Falling into the Moment

Do we always have to search for the upbeat?
Is it ok sometimes to write about how bloodly unfair life is and how painful and how it is a struggle just to get through the next moment?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about cancer and dogs. There is a lot of information to plough through and it is good to get informed. I am now almost an expert.
I know about the survival rates with and without chemotherapy for the different cancers but especially lymphoma which is what Bonnie has.  I know that without chemotherapy the average dog dies in 4-6 weeks.  I know all the commonly used supplements and what is the best cancer diet.
In the process of reading this information you also find hundreds of stories about people and their dogs.  Dogs are getting cancer in their thousands. Perhaps it is millions. People are making decisions, trying their best, agonising over side effects and when to call a halt and let their dogs go. There is a mountain of pain there.   And a mountain of love.  It is interesting that we know so much about cruelty and abandonment of dogs but what is invisible until you start searching is the incredible love.
I have cried and sobbed my way through so many blogs and emails and yahoo group stories about dogs and their owners dealing with cancer and dealing with death.
And in a funny way it helps me to feel these other peoples pain. I don’t need them to find the positive or end their stories with what they have learned from the experience. It is just something horrible that happens and we try to deal with it and if we can reach out to others in the same place then it sort of eases the pain.
Sort of.  In the end there is one day after another and I have been really struggling to find my way through. I feel I am being squashed beneath a gigantic roller. It wants to squeeze out my stuffing.
I want to accept and be strong and keep cheerful and stay calm. For Bonnie. For everyone around me. For myself for Gods sake.
I keep asking ‘How do people deal with awful things?’  Human beings have had plenty of practice.  Illness, cruelty, war, torture, loss. What are the ways and means of putting one foot after another? You never know which experience will push you to your edge.  I’ve been through bad times before of course but there is something about this experience that is threatening to flatten me. Being in this ‘other’ country, not having my friends call round to the house to chat or give me a hug, Bonnie having a death sentence but being at the same time weirdly healthy, wondering if I somehow caused the cancer, wanting to get out into nature but not wanting to be alone there, still having this bloody ankle problem which makes walking so difficult. Oh you know what I mean!  I am not trying to say this is the worst life can throw at a person but for some reason it has exactly the ingredients that give me meltdown.
Anyway, having said I don’t need to end on a positive note I just want to say that today I did catch a glimpse of something that helps.  We walked back from town through the park. Bonnie had her first attack of diarrhoea which I instantly decided was ‘The Beginning of the End’. We found a bench and sat in the sunshine and I tried to breathe slowly and calm my racing thoughts. Bonnie jumped up beside me and as I watched her, trying to memorise her every curve and the exact colour of her hair, wanting to stretch time so it would never move on, she was just watching the birds
Her nose was in constant movement. She was receiving smells at the rate of a hundred a second. She was not the slightest bit concerned about her health. She wasn’t worried or sad. She just watched the people, the children playing football, the pigeons and sometimes turned and looked at me.

I tried to tune in to her.  To tune out of me. I felt myself almost falling into the present moment. Each time I managed to just be there with her, there was at last a sense of peace, of something eternal. Then my mind would try to analyse and it would be gone.

Over and over I let myself fall into the moment.

Just Bonnie and Me.

Sitting in the sunshine.

Nothing more

Bonnie is the Star!

  • A sunny Saturday and I took Bonnie out in the car.   We took the windy route over the hills towards the sea which is one of my favourites as most of the traffic goes the other quicker way.  People drive faster here perhaps because most of them have have been driving these same roads all their lives. If you don’t move far from where you were born you probably know each and every bend. And if you assume that all other drivers are similarly confident you won’t have much patience with ditherers like me. 


  • At the top of the hills there is a derelict petrol station and if you turn off there it leads to a quiet country lane with views down to the sea.  We parked and walked. There were lots of cyclists around who surprised me with their total disregard for the large signs warning that the hunters were out shooting wild boar in the woods. 


