Buzz's Bad News and Silver Linings

As many of you know, we adopted the most precious, beautiful, loving, faithful, and gorgeous (though I AM biased) black labrador  in November.  His name is Buzz.  (Yes, the title of the blog has a correlation…as it does to many other things.)

Thanks to FBC (F-bomb Breast Cancer) and my unsavory reactions to my first two chemo treatments, Buzz and I have become constant companions (Silver Lining). Though we have only had him a few months, I am in complete and total love with him.  I wag my tail when I see him.  Can’t wait to see his ears perk up and his smile (yes, he smiles) when I get home.  We won the dog lottery.

12 days ago, while hiking, Buzz collapsed. Not once, but FOUR times.  On the same hike. All 78.4 pounds of him fell hard.  While on the ground, he couldn’t get enough air. His eyes were glassy. As a former cardiac nurse, I knew that this was bad. Really bad.  As a current hospice nurse, I also knew that this was bad.  Really bad. I thought I was going to have to be a cardiac nurse AND a hospice nurse simultaneously (not exactly an everyday occurrence.)

We went to the Vet and ruled out a whole slew of things (SL).  However, today, he was diagnosed with Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC).  I know…WTF?  EIC is a rare (I am so sick of that term as it relates to me and my family!) disease in Labradors in which, after a certain amount of exercise, they collapse.

How much exercise?  We don’t know. Exercise capacity is individual to each dog.

Treatment?  None.  We have to make sure that Buzz doesn’t exercise so much that he collapses.  Obtuse, right?

After the diagnosis and telling us that essentially there is no treatment, our Vet (kindly and gently) told me that he could die suddenly. Without warning. Anytime.  He could also live a full, long life.  We don’t know.

F-Bomb. F-Bomb. F-Bomb.

His diagnosis took me right back to my diagnosis. I was numb, tearful and in shock.

However (you know the SL’s are coming, right?), I went to a contemplative place of gratitude, which is where I spend a whole lot of time these days.

Shortly after hearing the news, I found myself comparing dogs and people. I thought about how, like Buzz, none of us knows when we are going to die.  Sometimes, we know how, but never when. Lots of time and energy in this world is spent worrying about both. Why expend energy on anything other than being as physically, mentally and emotionally healthy as we can be while simultaneously giving back to the world?  Isn’t that enough to think about?

Then, I thought about what an incredible teacher Buzz has become in my life (SL).

For example, Buzz has shown me that cancer time and dog time are very similar. There is a presentness in cancer that is omnipresent in a dog’s life. Unlike humans, who tend to focus on the past or future, dogs live fully in the present. Full disclosure: I have spent plenty of time focused on either or both.

However, I have a presentness now that I have never had in my life (SL). I think it’s this presentness that is enabling me to to enjoy every single minute with Buzz and not focus on his EIC (or when he might die).

This philosophy of presentness applies to all aspects of my life, including time with family and friends. Simple interactions. I am enjoying minutes.

These thoughts of presentness remind me of a wonderful book that a friend gave to me years ago:  The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. It would be a wonderfully precious present to give yourself!

The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson

Buzz has also become an important part of my healing (SL). At Buzz’s suggestion (he is incredibly expressive and adamant), I (actually we) now go outside and sit. Just S I T. No phone, email, book, magazine. Not a single distraction. He seems to nudge me at the most perfect time, when I need to quiet my mind the most.  Out we go…to take a nap in the sun.

Buzz illuminates my life. No matter how much time we have with him, I am incredibly grateful for every minute (SL).

A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live.

-Bertrand Russell

Leave a comment


  1. Judith says

    I am pushing through my averison for technology and replying to this because reading this filled me up and over. In my life I have rescued two cats. I am always mindful of who did the rescueing. I am forever grateful for SL. Sending all good wishes out…

  2. Lorena says

    By far, my favorite entry! The love and companionship of a dog is always unconditional! Buzz is an exceptional doggy, but he also won the lotto when you adopted him! Love you tons and tons.

  3. says

    How wonderful!! Big SL in that WTF finding. I find it so hard to just sit without anything to occupy my mind…but when I do it is soooo relaxing and almost in the moment ROCKS. (as my sons would say)

  4. says

    My heart was balled up in a lump in the back of my throat, reading the first part of your post. You are holding him with open hands, savoring the time you share together and giving him the gift of your companionship. Never doubt that he needs you as much as you need him… that's simply the way it is.

  5. diane says

    What a story, dogs just do it for me, forget the fashionable life, if I could, I would just work with animals…they always have the right perspective. My dog, however, seems to be focused on the "tough love" theory…she never lets me feel sorry for myself, its always "get over it, lets play!"

  6. Michele says

    I just finished my book group book last night, 'A Dog's Purpose' by W. Bruce Cameron. A very interesting premise- written from the dog's perspective. A quick read on the iPad…
    Hope you all find mayn silver linings today and maybe a rainbow or two…

  7. Stina says

    Lots of bombs going off, but once again you found the jewel in it all. Living, breathing, seeing the beauty around us, is precious. We aren't really good at appreciating it.. or at least I should say, I am not good at it.. trying to get better. Like Buzz, Bentley smiles when I turn to him, and he reminds me all the time to appreciate the moment and to appreciate just being.
    Love those whole body wags!
    Sending love to you and Buzz.

  8. Judy Foreman says

    Thinking of you with love. You and Buzz and your sweet family and wise words are good for all of us to hear and know in good times and bad.
    Scarf or puking or swearing you are beautiful and stylish.

  9. adrienne says

    After having to say good bye to a Cherished Labrador , a wise 6 year old said " I know why , people are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice , right ? Well , dogs already know how to do that , so they don't have to stay as long " It's no wonder that I love working with 6 year olds every day ! Blessings !

  10. Robyn says

    I think you and Buzz are teaching all of us some very important lessons on
    living. Thank you Hollye and Buzz for opening all our eyes to the beauty of each day….

  11. Diana Brill says

    My heart swells as I read this! I had the joy of a yellow labrador for 11 years. He was in total ownership of my heart and nurished my soul! Their capacity for love and knowing is a gift! You and Buzz were joined at this specific time for a reason – you need each other – another gift.

    I will continue to pray for you, Buzz, your family and your medical team.