Gertrude. Guinevere. Minerva. Beatrice. Eve.
The systematic process of deciding upon a name for the new female Great Dane puppy that would be joining our family took several days. There was one criteria of which Kyle was confident: it must be an old-fashioned woman’s name. The final effort involved several long lists culled from online databases and note-taking on scraps of legal pad. Kyle decided upon Eve because it met the original requirement while possessing a bit of modern zeal.
Though not planned at the time, we have occasionally expanded it to “Evelyn!” –usually when she tested our patience.
Eve came to us from a breeder in Alabama. She joined Link, a puppy two weeks her elder who had only recently been picked up from Kentucky. The pair came at an interesting moment; Kyle and I were moving in together after two years of dating. Moving from a 400 square foot one-room white prison to a 3-bedroom sunlight-filled unit with a partner and two puppies was nothing short of revolutionary. My shift from permanent student to adult was crystallizing. In many ways I could envision dating events in my life as either before the dogs or after.
Perhaps due to the fact that I know I will likely never have biological children (or be able to legally adopt), part of me thought that the dogs represented the most encompassing care-taking responsibility with which I’d ever be tasked. The dogs became a centerpiece of my life. Virtually all decisions included consideration of the Link and Eve factor. What color covers to get for couches? Black and tan to match the pups. Which coffee shop to go to? The Starbucks on the corner so we can sit outside with the pups. What to do tonight? Stay in, because I don’t want to leave the pups alone that long.
They went with us everywhere allowable, and our destinations were usually decided based on whether they could come.
We were a four-person family.
This week was set to mark an important date in puppydom: yesterday, March 18th, was Link’s first birthday. Per usual we expected to use the occasion to slather added praise, hugs, and kisses, and buy unnecessarily more dog toys. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we manufactured a picture involving the one-year old pup in a birthday hat, perhaps including cake.
Unfortunately, that did not happen. Instead of puppy-induced laughter, yesterday was filled with puppy-based sadness. The internal medicine specialist at the Chicago Emergency Veterinary Clinic called to explain the biopsy results from two days prior:
Eve has bladder cancer.
The call was the culmination of three weeks of vet visits where we were given various maladies as the “likely” cause of Eve’s urinary problems: an infection; a more serious infection needing stronger antibiotics; bladder stones; a fungus; then, cancer. More information needs to be culled before an accurate prognosis can be made. The initial comments on the subject are not encouraging. With the typical surgery + chemo routine we can roughly expect Eve to live an additional 9 to 12 months from today. There is a new non-invasive surgical option that could extend that time, but we won’t know anything concrete until talking with more experts in the coming week.
From this point forward our task is reasonably clear: do all in our power to help the gal medically while doing all in our power to enjoy the moments we have left as a foursome. The medical part is easy: we will do what the doctors tell us as much as finances and her standard of living allow. Harder, I worry, will be savoring our remaining time while allowing minimal sadness to seep in.
Today we spent several sunny hours in a nature preserve playing fetch, walking the trails, wading in the river, and even barking as two deer crossed our path. The hidden invaders current affect on Eve’s body is somewhat minimal–she remains perfectly capable of running at a full sprint after Link, eating favorite snacks with gusto, giving full-face licks, snuggling intensely, and doing all things that make her immensely lovable.
Eve is blissfully unaware that life ends at all–let alone that nature decided her life will be particularly short. The burden of knowing falls on us. I don’t want the knowledge to affect all the happy moments we still have left, but my mind is already falling for the trap.
Two weeks from now, April 1st, will be Eve’s first birthday. This “first” for Eve may also be a “last.” Many of the new things that we do from this point on will be both a first and a last.
I worry about Link. He has not been away from Eve for more than 2 hours at any time in his entire life. What will he do alone?
Damn depressing thoughts.
It is all too new to have any real pronouncements about the “lessons” that can be taken from this sad news. There will be a time for that. Right now the task is entirely centered on maximizing happy moments without dwelling on the future. We will do our best.