A familiar voice

It’s been a long time since I updated my blog, and I feel terrible for letting it go this long. First of all, I want to reassure everyone that Bangsiri is still stable and she seems happy and content most of the time. What I mean is that her health problems are under control with careful management, but at age 16 or 17 (everyone’s best guess) she’s slowed down and spends most of her time napping. She seems to have back pain every once in a while, and she may also have vestibular syndrome (the result of an old ear infection). She’s a lot less mobile than she used to be, and travelling often causes stress and anxiety, although her last vet visit was much easier than usual.

Anyway, despite all that her vet is warning me that I have to be prepared to lose her. I’m not sure exactly how I should interpret that warning, because I’ve been hearing similar warnings for years. Is she close to the end of her life, or can she still defy vets’ predictions as she did before? I’m hopeful, but I understand that she’s not going to live forever. More and more, I feel horrible about all the time we can’t be together.

These days I’m relying on vets and vet nurses just to provide basic care. Since March, I’ve had to entrust her to hospitals for day boarding when I’m at work. Five days a week she stays at the hospital and the staff administers her medicine, feeds her all her meals, gives her eye drops, keeps her clean, and provides a safe place to curl up for naps. It’s been very stressful having to put so much trust in strangers—even more so when we moved from an expensive officetel in central Seoul to a more affordable place further out. That meant transferring her from one hospital to another and dealing with a whole different group of people, who always seem to be busy and whose email accounts have overactive spam filters. Still, after a few setbacks, the vets usually tell me that Bangsiri is eating well and sleeps most of the day. And I’m grateful for their help, because I can’t do without it.

One reason that Dr. Choi’s warning was so confusing is that he said her test results were “mostly good news.” Her heart valve problem was still under control and she wasn’t in kidney failure. Her blood work was just about normal, but her heart arrhythmia—which is separate from the valve problem—had gotten worse and her kidneys seemed to have gotten weaker. If my understanding is correct, she’s in danger of going into kidney failure in the next few months or maybe the next year, but there’s always a chance she could die even sooner from the arrhythmia. When I pressed for a decisive prediction, Dr. Choi (like all the other vets I’ve asked) couldn’t say how much time we’ll have together. He confirmed, however, that there’s no reason to change her treatment plan—she still benefits from the medicine she’s taking, and she still needs her monthly checkups.

Not long after I got that dire warning, I got a call from Tanpoong’s mother. Tanpoong and Bangsiri used to live at the same shelter in Daejeon, although Tanpoong had to move to a different shelter in 2008 (a shelter in Asan now known as Janeworld) when the first shelter closed. Tanpoong was the shyest of all the Jindo mixes at the Daejeon shelter and whenever I saw her she seemed completely shut down. She never went for walks and didn’t seem to like human attention at all. We all thought she’d never get adopted.

But in 2009 and 2010, Tanpoong started to get friendlier. One day, she started going out for walks. In November 2010, Jane adopted her and somehow she ended up being the perfect dog—no aggression at all, even after Jane had a baby and the baby started walking around.

Well, it turns out that Tanpoong has cancer and her post-rescue life may not be as long as we all hoped, but I still think she can beat the odds like Bangsiri. And I really owe a big thank you to Dr. Choi for answering Jane’s questions and providing Tanpoong with such wonderful care when she needed surgery to remove her tumor. Tanpoong’s health crisis also reminded me that Bangsiri’s brothers and sisters are growing old at the shelter, and Ms. Jung is still struggling to care for them with inadequate resources. Although my ability to communicate with Ms. Jung is still incredibly limited even now, and phone calls are extremely awkward, I can’t tell you how nice it was to hear her voice on the phone last week.

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