PictureAugust, 2014
As I walk with my Golden Retriever Bentley every morning and evening, I find myself walking through falling leaves surprised and grateful that autumn has arrived. This was a tough summer for me and for Bentley who was diagnosed with lymphoma in June. Most of the summer was spent trying to deal with diagnosis and treatment to say nothing of emotions shocked as I was to know this ever healthy dog had lymphoma. Everything I tried that might help him seemed to end up failing, leaving him feeling miserable and leaving me frightened and

...helpless.

Finally we are on top of it and Bentley is, for now, stable with a couple more blood tests coming up to hopefully rule out two more possible sources for the symptoms we wrestled with during these many months.

I do not like feeling helpless. It reminds me of too many times in my life when I actually was helpless. I could not stop my parents or closest girlfriends from dying. In 2010, I could not stop Bill from dying. Now I can't stop Bentley from dying. But figuring out the right medications to minimize his symptoms would be a giant step forward. Seeing Bill suffer and thrash (a symptom of one of the 3 forms of dementia we believe he had) was...well...a living hell. I could do little to nothing to help him be peaceful and I was wearing down trying to juggle everything including his care.
This summer those same feelings of helplessness crept back into my life with Bentley's health issues. I was not looking for a cure, I was seeking a plan that would keep Bentley feeling as well as he possibly could while simultaneously avoiding unnecessary tests that were stressful, painful and which would, in the end, not help him at all.

It took me a while to determine that a good part of my pain was being unable to help him feel better. That was causing me as much pain as his diagnosis and the anticipation of his death. Losing Bentley on the heels of losing Bill...the two most important beings in my life, was just about more than I could bear.

But I knew there was a missing piece and finally, I realized it was that too familiar feeling of helplessness that was tormenting me. For a long while, no one could figure out what was wrong. Then finally with the help of people at Colorado State University where research on Goldens and cancer is a priority, we knew he had a rare and newly identified form of lymphoma. Luckily it is also a slow growing form.
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Top: Bill with Bentley about 2 weeks. Bottom: About 4 months
I think most, if not all of us want to feel we are in control of our lives. But over the years I have come to know there is no such thing as control. It is a myth. But we can be in charge of our lives by identifying the source of our pain or anxiety and then creating a plan. The plan includes having support. Doing all this leads us to a sense of empowerment. It may not save Bentley's life. That is impossible but it provides the tools to keep him comfortable and allow the two of us to enjoy the moments or months that we have left.
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Bentley's brother, Chaz, pays a visit (ages 3) Which one is which? Only a mom knows.
Of course, I will grieve when Bentley dies. I am already experiencing anticipatory grief. The pain I will feel when he dies will be gut wrenching. Bentley has walked with Bill and with me through the best and most joyful as well as the most difficult days of our lives.

Since Bill died (and even before) I have cried into his fur and hugged him when sadness engulfs me. He is ever present and ever patient and looks right into my soul as if to know my every thought and feeling. I only pray his death will be peaceful and pain free, and that I am with him when it happens. I pray I do not have to make the decision to take life from him but I will not let him suffer one minute longer than necessary on my account.
In the meantime, unlike many canine lymphomas, this newly identified and rare form of is indolent (slow growing) and we could have many months together. What a gift as long as he is comfortable and happy.

He is my buddy, my family, my constant companion and he cannot be replaced by another dog just as Bill can't be replaced by anyone else. Bentley is Bentley. You, pet lovers, know what it is to share life with a pet and to lose a pet.
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Bentley loves relaxing in the snow (age 5)
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With his friend, Gigi. "Let us in!"
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First grooming (age 1) with Bill
In the meantime, he and I are enjoying our daily walks-morning and evening and as the days cool, a mid-day walk. We are enjoying sitting together often and just being peaceful or playing together when his energy allows. he can still get up on the bed and into the car though not with the agility he once had.

I do not believe he feels helpless at all.
He lives in the present moment.
A lesson for us.

He is a presence in my therapy office soothing those with whom I work and approaching them when their tears flow.

Bentley is and has been a healer, a teacher, a comfort, and a source of laughter.

Reflections:

When do you feel helpless?

What do you do?

Have you ever lost or anticipated the loss of a pet?

How do you feel about that loss today- right now?
 


Comments

09/01/2014 1:14pm

Indeed I have known love and loss like this, dear Mary. You'll never know how many animal lovers you've helped by sharing your story with all of us. This is a priceless gift, and I thank you. (I know you feel blessed to have Bentley in your life, but he in turn is blessed to have such a wise and loving mom.) ♥

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
09/01/2014 7:16pm

Thank you, Marty. One of the greatest sources of comfort as we deal with great losses is sharing with someone who also knows loss and does not try to run from it. I hope my sharing helps someone out there in their loss, be it human or furry.

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09/01/2014 10:32pm

I agree about control, Mary. There is a recent cultural myth that we're in control, but it's not true when the body goes or when nature acts up. I think of you and Bentley often. Yes, you help so many animal lovers. Tomorrow I'll share this piece in my local Pet Loss Support group. You help me remember how fleeting my time is with Willow. I only growled a little when the brat picked a cucumber for herself and ate the whole thing. I caught her as she dug into the second. Labs know how to scavenge.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
09/02/2014 5:14pm

Yes, I think we live in a "control freak" society....Aiming to take measures to be in charge as much as we can of our health, etc. is about as much as we can do. I am glad you growled just a little bit at Willow when she ate a cucumber....I doubt Bentley would do that as he is not much for veggies. Now if you put a steak in his reach and left him alone...well it would disappear rather quickly.

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05/02/2016 4:16am

If we want to say about the helpless activity so it means that the person can share many ideas as well. It will be provable for every one. Which means that the person is going fast in to the latest technology as well.

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