Update on Captain, my 12yo canine son

We visited the oncologist on Friday.  She did xray and ultrasound imaging.

I'd written previously that one shouldn't read medical stuff on the internet, as it can upset you.  Badly.

She told me that it has spread too far, too quickly.  Its on his liver, in his lungs (and he is coughing), in his kidneys ... everywhere they looked.  I can't imagine how they find the strength to tell the parents that their baby will not survive much longer.  I know that hearing this was surreal, and it pretty much nuked the rest of my Friday, as all I could think of was my boy.  And how to make the time that remains for him, more comfortable, happy, etc.

I took my sensei's advice and took him to McDonald's for a plain hamburger and cheeseburger.  Bella the girl dog shared them with him.  They loved the treats.

Today, I woke up, more ready to process and plan.  We know he has, at the outside, 2 months left.  So end of September is the best possible case.  The problem is that we can see the decline day by day.  I'm not sure he'll make mid August, but we're going to try.  Not to force him onward, but to remove pain, give him love and affection, and help him live with dignity.

He was born on the mean streets of Detroit.  He was abused as a pup, by a cruel man.   We were introduced by the good folks at Chained, a Detroit based organization that tries to make dogs lives better.  Not a rescue, though sometimes they get surrenders.  Captain, and his sister, were surrendered to them.  He fostered at the Chained founder's home, and my sensei introduced us.

We fell in love right away.  He was nervous, but being around the other dogs made him more relaxed.  He seemed to take a liking to me.  And absolutely adored my wife and daughter.  To this day, they are his favorites.  They are his, and generally he tolerates me.  Unless he is scared or nervous, then he comes to me first, and I comfort him.

Our first day in the house, he was exploring, and he ran upstairs.  And couldn't get down.  So I went upstairs, talked gently to him. Couldn't convince him to walk slowly, so I picked him up ... a 10 month old wiggling dog who didn't know much about being picked up ... and brought him down stairs.  We then trained him how to climb down stairs.  Starting 2 steps up, and then down.  He was a quick learner, especially with food treats!

His journey hasn't ended yet.  It will soon, but its not over till the fat dog howls.  Until he tells us its time ... by his actions ... we will love on him, hug him, give him treats, treat him like the prince he is.

Maybe this was a mistake, but we binge watched all of "The Good Place" over the last few days.  Imagine, wrapping lessons on moral philosophy in a comedy ... well ... it worked!  And we finished it this evening.  The last episode, with people leaving, wasn't hard to watch.  They came to the point where they realized that they were ready.

Captain doesn't have words to use with us.  Just his actions.  He's still relatively happy.  When he drinks water, he coughs.  This is new in the last week.  He's coughed before, but we see it getting worse.  He still loves belly rubs, scratches, treats, and attention.  He can't play with his mushroom (put food inside, roll it around and some comes out) any more.  That's big.  And a big change.  He was playing with it up to the day before his surgery.  He's played with it one or two times since.  But this was one of his favorite things.

Its when the list of things he can do and experience without pain and discomfort whittles down to nothing that we'll know.

We love him so much, and it hurts to lose him.  More-so as we have an idea of what's coming and when its coming.  We have him on pain medication now, and the oncologist has offered any help with need with the palliative care.  We don't want him to suffer.  And we won't let him.

Doing that, is one of the hardest things one can imagine.  And its in his and our near future.  

Life is finite.  I know this.  I understand it.  It makes me sad to think I will not  see the year 2100 myself.  2070 would be a significant stretch.  I've got a goal of 2063-ish for Halley's comet return.

That Captain's life is short by comparison with humans has always felt unfair.  Dogs typically live around 10 years +/- some.  He is 12, so by that measure, he's lived a bit longer than dogs comparable to him in size (medium/large, about 77 lbs / 34.8 kg).  And for that, we should be happy, as the 'extra' time is a gift.  One we will always treasure.

We've had (far too much) experiences with cancer in our family and friends.  Far too much.  Cancer hits dogs rather hard, and since they (generally) cannot express what they are feeling in detail, we don't really know what it does to them outside the progression of the disease process.  

We are sensitive to Captain's pains, his moods, his wants.  He 'talks' to us, communicating quite clearly when he wants to go out, when he's hungry, when he wants water, when he is scared.  But he can't speak, can't communicate what he is experiencing at any particular moment, with specificity.

But, as noted, we will simply love him, hold him, talk to him, rub him, play with him when he feels like it ... this has dropped off in the last 3 weeks ... .  Give him treats, take him for walks ... though again, he's not willing/able to go on walks beyond a few hundred meters.  We see the decline, and the rapidity of it.

While we are sad, we are also happy that we have been on his journey with him.  He's been a wonderful, quirky, funny, loving companion.  Someone who listened to me talk about work problems while walking.  Who howled with me at passing fire engines.  Who discovered he really liked playing tug of war with me, after watching Bella the girl dog play that with me.

As I tell him often, Captain is the best boy doggo in the entire world.  And he's my favorite boy doggo in the world.  Bella the girl dog is my favorite girl doggo in the world.

She knows there is something playing out its final moves.  She is sad, needing some additional attention and loving.  She's quietly checking in on Captain, rather than trying to get his goat as she used to do ... sleeping in his bed when he wanted it, taking over the couch when he wanted it.  He can't really get up on the couch anymore.  A change from a few weeks ago.

This is hard on everyone.  We are being positive, effusive in our love of Captain (and Bella the girl dog). Spoiling him ... well ... we did that before, but more so now.

His final chapter is being written, his novella is almost done.  But we still have time to write of wonderful times and happy stories, even if they aren't the same as the ones we had in the (recent) past.  

There will be an epilogue as well, written by me (his human dad).  I've not written that yet.  I have too much celebration of my favorite boy doggo to do before I consider this.

To be continued ...

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