Saturday, June 27, 2015

A slow goodbye

My dog is dying of cancer. When I brought her home 13 years ago, and she sat in a sunbeam in the backyard, I knew this day would come. But of course, that was years, and years, and years in the future. I had a puppy. The dog I whined, begged, and pleaded for was finally home.

We named her Honey because of her yellow fur. No, I just lied. We named her Honey because when I picked up the puppy and held her, I babbled, "Oh honey, oh honey, oh honey."

Steve said, "That's a good name for the dog."

"What is?"

"Oh Honey, oh Honey, oh Honey!" he teased.
I didn't care. I had my puppy. The dog Steve said we were never, ever, ever, quit asking, no, never getting, was home in my backyard. And I was happy.

Honey grew, as puppies all do. She went to obedience school and earned her Canine Good Citizenship. Of course, I dressed her in a cap and gown and took lots of photographs. When I got Honey, my MG was in remission. Then one afternoon in January, my hand was too weak to hold a cup, and I knew the nightmare was starting all over again. And I was sad. But, Honey was there.

I dropped my pen on the floor in front of my puppy. I thought she was going to chew it into bits, but she did the most unlikely thing. She picked up the pen and brought it to my hand. Then she sat at my feet. Thank you, Honey. Good dog. If Honey can pick up a pen, without any training at all, what could she learn how to do?

This was when Honey became a service dog in training. Being a service dog was what Honey was born to do.

Unload the dryer. Open the refrigerator, get a pop, bring it through the house to my hand, return to the kitchen, close the fridge door. She learned to pick up anything I dropped: a hair brush, a quarter, a credit card, and give it to me. She learned to do what would help me most.

Even if it was just keeping me warm when chemo made me bald, cold and exhausted.


She stayed with me when I started needing a cane.

And a wheelchair.


We performed together on stage. While I played the cello, Honey stayed on a mat by my feet. She snoozed while I spoke and played for audiences big and small. Then, on cue, she strutted her stuff for the audience. She let them know what a service dog can do. Honey retrieved keys, a credit card, a pen. She showed adults and children how to approach a service dog, and why not to pet them. She taught hundreds. She taught me.

Honey taught me to be bolder, because she wouldn't listen to an uncertain leader. She taught me to be brave. She gave people something more interesting to stare at than the lady in the wheelchair. And she was with me. Always.

Now she is lying on the floor. I hear her breathing hard and heavy. She has cancer. It spread to her lungs. Honey is still helping me, even now. I dropped my glucose meter on the floor. She picked it up and gave it to me. Here you go. You dropped this. Aw, thank you, Honey.

About a month ago, the vet said she had two months to live. The tumors in her lungs look like a thousand snowflakes. Her breathing is raspy. She pants a lot from the prednisone. Other than that, she is still herself. Honey still likes eating, which is good. She likes ice cream cones stuffed with peanut butter and dog treats. She liked the hamburger and french fries I brought her. And the Dairy Queen ice cream cone with sprinkles. She likes all the spoiling I'm doing. She's been my helper dog. I'm honored to help her right back. Honey is a happy dog, but sometimes she has a tough time breathing when she lies down.

Truthfully, I think I am suffering more than she is. Honey just had a dog biscuit. Not wanting to share it with April, she took off running from the kitchen to the living room, with that cute little scoot of hers. No limping. No crying. Still doing things she loves to do. Right now she's on the bed and eating Ritz crackers. Honey keeps making little wuffling noises, trying to see if I will give her any more.

Honey isn't ready to say goodbye. I'm not ready, either. It's just, I'm aware of what is coming, and it's breaking my heart. So, I am focusing on making each day as magical as possible by spoiling her.

If you have any dog spoiling ideas, please leave a comment.




Disclaimer

I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

If you are enrolled with your own major at the University of Catastrophe, please consult your doctor, therapist, attorney, auto mechanic, veterinarian, plumber, dietician, arborist, acupuncturist, manicurist, mother, local dairy council, shoe shine boy, or other equally qualified professional, for advice and assistance.

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