As I waited nervously with my oldest child in the exam room of the vet hospital for a diagnosis, my heart began to ache and sink into my stomach. What began as a small bump on our Scottish Terrier’s bottom had quickly turned into three.
The vet we had seen three weeks earlier was certain it was nothing bad and sent Ben home with antibiotics. When the bumps got bigger, I wanted a second opinion. So there we were, in the vet’s office waiting for results of the x-ray.
The doctor spoke to us is a gentle and guiding manner, offering us reassurance that this mass (as he called it) was all in one spot and that Ben was a good candidate for surgery…as long as it had not spread (if it was indeed cancer). I was overjoyed to hear that news; I could finally wipe away the tears I had been shedding for the last two days because we had a shred of hope.
But then the doctor turned out the lights so he could get a good look at the x-rays. He was silent for what seemed an eternity while my daughter and I anxiously waited for him to speak.
He turned the lights back on and quickly turned around on his swivel chair to meet our impatient eyes staring back at him. My heart sank deep into my stomach as his face told the rest of the story.
“Your pup has cancer” he softly said. “It’s throughout his entire body. Let me show you.” He turned out the lights again and proceeded to show us the inside of Ben’s little body. “You see here, this is his lungs. They should be black, but do you see this white that looks like snow? That’s cancer,” he said.
He proceeded to point out where the “snow” was. It was on his heart, his lungs, his lymph nodes, possibly his liver and maybe even his brain.
How could this have happened? We had just taken a long hike in the woods yesterday, jumping over logs like we always do. He didn’t look sick, either, running around like the vibrant little guy that he always has been.
I think I knew down in my heart that this would be the outcome, but hoped that somehow my prayers would be heard and it wouldn’t be true. But it was, and it is. By no choice of our own, we needed to talk about keeping Ben comfortable, how long he has left, and what to do when “that day” arrives.
It was horrible. Through the tears and disbelief, we somehow accepted what we needed to do now to ensure our best friend, my third child, would be as happy as he has always been. We had to make his days ahead even more special than we had done the days and years before.
When we got home, we gathered the kids together to break the news to them. The older children, who were heartbroken, understood that Ben has lived a beautiful life and that we were very blessed to have him as long as we have; 14 years is a long time for a Scotty dog.
My five-year-old was the one I was worried about telling. I have always taken the honest approach with my children, but this was hard because Paul loves his pup so much.
We went upstairs to his room to snuggle up for a story at bedtime when I began to cry. He asked me, “Why are you crying mommy?”
I replied, “Because Ben is sick and he will be going to heaven soon.”
Paul’s response was not only surprising, but was full of the wisdom he has displayed many times before. He said, “Mommy, Ben will go to heaven where he will be alive with my grammy and one day we will all be there and God will come back for the rest.”
So with that, we are spoiling our best friend with puppy ice creams, long walks in the woods, and lots of hugs and kisses until God calls him home where he can run through the fields, happy and alive. We love you, forever and ever. Until we cross the Rainbow Bridge together…