Week Two Post-Op

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We played our first game of fetch since surgery today.  It made me both very happy and a little sad.  R could really only do one gentle run at a time, and then he had to take a rest in between each.  But he was so happy when he trotted back with the ball each time and I made a huge fuss over him.  So that part was awesome.

It’s just such a change from the dog that was my dog for so many years, you know?  There is no denying his looming mortality with reminders like that.  For nine years before this R was my go, go, go beast.  As a puppy he used to break through the ice in the creek by our hour to go swimming and then hike back for an hour through snow as tall as he was with icicles hanging from his belly.  As an older puppy I literally only saw him really tired ONCE, and it was after a truly full day of swimming and running off leash through the woods.  Up until just a few weeks ago we were playing full-run fetch for a solid hour most mornings.  We used to rank his mid-air catches on a scale of 1-10.  We’d usually have at least one or two standout catches, leaping into the air and turning 180 degrees or something.

Now it’s five fetches.  Gentle throws.  Resting for a second when we get the ball.  And then lying down for a longer rest each time we bring it back.

All of a sudden, in literally a matter of weeks, R got very old.

That part hurts.

We had a similar good-bad day yesterday.  We got our stitches out, which was wonderful.  I asked the vet in about twelve different ways if R was allowed to do this, or that, or that, or this other thing and I was told: Yes, whatever he wants.  So that was great.  We also got our first chemo out of the way and so far so good on that.  (Though I’m braced for the weekend.  I understand nasty side effects wouldn’t show up for a few days.  So.  Pending.)

But we did have a few new mets on lung x-rays.  The first one hasn’t grown any bigger, which is good.  But there were a few newcomers, which is bad.

All in all though, I knew we had lung mets already.  I’ve always been a brace-for-the-worst kinda person, or at least as long as I can really remember, so I was preparing myself for the vet to come out and tell me the lungs were just exploded with mets in three weeks.  So, then two doesn’t sound so bad.

It’s not perfect, but it could have been a lot worse.

That’s, I guess, how I’ve ended up feeling about this whole situation.  I wish R didn’t have cancer.  I wish he’d pass away one night very peacefully in his sleep at fifteen with no real health problems.  (And, if we’re being really honest, that some other member of my household might find him and gently break the news to me.)  Or, really, I wish he’d just never die.  Let’s go for that option in our dream scenario.

But cancer has weirdly given me a head’s up that I really need to savor these last months.  I was already starting to do a little of that.  R was coming up on 10 anyway, so I had started giving myself little rules like whenever he comes up to me, no matter what, I take two minutes and pet him and tell him I love him.  Or, every night, he gets a really good right-before-bed body massage while I recount how we met and some of my favorite memories over the years.  I was already doing that.  But now I know I should take an extra thirty seconds every time he gives me puppy eyes and just kiss his little ears one more time.  And I should cherish snuggles like they’re freakin’ bitcoin.  And I should try to memorize what it feels like to sleep at night with his little buddy curled up against my chest.

And the COVID lockdown… It’s weirdly given me more time with him too.  Lots of suck in that scenario, obviously, but how wonderful is it that I’m working from home right now.  In a normal world I’d be in the office all day, every day, wondering how many hours I was losing with him that I couldn’t get back.

And just…

I’ve gotten almost ten years with R.  Ten years where he’s kept me company in seven houses spanning thousands of miles and no doubt bottomless pits of loneliness if he hadn’t been there.  We’ve gotten to love each other for nearly a decade.  R has taught me a lot about how to love another living creature again, about patience, about gentleness, about animals and how much life and personality there are in those eyes.  He’s shown me new facets to my world.

I’m so grateful, after all is said and done, to have gotten so much joy.

How blessed have we been, really?

The end isn’t something any of us can avoid.  I’ll die one day too.  All we can do is get as much joy as possible from whatever life we have.  And R and I have gotten a lot, I think.


I’m hoping we still have months together and R can play fetch many more times.

But, regardless…

It’s not perfect, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

We’re going to count ourselves lucky.

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5 thoughts on “Week Two Post-Op”

  1. Hi R’s mom (what is your name?). This post really resonated with me. There are so many similarities between your R and my Griffin. He turned 10 in January and has been my constant companion for that time, even coming to work with me for many of those years. He has taught me so much about love and acceptance and joy – just like R has taught you. And now faced with the cancer diagnosis, I find myself desperately trying to savor all the little moments and not drown in the sadness of his illness. I struggle with that, especially when his x-rays last week showed a lung met. I have found the Tripawds family to be an invaluable resource and support network, and while I’m not always successful, I try to “be more dog”, living life in the moment and counting the blessings of the incredible life we have lived together. I’m cheering for you and R, and I thank you for the reminder to count ourselves lucky. Sending hugs from NYC! ~ Stacy

    1. Hi Stacy. I’m Ash. I’m sure Griffin has had lots of adventures with you, especially in NYC. R and I lived in NJ for a few years and I loved getting to see some of the soooooo many things always happening in the city. It is hard to really live in the moment. For me, it’s easy to be grateful, but it’s hard not to be greedy for more time and more memories. Also, all change is hard, for me. Losing a constant and, frankly, a huge emotional support, has me panicky sometimes. But I’m trying to think of grief as another way I love him and letting him go as another way I love him. (And I love him a lot, so I’m pretty good at that part.) Hope you and Griffin still have some good long months left. NYC in the fall… *sigh*

  2. Oh Ash, I’m feeling this one, too. For me it’s so hard to reconcile my dog of a year ago with my dog of today – they’re both so real to me. It sounds like R had some amazing athletic times. I’m glad you’re two weeks out and I’m hoping for many more games of gentle fetch and much gentleness with yourself as you navigate this tender time. Sending thoughts from Maine — Emily (Devo’s person)

  3. Ash, you are getting stronger with each new day, just like Rearden. It’s good to read about your perspective to the situation, and I’m sure R is so happy to have you so present, so available for him now. Just beautiful.

  4. Thos is so beautifully written. I smiled with the visual of R breaking they ice mto awimmand coming running back with ice icicles dangling! So cute!!😎

    Agree with Kerry, we see upj getting stronger every day and learning to savo the NOW and no worries avbput the tomorrows. It’s not easy, but it’s such a major lofe lesson that our dogs teach us. R is a Master teacher and you are his excellent student👍

    R is now a “mature” fella’ who has played hard with limitless energy and with unstoppable zest!! Aure, the amputation from MAJOR surgery is slowing him down…as it would anu dog, uoung or old.
    I can guaran you that having this extra Zen time with you while he gets his massages and cuddles is MORE important to him than how many times he plays fetch! If he e Joy’s the first two throws and then isn’t interested in more throws, he’s not feeling sad. He’s simply telling you those throws were fun and to do more won be as uch fun if he keeps pushing. Such a smart boy!!!

    Yoi are doing a great job of adjusting to figure out things he enjoys in this new normal. A couple of gamesmof fetch and multiple massages with his favorite BFF….yeah…he’s a content and happy boy enjoying this “Season of Maturity”😎
    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

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