Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Post Mortem

Thank you to everyone who attended Murphy’s virtual wake Saturday evening which ironically I couldn’t participate because we’ve made too many friends on Facebook. Over 2,000 posts of pictures and stories about one for every mile we walked.

I’m going to keep the page open since it reflects just how many hearts Murphy left his pawprints on - here’s the link if you’d like to share your own.

Since I wasn’t available to answer questions I’ll try to do that here.

Why wasn’t Murphy euthanized Monday?

Quite honestly, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to do it despite all of the tough guy talk in my father’s day blog. But then I got over myself and since I did not want Murphy’s last moments spent indoors, there was a scheduling conflict with the vet on Tuesday.

Where was Murphy given rest?

Bartlett city park at Bartlett blvd & Stage rd next to the pavilion.

Why did you choose cremation over burial?

Personally I do not believe in burial for spiritual, conservation, and scientific reasons. I myself will never be buried.

What are you planning on doing with Murphy’s ashes?

I wish I could say I had that already mapped out but I don’t. They will continue on our travels as long and until…

Why did you post that picture of you carrying Murphy’s lifeless body?

First of all, there’s a lot more to that photograph than anyone knows. But it speaks for itself.

How is Hudson holding up?

He’s gotten fatter than a opossum in a peach tree. After radiation last August Murphy really couldn’t hike very far anymore and we only walked as far as he could. But Hudson’s been well fed on Honest Kitchen and Nature’s Variety throughout and well, he’s a whole lotta biscuits and gravy now. Hudsy’s so fat he’s not Hugsy anymore – he can’t even get up on his hind legs to hug people.

But he’s my butterball and since there isn’t a Biggest Loser Dog Edition, we’ve got a lot of work to do together. Monday we started walking every morning just a mile or so until he regains his fighting weight and then we’ll ramp up from there.

What’s next?

Tuesday or Wednesday next week I am headed to the forest to fast for 18 days. It’s looking like that’s somewhere near Wolf Creek in Memphis though I have to scout it out this weekend. The battle over the past year has exacted a tremendous mental, physical, and spiritual toll on me coming off of an 826 day walk. I’m not sure I can articulate my reasons any more clearly right now other than, it’s what comes next.

Hudson won’t be with me but he will be near enough that Ginger can bring him out every couple of days along with water supply. I’ll post more about it as details finalize. Yes, it’s dangerous but do not fear for me.

What can I do?

Remain steadfast for now. When I return from my fast I will be calling on each and every one of you. There’s a lot going on in the background which I didn’t have the heart to talk about until Murphy was given rest. I’m going to need a few things before I leave next week and will post them here.

puppy up!

Hudson & Luke

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Invictus Manet

You know, when I lost Malcolm I cursed god and was alone. Murphy carried me through that hard sad time in my life. Then god gave me this amazing mission which I could have never undertaken without my beautiful boy by my side. Yesterday I carried Murphy back to god

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sermons in Stone

"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

I love this passage from Will Shakespeare’s As You Like It and for this Father’s Day, I couldn’t find one more appropriate. It speaks to the fascination and beauty found in the simple wonderment of nature. It’s reminiscent of my father who first taught me that and as a dad myself, it’s a lesson my own boys, Hudson and Murphy, always keep me mindful of.

Life is a messy thing but there’s no finer, more effective therapy for it than a good piece of wood in your hand, the path beneath your feet, and your sons at your side.

This Father’s Day for me is a bittersweet celebration. It was one year ago today we walked the final mile into Boston but it’s also Murphy’s last day. Tomorrow he will be given eternal rest.

A few weeks back Murphy’s left eye ruptured and I made the decision to have it surgically removed rather than euthanizing him then. He was still willful, eating healthfully, and in true Murphy tradition, full of piss and vinegar.

It was a controversial decision and one which tore me up internally. I suspected the rupture probably meant the tumor had breached the orbit, a suspicion that was confirmed by the vet during surgery. At most I hoped for a couple of months together and if we were lucky, a few more than that.

