Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What Price Love - A Dog's Life


What price love?
 
Today all told  - $811.46.  That's in addition to the $329.04 twelve days ago.

All to a tiny and pretty blond woman  in a white lab coat named Alice who talks to Barkley down on her knees, at his level, looking into his eyes, like he is a human.  I swear he talks back to her.

It was another trip to the vet.  The soreness and slight limping that was thought to be muscle strain or early arthritis, (pending x ray confirmation) did not respond to the drugs for that, even after a couple of weeks of very limited activity. Over only a couple of days, the slight limp went to full limp. Last night he refused food and wouldn't put his foot down, hopping on three legs.  This morning while squatting to poop in my neighbor the cop's yard (pooping in your own yard is for wimps!) he fell over, like cow tipping, without the moo. He was able to get up and slowly hop into the house with a "I meant to do that!" but with too much effort. The vet was called, then my team, who were expecting me for a load of fun today, that I had to trust the probies to handle themselves.


We were there by 10 for the x rays we'd discussed earlier.   Don't ask me how I got him into the bat truck since he can't jump, but being part Valkyrie really comes in handy.

The images on the x rays were such, a radiology specialist was consulted to look at a possibility we both are aware of, given his history, but weren't going to say yet.  Appendicula osteosarcoma.  A very aggressive bone cancer that manifests itself at the onset in lameness, the owner often trying other treatments until it's already spread to the lungs.  He's my 4th retriever so I know that lameness in a large-breed dog that does not promptly resolve with symptomatic therapy is a red flag we must check out.  So here we were, waiting, the silent ticking of his life in my ear.
While the images went to the  radiologist, I went back to work, if only to the office, hiding in the Goat Closet (someone had to have fun with the placard) once to cry so no one would see.  When you're Gibbs, you can't get caught crying.

She called me with a sound in her voice that is some hope.  There was no visible tumor, and the specialist said the bone didn't have that (as best I can describe it to you) Swiss cheesy look you don't want to see.  It doesn't mean that cancer couldn't lurk, just not having manifested itself yet on x-ray but it gives us time to look at other things, minor infection, simple inflammation, he's faking it to get more treats.

I could have brought him home to the crash pad, but with a storm approaching, it was agreed they would keep him (he sometimes happily boards there when I'm working overnight) to monitor and run some more tests.  This will also help in keeping him quiet  for a few days, while I go home for a night or two, a trip in the truck he would not want to make in pain, time to build a ramp so he can go out in the backyard without even those  few stairs.  I brought his bed to which I added layers of foam underneath between the bedding and cover to keep him off the floor that could be cold, his toy, his treats.

I imagine I'll be writing a couple more checks later.

I don't mind.  We do a lot for love, we learn, we grow, we take chances, we hurt.  For one feisty blond woman I knew, finding out the guy who was calling her the "love of his life" was dating another woman at the same time, we show up at his stockholders meeting and light that brand new red Victoria's Secret number we bought for our anniversary, on fire and throw it on the table before storming out, head held high.

Most of us have lost someone close to us in our lives. A parent, a spouse, a friend, a beloved pet. It does not matter what form love takes, it becomes part of us, and losing it is like peeling away that outer layer of skin, leaving nerve endings exposed to the cold that bites with weasel teeth.   We all know that every life must end, but when it ends much too young or abruptly, it is just so hard to accept. For the true majestic, incandescent blindness of love is its willful refusal to fully acknowledge that at some time death or even circumstance will take someone from our lives here.

