This is the time when I would generally be reflecting on the year past, but it just isn’t something I feel terribly inclined to do this year. I know what went down. Let’s not rehash the whole thing.
It’s been a hard December. Like a lot of people, it’s a tough month for me; some ugly anniversaries, most especially an important death right next to Christmas, and although I burned up a lot of energy focusing on trying to keep Sam on a steady keel, this being the first holiday season after the death of his mother, I can’t say it worked much in keeping my head out of my own stuff. I’m ashamed to admit I’d hoped that being so focused on Sam might distract me out of my own bullshit; I’m okay with it having failed in being a distraction. Caring for other people isn’t meant to serve double duty as a step-away from your own work, jerk.
I don’t know about you, 2016.
This winter, we noticed a swelling on our Rottweiler’s jaw, way back and high up on the right side. She’s 13, but a healthy 13, so at first we wondered if she’d gotten into something, possibly given herself a mouth abscess, but her lymph nodes were swollen too, more than one set, and it didn’t go down after a few days. We took her to the vet, who made comforting noises about oral infections and then took a biopsy. We gave her antibiotics as a precaution, and waited. The results came in after about a week.
Lilu has a melanoma in her mouth, a very nasty form of skin cancer, which has metastasized. This was confusing at first until they explained that our gums are, basically, skin. The things you learn, I suppose. The vet thinks we have about a month left with her.
Surgery and chemotherapy are, technically, options, but we aren’t pursuing them for her; they could shorten her life, or possibly extend it a few, bad months. We did discuss it, but we both feel that quality of life bests quantity; weighing it all out, I wouldn’t want the treatment, nor would I ask a person I loved to take it. We waited until after the holiday to tell Kiddo and Z, and we asked for their input, too. They agree, which was an enormous relief.
We are both devastated and strangely, pleased for her. Lilu came to us at roughly two, maybe three years old, previously a Baltimore bait dog, and we spent a lot of energy working rehab with her. Vets routinely gush on over how sweet, docile, and obedient she is, and they aren’t just being nice; she really is the gentlest, most easy-going, eager-to-please dog I’ve known. She’s had a wonderful, long life, getting loved on by our friends, the folks from the studio, and us. I hate that we are losing her at all, of course. She’s been our friend and companion for a decade, and she has always been the very, very best.
She has gotten all that time, though, rather unexpectedly, and all that love, and even now, here: we have this clear advance notice about what will happen to her, and that’s a big gift. It’s like hospice for our dog, I suppose. We have weeks to celebrate our animal friend, time, really, to celebrate her whole life with us. We haven’t been given that with any of our other pets at end-of-life; it’s always come so suddenly before. There are treats to give, long snuggles together on her bed, all her special favorite foods. “Nobody cares if you learn cruddy habits now, sweet girl,” I tell her, whenever I feed her dog-safe people food, or let her sneak time on the couch. (That last will drive Sam up the wall, but that’s okay. I can take the heat).
It’s odd; she’s pretty okay right now, barring some difficulty in eating anything but the softest foods. Mornings and evenings aren’t her favorites lately, but hey, that’s all right. A lot of folks feel that way. Her vet tells us that for the moment, she isn’t in a terrible amount of pain, just feeling a lot of fatigue. I wonder, a lot, how he knows how she feels- not to disparage the vet, but it seems awfully specific and she is non-verbal. She does still seems like herself, however, and we are using that as our gauge. She still loves her very brief walks down to the stop sign at the end of our street and back again, and will wolf down chicken skin any time it’s on offer, and will come over for skritches and Rottie headbutts when they’re to be had. It’s a goodness, this unexpected gift of time, and we are very grateful for it.
I’ll be spending part of New Year’s Eve a little differently this time around: officiating a wedding. I was retained about two months ago and I’ve been looking forward to it since; the couple is just a little older than Sam and I, and the ceremony is small, just close family and friends, being held in their home a few towns over. I’m quite happy about it; it’s such a forward-looking, trusting way to close what has been a trying year and sad year for us and so many of our friends. By the time this post auto-updates, actually, Lana and Jimmy will already be a legally married couple.
It’s been tough, this 2016 business. Still, I am grateful: grateful to send the year off with a smile and new friends; grateful to still be standing; grateful for the time we had with those we lost; grateful for the experience and the lessons; grateful for these last two gifts, one bittersweet, the other bright, shiny, and hopeful.
Here’s to all of our 2016s-it’s done and over, for good or ill, hooray!- and as to the the 2017 we’re yet to have, may it be better than what came before.