The Love of a Good Dog

tired jack close up

For Ann

Two weeks ago my dog, Jack, and I went to the doggie oncologist to get a lump under his chest checked out. His primary care physician was concerned that it might be cancer.

We waited a short time in the examination room for the dog-tor to see us. The silence was deafening. Jack was quiet, as if he somehow knew that this visit was different from the others. He sat next to me on the wooden bench, so close, in fact, that I’m not sure you could have slipped a piece of paper between us.

As I looked at him, I couldn’t help but notice the gray that was starting to form around his nose. I’d seen it before, but I chose to ignore it. This time, in this setting, I was forced to pay attention. “This could be it,” I thought.

I’ve had four dogs in the past twenty years. Two died nine years ago, both of cancer.  I know that look in a dog’s eye when they know that Father Time isn’t their ally.  I couldn’t tell from Jack’s eyes whether or not we were looking at a life-threatening illness.

The nurse came and took Jack into the lab for his tests.  I was left in a silent room with my fears. I wondered how many more times I’d receive a kiss from Jack just after he had licked his ass. I also wondered if I’d have more chances to yell, “Jaaaaack, do you know anything about this trash can?” and have him come running with puppy-like enthusiasm.

The fact is I need Jack, probably more than he needs me. He could probably be just has happy in some other household – especially one with kids. But for me, he’s been a keeper of secrets as I’ve endured numerous personal setbacks over the past few years. He’s comforted me by allowing me to play with his feet as we drift off to sleep. And he’s given me a sense of optimism as he gets up each day unaware of what came before and unconcerned about the future.  All he cares about is right here and right now. I try to follow his lead.

The dog-tor returned to the room after 20 or so minutes.  For some reason I was remarkably calm as she began explaining the test results.  Jack, to his credit, was jumping around as if to tell me everything was ok. And indeed it was. I didn’t fully grasp the technical jargon the dog-tor used to tell me what was inside the lump. All I heard was, “A small mass of fat. It’s nothing to worry about.”

Jack goes with me nearly everywhere I go.  He sits patiently in the back seat until I return. I leave the window cracked so he can stick his nose out and take in the sights. Before, when I walked away I gave him a kiss good-bye. Now I give him two.

You never know when a lump is going to change your life.