By jan gentleman-ingersoll
To Coca for willingly giving up her life to get my attention!
To Jonathan and Samantha for loving and caring for her – for providing her happy
Coca came into this life so that the lives her short life touched might be better because she lived. My life is better! Coca did not race into a burning building and pull me to safety; nor did she fight off an evil intentioned bully. Yet, clearly, Coca saved my life in a less obvious albeit profound way!
Coca was born around 3:30 in the afternoon on April 5th, 2006. She was the anxiously awaited firstborn of our Lady Pup’s cute and cuddly baby pups.
Years earlier our vet advised us, with another mother-to-be, that at the first signs of labor, we should shut her away in a dark closet until birthing was all over. She said momma dogs preferred isolated, dark, confined places that felt like a “den.” Not only did that practice not work for me, it did not work for any of my momma-to-be dogs. When labor began they wanted and demanded my full attention comforting and reassuring them; Lady Pup was no different. I sat with Lady rubbing her head and sides as she panted and looked at me with fear and panic in her eyes. Caught up in her energy, I soothed and assured her all would be well and that the cute and cuddly little lives about to appear would make this discomfort all worthwhile. Inside I was calling on God and His Angels to make sure all really did go well and thinking, I will never put you (or me) through this again!
When Coca took her first breath, I was right there thanking God for the huge miracle of this tiny new life. And, it was a good thing I was there because, for whatever reason, Lady’s instincts did not kick in right away. Consequently, I tore the sack and positioned Coca for Lady to lick clean and stimulate her firstborn; then, I encouraged her to nurse. No part of my efforts after tearing the sack were easy. Lady was freaked out! She could not and would not settle down for any length of time; it was as if she could not find a comfort zone. Labor still seemed to confuse and frighten her. Worse yet, she showed no interest or motherly instinct to care for Coca. Fortunately, when the next little bundle of white fur appeared, instinct kicked in, Lady finallydd relaxed and she began to care for both puppies. Coca’s first hour was trying, but then, all seemed well. In the end, Lady delivered six snow white and one caramel Labrador Retriever babies. We were ecstatic and Lady appeared to beam with pride and joy – all was well!
When Coca was nearly two-weeks-old I noticed that she seemed lethargic compared to her lively siblings. With so many puppies at any given time some would nurse and others would sleep; at their age and with their eyes not yet open it wasn’t like they were playful. Somehow, it was clearly obvious that she just wasn’t right. I had no idea if she had been nursing enough. Our daughter told us of a friend whose puppy had similar symptoms, was subsequently diagnosed with Low Blood Sugar and successfully treated it with honey. Her friend’s dog was now just fine! I then remembered that many years earlier I owned a Teacup Pomeranian who experienced convulsions attributed to Low Blood Sugar; we effectively treated her with a high calorie glucose paste. She had problems with Low Blood Sugar all her life.
Because it was after vet hours when we realized there was a serious problem developing, and because I feared the vet’s solution would be to put her to sleep– we decided to treat her ourselves and see what happens. Our treatment plan included;
1)feeding her small amounts of honey and the high calorie glucose paste,
2)supplemental puppy milk bottle feeding,
3)enable and monitor her time nursing on Lady.
While my husband raced to the local pet store for supplies, I gave her the first dose of honey. She was too weak and disinterested in nursing; tearfully, I cuddled and stimulated her all the while praying that God, His Angels, The Saints and any highly evolved spiritual being willing to help would please intervene and save this precious baby’s life.
Death is not my “strong suit;” I love passionately, commit completely and grieve losses deeply. True to my nature, I resisted the possibility of losing this beautiful being that I had named Sugar and my son renamed Coconut, Coca for short. The thought of her dying was unbearable. My husband and I both committed to doing what we must to save this precious puppy.
When my husband returned we successfully managed to feed the resistant baby a small amount of puppy formula and a dab of the paste. I worried we would accidentally drown her because she wouldn’t voluntarily take the miniature bottle. We had, in the past, tube fed puppies; yet, we did not have a tube available. We then used an eyedropper to place life saving formula on her tongue. She spit and sputtered and made it come out her nose! I panicked but told myself, “resistance is good, it is a sign of life” and life is the goal!
We repeated our treatment plan every two to three hours, throughout night and day for a couple of weeks. At first, she would seem to show improvement following treatment; and our hopes would rise. Yet, when next treatment time rolled around, we picked up her limp body and wondered if she had died until the next faint sign of life. Then, miraculously following treatment, she would seem better again. It was an emotional roller coaster of hope and despair with uncertainty that our efforts would be successful. Finally, the limp body squirmed when we picked her up. Feeling her muscles tense, seeing her little feet paw the air and hear her puppy grunts of protest were pure joy! She now showed a completely normal response and we celebrated that our Coca was likely going to make it!
Coca’s growth and development took off. Her eyes opened just like all the rest and no longer would their whelping pen contain these curious little ones – Coca included. It was a whole new world and so much to explore; they did not want to waste a moment penned up. Thankfully, for all appearances you would never know how close she came to death! But we knew and were uncertain if there had been any hidden physical or mental damage as a result of her experience.
