My Dog has Cancer…WTF

 

That was my Facebook status update for July 10, 2014. I surprised myself in sharing such news through social media. But, Bentley, my silly Weimaraner was just diagnosed with Lymphoma and I was hurting with the looming uncertainty of it all. It was quite the surprise diagnosis after a week of no appetite his only symptom. We snuggled in the Veterinary Oncology clinic as the web of decisions needing to made unfolded. This trial versus that trial, this chemotherapy protocol versus that, biopsy the first step and we were not even sure he’d make it through the weekend to that crucial moment where we could know more, scientifically, about which way to proceed. All paths meaning a matter of months in delaying what would, inevitably, happen. I just knew I was overwhelmed with it all, sitting on the cold linoleum floor with him, he licked my face as if to say, “No matter what, it’ll be okay.” Pets are such a well-spring of unconditional love. I really wished I too knew it would all be okay. No matter what.

 

Before taking him in, I remember sitting on the kitchen floor crying and asking him if he could somehow tell me what was going on with him. It was a Sunday, we were getting ready to go the beach, his favorite place, as I had this nagging feeling that it was imperative for our family of three to venture to the coast and enjoy the beautiful sunshine gracing the Pacific Northwest with her presence.

 

We packed our snacks, our beach toys and my camera hoping to capture a few memories. It had been a long time since going to the beach, I don’t know why I put off such adventures. Our daily life is so scheduled and full, however, forays into nature rejeuvenate us in a way that no other activity could.

 

If not now, when?

 

Mars, Bentley and the Beach

Mars, Bentley and the beach. Our last trip to the coast together.

 

 

In the late summer of 2005 I opened my heart to my furry baby. I had just moved to Oregon with the hopes and dreams any young grad would have. My then husband had bonded with a friend’s Weimaraner when it jumped up placing paws on his shoulders looking him straight in the eye. Being over 6 feet tall, I think he was taken back that a creature could be eye-level with him in such a grand way. But a full grown dog is a different experience than a little puppy. After a week of taking care of the pup, we were exhausted. Energetic weimaraners need a lot of exercise and are very wanting of attention from their owners. My partner wasn’t sure we could give Bentley what he needed. I said hell yes we can, plus, I’ve already opened my heart up to Bentley Ryder and am not ready to close that part.

 

Fast forward a few moves, career changes, motherhood, and divorce, Bentley Boy had been with me through the years. He showed me unconditional love and opened my eys to the necessity of simply walking around taking the world in. He was my protector and companion in being a single lady. He was so full of vitality that I couldn’t imagine my life looking any other way than he trotting alongside me through the coming years. I’d bring the jerky and ice cream, he the soft-eared snuggles.

 

On September 15, 2014 I woke up and felt my beloved dog take his last breath. I knew the end was near, but wasn’t ready to close that part of my heart. Often the universe doesn’t wait until your ready, but asks you to show up as you are and grow into the gap.

 

I thought I knew resilience in going through a miscarriage, I thought I knew my own grit and grace in living through a divorce, I thought I knew pain and loss but when my furry baby left I felt my heart stop.

 

Somehow at 2am I set myself in motion drawing on a strength I didn’t know I had. I figured out how to carry 70 pounds down a flight of stairs while not waking my slumbering child. I found the presence of mind to make arrangements for cremation and pick-up the next morning.  I remember walking wearily back up in to my room where I just bid adieu to the companion that had seen me through many life changes and I wasn’t sure what to do next. So I cried and let the overwhelming feelings flow through me.  After burning sweet grass and sage, I remade my bed so I could finally lie down. My body was aching and tired, but my eyes unwilling to close. As if that would mark this night with a period. The end. Done.

 

Somewhere I felt a presence, the message, “No matter what, it’ll be okay. Sleep.”

 

I look back and wonder why the hell I would let myself get so caught up with the to do’s that I didn’t take more time for beach adventures, walks in the forest, starry sky snuggling in the hammock, Dairy Queen doggy cones and Butterfinger blizzards, for more wet sloppy kisses, and more couch time with my 70 lb lap dog. It’s not a secret where this is all headed, it’s just a matter of time. But rather than focus on the void left, I began to focus on the time we did share, all 9 years of it flowing through my mind like old family films. I’m so grateful for love we shared.

 

Connection and love, that’s why we’re here living these moments. That’s what propels us day-to-day, despite the difficult parts, love sees us through to the other side, to the, “No matter what, it’ll be okay.” And, after time,  the okays become tinged with forgiveness for what didn’t happen, opening up the acceptance and grace of what did; love, connection and joy.

 

My heart may have stopped the night he passed, but it didn’t close, it skipped a beat to kickstart a stronger pulse.

 

Bboy and the DQ

Too excited to wait, he licks the ice cream right outside the window.

Peek a boo BBoy

Peek-a-boo Bentley. I’m fairly certain he felt he was part human.

Bboy and contemplation

Always on squirrel alert.

BBoy and me snuggling

Snuggling selfie after his diagnosis.