Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vespi: Cancer, Courage, and, of course, Skiing

I'm on my hands and knees, scrubbing yet another blood trail out off the floor while the boyfriend is working on washing the carpet from the intense amount of drool. We recently bought a diffuser to try and mask the extremely offensive smell of rotting flesh that seems to pervade our entire home. The laundry machine is going, yet again, with more sheets and blankets from off of the couch, the floor, the carpet. Outside, the pure white snow is littered with splatters of blood and long trails of a nauseating yellow goo. Her head leans to the left, a result of her recent attack of Vestibular disease and she is constantly crashing into things and losing her balance. We buy paper towels by the cartful, have become frequent purchasers of smell remover...and we have never been prouder.

At first glance all anyone can see is the tumor, steadily growing on the left side of her mouth. It began under her gums, pushing her lip outward until she could no longer keep her saliva in her mouth and her nostril has been compromised. Ever so slowly, the tumor has stretched out her skin so that there is now a developing sore on the left side of her face. The tumors are pulling her eyeball back into the socket, disrupting her vision. A old sore on her back seem incapable of healing - her body seems to preoccupied with fighting the tumors. Her once soft and beautiful fur is beginning to scraggle, moving toward the future when clumps of it will simply find its way to the floor, behind the fridge and wherever else dog hair magically travels to.

Ahhh, living with a dog with cancer. But this is not just any dog. This is Vespi - the female ski bum - and she is not giving up without a fight.

In the beginning, she was carried outside and her human friends had to hold her tail up so she could do her thing. Then she bounced herself off of the snowbanks to make her way down the walkway. She trips, she stumbles, she braces herself. But she has a destination in mind, a goal, and she is not going to let anything keep her down and inside. She would shake her head and knock herself over, eyes large with surprise that she was struggling with even the basics. Her paw would itch at her face, causing blood to come spurting out of her sensitive tumor. She tries to turn on a dime, and ends up with her face in the snowbank, her front left leg tucked underneath her. Sighing, she lifts herself back up and continues in her way.
She can walk by herself.

The stairs present the biggest worry, the biggest threat of danger. She keeps looking at them, having mastered walking and now running in a straight line when we ski. But her depth perception has altered, she puts a foot on the first stair, but can't tell how far she needs to go for the next. She looks up at me, knowing she need to be carried but seeking to avoid the shame that she has endured for the past 10 days. Seeking, hoping, for any alternative but that one - and then, we hear voices. A group of snowshoers, strangers, who we had never seen nor would ever seen again. Motivation. She backed up, got a running start, and with sheer determination, used her memory to launch herself up the stairs.

These are just small annoyances, not something that stops her.

While she was resting beneath the register at the shop,
someone once referred to her as a lazy dog.
Ha.
Perhaps.
At least until someone mentions the magic words:
"Puppy Skiing?"

I have to carry her down the stairs to where the trails begin, but something changes as soon as her feet hit the snow. She is everywhere. While she barely moves indoors, out here she has energy. And enthusiasm. There is a lightness in her step, she seems to float along behind me. She stops to eat some snow, loses her balance and ends up in it. So she chills for a bit and eats the snow lying down. She is not flustered at all. She is happy. This is her white world. Vespi follows my ski tracks through the woods, around trees and over hills. Her path no longer seems crooked, her neck begins to straighten, her body appears to once again be whole.

As I learned from my dad last winter,
skiing can be a magical motivator.

Skiing brings Life.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You

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