My Greatest Gifts

Written By Jenny Pavlovic

I don’t participate in the sales, the super shopping, running around completely stressed, many of the things we’re ‘supposed’ to do during this holiday season. I think Christmas is supposed to be about love, and I don’t know how buying stuff for people became equated with love. It’s a misguided notion that helps drive the economy, but puts a lot of stress on people.

I avoid Black Friday like the plague, especially this year when I've taken on the excessive financial burden of vet bills for cancer treatments. I know Black Friday is intended to boost the economy. But people get so stressed out during this season (trying to buy just the right gifts) that they often forget to be kind to one another, battling for choice parking spots, fighting over stuff to buy. Let's not forget that it's supposed to be about love. Get the good deals if you must. But even though Thanksgiving is over, take a few moments each day to be thankful for what you already have.

Which brings me to my dogs, and my deep gratitude for their presence and well-being. In July, Chase was diagnosed with colonic adenocarcinoma, with a prognosis of 4 to 6 months, even with treatment. But we caught this insidious cancer in stage one, and in October, after 21 radiation therapy treatments, a CT scan showed ‘no evidence of disease’, which felt like a miracle. We’re not completely out of the woods yet, because small seeds of cancer can escape detection by a CT scan. We will need to do another CT scan by year-end, to make sure Chase’s insides still look good.

On the outside, Chase’s hair is growing back where he had radiation therapy. Five months after his diagnosis, he’s full of energy, running and playing each day. He’s back at the library, where the kids read to him once a month. Although I have faith in miracles and Chase’s cure wasn’t cheap, I’m still very grateful and amazed that he’s doing so well today. I don’t take him for granted.

In September, the day after Chase sailed through a two-week follow-up appointment for his radiation therapy, Bandit was unable to work. We had been training all spring and summer toward a tracking title, and that day he just wasn’t able to start a track. Bandit is usually an intrepid worker, so I knew something was terribly wrong. Not long after, Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a completely different kind of cancer. With daily chemo pills and other medications, the average prognosis for canine multiple myeloma patients is 18 months. But Bandit began to rapidly lose weight, losing eight of his 55 pounds in less than six weeks. I was scared that he might starve to death and I might not be able to help him. But by focusing on good nutrition (including Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets), healthy fats, and whole foods, I eventually got his weight back up. At his most recent check-up, Bandit’s weight was up to 53 from 47 pounds, his blood work was back in the normal range for the first time since his diagnosis and his urine proteins (a sign of the disease) had also moved much closer to normal. He seems to be stabilizing, which feels like another miracle. He runs and plays each day, engaging me in several games of jolly ball. We celebrated his 10th birthday on November 13th.

Throughout these past few months, I’ve learned to live more in the moment with the dogs, not knowing how many more moments we will have together. I’ve watched them truly live each day to the fullest. They live like they’re living, not like they’re dying. And for today they are living. I know they won’t be here forever, but I wanted to give each of them the best chance to fight cancer. So far, it seems to be working. This is one of my greatest gifts.

Several people in my life have passed on or suffered major illnesses this year. One dear family friend passed on at only 61 years old. He was out running his dogs when he had a stroke, which he never recovered from. We lost him a month later. Our memories of him, one of our greatest gifts, are of his true character and the good times we spent with him. Nothing about those great memories has to do with ‘stuff’.

Here we are at the end of a very trying year, one that most certainly has built character. Maybe you can understand now how running around buying stuff has completely lost its point for me.

Before our November library day, Chase had to have a bath. He didn't really want to take a bath, but when I told him he needed a bath so he could visit the kids at the library, he walked into the bathroom and climbed into the tub by himself. I kid you not. On our library day we had fun with the regular kids that we know. We also met a new little boy who loves dogs and is a great reader. He told me about his dog Sadie, who is "up there" and he pointed up to heaven.  Chase snuggled in to him and he hugged Chase for a long time after he was done reading. The reading is so important, but I’ve learned that it’s about so much more than just the reading. Another of my greatest gifts.

Spend the time. Have the experiences. Make the memories. Forget the stuff. Live in the moment. Play. Laugh. Love.
And let somebody else have that parking spot. You won’t regret it.

8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog is now available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GWAZFAW.
To help pay the vet bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank

    

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