For side effects to chemo that are supposedly so rare, it was a shock to go through some of those side effects right after hearing a forum buddy go through literally the exact same thing. But, here we are. Well, here I am. My baby’s not home yet.
Friday started out pretty normal except that R didn’t seem to want to go for a longer walk. They say to ‘let the dog lead’ in how much exercise they get, but, frankly, I always find that a little hard to really judge. R isn’t 100% clear on walks, especially because up until last month I was fighting to be the boss and now all of a sudden we’re getting to corners and I’m like ‘Which way do you want to go?’ The poor guy is probably confused. I get to choose?, he’s probably wondering. WTF?
Fair, dude. Fair.
But I try to judge how enthusiastic he looks, how fast he moves, how often he wants to take breaks… Friday’s walk was broken up by meeting a new neighbor, oh glorious joy, but then he still didn’t seem like he wanted to go for the long loop, so we hoofed back and just spent some quiet moments sitting in the backyard.
Those are actually starting to be my favorite moments of the day. We’re not necessarily playing, just sitting back there enjoying the cool before the day heats up, the deep greens of the kudzu I really should be fighting off a few of our pine trees, the smells, the breeze, the storybook blue and white sky…
I try to sit there for five minutes and just feel how grateful I am for all the good things we’ve had.
Friday I ended up giving R a dang good scratch down for nearly an hour. We were chatting and I was telling him how awesome he is and how great our life has been… Later, I was really glad, if something really went wrong, that that was our last morning.
Life keeps teaching me that. The last words I ever spoke to the biggest people I’ve lost in my life were always, “I love you.” And I’ve always been insanely grateful for that. No bad memories where my final interactions were a fight. Always, “I love you.”
So I’m going to keep saying it a lot. And making sure all my final R days involve lots of scratches and sunshine and play, just in case, just for when, it is the last day.
So. Sorry. Digression.
Friday started out fine. He ate breakfast. But by the time we were out on the stoop he seemed blasé about his bone. Usually bones disappear at a rate that makes me nervous about my lack of dog CPR skills. So that was weird. But we had our favorite neighbor stop by and give treats, and R ate those so…
At this point I figured maybe he was just super tired from some high exercise days a couple of days before. Maybe not feeling awesome.
I’m so grateful that I was being a lazy bum on Friday and I decided not to go out to my garage gym. Pure luck, that. Normally I head out around 4 and I’m not done and cleaned much before 7. His regular vet would have been closed at that point. I’m not sure I would have pushed to take him straight to emergency…
But, I was a bum, so I was giving R his dinner a little early and…
He didn’t want it.
He. did. not. want. dinner.
I have never seen R turn down food, ever, in our nearly ten years together.
I actually called his vet right away.
We got him in for an appointment before they closed. He had a fever. They ran bloodwork. They suggested I call OSU emergency on the way home and insist on talking with someone on call to ask if I should be bringing R in. Luckily our oncologist was actually the guy on call. Eventually, given the fever temperature and the fact that he wasn’t eating, he said I probably should bring R down and put him in hospital.
They thought it would just be overnight. Then two nights. Now three.
But it seems like he has been improving over the weekend, so that’s good. They got the fever down and they told me yesterday that his bone marrow is ‘on’ trying to make new white blood cells. So now we’re just waiting for his blood cell count to be high enough to give him some kind of immune system again.
They think his white blood cell count bottomed out and he got some kind of secondary infection. Could have been something already in his body that usually his immune system can handle just fine. Nothing we did, or can change. Which is reassuring in one sense, but frustrating in another, because that means there’s no way to prevent this happening again.
All in all I think it was the best of a bad scenario and I can always be grateful for the glass half full. But it was still a weird, sad, quiet weekend. R is my not-so-little shadow. All weekend I kept defaulting to all the ways I have scheduled my life around him. Don’t leave your food somewhere low – oh, doesn’t matter. Thinking I should go on tiptoe to lean over the kitchen counter to see where he’s napping in the living room – oh, no, there’s no one there. Not hearing his little collar tags jingling to follow me down the hallway to the bathroom… Not having his warm, soft body curled up so toasty next to me in bed… No one greeting me when I come through the door, out a room, around a corner, like I’ve been gone for ages and how great it is to see me…
In short, the house was very devoid of love this weekend. Me slathering it all over R. R with his endless capacity to exude it.
And that’s what the house is going to be like in the end, isn’t it?
I mean, that thought was impossible to escape. This is the life that is coming for me.
I don’t mean to be melodramatic. I actually think I’ve dealt pretty well with the fact that that’s coming. I cried myself out of tears the first two weeks or so and for the most part I’m just grateful for the extra time we’ve gotten. And, in a weird way, it is part of my love, this sadness that is beneath it all now. If I wasn’t sad, it would mean I didn’t love you. To experience the sad is to experience another facet of how I love you. And I want to experience all the ways I love you.
Not to be all plebeian, but it’s actually a movie quote I keep thinking about. Shadowlands is a film about C.S. Lewis losing his wife. She says at one point, “The pain then is part of the happiness now.” It is. I accept that and know that it is all part of what it is to be lucky enough to love someone.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
I admit, I cried a bit again, before I took R in Friday. And I have missed him this weekend. I anxiety cleaned the house again and did a bunch of out-of-house chores I probably won’t want to do for a few days when he’s back. But mostly I felt how there will be an emptiness when he’s gone, constant little reminders that something is missing. I’ve felt it with people before, but never with something that is pretty much a dependent, a child, a creature I care for and whose care has scheduled my life for so many years…
I had to think back. The only time I have lived as an independent adult without R was eight months before graduate school. I can hardly remember what an empty apartment felt like.
That is going to be pretty much a brand new experience.
I suppose he taught me to love in a new way. Only proper he’d also introduce me to a new kind of loss.
They thought he’d probably come home today. Fingers crossed.
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