You might be asking, “What’s happening tomorrow?”
I don’t actually know. You don’t know either. I have a full calendar–and I’m sure you have a full calendar–and we have a general idea of how we’d like tomorrow go. But what happens tomorrow is anyone’s guess. We know this to be true, but–as people tend to do–we get busy or forgetful or simply too tired to do anything about it today.
After all, there’s always tomorrow.
Until one day, your dog is diagnosed with cancer. Like my Tyler. And suddenly the tomorrows don’t seem so certain.
Tyler, age 6
During ArtPrize this year, while I was as busy as I’ve ever been, Tyler had two surgeries. Neither of these had been on my calendar or were part of my plan for how the day would go. But there were growths and he’s an aging Boxer and sure enough, one was a mast cell tumor. The Amazing Dr. Skinner from Southkent Vet in Byron Center (please don’t go there, I want her all to myself) removed every trace of cancer and stitched him up, leaving behind some cool scars that just add to his tough-guy persona. I handled it well–honestly, ArtPrize was a crazy time and I didn’t have time to be sad–until a week later, before it was even time to remove the stitches from his first surgery, he grew two new lumps. Suddenly, I was scared. And it started to seem pretty vital that I pay a little more attention to his todays.
I had a fall photo session for the three grumpy pups all planned out, and I knew I had to make time for it. There was part of me that was worried Tyler might not see another fall, and the colors this year were just gorgeous. I put it on my calendar several times, but client pet photography sessions came up and drama practice pickups came up and day after day this very important photo of my three dogs together took a backseat. But still, I kept an eye on the weather and each time it got postponed, I always had a backup day. There was always tomorrow.
Until one day, Lily stood up…and fell right back down. Just like that, Lily could no longer use her back left leg. It dragged and flopped, and as she tried and fell and tried and fell again, she seemed absolutely bewildered by this uncooperative weight where her leg used to be.
Lily, age 3
Once again, the Amazing Dr. Skinner from Southkent Vet in Byron Center (really, do me a favor and don’t go there) helped us through, although the cause of sudden partial paralysis in a young, super-energetic Boxer was a little trickier to diagnosis than Tyler’s old-man cancer cells. For the first few days, we had to carry her back end in a sling just to get her around (thank you, mom and dad, for your help!). She had accidents in the house, seemingly unaware that she had to pee or simply not able to get outside fast enough. We talked about everything from a tweaked nerve or a slipped disc to a spinal cord injury or horrifying nervous system cancers. She was supposed to be in a kennel at all times, to avoid further spinal cord injury if that was the case, which once again made it pretty tough to get that fall photo of my three dogs that I so badly wanted.
Two weeks have passed and Lily is doing better – walking on her own, although still dragging that leg a little. After a consultation with an animal neurology center, it seems the most likely diagnosis is FCE–fibrocartalaginous embolism–or simply, a stroke. She might fully recover or she might not, but we’ll take her as she is either way. To have our bouncing baby girl so down and out for two weeks was a blow to the whole house. The mood of everyone in this house was affected, humans and dogs alike. Lily is our firecracker, our constant source of energy and laughs and irritation and really expensive damages. We didn’t realize how much joy she brought until it was gone. Tyler and Georgia laid next to our depressed Lily for two weeks–no playing, no barking, no toys on the floor–and it just broke all our hearts.
But then there was today. Today the weather was nice–maybe the last nice day in November?–and Lily was done with cage rest and the light was beautiful and there were still some colors in the park down the street. And I had 45 minutes before the next appointment on my calendar. So many tomorrows had gone by, and I didn’t want to lose any more. We went outside, and although I didn’t get the photo I wanted, I really wanted the photos I got. I got my three dogs together, which was important. I got Tyler in the fall colors, which was important. And I got Lily standing–not quite having fun and not quite back to her old spunky self–but still, standing. Their faces weren’t clean and they aren’t the best photos, but I got them.
No matter what tomorrow brings, I will always have these photos from today. I wish the same for all my pet photography clients and their beloved pets.
Georgia, Tyler and Lily
Lily has developed a bit of a fan club of people who root on her wild antics. I would really love to see a bit of her sassiness come back.
Georgia, age 4
One blue collar, one pink, one purple–in case you need help telling them apart.
My daughter Cielle is an excellent dog handler–the only 14-year-old I know who can handle three Boxers at once!
Tyler is doing well…even better than before his cancer diagnosis.
This post is written in memory of Cheyenne, who didn’t make it to our photo session last week.
If only we could all have a few more tomorrows.