Since the surgery, we have seen a deterioration of mobility in his right hind leg which can only mean motor cortex involvement - that the cancer has finally spread to his brain. And though he has had some really good days this week in Eureka Springs and yesterday at 3 Dog Bakery, I know what comes next and that I cannot allow to happen to my boy.

I have no doubt now the decision I made to extricate his eye was medically unsound but it was not an inhumane one. I don’t write this because I feel a need to justify it to anyone. I absolutely don’t give a goddamn what people think about the choices I have made on behalf of Murphy.

I am writing about it because to me this is what being a father means. It means having to make extremely hard decisions often in the absence of any certainty and always in the face of adversity.

A father’s love is the grit and iron will that cannot be ground down even at the end. It’s looking into the eyes of your dying son and finally admitting, “I can’t save you.”

To all of the fathers who have had to say that and to the ones who thankfully haven’t – this is our day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reflections in Stone

Sunday is our one year anniversary for walking the final mile in Boston and not coincidentally, it’s also father’s day.

I got an email a few weeks back that asked simply ‘Whatever happened to that stone business you were writing about?’

My guess is they were referring to the series of blogs I published starting with 61 Stones not my Facebook discussion thread about medical marijuana for dogs.

If you haven’t been with us since last July, shortly after Boston Murphy was diagnosed with nasal adenocarcinoma and given 12 to 15 months to live. I went to a river basin in the Cheeseman valley west of Colorado Springs to collect a series of stones. Each week I resolved to remove one of those stones from a glass jar.

Maybe it was my way of celebrating his life while it remained or maybe I was deconstructing my own in a mathematically dissociative way. It’s hard to say exactly why we do something in the first place but at the time it made sense to me. Perhaps it was the only thing that made sense to me.

I didn’t always post a blog every week as there were many when the cruel irony of his cancer embittered my heart and kept me silent. I think the last one I posted was ‘9 Stones’ after which Murphy’s health spiraled downward, a deep descent that took me with it.

Since then I have made many medically difficult decisions on his behalf that only time will tell whether they were sound or not but I can’t stop fighting for him as long as his spirit tells me he is not ready to leave this place.

Zero stones came and went and Murphy is still here. We just returned from Eureka Springs where we spent many good hours on the swollen banks of Beaver Lake together (photo nearby).

How long Murphy has left is up to God and Murphy.

For me there are no more stones to remove. It’s time to start replacing them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dude, Mark it 10

Murphy officially turned 10 on the 31st and it was a bittersweet birthday. May just wasn’t a good month – twice I came damn close to euthanizing him but in both cases he rebounded. That lasted for a few days, a week if we were lucky and then it was something else.

It’s been such an up and down, side to side month every time I’ve tried to post an update here for everyone that’s not on our Facebook page, things changed so drastically.

First it was pemphigus which sounded to me like a disease caught on Sesame Street but can actually be quite problematic especially in a cancer patient. The scorched furless skin on his snout that radiation permanently branded him with started sloughing off until all that remained was like a bloody pulpy mess.

He stopped eating and consequently stopped taking his meds which is a frikkin nightmare since the only way you can administer pills when that happens is through an oral syringe. Dogs don’t like fluids squirted into their mouths so you have to hold on to their snout but that just tore away more flesh… for now I’ll spare you the graphic details of those fun nights…

Fortunately the pemphigus turned out to be a drug reaction to SMZ TMP and once we discontinued the sulfa drug the mucosal membranes affected began to heal. And the prednisone not only aided that process but it stimulated Murphy’s appetite as well.

We enjoyed almost a week of healing and healthy eating and then his left eye which had wept blood and pus on and off for two months shut for good. Initially, I chalked it up to the pemphigus and hoped steroids + antibiotics would resolve it.

Memorial Day, Murphy wasn’t mostly Murphy so I took him to Dr. Blackburn. The pain was so severe that we couldn’t open his eye so we had to sedate him to get a better look. His eye had ruptured. Probably from a cascade of events but we’ll never know for sure.

The following day the vet removed his left eye…

Bruised, bloodied, and embattled Murphy made it through May and his spirit remains undaunted. His fight is the same as every person and pet diagnosed with this dreadful disease.

puppy up! to all on National Cancer Survivors Day…