photo by Colin Pittman www.facebook.com/colinsphotogallery/
For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you will recall that one of my “perks of having cancer” was coming to appreciate my dog, Patches. Before getting cancer, I just saw Patches as another little being who needed taking care of in my home; more work for an already over-worked single mom! I loved her, of course, but I just did not fully appreciate having her in my life.
When I was going through my cancer treatments however, I came to see Patches in a whole new light. I realized that she was not just TAKING my time and attention, she was GIVING so much back to me! While I had a great support team who came and went to help cook, clean and take care of the kids, Patches was the one constant in my life. When everyone else had gone home for the night, Patches was always there beside me on my bed. Many nights I would cry into her fur those tears that I fought so hard to hide from my loved ones during the day. On the days that I was too sick to get out of bed, she never left my side. As I drifted in and out of my post-chemo daze, I could always depend on seeing her big brown eyes gazing at me when I woke up.
When Patches developed a cough a few weeks ago, I immediately became concerned. I feared that she might have pneumonia which could be fatal to a dog her age (10 years old). I wanted to get some medications to help her recover as quickly as possible, so I rushed her off to the vet. After taking a chest x-ray, the doctor presented me with the diagnosis, which came as a complete shock: lung cancer. You could have knocked me over with a feather. It broke my heart to think that while Patches was cheering me through my cancer journey last year, the ugly beast was growing in her little chest.
The vet prescribed some medications to help with the cough, but was doubtful that it would change her prognosis. I remained hopeful however, since her cough did seem to clear up somewhat soon after she started taking the pills. But when she went back for more x-rays last week, it was worse than I had feared. The tumor was growing so rapidly that it would only be a matter of weeks before it took her life. I had a difficult decision to make.
What were my choices? I could let her live out the rest of her life and watch her slowly choke to death from the disease. Or I could have her put peacefully to sleep and bring an end to her suffering. Even though her cough had lessened, I knew by the moans she made at night that she was in pain. I prayed for guidance, and then booked the appointment to have her put to sleep.
For me, one of the most difficult parts of having cancer was the waiting: waiting for test results, waiting for treatments, waiting for surgery……..always waiting and wondering. The four days of waiting after setting up the appointment to have Patches euthanized were torturous. So many times I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. She was there for me through my cancer experience, shouldn’t I also be there for her and see her through to the end? I don’t know whether my decision was a selfish one but I could not do it. I could not sit by and helplessly watch cancer take her life. I went through with the appointment.
Mom was by my side and we both cried quietly as the needle was injected into her front paw. Seconds later as I looked into her big brown eyes for the last time, I saw them glaze over. Patches had gone to the rainbow bridge.
The Rainbow Bridge
By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.