Day 101: A last taste of the Atlantic Ocean

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The swelling in Roo’s arm continued to worsen and her oncologist added prednisone to the rescue protocol she’s on. Prednisone is hard on Roo and I hated giving it to her. I was torn. Is the cure worse than the disease? Especially as it’s not a cure at all? And, in the same way this nightmare began with the Memorial Day weekend bookending the start of summer — the most damnable time possible for Roo to get sick, the hardest time for her to recover — when there was no immediate medical care available for Roo and we drove to Maine — the Labor Day weekend also delayed the delivery of the other chemo drug in her treatment.

The swelling of the lymph glands is horrible. They are hard and getting bigger. The oncologist said that the goal of this round of chemo was palliative. The drugs are well tolerated and shouldn’t make Roo ill. The hope is that they bring the glands down, but it seems too late for that. The more realistic hope is that they might buy Roo a little more time before she suffers too much to go on.

On Tuesday, though, while still waiting for the goddamned delivery from the supplier, I began to accept that Roo would not get better. I have seen this before. Orville died from this, and I have still not been able ever to discuss with anyone what happened then and won’t now. But I have seen this before. I won’t let what happened to Orville happen to Roo.

Roo is so tough that it’s hard to tell if she’s in pain. Maybe the pain is low grade and she just doesn’t show it. But while she still breathes, she still needs to take care of basic functions. 

She was willing to come outside but she wasn’t interested in walking. She moved towards the car, probably just wanting to lie down in there, but when I loaded her in I drove her – driving so slowly and gingerly that in anyplace less polite than this the cars passing us on the country roads would all have been honking – to several of the places she liked to take walks. We went to the town. She wouldn’t get out. We went to one park and then another. She wouldn’t get out. Finally we drove south to a point at the end of a spit of land jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. My intention was just to find somewhere to park and let Roo take in the view and breath in the air.

When we got there, Roo perked up. She wasn’t sure about getting out of the car and I took a picture of us. I tried to smile in the picture. I was surprised to see how grim I look in it. IT’s a reminder of how I’m failing Roo at every turn now.

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“What do you think, Chig?” I asked her. “Do you want to go swimming?” 

She decided that she did. It’s too high a jump for Roo to get out of the car on her own now. I’ve devised a way to lift her out that I don’t think presses on the lumps in her chest and arm and neck. Still, she grunted a little.

I hated putting her on a leash, because now more than ever I want her to feel the last of her freedom, but also because I left her harness in the first hospital when we arrived in Maine and the collar can’t be comfortable with swollen lymph glands in her throat. I’ve made the collar way too big for her, and I’m sure never to pull the leash, so it’s all right. Even as loose as it is, the collar looks lost in the folds of fur on her swollen throat.

There was a boat ramp and Roo went in the water. The salt water was clear and cool and Roo was so happy to get in. Her back legs tremble a little now and most of the hair on her tail is missing from the recurrence of dermatitis brought on by the cessation of her allergy meds necessitated by chemo and her belly, shaved three months ago for ultrasound is only fuzzy. I still see my puppy, but in truth the hard time she has been through shows. As she dunked herself I thought that this could be the last swim in her life. It seemed fitting that it would be in the Atlantic after swimming her way from the Pacific, where she was born, in the diametric opposite corner of the country, to the Sea of Cortez, two or three of the Great Lakes, the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Arkansas, the Ohio, the Red, the Salmon, the Columbia, the San Pedro, in countless Bear Creeks and Deer Creeks and Devil’s Creeks and in more and always more of the great rivers and bodies of water of this country and streams and ponds and brooks and puddles and ditches in every one of the Lower Forty-Eight than any other dog who has ever lived, or so I like to tell her because I would like to believe in that accomplishment of hers and I do. Watching her little dip in the ocean pretty much broke me down and I turned away so she wouldn’t see and I don’t think she did though that may just be the kind of lie we tell ourselves when we need to.

After her swim, she wanted to walk around a little, but after we walked on a gangplank to a lobster dock, from which Roo enjoyed looking at the water for a while, and a few more feet on the road, I said, “Maybe we shouldn’t go too far, Chig. Don’t you think it might be better to go back to the car?” 

She thought about it for a second but knew it was better. But first she flung onto the grass in front of someone’s house and rolled over on her back and gave herself a good wiggle while I patted her belly and called her by some of the names I have for her and told her how I felt about her.

Since then, things have gotten rough, but that’s all I can put down today. I have to get back to Rooki. And I don’t want to write about the way this coming weekend, when again it is impossible to get the kind of veterinary care we may need that has me worried tonight.