Phantom Limb Pain

There’s a crazy phenomenon that sometimes happens when a person loses a limb. The nervous system thinks the limb is still there, so that the person continues to have the sensation of having it.  I mean, to the point of the former owner freaking out because they want to put on a sock because the foot is cold, but the foot persists in not being present.  This is called a Phantom Limb.

But since the limb has really been amputated, the limb also feels the pain of that, and of the injury or disease that lead to the amputation.  This can become a terrible situation if the limb doesn’t get used to being amputated and settle down.  How can you relieve the pain of something that doesn’t exist?

I just realized that I am suffering from Phantom Limb Pain.

Some of my readers know that I am caring for my beautiful Belgian Malinois, Atina, who is dying of kidney disease.  She is now 19 months old, and starting to slow way down.  I’m enjoying her delightful self for now, and I will take care of her until it is time for her to go.

I just received the final pathology report.  It is terrible.

For those who don’t toss around medical terminology on a daily basis, let me give you your word of the day:  nephron.

A nephron is the basic operating unit of the kidney.  It has three parts, which all have different essential tasks in maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) in our bodies.  In addition, special cells called podocytes keep our serum proteins from leaking out.  These are the parts of the kidney that maintain fluid and electrolyte homeostasis, in a delicate and incredibly intelligent system of checks and balances.  Any disturbance of kidney function can lead to a disruption in the system, depending upon which area of the kidney is damaged.  And that can lead to illness and death.

Atina’s biopsy shows that 90% of her nephrons are fetal, which means that kidney development was arrested before three weeks of life.  The pathologist writes that this could be due to disease or toxins being transmitted to the pup through the mom’s milk.  The remaining 10% of normal nephrons are becoming ballooned out of shape from having to process all that pee by themselves, and their podocytes are starting to detach, which is why her urine is full of protein.  Soon those few functioning nephrons will die, and then Atina will die.

I stopped by the vet’s yesterday for another reason, and just for kicks had Atina stand on the scale.  She’s gained three more pounds…of fluid.

When I first got her, she weighed 55 pounds of skin and bones.  She looked like a sick cow.  With treatment and lots of love, she put on ten pounds and was looking and acting like a normal, healthy, happy, bratty adolescent Malinois.  I started her in Service Dog training and she was doing great.  I had this spark of hope…

Then she started looking weird and puffy.  Despite treatment, her blood pressure was sky high (another kidney function thing), and she went back to drinking gallon after gallon of water, and peeing like a waterfall many times a day, and even needing to go out at night sometimes.  And her weight keeps creeping up, and her appetite keeps slowing down…

I’m glad she’s with me, and that I’ve had the honor to be her very own human and caregiver, friend and mutual aid society.  We are passionately in love.  She’s asleep now, but if she knew that I am crying she would rush to my bed and throw herself on top of me, causing various injuries.  Since I know that they are love bites, scratches, and bruises, I take them in the spirit in which they were inflicted.  And once her initial exuberance settles down, she cuddles and kisses and lets me cry in her fur.

Aside from the love injuries, I have been injured in many ways since becoming Atina’s personal angel.

I needed a service dog to guide me through the next ten or so years of my life.  Instead I got a very sweet invalid dog, with whom I fell in love, from whom I will be parted very soon.

This beautiful sick girl of mine cost me $12,000 up front, and more than $10,000 in medical expenses so far.  I have used up most of my financial and emotional resources, and at the end of the day, I won’t have a dog, and I won’t have the money, and since even now I keep myself alive by force of will, Atina’s death may sever the thread I’m hanging on.

Everyone says, “Sue the bitch (who sold you the dog)!”  Easier said than done.

Yesterday I had a telephone consultation with an attorney from the State Bar Association’s referral service.  He listened to the “short version,” told me he had no experience with cases like this but would be happy to litigate it, outlined the essential steps, reminded me that his hourly fee is $210 (a bargain, actually), that the case would cost a minimum of $20,000 to litigate, that we would surely win, that the first thing he needs to do is to examine the purchase contact and look at some other things, and that in order to do so he needs a $5,000 retainer.

Phantom Limb Pain.