  • In the local newspaper El Nou they recently reported a cyclist being clipped by a bullet as he rode along a popular route in Les Franqueses.  Five hunters were stopped by the police and their guns taken away as evidence. These hunts are normally approved by the authorities but they are supposed to keep away from houses and roads. That local council has even been discussing banning hunting as it is impossible for it to coexist with the growing numbers of people who like to walk, cycle, run in the countryside.  But they finally decided that banning it would only make it less regulated.  Hunting is very popular throughout Catalunya and I once had lunch at a country restaurant with a truck parked outside loaded up with a very large and dead wild boar.  I wonder what it would take for the Catalan government to ban it altogether?


  • We sat down for a while with the sound of shots ringing in the far distance. Bonnie brought me a twig and as my main task now to keep her as happy as possible,  I broke my normal rule of not throwing sticks. It was also a very soft one! She is totally back to normal after the surgery  


  • It was a joy to watch her jumping to catch it like a puppy

And My News

I wrote that last post as it was something I had been thinking about. And as a way to distract myself from what is going on right here. 
In case you are waiting to hear about Bonnie, here is the news.
Yesterday the results arrived from the biopsy and it was confirmed she has an aggressive cancer, a lymphoma. The traditional treatment would be chemotherapy to slow down the growth of the tumour and possibly buy her more time, up to 9 months. 
There are several treatment options, all of them causing possible side effects with the most powerful being the worst and the single drug option being perhaps too weak to make a difference.
We also have to keep in mind that Border Collies have a special sensitivity to chemotherapy. They don’t always deal with it well.
Now it is decision time. Not just about that but about diet and chosing between the vast array of natural supplements which are  known to be possibly tumour reducing.  And where do I spend these last months with her?  Here in the city with no garden?  On the Costa Brava at Sant Nicolau in a beautiful and much loved environment but far away from my normal life?  Or do I even consider a mad dash up through France to get her ‘home’ to Cornwall?
November always has this shady side.  A month when fears and shadows can loom large. 
The desire to bury my head under the duvet threatens to overwhelm me.
But I must be Bonnies decision-maker and primary carer even though I feel totally inadequate for the task.
I am not ready. I wasn’t expecting this to happen, not yet. 
She meanwhile seems well, or so I think. She is eating and sleeping and playing ball as usual.  I try not to look at her with a mournful gaze.  I am stroking her head with fast soft repetitive caresses as recommended by the Dog Cancer Vet. It is supposed to remind her of her mother licking her face when she was a puppy and it’s true that she always ends up falling gently asleep

A Few Days On

  • It didn’t take Bonnie long to recover from the surgery. We knew she was better when her tail, which had been hidden for days between her legs, bobbed back upright and stayed there except for when I approached her with a pill wrapped in a piece of cheese.  More strangely I also have risen to the surface again even though for a few days I was submerged under a wave of tears and sneezes. I feel fine. I know there is a problem, I know there is danger of huge pain to come, but right now I feel good.
  • The good wishes and messages of love from family and friends helped so much. Never underestimate the power of a message to someone in pain.  When there is something difficult going on it is a million times worse if you feel alone.  But when you feel wrapped in the caring thoughts of other people, strength comes to help you deal with whatever life throws your way.


  • The internet is an amazing gift in our lives. It would take too long to list all the useful things I have found recently…… help on all levels, practical, emotional and spiritual. But right now I am thinking about the information about Trigger Points which I used to almost totally cure the pain I had in my ankle.  Thank you Paul Ingraham & Tim Taylor.


  • And then I found an e-book called the Dog Cancer Survival Guide by Dr Demian Dressler.  The vet who wrote it seemed to be speaking directly to me.  He starts by telling you that it is important that you fully face up to the role of Primary Caregiver for your dog. And to do this you first need to get yourself as strong and fit and clear headed as possible. ‘Put on your own oxygen mask first‘.   Then you can start to connect more deeply to your dog so that decisions made will be coming from her needs.  A lovely suggestion was to tell her the stories of her life. We started this sitting on a park bench a few days ago when Bonnie jumped up beside me and seemed to want only to sit quietly by my side. There are so many stories to tell.



