Now that I got the hard post out of the way, figured I’d update everyone on where we are with Hank in this journey…
To start, Hank is officially 10-months post-diagnosis with OSA and I am super happy to still have his wiggly butt around. Didn’t think we would see this day when I found his metastatic lesion back in July, so I really have no room to bitch about anything. That being said, the past couple weeks have probably been the hardest. Hank had his first “bad day” ever two weeks ago (and they have been coming more frequently) and it went something like this…..
It was the week of Thanksgiving and I had just had a really, really, really long night at work. Lots of sick patients that I couldn’t seem to fix no matter how hard I tried. I came home from work that morning already feeling a little defecated and overall wrecked, but then when I walked in the door, Hank was not there to greet me. No biggie, I figured maybe he was outside with Adam or still eating breakfast. But when I came up the stairs from our mid-level garage, I was met by Adam in our kitchen who told me that Hank had gone downstairs to the lower level with him while he ironed his shirt earlier, but never came back upstairs. Weird, but again, I wasn’t too alarmed…yet. I put down my work crap and expected to see him coming up the stairs to greet me, because, well…that’s what he does. No matter what. He knows when I come home and he never wants to miss a good ‘ol crotch punch. But after a few minutes….still no Hank. So I walked down to the mid-level and peered around the corner to the last flight of stairs leading into our basement and there he was, laying at the foot of the stairs. The second he saw me he started wagging/thumping his tail on the ground (I LOVE this sound- no matter where he is laying in the house, if he starts to wag his tail, the thumping can be heard far and wide), but he didn’t get up. I even called him…and he thumped louder and harder….but he still didn’t get up. So I called him again….and this time, he was able to get to his feet, but he put his (only) front paw on the lower stair and then stood there and stared at me. He couldn’t get up the stairs. My heart plummeted to my big toe and then the tears came…big time. I sobbed as I helped him hop to our main level where he didn’t seem near as bothered as I was about this whole situation. My mind became an intangible fury of thoughts, some of which included, “this is it,” “if he cant get up the stairs he must be in horrific pain,” “is this the end?,” “he must have fractured his leg at the tumor site,”….it was bad. Really bad. Adam thankfully had a few minutes to talk me off the ledge before he left for work, but I resumed sobbing the second he walked out the door.
I of course couldn’t sleep that morning because I was such a mess, so I spent the next 3 hours clutching the poor dog as if that was going to help. Right….pretty sure Hank was just perturbed that I was taking up some of his very spacious and comfy bed. But I could tell he was uncomfortable, I could tell there was just something a little different about him today. And it broke my heart. I finally decided about 11:30 am that I needed to go do something for myself before I completely lost it, so I got changed and left to go to my usual Monday yoga class. I should have known on the drive to the studio that I should not have let myself out of the house in such an unstable state. Mostly because as I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a woman walking a beautiful Rottie and I started crying…. again. And it was an ugly cry- there was lots of snot and snorting and wailing. Again, this is when I should have just backed away, but the stubborn side of my brain told me it would be good if I go in get some exercise and find some balance. Get yourself together Linds….
Well, it just so happens that my Monday yoga class is an aerial yoga class, so we spend most of the time doing poses suspended in a silk that hangs from the ceiling. One of my favs. Well, I hurried into the studio and climbed into a silk before anyone could notice my red face, puffy eyes and overall disheveled appearance. The instructor, Brooke, is a good friend and someone I have been taking yoga classes from for over 2 years now, so she knows me well; I know she noticed me hurry in without saying hello…..balls. As everyone arrived, she started walking around to each silk in the class as usual with her stack of Moon Oracle cards- a stack of blatantly hippie, mother-earth based tarot cards that each person draws from….the card you pick is kinda like getting a vague horoscope and is supposed to help to give you an “intention” for your yoga practice that day. I dig them….well….except for that day. Brooke came to my silk and I reached out and grabbed a card. Well, do you know what fucking card I picked? The god damn “Cycles” card. Yep, it had a picture of a whimsical horse head on it above a phrase that said “Life is a cycle of rebirth and death. Don’t resist the cycle. Be with the emergence of this next cycle with faith and grace. The time is coming.” Shit. Are you kidding me right now? THIS is the card I have to pick when I am in the throws of despair about the process of my dog dying. Great. Why couldn’t I just pick the “Love” card or the “Screw Cancer” card or even the “Your Dog Will Live Forever” card? Ugh!! And that was it….my eyes welled up and I started to cry as quietly as possible. And I cried. And I cried more. Pretty much throughout my entire yoga class. I am sure it was an interesting sight….my silly self, doing “plankensteins”, bicep pulls (did I mention it was an Aerial for Strength class?), side planks, etc. hanging from a silk while my tears collected in a puddle on my yoga mat beneath me. Finally, halfway through the class, I waived the white flag of the Yogi That Has Given Up by climbing out of my silk and plopping myself into Shavasana (yoga-speak for adult nap time) on my mat….and this is where I stayed, crying, until the class was over. I am fairly sure everyone in that class thought I was bat-shit crazy. Never, ever, ever, have I cried like this in public. Thanks Hank- you have turned me into a complete disaster of a human.
Of course, when I got home, there he was….at the door, wiggling and crotch-punching me all the way through the house. He was obviously limping more than he had ever been before, so I called my Mom, cried some more, and dreaded getting the dogs ready for their afternoon walk mostly because I was petrified that Hank wouldn’t be excited to go because he was in pain. And if he did that….if he did not want to do his favorite thing in the world, to go on his prairie-dog-chasing, rabbit-poop-eating (this is his new thing by the way), pee-on-everything walk….then that would be it. That’s all he would have to do…and I was not ready for this today. But the second I got up from my chair, turned off the TV and grabbed by sunglasses (this is when he knows its w-a-l-k time), he ran/hopped/limped to the door, almost plowing me over in the process, and stood whine/screaming/barking at the door until I opened it. I let both dogs out onto our gated patio where I usually put their leashes on, but Hank ran right up to the fence, nudged our gate so hard it flew open, and both dogs were off down the path before I had even made my way completely out of the front door. I stood there dumbfounded for a couple minutes and then started feeling really, really stupid. I cried my entire day away over….what exactly??? The fact that my dog with a bone tumor had a little bit of a painful day? Ummm…hello Doctor Dumbass….isn’t that to be expected? Ya know, he does have BONE CANCER. And as long as he is happy, and wants to go on his walks, and crotch punch me, and eat whatever and his pain isn’t affecting all these things….and he has quality of life….this is the goal right?? Didn’t I JUST go over this? Well, needless to say, I ran after both pups and we had the best prairie-dog-chasing, rabbit-poop-eating walk we have ever had. And the video below is a recent, beautiful day at the park.
Since that tear-filled day, Hank has been having “bad days” that seem to be getting more frequent…..these are days when he has trouble with the stairs, trouble getting in and out of bed without his harness, doesn’t finish his food or wants to spend most of the day chilling by the fire. It has been hard seeing this slight change in him. But no matter what, he is still happy and still asks for his walk everyday. He still chases little critters and plays with Scout. He still wags his tail when I rub him, he still licks my face, he is still happy to see me when I get home, he still loves playing with his toys and watching me get ready for work. He still begs for food at the dinner table and has to be the center of attention. He is still Hank. He is just Hank with a little more of a limp these days…and that I can handle…most of the time 🙂