Before I became a disabled person, back in the days when I went to work every evening, relished in healing the sick, lame, and halt, and also in bringing home the bacon and frying it in the pan: if someone needed a legal spanking I had only to pick up the phone, and if my own attorney couldn’t do it, he knew someone who could.  Retainer fees?  Not a problem.  Not a question.  Not required!  Don’t even offer!  They knew I was good for it, and besides, they might need my expert witness services one day…or their kid might need to be sewed up on a Sunday… But now all I have to offer is

Phantom Limb Pain

as I am cut off from myself, and I can’t get back what is gone

I can feel it, even see it, but it’s gone

And now I have to beg some abogado, please, please

If you think my case is so straight-forward, please take it on contingency, or reduced fees, or even pro bono

I have Phantom Limb Pain, don’t you see

I’m not what I once was
I find myself in reduced


I am among the lame and halt now
As one day you yourself might be

As odd as that might seem

No one ever dreams it will be them
Believe me, Mr. Esquire, Sir, The Hon.,

no one ever

believes that it can get worse

But it can get worse

And then it can turn into

Phantom Limb Pain

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  1. Oh, I’m SO sorry. Poor sweet Atina. Poor you! I can’t imagine how hard this must be… 😦

  2. Yes, we are living in reduced circumstances, out of our control. How can you prepare yourself for this? Never believing it can happen to us.
    Atina is living a life she would not have been granted, had you two not met. Your love and concern for her shines through in your writing. Doc

    • Whew. You are so right. How to prepare? Did we ever in our worst nightmares imagine that our titles would become reminders that we weren’t always in this predicament? I got a snarky comment on someone else’s blog about “why I have to have all these letters after my name, to feel like somebody,” and it saddens me that actually she was right. Meanwhile, Atina has learned to talk in a growly language. She can tell me that she needs to go out, that it’s time to eat, that if I want to live another moment I’d better play with her, and that she’s aggravated because I’m paying attention to this device instead of her. I think she knows she’s got it made in the shade…whoops, time to go out!!!

  3. Oh sweetheart you are truly a gift from God for this precious pup. I lost my 11 year old dog several months ago. It is heart breaking and being bipolar and suffering from fibromyalisa he too gave me comfort. In the last year I left a 17 yr.abusive marriage and lost my home and have only a bedroom suit of furniture left from my life’s work. I know about the phantom pain you speak of and you are a hero to me to care about someone other than your own financial needs. I live with my son and his family now as I can’t afford my own place, but I have meet many wonderful people on blogs as yourself who are gifted with Hugh hearts. That and our Heavenly Father keep me going. I will pray for you and your sweet baby, and hope someone will help you with your lawyer needs.

    • Oh, Ava, I am so sorry for your enormous losses! I’m glad you’ve managed to get out of your marriage. I’m really sorry you lost your dog!!! Dogs are such comfort in times of pain. I’m glad at least your son could offer you shelter from the storm…thank you so much for your kind words and your prayers. I will pray for you also. I hope you find peace and security, financially and spiritually.

  4. I’m so sorry Laura, HUGS! 😥

  5. Atina was meant for you to buy so that her final moments can be filled with love. It is quite unfortunate you have to be saddled with such bills though.

  6. So, so sorry, Laura. Your and Atina’s saga brings tears to my eyes. Unbelievable that a breeder would sell such a sick dog for such a high price. You pay breeders of service dogs for healthy, socialized, trained dogs.

    • Yes. I was just mulling over in my head what an incredibly talented, intelligent, kind, loving dog Atina is, and why would this woman be so quick to sell her to me, since she would make such wonderful puppies? Her head trainer wanted to buy her to train for tactical work (hint: check out my upcoming post!). So why sell her to me, if she could have made much more money either from puppies or from the additional sales she would get from police etc seeing Atina work…had to be that she knew Atina was sick.

  7. Atina is a treasure! You have made her life a comfort for what she is going through. How to give you comfort is another thing. Is there any way? It’s unbearable! I feel the hurt! Chryssa

    • Thank you, Chryssa. She is truly a treasure. She is so present, always reminding me of what is important…like cuddling, kissing her on that special place between her eyes, throwing that damn ball ten million times a day, making pills taste like treats…the secret pleasures of potato chips shared…..

  8. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  October 31, 2015

    I truly hope this woman gets shut down! It is horrible what she had put both of you through.
    I wish you the best with Atina. She has gotten a great life from you and will be in your heart forever.

    • Sigh…what can I say…I hope she gets shut down too, but she’s very slippery and smart, thinks of everything, must be a very good chess player. I don’t want to spend what’s left of my life trying to back her into a crate, so I’ll love Atina and let the wheels of karma take care of the bitch…

      • Midwestern Plant Girl

         /  November 5, 2015

        Hopefully, karma is sporting big truck tires with spikes. … 😈

  9. I’m so sorry you’re enduring this kind of pain. Watching our loved ones suffer is a special kind of hell, one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Know that Atina feels your loving spirit and that’s making her days easier.

  10. (((hugs))) Wish I could do more. Still praying. Xxx

    • Praying is the best, my friend. Everyone is amazed at how well Atina is doing in spite of her terrible lab tests which are getting even worse. I don’t let her do things which would make her sick, which of course are the things she loves to do best: running, playing frisbee, stuff like that. Instead we have to kiss and cuddle and awful things like that❤


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