I was in California the week before last to photograph a wedding and do a mini road trip with my dear friend Claire. The morning after the wedding we hit the road in our bright blue rental car (we called her “Bluezette”) headed toward wine country for some free wine tasting and to stay the night with a friend in Petaluma. On the road I called my boyfriend, Scott, to check in on life on the home front. The conversation was upbeat until we pulled off the highway into a roadside McDonalds parking lot for a pee break.
Scott “I think we should talk about what you want to do if Daphnie dies while you’re gone.”
Me “What?! I don’t want to talk about this now. Is she not okay?? What’s wrong?”
Scott “No, she’s doing alright, I just think it’s a conversation we should have, for while you’re gone and when you get back. I Googled it, and there are some options. After your pet dies, supposedly you have up to 24 hours to either bury or cremate them.”
. . . .
The week I found out Daphnie had stomach cancer I ate a lot of frozen corn dogs and generic brand tater tots that were leftover from a late night craving in early June. Little did I know when Scott bought them that they would be a life saver a week later as I sat alone and cried over xray results while he was in Palm Springs for work. That was a month ago and boy, what a month it’s been. Somewhere in the six weeks leading up to now, conversations involving my dog have gone from “she’s sick” to “she’s dying.” Words like cancer and euthanize have been said way more often than I’m comfortable with, sleepless nights have been had, and weird things have been purchased at the grocery store just to get her to eat: baby food, pepperoni, hot dogs, and cat food. In between multiple trips for work and a lot of work at home, Scott and I have done everything to keep her comfortable and happy.
You see, the truth is, I’ve been trying to write about this for weeks but every time I try and formulate the words, they don’t come. Every time I try and put a status about it on Facebook, I delete it before I even hit publish. I smile throughout my days and try to go on about normal life but the truth is Daphnie isn’t the only one in pain. As summer appeared and trees bloomed my entire world around me immediately felt full of life, but I was slowly dying inside. I have felt like a snowball full of stress rolling down a steep, steep hill, picking up momentum and more stress along the ride. My feet haven’t felt the river water once this summer, and our tent hasn’t been used. And although I had an amazing time in California, in the back of my mind all I could think about was my 14-year-old cocker spaniel Daphnie, the ultimate best friend.
On Wednesday the vet said that the tumor is growing rapidly and has spread pretty far into her lungs. I’ve known that this is the end since that first night alone in my kitchen with the corn dogs, but as much as I have tried to mentally toughen up, it hasn’t gotten any easier. Sometimes in the middle of the night I check to see if she is still breathing. Half of me holds my breath as I wait for her lungs to move up and down as her chest cavity softly expands with each breath. The other half of me secretly hopes to find that she has ever so softly left this earth while laying on her bed in the comfort of home, dreaming of running through the grass with me in the Turtle Lake Valley outside of Durango. Damnit I’d give anything to have one more day with her like this, like we did only a couple of short months ago, hiking through the woods with her sloppy pink tongue hanging out, running free. But for now we will cuddle and I will tell her how much I love her. I will tell her that the last 14 years of my life would have been nothing if it hadn’t been for her. I will press my face into her cloud-like, soft tufts of fur and let it catch my tears, breathing in her scent as if it’s the last time. I will remind her of the mountains she has climbed, the car windows she has held her head through, the poop she has eaten (and enjoyed), the comfort she has given me, the snow she has jumped in, the people she has made laugh, the ex boyfriends she has won the hearts of, and tents she has camped in. I hope dog heaven is full of carrots and dog treats, because I’ll be telling her about that too.
Daphnie girl, you are the love of my life.