We took our dog to the animal hospital to get a CT scan of his brain last week.
He’s already been through months of testing, so we knew he had a small tumor in his brain’s pituitary gland which led to Cushings Disease. But as more and more unexplainable symptoms have popped up, our doctor began to suspect his tumor might be larger than initially thought.
And when our boy went completely blind almost overnight a couple of weeks ago, we worried it was true…
We adopted our dog from a shelter eleven years ago when he was only a few weeks old. Painfully cute and small enough to fit in our hand, we named him Knish (a/k/a “Mr. Knish” or “Nishy”). A completely silly name for the big boy he grew into, but it somehow suited him nonetheless.
Knish grew rapidly and quickly became the highlight of my then overworked corporate life. I found myself running home early from my law office when I should have been eating dinner at my desk. What can I say, I was following the callings of my soul.
Knish was never your typical dog. People had to earn his love and affection, he didn’t give it away to all for free. He wouldn’t even take treats from people he didn’t know. And he had a sort of dignity to him, my husband always joked that he would eat his food with a fork and knife if he could.
And while his fiercely loyal Chow temperament presented us with some challenges, there was never a moment of doubt that he was our family, and no obstacle was too big for us to overcome together.
A few months ago he was healthy and happy as he’s always been, my shadow and daily morning jog companion. And then it seemed as though within a span of a week he changed completely, and we’ve been struggling to put the pieces back together and get him all the help we can.
Knish’s illnesses have affected our lives in many ways. We’ve cancelled family trips, we revolve our days around his care, and for awhile there he needed countless walks a day because the disease he developed made him eat and drink so excessively. With two young kids at home living in an apartment building (and a husband who’s always traveling), this was quite the challenge. Unfortunately he’s not the kind of dog we can easily hire a dog walker for.
But we made it work, and the kids never complain when it comes to walking him. They’ve learned that it’s our responsibility as a family to care for him, no matter what it takes.
We live in a building that no longer allows dogs. And while he is “grandfathered” in, the building’s ruthless management company has made it clear that they are on a witch hunt to get all big dogs out of the building. They even attempted to evict him once. Unfortunately for them, we know our legal rights and politely told them to F off. But now, they watch mercilessly for him to make any mistakes.
So as he’s lost control of his bowel movements, this has become quite stressful. Our once dignified Mr. Knish now walks out of the building everyday in a doggy diaper.
“It is what it is, buddy. Just till we get outside…” I promise daily.
Between caring for Knish and two young kids, with a husband who’s frequently on the road, my energy is often zapped, but I try to take things one day at a time.
People have asked us how we could revolve our life around a dog so much. After all, he’s “just a dog.”
Not to me…
Anyone who’s seen the darker sides of humanity knows that there is no such thing as just a… name your animal.
We each get to choose how we love and the value we place on those we love. I can choose to love and prioritize my dog as much as I would a human in my family. That is my right.
After all, this is the dog who would lay his life down for me if I was in danger.
This is the dog who became the foundation of so many rituals my husband and I established, like our long weekend walks in the park.
This is the dog who after years of having me and my husband all to himself, welcomed our babies into his world with gentleness, patience and respect, despite all the mayhem and disarray.
This is the dog who cries (howls, actually…) every single time my children cry, making for some very interesting tantrums.
This is the dog who never leaves my side, even now when he can’t see a thing, when his body is broken and aching, when his hind legs are constantly failing him, even still… when I get up, he gets up.
And so we prioritize our boy as we would any of our children. He’s family and he teaches me as much about life and love as any human, and that’s really all I’m here to learn. And while we humans get love so wrong so often (myself included), animals know better. It’s them we can learn from.
Even in the wake of his declining health, our boy continues to teach our family so many lessons…
He teaches us that while life can be so hard and send us unwanted and unexpected surprises, together we can get through anything.
He teaches us that though love can be messy and inconvenient, that is never a reason to bail on it. Instead, we work harder at it.
He teaches us that pain and joy can exist together, and it’s up to us to infuse as much love into each moment as we can, no matter how strongly the pain tries to pull us in.
My girls are learning that they can no longer leave their toys lying around, because our boy will fall over them. And so they clear things from his path.
They are learning that they have to be extra gentle when they pet him, because his hips can now barely support his weight. And so they hug and kiss him, so very softly.
They are learning that they have to pause and be mindful when he walks by, so they don’t do anything to startle him. And so they whisper to him and guide him as he approaches.
They are learning kindness, gentleness and patience in a way that I could never have taught them on my own.
I wish they had more time with him when he was young and full of strength and energy, but caring for him is shaping their character in ways I never could. The world needs more humans with a compassionate heart for animals, and I hope with the care they’re learning to give him, they’ll grow up to be such souls.
We are now doing whatever we can to add stability to Knish’s ever changing physical world. And while his brain tumor does appear to be stable, he has developed other illnesses along the way and is now permanently blind. I often wonder what’s coming next but I’m praying he has years left in him still…
And so my pledge to him is that we will take care of him, revolve our lives around him, sacrifice our plans and conveniences for him because to me he will never be just a dog.
He’s family, and there is nothing we won’t do for him.
And so I pledge to relentlessly stand by his side, just as he stands by mine… to be his protector, just as he’s been mine… until the moment he takes his last breath.
And I pray he always knows deep in his sweet, gentle, loyal and protective soul, that his family loves him with all their hearts.
Update: On August 2, 2017, less than two weeks after publishing this post, we had to rush our dog to the animal hospital. Something burst in his abdomen and sadly, he did not make it back home. Thank you for all of your support here, it means the world. I’ll be spending the rest of August with my little ones and will be back to blogging here in September.
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