I was dreading today's appointment too. Since last week I've been noticing that Jasper's left rear leg has not been quite right. As I wrote earlier today, he can't quite land the back legs when jumping into the car and they slip tragically back to the ground, leaving him looking puzzled with just the front end on the bumper. He seems to get up with difficulty from a prone position, and walks stiffly the first few steps. Damn hardwood floors.
Because of the year we had last year -- the seemingly relentless cascade of cancer -- I had a sick belly from the moment I made the appointment. For Pete's sake, not more cancer, please. And then I'd breathe and stay present and reel my mind back from its catastrophic wanderings.
So the good news straight off the bat is that it's not cancer. Phew. Huge exhalation of relief. Cancer can kiss my ass.
But what it is is yet undefined. Upon physical examination, the good Dr. Casey said she thought perhaps it was neurological, that there are two inflamed spots on his spine. When she moved and observed his hind legs, she saw that he was crossing his back feet as if he wasn't quite sure where to put them. A cause for concern. But it could also be arthritis, which would not be uncommon in a creature his age. If neurological, then we'd have to see a neurologist who could recommend a course of action which could include surgery. If arthritis, then canine anti-inflammatories should do the trick.
To begin to narrow it down, the good Dr. Casey took some x-rays while I waited. And waited.
And while I waited I was entertained by quite a parade of dogs and their people. I was reminded of how lame and judgmental I am when I made up my mind instantly about a woman sitting across from me (didn't like her clothes, she had that dangerous frontal fat layer, she had an annoying chime on her iPhone announcing every incoming message). But then they brought out the first of her two pets, an ancient, stout Jack Russell terrier. At which point her face completely changed. Words of love poured from her mouth as the tech placed her chubby old dog in her arms. Then suddenly I loved her. I felt I actually saw her, the real her, setting aside all of my bullshit focus on her exterior.
And then I met Cooper, a 13 1/2 year old terrier who had actually lost the use of his hind legs almost completely and yet was the most adorable, coo-ing little creature, making his way across the slippery linoleum-tiled floor by whatever means he could. He had a neurological disorder, a degenerative disc, and gave me a little window into perhaps what the future might hold for our brave boy should he prove to have the very same thing.
There was a moment when the waiting room was full of dogs and their people, and there was this steady chatter of baby-talk, of endearments and pet names. It was hopelessly lovely and brought me to tears in much the same way that the opening credits of "Love Actually" always do, those scenes of people joyfully embracing at the airport, such pure love and bliss. A big fat constant embrace of words, and I was in it.
The room cleared. I waited longer, until finally I heard the jangle of Jasper's tag against his collar and there he was. Such a good boy who only wiggled a little during the x-ray.
Dr. Casey did see arthritis in the hips, more on the left, and some areas on his spine that she's concerned about. Tomorrow the radiologist will read the films, and I'll get a call letting us know whether they're advising we see a neurologist or simply treat this as arthritis. Meanwhile he's taking 1/2 tab of liver-flavored Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory) twice a day, with food. If he responds well to this, then that could well be all that he needs to regain more solid footing.
It's been an emotional 24 hours since the beach but it's all worth it when I consider how much Love I get to have, to see, to give. Thanks so much to all of my friends who've been with me all day through their own sweet baby-prattle at me on Facebook and through email. Thanks so much to all of the sweet dog-people today who gave me such a super-blast of Love while we shared the waiting room. Thanks so much to the compassionate, professional and kind staff of our vet clinic.
Biggest thanks of all, of course, to Jasper who continues to inspire much bigness of spirit and love by his darling canine example.