So, a month or so ago, my dog, Puckett, was diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma. It's pretty much a death-sentence as it's not a type of cancer that responds well to the usual cancer treatment options and, even if it does respond, it has a high incidence of recurrence. In that month's time, I've seen an 11yr old dog go from an energy level and demeanor that caused most people to guess his age at maybe a third his actual age to seeming like an eleven year old dog.
When I say he used to act like a dog a third his age, I'm not kidding. Included in the people fooled, by Puckett's energy, have been neighbors that have known us more than four or five years (and did pet lookins when we were out of town), vets and vet techs who'd not yet looked at his file. Of course, people new to him, were always immediately fooled.
It just seems like, in the last thirty days, the full weight of eleven years of life have come slamming down on him. The initial diagnosis said that dogs with his condition average about six months from diagnosis. That projection was based on later detection than was his case. So, I was hopeful that he might go on the long side of that death-sentence. With his recent, sudden aging, I'm feeling like I might be lucky if he makes it to summer.
Today, the sudden aging really struck home. Throughout the entire time that Puckett has been with us:
- He was always the first dog at the door. He was always the most exuberant. This last week, especially, he's no longer at the front of the lineup - he's sorta hanging back, waiting his turn for the hellos.
- You could always tell when he was near a wall, standing near a table, next to the kitchen island, counters or appliances or even positioned "just right" in a doorway by the loud banging of his tail. And, if he happend to be standing in a corner, where his tail would hit two surfaces, it was a loud, stacatto drum-beat of enthusiasm. His wag was always done with such energy and vigor that, even if it wasn't banging against something, it made is head bob about as some kind of counter-balance. His wag has been so everpresent that he even frequently wags in his sleep (a bit disconcerting a phenomena). He's still wagging his tail, but it's not with quite the same vigor and, it seems more that he's doing it in response to a request for it than doing it unbidden out of shear zeal for life.
- Except when drawn away by food or not being inside the house, he always followed me into the bathroom. I'd come to make it a habit to leave the door open, lest he stand there bumping at it till I let him in. Today, for the first time, as I sat there with the door open, he remained parked in the living room, resting.
He's also been a bit wheezy and generally tired the last week or so. His legs seem to be stiffening up. And, of course, the "coffin-nails" (what I've come to refer to his skin tumors) seem to be multiplying - as yet, most are detectable just as a disturbance in the lay of his fur rather then yet being felt by a stroke of his fur.
Tomorrow, I take him to the vet. I'm hoping that some of the energy levels and wheeziness are related to it being allergy season: I know my energy is sapped and my breathing gets ragged when the pollen count's really high. However, obviously, I fear that it's more than that. I fear that the vet's going to deliver yet more bad news that I just don't want to deal with, yet. And, if she does, I don't know what the hell I'm going to do.
I've had a number of dogs over the years. Each has been special. I've celebrated the lives of each and grieved the loss of each. However, there's been something special about Puckett. I'm about the opposite of the permanent-happiness that Puckett affuses, so, I fear that losing him will effect me - the impending loss is effecting me - more than any previous pet has.
When we lost Lana in December, it seemed natural to get another dog. This has been how I and my family has proceeded upon losing a pet - try to find another bundle of life to help fill the hole left by the prior one. Cira's been a great dog. She's her own kind of sweet and her own kind of happy. She's not Lana, but I wasn't expecting her to be - any more than any prior "replacement" pet has been the same as its predecessor. Yet, with Puckett, I don't know whether I want to try to fill that hole. Or even if I do, whether I want to do it as immediately as I have with prior pets. Who knows - maybe the severity of the loss will make me want it more than in prior instances. Hell, it might take two dogs to "replace" his energy, presence and shear "Pucketty-ness". Dunno. Any way you slice it, I'm not looking forward to finding out, but it seems to be bearing down on me like a runaway truck.