“It wouldn’t hurt just to look,” I said to Ron.
It had been one month since Angie died. Ordinarily, we might have waited longer to look for another dog. But there was no “ordinarily” in our lives anymore.
Ron was reluctant. I persisted. In the evenings, when I turned away from the computer in my home office, no one waved a tail and invited me out for a walk. Patches might rub against my leg, but trying to put a harness on her and take her for a walk would have involved major loss of blood. Mine.
I needed a dog.
“I’ll just look at a few websites. And maybe if we see a dog that looks right for us, I could call. After all, it took a long time to find Angie.”
He agreed to look, but only to look. I understood his reluctance. Planting a tree or taking a dog into your life means you have no reason to believe you won’t see the tree grow tall or the dog grow old.
Ron’s surgery had gone well. The surgeon removed most of the tumor—he could not get it all without permanently damaging parts of the brain Ron needed to function. The pressure on Ron’s brain had eased with the tumor’s removal. He regained the ability to use the phone keypad and the TV remote, although his ability to do arithmetic had been destroyed. He could not subtract 19 from 24 or count backward by 7’s from 100, as medical people were always asking him to do . But he was feeling reasonably well. His body had not yet been subjected to the ravages of chemotherapy and radiation, and he was regaining some strength.
We knew better than to think he was cured and could go home and live happily ever after. More than half the patients over age 50 with Stage IV glioblastomas are dead within a year, even those lucky enough to have good neurological function after surgery. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopicsfactsheet/risk/brain-tumor-study. Ron was 64. He had a choice: refuse all treatment and live as best he could until the tumor killed him, or endure the standard treatment and when it failed, try to get into a center where, on the edge of medicine, experimenters tried to find something that worked better. He chose to fight, to take the chance that he would be among the minority not dead before the calendar rolled into another year.
Ron returned to seeing clients in his private social work practice. My daily life became reading, reading, reading about brain tumors, because the next mouse click, the next website, might bring us something that resembled hope. Our daughters searched, too: treatment options after conventional radiation and chemotherapy failed; nutrition’s role in cancer; herbs and minerals; research on glioblastomas; experiments that showed promise. We referred each other to websites and bought herbs that might help.
In late October, Greta was still living at the SPCA shelter in Gettysburg. She didn’t have a home of her own, but she was off the street, had regular meals and a warm, dry place to sleep.
The SPCA and the Humane Society of Carroll County, MD, which face each other across the Mason-Dixon Line, have an arrangement: when one shelter is overcrowded and the other has vacancies, they move animals. The SPCA shelter was crowded, so Greta and some other dogs and cats took a ride across the state line to the Carroll County shelter. There, someone took a photo of her and placed it on the society’s website.
I had been looking at websites and reading about breeds. So many of the dogs gazing back at me from the posted photos were aggressive breeds: pit bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers. Maybe it had seemed like a good idea to get a tough puppy, but then no one had time to train the dog and his aggressiveness became a problem. So they took him to the shelter and drove away.
Then there was Greta, with golden brown eyes in a furry red face. She was looking straight at the camera, and if a dog can look hopeful, she did. In reading about various breeds, I’d found a description of Labrador retrievers as lovable and goofy. We had a serious shortage of goofiness. Greta might be able to help with that.
I reached for the phone. Yes, the shelter staff said, she was still available for adoption. Yes, we could see her the following day.
We met Greta in one of the dog meeting rooms. She was polite, but reserved. She responded to being stroked, but she wasn’t going to give us the tail-thumping, leaping, tongue-lolling “take me” hard sell.
“I think this is our dog,” I said.
“Do you think we can handle a dog this big?” Ron asked.
“We’ll handle her.”