How long do dogs live? Not long enough.
"After my dogs go," my boss told me this morning, "I'm only going to have pets who outlive me." (Since in addition to his Ridgebacks Sasha and Gus, he has a parrot and four tortoises, I think he meant that literally.)
He told me this when he called to say I didn't have to work today, even though I didn't work yesterday, either. That was because yesterday, I took my beautiful Raven on her last journey, the one dogs don't come back from. When they have trouble breathing and stop eating, any idiot knows it's time. Some people might think I'm an idiot to love my dogs the way I do, to have taken this fight as far as I did, but I'm not too much of an idiot to know when I've been beaten.
I don't regret fighting for Raven's life - not the chemo, the Chinese herbs, the experimental inhaled interleukin-2 and IV pamidronate. I just think it was all too late. Helen, her vet, said she had a nasty aggressive osteosarcoma, and it tore through my girl like wildfire. I've never had an animal with cancer before. I know now why so many people call it The Beast, although it seems Raven's cancer was among the most beastly. Despite that, it gives me some comfort knowing I did everything possible, and a few impossible things, too.
I definitely don't regret the amputation. Every day after I brought her home from the surgery was better than the day before. Every day she exceeded my expectations of her recovery. Stairs, hills, even chasing a jackrabbit - my girl had some golden weeks in this unexpectedly cool and foggy summer.
I just didn't know how short our post-amputation honeymoon would be.
I don't regret making Raven part of my life, either, despite the way it ended. I remember picking Raven out of her litter, a sleek black puppy in a sea of grey. I had just had a disappointment when a litter I bred turned out to be one male puppy, and I bought Raven originally expecting to breed her to my dog Doughal when she grew up. It wasn't to be, as she turned out to have severe allergies, and considering osteosarcoma is a genetic disease in Scottish Deerhounds, that was a blessing in disguise. I'd cut my own arm off before I knowingly produced puppies who might put their owners through what I've just gone through. But regret having her in my life? Not hardly.
Because I loved Raven like nothing else, with more fire than the one that burned through her, with more joy and hope and love every morning, when she opened up her eyes and looked at me.