Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The Power Of Pets


I was going to be starting chemotherapy in less than a couple of weeks.  My plan had been set.  I would leave work an hour early, get my injection, rush home (I had only twenty-five minutes until the next phase), puke, crawl into bed and wait for my wife (now ex) to get home several hours later.  It was a lonely routine.  The solitude served as a constant reminder, that it was just me, that was going to have to get through this cycle, for nine months.  We had always talked about getting a pet, but living in an apartment building we were limited.  I am not really a cat person but the pet policy of the complex did not allow dogs.  Even a cat would require a security deposit for potential damage.  Not even through the first week we realized I needed something to occupy my time.  We went to the local SPCA and adopted a calico kitten which we called Pebbles.

It did not take long for either the kitten or myself to get used to each other, or our routines.  She adapted to using the litter box immediately, so all I had to do for her was make sure that she had water ad lib, and I made sure to feed her in the mornings before I left for work.  On the average day, following work, Pebbles would come darting out of the bedroom racing for the door of the apartment with the click of the lock before I even had the door open.  But on the Fridays that I got my chemotherapy, I arrived home earlier, and I definitely was not as receptive to the kitten’s greeting.  By the time I entered the door, I literally had seconds to get to the bathroom as one of the chemo’s side effects was kicking in, full blown nausea and vomiting.  This would last an hour, leave me completely wiped out, and with every ounce of strength that I had left, crawled into my bed without having stood erect from the toilet.

The kitten was definitely confused by the different routine.  By the middle of my second cycle, on Fridays, Pebbles still greeted me, but from the hallway directly in front of the bathroom.  She sat there as I ran by her, and stayed there.  I would make my way past her, into bed, pulling the covers tightly up to my neck.  And Pebbles followed, climbed up the bedding and layed on my wife’s pillow, staring at me, until she too would fall asleep.  She would stay there until my wife came home.

Animals are known to have great instincts when it comes to their family members not feeling well.  Some pets actually can sense when certain health episodes are going to occur.

Following my divorce and subsequent second marriage (first in my heart), we bought a dog, a golden retriever named Pollo.  Wendy and I have had him since a puppy and thirteen years later, is still a puppy.  He has a great disposition that being left alone for long periods of time while at work, he is still so ever happy to see me at the door, tail wagging, just glad to have me home. 

We had hopes one day of Pollo being trained as a therapy dog.  But the truth is, he was and still is, just too happy, happy being a puppy.  Approaching thirteen years of age, he is still the fun loving, energetic, tail-wagging puppy as when he first came into our house.  He has typical issues, like grass and snow deafness (cannot hear us call him), knows who to sit next to at the dinner table, loves being in the rain, and unusual for a golden, has a horrible sense of smell.  I often refer to him as my “box of rocks”.  But there is one thing that I can never tease him about.  He is loyal to his family.  When one of us does not feel well in the house, that is where you will usually find him lying next to.

Here are some examples.  One fear that I had coming home from having open heart surgery, was the sternotomy (the split breast bone).  Pollo and I are known to play “alpha” often, and we often get carried away.  According to my wife, he just moped around the house while I was in the hospital.  Even my then two-year-old could not cheer him up.  I was certain though that he would jump up on me when I came through the front door.  But as hard as his tail wagged, he never left his front feet.  While I recouped at home the next several weeks, he never left my side.

More recently, I have been having immunity issues with pneumonia.  Twice in the last nine months I have been hospitalized with pneumonia.  The only warning I have had was sudden and severe nausea, and inconveniently in the wee hours of the morning.  Each time disturbing the golden retriever during his golden slumber, and then, I was gone.  Just as with my heart surgery, the boy missed having me around the house.  But then, just before the end of the year, I had another attack.  Unlike the other two times, when my temperature hit over 103.5, this time my temperature was normal, so there was no trip to the emergency room as is my normal protocol.  I just fell back to sleep.

Unusually for me, I slept, a long time.  When I finally did wake up, it was after noon, with my wife sitting next to me.  She was holding her hand on my chest.  Then sticking her finger under my nose.  Then she started pushing around on my neck clearly looking for a pulse.  So I let her off the hook when I realized she was trying to see if I was actually alive.  She has been through this so many times in the last five years with me.  Relieved that my eyes opened, Wendy let me know what time it was and went downstairs.  I looked over to my side of the bed, and there he was.  My box of rocks was lying by my side.

I asked Wendy if she had let him out at all that morning.  She informed me that he never went downstairs even when she and the kids originally woke up.  He had been up with me since 11pm the night before, over thirteen hours, he stayed by my side.  Is it possible that he had seen me twice before go through the routine of vomiting, then disappearing for days, that after this episode, he thought that I would be gone for days again?

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One thought on “The Power Of Pets

  1. Roxanne Tini on said:

    Your blog is an inspiration. I cannot wait to be able to sit uninterrupted to read what you have written. My daughter was diagnosed 12/18/2011 with Hodgkin lymphoma early unfavorable stage 2 or 3. She was 19 at the time and has been through so much. The tumor pressing on her trachea turned out to be the largest university of penna has ever encountered. The biopsy anesthesia relaxed the mass and caused her to be placed on an ECMO machine . She spent from dec to April 2012 in the hospital and had so many complications from just about everything. She is home now.. Chemo and radiation finished.. Trach removed… Stent finally removed.. Foot drop still present along with terrible chest pain and shortness of breath. I’m going to have her read your story as proof that there can be a happy ending to an unhappy occurrence . I pray you remain cancer free . Life sometimes takes a different turn.. Once a carefree college student she is now at home wondering where life will take her. Take care. Sincerely Roxanne Tini.. Mother of Stephanie Tini.. (Stephanie Ann) Facebook us if you would like.

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