Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The fear of cancer and my faithful friend
I feared the word “cancer” again. Our almost-12-year-old dog has been behaving strangely for some time. Over the past few weeks, she has begun to destroy our house. Her breathing has become labored. Yesterday, the final ailment prompted us to the veterinary office. Her back legs were giving out as she struggled to get up, walk, utilize the stairs, or just simply squat.
“Pup” was appropriately named to match her energy and enthusiasm for life. Our aging dog has always had the vibrancy of a puppy. As I wrapped my arms around her body to hoist her in and out of the van yesterday, I struggled to keep control of my emotions.
My three little girls just said goodbye to two carnival fish that same morning. Could it be that our loyal family pet would soon be a memory as well? Despite my irritation of her incessant barking and tendency to always get underfoot, I was not ready to say goodbye.
I watched my elderly companion uncharacteristically take a nap on the floor at the veterinary office as we waited for the examination. I fought the choking tears as I attempted to explain the situation. She’ll be twelve in just a few short weeks but the turn for the worse has been so drastic. As I heard the possibility of cancer suggested, it wasn’t unexpected. Just some x-rays and we would know.
Peace and control of my emotions were the prayers I lifted to God as I attempted to hold in the sobs. I didn’t even ask Him to extend the life of my dog. She’s lived a full life. Having already said goodbye to my dad because of cancer, I tried to convince myself not to be so upset about an animal.
It seemed to take an eternity as I waited for the results. Smiling, the veterinarian shared that she had good news! While our dog is most certainly a senior, she has a healthy heart and healthy lungs! With instructions to administer Dramamine and an anti-inflammatory, I imagined my daughters’ smiling faces. (Apparently, many dogs as they age develop some problem with their inner ear that causes their balance to go and their back legs to give out. We will see if there is any improvement in a couple weeks. Otherwise, we will reassess then.)
For now, I need to learn to appreciate the inappropriately timed bark that has the potential to ruin naptime. As I trip over our 50-pound friend or feel her nail pierce my foot in her clumsy excitement, it will require patience to recall the tears I shed at the thought of losing her. Next time you hear me yelling and expressing frustration at our furry family member, I invite you to help me remember.
I am thankful that our faithful friend, Pup, appears to be a healthy, old girl.