Acupuncture, Tumors, A Dog Whisperer and The Decision (All In the Last 24 Hours)
Yesterday morning, I woke up and was looking forward to taking Otto to his first acupuncture appointment for arthritis. He’s almost 12 year old. You’d never know it though. Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but he still looks like a pup and up until a couple months ago, he acted like a pup.
But he’s not. He’s an old man in dog years. And yet I’ve somehow seem to ignore this fact or maybe been in a little denial despite the fact he eats dog food for aging seniors, take glucosamine pills and hasn’t been able to successfully jump on the couch in awhile.
My entire life, I have thought that I was an exception to the rule. What rule? Any rule. All rules. They simply do not apply to me. (this makes for a very difficult life, by the way). So, why wouldn’t my dog be the same and live forever? I’m not even lying when I say that a part of me really thought I’d never see him die. Not that I really thought he’d live forever but like maybe until he was 20. Or maybe I’d go first. That was probable for years until I got sober. Yes, Otto is an adult child of an alcoholic, which is an entirely different story that I could write an entire book on. But I digress.
It’s not even been 24 hours since I got the dreaded news that my sweet Otto has cancer. The vet came in and lowered the light, which I found a bit odd, but maybe they are setting the mood for acupuncture, I thought. But then I looked at her face and saw she was holding a box of tissue and I knew.
I saw the ultrasound. It’s bad. It’s really bad. It breaks my heart to know that his little body that has gone from a solid 15 lbs to 13.5 lbs to 11.2 lbs in just six weeks is filled being overtaken by malignant tumors. The ultrasound technician showed me dozens of spots on his spleen and liver. He said he could probably find more throughout and that it had most likely spread to other organs but that was enough to let me know it was bad…it was really bad.
I left the vet’s office with $400 worth of food, supplements and a dog whisperers’ business card tucked in my back pocket in case I wanted to consult with her. Don’t judge me but I thought about it. I was desperate.
There’s this weird thing with grief and denial that I am all too familiar with after losing my brother. You don’t feel anything until you do and then it’s suffocating. It’s inescapable. And it’s confusing. That’s where I have been the past 20-some hours… teetering back and forth between extreme sadness and complete denial.
So, then we get home and I reach for the dog whisper lady’s business card. Again, don’t judge me. Or do. Whatever. But then I look at Otto. I look at his sad little face and I cry. I don’t know what I wanted from her—this dog whisperer lady. I guess for her to tell me what Otto wanted…what Otto needed and maybe, just maybe Otto had a message for me like I was the best dog mom he could have ever asked for and that he forgave me for being a shitty mom when I was drunk all the time. Maybe what I really wanted her to tell me was that Otto would say it’s okay to let him go—that it’s time and he’s okay with that. What I wanted was for someone else to make the decision for me…take that enormous guilt inducing burden off of me. So, putting it on a dog whisperer lady and well, Otto seemed perfect.
And what I began to realize through all this wishing and hoping and praying was that I don’t need a dog whisperer to tell me what Otto wants. I realized that this had nothing to do with Otto at all. Otto isn’t scared of dying. Otto doesn’t know time like we do. He isn’t hoping for tomorrow or thinking about the future. He knows the present. He knows right now. And right now, he knows somethings wrong. He knows he doesn’t want to eat. He knows he can’t walk up steps and run to greet Jason and I when we walk in the door even though his tail will wag ever so slightly when he sees or hears us coming. I see the fear in his eyes when he loses control of his bladder and pees on the floor because he knows that’s not right and he thinks we’re going to be angry with him.
Dogs live to please us. That’s what they do. It’s their one mission in life. Otto’s sole purpose in life is to love and that he has. For almost 12 years that dog has loved me unconditionally. He was the first person I ever admitted I was an alcoholic to. He was there through blackouts and breakups. He has laid in bed with me for days and grieved with me through the loss of my brother. He was my favorite Friday and Saturday night date for years I was single. He’s been my one constant through it all. He’s my best friend.
And so now it’s my turn to set aside my selfish and unrealistic wants to keep Otto forever and let this sweet boy run free over the Rainbow Bridge. He has been whatever I needed him to be, which was more than I ever imagined and now he needs me to show him that same love and let him go.