I remember a moment at Dad's not long ago, walking inside, carrying groceries and seeing my Dad so still on the couch, it appeared he wasn't breathing. For just an instant, everything went into high relief, like a scene in a 3-D movie - the Safeway bag dead weight in my arm, the sun glinting off my old piano against the wall, Dad's slippers on the floor.My whole life suspended, bathed in bright June sunlight. In the short terrible space between that moment and the next, when he opened his eyes and smiled, I got a glimpse of grief as it would look in this new incarnation. And perhaps, for those of us who have had that glimpse, it is partly the encroaching darkness that makes the light so vivid.
Artists understand this so well. Think of the paintings you have seen in a museum, that life force depicted in paintings of old, a succulent pear, a fox so finely wrought that a single drop of blood can be seen along a thin whisker. In studies of faces that bloom in layers of ancient varnish, the curve of a a child's innosence revealed gradually, the glint of light on a warriors steel or the promising, secret gleam in a woman's eye that belie the fact that the persons in these visages are now only framed by the earth, hundreds of years gone. For that moment, in those paintings, they are still with us.

I look at pictures of myself and of my own daughter, wondering if decades from now, the upcoming generations of our women will remember the strength and love from which they were born. I look at words I penned even five years ago, words that don't exist now  in the same world, even though they were placed in space with these same hands on this old computer, as the same old clock ticked above, time discarded by moving hands.

I look at my Dad, sleeping more now, under an attic where lay a bundle of letters that give off a whisper of old longing and forever hope, carried across an ocean to lie above the woman who wrote them. Dad grieves and he gives thanks, for love still exists, even as the bones of it have crumbled to dust, becoming one with the soil, the love remains intact, impervious, where they had lain, there in the rich earth of a man's heart.
I look at a photo of my Mom taken in the woods she loved, long before she began that fight for her life. A heavy smoker, cancer was diagnosed when she was in her 40's. I remember watching as a youngster, when Dad would come home to that same house, with shadowed corners and open windows, in the town where I grew up, and he'd collapse on the sofa from worry and exhaustion. Losing my mother seemed impossible; she was never so alive as in those last years when she fought so hard to stay that way.  Still, death came too soon for her age, and for mine.

Yet she is still with me daily. Whenever you've been touched by love, be it of a parent, child or friend, even after they're been taken from you, a heart-print lingers,so that you're always reminded of the feeling of being cared for, knowing that, to someone, you mattered. You do not need a photo to remember that.
I remembered that when my Step Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers, a good and kind woman, lost in the shadows of her own mind, dancing to memories we couldn't see and crying out for those she didn't recognize.  I remembered it when both Dad and Big Bro were diagnosed with cancer, both still fighting even though they know who will eventually win.  I remember it every day I wake up and know, that even as my world dwindles, to someone, I am the form of love, one with bed-hair and waffle breath.

I so miss Barkley here this night and so I write. I hope you will join me in saying a little prayer for him, as you have for my family this last year.  There are no guarantees, but we have today.  Every hour, every day is grace, even as I drive 7 hours round trip to make a ramp for a dog that will likely go out and buy a skateboard to play on it.

I am going to savor that, however.  For it's not what you've lost that counts, its what you do with what you have left, concentrating on the good things, so while we still are, we can still hope.

71 comments:

  1. "I am going to savor that, however. For it's not what you've lost that counts, its what you do with what you have left, concentrating on the good things, so while we still are, we can still hope."

    beautiful. so beautiful. you know where i am.

    your friend,
    kymber

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  2. hey brigid..

    i'm really sorry and i am praying for the best..

    your friend,
    jambaloney

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  3. Oh dear, Brigid! Of course I will add Barkley to my prayers! I am glad you have a good vet to work with. Ridgebacks often too, get bone cancers--I've known some who fell to it, and another who was thought to have it, but was apparently misdiagnosed. (Still running around after 5+ years post diagnosis.)

    You and yours, regardless of legs (2 or 4) will be in my prayers.

    If there's anything I can do to help dog-wise (I have some connections thru Rescue) let me know.
    Vic303

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  4. Wow, I never expected to read that story. I will be thinking about you guys.

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  5. I will definitely keep Barkley, you and Partner in my prayers. I hope that God will guide your doctor's hands, and she will have a healing touch that will return Barkley to his galloping self.

