Let's just say that uncanny is not appropriate here.
Let's just say that wonders do exist.
Let's just say that animals save lives.
A week after my last blog, my retired therapy dog, River, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in her rear left leg. In June, I noticed that she was limping on that leg. And, what do we do when our dogs have a slight limp? We ignore it, of course - hoping that it's muscle soreness from jumping in and out of the car, or a pulled tendon or ligament from running like a banshee on heroin to get the squirrel in the back of the yard. I was waiting for it to heal on its own. Another month went by...then another. I was lazy. I didn't see the signs. Finally, I took her for her annual shots and the vet, an old friend, believed it might be her knee. We put her on some medication and restricted her walks. She also suggested River lose some weight. I put her on a diet and she lost ten pounds in two months. A bit too fast.
When she lost weight, we all noticed the mass on her leg and I took her back to the vet for the third time. This time, we believed it was a benign lypoma. But, cytology could not figure it out. Finally, after radiographs, new pain medication, we are sent to the surgical center here in Richmond to get a CT scan. Everything was clear except that tumor was (as we just found out) soft tissue carcinoma. The doctor whapped me over the head when he said he would have to remove her entire leg, part of her pelvis, and put kevlar mesh in her abdominal wall to build it up. If successful, we could buy her a year, possibly three.
I put my truck up for sale. I'm unemployed...you do what you have to do.
River had three hour surgery on December 14th, 2010. The doctor removed her leg and when he called late that afternoon to tell me she had made it through like a trooper, I burst into tears. My mother had stayed with me all day as I was in a waking coma - hoping, praying, pleading that my sweet dog who I've written two books about would make it through the surgery. She's been there for me for all three of mine, lying next to me, helping me in her sweet, dog ways. Then my mom, bless her heart, had to play a John Denver CD and we he began singing "Sunshine on My Shoulders," Jesus, I thought I would lay down on the floor and snot all over myself.
My girlfriend and I brought her home the next day...it was, I can't help but say, difficult to see such massive, dramatic surgery. Her leg was gone. Completely. I kept yelling at Heather to "slow down!" I was holding on to her in the back and Heather yelled back, "I'm only going five!"
We had to laugh. Cancer affects everyone...but you have to keep the humor.
When I wrote a book called Piper's Someday three years ago...about a three-legged dog who saves a twelve year old's life (and doesn't die), I can barely believe that now, the dog I modeled the books after has lost her leg.
She is still saving my life in the mysterious ways dogs do. They listen. They love. They wag. And, when I had a bleating, nauseating migraine on the Friday night after we brought her home, she hopped all the way from her bed in the living room to my darkened bedroom and she did what she always does.
She laid by my side.
I sent out all kinds of statuses on Facebook and e-mails to friends from all over. I have been whispering the prayers and thoughts to River as I get them and she listens. As I type this blog out, I can't even scoot my chair back because she's behind me, lying on her side, ear up like an elf, her only rear leg out. She's sleeping and breathing.
Peace on Earth she seems to say. Good will toward all. Thank you for the energy of love.
Yesterday, the doctor said he got it all - all of it.
My greatest gift this season is River. She has helped people all over Richmond - children with autism, the people at the Virginia Home who are wheelchair bound, and everyone she touches with her wet nose, her sweet kisses, and her spirit.
There's nothing - nothing like our furry friends! Go home today and watch them more, talk to them more, and listen and notice what they say with their bodies and hearts.
Thanks to my sixteen followers of this blog....thanks to the Facebookers. Thanks to my family for keeping me sane.
The truck sold yesterday. A young couple who needed it. She was toting her young kitten...
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