Getting Bad News
Updated: Nov 19, 2022
Isabelle, my sweet beautiful golden retriever, who shares a birthday with my husband, turned twelve this year. When people ask me how old she is, they are always surprised.
“She looks so much younger!” they say, or “Wow, that’s really old for a golden retriever.”
So I have lived with some anxiety about Isabelle, who I love and adore. Still, when her doctor gave me the bad news today, that the limp she has had off and on for a month, that suddenly got worse, is bone cancer, I was bowled over.
Sitting at my desk after getting the news my first impulse was action. I tried to get an oncology appointment, and discovered that veterinary medicine is much like human, almost impossible to navigate. I reached out to a friend whose daughter is a veterinarian, trying to get advice, and I when I read the text he sent. “Do you want to amputate?” I broke down laying my head on my desk, and sobbed.
This will be my fourth loss of a dog. We lost Griffin, earlier this year. It is always heartbreaking and I am never prepared for the grief that threatens to drown me in its ferocity. Why do we pour our love and devotion into these creatures who love us back so unconditionally? Because for me at least, they are a safe haven, a place I can rest my head, bury myself in fur, and always feel the warm friendship and comfort of their presence.
Thinking about the weight of my sadness I was struck by the knowledge that to feel this much grief you must also feel this much love. And that’s what makes it ok. Because I have loved and been loved by this dog so fully and unconditionally that the grief is a small price to pay. I would never deny that love to save myself from the loss. Right now the loss feels sharp and untenable but over time it will smooth out and remain quietly inside of me. That is where I hold a piece of each dog I have loved. They are all parts of me. And until Isabelle leaves me, she will get all the love and treats I can give her.