It's been about six months since Graham was in the hospital, and I wanted to check in with an update on how he's doing.
The overall answer is, pretty good. He's still at the lean end of what a healthy weight is, despite the fact that we're feeding him more than we used to. The vet thinks that because he lost so much intestine, his body can't hang onto as many nutrients. So his morning and evening meals are a little bit larger, and he gets a little bit of peanut butter as a treat most days. He isn't technically underweight, but he's still about 5lbs less than he used to be.
He isn't allowed to run, and that's sad but a fact of life. I know that he misses it, because his eyes and ears perk up when we take the girls out. The vet told us that he's welcome to run around in the backyard and exercise at the dog park, but extended runs we should probably avoid. That's partially because of how easily he could become dehydrated, and partially because he's having enough trouble hanging onto weight. So he gets to play and wrestle in the backyard, but the days of taking him out for 2-4 miles are over. His 5K PR stands where it is. I wish I could explain to him why that is, but without a frontal cortex, he'll never understand.
He is extremely spoiled, and I'm okay with that. He gets to climb up on the bed and snuggle with me after the poet leaves in the morning while the girls go back in their houses. He comes to work with me while the other two stay home. He gets a little bit of extra love, because at least once a day I look at him and remember how close we came to losing him. That doesn't mean the girls are ignored or deprived - hardly - but Graham will always be special. We fought for him, and he fought for all of us.
As far as the help we received, we haven't forgotten. It has changed our lives, and that's not an exaggeration. Before all of this, before I lost my job and we emptied our savings to the IRS and everything that happened to devastate us, we were very financially focused on paying down debt. I volunteered my time to the golden retriever rescue, but our funds were all being poured into trying to kill off our student loans. And that's just not true anymore. It took us until late August to pay off the debt that we had accumulated over the summer, and as soon as we had paid off that debt, we started paying it forward as we had promised. Every month, every paycheck, a little bit would go into rebuilding our savings account from zero, but another chunk would be donated. When our house in DC sold, we were able to make a couple of significant donations from the money that we made there.
We haven't quite reached the point where we've donated the same amount of money that was donated to us to help Graham, but we're close. I talked several months ago about selling my horn, and I'm hoping that the person that is testing it out right now purchases it. If so, we will be able to donate yet again, above and beyond what we have promised. Both of us have been working two jobs for several months now, and that is a big part of why we have been able to make these things happen so quickly.
But the poet and I have discussed this, about what happens when we have paid all the money back or forward. And we've decided that it's not going to stop there. We do still have student loans that we are working on paying down, but it's more important to us to donate monthly, to remember and be grateful, than it is to pay those off as quickly as possible. Some people might call this stupid or irresponsible. I believe it is necessary. We've decided that we'll continue donating until we've matched the total amount of money that was spent on his surgeries - an amount that is approximately four times as much as what was donated. And we probably won't even stop there, but that's where we are headed next.
Graham getting sick has changed our lives, in a real and permanent way. We talked about it this weekend. Before all this happened, it just wouldn't have occurred to us to donate in this way. Maybe in part because we are selfish white people trying to pay down our expensive college educations, but I think it's also because we hadn't been affected by tragedy like this before. And once affected, we will never be the same. Every time I see something somewhere about a hurt animal or a rescue foundation or everyone someone raising money to fight actual human cancer, I try and send money, even if it's only $10 or $20. Because someone did that for us, people reached into their hearts to save a member of MY family, and I know how much even the little donations help. So many times since this has happened, I've heard someone say, "But it's only a dog." I know that. I know he is only a dog, and that there are far more important problems going on in this planet than keeping a puppy alive. But he's also a member of my family. He is probably the only baby I will ever have. He saved MY life when he was 7 weeks old, and he didn't even know it, and I'll be damned if I won't fight for his.