    The love from a black Lab touched me deeply, and I have never had a more faithful friend. Words are a poor means to describe how much our canine friends mean, and the joy and laughter they share.

    You are all in my thoughts.

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  6. Prayers incoming. But I'll put my money on him faking it for extra treats. :)

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  7. Thoughts and prayers for you both.

    Lots.

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  8. Prayers for you and that special, special dog, my friend. And any time you feel a need to call, you have my number. I'll make the time.

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  9. Excuse, me, I'm going to go find my pup and rub her ears. Stay strong, Brigid. We're all pulling for you.

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  10. (((hug)))
    prayers have been and are being said for you, father, brother, and partner. Barkley added. Special prayers for Barkley.
    Selene

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  11. Prayers for Barkley on the way, Brigid.

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  12. My best wishes for you and Barkley. My family lost our St. Bernard to bone cancer when I was in seventh grade so I sensed where your words were leading before I read that far.
    Hoping for a good prognosis for Barkley. Please keep us posted.

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  13. Done. I know luck really doesn't play in something like this, but good luck to Barkley and to you in this Brigid.

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  14. Please know that you and your dog are in our hearts and prayers. Hoping that it's nothing serious. Please keep us posted, and know that we care about you both.

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  15. Thoughts and prayers to you and Barley. Pets become a part of the family.

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  16. Thank you so much everyone! Just a short note now as I have to get up in about six hours. I got a call from the evening staff and he was snoozing away on his bed. They will do some more blood work to look at infection (though he's not showing obvious signs of that) for now adjust his meds and go from there. He's 10, so he's got some good fight in him.

    Bless you.

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  17. Wolfgang sends a "woof" of support to his blood brother. As do I, to you.

    Well, not a "woof", but you know what I mean.

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  18. I am so sorry to hear Barkley's feeling bad. I know all to well the fear and pain and hopeful mixed emotions you are feeling right now, too. Those end thoughts creep in even if they are young and healthy, because a pet never gets to live as long as we'd like them to. It seems so unfair, and yet they always make sure to pack multi-lifetimes of love and sillyness and devotion into whatever short amount of time they are given. And aim it right at our hearts. I'm sure Barkley will be ok now, but as you discovered in retelling your Dad story, it's all temporary (for any and all of us). We may get a reprieve a few times, lucky false alarms. We can't stop it, all we can do is love more while we still have them, if that's even possible since we always think we already love enormously; and treasure the moments we have with pets and people. It never is long enough no matter how long it is.

    We've all been there. With pets and people. We all have lost deeply. We all know. And we're all here, right along side you. We all know that you and Barkley know he HAS a great life, he really does. Both of you couldn't have asked for better friendships and companionship by being paired together. That goes for pets and people, alike.

    I hope it will turn out ok, for now. I know it buys more time to make more of a fuss over him, too. Sending good health vibes like crazy. He's a good boy, you're a good mom and daughter and sister and friend etc etc etc (lol). That's something to be at peace with.

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  19. My thoughts and prayers for all of yours. Two and four legged. As Murphy said, you have the number. Call if I can do anything.

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  20. Am sure Barkley is not gonna give up that easily. My thoughts and prayers go out to you both!

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  21. BIG prayers, Lady... BIG prayers!

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  22. Brigid, I come to your site everyday, to laugh and cry, but I've never posted before. I am praying hard for your Barkley. It is never easy to contemplate losing someone and even worse to have it happen. I still miss my Barkely, a Scottie named Angus, who I lost almost 9 years ago. All the best to you and your boy.

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  23. Continuing prayers for Barkley, you, and Partner-in-grime - check.

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  24. "Bread may feed my body, but my dog feeds my soul." A prayer to St. Francis of Assisi for Barkley.

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  25. Praying for Barkley, and for you, your dad, and your Big Bro. I lost a greyhound to osteosarcoma, it was heartbreaking. Hoping that Barkley just has an infection.

