I can’t believe you would rather run your dogs than save your own life!

Angry words spoken by a plastic surgeon at my choice to not undergo a bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. Just one statement of hundreds made by doctors who didn’t share the goals I intended to achieve through and beyond my health opportunity. In spite of our lack of shared goals, I did appreciate her as she was the only Dr. Plastic who was totally honest with me about the degree of invasion and total recovery time involved with said surgery. Three other Dr. Plastics were not so honest, but that is a conversation best saved for another post.

To move forward, I will first take you back… My love affair with dogs and rescue began at age six with Sheba: a wiry Terrier/and Lord knows what else mixed-breed my sister and I rescued along with several puppy siblings our neighbor was trying inhumanely euthanize. Life Lessons 101 began with this dog. A glimpse into the best and worst of human nature, the responsibility to care for creatures who need you (and eventually you mature enough to realize you need them more), the recognition that your actions, good or bad, always impact someone or something else, and a capacity to love and forgive beyond imagination.

When I was seven, my sister and I received Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls for Christmas and within two days my sweet Sheba chewed the buttons off of Andy’s pants. I was afraid (unfounded) my parents would make me give her away for being bad so dug a hole in the frozen ground and buried Andy, willing to take the chance of being punished for ‘misplacing’ him vs. potentially losing a dog I already loved more than myself.

So what is it now? Why the crazy, over the top dedication to all things dog? First, it is the dogs themselves. My friend Paula says God never gives us a dog that isn’t meant us, and I believe her. I’ll start with Sasha, the beautiful senior who brought people into my life I love like family. People who enrich me and without whom I wouldn’t have had the mental and physical fortitude to survive last year. Sasha was my road buddy, a guard dog, and a sweet and gentle companion who introduced me to Rhodesian Ridgebacks, a breed I will always love and favor.

Royal, who I can’t think of without having tears fall from my eyes, was my Heart Dog. In less than two years this boy taught me more about myself than most other life experiences. One month after adopting him, I discovered he had an auto-immune disorder initially considered treatable. He was a young dog and because Layla and I loved him fiercely, I spent an insane amount of money over the course of two years to treat him medically and surgically. Crazy? Maybe, but he was my responsibility and I now believe God always had a plan for me through this dog. When I was diagnosed, I made a decision to not follow my instinct to go to OHI due to the financial commitment involved. I shared my decision with a friend, who looked at me in shock and asked how I could be “ok” with spending more money on my dog than I was willing to spend on myself. Perspective… I went to OHI, a life changing and I believe a life saving experience for me. I like to think Royal would have approved.

When Royal died, Layla and I were both lost. She grieved so strongly she ended up in the ER for four days. The vet said she had a broken heart (and an obstruction from obsessively eating grass/throwing up over and over and over due to stress) and recommended I bring another dog into the house. While I wasn’t ready for another dog I also wasn’t happy with the moping attitudes Layla and I were sharing. This is how Axel, the failed foster formerly known as Ray, came into our lives. Axel is my ‘ray’ of sunshine. He is sweet beyond measure and possesses so many characteristics of Royal I tell Layla God knew we still needed him and gave us a younger, healthier version of Royal in Axel. Axel is the dog who just wants to be with me. When I am down, he is the dog who lays his velvet head in my lap or lays along side of me and calms my spirit. Now, as I am healing he is the dog that refuses to walk on my right side forcing me to use the left arm damaged by surgery which I otherwise would favor. He makes me stronger.

And finally my Layla, my Sassy Pants, Bi-polar Satanic Baby, Princess (both good and evil), Little Monkey who I now know I need more than any other dog. Layla is the dog who will never let me stay down. She insists on a minimum of one outing and one training session every day. She is loud (part coon-hound), scary smart, and likely the funniest dog I will ever have. Layla is in the business of living life to the fullest, and she expects me to make it happen, every day.

The day I was officially diagnosed I came home, laid on the couch and sat there numb, tears streaming down my face not quite knowing what to do next. Axel came and licked my tears, crawling up on the couch and curling behind my legs. Not my Layla. She stood three feet away from me staring with a look of stern disgust. She didn’t care that I had cancer. We always go for a walk when I get home and this laying on the couch having a pity party for myself was not to be had! She barked at me, charged me, and when I yelled at her to go lay down she jumped on the couch and pawed at me until I was laughing so hard I got my butt off the couch and took the dogs for a two-hour walk. I felt refreshed, calm and didn’t cry about cancer again. Layla is in the business of living…

But it isn’t just these dogs. It is also the people they bring into my life. People who lift me up, support me, challenge me, and make this healing journey seem so much easier than it might actually be. My friend Jamie said of Celia (RR Rescue coordinator), a woman I admire, respect and love for her spirit, kindness and incredible selflessness: “I consider her closer to God than anyone I’ve ever met–her entire existence is spent serving those who can never thank her. The way I see it, Celia probably has major points with God and can put in a word for quick healing.” These are the kind of friends I want in my corner. I am blessed beyond measure to have dog people in my life. The generosity, sacrifice and day-to-day thoughtfulness my friends provide in support of my choices related to healing are humbling and amazing.

I could spend hours telling stories or writing books filled with what I’ve learned from my dogs; recounting heartbreaking loss, crazy adventure, protection and companionship provided, the sense of peace, joy, and episodes of side-splitting laughter my dogs bring to my life. When I am with my dogs I truly “live in the moment”. When we are running, hiking, or training, I don’t think about work, finances, the gazillion things that need to be checked off on my to-do list, or cancer. I feel closest to God when I am outside with the wind in my hair and sun on my face watching my dogs do what they do best: live, run and play with unadulterated joy and enthusiasm, excited about every sight, sound and smell, anticipating what is around the next corner, around a tree, or over a hill. This is how I always want to live my life.

