Thursday, July 14, 2016

5 years with Asha

Its time for my traditional post marking another year with Asha.

It started back in year ONE as a celebration that we had survived. I also started to document our time together because I honestly wasn't sure how long we could last in this crazy life with this uniquely challenging creature. Over the years, it has given me the opportunity to see just how far we have progressed in a 12 month period. With every post, I become a little more honest and open about our experiences. I look back over those first yearly posts and while they sound so optimistic, for many of them, I was barely hanging on. As the years go by, the optimism is much more genuine, I don't have to will it into being so much these days. Here are those posts:

One Year With Asha
Two Years With Asha
Three Years With Asha
Four Years With Asha

And so here we go...year 5....

This year has felt like the first normal year of life we have had since we adopted Asha. She sleeps most of the night, sometimes all night. She doesn't run and bark nearly as much as in years past. She is able to settle herself and to lay calmly while we are not in the same room as her.

I just read through all of the previous yearly updates and remember how our home used to feel to me. For a long time, I didn't want to come home. I would pull into the garage and sit there, knowing that once I got into the house, it would be chaos. Asha was chaos. And while I loved her, the chaos was exhausting. The mania and the mayhem was exhausting.

The last two years, my perception of home has really changed. I find peace and comfort here. Honestly, I hate not being home. Right now, Asha is laying at my feet. Two years ago, she would have been jumping up, running and barking every 20 minutes. Now, she just lays there, like the rest. She has developed the ability to be calm.
This isn't to say that she doesn't still run and bark, that she doesn't walk in circles and get herself worked up. There are times when her anxiety takes over and she gets out of control and we are back in the days of old...wishing for some peace. But those days are few and far between.

We joke, but it is actually true, that I haven't had a good night's sleep in 5 years...since the night before we adopted Asha. She sleeps through most nights, with one exception. Every night, around 3am, I wake up and I hear her make a quite crying noise. I get out of bed and touch her. She comes back to bed, jumps up and lays against me with her head in my hand. Then we sleep until the alarm goes off.

Every couple months she goes through a phase where she can't sleep. We go maybe a week with her waking up every hour or two. It exhausts me and in my mind, I go back to the beginning days, the worst of the days. During those times, I wonder if she is going backwards...if it is possible that she could go backwards. Could this progress turn into regression and what would we do. Then, just as quickly as she stopped sleeping, she starts sleeping again. And life goes back to "normal"

There are so many 'before and afters' with Asha. Before and after the seizures started, before and after the anxiety medications started, before and after we met our Behavioral Vet Dr Pachel, before and after we started Chinese Medicine treatments, before and after my meltdown, before and after our move. The one that sticks with me and the one I think of every night when she lays her head in my hand is the before and after our 5 days in the ICU.

It has been just about two years since we spent 5 days in the ICU with a very sick Asha. I wrote about that HERE During that time, we didn't know if she would live or die. I had lots of time to think about what her life had meant to us and if it was enough. I had lots of time to think of the things we wanted to do with Asha, to think of what we wanted her to give to the world and get from it in return. Every night, as she sleeps against me, I remember those nights on the floor of the ICU, when she laid against me in the same way. And I feel lucky. I know that we are lucky to still have her and I don't want to waste it.

One of the things I promised myself during those nights was that Asha would become a Therapy Dog. I had considered it, but never taken the steps to do it. So this year, when Asha FINALLY took her last medication from that illness, I looked up certification classes for Pet Partners Therapy Dogs. I found a local hospital that has a program and I signed up. It took us two tries, but we passed the test and are now an active Certified Therapy Dog Team.

Twice a month, Asha and I visit a local hospital. We see patients, nurses, doctors, hospital staff and visitors. It is during these times that I know we aren't wasting our days. I get to see this amazing creature, who has made the difference in  my life, affect the lives of others. She connects with everyone in their own, individual way. She exudes love and hope. She gives so much of herself during those visits and soaks up the love she gets back. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever witnessed. I get to see these private interactions between two souls and it is really something.

So year 5 has been about moving forward and carving a new path. It has been about new experiences and making good on old promises. This year Asha met some new friends....

Felt the sand between her toe and breathed in the cool, Lake breeze....
And began her journey as a Therapy Dog...

Each year, Asha teaches me more about myself and about the world around us. Our Fifth year together is no exception. 5 is a scary number, after 5, she starts to head towards 10. I want her to live forever (I want all of them to live forever) and I know that isn't possible. I know that any day could be her last. And as much as that breaks my heart, I know that when her last day comes, there will be no doubt that she lived life. She LIVED it and she helped me live too. Here's to at least another five years with Asha. Thanks for sharing our journey.

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