Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ishmael Pequod, 2003-2013

I just had the worst day of my entire life.  I had to face reality, which I'm not very good at, and call the at-home vet to come and put my beloved Ishmael to sleep.  Her panting and wheezing meant that the tennis ball-sized jaw tumors were leaking the lymphoma into her lungs and it was heart-wrenching to listen to and see.  The tumors in her abdomen were like small melons, as were the ones on the backs of her knees.

Lymphoma affects dogs differently than people.  You could do chemo--which I totally would have done if she was 5 instead of 10--but it only buys them another year of remission. The 2nd remission is even shorter.  They don't get as ill as humans do, though, from the chemo.  Last year my younger sister went through breast cancer chemo/surgery/radiation and is still suffering from reconstruction complications.  Dogs don't lose hair or vomit--but then again, their lymphoma has a 100% fatality rate.  You're just staving off the inevitable if you choose chemo.

Ishmael was the love of my life.  I have no children so I think I had more time and love for her.  You know how everyone says their dog is the best?  Well, Ishmael WAS.  She never once rifled through the garbage can, picked up anything that didn't belong to her, or drank from the toilet.  We could leave cheese (CHEESE!) out on the coffee table overnight and she wouldn't even touch it.  I could never figure out how she got to be such a Good Girl.   My first Newfoundland, a black named Monstro, was pretty bad, actually.  She never learned how to walk on a leash and believe you me, those critters can rip your arm from the socket if they want to.  She would make the Big Escape at the drop of a hat.  I remember once in a duck preserve she got off leash.  She's out there splashing around having the time of her life and these two bird-watching ladies glared at me.  "Who would let their dog off leash in a duck preserve!"  There I was, screaming and crying, and those biddies thought I did it on purpose?

Anyway, Ishmael never made the Big Escape.  When she was very young a vet told me that one biscuit equals one Snickers bar for dogs, so I trained her to like radishes instead.  Or a wedge of raw cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower.  I used to take her to my EDJ and once I ran out of cabbage so I gave her a hunk of lettuce.  She was fooled, but during the commute home she leaned over and politely vomited into my purse. No lettuce for her.  For 10 years she's been my chef's assistant, lying in the most inconvenient spot on the kitchen floor to eat any of the vegetables I toss to her.  Strange, she wouldn't touch raw hamburger. Maybe she was vegetarian.

She loved wearing costumes.  This lobster was an XXL and it still looks like a little cape on her.  She never ate a single plant--oh right, once when she was young, she ripped up some green tomatoes I didn't fence in.  I just laughed and made Green Tomato Chutney and put a label on it: "Karen and Ishmael Mercury."

I can't describe how empty it feels without her.  I work at home now and every time I turn around there's a giant nothing where her bed, doghouse, biscuit jar used to be.  Everyone, run over and hug your dog now.  There was a study done that dog owners live about 5 years longer than non-dog owners.  It's from the endorphin rush you get when you hug your dog.