Random thoughts on rolling through life: with my soul-mate, two little boys, a Weimaraner, and a paint brush.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
So Long to a Good Old Dog
Sleepy Tyler dog napping in the studio by my side as I write this...for the last time...
As I write this I feel like I need to provide a little back story for the blog reader who hasn’t been kept apprise of the events taking place in our household over the past few weeks. So let me rewind a bit. First of all Tyler is our dog. My dog actually, well initially, but now he is- or was- the beloved family dog. Tyler arrived on the scene in 1996 pre-husband and kids. Tyler was my first dog and my only dog. For over a decade he was loyally by my side as my service dog officially and my best friend unofficially. For the better part of a decade we were no further than a leash length apart. And fortunately for me, being that close to a source of constant support, encouragement, and unconditional love, can have a profound effect on a person. I have paralysis from a truck roll over accident in 1991 and for years Tyler trotted alongside my wheelchair, As I flip through the scrapbook pages of my life- my college graduations, first job, wedding, birth of my children, there is Tyler, or at least a recognizable Labrador body part, usually a tail, butt, back of his head, lounging lump of snoozing dog mass, somewhere in the photo.
At 13 years old Tyler’s been on the decline. 2 years ago moments before a toddler Halloween party he was bitten by a rattlesnake in our backyard, and upsetting as this was had he not been bit we might have had 18 toddlers on our porch painting pumpkins alongside a loose diamond back. (A short side note: this is only one tale of how Tyler saved the day his antics and bravery could fill a book that would put that Marley dog to shame!). After the rattlesnake bite Tyler never quite bounced back to his spunky old dog self. Despite this, he seemed content enough to follow the babies around wagging his tail while snagging goldfish crackers and forgetting all his service dog etiquette. Even when his eyesight began to fail he seemed overjoyed to hang out under the high chair and capture all the airborne peas and bananas catching food midair with almost a 6th sense. Then over the past months I’d noticed his back legs giving out- him having a harder time getting up and the cataracts that caused occasion diminished eyesight turn into complete blindness, but as long as we didn’t move the furniture around he did alright. Then one terrifying day a few weeks ago walking across the tile his back legs froze in paralysis and didn’t work at all, and he panicked dragging them behind him whining in terror and then as soon as it started they “popped’ back to working again as I watched in horror with a burning knot in my stomach.
Right about this time, approximately 3 weeks ago I went for a urology appointment. Those of you who may or may not be familiar with paraplegia urology is something that becomes a regular yearly thing to keep up on and well- having had two babies within 3 years, with all those appointment, I had skipped my annual urology duty a couple times, and then pretty soon it became 4 years and then I started having some symptoms and I thought I better go in.
During my visit the doc was looking at my bladder (from the inside) and said “oh mmmm” pregnant pause, and then “uh mmmmm”. And I knew that sound couldn’t be good, and as I inquired, she said. “See that there... that’s a tumor....and it looks, well, cancerous” and then went on to explain what a non-cancerous tumor looked like as opposed to cancerous one. Having no frame of reference of what the inside of my bladder looks like on a good day I couldn’t tell the difference just that this wasn’t sounding good, then the word cancer sort of settled in and rang in my ears, buzzing, over the sound of my 18 month old screaming in waiting room with dad and the rest of the doctors words morphed in “wahhh wahhh wa wa wa wahhhh” like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons and I have no idea what she said until she asked “would you like me to have you husband come in the room” and I somehow squeaked out a “yes”. From the buzz of words the room and lights took the same unfocused slant and slowly she came back into focus through my tears with my husband pale white and serious standing by her side holding our baby waving his plastic giraffe in the air.
We decided that tumor needed to be removed and biopsied and scheduled the operation and the waiting began.
November 11, the morning of the surgery I awoke to this piecing squeaking noise and upon awakening I realized it was Tyler whimpering and whining in his dog bed. He had had another episode of his back legs giving out and was stuck and bed. He couldn’t get up and joyfully bounce alongside the bed until we all woke up and gave him his breakfast. Carl tried to help him up and his backside was totally limp. Here I am having surgery in 4 hours to take out a possible cancerous tumor, with my best friend now also paralyzed crying helpless before me, what could I do? Again to use a Charlie Brown reference “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH”. I am not only worried enough about the two babies I am leaving in someone else’s care while I go under the knife now my old buddy decides to give out on me the morning of. So we give him an extra dose of his doggie anti-inflammatory drug and in about a ½ hour he pops back to his old self. So I told him that day just hang on buddy a couple more days- I still need you- then you can go, I’ll let you go, I promise. He licked my face- which he never does- he’s not a licky dog and I headed to surgery now my stomach in double knots.
I got through the surgery and then came the endless waiting for the results. 9 days of feeling my life hung in the balance. 9 days of not knowing what lie ahead. Tyler hung in there with us. Then Wednesday I got the biopsy results and they came back cancer free. Another Deep Breathe. We made it. Well, we made it, the humans of the household. Tyler was really not doing so well and I told him I remembered my promise and kissed him on the head- he met me halfway with a tap of his wet nose.
The next day Tyler stopped eating his breakfast. The next day I called the vet. This brings us up to today.
Right now it’s almost way past midnight on 11/21. I’ll bring him in sometime after 9 tomorrow and it will be the end of a long era of my life.
I’ve been sitting in my studio painting, sobbing, smiling, and remembering. Spinning in all the events that have taken place in a few short weeks. I breathe in and out matching my breathes to his calm dog deep breaths. Being still and quiet savoring the last few moments in my studio with Tyler by my side, sprawled out sleeping at my feet. I set the paints down a few moments to write this out. I wanted to remember the snores, the snuffles, the jittery rabbit chasing spasm sleeping dreams, the ear flips and sighs and how I’d look up from what I was doing to see him on his dog bed beside me. These fabulous all night painting sessions we’ve shared recently and especially since children came along. How much I’ve treasured these sacred and rare silent moments together in a still night time house.
I started this painting of trees when I got the tumor diagnosis and it was for me, a way to sort of paint the darkness and fear out of my head. Now that I am through that it seemed only fitting that Tyler be part of it, trotting happily back to the magical place he came from. Because in many ways it represents what he’s done for my life. That story, as I said, could fill a book, but in short he showed me the way- the way of kindness, silliness, not taking yourself so seriously, the way of merriment, gratitude, and most importantly the way of unconditional love. Tyler cleared a big bright path of Labrador Light romping merriment through what one could make into a dark and scary place and in the process his glow transformed it into something beautiful and mystical. The lesson Tyler taught me was its all in how you want to look at it that changes how it really is.
I’ll let the painting speak for itself. I know it’s sentimental and self-indulgent. I don’t care. I love my dog.
Thank you Tyler- you are a good dog. I set you free.
One more Deep Breathe.
It’s 2:30 am and I am just going to post this up on the blog and head to bed to catch a couple moments of sleep before we go in. So I am sure there are type-o’s and English errors. But I don’t want to chicken out and click “delete”. If you happen to read this and it is Saturday morning of 11/22 say a little prayer for my little doggy’s journey to the great big rabbit chasing field in the sky. And a little one for me- that I do alright getting through the departure this morning!