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To the Opossum from Last Night

Dear Opossum From Last Night,

It’s been 23 hours since my family and I witnessed your demise.  It’s been 23 hours since I’ve been able to look at my best friend, even though he’s in the same room as me.  For that amount of time, I’ve hated my dog for what he did to you.  Suddenly, I don’t hate him anymore.  Instead, I pity you.  You see, I finally took the time to notice some things.  Those things really don’t work in your favor.

Last night, you met my best friend Bowser.  I know that the whole “opossum” thing is to play dead and sometimes, that is what you should do and it can work to your benefit.  However, last night, what you should have done was fall over and… laugh.  You should have reached out your cute little hand and pointed your finger at Bowser and just laughed hysterically.  I know you heard him coming.  He’s so fat that the deck shakes when he walks on it.  He’s detached the stairs nearly completely off the deck simply by bounding his fat ass up and down them for all these years.  The act alone of just heaving his lard butt off of the couch and walking to the door is enough to cause him to have labored breathing and wheezing that could rival that of any asthmatic or Biggest Loser competitor.  His 15-year-old body creaks and cracks and sometimes, it sounds like his toothpick legs will snap.  How did you not hear him?

He’s the slowest creature ever.  Sometimes, I want to strap him to the back of a turtle so he can get back to the house before it’s been long enough that I need to wax my upper lip.  Standing at the door and calling him is a nightmare.  It takes 10 minutes for him to make it from the tree to the stairs and to be honest, that’s about three feet.  in that amount of time you could have called a taxi, went to the bar and had enough to drink that you would have ended up making some poor decisions.  Instead of doing that, you what?  Oh, yes.  You waited around long enough for lard ass to make it from the deck to wherever it was that he found you.  How did you not have enough time to get away?

Just how did he find you?  The dog can’t see worth a damn.  If he could, surely he would be able to catch one of the 15 pieces of steak that we throw at him.  He just watches and waits for them to hit him in the eye and then fall to the floor.  Once they are there, the doofus can’t find them.  He’ll be standing on top of a piece and looking at us like we teased him.  You blend in with the night!  You dummy!  Were you standing out there with flares, directing him like air traffic control?

Once he got to you, what happened?  I still can’t figure out that part.  I mean, I know that you ended up in his mouth, but how?  He has the reflexes of an old lady with a walker.  Hell the old lady may be faster.  Did you introduce yourself and shake hands?  The only thing I can figure is that you had to have been suicidal.  Sure, it’s completely plausible that you pulled a piece of lattice from the deck and you took your own furry life with it.  Bowser just carried you in the house in an attempt to save you.  I’m going with that.  It makes more sense than to believe that my elderly, obese, slow, cancer-ridden dog killed you with his one snaggle-tooth.  I’ve seen meth addicts with more teeth than this dog.  Not possible for him to kill you.  He’s never killed anything but a cheeseburger.

You ruined my night, you damn opossum.  I had just cleared three boys from the bathroom and I finally was going to end my week long bout with constipation.  Just as I thought my day was improving, I heard my kids screaming in fear.  I assumed a mass murderer had broken in and he had gutted Larry in front of them.  Before I could get off the toilet and grab the baseball bat I keep behind the door, Paris burst into the bathroom screaming, “Bowser has a possum, Bowser has a possum!”.  I barely had time to cover my pooter before he saw me.  Thanks for traumatizing my already dramatic middle child.

I walked out of the bathroom in stealth mode, fearful that this invader was alive and pissed off.  I was ready to push the kids down and run if I had to.  Survival of the fittest, or in my case, the smartest.  As I crept around the corner and used Paris as a shield, I found you there in my dog’s mouth as he lay on his dog bed in the living room.  He looked like he does every time he plays with a toy.  He just held you in his mouth as blood dripped all over everywhere.  If I weren’t still constipated, I would have likely shit myself.

Larry was a super hero and he got Bowser to finally put you down long enough that he could use the dust pan to put you gently in the trash bag.  Of course, I wasn’t in there.  I had already ran from the room in hysterics, crying like a 13-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert.

I haven’t been able to forget what happened.  Last night, I dreamed that you crawled up the stairs and snuck into my room and stabbed me and Larry while we slept.  All day, I’ve been mad at Bowser and I’ve mourned your death.

While ago, I got to thinking.  It changed everything.  Now, I want to thank you.  You see, I’ve been asking myself just how long Bowser will be able to fight the cancer and old age.  I found a new mass on him last week and I’ve been too scared to make an appointment at the vet.  You showed me that my old dog still has some fight left in him.  While I’m sad that your life ended, I am forever thankful that you showed The Bowz what it was like to feel young again.  You also gave me hope.