    Purple Magpie

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  26. So sorry to hear this news. Miss D. and I will keep all of you in our thoughts and prayers. If you need a visit later this week, we can make a quick run up on Thursday for a day or two - just say the word.

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  27. My heart is with Barkley and you. I hope the news is good.

    Call if you need anything.

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  28. Barkley added to the prayer list here, too.

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  29. Brigid- so glad he's resting well for the night. Sending prayers and positive vibes for both of you.

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  30. Big hugs and lots of love for you both.

    And I'm putting in more than a few good words with the Big Guy on Barkley's behalf. I know how much you love him.

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  31. Brigid -
    Been there and know the heartache.Prayers and hope from here.
    Best wishes,
    Granny Miller

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  32. It was so nice to start my day with the warmth here. Thank you all so very much. I'm starting work shortly and will keep you posted when I have a meal break.

    Meridith - thank you for your first comment, it is much appreciated.

    Tam - thanks, I'll call if there is any news.

    They're running some blood work today to rule out infection and giving him just enough pain meds to where he is comfortable and a bit sleepy so he rests. I'm glad I left him there, rather than bring him in and out for treatment, there's a half foot of snow in the driveway and foot or more drifts I'd have to shovel to get him into the yard.

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  33. Had have my dog put down, it still hurts. My wish and prayers go to you and Barkley.

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  34. Prayers for you and your family. Maybe Barkley is just looking for extra treats. My cat Burn limps whenever I chastise him for doing something he shouldn't or if I've been away for any length of time.

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  35. B - I'm sad to hear this; I think the "not knowing" and "waiting" make it even harder. And of course, there's the jumping to the worst possible situation. That gets me in trouble every time.

    I'll keep you both in my prayers.
    Tom

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  36. I'm so sorry.

    Here's another hope and wish that its not cancer. Though I"m not sure that "pure old age" is a better diagnosis....

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  37. Arrrrgh!

    I feel for y'all, been there done that.

    Heartfelt prayers.

    You know where I am.

    Bob
    III

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  38. Blessings, you are all on our prayer list.

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  39. I am now on my eighth dog (i've also had 6 cats).. snoozing this morning on the couch, as I work from home today... I told my wife after this one passes, no more animals... I dread the time I know that is coming (even though she is only eight)... d--n it, too much dust in the air again

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  40. So sorry,Brigid.I always say that one of the cruelest tricks that life plays,is that we always outlive our dogs.I lost one to cancer 4 years ago,and it was so hard to see him slow down so much at the end.Here's hoping for the best.

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  41. I am sorry to hear Barkley is going though this, best wishes and prayers to you and him.

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  42. So sorry to hear about Barkley, you both have been in our prayers for some time. I will send some more pic's via our friend. I'm glad you enjoyed the one sent so far.

    Your Friend....Rob

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  43. Good St. Francis, you loved all of God's creatures. To you they were your brothers and sisters. Help us to follow your example of treating every living thing with kindness. St. Francis, Patron Saint of animals, watch over Barkely and keep him safe and healthy. Amen.

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  44. Have loved your writting for a couple of years. I know your soul is aching for all the family, including Barkley. We all stand watch with you, at least in spirit. God bless you all......

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  45. I hope it all works out for Barkley. Your family - 2 legs and 4 - are in my thoughts.

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  46. I think our Lab was only 7 or 8 when he succumbed to what sounds like the same thing that ails Barkley. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you, your vet, and (of course!) Barkley himself.

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  47. You are all always in our prayers.

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  48. Here's me looking for that post about Barkley's new 'skateboard'.

    Hope all is well with all of your loves, Brigid. Keep the faith, and love 'em while you got 'em.

    Fair Winds,

    Cap'n Jan


    P.S. If you have slippery floors, you might want to run out and buy a bunch of cheap runners with rubber backing. Always a good idea for older and even younger dogs. While they have 4-paw drive, they don't have racing slicks!

