• Ashley

If my dog could talk: canine wisdom on infertility

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

So, spoiler alert, my dog lost her eye. I suppose she didn’t exactly lose it – we know where it is – it’s just not part of her anymore. My agile, athletic, active border collie is now a pirate and it makes her all the more loveable.


It's an interesting story in itself. It's not terribly common, and it's not terribly uncommon. You might be wondering “how does this relate to a fertility blog?”. So here's the back story:


January 10th -

I let Penelope Lou “Nella” outside in the morning. It’s a typical cold, gray Pennsylvania morning. I come inside to do my thing; make my tea, check my email, catch up on social media (I try EVERY morning not to do this…I usually fail). A morning we’ve lived together hundreds of times before. She loves being outside-sniffing out evidence of other animals, feeling the breeze, rolling in mud, the dirtier the better. Minus the mud rolling, I love that we have a yard where she can roam and explore. I take a sip of my tea and glance out the window expecting to see her laying down in her spot by the tree. Instead, I see her sitting tall, staring strangely into nothingness. My whole heart collapses. I know without even going outside that something is horribly wrong. I’m not a human mom yet (another spoiler alert!) but even a dog mom’s instinct is strong and I know immediately that I need to clear my schedule and take care of her.


So that’s what I do. I get her an appointment with a canine ophthalmologist. I never imagined there is such a thing as a canine ophthalmologist. I explain that her eye is swollen, about the size of a baseball. The vet staff are kind and they dote on Nella. They fuss over her kind demeanor and playfulness. I am appreciative of their love for my pup, and apprehensive to hear what we’ll need to do.


I have felt this apprehension before. I’m very familiar with it to be honest. Kind office staff and nurses distracting me while I wait anxiously for a doctor to deliver news about my fertility. This time, the waiting feels different. It’s not about me, it’s about an innocent soul who can’t understand the circumstances going on around her.


The doctor confirms what I knew in my gut: she has a tumor behind her eye. It is putting pressure on her eye and would need to be removed. “Do you want to move forward with surgery?” - Of course! How could we not?? “When do you want to schedule?” – Right away.


For the next 10 days, we wait. We wait, we offer comfort in any way we can, we pray that she is not in too much pain, we pray for a successful surgery and fast recovery. The waiting is a process in itself. And here’s where the lesson comes in: she waited better than we did. There are things we have to do during the wait that cause her incredible discomfort. There are eye drops that sting, oral medications we force her to swallow. I feel horrible but I know that these discomforts are necessary, that they are part of the bigger picture of healing.


She can’t possibly understand this bigger picture. And yet, she trusts us when we call her. She happily comes to us after we’ve pried her eye open to drop a burning liquid in it. Her tail never ever stops wagging. And she never stops loving. And she never stops trusting her people.

I lie awake in bed, feeling sorry for my little family. Pitying us for all we’ve gone through, and now our sweet dog has been added to the mix. I can’t stop thinking about her wagging tail. I can’t help but wonder if there is something to learn from her. Suddenly, I realize that in so many ways, she has much more wisdom than I. She trusts in a process that she cannot understand and a process that repeatedly causes her pain. Yet her faith that we have her best interest at heart never waivers. She relishes every walk and back scratch. She holds no grudges and never questions our motives.


I cannot honestly say the same for my fertility struggle. I am so often bitter – at God, at the universe, at people who get pregnant easily, at the cost of fertility treatments, at myself for getting hopes up, at the sun that dares to shine. How is it that my dog instinctively knows how to handle uncertainty better than I do? How can I learn from her, trust her wisdom, keep my tail wagging?


Nella losing her eye is a life-lemon. She didn’t ask for it, but it hasn’t changed her. She's still my agile, athletic, active border collie. She will be 10 years old and she has the heart of a puppy.

My pup has taught me more about life, struggle, pain, and trust than she’ll ever know. Lessons from lemons for which I will be forever grateful.


If she could verbalize her wisdom, I imagine it going something like this (exclamations on every point, because that’s her energy):

“Mom, why are you so sad? You have a yard to play in! Legs to take you hiking! Family who love you! You have me and dad! Why isn’t your tail wagging??! Why don’t you try trusting the God who loves you??! This pain won’t last forever! He’ll take care of you! You’re in good hands!”