In addition to my friends and family I also had support from an unusual team. They provided more of an emotional support. They were with me every day. They knew when I needed comforting, got me up and moving when I didn’t want to and even brought me presents. They have always been there for me when I needed them with no expectations. Their names are Zoey and Maty and they are our dogs. Technically Zoey is mine and Maty is my husband’s. They are both trained retrievers (hunting dogs). Zoey has always been very in tune with me. I used to work on the road and she came with me every day from the time I brought her home as a pup. We were together 24/7. She knew if someone made me nervous or sometimes she sensed something that she didn’t like. She’d go into “guard” stance, drop her head, raise her hackles, get in front of me and even growl if she thought it was needed. If I was frustrated (while working), she’d get right in my face until I gave her a hug (how can you not feel better after that?). If I was sad, she’d stand with her head in my lap and just look up at me. She was always at my side. When we were out in the yard if I walked across the yard for something she would get up and follow me. I could walk back and forth across the yard 10 times and she’d be right there with me. Maty is Terry’s dog, through and through. She lives for him. If she thought he was upset with her you’d have thought her world was ending. We’ve had “The Girls” for 9 years. They are 4 months apart in age. The Girls and I walk a couple miles or so almost every morning and they have been my best hiking buddies. We did/do a lot together. When all this cancer crap started, Zoey knew something was up. She either sensed my tension or sensed/smelled the cancer. There have been studies that found a dog can smell cancer in a person. It changes the person’s chemistry and a dog can be trained to detect it, like sniffing out drugs or bombs. Zoey stayed close by to me, even more than usual. When I was recovering from the surgery I spent a lot time on the couch. If I was having a rough day they were both right there. Maty could/would pick up just about anything and bring it to you. I mean anything. If she could get it in her mouth, she could pick it up. She would get keys, glasses, and the TV remote. She would even bring me a bottle of water after a race (I used to run). Every morning when we came downstairs she would greet us with shoe or slipper or whatever she could find. It was a present. She loves to give presents. Ok, back to my recovery. There was one day when I was just really sore, swollen, tired and probably feeling a little sorry for myself (it happens to the best of us). At one point I had every shoe, boot, sneaker and slipper on my lap. Maty just kept bringing me presents. And Zoey who was not so much into giving presents did give me her bone, but she took it back when she realized I was not going to chew on it. No sense wasting a perfectly good bone. Anytime I talk about that or think about it I have to smile. When I was getting the radiation treatments I was often very fatigued. Walking with the Girls was not always at the top of my list, but that was our routine and dogs like routine. So we walked. The walks may not have been as far or as fast, but we walked. There’s a saying that goes with cancer (or any other major condition/disease), “my new normal”. Through the diagnosis, surgery, treatments, after treatment therapies, a lot of things change in your day to day routine. You can’t do things you used to, you have to things you didn’t think you would have to, and you have to constantly adjust… “Your new normal”. Even though I was tired, we walked. Amidst everything going on, all the changes, there was something comforting about continuing our routine. It was an “old” normal, the Girls and I, doing our usual thing. We walk in an area that I don’t have to leash them. There’s no traffic, no houses, just a dirt road. They can run, sniff the new smells left from the wild animals in the area. They can be dogs. They never went too far from me (even before), part of their training. During my treatments, they stayed even closer. Usually one was at my side while the other ran and sniffed. They seemed to take turns staying with me. One was at my side and the other was off exploring, sniffing. Then they would switch. It took me a few walks to realize what they were doing. It did give me a sense of security. I am constantly amazed by these dogs and their understanding of our needs. Being able to walk with them throughout my treatments (even if it wasn’t very far) helped me hold onto the hope that things could/would return to some semblance of “normal”. Hope is a powerful thing, almost as powerful as the unconditional love of your dogs…….
*The Girls and I have been on many adventures together. I will be writing a “Bunny Trail” story about some of our adventures as they are worth telling.