Forever your crappy friend,

Bowser’s Mom

April Fool’s Makes a Fool of Me

April Fool’s has always been like a special holiday for me.  I’m really a 12-year-old trapped in the body of an adult.  I’m obnoxious, annoying, gossipy and I still laugh hysterically at fart jokes or when I hear the word “penis”.  This day has always been about me taping the phones in my office down so when they rang, no one could pick them up or even, I once flipped over someone’s desk and I put all of their drawers in upside down, flipped the desk back over and then when they opened their drawer, everything fell out on the floor.  This day has always been great… until today.

If you follow my blog or catch me on Facebook, you know that my mutt of 13 years had a biopsy done last week for a tumor that the vet suspected was cancerous.  After a week passed with no results, I decided to call the vet today.  When I called, the receptionist told me that the results were in but that I would have to talk to the vet.  Kind of unusual when I am friends with the techs there.  Of course, I went into panic mode immediately.  Then, I waited for the call, dreading every passing minute.  After what seemed like an eternity, the phone rang.

What I dreaded the most was flashing through my head and for a minute, I missed what the veterinarian was saying.  When I slowed my brain down, I heard what I didn’t want to ever hear.  “It’s cancer.”  Everything else in the world went black and the rest of the conversation became a jumbled mess that I am still trying to sort out.  (I did manage to write notes but it does me no good because I left them at work.)  What I do remember is, my very, very best friend has cancer.  For the people out there “in the know”, the vet said the margins were good (which she said means that they believe they got the cancer which caused the masses) and that the pathologist believes that Bowser has low-grade oral melanoma.

At this point, we can choose one of 2 options.  The first is to proceed with an aspiration of the lymph nodes (cytology).  They would go in and remove some of the fluid in Bowser’s lymph nodes and then send it off to the pathologist.  Only then would we know what stage the cancer is.  Or option #2: do nothing.  The vet said that some owners decide to not do the aspiration.  I guess I can maybe understand that.  We already know it’s cancer, why put the dog (and us) through more?

If we move forward with the cytology and the cancer is aggressive (which most oral melanomas are very aggressive), Bowser would have a referral to an oncologist who would then do an ultrasound of his abdomen and some X-Rays.  Treatment for the melanoma is a vaccine which is delivered via a Canine Transdermal Device every two weeks for 4 treatments (each cost min. of $650).  After the fourth dose, Bowser would receive an additional dose every 6 months for the remainder of his life.  This treatment was approved in 2010.

On a hot August day many, many years ago, I happened upon a tiny, toothless puppy that was dumped in a gas station parking lot.  Grieving after the loss of a pregnancy, I longed to play mother to something, anything.  Seeing an animal in need, there was no question that I would scoop him up and take him home.  Thirteen years later, that little brown mutt has been my savior, my confidant and my most dearest friend.  His tongue has licked away more tears than one could imagine, his paw has laid atop my hand through the loss of two more pregnancies and his strength has given me courage.  Bowser has lived in numerous places but he’s always been right by my side.  My beloved Pibble (pit bull/mutt) has helped me raise 3 beautiful boys and a deranged feral kitten (who is now 2) and he did it all with patience and understanding.  He’s not-so-willingly shared his home with a never-ending list of animals in need and regardless of how much I smell like another dog, he has always loved me just the same.  I think he’s always known my calling for animal rescue and while he isn’t happy about it sometimes, I hope that he knows that I do much of it because of him.  Somewhere out there, every lost or forgotten pet has someone who needs them, they just don’t know it yet.

I can speculate and say that I don’t know where I would be without Bowser but I’m pretty sure that I would have missed out on one of the greatest parts of my life.  I’ve had the best, best friend anyone could have.  While I don’t know where this path will take us and I’m not sure what to decide, I know this much, this dog will always hold my heart in his paws.  A few years ago, I broke down and got a tattoo on my right wrist.  The significance?  The tattoo was a living memorial to my best friend.  Inside a simple filigree heart is a paw.  The tattoo is a reminder that no matter where life takes me, my best friend will always be inside my heart and right by my side, pulling me in the right direction.  I guess I never understood how much this tattoo would prove true.

While our days are good and relatively normal right now, I’m going to try not to think of what time we have left or of how bad things can (and probably will) get.  I’m going to try not to over-react and I’m going to try very hard to live in the moment of every second that we have together.  For now, I’m going to remember to laugh in times like this.  I mean, he did just fart when he stood up.  These are the moments of our lives.

