I "met" James through Annie, a lovely former student, who is currently in the Peace Corps in Zambia with her husband, Andrew. Annie worked with James at Green Mountain Coffee and sent me an e-mail this fall to tell me that her coworker and his partner, Glenn, had a golden retriever with osteosarcoma, just like Zoe. She said the dog was on the same path as Zoe is--amputation, then chemotherapy--but was also being treated by an integrative vet. It's East meets West in Vermont, and also, Boston, where James drives Milo for monthly visits to his oncologist. The vet that gives Milo the Chinese herbs and pokes him with needles is less than 20 minutes from their house.
We arrive at 4 on a cool, raw day with scuttling clouds and tawny light that feels more like late November than late March. The house, on four wooded acres, with a deck overlooking the Green Mountain valley, is private and spa-like, and I already feel relaxed before I knock on the door.
|Milo is in Zoe's bed, but Zoe is intrigued by the kitchen|
|Milo and Emily|
|so patient, so brave, so good|
|Glenn and Milo|
|Zoe shoots ahead to meet the swifites|
|Milo meets the dogs in the 'hood|
|Zoe turns to check on us and make sure we're still there|
I notice later, especially when I bring out the camera, that the colors around us--soft sienna, mustard, saffron, and nutmeg--match the coats of their dogs. This is a golden retriever pooch palace.
At doggy dining time, James feeds all three dogs at once, topping up Zoe's boring food with some cat food to help the medicine go down. I watch him give Milo his meds. Several pills go on his tongue. James wears gloves, like we're supposed to but don't, and when I marvel at this he says he only put them on to impress me, and that he hardly ever does it either. Then Milo gets a reward: dried liver treats. After dinner, Milo gets a baster-full of what they call a "slurry" of Chinese herbs, slippery elm, mushrooms, and a variety of herbs and antioxidants that Glenn, who has a nutrition degree, has been reading about and adding to since the diagnosis. Milo swallows it all and puts his heavy head in James' hand with gratitude. James asks if I've noticed that Zoe might have lost her taste for beef marrow bones since she started chemo. He has created new bones filled with a frozen health drink he makes himself with almond butter and fruit. All three dogs chomp these down, then suck out the delicious center with a sound like happy people slurping oysters.
Dinner is the succulent turkey, roasted brussel sprouts that have been sauteed with bacon and shallots, mashed sweet potatoes, and a green salad. Dessert is fresh berries with lemon curd and yogurt. The dogs get little nibbles of everything. This is my idea of comfort food--gourmet comfort food. I'm in heaven.
|Where is that flying kitty off to now?|
|As Dog is my witness, you will talk to me|
|sacked out pups; Zoe's got the bone|
The next morning, we wake up to Winter, the Sequel, and I have to spend some time scraping off my car. James and I take all three dogs on a snowy trail. I'm touched when I watch the way James, as Glenn did yesterday, helps Milo in his cart. He has to lift the cart a little to help Milo pee, and later, before we get into the car, he cleans up Milo's bottom. He does all this with such sweetness and patience and grace. Milo just beams and waits, leaning that big soft head against his person.
A few days later, after Milo visits the chiropractor, he will get his mojo back. Check out his stunts on you-tube. He's so inspiring. When I asked if it would be okay for me to share this link with blog viewers, Glenn wrote, "I like getting the word out about dogs with disabilities and their ability to have a great life!" So please share: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvBeWh3-r4U
What I'm learning is that while Zoe's diagnosis has made us think about the future in a less expansive way, she has also opened our hearts and brought a wider world to us, leading us to people and other dogs and other experiences and houses and lives we would have never known about, were it not for her.
Usually, after visiting someone's house, I have to put Zoe in the car first, before I pack the trunk, so that she knows she won't be left behind. If not, she cries. This morning, for the first time in all our years of traveling together, Zoe won't get in the car. In fact, she won't leave the yard. She just parks herself in front of the door to the Vermont Comfort Pooch Palace and looks at me calmly, with her superior knowledge, waiting for me to realize that she knows best. It's a version of her "hell no, I won't go" look, but less defiant, more calm and beatific, until I call her again, and again, and again, and finally she comes running to see what other surprises are waiting for her down this valley road.