Day 95: Rescue protocol


When Roo and I went to the vet on Tuesday, we took the trailer because the tanks had to be emptied. Roo’s not in the mood to do much driving, so I’ve been going to the dump on her vet days so she doesn’t have to be loaded in the car more than necessary. When came out of the appointment with the confirmation (as though I needed any; it was obvious) that Roo had fallen out of remission, I saw that one of the trailer tires had lost air. I’d been expecting it to. The tires were worn out, the steel braid showing through the bald spots. 

We had to stop at a tire place and get them replaced. It would be a fast operation. The wheels are easy to get to and all I had to do was pull the trailer up to the garage bay. I hated to do it to Roo, because it was getting warm, but it would have been worse to blow the tire out.

While the guy was bolting the wheel on he asked me if I’d done a lot of traveling in the camper and I told him that yes, indeed, all throughout the Lower 48.

“I hope you had a dog or something with you,” he said.

“Oh, yes,” I said. She’s right there in the back seat.

“Yeah. You couldn’t do that without a dog,” he said.

I turned away from him and moved the few feet towards Roo, but had to turn away from her, too. For a minute, anyway. It was another of the hundred moments every day when I have to struggle to try not to let her see what I’m feeling. I’m trying to keep a front up. I don’t know what else to do. 

On Thursday we went to see the other oncologist. It wasn’t a hopeful visit. Roo’s cancer is not just back, it is attacking her aggressively. Her lymph nodes are swelling at a terrible pace. The bump in her arm – which they previously thought was another form of cancer – was this time confirmed to be from the lymphoma. Her forearm is swollen. It’s not hurting her. Or, at least, it’s not making her favor it or pay attention to it. And I don’t know if it’s part of the reason she’s not moving much or if that’s mostly from being rundown and ill from the lymphoma itself or the new rescue chemo protocol she began. It has to be all of them, I suppose.

On the way back from that clinic, I must have been distracted because I missed a turn which meant that we had to go about 20 miles and half an hour out of our way on a country road. I passed a sign for a public pond out there in the Maine countryside and thought about the hundreds of times Roo and I passed a sign like that I took the turn so Roo would have a good place to walk and swim and hunt. It’s how she saw the country and the reason she has swum and hunted in more places than most.

“Rooki, do you want to go to the park?” I asked her. She showed some interest and I turned the car around.

I lifted her out of the car. She welcomes the help nowadays, even though she lands with a little bit of a grunt because I’m not able to be too graceful about it.

It was warm, and though there was the pond, Roo didn’t want to go in. After we walked for about three minutes I asked her if she wanted to go back to the car and she looked relieved. I made a face-saving excuse about her old daddy being too hot and tired to keep going. I think she came along in the first place so as not to disappoint me.

Back in the car, the road became curvy, and though I drove the way I would have with a flat tire, it made her uncomfortable. It was the first time I saw that. It didn’t look like she was sick. It looked like she couldn’t find a comfortable way to lie down. She wanted to go in the back seat to try there, but she was unsteady. I pulled over so she could go back there more easily and she lay down.

By the time we got back to the Jim and Virginia’s house, Roo didn’t want to get out of the car. I tried to talk her out but she didn’t want to move, even though she was in an uncomfortable position in which she couldn’t rest her head. After five or ten minutes I offered to help her, but she gave me a short growl to let me know that she did not want to move. She has only growled at me three times. Once when she was a puppy digging a mouse hole in Arizona and I laughed at her for it and another time when it turned out she had a sore leg. And there have been times over the years, before she was sick, when she’s had to get out for one reason or another when she and I’ve had to pull her out. She never liked it, but she never growled. So this time, she meant it. She wasn’t threatening me. It was nothing like that. She was just letting me know that she had to stay right where she was for now. She immediately gave me a deeply apologetic look. She was worried about the impropriety of a growl.

I held her and said, “It’s okay, Little Bear. Don’t worry. I know you don’t feel good. I’m not going to pull you. You can stay there as long as you like.”

I closed the door and backed the car down the driveway into the shade and brought a folding camp chair over and sat beside her. She stayed there for about two hours, not wanting to move even though she couldn’t put her head down.

In the evening, Roo was highly alert. She didn’t want to go out, but she insisted on watching her squirrel movies over and over again. She had a good appetite. Other than not wanting to move, she was in a good mood.

This morning, she let me know with a gentle emergency bark at the unheard-of hour of seven that she wanted to go out. Yet, when we got out, she was in no rush to do anything. 

She was in a terrific mood. Bright-eyed and moving easily. She just wanted to lie down in the driveway. I figured she needed to let go of something, though, so after a few minutes I encouraged her to get up and she did.

She wanted to head down the road so I put her collar on and we went. It might have been the earliest we’ve ever gone out. I’m no early bird but Roo is far worse, a champion late sleeper.

We walked toward the trail, even if I had no intention of getting on it and risking Roo overdoing it. She did have to go. The chemo had upset her stomach. 

On the way back to the camper we ran into Virginia, who was walking to work at a nearby hospital. Roo loves Virginia and was happy to see her. Her mood was high.

Back at the camper, Roo, who must have been relieved, went back to sleep for several hours. 

She didn’t want to go out again for the rest of the day. All she wanted to do was sleep, and then, like a hospital patient newly addicted by imposed bed rest to her soaps, watch her squirrel videos.

I don’t know how long one might expect to see any benefit of the new, rescue chemo protocol she’s on, but I hope the answer isn’t right away, because today Roo’s lymph nodes are all the more swollen. She’s not in any distress. She’s eating and drinking without having to take the appetite stimulant. But those swelling glands are a building storm and they fill me with dread. Roo and I have spent these years together outrunning all sorts of storms. Hers and mine. This one is gaining on us.