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.
Yesterday was Zena’s 11th birthday. Zena is the eldest of my two dogs. It almost feels impossible that she is already 11 years old. I remember vividly the day we met her, as if it happened only moments ago. Even then as a small eight week old puppy she was full of sass. We took with us our dog Zeus to meet her because we wanted to make sure that the two of them would get along. Meeting a fully grown adult male Rottweilor did not phase Zena. She ran to him at full pace, her chest out and tail up, daring him not to be impressed by her tiny presence. There was no fear; instead she was curious and determined to follow him everywhere. She was already aware of her place in the world & expected everyone – animal or human – to be impressed by her.
In the ensuring years Zena has become a crucial part of my life. In recent years she has become incredibly in tune with my mental state; it was because of her actions that I realised I needed to seek help for my anxiety. I became aware that Zena was anxious every time I was anxious; or actually she would become anxious before my anxiety hit. She was aware that I was becoming anxious before I was & at the time I wasn’t aware that she was trying to calm me but I wasn’t recognising her cues. As she became more anxious as my daily anxiety grew I decided I had to do something about my mental health, in the hope that improving my mental health would improve hers. Thankfully as my anxiety treatments began to work my improvements were reflected in Zena. She hasn’t lost her ability to recognise an anxiety or panic attack before I do however now I recognise her cues and act on them. I allow her to calm me if needed or simply to shadow me as she makes sure that I’m going to be ok.
Despite the positive impact Zena has in my life (and also Cadel, my second, younger dog) I have always felt uncomfortable publicly recognising the importance of my dogs. I’ve often felt ashamed that I am the owner of dogs, or to put it in popular parlance, a dog mum. Almost everyone I know, particularly those of my age or older, are mothers or fathers of children. You know, humans. They’ve done what society expects and what people have done for millennia which, at its core is to reproduce in order to maintain the existence of humans on Earth. For reasons I’m not yet ready to share here, having children was not and is not for me. But having pets, especially dogs? Well of course I had to. My life would be bereft without them.
So now, I’m willing to own my reality. I am a dog owner. No I’m not going to call myself a dog mother. I honestly hate the description although I’m happy for others to refer to themselves as that if it truely makes them happy. And in that owning of reality I will happily confess to celebrating my dogs birthdays. I haven’t actually made a birthday cake or cupcake for either Zena or Cadel yet, but its on my to do list for a future birthday. Instead I give them some kind of food treat (which they both get because you can’t spoil one dog without spoiling the other!). For Zena’s birthday I shared my souvlaki with them. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it all so Zena & Cadel got to enjoy my leftovers. They were thrilled to eat something different and tasty and I was thrilled not to throw away food.
So this is me, stating to the world that I’m a proud dog owner and I’m never going to not bring it up. Its a major part of my life and I’m happy with this fact.
Oh, one more thing. I’m also a dog owner who runs an Instagram account for her dogs. Yep, I’m one of those! If you’d like to check it out search zenacadel on Instagram. Hopefully you’ll enjoy their page.