I Took Life For Granted Until I Found Out My Dog Was Dying


There’s a song – the words have sung through my headphones, the piano has played through my speakers. And I’ve listened; I’ve hummed along. But I’ve never really heard the lyrics. I’d never really lived the lyrics.

It was a chilly Saturday morning. My dog and I were on our way to his vet appointment. His snout rest on my console, paws hanging from the backseat. I patted his head from the driver’s, promising a treat after his shot. We were almost to the office, and there I went. Breaking out into tears as I slowed for the red light ahead.

I’m gonna love you, like I’m gonna lose you. I’m gonna hold you. While I’m saying goodbye…ah-ey ah-ey.

My dog was diagnosed with cancer in November.

It had been three months since his diagnosis, two since his tumors had been removed and one since we had started chemo.

Cancer is one tough monster to battle. And even when you’ve stood beside grandmas and aunts and friends as they’ve overcome it, you just can’t help but let the fear overtake you again. The word alone backs you into a corner and makes you want to give up. It makes an end feel near and thoughts go crazy. But despite the defeat it brings, it makes each moment more of a miracle.

If there’s one thing cancer is good at doing, it’s making you appreciate – truly appreciate – every day. It makes you appreciate the normal minutes when death doesn’t feel imminent and sickness isn’t in power. It makes you cautiously aware of every opportunity you have to hug and kiss and love and cuddle…because you fear the time you won’t get those chances.

If there’s one thing cancer is good at doing, it’s making you appreciate – truly appreciate – every day.

So, there you are, driving with a wet little nose nuzzled up against your arm, tears streaming down your face.

I’m gonna love you, like I’m gonna lose you. I’m gonna hold you. While I’m saying goodbye…

Because it hits you. It hits you hard.

Isn’t that how I should be loving everyone? Like I might lose them in the next second? The next day? The next breath?

Because I’m going to.

You’re going to.

We’ll wake up one day and those paws won’t be clicking on the hardwood. Her giggles won’t echo the walls of the playroom. His dirtied jeans won’t litter the bathroom floor. Nana won’t call.

We’ll wake up one day and look around and all those people we spent a lifetime loving won’t be there to love anymore.

You’ll get a random text from your dad saying, “What happened? My kids grew up too fast.” You’ll pluck a hair from your chin and question how it got there. You’ll hold another to the light bewildered that it’s grey. You’ll budget expenses, wonder whether you called to pay the insurance, scramble for keys while rushing out the door. And you’ll look in the mirror, right at yourself as you’re washing your hands, right at the darkness under your eyes, and you’ll realize it.

You’ll lift your dogs back legs into the car and you’ll realize it.
You’ll look at your mom drifting to sleep in her chair and you’ll realize it.

It’s happening to me.
It’s happening to him.
It’s happening to her.
And you can’t stop it.

I’m gonna love you, like I’m gonna lose you.

We’re getting loseable. Our people are getting loseable.

We’ve been loseable and we are loseable and we’re getting more loseable every day. And yet, are we really doing such a good job of loving? Are we really doing such a great job of holding? Are we here when we’re here? Are we there when we’re there?

Are we looking down into screens for a story from a stranger instead of listening to a real one from someone we love? Are we trying so hard to get a good photo instead of trying to live a good moment? Are we trying to word a post to assure some likes instead of sharing a word with someone who loves us?

Are we loving like we’re losing?

I look at my dog as he stares at the window. I wonder how many more days he’ll get this view. How many more times will he wake to see rolling hills of fresh white snow and passing cars of people having Saturdays and birds tiptoeing across frozen ground and blank bare trees swaying in a cold winter wind…

How many more times will I?

My mom overheard a conversation the other day, a husband and a wife of 60 years.

“Honey, what are you cooking us up for lunch?”
“It’s a surprise, mama.”

“Honey, what’s for lunch?”
“It’s gonna be a surprise, mama.”

“Honey, are we having lunch today?”
“I’m setting the table now, mama.”

“Honey, did I cook all this?”
“No, mama, we ordered it from the place you love up the road.”

“Honey, did I make all this? Mm mm it sure is good.”
“No, mama, but if you did, it’d be even better I’m sure.”

“Honey, how long have we been married?”
“60 years, mama. 60 wonderful years.”

“Honey, do our kids ever call us?”

60 years, and this.

Memories made. Memories faded. Memories gone.

A man wakes up everyday married to a woman who can’t remember things the next minute. Graciously, he serves her and loves her and reminds her who she is. That’s the best example of loving like you’re losing, if you ask me.

Imagine if we did love people as if we’re about to lose them.

I think we’d say I love you a lot more. Bicker a lot less. Ignore emails and Facebook updates. Shut the TV off and put our cell phones down. I bet we’d look into eyes, deep into eyes, see colors and years and hopes. See love. I bet we’d forgive and cry and joke and sing and smile and share and kiss and hold and play and listen and learn.

I bet we’d enjoy every ounce. Every fiber. Every inch and movement and feeling.

I bet we’d do things a lot differently.

No one likes a ticking clock, an expiration date – but we all have one. Life is but a vapor. I thank God for my vapor. For my chance at loving and learning and trying and failing and winning and losing and growing and meeting and seeing and doing.

I thank God even more for other people’s vapors. For the chance to know them and love them and cherish them.

Because they’re dying.
We’re dying.

And one day, we’re going to wake up and regret that this whole life while we’ve been loseable, that we never spent enough time, gave enough hugs, shared enough stories, said enough “I love yous.”

So I pray I can do better at enjoying the people I’ve been given while I still can.

Before loseable…turns to lost. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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