  • Since then we have been enjoying a lot of good moments together. We are waiting for the results of the biopsy and as she has returned to normal health after the exploratory surgery it is almost possible to forget there is a problem. But I am very aware of it and of the precious nature of this time together. It is as if we have entered a new world….every moment full of delight in each others company. She is coming up onto the sofa too…..do you remember that Catalan men don’t like dogs on the furniture?    Well, I have a sofa here that is mine and now Bonnie can lie beside me whenever she wants.  For goodness sake, who is going to lie on the ground to cuddle their dog?
  • We went to the vet for a checkup yesterday and on the way home visited the pet shop to buy a new toy. Squeaky toys are her favourites.  I made a film of her playing with it and added some music but now YouTube won’t let me upload it because of copyright restrictions. If I succeed I will get it on here but if not then I’ll take off the music (which was perfect…I Feel Fine by the Beatles) and put on something else.  Meanwhile here is a photo of herself and the Squeaky Toy!

Baby’s good to me you know,
She’s happy as can be you know,
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

On Finding Out That My Dog Has Cancer

  • The vet decided I was the sort of person who could cope with seeing a photo of my dogs insides.  He explained about the little white lines on the intestines which show lymph collecting where it shouldn’t ought to be. ‘What’s that?’ I said pointing at the large mass of pink red and purple flesh just below where the gloved hand was holding her guts up to the camera. ‘That’s the tumour’  Oooooffff it is bigger than a large mans hand!
  • On the first two days I cried a lot. I don’t mean I sat and sobbed on the sofa but waiting in a queue at the bakers my eyes filled up and welled over, telling a friend the news I felt my words wobble before my shoulders followed suit, I cycled through town with my face soaking with tears.  Then it stopped. Where do they go those tears?  At the vet for a checkup after the surgery there was a woman sobbing without shame.  She was flanked by two sad looking men who occasionally patted her knee, setting off another bout of wails.  The day my crying stopped I started yet another cold with streaming nose and violent sneezing.
  • The first day my partner kept complaining of feeling cold. He was wrapped in a thick coat but his hands were icy. I asked over and over again ‘How are you?’ and was disappointed that he seemed so emotionally distant. It was the next day before I realised it was shock – he had frozen and I had forgotten about arnica.
  • This says something about my life here in this house:- I was grateful when the Resident Adolescent (now strictly speaking a Resident Teenager) stopped in the hallway to ask ‘How is Bonnie?’  This must be the first real conversation we have had in over a year. And it only lasted for three sentences. 
  • After surgery dogs sometimes get constipated. Internet searches recommend mashed pumpkin. Unfortunately pumpkin is also high in carbohydrates and carbohydrates feed the cancer.  I worry a lot about food. Why not continue to give her raw meaty bones?  So I do. Then I worry that she can’t digest it.  So I boil it up and have to painstakingly remove the meat by hand.  Rice? Vegetables?  She needs fibre but I don’t want that mass to get food. That photo of her insides haunts me a little.
  • Day four and we walk a bit further in search of a bowel movement. She is peeing a lot – is it the Kidneys?– she stops and sniffs around raising my hopes but no, she pees again.  It reminds me of the quest for an orgasm “Don’t be goal oriented, just enjoy the moment”   We walk, meet other dogs, birds fly over, the strong wind blows little sandstorms into our faces, then she starts to sniff the ground and circle around a special patch of grass. “Is this it?  Come on darling, just relax.’ No she just pees again.
  • I was happy that she started eating so well after the surgery then I told the vet and he said, ‘the cancer needs to be fed – it will make her hungry’.  That thought doesn’t help me when I am planning what to put in her bowl.  I need to find a new way of dealing with my thoughts.
  • When she dies – if it is in weeks or months or even years from now – I will miss her face, the feel of her fur, the way she brightens up at the sight of a ball, the ease of her company, her muzzle pressed into my hand, her silent almost invisible presence at my heels when we walk. So now and every day I want to really enjoy her, in this moment, fully present not in a worrying anxious over-protective way, but just being with her 100%.

I have no idea how many people read this blog. And I don’t know who you are.  I am lucky if I get one comment after each post and so have decided to turn this apparent failure into something positive and to free myself to write what I want.  I don’t know what you want to read but I am very clear about what I want to write so starting now, here is what matters to me.