Waiting at the Door

15 May

He has never been a dog  to rush at the open door, hoping for a break at freedom. He waits with the leash on, sits as the other two whine and wiggle as if they had never been on a walk before.  In this, as in all things, a very good dog.

But something has shifted this week. Now, he stands at the door, determined to come along on each trip to school. He rides shotgun as I drop the children off each morning, pick them up each afternoon.


He spends more time at my side, too, tucking in beside me on the bed or couch. I type on the laptop with one hand,  pet him with the other. And I try, as I scratch his ruff, not to feel the hostile alien lumps  just below the surface.

But there’s no avoiding them, or the reality. Acute lymphoma, not curable. Maybe a month or two if the steroids stave off the angry, intruding cells.

I took him in Tuesday, because he  was coughing, and his throat felt swollen.

 “He must have something stuck in there,” I said. “I don’t know what it could be, he’s not a chewer.”

The vet was quiet. Feeling his throat, then his other lymph nodes, her tender eyes belying her hopeful words.

They took samples from the swollen places, flew them to a lab. Maybe, she said, it was a reaction to a tick’s bite on one of his hikes through the woods, maybe some fungal allergy. But probably, she said, aggressive and fast-moving cancer. She was so very sorry, and hoped she was wrong.

She wasn’t wrong, of course. She is as intuitive and skilled as she is compassionate, and honest enough to tell me if he was hers, she would do exactly as we are doing. Skip the hard drugs that won’t change the final outcome. Keep him comfortable. We’ll know when it’s time, she says. 

What I fear I don’t know is what I’ll do without him. In a year the big screen has celebrated the incorrigible hound, he is the anti-Marley. In all things, a very good dog.

puppy quince

We bought him from a sheep farm, his corgi parents named Elvis and Priscilla. In a litter of fat adorable short-legged puppies, he  stood out, the markings on the back of his neck looking like a #1.  Our daughter wanted one of his roly-poly siblings she dubed “Chubby,” but it was my call, my dog. I named him Quince, Spanish for 15 because he was a fifteenth anniversary present.

We went to the farm once to pick him out, a second time to pick him up, and my husband made two additional trips in the dead of night because our daughter kept leaving her beloved blanket in the barn. I suspect she hoped Chubby would find his way into our car.

At obedience school, the assistant called him lowrider and speed bump. He stole the show with his perfect proud walk and the way he tore across the room when I called.

Running Quince

We somehow ended up with another corgi, one found wandering the freeway that we were just going to rescue “for awhile” until we found his home. They had fights that looked like midget wrestling, raced around the room until our border collie grew weary and tripped them, and became the darlings of the dog park.

two corgis

Then, a little over a year ago, we welcomed another addition to our family, an 8-year-old boy who had spent his first years anchorless, tossed in a sea of drug-addiction and abuse and bounced from children’s shelter to foster home to relative to foster home again. The first night, as we tucked in a child that was afraid to hug or trust, Quince climbed up and settled in at the at the foot of the bed. The puppy from a sheep farm was ready to stand sentinel. He has been there every night since, only sneaking back to our room once our son is fast asleep.  In all things, a very good dog.

couch corgi

Five years is hardly long enough for a dog like this. He was supposed to grow old, see that once-scared boy off to college someday. I know there are greater tragedies than this in the world, I have faced many of them. But that perspective is no pain-killer for the ache in my heart.

I’m grateful for a few more days, as long as they are. Days to feed him cheeseburgers from Sonic, to let his make his rounds on the path at the dog park,  to find him standing at the door and waiting to head to the car.

Days to tell him a few more times that in all things, he has been a very good dog.

45 Responses to “Waiting at the Door”

  1. David McLemore May 15, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    I am so sorry to hear about your dog. About five years ago in the space of three months we lost our Molly, a 13-yr-old golden retriever, Flash, our 10-yr-old bassett & Emma, our 16-yr-old cat who ruled the house with a imperious grace and a fierce set of claws.

    It was a hard time. So my heart goes out to you in this, your hard day. Oh, it will get better, but no platitudes, no silly assurances. You’ll cry, then cry some more. And one day you won’t cry so much. The time comes. It will.

    We said no more pets. The psychic cost is just too much, we said. Then our son brought us a rangy pumpkin-red boy cat named O’Malley who quickly settled in to house and heart.

    The Marines have a saying: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” It’s also a sign you’re alive. Take care of yourself and your very good dog.


  2. Tricia May 15, 2009 at 10:52 pm #

    Oh Dawn, I am so sorry.

  3. Icy Blue May 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm #

    Oh my. I understand why you held off this week on writing this. Writing about my cat, (should say my very dog like cat), I cried the most cathartic tears that I had in a long, long time. Tonight, you make me want to go reread what I wrote- to connect in that way with her, but I don’t know if I will. I know that I will get out of bed, crouch down, and love on my sweet Lucy and wish she stays with us forever and ever. That is all I am able to do. My prayers of strength are with you. and comfort. most of all prayers of comfort.

  4. TracyK May 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm #

    I am so, so very sorry. Wishing you as much time as is comfortable, and the strength and grace to do what’s necessary when his time comes. Hugs to you all.

