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Gus: One day at a time


This is such an emotional roller coaster. Yesterday and so far today Gus has been pretty much normal. No yelps of pain, not even whimpering (knock wood). Either the pain has gone away or, more likely, his powerful pain med is working. He’s been his usual bouncy excited self, especially when he realizes we’re going out. That tail gets going, and there’s a mad dash for the door. He’s alert and inquisitive, checks out all the other dogs, does his sniffy-sniffy, and then, once we’re back home, he loves to have his belly rubbed and his ears nuzzled. When I went to take a nap yesterday afternoon and he joined me, we stared into each other’s eyes. And then this morning, as usual, we awoke slowly together and he licked my hands, arms and face for fifteen minutes.

And his appetite! With the new illness, his vet assumed he wasn’t eating, but I had to correct her. Mais non! He’s as hungry as ever. Mid-morning yesterday, even after a good breakfast, he was looking at me with that “More food, daddy” pathetic look. So I did something I never did before: I gave him brunch! “From the three-Michelin starred Doggie Diner, Gus, gourmet food, delivered by Door Dash!” I told him. (Any pet owner will understand this silly talk.) If these are his final days, why not give him what he wants?

Even the nodule on his snout seems to have gone down. Or is that just a figment of my imagination? In my old age I see how subjectively I view the world, even to the extent of seeing things that aren’t there, or not seeing things that are. Maybe the nodule (the external evidence of the tumor) is actually getting bigger. I don’t know. Which is what I mean by the emotional roller coaster. After the last two days of more or less complete normalcy, I’m grasping onto every hope I can find. A miracle will occur! The vet is wrong! The tumor is going away by itself! It was only a gum infection! (Is this bargaining a la Kubler-Ross?) And then, I remember how quickly that damned lump appeared on his snout, his yelps of pain, his helplessness, my helplessness, the vet’s diagnosis, the bleeding, the agony of seeing Gus suffer—and I’m overwhelmed with despair, and realize this is only a mirage, a temporary respite. There has been no miracle; there will be no miracle.

Still, the results from the biopsy aren’t due back until next week, so until I know the worst, I can hope. It’s hard living in this uncertainty, but at my age, I suppose, you get used to it. I made two appointments for him, one with an oncologist, the other with a surgeon, on the advice of the vet; she said it might be very hard to get timely appointments, what with the unprecedented vet backup since the pandemic when everyone is adopting pets, so it was best to get in the queue ASAP. As it turned out, they can see Gus next Thursday. One day at a time, Steven, one day at a time.

A Facebook friend—hell, an actual friend from my wine days, the talented winemaker Bill Dyer—sent me via Facebook a quote: Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. I leave you with that.

  1. Thanks for keeping us up with Gus. His little rebound gives him lots more opportunity to love his life! Couldn’t agree more with the quote Bill Dyer sent.

  2. So glad he is better! Wonderful update.

  3. Thanks. Taking it day by day, hoping for a miracle.

  4. Dear Steve,

    I’ve been wanting to comment, but have been so distracted, too. In a few moments, we’re headed to the vet to say goodbye to Buddie. He was born in the spring of 2003, has had a long life for a cat, I’d say; but, his age has taken over. I know your pain and have been feeling it along with you. I’m so sorry for what you have to endure at the end of Gus’s much-loved life with you. I know how much you love him, he’s your (pretty much entire) world. My heart aches for you. Thanks for letting me give Gus tiny treats. I love him so much, too. I’m right there with you, every step of the way. All my love in this very difficult time. — jo

  5. Oh, Jo, Buddie was such a presence in your home! My deepest sympathies. Thank you so much for your words of love and concern. Gus is hanging in there. We’re waiting for the results of the biopsy next week. Be well.

  6. Buddy is resting in peace. His little body is now in our garden, his memory will live on, his pain and final suffering is over. It was a very hard decision, but it was our final gift to his body. I believe in energy and his returned to the ethos, joining my other nine animals. We have a baby grand in the house now. Yesterday, before we took him to the vet, he jumped up onto the piano bench. (His final leap of faith.) He had never climbed there, but there he was. He loved my playing and even sang along (meowing). I believe it was a sign of his permission. In the car, while he was meowing (hated car rides), I began to hum “Melody” be Schumann that I’ve been working on. He was against my chest, so he was feeling the vibrations. He became very calm. I’m so fortunate to have Jose, he was our driver. Buddy’s exit was painless and calm. I will miss his body, but never his spirit. It’s the spirit that lives on and comforts us.

    At some point in Gus’s energy, when he no longer needs his body, and it has to return to the energy source, we’ll come to get you for a visit with us, during your grief. You can play the piano again, to relieve your stress, too. We can all celebrate how much we all love Gus, and all of the pets that have comforted us in our lives. Their presence must return to the ethos, but their memories never do. If there’s anything else you need, don’t hesitate to let us know.

  7. Oh, Jo, you have a way of making me cry! I had to have my cat, Mr. P., put down many years ago. He’d gotten very, very ill in old age (past 20) and could no longer even jump up in my lap when I watched TV at night in my recliner. I’d have to pick him up and of course he loved being in my lap. Then that final day at the vet, before she gave him the injection, the three of us sat in a little examining room while Mr. P. took his final walk, sniffing the walls, etc. Then he looked up at me (I was sitting in a chair) and, just like that, he jumped up in my lap! He hadn’t been able to do that for months. It was just like Buddy’s “final leap of faith.” OMG, the vet and I were both crying. That is a gift our animals give us. They “know.” They feel the love and they want to give that departing dedication. I know that Gus’s spirit will be with me as long as I live!

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