Getting a puppy while in treatment for cancer is a bit like buying a puppy for Christmas. There’s a clear and present danger of emotional magical thinking. Of the families I know that have endured cancer or other terminal illnesses and ended up with the “cancer dog” about half of those family placements have ended up being successful. (The other dogs were rehomed successfully and happily.) Illness gets bigger and demands on the people involved become overwhelming. There just isn’t always the time needed to train a puppy well.
So in the last eight months, since we lost Moby, our horribly incorrigible and intimidatingly intelligent Beagle, I’ve been interviewing my dog expert friends, interviewing my cancer surviving friends and working a LOT with my therapist. I have the time and the resources for a puppy right now. But really, emotionally, why do I want this dog?
When my therapist asked this question, I cried.
When I talk about why I want this dog, it still makes me cry.
This dog will play with my son when I can no longer do it. He’ll cuddle him to sleep. He’ll attend soccer games and celebrate victories. This dog will be the constant open heart my son’s own warm soul can connect to.
This dog will take walks with my husband. He’ll sit in love with him at breakfast or as he works. He’ll pull him out of the house and create that healthy irritating mess of living needed to bring him out of his own head a bit when the kids are busy with their own lives and he’s left with too many open spaces.
This dog will illustrate the nurturing power of my daughter’s discipline and grit. She will be our leader. And although her own school life will keep her too busy to do the work herself (and she’ll leave for college now much too soon), her consistent thorough thinking, planning and carry through will guide us all through the consistency and heart needed for good training.
Last year I bet on 12 months. I planned for 12 months of health to enjoy travel and good friends and family. I celebrated camping in Victoria, family at the Oregon coast, girlfriends at Whistler, friends and family at Teatro Zinzanni, couplehood in Hawaii, my son in Disneyland, my cousins, aunt & uncle in the Philly area, family and stage IV heros in New York, my daughter in Oregon’s Rogue Valley and my frenchie family in France.
18-months. I’m going to assume I get 18 months healthy enough to keep training and caring for this puppy. Puppy adolescence.
Because I’m not sure I’ll get enough healthy time to nurture my own kids through adolescence, I am going to pour all of my love and motherly nurturing into this dog so that he can keep pouring that love and nurturing back into my family after I am gone.