  5. charlotteanne May 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm #

    Yes, he is a very good dog, but he had the magnificent good fortune to be in the company of a *very* good woman and good friend.
    He is very lucky to have found you.
    He will be with you forever.
    ❤ ❤

  6. kristy - wheres my damn answer May 15, 2009 at 11:04 pm #

    Oh no … such a hard thing to go through. They make their way into our hearts so fast. I know they say that it’s 1 human year to 7 dog years and I believe THAT is why they mean so much. It feels like they are and should always be there … even when the time is short.

    I’m sorry to hear about Quince but from what you wrote … I know that he has BIG love from you and your family.

  7. RJ Flamingo May 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    Oh, Dawn! I was going to ask you, earlier, what was happening, but I knew you’d write about it when you could. Having lost several beloved cats – at the time, having been with them longer than my husband – I can relate. He will always be a very good dog, and he will always live in your heart and stories.


  8. Elissa May 16, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    I am so very sorry, Dawn. We lost the smartest dog we’ve ever had to lymphoma. Like David McLemore, my husband said “no more pets” because the pain was so great…..almost unbearable. But, like everything else that we love, the longing becomes too much, and we tentatively got a cat for DD#1 who quickly captured our hearts and helped heal our wounds. I wish strength and love for your family thru this difficult time.

  9. Mary Jo May 16, 2009 at 12:34 am #

    I am so sorry to hear about your dog. This broke my heart. I hope his last days with you are happy and whole.

  10. Judy May 16, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    Oh Dawn, I am so sorry for you and your family. It truly is a loss like no other. Enjoy the time you have with him you are so lucky to have that…

  11. Kathy May 16, 2009 at 5:33 am #

    Dawn, I’m so sorry. Your post made me cry. I lost a cat to cancer and it was very quick. It had progressed so fast, we didn’t even have a day before he was put down. I don’t know if it’s easier knowing and having time, or finding out and having no time left. I’m thinking of you.

  12. Thea May 16, 2009 at 5:51 am #

    I am so, so sorry.

  13. diana May 16, 2009 at 6:44 am #

    I am so sorry that you are going through this. We just went through a similar loss in March.

    The vulnerability they embody and the unconditional love they give make it so hard to lose a pet. You may have endured greater tragedies, but give yourself permission to grieve this loss. By your account he sounds like a very special little guy and five is way too young.

  14. Donna Tuttle May 16, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    My heart is heavy for you. I’m sorry.

  15. Elle May 16, 2009 at 7:11 am #

    I’m so very sorry. I’m at a loss for words, but have plenty of tears. I’ve been thinking about this all week, and hoping they were wrong. I’m so thankful that Quince has you, because you’ve given him a great life, filled with long hikes and chasing bunnies and armadillos. I’m so sorry, Dawn. I love you, and I hurt for you.

  16. Bella Stander May 16, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    The pain eases, but the tears never do quite go away because the loss remains. I hope the last bit of time with Quince goes as well as it can.

  17. sherstgeo May 16, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    Awh, Dawn. I am so sorry to hear this – what a good friend he has been.

    I never never know what to say when sad things are on the horizon. I am glad that you are allowed this time to say goodbye, but so sad that you have to do it at all.

    *Sending big giant huge enormous gigantic hugs to you and yours*

  18. MrsMessiness May 16, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Um- that? Up there? Where it says ‘sherstgeo’? That’s me.

    I guess I was so sad I accidentally commented with the wrong personality. :{

  19. feefifoto May 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    I’m so sad for you and your family. Please give your sweet boy some hugs.

  20. J May 16, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    I’m so sorry D….don’t know what to say…so very sad for you. My thoughts are with your family and poor little Quince. He couldn’t have picked a better family. ((((hugs)))))

  21. Cassie May 16, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    I’m so sorry to hear about this. I wish Quince a pain-free and happy remainder of his days with you. *hugs from another corgi owner to you*

  22. Tami Lyn (a.k.a. Casey) May 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    I’m so sorry about Quince’s prognosis, but it sounds like he has a wonderful five years with a family that loves him very much and gave much love back. Feed him an extra Sonic for me 🙂

  23. canarygirl May 17, 2009 at 4:01 am #

    Oh, sweetheart. I am so sorry. (hug)

  24. Bethany May 17, 2009 at 5:25 am #

    I’m so sorry Dawn. The poor little guy is such a good dog.

  25. Ron May 17, 2009 at 6:28 am #

    Dawn, Sorry for the diagnosis. I have expereiced loss also. It is difficult. They become a part of your family and part of your life. My prayers go to you and your loved ones.

  26. Beth Reinhardt May 17, 2009 at 7:04 am #

    I know how hard it is to have to make a life or death decision on a beloved pet. My vet has always said…”it’s quality of life vs. quantity” Too bad we cannot apply that to humans.

    What a great telling of your story.

