Five signs that Dakota is having a good day
- Jumps on the bed.
- Barks at The Hat Lady.
- Wants to go for a walk.
- Presents a toy when we get home.
- Asks for snack at bedtime.
Today, it’s Saturday afternoon as I write this, Dakota is having a good day.
My book blog has always been something of a dog story. You can see a portrait of Dakota, my Bassett hound in the banner above. It’s a detail from a much larger painting a friend of ours did. My old blog featured a much bigger picture of Dakota taken at the Point Isabelle Dog Park, or Dog Heaven as we call it, with San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. For several years now she has been the face of the TBR Dare. Dakota has long been by my side in my Gravatar as well. Sometimes she has been my Gravatar.
I used to regularly write posts about the books she ate, though she hasn’t eaten one for a couple of years. I even kept a running list of them for a while. She used to select the winners for book give-a-ways, back when I still did them. But, you’ve probably guessed the problem with dog stories by now.
Last week, we took Dakota to an oncologist. There is a visible lump towards the back of her belly. The oncologist confirmed that she has lymphoma. It’s a common type of cancer in dogs her age–she’s around 11 years old. Since she’s a rescue dog, there’s no way to be sure exactly how old she is. The oncologist said that without treatment we can expect another six to eight weeks. There is medication available that will make most of her remaining weeks pain free.
Treatment, in case you’re wondering, is chemotherapy which takes six months and, if successful, would give her an additional six months to a year. Bassett hounds live about 12 years on average, with 14 years not being uncommon. Treatment cost $7,500 dollars, may not work, and could induce a list of side-effects that I was unable to really comprehend while the doctor was reviewing them. Fortunately for me, C.J. was able to stay focused and got all of the details. The possible side effects are not something I’m willing to put Dakota through, even if the treatment was something we could afford. The oncologist did remind us that there is no guarantee treatment would work, though he does have one patient, a cat, who has lived five years after treatment.
Meantime, Dakota is completely happy and as active as ever. If you saw her today, you would not think for a moment that she was sick at all.
So, I asked the oncologist how we would know when it was time. He recommended making a list of five things Dakota does that show she is having a good day. Keep track of how many she does each day on a calendar. When she does all five in one day, mark that day as an ‘A.’ When she does four out of five, mark that day as a ‘B.’ This way you’ll know when it’s time. This past week, she had six A-level days. We’re taking things day by day.
Many dog owners will tell you they learn about life through the dog/owner relationship. Much of what they say I find problematic. I’m not one who subscribes to the dogs as children notion either. I am not a dog parent. Dakota is not my child; she is my dog. I am certain that the people who call me a dog parent do so with the best of intentions, but conflating the two has always struck me as a bit insulting to both children and dogs. There is something very moving about a dog’s devotion to its master. It’s something unique to dogs.
Dakota has shown me one thing that I would like to take into my own life– the ability to be happy in the moment. It’s a cliché, I know, but dogs really do live in the moment. When they are happy they are completely happy, Kermit the Frog happy. When they are sitting comfortably with people they love, they have no thought to the past or the future, just the present moment and the pleasure it’s bringing them. Enjoy the now whenever you can. Not a bad motto.
Today, Dakota has already jumped on the bed and gone for her morning walk. When we came home from breakfast, she presented us with the toy leopard that I bought to keep her from jumping on the leather chair in the study, and she barked at the hat lady, one of our neighbors who wears a straw hat when she walks her two small dogs past our house twice a day. For some reason Dakota hates her or her dogs and barks furiously at them whenever they come by. Tonight, around 8:30 when the sun goes down, I’m sure she’ll starting whining and wagging her tail to remind us that she gets a dog biscuit before bedtime.
I made this video of Dakota several years ago. Though she did learn to sit, to shake, to come when called and to wait before eating until given the command, Dakota never has learned to stay.