GREETINGS FROM SOUTH AFRICA!
After the first one, Tammy comes charging at me. Her expression tells me everything I need to know. These sounds are familiar and I feel a prevailing helplessness overshadow. This time, it’s “Diwali” and I believe this celebration can be five days long. It started yesterday.
Tammy’s eyes are saucers of blind terror. Her ears are firmly plastered back against her skull. And she is panting heavily. Those first bangs have shifted her brain into another, impossible gear – one of total, utter panic. Her face has instantly narrowed in response and she looks gaunt and old. In a few minutes her tongue will be blue too. She darts down the passage, crying, whining, only to sprint back again – to me, her only source of futile comfort.
In the past we’ve tried everything. We stay home on these occasions. We close the doors and the windows too. We try and block off the invasive sound. We turn on the TV and the radio and turn up the music. We move all glassware off the low coffee table in our lounge. And we also reach for her prescribed tranquilizers and give her a double dose.
The effects of more explosions in our neighbourhood are shocking - to say the least! But I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do for poor Tammy – except to forge through this storm. There’s no telling how long these devastating celebrations will last. It’s at times like these that the idea of euthanasia is very much in the foreground of my mind.
Tammy is one of the lucky ones however. Others, who don’t have their owners at home during these festivities, will try and seek refuge wherever they can. Some dogs impale themselves on palisade fences in a desperate attempt to escape their properties. Others run wildly – either to get horribly lost, or to meet their death in oncoming traffic. I know that tonight, the SPCA’s will have a massive intake. The emergency Vets will too.
I look on helplessly at poor Aunt Tam. She’s 11 years old now and doesn’t deserve this. I know my attempts to console her will all be futile. I look at the trail of white hair littering my carpet – there are tufts everywhere – all a sign that she is severely traumatised, already.
For over two hours we sit and battle her terror as the explosions around our neighbourhood continue in earnest. Tammy’s response is to try and reach the highest elevation that she can. This means climbing on top of everything in an attempt to escape the assault on her senses. She scales the furniture, she claws at us, she cries, pants, turns in circles. Nothing works.
Her arthritis is the least of her worries. She climbs on top of us and reaches to the top of the backrest of the couch. Despite our ‘No!’s, she is determined to continue climbing upwards, as high as she can, even if she topples over the edge. Her plight is desperate. We pull her back safey, only to have her clawing again at our legs. She’s very strong and my attempts to help her are exhausting.
“What shall we do?”
We decide to call an emergency vet – to get advice. This is the worst she’s been and the medication isn’t helping one bit. I explain our problem whilst Tammy whines and claws at my legs. She eventually bumps over the computer. Her panting makes it hard for me to hear the person on the other end of the line. She’s desperate and considers me to be her only escape route.
“There’s nothing more we can do,” the Vet explains. “You’ve given her the maximum dose. You’ll just have to wait it out.”
I know it would be pointless taking her to the Vet’s rooms, because if they kept her overnight, she’ll gnaw at the cage and eventually be returned to me with bleeding gums and toenails. It’s happened before. I call another vet.
This time, they are more helpful. He’s in theatre, but the receptionist says she’ll ask him. Will I call back in 5 minutes time? Of course I will. I stand up and walk up and down the passage. Tammy follows me. Toby, too. He’s equally confused – his faithful ‘Aunt Tam’ is giving off mixed signals. I can’t sit down either, because she’ll shred my legs if I do. I already have telltale red stripes down my arms. I can’t put her in the kitchen either because she’ll claw the door down and shred her paw-pads. There are no answers – except to walk with her. Sitting on the floor is impossible because she climbs all over me, hugging my shoulders. Rubbing her ears is a futile exercise too – she won’t sit still. Wrapping her up in crepe bandages, shutting off her ears…all are pointless exercises.
I’m back on the phone to the receptionist. “Give her another double dose,” she tells me. “It should knock her out.” I’m desperate now. I’ll do anything.
The bangs outside continue with escalating fervour. Tammy is hyperventilating by this stage. If she continues like this perhaps she’ll pass out herself and it will save me the trouble. Her tongue is blue from her efforts and I’ve never realised exactly how long it is, until this moment. She refuses all water – knocking over the water bowl in her confusion. She’s running rings around everything and taking on the fight of her life. She’s also fighting the effects of the medication now, together with the fireworks - as if her life depends on it. Hopefully she’ll eventually succumb to the medication.