Between the death of my best human friend, canine biopsies, the loss of a low-paying yet often rewarding job, the replacement of said job with an even lower-paying job that occasionally makes me want to stab myself in the eyes with a rusty steak knife, and more car problems than a fleet of Ford Pintos, I have not felt thankful for much over the past couple years.
Of course, one should be grateful just to be alive. And relatively speaking, things could be worse.
I have my health (or at least I think I do), I never attended youth camp at Penn State, and though I’m no rocket scientist I’m bright enough to not walk into a rotating airplane propeller and inadvertently re-enact that splatterific scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Besides, plenty of rocket scientists have been laid-off of late too.
Through any stretch of tough times, I am thankful for family and friends, but especially my dogs. After all, they are the ones subjected to the daily rollercoaster ride.
Family members have an obligation to at least pretend to care, and friends have the option of turning their backs (nobody knows you when you’re down and out, as the song goes). But dogs have no choice in the matter, and that they remain steadfast and good-natured when their proprietors go through mood swings that rival those of a pregnant woman is a credit to their species.
Thus when I discovered a series of lumps on Reese, including around the lymph node areas under his armpits, in the days following the Thanksgiving hike depicted here, I hit the panic button. My paranoia escalated to a Bush-era, Homeland Security Advisory-style Code Fuchsia after an internet search (never a good idea in such circumstances) planted the seed of the “C” word.
Not ready emotionally or financially to deal with a cancer diagnosis, I did not sleep for the six days between the detection of the masses and Reese’s veterinary appointment. Over a week of insomnious nights, I alternated from the bed to the couch to the living room floor; Reese always followed, curled up beside me and quickly drifted into a peaceful slumber. I found myself wishing the Woody Allen line about everything existing only in the dream of a dog was true.
The vet, who kindly pointed out that I looked like I had been punched in both eyes, did a quick test of each lump. Despite the needle pokes, Reese remained unflappable, basking in the attention.
The bumps were indeed tumors—benign fatty ones, common among aging dogs and nothing to worry about. I thanked the doctor gratuitously, as if she had magically waved away cancer; in my mind, she did. Although I would have welcomed a two-day coma by the time Reese and I returned home, I settled for a good ten hours of sleep. Reese dozed warmly by my side.
When I woke up, the dogs were sitting bedside, waiting to greet the day as they always do and as every day should be greeted: as something filled with hope and possibility and maybe a squirrel to chase. And for them and every day I get to spend with them, I am thankful.