Red's Longest Day
Red does not have cancer.
He stoically spent several hours on his back in a special mattress on the floor of the Cambridge Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Jen Steeves running a wand over his lubricated and shaved stomach and chest for a thorough ultrasound to try to determine the source of his continuing illness.
Cassandra held his legs, Maria holding his head. Typically, he did not struggle. Red is never any trouble.
I am sorry Red has had to go through so much this week. I was greatly relieved to hear that Dr. Steeves found no growths or tumor, no cancer, the thing that Dr. Fariello (and me) feared might be present.
Dr. Steeves found some swollen arteries near the pelvis, and some "sludge" in his gall bladder, possibly caused by whatever illness he has. She said she found "nothing nasty" in the very detailed examination of his organs, stomach and heart. It was quite riveting to see the ultrasound, it is an amazing tool for veterinary doctors, as it is for human doctor and surgeons.
Red's liver, heart and kidney were fine.
This shifts the focus of Dr. Fariello's diagnosis of Red and her treatment of his illness. She still doesn't know precisely what is causing his suffering, but she is closing in. She is methodical and intuitive, blending traditional science with alternative medicine. am impressed.
She called to say she was putting him on a regimen of amoxocillin until all the tests are in, and continuing his anti-nausea medication. She is waiting for some advanced blood work results, due Thursday or Friday, she suspects they will lead her towards an infectious disease, probably tick-borne.
Lyme disease is epidemic up here, especially with dogs, the ticks are everywhere. Infectious diseases like Lyme can cause the symptoms Red is experiencing – fever, nausea, vomiting and exhaustion. Usually, there is not this kind of fever.
Dr. Fariello is concerned about the fever, and his appetite is spotty, he is eating little and not very often. His temperature was over 103 late this afternoon. I tempted him with a new recipe of sweet potato, hamburger, white rice and chicken broth. He ate a little of it and has been sleeping since. He looks better than he did yesterday, but is still weak and confused.
So we know what it isn't, but do not yet know what it is. We seem to be zeroing in on some kind of Lyme, and we'll see if the antibiotics can knock the fever down. If it is Lyme, we go to much more powerful anti-biotics at the end of the week.
After the exam, we went to the Mansion to deliver Connie's air conditioner, which arrived yesterday. I decided to take Red with me (I hope the good doctor is not reading this) because the residents were so worried about him. I took some photos, it was powerful to see their relief and love for him, we didn't stay too long.
So anything that is not cancer is good news for a dog, and I understand that Red could be sick for quite a while. Infectious diseases take their time. The ultrasound was a big step towards figuring this out, and thanks to all of you for hanging in there with us. We are a community, after all, and I am opening to it all the time. Red can do that kind of thing.
It was so touching to see Maria hold Red's head in her hands throughout the procedure. I cannot get down on the floor like that for that long, I stayed where Red could see me, but he gave his trust to Maria and lay still for all of that uncomfortable and I'm sure frightening time.
I think Red's message to me yesterday was true – he is not ready to move on and leave his work, I saw that very powerfully at the Mansion, he was so happy to see everyone, and they were so happy to see him. He is family there.
I am exhausted, I see, mostly spent. I got a fascinating tour of Red's insides and was holding my breath for some of it. He is sound and strong, he will be fine. Loving a dog or cat is an emotional thing, everybody reading this knows that. Every dog I have had has made me a better human being, to have a dog like Red or Rose or Lenore or Izzy demands patience, commitment and understanding.
I often fail, I sometimes succeed. As the trainer told me, if you want to have a better dog, you have to be a better human. I must be doing something right, because animals don't like and I have been lucky to have some great ones.
At many times in my life, I have not been able to muster those better human traits. This week, I made a practice out of listening to Red, not just looking at him, but listening. He talked to me and gave me strength and direction. I knew yesterday he would stay with us.
Everything is a gift, if I am self-aware and honest and open to learning and change. Red is a gift all of his own, but his illness was a gift as well. I am learning to listen and to trust myself, I am not telling lies to myself.
I thought of Erich Fromm's famous thoughts about the Art Of Listening and understood from Red what he wanted and needed, and that was the turning point for me, when I gained control of my feelings rather than following them in fear and confusion.
I offered Red my complete concentration.
I cleared my mind of fear, anger, worry and selfishness. I summoned a freely-working imagination and concrete thoughts that could be expressed in the correct words. I called upon my capacity for empathy, hopefully strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were my own. I turned to my capacity for love, the mother of empathy. To understand another means to love him in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing myself. For understanding and loving are inseparable.