It has taken a very long time – and it’s been a tedious and painful haul, for everyone involved – but I am now almost completely over my horrible abscess. Lancing the enormous thing left a gaping hole at least two inches in diameter, through which my chest wall was clearly visible. Kemo Sabe winced as she ensured it was completely clean every day, checking for any signs of another infection taking hold. Since returning from my weekend at the vet’s weeks ago I’ve been wearing a veterinary t-shirt, which is tight and buttons right over my haunches, to keep the dressing over the wound in place, but I’m glad to say that as of yesterday those two layers have now disappeared because the hole has miraculously mended and, moreover, my own furry suit is growing apace over the top. All that is left is the distinctive doughnut, which provides comfort as well as protection, and I am hopeful that we’ll soon be doing away with that, too. The capacity of the spaniel body to heal itself is truly astonishing; in three weeks, not only has the skin regrown and knitted over the muscle but the lovely pigmentation of my blue roan ancestors is clearly back as well.
Last week I resumed the beach trundle with the others in the morning – such a pleasure to feel part of things again – though I’ve been keeping close to Kemo Sabe lest I pull anything and cause further bother. I’ve also began a love affair with the bed in the spare room, a goose down resource I must confess I have previously overlooked but which I am having troubling appropriating, despite its offering a superbly comforting nest. Disappointing to admit, I often find the door closed now, so I turn instead to the merino wool bed brought back from Crufts especially for me. This was a consolation prize: the abscess prevented my attending Crufts this year, so Nico kept me company back home. Though I am still fighting infirmity a little, I am deeply struck by the love and care my family has provided throughout all this. I have seen and felt all sorts but couldn’t adequately communicate anything useful about it, when my temperature was so very high that all I could do was lie and lean upon the Lord, and the throbbing of the swelling across my elbow and chest was utterly unbearable. I have been there and back and, I think everyone agrees, it has in some ways changed me. But nothing of this is wasted, as that extraordinary seer, Thomas Hardy, explores in his poem, ‘A Wasted Illness’:
Through vaults of pain,
Enribbed and wrought with groins of ghastliness,
I passed, and garish spectres moved my brain
To dire distress.
And quakes, and shoots, and stifling hotness, blent
With webby waxing things and waning things
As on I went.
“Where lies the end
To this foul way?” I asked with weakening breath.
Thereon ahead I saw a door extend –
The door to death.
It loomed more clear:
“At last!” I cried. “The all-delivering door!”
And then, I knew not how, it grew less near
And back slid I
Along the galleries by which I came,
And tediously the day returned, and sky,
And life—the same.
And all was well:
Old circumstance resumed its former show,
And on my head the dews of comfort fell
As ere my woe.
I roam anew,
Scarce conscious of my late distress . . . And yet
Those backward steps through pain I cannot view
For that dire train
Of waxing shapes and waning, passed before,
And those grim aisles, must be traversed again
To reach that door.