With an unexpected diagnosis of bone cancer in the toe of my 12 year old Lab I have been in a whirlwind of emotions, urgencies, and realisms. My dog, Shuksan has been my baby for nearly 13 years. And as I know that dogs do not live as long as we would like, I shutter in the thought of losing my trusted best friend, and especially to a disease that I despise.
Two years ago Shuksan had a Hemangiosarcoma lump removed from his hind leg. Luckily it was caught and the margins were excellent and the surrounding tissue was deemed non malignant. Yet, the idea of “it” coming back has always been in my forethought. Cancer scares the hell out of me. I have lost two parents to this horrible unapologetic disease. I have had my own scare with cancer and now my dog! So the thought of something out of my control, taking control of someone, or something I love is an unbearable thought.
Two years ago, Shuksan had his lump removed 12 days before I was to leave on a planned trip to Iceland. When we found that the lump contained cancer the urgency to have it removed hastened by the fact that I did not want to wait for my return from my trip. While I took a few days off to be with Shuksan and look after his needs immediately after his surgery, I still had to go to work daily. I had worked out a plan with the local Emergency Vet clinic where I would drop Shuksan off each morning at 5am and pick him up after work. This enabled the doctor to look at his wound, change his bandages and enabled me not to worry about him being alone each day to chew off the bandage and make healing worse. It was a simple expense with a huge reward of ease of mind for myself.
Everyone can say their dog is THE best dog ever. And I will profess that same statement about Shuksan. Like so many other dog owners, I am absolutely positive that my dog has saved me, been there for me and gave me a reason to exist in my darkest moments. He has made me laugh when no person on earth could ever force a crack of a smile. He has cuddled up to me as I have cried myself to sleep as if telling me it was all going to be ok. Shuksan brought comfort to my mom when she was ill and would calm her as when she woke at night hollering for help to get up to use the restroom when she needed assistance weeks before she passed away. Shuksan knew she was ill and knew to be gentle and would just go to her bedside and lean up against her and she would pet him and tell him it was OK… where in reality, I believe he was telling Mom it was OK. I would witness Shuksan sleeping at the edge of my doorway facing Mom’s room waiting to run to her aide when she would call. He was there at her side before I could be and his reassuring touch to Mom’s hand was a trait I had never trained him for, yet his instinct was to comfort. So, yes, he is THE best dog ever !
After my folks both passed away, I was living at their house getting it ready to sell. Just Shuksan, Mom’s cat and I. Mom made me promise to take care of her cat, she scolded Shuksan and told him to not hurt her kitty. I believe Shuksan listened. To this day the two sleep together every night.
Shuksan gave me a reason to come home every night, to get up every day. More importantly to take time to be “in the moment.” Shuksan and I would go on long walks to watch the sunset, he would just sit with me, no judging, no noise, no movement, just sit with me. All he cared about was that exact moment in time. When I finally figured out how peaceful this feeling was have been forever longing for that feeling every day in my life. It is through a dog’s point of view that I have learned to slow down, enjoy the moment, love what is right in front of me and not look back.
The past two years I have been working full time, going to school and maintaining a home and three dogs and cat. Life can be hectic and seem overwhelming if I dwell upon everything. Having Shuksan, Mi Hijo and Cali as my housemates it directs me back to being in the moment. To stress over yesterday is a waste, to anticipate tomorrow is unneeded, to go for a walk and truly enjoy the smell of the dirt, the smell of the woods, the low tide the chirping of birds. Noticing what each dog is sniffing out on a trail is a true stress reliever and mood changer that no pill, drink, smoke or person can ever change with in me. I know that my dog doesn’t care what happened two days ago, or what is planned for tomorrow. He only cares about this awesome car ride we go on, the trail and smells infront of his nose and the water underneath him as he swims with a huge smile across his jaws.
So, in these past few days with Vet appointments, diagnosis and plans, all I want to do is sit with my Buddy boy and pet his sleeping head as he lays across my lap enjoying that moment. He doesn’t know what the Vet told me, he loves Dr. Jeanne, loves the ladies at the office that give him treats. His tail never stops wagging there and probably thinks the only reason we went there two days in a row was to beg for treats at the front counter cookie jar. So, why should I allow worry to consume my thoughts and actions? I choose not, I choose to be with my buddy, cuddle with him, walk with him, watch him happily go after his favorite toys, tennis balls and scour the trail for that bunny he can smell and hopes to chase.
My promise to him is to be with him every day, every step of the way.
You see… my dog is THE best !