Today our dog received a death sentence. I thought he had some tick disease and went to the gym. When I came back, I learned by telephone that he had a few weeks to live. The vet said his platelets were 500 times below normal. This son of a bitch, and he was one; this cancer had cornered the mutt of my dreams. It was a leukemia – lymphoma, blastoma, gastlioma, whatever – and there was no cure. All we could do was keep him out of pain.
Cornwallis* is a dog, not a human being. I know that, and yet my human-heart is broken. So is my son’s. So is my husband’s. He’s family. My eyes are swollen, my lips are puffy, I want to hold him and give him some of my own time that’s left. That crazy barter is just how much I love him. His liver and his spleen are swollen. They will return my wounded lover tomorrow and I will watch him grow weak and die. Let me tell you about Corny – Corny has seen me through some rough times. He knows my secrets, even the ones I don’t tell him. I know this through his eyes. He is a male dog but he was my best girlfriend. To my family’s dismay I always referred to him as a “her.” He was my girl, and when my girlfriend (the human one), my college roommate, tragically died, Corny consoled me like no other species.
Corny was afraid of thunder and lightning – mortified. When he would tremble, I would whisper into his ears my fears – making him feel he was a one of me. I even gave him a bite of my Ativan (a benzo tranquilizer) mixed with some peanut butter and jelly. This concoction was our special scary-day secret. During the worst lightning strike, we held each other close for comfort. We were anxiety sweethearts.
I’m telling you all this because I want to share this love in case one day somewhere he gets a chance to read about him and me. I want him to know how much I admire his valor, his protection, and his proud muttiness. With a thoroughbred heart, Corny never forgot he was a rescue dog from a Bronx tenement. His nose was never in the air, always fine and wet. He sniffed out earthly danger and never let go of his street smarts. He traveled from Park Avenue to Litchfield County, ate quality pet food, had fancy pet collars and leashes, but he was never smug. Nose down. Tail up. Nothing made my girl happier than rolling in green-muddy grass defying his expensive recent shampoo. No bear, no deer, no snake, no rabbit, no frog could outsmart him. He knew his place in the scheme of living things. Even Darwin would have recognized his reaching up and out – his superior self. Corny had a ferocious bark. He would warn us equally of approaching friend or foe, but he also had a purr sound he must have stolen from a stray cat.
So, Corny I promise you, I will not let you suffer, I will not prolong your cancer agony, I will go with you and take control of your destiny, and when you die, you’ll die with dignity in my arms. If I could speak dog or if anyone else can, please tell Corny that I love him fiercely, and that I thank him for being my friend (I know I’m not easy). And remind him that he has forever changed the oldest of expressions for it is no longer a man’s, but it is a woman’s best friend. My Cornwallis.
*Dog named by the Humane Society where he was adopted 10 years ago.