  27. kellypea May 17, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    This is pretty much breaking my heart. What a lovely animal, and your writing? Well…

    I lost a beloved cat a bit more than a year ago in a similar way. Yes, type with one hand and pet with the other — the two of us were glued at the hip. And now, our dog is approaching 14 and although perky most of the time, we know…

    Warm hugs to you.

  28. Deb May 17, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    I am so sorry your good friend is sick and I am so happy that he found your loving family for his short life.

  29. Becky May 17, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    I’m so sorry, letter girl. I’m so sorry.

  30. ingrid May 17, 2009 at 8:51 pm #

    I’m sorry, Dawn for the loss you are feeling over Quince. I’m even more sorry that I don’t have any words to help ease your sorrow.

  31. Bernice May 18, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Dear Dawn, and family ~

    Imagine what happiness and joy you have brought to your beloved Quince… he is so lucky to have all of you looking over him, as he has been looking over you during his time with your family.
    Obviously, there is much love in your home.
    ~ Bernice

  32. Molli May 18, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    Dawn, I’m so sorry. That is so beautifully written and a wonderful tribute to Quince.

  33. Sandra May 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    Hey Dawn, I just saw this. I can’t add much to what everyone else has said, except thank God (or Goddess, or Gaia, or Buddha, or whom/whatever) for dogs and the people who love them. And thank you for writing a very moving, very beautiful eulogy for Quince, who obviously deserves every loving word, and then some. You’ve brought tears to my eyes, which is not an easy thing to do, and a bit of light to my heart. Blessings to you, yours, and to a very good dog.

  34. Mocha Dad May 19, 2009 at 5:59 am #

    Pets are special members of our families and it’s heartbreaking when they are seriously ill. My heart goes out to you.

  35. Foodycat May 23, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    Only 5 years – what a short life for a very good dog! Enjoy your time with beautifulQuince.

  36. Meri May 29, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    I am so very sorry for your loss. In all things, he’s a very good dog…and you are a very good puppy parent. Let us all hope that every animal who needs a family finds one as wonderful as yours.

  37. Anon June 29, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    I stumbled on this, I don’t know you.. I just wanted to tell you one thing that has helped me feel better when going through things like this. When you send Quince off, you’ll be taking on the pain that he would have felt. It will definitely hurt, but it can feel worth it if you remember that you’re bearing it so he didn’t have to.

    Best of luck to you.

  38. Kels June 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    I’m so sorry to hear that.

    A few years back we adopted a corgi/terrier mix names Tyson from a rescue. He’d been horrible abused, but saved and given a clean bill of health, and with us, a new home.

    A few weeks after we got him, however, and something was wrong. After many tests, he was diagnosed with kidney troubles, a side effect of the constant dehydration during his abuse. We did all we could, giving him medication for it twice a day, but it could only do so much.

    At the end, we were giving him pills three times a day, along with a magnesium syrup, and hormone shots twice a week… until they tell us Tyson was going to start having seizures soon.

    This little ball of spunk had never shown any sign of being sick. He played vigorously at the park with his doggy pals and was always such a happy boy, loving life. Suddenly, we were losing him.

    Two days after this news came, he crashed. He was listless, his eyes were glazed, and we knew it was time. We made the decision to end his suffering. It was the hardest decision my family has ever made. We had him for only 2 years.

    I take solace in the fact that our family gave him a new start, and a life he loved, but when life became too much for his sick little body, we chose to commit the act of mercy to release him from his pain. It hurts tremendously, but take care of your very good dog.

  39. kess July 1, 2009 at 3:21 am #

    I couldn’t read all of your story, too sad. We recently lost our 14.5 year old dog.

  40. becky July 6, 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    your story touched me.

  41. Wolfie Rankin July 7, 2009 at 11:54 pm #

    I’ve had my heart broken by dogs before, it’s hard because they love you and love you always, there’s no buts about it.

    They don’t suddenly change their loyalty to you or go off you for some reason.

    It hurts when they finally do go, and often to that dreadful disease that not only took a fair few of my animals but also my parents and invaded my own body… but I can’t imagine having a life without a dog around, what a poor life it would have been.


  42. Chelsea July 11, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    Very moving. Thank you for choosing vulnerability and sharing this with us.

  43. Felis D January 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Thank for the wonderful tribute to your dog. It reminded me of my first dog’s story.

    I lost my dog of 10 years to acute lymphoma when I was in high school. We pretty much grew up together. He was a cantakerous old man, but we got along well. I’ll never forget the day I went to scruff his neck like I always did and found those two golf-ball sized lumps in his lymph nodes. We did the same thing for him then as you are doing for your pup. We even allowed him on the furniture so that he could sleep more comfortably. I was thankful for every day and every memory we had together as well. My dog was nowhere near as good as your dog is (not even ballpark :P), but I still miss him.

    Meanwhile, hugs to you, your family and your little corgi. May the good memories and laughter you shared outlast the pain of loss.

  44. Anita March 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    What a beautiful animal and so healthy! She is perfect for this contest called Healthy Family, Healthy Pet http://www.greenwala.com/greenwala_contests/all/15-Healthy-Family-Healthy-Pet-by-PETCO

  45. Danielle March 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    God bless you and your love for that dog.

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