Having a dog with cancer changes your entire life with them. I’m sorry to say it, but it just does.
I find myself always on guard. Is he breathing? What is that bump? Oh my god, is his belly distended? What is that black thing on his ear, was that there yesterday? What if there’s something we missed at the vet? We were just there a few weeks ago. Is it too soon to call? I know we had great scans but what if he read the wrong ones? He wouldn’t do that, he’s a fantastic vet.
I frequently find myself being so excited to start every day with him. His little nails were clipping behind me, hurrying me to get moving so we can go play in the yard and get his morning snack.
On the other hand, I find myself saddened. Is this his last day with me? What if this is the last morning we spend together. What if this is the last time he happily eats what I prepare in his bowl. He loves snacks and his favorite foods, what will we do when the time comes that he no longer enjoys taste testing with me during dinner. What if this is the last holiday we spend together. He loves Christmas. His favorite thing is going to the tree farms and helping us walk the whole place looking for the fresh trees only to loop back around and buy the 6 foot already cut one after three hours. He doesn’t really understand why we throw it on the roof of the Subaru. Or why I keep telling his human dad to slow down or pull over to make sure we secured the twine correctly.
His favorite toys are his faded orange chuck it balls. He always needs one to go outside. He will delay that most exciting moment of bursting out the door, so he can find a ball, or a Kong, or his ring to carry out with him. What will we do when he no longer needs or wants to carry something.
I think of all the things we have done together. Road tripped from California to Vermont and back in the dead of winter. He never signs up for our 10,000-mile road trips yet he always faithfully hops in the car, ready to ride. How blessed am I that he will blindly go where we are headed, trusting that it’s the right destination for him because it’s with me? What will I do when he can’t make that journey from Texas to Vermont anymore? To his human grandparents, who buy me dog toys for Christmas because they know that’s all I really want, to spoil my dog.
What will we do when he can no longer hear the beep of his arch nemesis, the fire alarm. When he rushes with his dad from room to room, madly searching for that one retaliating low battery beep.
What will we do when we no longer can walk Town Lake, searching for turtles and moving between fascinated and terrified at the geese. Birds have always been his thing. Like this summer when he and his brothers discovered the four foot tall Blue Heron by their pond. Who will I scream at while flying down a muddy hill in hot pursuit of an angry Heron and three spirited Labradors?
Each day we wake thinking “is this the day?” Is this the best day because he’s here but oh gosh our inboxes are flying, and lunches need to be made, and goodness did we forget to say so and so about such and such? So many things on our to-do list but oh buddy, can we do that walk in a little bit, I really have to take this call. And the call turns into daily business tasks and those graphics we need and that form we need to fill out.
And then it’s dark again. It’s time for dinner. And I know he loves his dinner, and he didn’t get his walk, and we only played a little ball this morning. Did he just eat slower tonight? Is that what he usually does? That seemed off. I wonder if I should call our vet. I know we were only there. That bump worries me. Let’s do some cuddling on the couch because you love that, bud.
And this is life with a cancer dog. It can consume you. I worry and google and ask questions and second guess that last appointment or that new supplement. And he’s still here, still happy, always ready for his next day, his best day. Dogs live in the moment and tend not to sit and stew and fret about things they should or shouldn’t have done or said. They are ready for their best day ever.
And he sits, at my feet. Ready for whatever. A road trip? A walk in the park? An excitement that today will be THE BEST day. And I try my best to do just that for him, and also for me.
I love these lyrics by Alice Merton and her song, “Why So Serious.”
“I wanna live in the now
I’m not gonna live in the past
Don’t wanna care about what-ifs
‘Cause what if those things don’t last?
And I wanna live with no regrets
I wanna live in the now.”
And, I have this poem sitting in my house, framed.
“From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”
Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed, and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”
“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure and unbridled joy.
“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.
Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for folks like me and me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman.” So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile–because they “just don’t understand.”
-Richard A. Biby
Never take a single day for granted with your dog. They live in the moment, we should take a note out of their book and stamp it where we can see it daily. Life is really short.
Pets Crave Love™
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