Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Secret Reason We Got the Dog

There is a story to tell here, and I will give you the short and long versions:

The Short Version: I went to Durham yesterday for my semi-annual CT scan, and it was clean--no spread of cancer--and I don't have to have another one until right before Halloween. Although I have to get a steroid shot in my EYE in July, and won't that make a jolly blog post!

The Long Version: So, we got this dog. Her name is Juno and she's a beautiful black Lab mix. We don't know what the Lab is mixed with, but it was obviously smaller than a Lab. Our girl is a dainty 60 pounds.

We started looking for a dog with the kids last March in Georgia. We were about a week away from getting one when Greg lost his job. All non-essential spending went out the window, including pets (and we had no idea then how expensive a pet could be). We decided to hold off until Greg got a new job.

In October we moved here to North Carolina, and barely had time to revive our doggie dreams before I was diagnosed with choroidal ocular melanoma less than three weeks after we moved into our house. Obviously I was going to have to go through my five-day radiation treatment in the hospital, and then recovery from surgery, before we could think about a dog. And, of course, then it was the holidays, and things were just too hectic to introduce a dog into the household then.

So it was that on January 6, we found ourselves at the local shelter. We'd looked at the online dating profiles of some of the dogs and had a few in mind, but just as in actual dating, the profiles didn't tell the whole story, and none of our prospects were right for us. But as we had walked up, we'd seen a volunteer walking a black dog she'd proclaimed to be a "real snuggler." We'd smiled politely, intent on meeting the dogs we'd identified online, but now we decided to give the snuggler a second look, and we fell in love.

We'd wanted a dog for a lot of reasons. Walking a dog in a new neighborhood is a great way to make friends, for grownups and kids, not to mention good exercise. We were big believers in "pet therapy," and felt a dog would be good company and spur my recovery. Dogs are fun and cute and lovable. And we knew that if we adopted a shelter dog, we'd be saving it from a bad fate, and making room for one more dog in the shelter so that dog could find a home.

And then there was the reason I didn't tell anybody. My cancer reason.

I figured, if anything happened to me, the dog would comfort Greg and the kids. And also maybe help Greg find somebody new, because women stop to talk to guys with dogs. He's a handsome fella, he doesn't really need a dog as a wingman, but it's a litmus test: a woman who is drawn to a black Lab is not the same as a woman who is drawn to a little fluffy dog. And my husband doesn't need a little-fluffy-dog type.

There was another cancer reason, too.

About twenty years ago, my aunt and uncle's faithful dog died suddenly. Three days later, my uncle also died suddenly. There was conjecture that the dog knew somehow, and wanted to be ready at the door to greet him. A few years later, the same thing happened with the grandmother of a friend. I started to hear of other stories.

So, I thought to myself: I really don't want to go, but if I had to, it would be nice to have a dog there waiting. And I picked a young dog, because, hey, I'm not in any hurry.

(The thing with this cancer: it's not like other cancers. It's not like if you get to five years post treatment, you're considered cured. It apparently decides to spread whenever the hell it feels like it. Three years, five years, twelve, whatever. That's why the scans every six months. There's a roughly 80% chance that it won't come back by five years. The stats after that are a little fuzzy. I'm probably going to be okay, but maybe not. And if it comes back, it's pretty much incurable. Maybe that will change with more research, but right now--not good.)

So, as I said, I picked a young dog. I'd like to stick around.

And then I discovered the angry red-and-white growth on her toe.

Ordinarily, I would not have been too alarmed, but I know that black Labs are prone to tumors, especially on their feet. I immediately pictured us together in a pet-friendly hospice, with matching morphine drips. (You may have noticed I am a little prone to jumping to disastrous conclusions.) I thought, well, maybe I picked the right dog after all. Maybe she knew something was wrong with me, and developed a tumor in sympathy. In my head, I began referring to the two of us as "Tumors R Us."

But it turned out her growth wasn't a tumor at all; it was a rather unpleasant abscess caused by something she stepped on, probably a sliver of wood. It felt like a good sign, even if she did have to wear the Cone of Shame for a week while it started to heal. And then I had my scan, and the doctor, who probably remembers my meltdown of a few months back, was barely in the door before she said, "Your scans look great."

Nobody knows what the future brings, of course. I'll have what my friend Chris calls "scanxiety" in the weeks leading up to every scan for the rest of my life. But for right now, I've got an extension for another six months, and I'll take it.

Also, I won't be letting my husband walk the dog by himself. I don't need some neighborhood hussy moving in on my man. Or my pet. I'm still here, and planning to stay.


  1. I get this. It made me tear up. I hope you get many, many, many years with your lovely family and wonderful Juno.

  2. I laughed and I cried at this post Becki...you have such a gift...and not just for writing! We are all so happy for the great news.

  3. I laughed and I cried at this post Becki...you have such a gift...and not just for writing! We are all so happy for the great news.