Appreciating the Dog You Have

December 15, 2020 | We Love | Story by Sarah Clarkson

We took 10 year old Colby with us on our family hike this weekend.  She had to stay on-leash for the entire six miles, which isn’t her favorite when we are near the woods.  But the trail we chose was somewhat heavily trafficked even on a brisk, windy day in December, and the signage clearly indicated the park’s rules concerning dogs.   Although I know she would have preferred to chart her own path and pace, we could tell she was thrilled to be out with us, and not just waiting at home for us to return.

In our last mile, we came upon a dog park and she strained against the leash to go in.  I opened the gate and she bounded up to the group of dogs rushing to meet her.  I was instantly grateful for her temperament; I never have to worry about her being aggressive toward other dogs or people. She is friendly and outgoing wherever she goes.  

“Hey sweet old girl,”  the old man greeted Colby and rubbed her head.  “What happened to her?” he asked me.  “That’s a big scar.”

I explained we had recently found a lump on her side and it was discovered to be a mast cell tumor.  Mast cell tumors, or MCT, are the most frequent skin tumors in dogs, and represent a cancer of a type of blood cells involved in the dog’s response to allergens and inflammation. Surgery can be curative, and a post-operative biopsy will often determine how aggressive, or likely to return, the cancer is.  

We were lucky.  Although a smaller-than-a-marble lump had required a major surgery and 15 stitches, her tumor’s markers were non-aggressive and our veterinarian had gotten clean margins.  She is “cured” by all practical definitions… we just have to keep an eye out for any new lumps.

“Expensive, I bet,” the old man said, as Colby ran off to play with her temporary friends.

“Priceless, though,” I replied.  He nodded, smiled, and walked over to leash his Beagle.

Although I know she would have preferred to chart her own path and pace, I knew she was thrilled to be out with us, and not just waiting at home for us to return.

We had walked well over 5 miles at this point but she showed no signs of tiring.  If anything, the time she played at the dog park only seemed to energize her as we headed back to load into the car.  

The kids were oohing and aahing over a beautiful Great Dane we passed near the parking lot, and promptly started talking about the type of dog they would get when they were older.

“You actually have the best dog in the world already,” my husband said, as she leapt into the truck.  “Maybe we should just work to appreciate Colby a little more.  Lets be thankful for the dog we do have.”

He’s right. 

Our girl had been abandoned with her littermates on the steps of a veterinarian’s office and was the last puppy available through the lab rescue group in our area. She was house broken quickly and picked up great manners with minimal training.  She has consistently taken a calm approach to our chaotic family, has weathered our multiple cross-country moves with ease, and has always remained flexible about how many walks she needs each day.  Colby opens her own presents, promptly destroys most dog toys, prefers keep-away to fetch, and loves bananas.

I looked over at her, curled up, resting, and happy as we drove home.  I thought about how easy – and natural – it is to have puppy fever or dog-envy every now and then. But the hard truth is that dogs are only with us for a relatively short portion of our life, and they love us unconditionally.  I made a vow to be more intentional in my relationship with her, and let her know every day how very grateful I am for her presence in my life and in our family. 

If you enjoyed this post, you should read Elimination Diet for Food Allergies in Dogs here.

How do you show your dog how much you love them?

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