I awoke this AM to the sound of strange, shuffling footsteps at my bedroom door. In a second I was up and out of bed, heart pounding, ready to pounce or hide from my attacker. I don’t know which tack I would have taken, since I flung the bedroom door open only to find my Sophie Sue practically dragging herself across the floor.

Hands shaking and in tears, I made her relax and lie down where she was, examining her painful spine for the same signs of muscle spasm she’d been displaying recently. Bad this morning—so bad that I threw on clothes and drove her over to the hospital in the pre-dawn morning for valium and steroids.

We’re at the Starbuck’s now—and Soph is snoring on the soft leather seat to my right. We’re sitting in the car outside, ready to post-upload on the wireless network Starbuck’s provides while waiting for its employees to open their doors for the day.

Checking in the rearview, I can see I still have last night’s residual mascara on my cheeks—I’m a mess. But Soph looks happily gorked. She looks quiet enough to leave her for a minute to get my fix—now that’s she’s gotten hers.

If stressing to tears and speeding to a hospital in the middle of the night with mascara running down your cheeks sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because vets are ultimately no different from you when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of their own pets’ care. We cry. We freak out. We drive too fast. And we hope for the best.

But it looks now as if my highest hopes for Sophie’s gradual recovery from disc disease have been dashed. After a couple of weeks of worsening pain, it seems inevitable that she’ll have to undergo a myelogram.

This imaging study involving a spinal injection of a special contrast material is fraught with risks: allergic reaction to the material, anesthetic complications and pain after the procedure. It’s not worth doing unless it’s a surgical solution you’re after (in Sophie's case, to remove excess bits of disk material and relieve the swelling in her spinal cord). And it takes quite a bit of pain before we’re willing to undertake this approach.

Just as you would be in the same situation, I’m unsure what the next step is. When do I go for the myelogram? How much pain is too much? Is the fact that it’s worsening enough to justify it?

I don’t have the answers—yet—but I’m sure I will after the weekend. At least I know there’s nothing more I can do for now—nothing short of a morphine drip. But I have one more trick up my sleeve: a client who’s offered Soph some reiki. In a couple of hours she’ll be having her energy tended to. After that maybe I can get some sleep.