Dying for love – the human-to-animal connection

As I was pondering whether or not to spring for a new iphone 5 (Rog already said no. I have two more years on my existing plan, but one can dare to dream), cousin Nance’s voice rang in my ears.

“I know it’s been a hard three weeks when you don’t blog for nearly a month.”

She had to call you see, to find out. That’s the downside of blogging. Once relatives and friends realize the forum is the outlet for all things crazy in my life, phone calls become obsolete. Worse, when those very people start blogging themselves about their own lives, the actual act of communication is unecessary.

But that’s not what’s on my mind. I’m thinking about my dog and cancer and the notion of “cancer transference.” Ever heard of that? It’s the notion that the animal takes (absorbs) the illness for the owner. The vets in my life swear by this phenomena. “It’s not an American philosophy,” says one very well traveled vet, who is called all over the world to speak at events on mainstream topics. “But we see it all the time.”

An owner gets a tumor. The dog develops a tumor, and while the dogs tumor grows, the owners tumor diminishes and then leaves. The dogs has grown, and dies. This actually happened to a close friend of mine. She’s a native American woman, and has seen it her whole life.

“They are there in spirit for us,” she says, invoking the world view through the eyes of one who sees all living creatures as connected, intertwined spirits. Trees grow to provide shelter (our homes), warmth (wood), nurishment (the ground) and protection (from wind). Animals are created to give us food, transportation (horses/camels etc are still used around the world). Her rhetorical question to me is: if an animal is loved and loves in return, would they not give their very life for us, so that we may live, just as we give our kidney and sometimes, our lives protecting another?

Not to make this about me (but that does tend to happen in a personal blog), my dog has gotten cancer over the years as I have. Then, when mine left, (about 9 years ago), my dog started developing these fast-growing mass-cells. Each one gnarly, red spots that spread so deep and wide that they must be excised as soon as possible. She’s had 5. I’ve had none. Periodically, the tissue on either side of my armpits hurt, and then…she gets a mass cell.

Now, today, my dog is not doing well. In the last two weeks, her stomach has expanded. She’s lost her appetite. She’s listless. Her zeal for life is gone. Her eyes convey an emptyness that breaks my heart. For the first time in six years, she urinated on the carpet downstairs. It was dark yellow, evidence of her disinterest in even getting up from the couch to drink water.

To say I’m worried is stupid. I’m grieved that somehow I could be different, could express my emotions in such a way that didn’t cause me to internalize it all, ball up my own cells and poof, create a mass cell that my dog is taking from me. (To admit the truth, my swami homeopath told my sister years ago that my dogs was going to die for me. That sucked). My native american friend Susan (not her Indian name. I have to check if I can share that with the world), tells me it is natures way, and this is her role in life. As nice as that sounds, its like I’m giving her a death sentence and can’t stop it. We are walking the plank together, but I can to remain on deck while she hurls herself off.

This week, I have to bite the bullet and take her in the above referenced vet. We’ve got to know. Until then, I’m trying to push and pull out my anxiety and my bad energy, replacing it with good. Yet I suspect its futile. Her labored groaning is what lulls me to sleep, sadly comforted by the fact she’s loving me to the end, and that love will most likely kill her.