THE VOICE OF A GOLDEN
By Chrissy K. McVay
When our golden retriever, Angel Michelle, was diagnosed with bone cancer in June of 2007 my family was devastated. She was only eight years old, and except for the slight swelling on her right knee, she looked and behaved normal.
Angel had always been a healthy dog, though a bit nervous about loud noises. From the time she was a puppy we were careful not to yell at one another because we might upset the dog, which proves pets help us become better people.
She's the only dog I've ever had who gives a toothy smile, puckers the skin between her eyes when she's fretful, and grumbles like a parakeet trying to talk. We swear some of those grumbles are identifiable as words. How could we cope with losing such a personality in the family?
While watching Angel sleep one morning, I suddenly realized that I've learned more about living life from my dog than any human could've taught me. She was in deep slumber when her legs started moving, and her tail gave a twitchy thump. I was certain Angel dreamed she was running down one of the many trails we'd taken her on before
her cancer days. Perhaps she was swimming in the lakes we now took her to so she could exercise without putting weight on the tumor. I saw a very happy, peaceful dog at that moment. All the memories we'd built with her were stockpiles of priceless gifts she could re-visit endlessly in her mind, despite her ailing body.
I realized we'd done things right with her, and our children, in taking the time out of our busy lives to build lots of wonderful memories. Those memories would be there for us, ready to draw upon after we too are at an age when physical disabilities might permanently limit our mobility.
Had a human told me this nugget of wisdom, I would've rolled my eyes and thought they read too many self-help books. Dogs are so much better at telling us what we really need to hear. And their timing is often at that perfect moment when we feel we cannot cope with tragedy.
I no longer cry over how Angel isn't expected to live past Christmas. She's reminded me over and over how wonderful her life has been, and that it's enough for her to just lay on my lap, enjoying quality time.
I'll never forget the day we had to increase Angel Michelle's pain medication, because she was having a "bad cancer day." She reached out and licked my chin, peering up at me with eyes that told me; "I know you're doing everything you can for me. And it's enough."
Chrissy K. McVay is the author of SOULS OF THE NORTH WIND, which is currently being considered by Cine LA as a feature film. Her story "Soul-Saver Horse" was published in ANGEL HORSES: Divine Messengers of Hope. She lives with her family in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her family and two golden retrievers, Sasha and Angel Michelle. Angel Michelle is currently doing very well and taking life one blissful day at a time.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:What happy memories are you making with your pets today?