Last Tuesday, the second day of Spring, Keegan and I were walking Buddy when we noticed how lethargic he was. Buddy crept at such a slow pace, we turned around at the stop sign instead of circling the block.

When we got home, I knelt to pet Buddy’s belly. He shrieked with pain as I jumped out of my skin. I looked at Keegan, and I felt the blood drain from my face. What the fuck was that, I wondered. We tried petting him again thinking it was a fluke, but no. Something was seriously wrong.

Keegan and I went to bed in tears, unsure of what the morning would bring. We planned to demand Buddy be seen by the vet the next morning, since we pay for monthly pet insurance. Luckily, last Wednesday my schedule was totally open. I worked from home and helped Keegan take Buddy to the vet at 10:45.

Getting Buddy in and out of the car presented a challenge, since we didn’t want him jumping out of the car on his own, but he also winced and howled when we touched him. It broke my heart to hear him yelping in pain as we gently removed him from my car the best we could.

Just as I suspected, Buddy acquired a herniated disc. We’re still unclear how it happened, but for now he’s on bed rest for a month and several medications. The vet referred us to a specialist in Loveland; I expected this appointment to focus on his injury and elevated liver enzymes that we’ve monitored closely since Christmas.

I cried on and off Wednesday afternoon, worried for Buddy’s health but relieved he wasn’t going to sleep in pain that evening. He returned from the vet so drugged up, I wondered if he might need these medications for the rest of his life. I struggled with the thought and barely slept Wednesday night. What quality of life would it be to live in such a haze? And where do you draw the line in living a decent life with incessant, chronic pain?

Thursday, I took solace in the fact he wasn’t suffering. Buddy spent the day in his kennel, bedridden and substantially doped up. Between the steroids, the prednisone and diazepam, Buddy didn’t feel a thing, and I was glad. Whatever we could do to keep him comfortable till his follow-up appointment was all that mattered to me.

Friday morning arrives, and I’m a depressed, nervous wreck. I took Buddy to the specialist while Keegan had to work. Buddy was easy to place in the car and hopped out of his own volition. But I wasn’t prepared for the news the vet would soon deliver.

The specialist asked if anyone had spoken to us about Buddy’s elevated calcium levels. “Not to my knowledge”, I replied. Turns out, we should’ve been focusing on his calcium levels instead of his liver enzymes, and Buddy likely has cancer in his lungs. The veterinarian speculated the cancer has metastasized throughout his body, contributing to Buddy’s reduced energy levels. We received a few other snippets of bad news that I won’t elaborate on at this time. I left feeling dejected and took a 4 hour nap once we got back home. This marked the lowest point of the year for me thus far.

So what’s the silver lining, you may ask? The herniated disc will heal. I can sleep at night knowing this will come to pass soon. He’s expected to recover in the next 3-4 weeks. In the meantime, we’ve put up a baby gate to prevent Buddy’s access to the stairs, so hopefully he will heal soon.

For a day or two, we lifted our cumbersome dog up and down the stairs to use the bathroom. When I expressed my exhaustion to my Dad, he suggested we slap a piece of sod on the deck and block those stairs, as well. I’m happy to report his idea worked, and now we don’t fret over re-injuring our dog; the last thing we want to do is hurt him accidentally when lifting him repeatedly.

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Keegan lovingly refers to Buddy’s new digs as his Puddle Palace

Buddy will end his pain med stint in a few weeks, unless his symptoms return. If so, we’ll reevaluate and go from there.

As devastated as I am about the cancer, I’m grateful to know ahead of time, to prepare myself for the inevitable.

Keegan and I watched Coco the night of his birthday, and I cried my effing eyes out at the end. This Disney movie shook me to my core and made me miss my Granny so badly. I can’t imagine how much worse it would’ve been if I had watched this after learning of Buddy’s diagnoses.

All that’s to say, don’t take for granted the ones you love and care about. You never know when things will change in the blink of an eye.

For anyone suffering a recent loss, might I suggest you watch Coco and keep a tissue box handy? This Pixar film was so deeply moving and cathartic, I might just have to purchase it and watch it again, with my favorite boy by my side.

I don’t know what the future holds for Buddy, but I promise you this: I promise to take the very best care of him, to love him to the fullest and to make sure his remaining time on this planet is the best it can possibly be. I promise not to take him for granted and to give him the time and attention he deserves. Last but not least, I promise to do right by Buddy. We have one more vet appointment to discuss treatment options in moving forward. I promise to do whatever makes him the most comfortable and whatever doesn’t compromise the highest quality of life.

Last week absolutely drained me, but I’m kicking off this week on a slightly more positive note. Whatever you believe in… prayer, good vibes, etc. Please keep our dog in your thoughts as we explore his health options and make some tough decisions. I pray he has at least another year with us and that his herniated disc heals soon.

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In the meantime, here’s this: