Betty Back from the Brink

Life with many animals on a livestock farm is full of emotional highs and lows. Loving life is no guarantee of happy times, but loving life means life is thick with feeling. Thick with a joy that is more nuanced than mere happiness. It may be what one could call “abundant life.”

Betty showing off her herding skills at Peck Farm several years ago. Photo by John.

We did put our livestock guardian dog, Bilbo down. We could have been purely “pro-life,” and kept him going even under the shadow of certain degeneration–of impending immobility and incontinence. We could have, but we didn’t. And we said our goodbyes to a faithful friend.

But with Betty it was different. We rejoice that she is back from the brink.

We had seen her failing quite quickly; but it was after a prolonged heat cycle that had us worried. We should have had her neutered long ago, but we kept putting it off, and now regretted it.

We took her to the veterinarian’s office first because of a sore on her leg, but we were also concerned her reduced appetite was a sign of pyometra or infected uterus. But the vet saw no discharge–no pyometra–and thought the sore could be easily treated.

Back home she went off her food completely. Then she ran a fever of 106. I took her to an emergency vet, then back to my regular vet. Several trips, several exams, x-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, all mounting up to over a thousand dollars, and no diagnosis. No thickening of the uterus, no sign of pyometra. No idea what was keeping her from eating so that I had to force food down her throat with a syringe, and cram pills with butter down her throat.

Finally I insisted on an operation. Open Betty up and see what was happening. And when I left her off for the surgery I said to put her down if there was no chance of recovery, and I leaked tears all over the floor, thinking I might never see her again.

Low and behold her uterus was infected, and indeed had ruptured. But with lots of antibiotics, the surgeon said the prognosis was good.

I did fret for days afterward, however. She still would not eat. Forced food and very forced pills ensued for several days. But then…but finally she ate a bit of meat as long as it was from my hands, then from the bowl, and finally-finally the sparkle came back into those beautiful eyes. Days of agony and more than $2,000 in bills.

Lots of moments of decision were involved. Life or death. Betty is eleven, going on twelve. But her mother, Abbie, had survived pyometra and had several more years. So it was all worth it, we thought. We decided.

Worth it. And reason to rejoice now that she is back to the old Betty. She is much slower than in her prime, but still is “a helpful bitch,” as they say in the UK. Not bad for a 12 year old girl who survived such serious surgery.

We cry some. We laugh some. We are responsible for many lives, and we are high one moment and low another. But it is life placed in our hands by God and we try to honor it and see it’s glory. We feel so much because we love so much. It is abundant life.

The sparkle in Betty’s eyes. Photo by John.

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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1 Response to Betty Back from the Brink

  1. Caroline Leean says:

    Thank you, John and Connie for sharing about Betty! oh how we are so privileged to live so abundantly!

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