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  49. So many of you took the time for prayers, for comfort, for thoughts. I can't thank you enough.

    No updates today, due to the storm the blood work results won't come back til tomorrow. I'm glad he was in safe and warm and quiet, it took me quite a while to dig out, and it would be very difficult for him to have gotten to the yard before I did.

    For those that were concerned as to the rush to diagnose cancer, he is a cancer survivor, and we check lumps, bumps etc, with meticulous precaution as the first go round was malignant. He's been clear 3 years, for which I am so blessed. Right now we're pretty sure it's something else, which is good.

    I'm going to get some food and some sleep, after I get to chat with Partner. Last night was tossing and turning, but I awoke to renewed faith and oh, so many wonderful comments.

    We'll get the house readied for dog needing less steps and more traction and I'll be back to pick him up in a few days if there are no further issues that require monitoring.
    Love - Brigid and Barkley

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  50. Molly has cancer of the bladder and her days are numbered. Losing a dog is no different than losing a child.

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  51. Barkley is in my prayers. You will never get any doubtful looks from me. I have spent a fair amount of money on my beloved animal friends for medical care, sometimes when I haven't really had it to spare. But I had to, as they would have done the same for me.
    Love to you all,

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  52. Sherry - I've tears in my eyes again. I'm so very sorry. M and M are such great labs. The words won't be adequate, but there's an email waiting for you.

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  53. Hi Brigid, SO sorry to hear about Barkley. Lost both my Labs recently and it is as bad a loosing a child. Take care and my thoughts are with you! Everett

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  54. So nice to see an update Brigid, thank you.

    To Sherry, so heartbreaking. Sorry to hear your bad news. Plant lotsa kisses for as long as you have her.

    And to all here who told of their losses, I know it hurts - but really, none of us would have ever passed up that chance to love. To spend some time with some beautiful, spirited hearts. Fur babies teach us so much.

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  55. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. I am looking forward to more Barkley posts when he gets better. Those posts are usually the ones that I laugh the most with.

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  56. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. I am looking forward to more Barkley posts when he gets better. Those posts are usually the ones that I laugh the most with.

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  57. I do understand, Brigid. Sending good wishes.

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  58. Lu and I send you both all our thoughts and prayers.

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  59. Brigid: I know this is a late ad-on, but those of us here with our own Canine Family Members are sweating bullets waiting to hear the latest on your Barkley. Please forgive my asking, but good or bad, might you please let us know as soon as possible? Over the years reading your posts, you've "adopted" us, too, and we need to know!

    My daily prayers for your Barkley, and you and Partner, and your family, and your extended family on the Range.

    God bless us, everyone!

    But especially, may the God of All Men bless your "child," Barkley, for you and for all of us who have "adopted" him over the years! Our prayers are with all of you!

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  60. The Bailey dog, a Lab mix, had similar issues after racing down the back stairs and helling around the yard. A yelp, the limping and a bunch of hip $urgery later she was fine.
    Then the other hip went out a few months later, just like doc said it would, overcompensating issues. More $urgery. She is older and slower but fine now for a pricey pound puppy. Hope for the fixable.

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  61. The Bailey dog, a Lab mix, had similar issues after racing down the back stairs and helling around the yard. A yelp, the limping and a bunch of hip $urgery later she was fine.
    Then the other hip went out a few months later, just like doc said it would, overcompensating issues. More $urgery. She is older and slower but fine now for a pricey pound puppy. Hope for the fixable.

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  62. Brigid, the folks I run with say the Serenity Prayer a lot. We also say, "One day at a time" frequently, and don't hesitate to break things into smaller portions as needed. Prayers for you, as well as for Barkley.

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  63. Praying for you, your family, and Barkley. Blessings in all things.

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  64. Praying for you, your family and Barkley, blessings in all things

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I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..