Monday, June 4, 2012
So, it’s cancer
After the rains everything is lush and glowing. The undergrowth in our forest suddenly tumbles unhindered towards the house, spilling over from the edge of the trees, every shade of green imaginable.
Her fur, a deep velvet black, is striking against the vibrant green; she is the colour of darkest midnight beneath the diffuse light of a brightly overcast sky. It is quiet except for a gentle breeze, warm and fresh, that stirs the leafy undergrowth and washes through the canopy. I watch as she lifts her nose to sniff at the air, her silky ears falling back from her perfect Lab face as she watches the world go by. There is utter contentment in that motion. I want to freeze this picture in my head.
Murdoch appears beside me, his line rattling against the wooden planks of the deck. He puts his front feet up on the platform and rests his head in my lap.
“Look at that baby,” I say to him as I ruffle the fur around his ears. “I need to get my camera.”
That’s true. But I want a million more.
Morgan and I sat at the kitchen table just the morning before staring shiny-eyed at the words scrawled on the back of an envelope after the phone call; mast cell carcinoma, thyroid cancer, fairly aggressive, keep her comfortable.
The news wasn’t a total surprise. We expected there was something bad going on after she’d had those seizures, but there was also the raspyness in her throat when she panted heavily and a couple of suspect lumps on her body that seemed different from the various cysts attributed to being an eleven-year-old Lab. Even though we had talked about the possibility of cancer it was deflating to finally know for sure.
We sat numbly for a while with the news weighted heavily between us. And we watched Bear, lying on her bed, looking healthy and strong. She stared back at us with her beautiful brown eyes, that inquisitive wrinkle on her forehead, and stomped her foot impatiently in the direction of a half-peeled tennis ball that sat just out of reach. “If you guys are just going to sit there and stare at me you should really throw my ball.”
I went through the motions of that day as if I were underwater, removed somehow from the real world. That night we watched Bear through this new filter and questioned everything.
“Why is she so tired?”
“Why is she panting so much right now?”
“Do you think her eyes look different?”
What I do think about is how lucky we have been to share our lives with Bear, how lucky we are that this perfect dog should be ours. And I think about those million pictures I have of Bear traveling with us half way across Canada and back again, of swimming in each of the five great lakes, of canoeing on Lake Superior and countless rivers, of accidentally shooting rapids, of chasing sticks and gorging on peanut butter, of sandy beaches and rocky shores and of Bear wandering freely in our forest, lying contentedly in the shade beneath the trees watching the world go by.