I took him back to the surgeon two weeks ago to get his staples out. He’s been home with us since then and has been doing pretty well. He sleeps a lot which is normal for him but otherwise he is a happy-go-lucky dog. You wouldn’t think he had cancer as he is playful and energetic.
The biopsy news we got wasn’t great, although I wasn’t surprised as I expected to hear the gloomy information. Basically, it is likely that the tumor had spread mast cells on a microscopic level. Pretty disappointing. We don’t know what is going to happen quite yet. There’s still a piece of information we are waiting on from Michigan State which will indicate the results of the c-kit analysis. This will give us a good idea of the treatment recommended.
But I find myself reflecting on this whole process that began when we found the tumor over a month ago. I come to a point where I leave this with a reference to the title of this series: the ‘Trace’ of my heart. Yes, the reference is indeed a nifty little pun. So the story follows. When we adopted Trace in 2009, that was the name they had given him when he first arrived at the rescue. We decided to keep it. It’s a unique name and we figured, why give him yet another name to go by?
The word, trace, can be defined in a number of ways:
- a course or path that one follows
- a mark or line left by something that has passed
- a path, trail, or road made by the passage of animals, people, or vehicles
- a sign or evidence of some past thing
Trace (the dog) is all of these to me. While we do not know what will happen, I do know in this moment that he has taught me so much. And I don’t say any of this as a ‘saying goodbye’ or a ‘bidding farewell’. What I am saying is that the beings and places we come in contact with will always leave a mark, or a trace, in our minds and hearts. I often reflect on my family: grandparents who have passed, my parents, my brothers, my in-laws, my friends, my mentors, my wife and child, and so on: they all, whether alive or passed, near or far, can be traced back to my heart by the connection I have/had with them. The same goes for the dogs of my past and the dogs we have now: these sacred, sentient beings with four legs and wagging tails, will eternally live within and without.
One day, whether its tomorrow or weeks or months or years (God willing) from now, Trace’s body will go back to the earth and some where, some time a new living being will be formed. Whether that be the grass or a leaf on a tree or a particle in the air floating off. I’d like to say that spiritually he will also exist infinitely, just as every dog I’ve ever had still lives within the heart. Why? Because we paid attention to each other. And if you think about the body, it comes from the ‘dirt,’ takes form and evolves only to turn back to dirt. In that sense we often call that process birth, life, and then ‘death’. But I tend to believe that consciousness sneaks away somehow and takes on new form. It’s like there’s a sense of the beingness we share with others (humans and animals) that always leaves a trace. It shows up in our thoughts and feelings and behaviors and actions. And even in the sense of forming a path on which to travel – the people (and dogs) of our lives take part in the forging of a way on which to venture.
When some one or animal we love passes on, we tend to lean on the notion of spirit. I know we could easily get into a debate on this topic and that’s fine, but I say this: I believe the dog does have a spirit. Whether you want to call that a ‘soul’ or ‘energy’ and whether you want to believe it comes from God or nature, doesn’t matter to me. There is something very fascinating, even in the midst of mourning the loss of one we love, about the sweet experience of just living; of being part of this grand stage we call the universe. Many of us can probably attest to the notion that even though a loved one is ‘gone,’ in a very real sense we KNOW that being is still very much here, within and without.
So, I guess what I am saying is that Trace will always be here, always be everywhere, in some form, and in some way. What he has taught me is that while the joy and sorrow of life and death can be overwhelming, there is truly something to appreciate about giving all you can to the ones you love.
But there’s still something left to do and that’s to give back to Trace what he was born to do; what his ancestors thrived on (an even saved lives because of it); to give back to Trace what fulfills his spirit and makes him free. That’s right: we’re gonna run! We’re gonna run our asses off. Before we found out about his tumor in January, I had ordered him a running harness from Alpine Outfitters, along with some Cani-Cross equipment for me. Ironically, the harness came in the mail the day he had surgery a month ago. Basically, we’re going to run and he’s going to pull me along. That’s my only wish for him at this point, to get him running again. To let him feel free. And in some way this brings back one of my pastimes of being a cross country runner. I figure I need to stay in shape anyway, take care of myself, and in my core my body knows it was always running that set me loose.
All is not lost. Right here and right now is all we have – it is all we will ever have. It’s time to be free – let’s run.
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