Doctor: …Yes, that is what I mean. It will be at least a year and a half before you can run your dogs without causing damage to the surgical site.

Me: That’s not going to happen then. Being happy is part of healing and if I can’t run my dogs or have to ask for help to exercise them for a year and a half I would be miserable!

Doctor: I can’t believe you would rather run your dogs than save your own life!

Me: You don’t get it. Running my dogs does save my life.

With love to members of my “Medical Team”: Axel, Layla, Paula and Andy, Bart and Courtney, Henry and Gabriel, Kimberlee, Don and Betty, Jamie, Jana R, Kimberlee, Marcella, Rebecca, Alice, Jeanie, Beth, Bobby, Joni, Margie, Adrienne, Terri, Terry, Jamie, Neesa, Patrick, Celia, John and Kathy, Sandra, Amanda, Jana M, Kate, Lydia, Donald, Jon, Thomas, Jack, Julia, Shay, Jay, Kelly, every other trainer and person on staff at DogBoy’s Dog Ranch, Dr. Winsett (the one actual Doctor who supports my treatment 100%) and many other friends and my entire family who have always understood my love for all things DOG.

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16 Responses to I can’t believe you would rather run your dogs than save your own life!

  1. ageunltd says:

    I wonder what would happen to the world if we cared as much for each other as you care for your dogs? A good lesson to internalize as people too!

  2. Ben A. Trujillo says:

    Dog lovers are a good breed themselves. — Gladys Taber

    Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads. — Harry S. Truman, 1884 – 1972

  3. susan wilson says:

    Love it Trish! Very nicely written. Brought a tear to my eye. As a dog lover. Dogs are good for the soul. So glad you are doing great!

  4. He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.

  5. Jamie Klassen says:

    Jeez, I love you.

  6. mom2twoboys says:

    Lovely, Trish. Thank-you for sharing. While I don’t share your love of dogs, I do totally understand the power of animals in our lives (I did grow up with horses, after all).

    And I can’t tell you how many friends I have whose doctors either lied or didn’t tell them the entire truth about their cancer treatment. Like my friend whose husband had mouth cancer and ended up losing all function of his salivary glands, no sense of taste, and talking like a hick from Arkansas–until after the fact, “oh, yes, these are possible side effects.” Um, why not tell them before?

    Thank-God that David’s leukemia was an easy-to-treat kind and that the doctors didn’t prevaricate with us. Just infuriating!


    • Trish T says:

      Michelle, it is very hard to see folks react out of fear or see the hesitation to ask doctors challenging questions. I interviewed a total of 12 doctors before picking my final team. Glad that David’s was easy to treat!

  7. Kim Fried says:

    Trish! I love all your postings but I gotta say this is my favorite one (so far). Its hard to explain in words what my Smokey means to me, and what he’s done for me and my well-being. I cherish him every day and hope he understands just how much I love and appreciate him. I thank God for giving you Sheba, Sasha, Royal, Layla and Axel. They all serve(d) a special purpose in your life and I’m SO happy you have them, and they have you, even if just in spirit. Dogs are good for the heart, for the soul, and sometimes just good for some great laughs! I recently came across a poem that I thought was really fabulous so I thought I’d share it with you. Like your posting, its a good reminder of how special dogs are.

    Sending love, hugs and sloppy kisses from Smokey!

    A Loan From God

    God promised at the birth of time, a special friend to give,
    His time on earth is short, he said, so love him while he lives.
    It may be six or seven years, or twelve or then sixteen,
    but will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?

    A wagging tail and cold wet nose, and silken velvet ears,
    a heart as big as all outdoors, to love you through the years.
    His puppy ways will gladden you, and antics bring a smile,
    as guardian or friend he will, be loyal all the while.

    He’ll bring his charms to grace your life, and though his stay be brief,
    when he’s gone the memories, are solace for your grief.
    I cannot promise he will stay, since all from earth return,
    but lessons only a dog can teach, I want you each to learn.

    Whatever love you give to him, returns in triple measure,
    follow his lead and gain a life, brim full of simple pleasure.
    Enjoy each day as it comes, allow your heart to guide,
    be loyal and steadfast in love, as the dog there by your side.

    Now will you give him all your love, nor think the labour vain,
    nor hate me when I come to call, to take him back again?
    I fancy each of us would say, “Dear Lord, thy will be done,
    for all the joy this day shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.”

    “We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
    and for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay.”
    “But shall the angels call for him, much sooner than we’ve planned,
    we’ll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.”

    • Trish T says:

      Thank you so much Kim! I knew you would totally get it! 😉 I cherish the gift you gave me of my pups and it is on my desk at work now so I can take a moment and just relax when I need to! I know Smokey knows just how much he means to you and he is blessed to have a family that takes him camping, to the lake, hiking and all the things he loves to do that are also good for you! Thank you for the poem! I shared it with a friend who recently lost her pup. It is really lovely! Miss you and hope you are well! Love you, Trish

  8. Anne Marie says:

    Wishing you a Speedy recovery in your choice of treatment….Hopefully,your dogs will have you in their lives and they in yours forever and a day….a fellow survivor….

    • Trish T says:

      Thank you so much for your support and kind words! I have friends who are poster children for chemo/radiation, and I’m grateful those options were there for them, just as I am grateful we all have choices that best suit our individual situations. I hope you are well too and receiving blessings through your situation as I have! I just had a follow-up appointment and still have the ‘all clear’ which is also a blessing!

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