Chili is dying. I don't mean that existential, "we are all dying" kind of dying. I mean he is actually dying. A couple of weeks ago he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. We have chosen to not put him through an operation and chemotherapy because of his age and because we believe in quality of life over quantity. Right now he is living the good life. He is eating expensive food. He gets all the treats he wants. He gets a pain pill before bed each night. He sits in the sun when he wants to be outside and sleeps on a pile of dog beds when he wants to be inside. He can still get up and around to eat and go out and wag. He still greets us at the door with a tennis ball in his mouth. But he is dying. The cancer is growing inside of him and shutting him down. We don't know how long it will be. We don't know if he will go fast or slow or if Jason and I will have to make the decision to let him go. But Chili is dying.
This is a fact that has me worrying and hovering even more than usual, and that's saying something.
This morning I had a dream. Jason and I were at a big party. This party looked like every college party scene from cheesy movies. There was a two story house with a balcony overlooking a swimming pool and people packed in everywhere around the pool, in the yard, in the house. I was on the balcony looking down. Chili was with us there and was going around to everyone at the party, getting petted and loved. He was even larger in the dream than he is in real life. More like actual Great Dane size. Anyway, I was watching him from the balcony as he moved through the crowd. I turned away for a minute and when I looked back down I saw he had jumped in and was swimming in the pool. He is a Labrador and has always been a great swimmer. I turned away again and when I looked a second time, I saw him under the water. I watched, waiting, but he did not come back up. I ran down to the pool and jumped in at the same time someone else jumped in to help. I was under the water and the two of us were trying to lift Chili off the bottom of the pool. I remember Chili's eyes being open and looking at me. I remember screaming at the other person to LIFT! I grabbed Chili with both of my arms, under his body and swam with him to the top. I walked out of the pool with him still in my arms. When I looked at him, he was perfectly fine. Alive. Panting, but not coughing up water at all. just sitting in my arms as if nothing had happened as I walked back though the crowd before waking up out of the dream...
When I woke up I could not shake the dream. I thought about how terrified I was seeing Chili under the water. My arms were sore from my body reacting to desperately trying to lift him in my mind. I was describing it all to Jason as he held me close, and then I started to cry. I realized, I can't save him in real life. I realized that he is not going to get better. I realized I can't pull him out of this. And I cried.
It comes in waves. Most days I put on a happy face because Jason says that's the thing to do rather than being upset around Chili. Dogs pick up on emotions pretty easily. I watch him and worry about him, but I also work to make sure he is comfortable and happy. I have no fucking idea what I will do when my dog is gone. But for now, we are both just swimming.
Because this is a blog of lists what follows is a list of some of Chili's favorite places to swim.
- Nantahala River
- Tuckasegee River
- Lake Junaluska
- Fontana Lake
- Oconaluftee River
- Bear Lake
- Santeelah Lake
- Chautauqua Lake