My Dog, My God, and Cancer
May 01

My Dog, My God, and Cancer

It was late in the afternoon and I was feeling weepy as I drove to the veterinary oncologist to pick up my dog Fannie after a day of tests. She had already had two surgeries in the past year to remove malignant melanoma from her tongue, but a new lump had appeared.

Small dogs are supposed to live a long time, I thought to myself as I headed to the vet clinic. When I adopted her as a puppy, I expected her to live 20 years. But now she has cancer … and she’s only 10!

Tears flowed and my pity party was in full swing.

Then, about halfway to the clinic, my grieving lament was interrupted by a gentle voice: “Listen to yourself! You sound like a little kid who received ten fabulous gifts on Christmas morning … and now you’re crying because you didn’t get more?”

I was startled out of my wallowing. Who was this voice chiding me? Was it God? Was it some long-forgotten wisdom speaking to me from my own subconscious? I don’t know who or what the voice was, but it snapped me right out of my self-pity.

Then I laughed … at myself … and at the rest of humanity. Isn’t that the way we humans are? We’re like little kids with greedy minds and hearts – too often focusing on what we don’t have, rather than appreciating everything we do have.

How could I have been so ungrateful? Fannie and I had enjoyed ten love-filled years together … with thousands of belly rubs, dozens of road trips, hundreds of sunset walks, countless laughs over doggie escapades, and many an afternoon nap spooning, with my face buried in the soft, thick fur on the back of her neck. Ten years of wonderful experiences and beautiful memories – such blessings!

Cancer didn’t make one whit of difference to Fannie. She lived each moment, each hour, each day, happily doing what she always did – taking in all the scents, sights, sounds in the world around her. For a dog, every day is Christmas. But unlike her human companion, Fannie didn’t whine for more – she just took things as they came, happily, gratefully.

My dog was my teacher – she reminded me to enjoy simple pleasures and to live fully today.

Cancer was also my teacher – it reminded me that everything is impermanent and everyone dies. Cancer made my life sweeter. Every belly rub was more luxurious, every sunset walk more delicious, and every snuggle more heavenly.

Fannie and cancer and I lived together in peace for three more years, until it was time for her to go. And on the final day of her life I told her, “Guess what, sweetie? Today is your lucky day! You get to go back to God. You get to go back to where you came from. And when you get there, I want you tell God ‘thank you’ from me. These thirteen years have been the most wonderful, the most beautiful years of my life. I am so grateful. Thank you for being the most perfect dog in the world.”

Fannie passed peacefully on her own bed, in our living room, as I stroked her fur, told her how much I loved her, and bestowed a final kiss on her velvet face.

My life will go on, but it will never be the same. I am eternally blessed to have known the love of a dog.