I have had lots of opportunity to observe and contemplate touch.
I am remembering a handful of years back when my family adopted a new dog, one who was fully vaccinated for the deadly Parvo virus. We had this sweet dog for only a matter of weeks before she contracted Parvo. It is a horrible, horrible illness that acts fast on the intestinal lining, causing internal bleeding, loss of appetite and lethargy. After just one day of watching our dog deteriorate we took her to the vet, she was diagnosed, we were told that Parvo was an incurable virus and that our two choices were to have her euthanized or take her home and watch her die a painful death in less than 72 hours. We chose euthanasia.
Parvo is an extremely contagious virus and we had two other dogs at home. We worked quickly to disinfect everything we could, including the outdoors and destroying everything inside that our infected dog had used – bedding, toys, stuff like that. I also knew I needed to learn something about Parvo.
The dreaded virus hit our second dog a few weeks later. She was not vaccinated. We were panic stricken and pretty terrified. We really, really love our dogs. All I knew this time was that we would not visit the vet. Instead we began an intensive therapy that had us using an eyedropper to administer immune system supplements and ones for intestinal health, about every hour. We also committed ourselves to gently, quietly and lovingly holding our dog… continuously, setting her down every hour or so to poop more blood. We had no idea whether she would survive but we knew we wanted her to know how much we cared for and loved her.
About 12 hours into our treatment, she began to perk up and the bleeding slowed. 18 hours into treatment the bleeding had stopped and she was interested in wandering around on her own. About a day and a half later she was FINE. We were overjoyed and she went on to live for another 10 years.
A week after this ordeal, dog #3 was hit with the virus. As painful as it was to watch the last of our precious dogs deteriorate within hours right before our very eyes, we now knew definitively how we would proceed. We put our therapy into action once again and began the continuous holding process. One full day later, she too, was completely fine. From pooping nearly pure blood and extreme lethargy to normal… fine. That dog is still alive and thriving 10 years later.
About two years ago my son moved out of state and took dog #3 with him. He immersed himself immediately in his new life there, working, playing, socializing and exploring… most of which did not include his dog. About one month into his move, he called me in a panic: our dog had become increasingly lethargic, was pooping blood and had lost her appetite. After some quick online research we knew it couldn’t be Parvo – you can’t get this twice. Still, we had no real idea what could be going on. He found a vet he could take her to quickly and was told she was reacting to stress. My son was told to leave her at the vet so they could observe her for a day or two. In his heart of hearts, he knew he couldn’t do that. He loved this dog immensely and could not bare to abandon her in her time of weakness. Against doctor’s orders, he walked out with her. He took her home, cancelled everything on his schedule, bought an eyedropper and a few immune building supplements and hunkered down with her wrapped in a warm blanket in his arms… for the next 16 hours. By next morning her appetite was returning and the bleeding had stopped. By evening she was FINE.
As I think back on my life with children and animals, my husband and friends, I am left to wonder: is touch so important, so critical to well being, that every other thing we attribute to wellness is secondary? Is the energy that is exchanged when authentic love, care and touch is present the true food of life?