My little dog had surgery today. I wasn’t going to write about it, because I’m superstitious and feared that my writing about her surgery would jinx it. But now that she is home and recovering, I can’t really think about anything else.
What is that number? Something like 80% of Americans consider their dogs to be part of the family. I’m sure that it’s a cultural thing. I grew up with a dog in the house. There are as many pictures of Toby in my childhood photo album as there are pictures of my human siblings. (Full disclosure: there are many more.) So, of course, Toby was a member of the family. And it’s been that way for all of the dogs I have known since then.
Today’s surgery was Lydia’s fourth. And every time she has been such a brave little dog. I’m sure it helps that she has no earthly idea what’s going on. She has no concept of her mortality. She hasn’t read about the dangers of anesthesia for older dogs, much less how this cancer recurs and spreads. She is a little blissed out today on pain meds, sure, but she’s not much different from her regular self: super cheerful, interested in the comings and goings of her people, intrigued by the smell and sound of food items. Mostly she is just happy to be here.
But it’s hard on her little body. (She’ll be sore tomorrow). And it’s emotionally draining for her human caretakers. (After surgery she always looks so beat up; that’s hard for us to see.) And our concept of her mortality is actually only emerging: we get that her death is inevitable but definitely aren’t ready to face it yet.
So we’ll get through this week of recovery and then start thinking about what’s next. Because, just like with people, the interventions to prolong her life will eventually have to be discontinued. We want to keep her with us as long as we can, but we need to be mindful of her quality of life. How many more times should this poor little dog be cut?
But we’re not ready for that conversation yet. Today we’ll keep her comfortable: we’ll carry her up and down stairs; we’ll hide the antibiotics and pain pills in her breakfast; we’ll try to distract her from licking her stiches. Today we’ll take it easy and comfort each other.