It’s been almost a year since my dog, Thandi, was diagnosed with a tumor on her pituitary gland. It’s been a time of focus on feeding her cooked food, supporting her through seizures, and managing a steadily increasing protocol of drugs. She has been teaching me all along. Giving me opportunities to express my love for her in more ways than I thought possible. We have slept on the floor together many nights and gone through weeks of sleepless nights. Her meds gave her a ravenous appetite (3 full meals a day) and an unquenchable thirst (5 gallons of water a day!)…and the resulting pee breaks every 2 hours, 24 hrs a day at it’s peak. The most noticeable physical side effect of the drugs was the pot belly look of a dog with Cushings Disease.
And then she began to lose weight, 10 lbs. It was easier on her weakening legs. Despite all the challenges she still wanted to take her walk every day, and the walks got slower and shorter until 5 minutes was a good walk for her.
About a month ago she started resisting her meds and so we got more inventive with getting them into her, but dropped the chemo drug. She refused to take it. Then about 2 weeks ago she stopped eating, which meant no meds at all, and she became very thin, lethargic and clearly seemed to be close to the end of life. We celebrated when we found a food she would eat, and were thrilled when she ate 2 pieces of turkey bacon. Since then her eating has been an adventure. One day she eats a couple of handfuls of nuts, another day she eats only 2 scrambled eggs, and then another 4 oz of chicken breast.
It took a while for me to make peace with all of this, to accept her life on her terms, to accept the end of her physical life…and her terms are NO medications and just small meals…and her walks, with her hind legs supported by a scarf after about 10 minutes.
And so in absolute wonder, I witness the unfolding. Without all the meds she feels remarkably better. She is perky and has thoroughly enjoyed all the activity of the past week, which included a lot of family and extended family being around through a family reunion. She is relaxed and sleeps a good part of each day. She no longer has a sway back and distended belly. She eats a little food each day and drinks a normal amount of water. She sleeps through the night most nights. She wants to walk further and accepts the support of a scarf under her belly to support her back legs as they give out, but she wants to keep going. She is still thin but she is so content.
And so I have learned surrender again, accepting that she might or might not have more seizures without the medications, that the tumor might or might not grow faster, that she might or might not lose the use of her hind legs or other bodily functions, that she might or might not die sooner. But I’m sure of one thing, she is happier. Her quality of life is improving and it’s not so important for me to try to extend the length of her life. We just want her to have a good life.
And so as another day begins, it is a pleasure to honor Thandi’s life as she lives it her way and on her terms. And right now she is ready for a walk.