The longer I continue my service in Malawi, the more I realize the journey and the learning have less to do with my actual job than the lessons I am learning about faith, and my relationship with God.
Last week I received news that Zoey, my beloved dog and 24/7 companion for the last 12 years, had become very ill. After a few days of watching and waiting for tests, I decided to make the trip home as the vet said she was most likely suffering from advanced cancer, somewhere.
Peace Corps quickly gave me permission to travel and use my last vacation days plus some “without stipend” to make the 7000+ mile trip home. For some, this seems absurd, but those of you who are animal people get it. I arrived home to a thin, weak animal who couldn’t even get up to greet me or wag her tail. I was sad and scared but grateful I had returned. I had prayed the whole way home that she would hang on til I arrived.
We spent the 9 days with my dear friend Deborah and her 2 dogs, Dexter and Akeelah. Between continuing tests, checking on mom, caring for Zoey, and taking care of myself, it was a pretty stressful and emotionally exhausting experience. After multiple blood tests, chest and abdominal xrays, abdominal ultrasound, tick titers, Coombs test, urine tests, trials of antibiotics, and IV fluids we still have no answer or diagnosis.
My team of healers went to work quickly. Marcia, Martha, Deborah and I were pretty much talking, consulting, and trying different homeopathic remedies from 7 in the morning til 10 at night. Zoey continued to run very high fevers of 104-105 pretty much all day and night and nothing seemed to work. She was anorexic and would eat only tiny amounts at a time from my hand (chicken sausage or ground beef) Her kidney function was good and she was able to drink enough to keep herself hydrated.
We all believe (well except for the vets) this mess was caused by a severe reaction to a vaccine she received earlier in the month. There is just no other explanation. Regardless, I was faced with the possibility of putting her down after my caregivers backed out and would not take her back. Who wants to care for a dog that is sick and could die on your watch?
Everyday I prayed for guidance, for direction, for an answer to the dilemma. Committed to finishing my contract in Malawi, I did not see staying home with her as an option. She was not strong enough to make the trip nor would a vet sign off on a health certificate to bring her to Malawi with me. No answers or people were presenting themselves, we still had no diagnosis, and I was becoming panicked and discouraged.
Yesterday I scheduled the appointment to have Zoey euthanized. I had run out of options and she continued to run the high fever but was comfortable and eating a little. I had arranged for her to be buried on my farm in Reading (that I recently sold but they agreed that she could be buried there with the other dogs and cat and rooster) My neighbor Bill was planning to dig the hole this morning with his backhoe. The vet was coming at 2 pm to euthanize her right there in the field, LOVE VERMONT
This morning I was guided to take a walk in my sanctuary, Mt Tom, with Zoey. When I looked into her eyes, she was bright, alert and clearly not ready to depart this life. I just could not bear the thought of making this choice to end her life when she still appeared to want to stay, with a pretty strong vital force.
I stopped at the market to get a scone (craving baked goods) and ran into a dear friend. When doing the “woe is me, no caregiver” routine, she suggested the name of a mutual friend. Perfect, I thought, and drove the 2 miles to where she was orchestrating the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
After a brief reunion, I reviewed the situation and asked her if she was at all interested or willing and she said YES! Now bear in mind, this is 4 hours from the scheduled appointment time with the vet in the field. Needless to say, after introducing her to Zoey who was with me in the car, she confirmed that she would take it on. I just broke down and wept with relief and joy at the miracle that had just occurred.
I say miracle because I truly believe God intervened on our behalf, and at the 11th hour. The timing, the synchronicity, the circumstances, the solution, is indeed a miracle. I am learning the lesson of patience, of waiting, of faith. Never did I expect this outcome to occur as it did. I could not have planned or orchestrated everything any better. Yet, I was hanging on by a thread, impatient, discouraged, frustrated.
I got to see that the answers and the solution will not come one minute before we are ready, before the highest good of all is determined. I am learning to trust that this time of patience and frustration and discouragement is the ripening and cultivation of faith. It happens with more and more frequency, the more I practice, trust, and the closer I stay to my higher power.
Tomorrow I head back to Malawi to complete my service that ends on the 30th of June. I am eager to get back and finish some important projects and reconnect with my peeps. In the meantime, I have to trust that whatever happens with Anne and Zoey will be as it should be, and I have done all I can to support Zoey and her healing, and keep my commitments in Malawi.