I graciously share my podium with a certain cranky dog and what happens? She reveals my true name, overdramatizes her faux brushes with death, misleads all of you with her tales of woe, and then fails to give you any real information about her cancer and her time left. That’s the last time I hand the pen and notepad over to a dog.
In truth, yes, the anonymous person who did what so many dog lovers do these days – post a photo and link to a shelter site indicating that a dog has been placed there – really did save Mica’s life. If only she had been dumped at that shelter sooner…
Mica glossed over a few details in telling you her story. The cancer she has is an aggressive form of mast cell sarcoma, and when we got to it, it was already very advanced. The vet won’t make guesses about how long she has, but we are all in agreement that we’re looking at palliative care, not treatment. Treatment, it is felt, would simply ruin the time she has left. Make her happy, he said. Keep her as happy as possible, he said. I felt the lump rising in my throat at these words.
When Mica got here I was sure she was going to be adopted. I thought a couple of months, a little training and socialization, and some relearning love and trust and off she’d go to a new home. She is an adaptable and strangely relaxed dog: she would come with me to the most stimulating environments (the farmers’ market or the Ellenville Blueberry Festival) and just lie quietly at my feet while people pushed strollers or wheelchairs practically right over her tail. She was rock solid in public, a calm but pleasant greeter of strangers (dogs and humans), and seemed to be ok with cats. She was jealous and cranky with my dogs, but with time and time outs in the bathroom she learned that she couldn’t attack them for breathing near her. She has received a scar on her cheek and a torn ear in exchange for those lessons.
I thought for sure one of my hiking buddies would want her. She is a very pretty dog, embodies the word “lithe,” has a great sense of humor, and loves to be in the woods. I tried hard, wielding guilt and manipulation like a light saber, but none of my friends stepped up.
I refused to adopt her because I didn’t want to prevent someone from having her. It was a vain effort to shun the sin of gluttony. I already have 3 beautiful dogs, including 2 malinois. I was trying to share the wealth. And I believed in her that she was eminently adoptable, despite her age, her aggression towards bananas, her barking, and her general crankiness. I saw her as a truly great dog that someone would eventually fall in love with and for whom she would be a perfect match.
The cancer changed everything. I no longer see her as adoptable. In fact, I think anyone who voluntarily adopts a senior dog with a terminal illness and a grouchy attitude is officially not right in the head. If an application came in on her now, I would argue and lie, cheat, or steal to prevent her going anywhere.
She is dying. I think about her with her original family and I know that if they hadn’t dumped her at the shelter, she would have suffered and died from this cancer stuck alone on the end of a chain. I am grateful that she was abandoned when she was, so that ABMC and I could at least get that tumor off her and give her some happiness and fun times before the end.
I know it sounds ridiculous and anthropomorphized to the nth degree, but I realized that now, since she is no longer “adoptable” in my eyes, I need to adopt her. I want to make an honest dog out of her, to make sure that she dies with a family around that has no hyphens, so “steps,” no disclaimers and no specifiers. I know she can’t tell the difference – after I read her piece and she admitted to actually loving me (I wasn’t sure she even liked me), I realized that selfish and ridiculous or not, I needed to make her a real, regular, full member of our family. Legally. Not only for her, but for me. I can’t make up for 11 years of neglect, but this is a small symbolic step I can take to show her and her friends that she is not in any way separate or different from us. She is a member of this pack and a legal resident of my heart. I am mailing the adoption contract in today.
A huge thank you and shout out to ABMC-R and Mica’s coordinator, Tracey Dellibove. Tracey never pressured me to adopt her when I guess it was obvious that Mica fit in here. Tracey never criticized me when Mica got attacked by a beaver, terrorized by bananas, and then beaten up by a porcupine. Tracey just stood by me and this pack, and waited us out. The obvious and inevitable end to Mica’s foster status comes in such a bittersweet way.
So I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day. Celebrate love. Hug your children, your spouse/partner, your dogs, cats, geckos… trust that good happens and then make it happen. Do good and be good.
Remember Mica, who was old, neglected, abandoned, and thoroughly annoyed about it. The complete turnaround she did is inspiring. She and I are a team now – I help her up and down stairs, she comes to me to rub her belly and help with the itchy incision site. She sees me as part of her team, her pack, her family. And now I can call her my own.