I spent the better part of last week crying over my dog. Like, really crying. The kind of crying that almost sounds like laughing if you don’t know the context. It’s a cruel trick on the body, because your muscles flex the same.
When I wasn’t crying, I leaned on friends who were there to catch me. I told her how fabulous of a dog she is, and what her friendship has meant to be. I laid it on real thick, especially with all the crying. Don’t want her to be alarmed that her mom has officially lost her last rocker. That won’t help anyone.
In-between all of this, I also did a lot of thinking.
Of course, I thought about how unfair all of this is. It is too much too soon for any reasonable person. The losses are staggering, and she is the final member of my original family unit. Without her, there is nothing but memory connecting me to my former life.
Coming just over a year after Simon died, this has naturally re-opened a lot of wounds. I thought about how much peace I had surrounding Eliot’s death, but Simon and now Pascale have sent me into the most desperate fits of grief. I was sad when Eliot died, but I knew I gave him a full, happy life. I knew he had reached the end of his life cycle. Although Simon and Pascale didn’t have aspirations beyond living every day in the moment, Tim did. When I lose someone pre-mature all of those feelings of being robbed come rushing back.
And I know that while my loved ones gone enjoy the everlasting peace of being distributed back into the world as energy, I’m left to get through it alone. Again. If you want a good synopsis of how I feel, watch the series finale of The Good Place. I am Eleanor Shellstrop, but I don’t have the luxury of a door.
I thought about how I felt after Simon died, completely bottomed out and hopeless. Even when I bought Poet, I didn’t think I would ever love a horse again. I bought one for my hobby and nothing else. But I began to appreciate Poet, like him and love him. He is not Simon at all, and never will be. I won’t love him like I loved Simon, but I do love him.
Finally, I thought about being an advocate for Pascale and what that means at this stage of her life. She will have no bad days. I’m planning our free hours with walks and activities that I know she will enjoy. We went off-leash hiking with one of her dog bff’s this weekend, and she ran around smiling for hours. On the mix of steroids and gabapentin you can barely tell anything is wrong with her. At home, she’s 90% her normal self. When we’re out and about, she’s completely normal. I’m trying to do as much as possible while we’re in this range.
She’s doing so well that it’s hard to believe she’d dying. I keep thinking about the report the specialist gave me. “Most likely osteosarcoma, but cannot confirm without a biopsy.” Most likely is not a term I do well with.
Only 10% of bone tumors are benign. The rest are malignant or turn malignant. 18% of osteosarcomas are in the axial skeleton, which includes the skull, but the remainder are in the legs. Of the breeds genetically likely to get this cancer, boxers are most susceptible to skull tumors. However, most dogs who get skull tumors are much, much older than her. Of course, none of these numbers mean she doesn’t have an osteosarcoma, but they make her quite the minority.
Then there is the matter of the infection. That’s what I really can’t put away, because it would be treatable. In my heart of hearts, I know that the specialists would be steering me towards other treatments if any part of them thought this was an infection. But I also know that mistakes happen. If my dog has the most painful cancer known to canines, would she be doing as well as she is? If I’ve always known her to have a low pain tolerance, would she have still been eating and wanting to go on walks before we started any kind of pain medicine?
Only the right side of her face is graying with age. It’s been an anonmoly I always found humorous, but is that a sign of a secret tumor that’s been lurking for the past two years?
I will likely never know the answers to most of these questions, but I do know this—I will not put her through chemo or radiation. Her last days will not be spent in an animal hospital. This is most likely a tumor, and if it is there is nothing I can do about it. I will shower her with love and happy days, and then I will say goodbye.
Tomorrow we go in to the vet for a hail mary blood test to see if she has a fungal infection. It’s a very, very long shot. I’m trying not to hope for a positive result, but you know that I am. Most likely everything will point to tumor, and I will grieve her impending death all over again.
But maybe, maybe maybe maybe, it won’t.
I took her hiking with a dog buddy on Saturday morning, and took a bunch of pictures of her smiling and leaping and acting like a pup.
Today at least, they make me smile. I’m collecting those experiences now and trying to hold them as close as I can. That’s all I know to do for the present.