My Canine Confidante
By Philip D.
February 16, 2013
As she sleeps, I hear her snoring softly. To me, there is no sound more comforting; and is, quite possibly, the thing I will miss most. My dog, Wilma, has cancer and it's spreading inside her. With the wisdom of my trusted vet, I've decided not to pursue surgery or other procedures to prolong her life. She is resting comfortably now with the help of painkillers and steroids. I know in my heart that her ball fetching days are over. I am mentally preparing for life without her and making arrangements to have her euthanized in our home and to be buried in the country.
Writing about my poz-iversary and rereading my earlier posts, I remembered the trusted support this little ball of fur provided me those first long days and eternal, winter nights. Before I could say "I have HIV" to another human being, I said it to her. That one soul who loved me without a single condition, regardless of the shame I was feeling. It might sound silly (unless you've experienced "dog therapy") but saying those words out loud, even to something with a limited mental lexicon, helped me cope with the mind-blowing concept of being HIV positive; potentially, for the rest of my life.
I'll go as far as to say that most humans are essentially incapable of the true, unconditional love that a pet provides. She didn't care who gave it to me. She didn't care what my T-cell count was. She only knew I was hurting and that I needed love.
We received her cancer diagnosis three months ago. Since that time, I have enjoyed her more fully than I ever thought possible. Warm afternoon trips to "chase" squirrels, all the fine flavors of the "people food" I never let her have, and as much time as she desires, on my lap, with her head against my chest. I have told her all the things I felt I needed to. Although eleven is rather young for a small dog to die, the end has been short and relatively painless.
This entire process has made me look at my own mortality. Unless I make it to 100, no matter how you slice it, I'm on the downhill side towards "the end." Yet, I have done virtually nothing to prepare for it. No will. No living trust. No plans or money put side for where I'll end up. None.
Not a very nice thing to do to my next of kin.
So, I've set a goal. Bite the bullet and have that stuff put into place by this year's end. It's not like I don't have reason to think I might exit this show a bit early with my nasty, viral hitchhiker lurking in the shadows. I love my family too much and my post-life desires are a bit unconventional to risk leaving this unpleasant duty unfinished.
As she sleeps, I wonder, will there be someone there, at the end, to do this for me?
Five days after I wrote this, the time came for us to say goodbye to Wilma. She went downhill fast but I do believe there was minimal suffering. My good little girl, until she drew her final breath. Her last morning, she was surrounded by love, happy music and the scent of bacon in the air. The past eleven years were a gift to me from the Universe and the past three months an extra bonus. As you might expect, John and I are devastated but trying to remember the multitude of smiles that she generated during her short life. I have no plans to replace her as I sincerely doubt that I ever could. -- PD
A Positive Spin
After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.
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