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Good news, big sigh of (tentative) relief
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Remember how I talked about Nika's illness feeling like a rollercoaster? Well, over the past couple of weeks she's been going downhill at what feels like a terrifying rate. She went back onto the highest-possible dose of steroids last Wednesday, and we planned to take her back in to the dermatologist two weeks later for a check-up. But the bad, inflamed area on her stomach has been getting worse and worse since then, and when we phoned the dermatologist to tell him on Monday, he said that might be a sign that the steroids weren't working...and that it was coming up time to "make a decision".

So the last few days have been horrific. (We couldn't take her in to see him in person until today.) Last night, as I tried to fall asleep, I ended up just crying instead. This morning, getting ready to take her in, we ended up 20 minutes late leaving the house because I was so slow and out-of-it with worry. We were both convinced that we knew exactly what he was going to say to us when we arrived.

Guess what? We were wrong. He looked her all over very carefully, and told us that everywhere else on her body except her stomach is showing a huge improvement already from last week. He prescribed separate, topical medication for her stomach, but he said that overall, the steroids seem to be having a really positive effect. She looks like one big walking scab everywhere except her stomach...but he says that that's actually a good sign - the scabbing shows that the skin is starting to heal itself.

I've spent the last few days preparing for the worst and not knowing how I could bear it. Finding out that the news is actually good is...well, it's just beyond words. But I feel so much lighter, as if a huge weight that's been bearing down on my chest has lifted off, at least for now. We'll have to see how the medication continues, and there aren't any certainties. But right now she's getting better. And I am so, so, very glad.

This whole experience has been making me think about just how much she's given me, over the past six and a half years. She brought so much love and sweetness and playfulness and fun with her when I adopted her in Vienna. When I've had long illnesses of my own, her companionship and sweetness have gotten me through them. When I had crisis times in my life, she was the one constant that got me through the pain, always getting me out of the house to play with her in the park, making me laugh, and licking my face when I cried. All through the past six years, she's been constantly loving and loyal, curious about everything I do (even now that she's lying down most of the time), and invariably protective of me. (Nika loves people, all people, indiscriminately. But from the first day I got her, if I ever took her out on my own at night, in the dark, then any time she saw anyone she deemed suspicious, including massive guys twenty times her size, she planted herself right in front of me, growling protectively. She even did this back when she was so scared of other dogs that she hid behind me every time she saw a little dachshund. I used to laugh about our deal - 'fine, you handle the muggers, I'll handle the dachshund menace.')

It's horrible to have to go through all this worry and strain now that this disease has descended on her. But if I went back now to that first day I met her, when I made the split-second decision to adopt her, I would never change that decision. I'd just try to enjoy every moment I've had with her even more.

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