Chou Chou is back to her weekly physical therapy visits at U.C. Davis Veterinary Hospital. She is doing underwater treadmill and laser therapy.
Integrative Medicine has expanded its patient load, but the space is small, so dog owners are no longer allowed to watch the dogs do their therapy. I have to sit in the waiting room now. And I talk to other dog owners.
Last week, there was a woman two chairs away from me who was busy punching holes in notebook paper and putting the pages into a thick binder. There were easily 200 pages clamped together. I saw her doing this for 30 minutes, and then I spoke to her, "You have a lot of work to do!"
"This is my dog's cancer file," she said simply. I told her how sorry I was to hear that, and we began a conversation. Her dog is very ill.
Twice a week, she travels from home, two hours each way, to U.C. Davis for her dog's chemotherapy. Her dog has been in treatment for months, and that's why the binder was so thick.
She had a demanding job and was unable to take enough time from work to meet the needs of her sick dog; she chose to help her dog anyway, and because of that she was laid off. Now she has the time to travel to the vet but no money coming in to pay for treatment. She has no pet insurance. But, she will manage and has no regrets, she said. This is her task and she will do whatever it takes to help her dog get well, or to live as long as possible pain free.
She told me about the type of cancer, the different treatment options, and the prognosis. She smiled as she related the story of how her dog came to live with her at 8 weeks old; he's been her constant companion through other losses she's endured in recent years. Her love for her dog is her life.
And finally she paused, realizing she was doing all the talking. "What is your dog here for?" she asked me.
"Physical therapy," I answered. "She has hip dysplasia."
She paused again. "You're so lucky."
Lucky? I've grieved over this diagnosis, seeing Chou Chou's x-rays. But after hearing this woman's story, yes, I suddenly felt lucky. Dogs don't die of hip dysplasia. Chou Chou is doing well, a happy bouncy pup. Yes, it takes time and expense to keep her that way -- the adequan injections, the supplements, cold laser therapy, underwater treadmill -- but she has no limitations and is not in pain. She is not the x-ray.
Fifty minutes were up, and Chou Chou came bouncing back to me with the vet tech. I said goodbye to the devoted dog mom, and wished her dog good health. I left, feeling grateful, feeling lucky.
And this week, sitting again in the waiting room, another woman with another notebook. Surely this couldn't be another large cancer file, could it? Yes, it was. Another conversation about a sick dog, and then the same question to me. "What is your dog here for?"
"Physical therapy," I answered. "She has hip dysplasia, that's all. I'm lucky."
* * * * *