Friday, November 3, 2017

For Casey's Mom - At What Cost Love

I hope this brings some comfort to Casey's Mom through these last days.  A chapter from The Book of Barkley. . . .

What price love?
Today all told  - $811.46.  That's in addition to the $329.04 twelve days ago.

All to a tiny and pretty blond woman  in a white lab coat named Alice who talks to Barkley down on her knees, at his level, looking into his eyes, like he is a human.  I swear he talks back to her.

It was another trip to the vet.  The soreness and slight limping that was thought to be muscle strain or early arthritis, (pending x ray confirmation) did not respond to the drugs for that, even after a couple of weeks of very limited activity. Over only a couple of days, the slight limp went to full limp. Last night he refused food and wouldn't put his foot down, hopping on three legs.  This morning while squatting to poop in my neighbor the cop's yard (pooping in your own yard is for wimps!) he fell over, like cow tipping, without the moo. He was able to get up and slowly hop into the house with a "I meant to do that!" but with too much effort. The vet was called, then my team, who were expecting me for a load of fun today, that I had to trust the probies to handle themselves.

We were there by 10 for the x rays we'd discussed earlier.   Don't ask me how I got him into the bat truck since he can't jump, but being part Valkyrie really comes in handy.

The images on the x rays were such, a radiology specialist was consulted to look at a possibility we both are aware of, given his history, but weren't going to say yet.  Appendicula osteosarcoma.  A very aggressive bone cancer that manifests itself at the onset in lameness, the owner often trying other treatments until it's already spread to the lungs.  He's my 4th retriever so I know that lameness in a large-breed dog that does not promptly resolve with symptomatic therapy is a red flag we must check out.  So here we were, waiting, the silent ticking of his life in my ear.
While the images went to the radiologist, I went back to work, if only to the office, hiding in the Goat Closet (someone had to have fun with the placard) once to cry so no one would see.  When you're Gibbs, you can't get caught crying.

She called me with a sound in her voice that is some hope.  There was no visible tumor, and the specialist said the bone didn't have that (as best I can describe it to you) Swiss cheesy look you don't want to see.  It doesn't mean that cancer couldn't lurk, just not having manifested itself yet on x-ray but it gives us time to look at other things, minor infection, simple inflammation, he's faking it to get more treats.

I could have brought him home to the crash pad, but with a storm approaching, it was agreed they would keep him (he sometimes happily boards there when I'm working overnight) to monitor and run some more tests.  This will also help in keeping him quiet for a few days, while I go home for a night or two, a trip in the truck he would not want to make in pain, time to build a ramp so he can go out in the backyard without even those few stairs.  I brought his bed to which I added layers of foam underneath between the bedding and cover to keep him off the floor that could be cold, his toy, his treats.

I imagine I'll be writing a couple more checks later.

I don't mind.  We do a lot for love, we learn, we grow, we take chances, we hurt.  For one feisty blond woman I knew, finding out the guy who was calling her the "love of his life" was dating another woman at the same time, we show up at his stockholders meeting and light that brand new red Victoria's Secret number we bought for our anniversary, on fire and throw it on the table before storming out, head held high.

Most of us have lost someone close to us in our lives. A parent, a spouse, a friend, a beloved pet. It does not matter what form love takes, it becomes part of us, and losing it is like peeling away that outer layer of skin, leaving nerve endings exposed to the cold that bites with weasel teeth.   We all know that every life must end, but when it ends much too young or abruptly, it is just so hard to accept. For the true majestic, incandescent blindness of love is its willful refusal to fully acknowledge that at some time death or even circumstance will take someone from our lives here.

I remember a moment at Dad's not long ago, walking inside, carrying groceries and seeing my Dad so still on the couch, it appeared he wasn't breathing. For just an instant, everything went into high relief, like a scene in a 3-D movie - the Safeway bag dead weight in my arm, the sun glinting off my old piano against the wall, Dad's slippers on the floor.My whole life suspended, bathed in bright June sunlight. In the short terrible space between that moment and the next, when he opened his eyes and smiled, I got a glimpse of grief as it would look in this new incarnation. And perhaps, for those of us who have had that glimpse, it is partly the encroaching darkness that makes the light so vivid.
Artists understand this so well. Think of the paintings you have seen in a museum, that life force depicted in paintings of old, a succulent pear, a fox so finely wrought that a single drop of blood can be seen along a thin whisker. In studies of faces that bloom in layers of ancient varnish, the curve of a a child's innocence revealed gradually, the glint of light on a warriors steel or the promising, secret gleam in a woman's eye that belie the fact that the persons in these visages are now only framed by the earth, hundreds of years gone. For that moment, in those paintings, they are still with us.

I look at pictures of myself and of my own daughter, wondering if decades from now, the upcoming generations of our women will remember the strength and love from which they were born. I look at words I penned even five years ago, words that don't exist now in the same world, even though they were placed in space with these same hands on this old computer, as the same old clock ticked above, time discarded by moving hands.

I look at my Dad, sleeping more now, under an attic where lay a bundle of letters that give off a whisper of old longing and forever hope, carried across an ocean to lie above the woman who wrote them. Dad grieves and he gives thanks, for love still exists, even as the bones of it have crumbled to dust, becoming one with the soil, the love remains intact, impervious, where they had lain, there in the rich earth of a man's heart.
I look at a photo of my Mom taken in the woods she loved, long before she began that fight for her life. A heavy smoker, cancer was diagnosed when she was in her 40's. I remember watching as a youngster, when Dad would come home to that same house, with shadowed corners and open windows, in the town where I grew up, and he'd collapse on the sofa from worry and exhaustion. Losing my mother seemed impossible; she was never so alive as in those last years when she fought so hard to stay that way.  Still, death came too soon for her age, and for mine.

Yet she is still with me daily. Whenever you've been touched by love, be it of a parent, child or friend, even after they're been taken from you, a heart-print lingers,so that you're always reminded of the feeling of being cared for, knowing that, to someone, you mattered. You do not need a photo to remember that.
I remembered that when my Step Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers, a good and kind woman, lost in the shadows of her own mind, dancing to memories we couldn't see and crying out for those she didn't recognize.  I remembered it when both Dad and Big Bro were diagnosed with cancer, both still fighting even though they know who will eventually win.  I remember it every day I wake up and know, that even as my world dwindles, to someone, I am the form of love, one with bed-hair and waffle breath.

I so miss Barkley here this night and so I write. I hope you will join me in saying a little prayer for those that remain.  There are no guarantees, but we have today.  Every hour, every day is grace, even as I drive 7 hours round trip to make a ramp for a dog that will likely go out and buy a skateboard to play on it.

I am going to savor that, however.  For it's not what you've lost that counts, its what you do with what you have left, concentrating on the good things, so while we still are, we can still hope.
L.B. Johnson


  1. We are all so sad at the news about Casey. Cancer is horrible, plain and simple. We hope your post brings comfort to Casey's Mom.

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  2. We are so sad for Casey. Our love for our angel Loki cost us $10 000 during the last 11 months of his life. Money well spent.

  3. We're hoping for the best for Casey. :( I hope this post is cherished by Casey's mom, as the OP pack said.

  4. 🐩Oodles of poodles thoughts for you and your Casey. 💔

  5. Well written. Yes focus on what you have left and cherish it.

  6. Beautiful! I am sure it will comfort Casey's mom. The last two paragraphs touched me so much - really powerful. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you so much for this! Momma is crying a little more, but she said they're tears of love.

  8. So beautiful! We are saying lots of prayers for Casey!!

    Bell Fur Zoo Mama, Matt & Matilda


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