by Linda Williams
A couple months before his ninth birthday, our golden retriever, Copper, started losing interest in dog food. We thought he was just getting older and fussier, and made jokes about filet mignon and lobster thermidor. “Would you like a glass of the Chåteauneuf with that or will you stay with the Champagne? And for dessert, we have a terrific…”
We switched up his food a few times, tried mixing it with canned options claiming ingredients like kangaroo and green tripe, and hand fed him a lot of thin-sliced deli meat. He still drank tons of water, had lots of happy energy, and would enthusiastically rush to the door for his walk, so we weren’t overly concerned.
But when he started refusing dog food of any kind, we took him to the vet. An abdominal ultrasound sent us off to PEI on a frigid December morning to get his lymph nodes aspirated, and they gave us the shocking news: Stage V lymphoma, 4-6 weeks to live. The vet put him on high dose prednisone and we walked tearfully to the car with him trotting happily beside us.
It wasn’t lost on me that even though we are in the business of making things last longer, certain things are and will always be hopelessly out of our control.
All of this coincided with the Christmas holidays, a time when our three “kids” (all in their 20s) with whom Copper had grown up were returning home for a week or so. We decorated the tree while he laid underneath it, filled his bowl with turkey and gravy (his appetite had returned with a vengeance), and celebrated his full living being every day. No dog has ever eaten more Montreal smoked meat than he did.
Copper made it like a champ through Christmas and the new year. We drove the kids to the airport with him draped across their three laps in the back seat. In January he celebrated an 85th and a 60th birthday with family. Every morning he ran through the forest, sniffing pheasant tracks and fox trails, turning back and smiling at us. When February arrived and he was still thriving we almost started to wonder: is it possible…?
On Monday he left a few pieces of kibble in his bowl. On Tuesday he wouldn’t eat his breakfast but then rallied for lunch and dinner. But on Wednesday he wouldn’t touch anything, not even his water. Seven weeks after diagnosis, his time was up.
We buried him in his favorite woods, a tennis ball at his nose, his three-legged monkey at his side. He had been peaceful and serene the night before at the vet’s. “Oh boy,” the vet said as she looked into his untroubled brown eyes, her own shining with tears, “you can tell he’s really the one.”
He certainly was.