PAS DE DEUX
Pas de deux – noun. Fr. An intricate relationship between two things. A dance.
It didn't take long for Malcolm and I to figure out how to make it down the slippery, wooden winding steps of our new home in Somerville and learn how to navigate the virgin seas together.
Years earlier when I had an office at the Tech Center in San Antonio at nights and weekends I'd bring him and Murphy up to my second story suite. There was a red-railed concrete balcony all of 10 square feet or so off the west side our office overlooking Fredericksburg road that became his realm.
Malcolm would sit outside upright for hours, with a quiet and content stoicism that fascinated me. Had his soul been incarnate, he would have been a philosopher king. Some people say we anthropomorphize our dogs too much. I say not enough.
Malcolm's spirit was unconquerable and indomitable. With crystal clarity I recall a crisp Autumn New England morning. I was sitting on our porch drinking coffee and reading the Wall Street Journal. Murphy was tethered to a baluster but Malcolm wasn't. Where the hell would a three legged dog go I thought to myself.
I had just nestled myself into the rocking chair and hadn't even gotten to section B before Malcolm jumped up, cleared the stairs, crossed the street to a neighbor's Sycamore, and treed a squirrel. Coffee spewed all over me and the journal strewn all over the porch, down and outright amazed, half-crazed and scared, I couldn't stop laughing. I couldn't help myself.
It was the first time I laughed in a complete and innocent way since April 2004 and it would be the last that year. Despite amputation and chemo, cancer ultimately spread to Malcolm's lungs. One morning, he just couldn't get up. An emergency trip to Angell-Memorial revealed that he had a grapefruit sized mass in his lungs.
Bone cancer is just an awfully damn aggressive form and by the time dogs become symptomatic, it's most likely already spread, the lungs the most likely place.
The thing I had the hardest time with, I mean other than the fact that we'd just been given a big stop clock, four to six weeks they said, was that Malcolm stopped eating. And he was a passionate eater, too.
I added dog gravy on his kibble, cheese sprinkles, and all of the other tricks and incentives I read about but they just didn't work. So I put my apron on, got in the kitchen and started making food for Malcolm. At first it was ground beef and brown rice but I quickly expanded his menu to include chicken and steak. Hell, he ate better than I did.
And he snarfed it all up. And that gave me pleasure. I found that the kitchen became my only sanctuary, where I was free of stress, anxiety, and sadness. I was feeding my boy and filling him full with my love. But it wasn't long before I became his chef biatch. He'd look at me with those eyes that said, 'Go make me a sammich'.
And I would. You see, love is a dance where one leads and the other follows. It's an intricate mystery that defies logic and understanding. And yet it is.
YBD's Notes 1: I'm forever indebted to the folks at NEVOG, Angell-Memorial, and Dr. John Berg and Shelly Rodman at Tuft's Vet School who gave me counsel, consolation, and hope during a very hard time.
YBD's Notes 2: I've been working on a big project and this Sunday, I'll post about it here.