Saturday, December 12, 2015

A beautiful day

Life is about contrast. The light can't be appreciated if there is no dark. It's true in music, it's true in all art, it's true in life.

Joe in the snow  December 2015 Lif Strand
This morning we woke up to 3" of snow, a welcome sight in a dry year. We - my dog Joe and I - just had to go walking in the white stuff after feeding the horses. The sun broke through the clouds and made sparkles on the snow. The blue, blue sky was suddenly clear. Coyote and jackrabbit footprints broke the pristine surface. Birds scattered little plumes of white, fluffing their feathers as if they were enjoying a bath in a warm summer pool.

Joe was cheerful, even slightly goofy, as he can get when he's not "on duty" as a livestock guardian dog. He really enjoys our walks. He lags behind me, his attention diverted by some interesting smell, then barrels on by to get in front, because he seems to think that's where he should always be. He's always on the lookout, of course. He's never really off duty, not in his mind. But he allows a little fun to come into the job when we walk.

Joe deciding what to do about the neighbor's cows that have strayed onto his property
December 2015 Lif Strand  
Joe had surgery just a few days ago.  The vet removed two lumps on Monday and yesterday morning she called with the biopsy results: one lump was a perianal adenoma mass, removed with good margins. Joe is over ten years old. I never got him neutered even though I never bred him. However, hormones aggravate this type of cancer, so Joe was neutered when she removed the tumor. 95% of the time that's all it takes to ensure that kind of cancer doesn't come back.

However the other lump was a mastocytoma (mast cell tumor). It wouldn't have been discovered till much later if I hadn't seen the growth on his tail and brought him in.  The tumor was on a testicle, not visible but the vet discovered it when she examined him the week before. That's the good news, because it means there's a chance we caught it early even though it's a fast growing tumor. The bad news is that it's a mast cell tumor. It's not going away on its own.

So now the hard part comes. Without treatment the vet said Joe would have weeks to a few months to live and it wouldn't be pretty. With treatment there's a chance that Joe would not only get a longer life, but that it would be a better quality life. It's expensive, the drug. Of course it is. But it isn't chemotherapy, the side effects are usually not a big problem to deal with and it's quite effective in many cases.  No way to know if it will be in Joe's case of course, but....

But none of that is the hard part.

The hard part is knowing that Joe is a short-timer. My logical brain points out that he's a senior citizen now. He's got other health issues and his age alone means his time is limited.

My heart says no, no, no, never leave me Joe.

Joe on alert December 2015 Lif Strand
Joe, of course, knows nothing about biopsies and diagnoses and prognoses. He lives in the now.

We humans are the ones tortured by knowing what the future could bring. Joe is happy to do his job, to eat a meal, to go for a walk, to rest his head on my arm when I'm typing so maybe I will get up and get him a treat. But I wrestle with fear of what is to come.

When it gets bad it will be hard to remember the good times. But today is not then.

I owe it to Joe to not mess up his now with my fear of the future. My job isn't to deny what will come - that's just not possible for me anyway - but to allow the contrast between that knowing and the pleasure of what I still have today make this beautiful day all the more beautiful.


  1. Super beautifully written but sad for me of course. I hope he still has some years left in him. He reminds me so much of Fritz!

    1. I'm pretty sure that resemblance to Fritz is why I was first attracted to the Anatolian Shepherd breed. I'm hoping for a few more years, too. I've got a little piece of paper clipped to my computer - it's spotted and smudged, but I can still clearly read the words: Expect a miracle. Big miracle, small, whichever - I'm expecting one.

  2. Beautiful blog, Lif, and I am already in love with Joe. I hope I get to meet him (and you!) on our next trip to your area, where we are looking to relocate from Texas. Enjoy the snow, enjoy your lovely Joe. Hugs!

  3. Beautiful fellow. Beautiful thoughts. You are very brave and pure for him. Now is all any of us have.