Just before Christmas we received some bad news about Chili.
The diagnosis is bone cancer, with only one option of curative treatment which is amputation. We decided we did not want to put her through that, so palliative care and pain relief became real. But oddly I already sort of knew. I saw it in the vet when she referred us for the scan. And certain things were adding up. I knew.
The worst thing at that point in time was that she didn’t recover very well from the sedation for the x-ray. So when they said “you haven’t got long, weeks at the most”, it looked like it was going to be days. She was drinking too much water and therefore having bladder control issues. Her balance and mobility was poor. She was incredibly sleepy. She just seemed really poorly. Her limp was getting worse and painful looking, which generally broke mine and Aodhan’s heart over and over again.
And then she rallied! And by Christmas she was doing much better than the previous week. The pain meds helped, and also homeopathy, and after a few days she got over the sedation. She is currently on two medications for pain: Metacam and Pardale V. She has homeopathic remedies which are also for pain and for helping her body cope with the changes going on. I let her choose from them, because I can see that sometimes she just doesn’t want them, and sometimes she wants to lap them up! For those interested in homeopathy, my vet prescribed Eupatorium, Carcinosin and Calc Fluo Phos. We also use some plant remedies as I’m studying more about herbal remedies and how we can trust our animals’ own innate intelligence to lead the way in their own health matters and healing… sound familiar? It will if you have studied Animal Reiki with me and heard me banging on about allowing them choice in their own healing! She often chooses dried powdered Spirulina in a big way. And her sometimes irritated ears are soothed by a light dusting of fine green clay powder. She even wanted some of that to lick today too.
The sarcoma is within the bone of her left foreleg, I saw the X-ray, and she is much less mobile than she was even 3 weeks ago. Using that leg is clearly painful so she is choosing to less. When she stands she is leaning away from it. Going down steps, she is sort of hopping down, with both front paws landing at the same time, and I congratulate her on how well she’s adapted because she has surprised me! Chili is an extremely physically sensitive dog and so to see her being so stoic and just getting on with life is really very reassuring and another of her life lessons she is here to give us. We have changed how we go in and out of the house so that she doesn’t have to use the steps so much.
Because she is not going outside for so long and there are physical changes going on, sometimes she’s a bit constipated, and sometimes not, and we have had the odd poop accident inside. The first time she did it, she managed to get herself to our actual bathroom… BLESS!!! Luckily for us, her raw food is still agreeing with her so Chili poops are easily pick-up and clear-up-able. We are of course just cheerfully matter of fact about all of that, and we just get on with clearing up. Dogs naturally prefer to toilet away from their living areas and so can show anxiety around toileting if pressure is put upon it.
I stopped taking her with me walking the moment I saw her limping, and she was very accepting of that, even though I was still going out with Ludo. So she clearly wasn’t that keen to go. And Chili has no problem being left, she never has done and simply has a nice snooze. Over Christmas, however, I knew she would be more keen to accompany us, as we had mum and Roger staying, and we didn’t want to leave her on her own. Instead, we devised walks where we drove into the Ashdown Forest, I would drop off the advance party, and then would drive Chili and I to the end of their walk, where we pottered and waited with a flask of mulled wine! She LOVED that. It’s easier for her where it is softer underfoot, like the forest floor, and she can romp/hop around happily. I’m always looking for signs of wincing or listening for yelps. But she seems to be able to move within her limits. When we go out into the garden, she still enjoys a chase with Ludo although they don’t last very long, and sometimes she just stays still, barks, and somehow makes him do all the running off and back!
And Ludo? Well Ludo is being quite marvellous. It’s very easy to be happy when Ludo is around. He was hilarious during our board game of The Chase on Christmas Day – commando crawling across the floor, up to the board and pressing the buzzer with his big heavy paw! No I did not ask/train him to do that LOL. You know, he definitely knew about the cancer before we did. I have noticed him many times sniff quite obsessively, almost to the point of Chili’s annoyance, her front left leg. I can’t remember when it was he first did this but it was months ago…. He would also sniff other areas of her. So I would guess the cancer is not only in her left foreleg. Another reason not to amputate. I think it’s likely to be elsewhere.
So, her days are really quiet, lots of snuggly time in one of her thousand beds, punctuated by mealtimes which she tries to get me to do earlier each day (no change there!). She has everything she needs.
What doesn’t she need? She doesn’t need us wincing every time she limps. She doesn’t need us mollycoddling her every move. She doesn’t really need to see me fussing over her. As I tell everyone I work with, fussing over a dog generally freaks them out! Quiet reassurance and calm, happy presence is what all animals would prefer and particularly at this time of life. So we have followed her example and chosen not to focus on the pain, instead we focus on the beauty of her when she connects with us, and the joy of being together. We focus on the moments when she gives us a “flathead” – that moment when we make eye contact and she smoothes out the wrinkles on her head, lowers her ears, and smiles with the softest of eyes.
The thing about Chili is that she has never wanted or needed big physical cuddles. In fact she would swiftly skitter out of the way if someone tried to inflict that on her. Chili’s affection is very subtle, no drama, she encourages you to be still enough to notice it. And it is blissful. One of the things I love about Chili is the quiet little breathing noise she makes deliberately when she’s in her flathead mode, or just after I’ve told her how beautiful she is. And her gentle licks on my nose. So much love in the smallest of gestures.
And so we are so lucky to have had enough time for this shift to have happened… from shock and sadness to wonder and fascination. It turns out that this moment right now is actually one of the most enjoyable, magical times we could possibly share. It is an example of the primal perfection of sharing one’s life with a dog – no expectations, less doing, less pushing, no aims, going at her pace, being together as two completely different species, the utter joy in the tiny things. Of course she has always been the apple of my eye but could it be possible she’s even more beautiful today than she was yesterday? Even more peaceful. Wise. Loving. I adore watching quietly how her face and head shape changes so gorgeously when she sees Aodhan come in the room. And even Ludo! I think she does actually find Ludo amusing these days! Could it be because she’s not so able to always be involved in what’s going on, is she able to stand back and appreciate him a bit more?!
I have just read back this blog up to here and realised that the above paragraph pretty much sums up the practice of Animal Reiki. This fundamental knowing that we bring our calmest and happiest selves to our animals for their greatest benefit, which is also for our best benefit and healing. Would I have been able to shift from sadness to joy without my Reiki practice? I don’t know. I do know it helped hugely when Kenny passed. I do know it has allowed me to practice being in the present moment with my dogs so that I can properly be with them rather than in a worried state about them or an angry state about the situation… both things can be unhelpful for them and us. Animal Reiki has allowed me to trust in that she will let me know when she is ready, but until then to enjoy ourselves.
Well, if you have read down to here, thank you for your interest in Chili dog. She has been behind me and the information I offer every time I have taught a class or an individual. Her influence continues to be far-reaching.