I was 30 years old and just married when we brought home Boston, our yellow lab.
Goddamn, we loved that dog. He was big, independent, and athletic – “a real dog’s dog,” a trainer once told me.
One evening, when he was 8 years old, he climbed up into my lap, which was unusual. Normally he rested on my feet. On this night, he repeatedly wedged his head beneath my hands, only resting after my arms had encircled his torso in a hug.
The next day he seemed stiff, so I took him to the vet. I thought he had arthritis.
But he had an enormous, painful, fast-growing tumor. I lost him that very afternoon. (Click here to read about how anti-abortion whack job asshole Randall Terry is responsible for his death.) Only the presence of my little Diva, who was then just 2 years old, kept me from wallowing in grief.
Four months later, we brought home Damn Gem, a 9-month old chocolate lab I thought would help me miss Boston less.
But Boston had been such a good dog. Gem pooped in the house, ate paper, sniffed every crotch she encountered, and was afraid of stairs. I actually missed Boston more.
Gem has mellowed in this last decade – she turned 10 this month. She still loves to eat paper. And crayons. And anything she can reach on the counter, now that I think about it. But listen – my kids adore this dog. Last week, the Tyrant tied Teddy to her neck using a jump rope. She didn’t flinch. She has been dressed up, dragged around, ridden, yelled at, snuggled, and cried upon, and she has embraced every moment with her trademark bad breath tongue kisses. Seriously, her breath smells like something died in her throat.
Maybe you know where this is going. Last week, I felt a lump on Gem’s back; it was cancer. Two days ago she had surgery to remove it, and she came home with two 6-inch stitched scars. She looks like Frankenweenie. The vet said she’d have no pain at all, and I’m like, Really? Because she has about 200 stitches and she’s waddling like a penguin. She whined nearly all night, whimpering and trying to crawl on top of me, all while bloody puss oozed from her Frankenweenie wounds. And I had to hold up her butt when she pooped.
Since then, we’ve acquired pain meds and she seems to feel much better. She even ate part of the Tyrant’s take-home library book! To be fair, the book was called Millions of Cats.
Now we’re waiting for the biopsy results to see whether the cancer was contained within the tumor. Either way, though, I fear it’s the beginning of the end. The Diva, who sleeps with Gem every night, senses it most acutely. “It’s all I can think about, Mom,” she told me after she saw Gem’s wounds.
Even Buddy the Wonder Dog knows something is amiss. He inherently knew not to tackle Gem, and spent hours just following her around and sidling up next to her. When she’s gone, it will be the first time ever that he’s the only canine in the household.
For me, the inevitable remorse has begun. Have I taken her to the beach often enough? Does she know I love her even though I call her Damn Gem? Should I have exercised her more? Why didn’t I insist on pain meds that first night? Can you believe I’m still consumed by Catholic guilt?
Poor Damn Gem. Think good thoughts for her, okay?