Knowing that the time we have left with Cadel is limited is both a blessing and a curse. It has reminded us that life is short, even more so when it comes to dogs.
We are trying to do things with Cadel as often as we can, things we know he loves. Walks in the bush, where he can be off lead, have become our favourite. On three legs he runs from bush to tree to patch of scrub, inhaling the smells and urinating on anything he considers worthy!
We’ve dragged the spare bed into our room, pushing it against our bed, allowing both Cadel and Zena to sleep close by. Cadel loves to cuddle and all to often he spends the night lying alongside me. Waking up to his nose on mine is a pretty good thing. And a lot more food treats are given out each day. I cannot see a reason not to.
Yet knowing each day could be his last is difficult. Living with anxiety has given me an outstanding ability to catastrophise. What if he’s broken his leg and is in pain, I think as I’m at work. What if we wake up and find the cancer in his right front leg? Or somewhere else? It’s highly likely, because the cancer has moved from his bones into his blood stream. So many what if’s to take me out of the moment of enjoying the time we have.
Along with all of this is an increased desire to remember Cadel through the use of a camera. I’m finding myself trying to capture his personality, so in future I can look at a photo and immediately be transported to that moment, to remember him as he was. Setting aside the technology aspects of photography, capturing the personality of a dog who is incredibly important in my life is difficult. Moments are fleeting, and although Cadel is very good at posing on request that doesn’t always guarantee the type of photo I’m after. I’m grateful for the digital age for its ability to allow me to take hundreds of photos if needed, in order to get one decent one. But I’d like my success rate to be higher, so I’ve enrolled in an online dog photography course. It’s a multi month course that begins with photographic foundations, building on that each month with more technical skills. I’m excited by the challenge and the skills I’ll gain, but a little disappointed i won’t have long to use these skills when photographing Cadel. But I can’t dwell on it. All I can do is take each day as it comes. Continue to show Cadel love, continue to take photos to capture his likeness, and always always remember him.
On the 17th May we received news that one of our dogs – Cadel – has bone cancer. He’d had leg pain in his lower left leg for a couple of weeks. The first vet I took him to thought it was a soft tissue injury, based solely on observing him walk. Hindsight has left me disappointed in myself for not pushing the vet to actually feel his leg or X-ray it. I suppose that’s what happens the day before Easter holidays when vets are busy and like everyone else wanting to have a break.
Once the pain medication Cadel was prescribed wore off it was apparent that there was more going on. A visit to our preferred vet determined that something more than a soft tissue injury was going on. Cadel cried out in pain when his leg was manipulated slightly – he tolerates uncomfortable and even painful situations well so we knew there was something seriously wrong. As I was having surgery a week later, which would see both Cadel and Zena stay at our vets kennels, we decided he could wait another week, with more pain killers in the mean time.
So it was, that on the day I was discharged from hospital, we received the horrifying news that Cadel has bone cancer. David and I are devastated. The youngest of our two dogs, Cadel is only 7.5 years old. Granted, for a large breed dog he is considered to be in his old age, but his personality belies this. His personality is almost puppy like. He is happy and cheerful and the most comfortable when all four of us are together. There is no sign of old age in him, aside from the cancer that has caused his lower left leg to bulge and be slightly twisted.
There is no cure. Removal of the leg would require follow up chemotherapy but still leaves a low rate of curing him. All we can do is ensure his pain is minimal, that he is happy and comfortable and mentally stimulated. So far this is successful.
It is incredibly difficult knowing every day may be the last day we have with Cadel. There have been many tears and there will be many more. I strive every day to be a better person because I see in Cadel a belief in me that I don’t hold. I believe that dogs are a better judge of personalities than humans are, so maybe he is right?
I don’t know how I will survive without him, but for now I’m concentrating on enjoying every moment I can with him. That’s pretty much all I can do.
A little over a year ago I decided to start walking my dogs Zena & Cadel every day. I had been walking them about three times a week even though I knew they would benefit from daily walks. So propelled by the fact that I’d stepped away from the workforce I decided to begin daily walks. It’s safe to say Zena & Cadel adjusted to this new routine a lot quicker than I! Whilst I had always enjoyed walking my dogs I don’t experience the same exercise highs I get from riding my bike. There is always a moment when I’m riding my bike that I realise my mind is empty of all thoughts. There is no anxiety, no stress, not even happiness. Just simply a mind hearing my feet push pedals & the sound of bike tyres on the road. That emptiness does not come with dog walking. And daily dog walking meant I had little spare time or energy to ride my bike.
Despite this I pushed on with our new routine. I’d fall out of bed, barely awake as I dressed then I’d walk outside, dogs shadowing my every step to make sure I didn’t forget them. As if I would! They were the only reason I was bleary eyed & walking. Gradually I came to appreciate our walks. Expending energy first thing in the morning left Zena & Cadel happy & settled for the rest of the day. I’ve come to the realisation that the saying shouldn’t be ‘happy wife happy life’ but instead ‘happy dogs happy life!’ Sure it doesn’t have the same ring to it but it’s certainly true.
Twelve months on & I’ve returned to the workforce. With this has come a lot of adjustments for me as well as Zena & Cadel. I found myself unable to walk them daily; my body had fallen out of the rhythm of being at work. After a few weeks of this I’ve realised that I can’t continue not walking them daily. It’s become a much loved routine that has benefits for the three of us. I might not get the empty mind that comes from bike riding but I have benefitted from a mind that wanders. Suddenly a problem is solved without my conscious mind thinking about it. Or a photographic or writing idea will come to me.
I’ve missed not having these moments. So I’m happy to report we’re back at it. I’m again falling out of bed, finding some clothes to wear & getting the dogs. Then the three of us are off, walking, strengthening our bond & enjoying each others company.
If you could ask them in that moment both Zena & Cadel would say everything is right in their world. I’d agree with them. Things are certainly better when we’re walking together.