It was a spring day in 2008 and my dog Cain and I were preparing to leave on a road trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, but Cain was getting sick again. For many years of his life, Cain had been treated for aspiration pneumonia, so I decided to have a chest x-ray taken before we left to make sure he was well enough to travel. We were given medication and the go ahead, and I wasn’t at all surprised when my veterinarian contacted me a couple of days later to let me know that they needed to take another image upon our return. Something looked different this time. Without a second thought, I made the appointment, an appointment that turned out to be life-saving when the second x-ray confirmed what my veterinarian already suspected…a mass of proportionate size in one of Cain’s lung lobes. More tests over the next two weeks, surgery to remove the mass, and then the diagnosis that I never expected to hear… cancer…Cain had cancer. Like so many others who share this same experience, I was in utter disbelief, my world rocked to it’s core. The weeks that followed found me consumed, spending countless hours…hours that turned into days…days that turned into months…pouring through every piece of life-saving information I could get my hands on, hoping that I would find some way to rid my best friend of the silent enemy that had only one thing in mind. I remained strength on the outside, but my inside told a different story.
Along with my determination, those days also found me sitting at my computer, troubled beyond explanation, staring at a blank screen, watching it fill with words, as my fingers flew swiftly across the keyboard, sharing the gamut of emotions that poured freely from my soul. My heart became an open book, sharing the lows and highs that were all mixed up and jumbled together. Confusion and understanding; sadness and happiness; anger and elation, emotions all shared, though not always equally. I believe that I speak for many.
Those months added up to a year and a half, and I will be forever grateful for the time we had together after Cain was diagnosed. But grateful as I am, nothing will ever compare to the devastation I experienced when I lost him. My heart was ripped apart and battered by grief, seemingly patched over and over again, it will never be the same.
Seven years have passed, and while my life has changed in so many ways, my heart has gone on, remaining ever constant. It has traveled miles, sharing experiences, raising awareness about cancer, and living just as my incredible boy taught me. This heart of mine has lived each moment that passes to the absolute fullest. It has lived, breathed and shared Cain’s love even when I felt I couldn’t go on. There have been hours, darker than I could have ever imagined, but there has been light, so much more light…a beautiful, forever light that has over-shadowed my darkest times. With all of my heart, I know that he watches over me from a quiet place beyond, sending me strength and willing me to keep moving forward on this journey to which there is no end. His legacy of love lives on…through me…through Wishcuit…through every single thing that I do. Love Adds Up! Yes it does…love adds up.
When I’m asked about the work that I do to raise awareness about canine cancer, it always comes back to my precious Cain. My canine soul mate, forever a part of my world. I’ve shared so much about him over the years and as I sit here typing I ask myself, “What can I share that I haven’t shared before? What words can I say, that I haven’t already spoken?” I could certainly write for hours on end about that tremendous love, but words from a journal entry that I wrote on a quiet morning on November 12, 2012, are just as timely as if I’d written them today…My dearest Cain. You are still so much a part of all that I am. As I sit here with my eyes closed tight I envision you right next to me. You’re still running to greet me each time I walk through the door. You’re still spinning those circles in delight when you see the leash in my hand. You are still woofing at me that it’s time to go to bed, and you’re still the flash of white that I see running along the fence in the pasture. You’re still chasing the squirrels, and looking for mice in the barn, and I can still hear your woof when the ice cream truck rolls through the neighborhood. I see you rolling in the cool green grass underneath the apple tree, and your great big bully grin every time you look my way. You’re still loving everyone that you meet, still drooling on every pant leg. You’re still everything to me. There is so much that makes me smile, shared equally in this quiet morning hour with all that I miss.
You are still the brightest star that I gaze upon, when the night feels so dark, and everything that was you still surrounds me with love. Though tangled and worn by wind, the chimes still sing, and the red rubber ball that you loved to play with, still sits in the backyard, now resting as a permanent part of the landscape underneath the spruce tree. You wouldn’t believe how tall that tree has grown. The neighbors dogs still run at the fence, and Bear in her silent world, still loves to antagonize them. I’m sure that you know that I don’t walk the trail as much anymore, but when I do there are those special spots where I still pause for a moment, and reminisce of a time gone by.
Everything is still the same buddy, but it doesn’t feel the same.
I still have the scrap piece of paper on which I drew the stick figure drawing. I remember that day so well. It’s corners are now worn, but it’s message still breathes life into all that I do. It has brought the most amazing people into my life, and is helping us work together to find a cure for cancer. Love adds up, and it always will.
Just the other morning as I walked out to the barn I found myself thinking of you and how we used to walk the path together. In that moment of twilight, a lone leaf stirred from its resting place, and floated through the air. I stopped and momentarily waited to see if the leaf would be joined by others in it’s journey, but it flew alone before landing in a spot right next to me. The air couldn’t have been more still; there was not another thing that stirred. I smiled.
Time has moved on, marching forward at full speed. It hasn’t healed all of the wounds, and it hasn’t made everything better, but what it has done is consistently reminded me to be ALL that you taught me. I have tried my best to live up to what came so easily for you. The love that we shared is still all around me, and until my last breath, I will continue to pay it forward. That love is still a part of my every being. It is still a part of all that I am. It still makes up every second, of every minute, of every hour of my days. I miss you buddy, and love you for always❤. FTLoCA ~k