Who Rescued Who?
I wish I could explain the magnetic pull that Cobb had on my heart the day I saw his story posted on the rescue page. To tell you this story, though, I also need to tell you mine.
I don’t know what it was that triggered such a visceral reaction within me. I can speculate that it was my prior spinal cord compression that could relate to some of what he must have been dealing with. While I don’t know what paralysis is like, I do know what agony the cord compression caused me. Perhaps Cobb was feeling some of the same discomfort. I knew he had no feeling below his injury, but were the muscles above that area, where he had sensation, painful for him? I sure hoped not, but dogs are often masters at hiding discomfort.
Then again, he is such a joyful, happy boy that it’s hard to imagine that he’s ever in pain. Just in case though, if he’s been particularly active, I often give him a good massage. He loves it so much that he nods off and will even start snoring in the middle of it, waking only if I stop and giving me a sleepy little look as if to say, “You aren’t stopping, are you?”
Maybe what also attracted me to Cobb’s story was my natural instincts as a caregiver. I’ve been a nurse since 1987, and most of my career was spent in oncology, hospice and the emergency room. Before nursing school, as a 14 year old, I also volunteered in an inpatient hospice unit every day after school. I did that until I started nursing school, as a dually enrolled high school student in my senior year (how I got involved in hospice at such a young age is a whole other story entirely!).
I believe that Cobb’s medical needs and my nursing background are a perfect match. That’s not to say that a non-medical person certainly couldn’t do for Cobb what I do. I just think it made it easier for me to learn how to perform certain medical procedures that you wouldn’t ordinarily do for an able bodied dog.
And here’s where I need to tell you more about me...
Several years ago, while I kept my nursing license active, I stepped away from nursing altogether. If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would ever walk away from it, I would have told you that you were nuts. Nursing was never just a job to me. It was truly my calling, especially in hospice and oncology. It was a part of my soul and I know that this is what I was put on the earth to do. After all, I had been working with patients, in some capacity, since I was 14 years old. Nursing was almost my entire identity. Who would I be and what value would I have if I could no longer do that?
I used to tell everyone that I had the ideal mix of career and motherhood. I worked 12 hour shifts at the hospital, but that also meant that I only worked three days a week. The other four days a week, I got to be a stay-at-home mom to my two young children. I always felt very fortunate that I got to practice nursing AND be an almost full-time mom. I had the best of both worlds back then.
When I finally left the hospital, I knew it was the right decision. The ER had burned me out pretty bad. My particular ER was the busiest in the state of Georgia and the last place that I worked in a hospital.
I used to come home, undress in the garage and make a beeline for the sanctuary of my bathtub, which my thoughtful husband, Paul, would often have ready when I got home. It was necessary to escape the constant sound pollution of beeping IV pumps, heart monitors and overhead pages. Sometimes I even had my soak in the dark, with earplugs in and my head dunked down in the water so I could be as sensory deprived as possible, for at least a few minutes. I loved my job fiercely, but the need to decompress after a very busy day of being constantly “on” was imperative.
Just before I resigned from the hospital, I was completely burned out. I wasn’t sleeping, I was bringing work stress home and it was getting to the point where I started dreading going to work- something that I had never experienced before. I knew it was time to step away and so I did. We were very fortunate that losing my income wouldn’t be too much of a financial strain.
Initially, I felt guilty for not contributing financially to our household. I became a meticulous housekeeper, laundress, cook and full time dog mom to Misty (RIP), Daisy and Lily, our three schnauzers at the time (Paul would probably say I’ve slacked off in the housekeeping department lately). I also now had the luxury of traveling with my husband when he had business trips, as well as making lunch plans with my friends on their days off from the hospital. My kids were grown and on their own by this point, so they no longer needed me and I felt a certain freedom that I never had before to explore my own interests. It sounds wonderful, right?
Despite my newfound freedom, I always had a little voice in the back of my head telling me, “Well, you’re not a mom anymore because your kids are grown and now you aren’t a nurse anymore because you are no longer practicing. So what’s your worth these days? Who ARE you now? A nobody?”
Oh boy, did that little voice do a number on my mind! I found myself in the midst of a full-on identity crisis.
I knew I was obviously still a mom, but you don’t parent adult children. They don’t need you like they did when they were little. You’ve raised them, and if you’ve done a good job, they leave the nest and are entirely self-sufficient. I did such a fantastic job with one of my kids that he even moved clear across the country! Apparently, I overachieved with that one. I’m thankful that my daughter still lives nearby, at least for now.
I’m also still a nurse. I maintain my nursing license and take continuing education courses regularly. I still subscribe to nursing and hospice magazines. I’m just not currently working. When someone asks what I do for a living, I’m always perplexed as to how I should answer. I mostly just spit out some quick, unnecessary explanation like, “I’m a nurse, but not currently practicing,” because that’s all I’ve ever known. Then that voice in my head returns and says, “Where’s the self-worth in that though?!”
Then along came Cobb and I think about what a blessing in disguise my temporary identity crisis really was. If I still had young kids at home, Cobb would never have been here. If I were still nursing, there’s no way I could have taken on another dog, let alone a handicapped one. All of those things that I viewed as negatives were anything but. Every bit of that lead me to where I am today, with Cobb as a precious and valued member of our family.
On Cobb’s social media, people will sometimes comment things like, “He’s so lucky to have you” or “Thank God he found you”. I’m always a little uncomfortable with comments like that because they imply that I am somehow better than anyone who doesn’t have a special needs dog. That couldn’t be further than the truth. I don’t do anything more than anybody else would do if a dog they loved were in the same position. It’s just what you do when you love someone.
The truth, if I’m being honest, is more like I’m the one that is so lucky to have Cobb. I thank God every day that he is in my life. It’s not a coincidence that his pages and website are titled “Cobb’s Purpose.” He has many purposes in this little life of his, but the most important one of all is that it was He who rescued ME.