Borrowed Happiness

Borrowed Happiness

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “borrowed happiness” lately. When people know something bad is going to happen, like a terminal diagnosis or someone bound to be fired on work, they say they’re on borrowed time. If you can find some joy before pending devastation, is that borrowed too?

To borrow is to take with the intention of returning. But I’m not sure if time, or happiness, is something you can ever get back. It’s ours for the taking.

Friday brought big news in the Pascale front. The first was happy. Her DNA results came in, and it turns out my Texas black dog is:

  • 26.2% Great Pyrenees
  • 24.5% American Pit Bull Terrier
  • 16% Doberman Pinscher
  • 10.5% Blue Lacy
  • 8.6% Golden Retriever
  • 7.8% Labrador Retriever
  • 6.4% American Staffordshire Terrier

If the Great Pyr surprises you, I’m right there too. Never would have guessed, but there are a ton of intac Pyrs that roam around the barn. They broke down her parents into saying that one was a Great Pyr/Doberman/Lab mix and the other was a mix of Pitt/Blue Lacy and Golden/American Staffordshire. Her inbreeding is only 1%, which makes her about as mutty as mutts can be.

Though she doesn’t look like any of these dogs in my opinion, her personality matches the Pyr, Dobie and Lab/Golden. I’ve never had a more protective, but also friendly dog. She is the most loyal animal I’ve been lucky to have.

The reason I got this DNA test was for the health screen, which is ironic now. Of 180 illnesses, she only is a carrier for one. Genetically, she’s almost as healthy as a dog can be. Of course, that doesn’t help her now.

The specialist called on Friday afternoon to confirm that all of her fungal tests came back negative. This means what she has, as far as science can tell, isn’t treatable. It’s assuredly a tumor, and statistically 90% likely to be a cancerous tumor.

I thought I’d be prepared for the news since this is how we’ve been operating for weeks, but it hit me like a truck. I left work early, went home and hugged her. Cried and told her I was sorry, that I would do anything to fix her if I could. For her benefit, I try to keep outbursts like this at a minimum. They just confuse my friend, who wants to be happy, but sometimes I break.

Her days have been good. I have not noticed an increase of pain or decrease in activity from last weekend to this past one. On Sunday after my lesson I rode Poet up to the big field with her, and she ran around rolling in poop. I had to yell at her to stop chasing the weanlings. She didn’t have a thought of pain or cancer while she trolloped around the big group of horses walking around.

Whether I’m borrowing it or it’s mine to keep, I’m doing my best to find as much joy as possible right now. I’m actively grieving her death while she’s still in front of me, happy and wagging her tail. It’s a luxury I’ve had for all of my dogs, this gift of time, and one that was stolen from me when Tim died. From losing Tim, Simon and now Pascale, I have a lot of complicated grief around my loved ones dying young. It’s something I hope to unpack in therapy soon.

Since her initial diagnosis, I have struggled with the idea of getting a second dog. It felt like a purely selfish act, one for me and not for her. It’s not that I feel like I’d be replacing her. That idea is so outside of reality that it’s laughable. Instead, I worry she’d have less attention in the last months of her life or have a young puppy wanting to play with her when she’s hurting.

I’ve ultimately decided that yes, getting a puppy is selfish in a way. I know I’m going to need something in my house to get me out of bed when I’m sad, and greet me at the door when I need a smile. While Pascale will enjoy playing with a puppy when she feels good, ultimately I need another animal more than she needs a friend.

However, when you have to endure seemingly endless trauma and sadness, sometimes you have to be selfish. Sometimes you eat the pizza, because you know it’ll be a comfort for that evening even if it isn’t a long-term solution. You binge watch documentaries so your brain gets a break from processing emotion and can switch off for a while. You get the dog that won’t replace the one you’re losing, but will hopefully help you along the way.

With that in mind, I might have another update soon. Things are in motion, but I have learned not to rely on anything until it’s real and in my hands. My anxiety and grief keeps churning up worst-case scenarios, but I’m doing my best to get excited about the best possible way this would go. The next generation of loving rescue pup for me, and a buddy to bring my best girl some happy moments in her final days.

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