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Cancer marches on5

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I can’t add any new photos to my computer now since we’re traveling, so I’m finding lots of old great shots to post instead.  Here is Tshuvah in her prime, enjoying a winter mountain hike.  She doesn’t have much of an undercoat and would get so cold on the rides home after running like crazy all over the Taos mountains in the winter.  I would wrap her in a super soft fleece doggie coat in the car and then she would snuggle up to her extra-furry Squishy brother and sleep contentedly all the way home.

So cancer marches on.  As I’ve said before, we aren’t following the progression of Tshuvah’s hemangiosarcoma with ultrasounds or other films or tests…at least not while she’s symptom free.  But as of today I can count 5 skin lesions, like blood blisters.  Last month there was only one.  They grow pretty quickly from small, skin-colored bumps to blood-filled blisters.  Most are on the back of her neck near her ears but there is one on her hip and maybe one on the inside of her thigh.  They don’t appear to bother her, and thankfully none of them has opened and bled.  Bless her beautiful heart and soul.

My mother gave me a gift certificate to visit a woman who reads energy and tells what she feels it means in terms of what might happen in the future (I suppose what one might call a psychic).  I went to her yesterday and of course had Tshuvah in the car with me; this woman was kind enough to encourage me to bring Tshuvah into her office.  Her impression was that Tshuvah will live into early September, FWIW.  That would be a great blessing to me as it would enable me to drive home with Tshuvah next week, to have our own vets for help and our own home for comfort, and to bury Tshuvah next to our squishy Yesha in our yard.  But I am still more concerned about Tshuvah’s well-being than any of these things, and if she needs to go before we get home, I have told her many times that she should leave when she needs to and I will help her however I can.  No unnecessary suffering for my baby girl.

I haven’t mentioned that I am in a training program in Jewish Spiritual Direction (I’m a psychologist now).  In the training we talk a lot about the different levels of the soul as taught in traditional Jewish theology and in the Mussar tradition.  I feel much more clear on the fact that it is Tshuvah’s body that has cancer, not Tshuvah herself.  That it is Tshuvah’s body that will die, not the soul essence of Tshuvah.  This is enormously helpful to me;  I can more easily understand how to talk to her about letting her body go when it is time and can try to focus on the part of Tshuvah that will live on.

Even so, losing the body-Tshuvah will be awfully hard.  Dogs are so so in their bodies, aren’t they?  And how we experience them is so physical.  I remember that right before Yesha died, when I was given the opportunity to say my goodbyes, I told him through my wracking tears how much I was going to miss his squishy face, his curly eyelids, his velvet ears, the funny cowlick he had on the back of his neck all his life, his incredibly soft fur.  I took pictures on my phone of his feet, his face, every part of him.

I imagine it will be the same with Tshuvah.  I know I will miss her bat ears, her lovely kohl-black eyeliner, her extra long tail that wags in a circle like a propeller when she’s especially happy to see someone (“Proppy” was her first nickname because of the propeller-tail), her perfect compact athlete’s body, her white socks, and most of all her chirps, grunts, monkey sounds, nose pokes…everything about the physical girl that is so incredibly endearing and gives me so much joy and happiness every day.

I’ve never experienced my dogs after their death.  Neither Tzav nor Yesha have ever come to me in a dream, in a sensation of their soul being present, or in any of the other ways that I know other people have felt their loved ones after death.  I wish one of them would; maybe Tshuvah will.

I recommend Rita Reynolds book Blessing the Bridge, if you haven’t read it.  She is amazing; she has an animal sanctuary in Virginia and has helped countless animals of all kinds over the bridge.  I’m re-reading it now so I can be as present to Tshuvah and as helpful to her as possible.  I also recommend the book _Lifetimes_ for children, it is a beautiful treatment of the reality of life and death, extremely gentle.

Thank you all for your caring,  Beth

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  1.    Carmen (Catie's Mom) at August 19th, 2010 8:42 am:

    Beth, that was lovely. I don’t even know what to say except I too believe the essence of a soul never dies. Some of it is held in our hearts and captured in our memories long after the physical presence of our loved ones are gone; some of it just surrounds us.

    That is a glorious, gorgeous picture of Tshuveh.

    Thank you for sharing. All of it.


  2.    etgayle at August 19th, 2010 3:33 pm:

    beth, you are so blessed to see so much, tshuvah is very lucky to be your little girl. thanks for sharing your insight, i agree that the body may eventually fail, but the spirit is eternal. give tshuvah a big hug and keep enjoying the moments.

    charon & gayle

  3.    labradorim at August 20th, 2010 4:23 pm:

    Thanks for your comments. I’m glad to hear that others feel as I do about the body and the spirit. I am so grateful to you both for reading the blog and leaving your thoughtful comments! Beth

  4.    Carmen (Catie's Mom) at August 20th, 2010 5:29 pm:

    Sorry I spelled Tshuvah’s name incorrectly – darn keys.

    And I meant to say thank you for the head’s up on the books too.

  5.    Mackenzie's Mom at August 21st, 2010 8:48 am:

    What a beautiful photo of Tshuvah. I found your post most moving and inspiring. It is very comforting and peaceful to know that our pet’s body has the cancer, not her/his soul. So beautiful and so helpful.
    Thank you for the book recommendation too – I think I need to read this as I get further into my journey with Mackenzie. And what a journey it has been so far. Speaking of experiencing your dog after they die, my dog that passed away about 8 years ago – every so often Mackenzie will take on her same expressions and pose or look up at me the way my other dog did. That’s how I knew she was there – subtle as it was, but very comforting indeed.
    I hope you’re able to make your drive back with Tshuvah by your side. Keeping you and Tshuvah in our thoughts and prayers.


  1. Wiseman & Burke

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