Sometimes we don’t win. Sometimes no matter how great the want, how vast the ache, we just don’t win. These times are gut wrenching, heart churning and these are not the stories I like to share. But sometimes we don’t win. The times when we don’t win tell as much about who we are as the times we do. Maybe even more.
There was a current of tension in the air last Saturday night as we stood in the driveway awaiting the arrival of our newest “kids”. Liza has called ahead to let us know one of them was in trouble, needed help. Our big, beautiful boy Brock had an open mass on one of his legs. There was a lot of blood, a lot of open tissue, it did not look good. Our vet was on standby and Shawn and Andy were ready to whisk him off to the emergency hospital. I only saw him for a moment. I saw his white fur red with blood. I saw the softball sized mass. Then I saw his luminescent face, his eyes that spoke of pain. He was bashful,captivating, gentle, but there was an aura of sadness and exhaustion surrounding him. Quickly he was gone as we hurried in our attempt to find him help and relief.
It would prove to be a race that was finished before we even got started. Between then and now we learned that Brock had an aggressive and vascular form of cancer. The tumor invaded far into his body. He was already weak, thin, this was a battle he’d been fighting for some time. Through it all Brock remained tender-hearted, gentle, stoic and sweet. He seemed grateful for the love and care bestowed upon him.
His foster parents, Susanne and Chad, had returned early from an out of town trip when they learned Brock was in a bad way. The emergency vet was not able to do much that first night but give him some medication to ease his pain. Shawn and Andy delivered him to Susanne and Chad. The four of them did all they could to comfort him and surround him with love. His foster mom slept next to him on the couch.
They spent all Sunday tending to Brock, stroking his head, telling him he was a good boy and he was loved. They cooked for him, fed him chicken, salmon and other savory treats.
On Monday Mary Kay gave up her day and changed her plans to pick Brock up bright and early and get him to first one doctor and then another. Finally Brock went home and we waited for test results and information. While I took the call, Susanne, Chad, Shawn, Mary Kay and our fabulous photographer Jen gathered around Brock. They spent the evening showering him with affection, ear scratches, kindness, love…pure love.
The news was not good. It was clear we only had one choice to stay true to our core belief that the well-being of the animal must always come first. We could not allow Brock to continue suffering. Without the possibility of any truly good outcome asking anything more of him would have been selfish. That night would be his last.
So today, just after noon, in the comfort of his foster home and surrounded by people that loved him, Brock’s spirit was released. Just sixty four hours after we met him, we let him go. The cancer will feast on his body no more. Run free and rest easy sweet boy. How we wish we would have met you sooner.
As I said at the beginning, it is the times we don’t win that often define us more than the time than we do. So here it is – we did not expect this. We were not prepared for this. Before his arrival we had no idea Brock had any injury at all. Yet, as soon as we knew, these amazing people all rallied to the side of this dog we’d only known in a photograph. His foster parents cut their trip short. Shawn, Andy and Mary Kay changed their plans to focus on Brock and make him the number one priority. Jen went to take these beautiful photos for which I am so grateful. Not once did they complain, not a word of upset. There was only concern for Brock and an intense desire to make his world as good as it could possibly be in this moment.
These truly amazing people, heroes in street clothes, angels without wings, gave themselves 110% to Brock. They loved him unconditionally and with their whole hearts. They loved him knowing fully it was a collision course for heartache. All I heard from any of them is, “we are so glad he came”, “we are glad we got to meet him, to know him, to share this time with him.” Sixty four hours. When all that could be done was to ease his suffering, make sure that he knew and felt love and whisper, “you are a good boy”, this is what these folks did. Then they told me how grateful they were to have the honor of providing him his last days of comfort and spending his last moments just loving him. This is who our family is. Yes, Mary Kay, WE have a good family. We really do. Wishing solace to you tonight.