Contest of Wills

A few people on Twitter — and any of my Facebook friends — may have seen a few crisis sounding updates this morning regarding me and a certain guide dog of mine. Frankly, I only feel marginally better about it all and I’m pretty sure my crying jag isn’t yet completely over. But I figure I maybe could use to get it all out there, especially since those that saw those concerning updates might be intensely curious as to what is going on.

First, a small explanation about a common occurrence with Yara. It’s not exactly a secret, but I haven’t shared it with many people outside of a few close friends and Yara’s vet. I’ve stated time and again that Yara is a finicky eater. It doesn’t matter what you try to entice her with, if she doesn’t want to eat no power on this earth is going to make her take one mouthful she doesn’t want to. This is not even a slight exaggeration; she’s turned down everything from a lone kibble in her bowl to her favorite treats to a piece of hamburger and every thing in between.

The less candid side of this is how she often reacts to this refusal to eat. My morning routine at home is generally to make her breakfast up and leave her to eat it while I shower. Normally she’ll be lounging on her bed when I’m done and her bowl is nearly always empty when I go into the kitchen to make my tea.1 When it’s not, one of two things happen. If the kitchen happens to be devoid of, well, evidence I’ll call Yara back in and almost always she’ll eat the rest of the food. However, more often than not there is evidence of this lack of eating and by that I mean that Yara herself is in the kitchen accompanied by some type of bodily excrement. Before her diagnosis — and very, very occasionally since — this was diarrhea and/or vomit and a good amount of either or both. But almost always since her diagnosis it’s piss.

Believe it or not, I understand the whole thing better than you’d think. See the thing is Yara’s a pretty smart cookie and she gets the routine of her meals quite well, even if she doesn’t necessarily feel like cooperating with it. The food goes down and if she doesn’t eat it, she doesn’t get a window much beyond me exiting the shower because we don’t have time to sit around all day until she decides she’s hungry or whatever. It was pretty obvious at first because these accidents would happen right in front of me, sometimes right after I’d set her food down. And she’d look at me like she was the guiltiest dog ever, knowing that she’d made a bad in both not eating when she should and by taking a crap inside. It was stressful. And it was more obvious after her diagnosis because the frequency of these accidents dropped dramatically. However, they haven’t stopped completely and in some ways they’ve gotten much worse because she won’t just have an accident in the kitchen she’ll instead bolt out of the kitchen when I enter and proceed to trail the evidence of her stress throughout my whole apartment.

It’s a no-win situation because I can’t punish her for it and yet she always reacts like I’m going to kill her.2 Yara has this strange thing in common with Dolly in that they both react like they’ll be bodily harmed when neither of them has ever had a rough hand laid on them. Today was one of the worst examples of this because after I finished cleaning up, I found my dog in my tub, hiding behind the shower curtain, shaking violently.

Probably the only thing that kept me from falling apart completely myself was that she didn’t shy away from me when I found her. But I have to admit I really and truly don’t know how much more of this I can handle. I spent a good hour this morning just crying hysterically about how rotten a handler I must be that I can’t keep this dog from having these gigantic issues. A not small part of me just wants to give up because it’s horribly stressful for me — not to mention her treatment isn’t cheap and does still leave me with a dog I can’t work now and then. And yet for a million and one other reasons I don’t want to give up — and there are a good number of these that seem terribly selfish to me. Frankly, I feel like a failure.

Anyway, I called her vet about the hot spots this morning — which are healing nicely — and talked with her about both the above and the fact that Yara still seems excessively itchy. For the itchy, we’ll be putting Yara on steroids for the next few weeks. But as for the whole eating thing, her vet feels that it’s basically what I’ve always presumed it to be: a contest of wills regarding her eating. I didn’t mention my whole lack of confidence as a dog owner and guide dog handler, since I’m sure she’s well aware of Yara’s lack of abuse at my hand I have to say I felt only slightly better, but hearing that unprompted conclusion from someone other than me was a nice thing.

Still, I really just don’t know.

  1. Yes, tea. Since I’m no longer allowed to have coffee due to the migraines I supposedly get from them. And while I do greatly enjoy tea, I have to admit I don’t think the lack of my morning cup of coffee has done a thing other than make me extra crankier when the whole Yara not eating her breakfast routine occurs.
  2. Not that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind which just makes me feel like the worst person ever.

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