In terms of time and interests, my life is pretty much divided into three parts: my work life as a professor at Humber College, my writing life with the Penny Brannigan mystery series and my family.
My immediate family is tiny: my son Lucas and my dog Dolly. Lucas is grown up and takes care of himself, so that leaves Dolly, our Australian cattle dog mix. Her pretty, unusual marking that everyone admires is called blue merle.
A week ago today, on Friday, Sept. 17, Dolly had an operation to remove a growth from her underside, a few inches behind her left front leg. She’s recovering well from the surgery, and will get her stitches out a week today. We had some problems keeping the bandages that covered the incision in place — they kept slipping back towards her tail but for a few minutes she looked awfully smart in her bright pink wrapping. She’s now wearing an old, clean T-shirt donated by Lucas to protect the site when she sits or lies down.
The vets weren’t sure what the lump was … thought it might be a fatty mass called a lipoma. They still didn’t know when it was removed so it was sent away for testing. This week we learned that it’s called a spindle cell tumor. Dolly has cancer.
Dolly is 12, which probably seems like a good age for a dog and maybe it is. We’ve had her since she was four months old when my ex-husband saw a sign in the bank in Wiarton, Ontario, that read “Free to Good Home.” She’s been loved every day since, and we couldn’t have asked for a nicer dog. She’s easy going, keen to please, friendly and affectionate. Oh, I know everyone thinks his or her dog is the best. Dolly lived for her first five years with Steve in Wiarton, and then, when he took a job that required travel, there was no question where she would live. By then, she and I had bonded and so Dolly came to live me with seven years ago.
For the past four years, while Lucas was away at university, it’s pretty much been just Dolly and me. I always work my routine around her needs, love taking her for her morning walk, make sure she eats well and stock up with all her favourite treats.
So far, Dolly is very healthy and shows few signs of illness or aging but I have to accept the reality that that is going to change. The tumour she had removed is good in one way, because according to the vet, it is not the type to spread. But the bad news is that it does return. There’s a drug protocol that can help slow or reduce the risk of that, so Dolly will be taking the medication and we hope the results will be good. The vet mentioned four hundred and some days as the length of time we would hope to stave off the return of the tumour.
A year ago, I remarked to a friend that my life was in a good place. “I have a job I enjoy at Humber, I am fortunate to be a published author, my son is doing well at school and Dolly is great.” Everything was fine. But things will change, I said, quoting George Harrison. “All things must pass.”
It looks as if the reality I’ve been dreading is starting to creep in.
So today we sat out back, Dolly and I. I marked a few papers and she gazed at the lake, enjoying the light breeze that ruffled her fur.
I’ll be attending Word on the Street at Kitchener on Sunday and Dolly is coming with me. Every day with her is precious.