Hey everybody! Henry here. Here’s something Martha wrote about my sister Dixie, who is very sick. Please keep in mind that I’m keeping an eye on both of them.
In December of 2005, I was introduced to three-month old puppy named Dixie. A friend who was working at a veterinary hospital witnessed some people dump this sweet little girl from a van onto the parking lot of a grocery store in North Hollywood. Her breed was a mystery, probably a blend. She resembled our dog Arty, in that she had short, light-brown fur, but her ears flopped down instead of standing straight up like his. Her wrinkly face suggested she had some Sharpei genes, and we guessed the rest was Shepherd/Lab.
When I asked if my tech friend was going to keep her, she said she couldn’t, but hoped to find her a home. At the time, I was recovering from the surgery that robbed me of my left lung, and the company of another dog seemed like the best treatment. My husband Don agreed, and we kept her.
Admittedly, I had a propensity to get manic and make impulsive decisions, particularly when it came to homeless animals. Out of respect for Don’s time and energy I made conscious efforts over the years to curb my compulsion to save every needy animal that crossed my path. On the several occasions that I absolutely could not control myself from rescuing injured turtles, starving quail or lost dogs, Don saw the light and let me keep my foundlings. His willingness surely came from his understanding that animals had a positive impact on my mental health.
Loving and feeding my animals showed me that I was capable of taking care of living beings. My mom encouraged me to apply that care to myself. Tending to my precious pets was instinctive, and I enjoyed every moment of it, but when it came to caring for myself there was a chasm. A therapist once asked how I would feel if I saw a person treating another person in the hateful way I treated myself. I’d never thought about it, but of course I would defend the person being mistreated.
Since the onset of my anorexia at age eleven, my ability to nourish myself has been poor, but having the opportunity to feed and love each of my pets taught me that I had the capacity to nurture. When Dixie came into our lives I had to work especially hard to care for myself because my body was so traumatized from the lung surgery. As I got stronger, I continued my self-care routine. But in the past few months I’ve been dismissing my need for food and rest because Dixie is dying.
Four years ago she was diagnosed with intestinal adenocarcinoma, and the vet said it was the kind of cancer that kills dogs within a year or two. Since then Dixie has had three major intestinal surgeries and has bounced back every time. Her prognosis was always bad, but she didn’t care, she had some living to do. Except for having frequent diarrhea and weight loss, she was her usual self, until the past couple of months. She has grown so thin, and as of two days ago, she doesn’t want to eat anything, except a few Greenies and tortilla chips. She still wants to walk outside to pee, and gets bright-eyed when she hears Don’s car in the driveway in the evening, but she is disappearing.
She doesn’t appear to be in any pain, and looks relatively peaceful, but she could pass away before the end of the day. My heart is heavy. I feel so helpless. I pray that Dog-God takes her in her sleep.
Dixie had provided 11+ years of motivation to hang in there, but there’s a catch to depending on a pet to give me purpose: when they die I want to go with them.