P.S.: if there are any dog-biting vampires out there, I can think of a pooch that should live forever.  Where’s Edward Cullen when you need him?

Please Tell Me This is Just Hypochondria and Nothing More

I can say it, I’m a hypochondriac.  Most of the time.  I worry about things that are out of my control, I fret, I freak out and I imagine the “worst case scenario” in most situations.  I’ve never been a “glass his half full” sort of girl.  So of course, any possibility that I can jump to conclusions, I will.  My hope is that this time, I’ll be wrong and all of my worst fears will not come true.  I have to hope, I have nothing else to do.

On Saturday, I took my best friend of 13 years to the vet.  Okay, my best friend isn’t human.  So, sign number one that I may not be “all there” upstairs.  But if you had any idea just how amazing my best friend is, you would understand.  Anyhow, my worst worries about the appointment for a routine check-up were that a) my dog would be an ass and b) that there is always a chance that my dog could have heartworms or worms.  For a 13-year-old dog, I’m thankful that is all I typically have to worry about.  It could be worse.  He could be dead, he could have some type of disease, a billion things could be wrong.  Thankfully, we have been pretty fortunate.

As Bowser was getting checked out, his veterinarian went to check his mouth.  I wasn’t paying too much attention until I saw Dr. Carr open his mouth again.  The look on her face told me that something was wrong.  Then, I heard what I would never have imagined I would hear.  “Bowser has a growth inside of his mouth and it’s pretty consistent with aggressive Melanoma (cancer).  We need to get that removed and biopsied as soon as possible.”  My heart sank and bile rose up into my throat.  I did the best I could to hold my composure while she explained everything and while she finished up his exam.  The doctor asked me to go out to the waiting room and sit while she prepared a quote for surgery to remove the mass and to have it sent for a biopsy.  I sat there stroking Bowser’s scruffy neck while I waited for Dr. Carr to come back out.  In my head, a billion things were running through and I kept thinking back to the fact that when he was at the vet in late August for a dental exam and a broken tooth, there was no mass there.  Dr. Carr had confirmed as much.  I already was jumping to conclusions and I had convinced myself that the cancer had to be aggressive to have appeared that quickly and to have already turned his mouth black.

The doctor came out with the estimates for surgery and we discussed the options and I promised to call her soon.  Bowser was already scheduled for boarding there while I’m out-of-town for a seminar so I told her I would think about how soon we could get him in.  If you’re a pet owner, you already know that surgery and pet care doesn’t come cheap.  But while animals are expensive, the love and companionship that they give makes everything worth it.

I loaded Bowser up in the Yukon and I headed home.  As much as I told myself that I wouldn’t cry, I felt the tears running down my face as I shifted into gear.  I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before I broke down.  Eager to comfort me, Bowser stood with his front paws on the console and he stuck his cold nose in my neck.  While normally he paces and runs around the car like a moron, he didn’t do it this time.  He stood on the console until I got onto the highway and then he laid down in the backseat and he watched me.  Bowser never lays down in the car… ever.

When we got home, I tried to not be sad because I knew that my 2 youngest kids would be sitting in the living room waiting for their beloved pooch to come home.  I got Bowser inside and the boys attacked him, eager to give hugs and to ask him how things went.  As I motioned for Larry to come outside and I sent the boys to their room to play, I saw Paris give Bowser a kiss on the head and then he walked off.  I told Larry what happened and he of course, told me not to worry because we didn’t even know anything for sure.

It’s been 2 days since I heard the vet tell me that my BFF could have cancer.  Two days and still I tear up at the thought of him or what we are about to go through.  I haven’t had time to write in months but really, it hasn’t just been because of the time, it’s just as much about emotion as it is anything.  Right now I am filled with so much sadness that all I really want to do is curl up in the fetal position and type until my fingers are numb.  I have so much to say, so much to tell the brown mutt that stole my heart so long ago but he would never understand.  All he understands is that the trash can is filled with pure heaven, his family loves him and spoils him and that candy tastes amazing.  His little brain could never comprehend just how devastated I am at the thought of him suffering or even worse, of him being gone.  And he sure as hell won’t understand how I am sitting here with all the contents of my trash can at my feet and that I haven’t yelled at him yet.

I wonder if I even fully understand just how much he means to me.

Bowser is scheduled for surgery next Friday.  If you are the praying kind, please keep him in your prayers.  If you don’t pray, we can use all the well wishes and luck in the world.

Photo courtesy of FixYourImages.

Photo courtesy of FixYourImages.

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