Last month, I signed up for a three week long writing workshop. It was supposed to be my focus for a while, to rekindle the joy I have so often felt when deeply absorbed in my writing. I’ve been missing that for some time, as life’s other priorities keep taking me away from the creative routine. It was going well. I was writing every day, and enjoying the exercises. I was interacting with others in the workshop. I felt like myself again.
And then, part way through the workshop, Ryder had a bleed.
My Saluki, who is right now thirteen years and almost five months old, has been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma–a vascular cancer of the spleen. His tumor had begun to bleed into his abdominal cavity, and he was suddenly and seriously in a fight for his life.
I managed to stop the bleed using Yunnan Baiyao, a Chinese herbal mixture that has proven to be very helpful in this situation. He is now three weeks on, and doing much better. There is still a struggle to get his appetite back to normal, but other than that he feels okay. We had a lovely, gentle, walk this morning, where he was acting very much like Ryder, and even tried to chase a squirrel.
Life for me, however, has changed dramatically. For weeks, I was unable to work. My entire focus has been on him, due to the fear of another bleed. I’ve been unable to leave him alone at all. I’ve had to rearrange furniture so he can climb onto the bed without risk of him jumping. I can’t get him in and out of the car (we have a ramp for him, but have been unable, despite my best efforts, to train him to use it). I am continually trying to get him to eat–at his vet recheck last week, he had lost about four pounds.
More than anything, though, I’ve lost my ability to focus. I try to write, but sit and stare at the screen for long stretches, without anything coming to mind but: “When is Ryder’s next dose of medication? What should I try to feed him for lunch? Should I take him for a walk before I feed him? Is his breathing okay? How is his color?”
When I do write, I am writing about Ryder. I’m keeping a journal for him, as I did for Kai during this journey through cancer. I keep track of everything he eats (or refuses to eat), every supplement, every bowel movement, every walk. When I blog, I blog about Ryder. When I post on social media, Ryder is the subject.
I am again adrift on the current of caring for a dog with a serious illness.
Five years ago yesterday, my precious Kai lost his battle to melanoma. Here we are in the same season of the year and I am again counting every canine breath, spending all my money on foods to tempt a dog’s appetite, and laying awake at night saying prayers of gratitude for the gift of another day.
I think back on all of the times I have been through this. Of all my dogs, only two left me so suddenly that we didn’t go through this process of loss of appetite and dwindling vitality. I’ve done it again, and again.
And yet, I know in the heart of my soul, that I will continue to do it … again and again … until I, myself, am facing this sunset journey, and someone else is caring for me in my final days.
I will do it again and again, because the soul deep joy of loving and being loved by a dog is worth every tear. It’s worth every “please take another bite.” It’s worth every shattered heart when that final breath comes.
I’ll do it again and again, because what they give while they are here is what makes me whole.