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!
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.