Farewell, My Sweet Girl

DeeDee at Funston

We met her about ten years ago during an icy rainstorm in California’s Sierra. Visiting the Tuolumne County Humane Society had been pitched to me by my kids as a healthy alternative to sitting inside our dark cabin for the 3rd straight day. I was encouraged, both by their initiative (They found a listing for the shelter themselves and unprompted while reading the local newspaper.) and their interest in looking at dogs (We’d lost our beloved Buck a couple of years before and none of us showed any real interest in finding a new pet after that heartbreak.).

There were lots of dogs available for adoption when we walked back into the drafty, bunker-like, concrete room, each in their own chain-link enclosure. Most seemed to clearly understand what it meant when people, that is to say strangers, walked in, so the noise and activity level rose accordingly. Some dogs barked and jumped, many ran up to their kennel gates, tails wagging.

On the other hand, there was DeeDee, even then marching to her own beat. She moved to the front of her enclosure – I don’t remember any deliberate speed or particular noise about it – and sat at her gate.  She didn’t bark or whine. She simply leaned against the fencing and looked up at us with her big brown eyes.

That, as they say, was that. Within the hour, we were talking about the particularities of adoption with the center staff.

They told us she’d not been treated well. She’d been mostly, almost entirely, chained outside. She’d not been part of family life. She’d been hit, abused, cursed, yelled at, intimidated. She would be, we were told, a challenging pet: a good family dog, eventually, with the right family.

We took a walk outside. She seemed to like us well enough. Our kids adored her immediately. So, we took our risks, signed the papers and loaded her in our van. Thus began our journey together.

The quirks and issues surfaced more or less immediately. Since she wasn’t used to an indoor life, she urinated more or less wherever she pleased. While she chewed shoes, gloves and other handy pieces of clothing, she hadn’t the slightest idea what to do with an honest-to-God dog toy. She loathed water; she wouldn’t easily allow herself to be bathed and wouldn’t swim. Also, she barked and growled fiercely at men, especially men with facial hair. And the UPS delivery people were apparently objects of special hatred not visited upon the USPS, FedEX or representatives of other delivery enterprises.

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Why? Was it the brown uniforms? We hadn’t the foggiest notion.

Eventually, we guided her away from those unpleasant habits we could change and mostly tolerated those we couldn’t. DeeDee became our sort of in-house, daily, canine reminder of the AA prayer.

The longer we were together, of course, the more her loving and playful side came out. She loved chasing balls – could do it all day on the right day with the right partner(s). She loved walking together on the bluffs above the mighty Pacific, at Fort Funston. She loved playing in the snow. When in the right mood and with the right person, she loved being hugged and whispered to. She loved laying by the fire at our mountain cabin after a day in the great outdoors.  She would lay down with each family member in turn every night as they went to bed – Giggy first, then Ella, then Erika and I, where she would generally make herself comfortable on our bed for the duration.

And yes, she was a terrible bed hog, couch hog, chair hog.

It was only a few months ago that DeeDee’s cancer was diagnosed, so her period of visible suffering was brief; in that I can take some measure of solace. Since her early life was marked by pain, emotional and otherwise, I thought it completely unfair that she should suffer at the end of her life as well but no one assures us that life follows our particular conception of fairness. What I can say is that DeeDee spent her final day on this earth in the company of people who honestly loved her, will miss her and will keep her memory as long as they live.

We hope you rest in peace, dear friend.

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A couple of endnotes:

  • Colorado State University runs a leading center for research on animal cancer. The results are promising not only for pets but also people. When our dog Buck died, also of cancer, we contributed to support the center’s work. You can learn more here: http://www.csuanimalcancercenter.org/
  • DeeDee passed in the care of Dr. Elyse Hammer of VCA Veterinary Specialists in San Francisco. Dr. Hammer was extraordinarily humane and gentle with DeeDee (and the family) and we thank her most sincerely along with the rest of the VCA staff.

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Weed for Granny

For those fighting cancer, let alone other diseases for the moment, here are some of the documented potential benefits of medical marijuana: reduction of nausea related to treatment (especially chemotherapy); slowing of tumor growth in the lungs, breasts and brain; alleviation of anxiety; reduction of pain, especially in the abdomen; increased appetite; alleviation of muscle pain and spasms.

Now think of the numerous other diseases and chronic conditions for which medical marijuana could potentially be useful: glaucoma, arthritis, migraine headaches, effects of Alzheimer’s, ADD & ADHD, conditions which cause seizures, multiple sclerosis.

Are there negatives to the use of marijuana? Of course, as there are with the use of any drug. These can be dealt with, exactly as they are with every other drug.

Given that, will someone, please, answer these questions for me:

  • Why is medical marijuana such an issue for some?
  • Why isn’t it as readily available as, say, my blood pressure medicine?
  • Why does our government treat medical marijuana dispensaries like streetcorner drug dealers (e.g., armed raids, etc.)?

A personal disclosure here: my dad died after fighting cancer for almost three years. It was a hard fight he fought bravely, but over the course of which, make no mistake, he suffered. Watching him go through the precipitous weight loss, the lack of appetite and the pain was itself horrible. Every so often, I would offer to get my dad marijuana but he wouldn’t hear of it, because marijuana was illegal. My dad suffered because he was the type of person, like many of his generation, who preferred suffering to breaking the law. And it kills me to this day that he suffered so needlessly.

We need to remove legal barriers; we have the means to alleviate suffering and it is downright immoral that we aren’t using it.