goofy, Trusty, Buddy, Knucklehead, Thumper, to name a few
He really stole his family's heart!
Could he be more adorable?
Could we appear to be more smitten?
Then, the accident.
We brought Rusty home on Wednesday, August 6. Less than 2 weeks later, on Sunday night, August 17, one of our children turned the corner into the kitchen and fell on Rusty, causing serious head trauma. I thought he would die right there on the kitchen floor as he howled twice and slipped into unconsciousness. Blood began to pour from his nose, and we were mortified.
Our children couldn't decide whether to cry or shout or decide who was to blame. We assured them that this was an accident, at that there would be no blaming anyone, and I scooped Rusty up, and our 17 year-old son drove me to the Veterinary Emergency hospital in Canton, OH.
The outlook, according to the doctor, was "grave."
It was at this point that I realized that Rusty was a bona fide member of our family, something I never imagined would happen with me and "a dog." For the next 48 hours, we called several times each day, and visited briefly every evening. He was put on oxygen, IV fluids, and manitol (medicine to help reduce swelling in the brain). Fortunately, X-rays and blood work showed no other structural damage or internal bleeding. If Rusty could survive the head trauma, there were no functional problems. His life was worth waiting for.
Monday came and went with no change. Tuesday came and went with no change. Rusty was losing weight and showing no positive signs. His temperature spiked several times and held. He was dying. And we didn't want to prolong his suffering. We had a serious discussion with the kids on Tuesday about the possibility of Rusty never coming home.
When we visited the hospital Tuesday night, the first words we heard were, "Why don't you guys come to the conference room to visit Rusty tonight?"
The conference room. The last time I was in a medical "conference" room, it was to accompany a family who was being told, essentially, that all that could be done for their loved one had been done, so I knew exactly how the conference room conversation was going to go.
In the meantime, we were being encouraged by some not to give up. We were being encouraged by some to go ahead and let him go and replace him with another one of Rusty's brothers. At that time, there were three still available.
But I absolutely couldn't stand the thought of talking about Rusty being replaced while he laid there and fought for his little life. Call me naive or unrealistic, but I just thought Rusty deserved a small amount of courtesy while he lived and breathed, and if that meant missing another pup from the litter, then so be it. Rusty deserved our whole-hearted attention to the bitter end, and none of them would be him anyway. I know Rusty isn't a child. I've heard of people who lost a child being told they could just "go ahead and have another one." Seriously? I do value my children over my pets (for the most part), but neither of them are the equivalent of a box of pencils.
As they brought Rusty to us Tuesday night, he was completely unresponsive. We cried, and petted, and held, and cried some more, and talked, and all the things you might imagine. They left us in the conference room for a LONG time. Nearly an hour. The next person to walk through the door was going to advise us to euthanize, and we were preparing to let him go.
As the doctor entered, the hinges of the door squeaked terribly and loudly, and Rusty's little head shot straight up and turned toward the door, and he began to open his eyes! She was in as much shock as we were. She had planned to say one thing, but another came out, "Well, we haven't seen THAT before!"
It didn't take us all long to decide that we were going to give Rusty another 24 hours at least.
Over the next week, we called 2 or 3 times each day, and visited daily, each time, utilizing the same conference room to surround Rusty with a little love (and a little noise) from our family.
During that time, he has started standing on his own, being a little more alert, and even eating and drinking a little. Yesterday, he was taken off his I.V.
And TODAY, if nothing else changes, he is coming home.
"He won't not be the same dog"
"He might be a little, you know, slow..."
Here's the thing: we're not stupid. We're not insane (okay, that's debatable). We know that he's a dog, and we understand that he's not a human and he's our pet, not our child. We have children, and we have pets, and they're not the same. I get it.
But he is a living being that God created. If there is not a single sparrow that falls without God's notice, then His eye is on little Rusty, too. Rusty is not just a pet. Rusty is a part of God's plan for our lives, and for the lives of many others he has touched. Nothing is more God-like in love and compassion and tenderness than a dog. We made a promise to him, and to ourselves, and to his Creator, that we would do him good all the days of his life.
Rusty will probably not be the same, but he will be ours. And we are determined to be his. We are determined to provide him a life worth living. If ever we come to the conclusion that living is worse than dying, we will let him go. But as long as he is willing to fight for life, we will fight with him.
The journey continues
We have all learned a lot from Trusty Rusty, but perhaps the greatest lesson thus far has been unconditional love. Yes, we have unconditional love for him. But I'm talking about his love for us. Never once has he complained, or scowled, or held a grudge, or sought to place blame on those responsible for his condition. He is content to love and be loved.
I am thankful that God has allowed Rusty to be a part of our family. Rusty has made us a better family. And I know that he will have many more things to teach us - he will continue to mold our hearts - as we prepare to bring him home.
*For those of you who cared enough to pray for Rusty, or for the hearts of our children, or to give positive comments and support via social media, thank you very much. We have been continually strengthened by you. Thank you for going on the journey with us. We'll keep you updated :-)