Thursday, July 15, 2010

repost - Midnight with Malcolm

*This is something I wrote whilst in the basement of a host family in Bowling Green KY on the 3rd anniversary of Malcolm's passing. I hadn't read it since I originally posted it over a year ago*>

January 11th 2006. I still remember every moment of that day with absolute clarity. The cancer that began in his bones had spread to his lungs and besieged his beautiful body. At the time, he was on both Rimadyl and Tramadol which I had stopped the day before so that I could better assess his quality of life. I'm glad I did because I discovered his mobility in his hind legs was markedly diminished something the meds were concealing.

The tumor had grown so large in his lungs putting him into congestive heart failure which caused a secondary condition known as hypertrophic osteopathy. His body was succumbing and he was tired from the long struggle. But I wasn't ready to let go of my boy.

When his cancer first metastisized I wondered daily how I could possibly establish the criteria to know when it was time to let him go. It's not purely a scientific question unfortunately. How could I let him go? We had this saying that helped get us through the tough days when he wasn't feeling well. "We don't give up, we don't give in until the end, my friend."

I can't recall where or how I came up with that and I'm sure I said it mostly for me... to keep me from breaking down. Not once did I cry in front of him... not when his leg was amputated nor when the cancer spread. To do so, I believed, would've been tantamount to telling him that it had beaten me and I wasn't going to go the distance with him.

You see, Malcolm just didn't have quit in him... it was amazing to see the rugged determination in his eyes and the unwillingness to give up. He was that way about everything and that was apparent from the first day we met.

When he first came into my life, a present from an ex-girlfriend which should've automatically sent off alarm bells in my head, he was a wee lad. I sat him down for the 'father-son' talk. "If you respect my rules in this house and behave yourself then I'll treat you with respect. Oh, and, I don't do baby talk. That's for girls." That's what I told him.

He broke me in less than a fortnight. I started singing him good morning songs, planning my day around him, and looking for excuses to stop by the pet store and buy him yet another toy and more treats. I recently saw a shirt that said, "You had me at Woof". Indeed he did and in retrospect, I'm quite sure that was part of his master plan.

My family had animals all throughout my childhood. Jenny, a beautiful black lab, and a supremely cool cat my brother Jon named Wally are two of the ones I remember most vividly. I've always considered myself a dog lover but up until Malcolm, I had never experienced a deep and profound bond with one. Such a thing just wasn't possible from my upbringing. "Dawgs is dawgs". That's what a nice and well intentioned fellow from Arkansas told me when I was traveling through there. He just couldn't believe I was walking across the country for canine cancer.

Dogs are dogs sure enough but Malcolm was my boy, too. My day rose and set with him and it was three years ago today I knew it was time to let him go and that the sun that had filled my life with so much joy and simple happiness was going down forever. I held him in my arms as he was given rest and he left this world as he lived it with a strong, quiet dignity.

It's because of his strength and courage that I began this walk and some 900 miles and nine months later, there have been times when I've faltered, doubted, and even despaired but I won't give up, I won't give in, until the end my friend. And today, I give thanks to Malcolm for that and toast that spirit which was his. I miss you, mate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel every ounce of your love & your pain. I felt it during my 2 dogs' cancer, & I felt it in those last moments of release while I held them in my arms. Im so sorry ... for all of us.