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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Best to face cancer with a dog at your side

Jeanne, author of The Assertive Cancer Patient blog, is linking blog posts by cancer bloggers again, and this time we have gone to the dogs: . Jeanne has also written about Animals At The Office, and how to get a service dog of your own. Our family dog is not an official service dog, but he has done his best to get me out and moving during the past year. He has also been a middle-of-the-night companion when I was up due to pain (especially during the years before being diagnosed), and when I was curled up on the couch resting during radiation treatments. Lucky the dog, so named because he is very lucky, and because we keep trying to tell him he IS a dog, is the latest in a long line of the established breed of Comfort Hounds. He is shown here on his favorite pillows, and the couch that we bought because it matched most of his fur. He has never asked me why I wear a funny hat, or look different - and can recognize me at the end of the day as the "giver of treats" (we try to keep him to one treat a day when we come home, but now that the teens and his Boss are all working, I think he is back up to 4 a day. He can play us like violins!). If I ever write a book about his life story, it will be titled, "Some dogs live outside". Whenever I say that to him, he just gives me an unbelieving, almost shocked glance, knowing that I am telling tall tales. He is getting older - now 11 - and figures his ranking in the family is above the teens (he treats them like puppies), and below the Boss and myself. He is a great companion for me in the evenings, with number one daughter leaving for Austria, number one son working evenings at Walgreens, and Lucky's Boss enjoying his shift as a university security officer. Lucky would like to think the critters in the neighborhood fear him, but the squirrels and rabbits know about how far he can run in his short bursts, and maintain posts on the perimeter of the yard. Once, he was very surprised to look out the patio glass door to see a baby opossum looking right back at him - I thought Lucky was going to learn how to swear in English that evening. Another time, we were visiting grandparents near Kansas City and were all in the car getting ready to hit the road for Omaha. The windows were down, and grandparents were still saying their goodbyes, when a neighborhood cat strolled by the passenger side. Shocked that a critter would dare come that close to the Boss' vehicle while he was on duty, Lucky leapt out the window and landed, ninja-like, behind an even more shocked cat. They both took off up the street, the cat bypassing 3 perfectly good trees before he finally climbed one that enabled him to glare forcefully down at the interloper that disturbed his peaceful afternoon jaunt. Lucky came back, proud that he had served the Boss. (We still wonder what that cat told his buddies about the flying dog that interrupted his day.) Lucky is a great travel companion, probably since the Boss took him on his grocery delivery rounds when he was just a pup back in Macon, Missouri. Even today, if we need him to be out of the house, we put him in one of the cars in the garage (yes, it is a safe place, good temps, everything), where he will wait patiently for whoever comes back out to either take him on a trip so he can have his ears flap in the wind, or to take him back inside. We can't put him in the backyard or in a closed room of the house and have him wait patiently - he will bark and whine until he is set free to rejoin the pack.
I think we are the lucky ones to have him agree to live with us all these years, and I am very lucky to have his companionship when the days are dark or if I start feeling sorry for myself. He is ever ready to come over and demand a petting session, or a good round of chasing the sock-knot (a knotted sock, the only kind he is allowed to chew) or tennis balls. His idea of luxury is to have a brand new bone from the pet store, which he always buries somewhere in the house (using virtual dirt, hoping that we don't notice it. Being respectful, we don't.) until it is sufficiently aged for his taste.
If you or someone you know is experiencing cancer and all the upheaval it brings, and you don't have a pet handy, I bet you know someone who might loan you one for a while. Lucky was great at getting me outside of my worries, demanding that I care for him and pay attention to him, while probably knowing all the time that his actions were the best treatment my soul required. But just when I think he is wise and all-knowing, like a black and tan Yoda, he will revert back to appearing as a simple dog and demand a treat, scratch, or walk, camouflaging any appearance of caring anything about my needs.


Jeanne said...

Teri--this is SO SWEET. I want to meet Lucky.

I agree with your suggestion of finding a dog to borrow if you don't think you're up for full-time dog ownership.

There is a therapist mentioned in my story about animals in the workplace who used to have clients come by and borrow his dog to take it for walks when they needed doggy love.


Oh, here's that link:

Animals at the Office

scraps said...

Such a typical Lucky moment. 'Course you forgot to mention that Lucky would like to be a lap dog if you would just let him...

Rebecca said...

Teri- I too am a librarian, and though I don't have cancer, my mother was diagnosed early August with breast cancer. Our old family dog, Nikki, recently was put to sleep and now we're trying to help my mom adopt a dog. Being a librarian, I've been doing some research on the side to show my father how having a new dog around to care for would really be healthy for my mom. Thanks for posting on Lucky!

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