Some years earlier we had purchased a Chocolate Lab from a breeder. This puppy had a congenital kidney disease and two years later, she died; we knew the emotional devastation of attachment and loss and did not want to subject prospective owners to that possibility. Consequently, we felt it would be unethical to sell her with the rest of the pups. Besides all that, we had grown very fond of her and the attachment seemed too much to sever. Fortunately, our son who was a college student rooming with a couple of guys and his girlfriend decided they needed one of Lady’s pups. They had just moved into a house with a nice backyard, and we had had very good luck with another college boy buying one of our previous litter’s pups. It seemed the perfect solution!
Several months later, they returned home. We live on a small ranch along with many dogs, children and children’s children; the children love to ride four wheelers, dirt bikes and jeeps, and the dogs love to chase them. All the dogs love to chase them and they all love to chase at once! As they run and chase, they play. Dog play consists of biting or nipping at each other and pushing each other around. Six months earlier, Coca’s grandmother was seriously injured as the dogs chased the four-wheeler. As they chase and play the collective energy builds like a snowball rolling down hill. The more they play, the faster they go and the more aggressive they get. Actually, the energy and activity reminds me of a time in Coronado, California when I watched a shark feeding frenzy. Not a good image or energy for me to project onto my doggies having fun! In all the excitement of the chase, Coca’s grandmother was pushed into a previously unnoticed long, protruding fence wire at the end of our driveway. She dropped to the ground with a gash that ripped her side open leaving a 12 inch wound, clear to her ribs that required 250 stitches to close multiple layers. Fortunately, she recovered!
One day, a friend, visiting from the city, brought his jeep to the ranch. True to habit, the dogs began their typical chase, barking and nipping at each other. This time, Coca was pushed under a tire. My husband immediately rushed her to the vet; the vet x-rayed her, and we were so relieved to learn that her spine was good. Aside from the shock of being run over, she only had a badly broken front leg. Because it was Friday, an appointment was made to set her leg in surgery on Monday. Coca came home.
Saturday, trusting that all would be well, I flew to a weeklong Training seminar in Los Angeles. Monday, I was assured that all went well. Tuesday no one returned my text messages asking about her (or anything else). My training was intense and busy; I assumed my family, too, were busy and just had not had time to respond. Wednesday, I was in a training session on telling an emotional story. This, I learned, was also not my strength. Displaying weakness embarrassed and shamed me. I prefer to be perfect and always in control rather than appear to be a blubbering ninny. My mind knew this was the time and place to transcend that fixed disabling belief; yet, my body was not yet convinced. I was out of sync or incongruent and didn’t even know it! My fellow participants were not shy about sharing their observations. The feedback on my short, sad, emotional story delivery was that I did not appear emotional although I was clearly sharing an emotional experience. In fact, my group told me, I smiled as I related my heart wrenching story! I was totally surprised. As I shared, I felt tears well in my eyes and my throat physically hurt and felt swollen; yet, my group could not see my pain.
Rather than record their feedback, I immediately set an intention to do the opposite at the next storytelling opportunity. In my notes, I wrote: “I feel and embrace my pain, and I show it.” We broke for a working dinner with the assignment to develop a longer emotional story to be delivered in group format immediately after dinner. A friend and fellow participant was so deeply touched when she delivered her emotional story that I spent the dinner break comforting her instead of either preparing my assignment or talking with my family. With only a couple minutes left of the break, I decided there was no time to prepare; so, I would wing the presentation and call my husband to check on the home front. As I reached for the door handle to walk back into the conference room, l asked, “How’s Coca?” Expecting a glowing report of an amazing recovery, it felt as if I had been sucker punched when I heard, “I wish you hadn’t asked.” Coca had been put to sleep.
Every cell in my body screamed “no, it can’t be true” as my husband explained that when the vet read the x-rays, he had missed that her spine had been broken. I could not bear to hear more. I hung up, turned and ran to escape to my room. Although the elevator was always slow in this hotel, it seemed even more so now when I needed to escape quickly. All I could do was think. I was so upset and emotional, how could I possibly deliver my presentation? How could I possibly allow anybody to see me in a blubbering idiot state? Oh my, a light bulb turned on in my darkness! In that instant I realized Coca had caused me to tap into energy that the seminar was designed to utilize to reach the hearts, souls and minds of an audience. Coca caused me to visit a depth of emotion so uncomfortable I could not make myself go there voluntarily; yet, there I was. And I knew with a knowing beyond earthly understanding that Coca’s gift to me was, in leaving the planet when she did, so that I could reach my pain, feel rather than resist it and, then, transform it into passion. Passion to transcend the horror, limitation and barrier that pain had ALWAYS been for me, as well as, to activate my ability to reach out and touch the lives of others. What a gift!
I did not return to my room. Instead, I went to the ladies room. I cried, completely and totally in touch with my grief and pain; then, back to the seminar where I tearfully shared, rather than presented, Coca’s gift.
Coca was not the first of my loving -kind and self-less teachers; she was the first I
recognized as such!