Thursday, 2 July 2009
The sun is bright and the breeze blows, but it´s a dark day at the Peaceable.
Today in Leon the veterinary specialist gave us the news: the knob on Una´s bad knee is cancerous, a fast-spreading kind.
There are all kinds of heroic things we can do, but none will spare her much suffering or extend her life much farther than a few months.
She´s still walking and eating and snarling at Tim and barking when anyone comes to the gate. She still puts a paw on me when it´s time for a scratching. She´s still enjoying life.
But she knows, and we know, she´s not the dog she used to be, not since last November. That´s when she and Tim simultaneously leapt from the back of the car after an expedition and Tim landed smack on top of her, twisting her rear left leg beneath her.
No more long walks along the canal. No more rodent-digging in the Promised Land, or long leaps over ditches. Just short walks in the cool morning.
The first vet said it would get better, but it did not.
Another vet, a month later, said we should´ve done something right away.
And now the third vet, the specialist in Leon, said it´s been re-injured too many times. She didn´t keep still and quiet long enough for the initial injury to heal up, and she kept hurting it over and over. And that´s how the cancer got started.
Una´s about six years old. She is a terrier-Dalmatian mongrel who showed up at our house outside Pittsburgh on September 1, 2003 -- the first day of Paddy´s official retirement, and two months after we married one another. She was still a pup, completely untrained and unmannerly, more of a crocodile than a dog. She gave him much to do with his first few months alone in a post-industrial rural area called Jeannette, Pennsylvania. They drove each other up the wall sometimes, and forged a close bond.
I wasn´t so easily won. I was the "bad cop" to his "good cop," I disciplined her and taught her that walking on the kitchen counters is not a good idea, and that groundhogs and wild turkeys and small children are not toys. And even though I was the hard-ass, (or maybe because I was,) she decided she loved me best.
She still is street dog, a barely-domesticated creature who´d just as gladly dine from a dumpster as a demitasse.
She adapted to life with ferrets, llamas, ponies, cats, chickens, other dogs, pilgrims, and other animals. She moved with us three times, one of those involving an 18-hour international airplane trek. But she´s had it good.
She has hunted raccoons and possums in the semi-wild state parks of Pennsylvania, and field mice on the Spanish meseta, and house-mice everywhere in between... she´s a terrier, and lives to stalk wily rodents. She´s leapt snowdrifts and dodged lightning bolts and baked her hide in the sun of two continents. She´s begged for scraps at the best tables, and rested her chin on the knees of sages and wandering bums.
We don´t know how long she´s got, but we´ll spend the fortune it takes to buy her painkillers.
The vet says we will know when it is time to say goodbye.
And meantime we can only scratch her spotted belly, and slip her bits of meat, and say soft words to her.
And we can cry.