-- by Mike Murray
Just as it did last year for my wife and for me, Christmas has arrived early. That's because our Janna has, once again, survived a serious health scare. In December of 2008, severe inflammation in her left rear leg led a veterinary specialist to fear that she might be suffering with bone cancer. If that had turned out to be the case, Janna probably wouldn't still be with us.
But she – and we – were lucky. The inflammation was primarily associated with ligament damage. Extensive surgery, followed by a lengthy rehabilitation period, resulted in wonderful recovery. Although Janna will never completely be "her old self," she has regained much of her former vigor.
That was last December. And when this December arrived, the other shoe appeared to drop. A lump quickly formed on Janna's right rear leg. A lump that had not been there only two weeks earlier (when Janna visited the vet's office for the second of her two annual exams).
But there it was, big as life. A couple of days later, Dr. Connie Curren confirmed our concern. A sample examined under a microscope revealed a composition that was mostly fatty deposit – but that also contained troubling "round" cells. Round cells that Curren indicated could very well be cancerous. And, if cancer ended up being the diagnosis, my wife was informed that it might be an aggressive, life-threatening type: hemangiosarcoma.
Another Christmas season, another scare. Just as we had done last year, my wife and I abandoned all desire for traditional gifts. All we coveted was the continued opportunity to share our lives with our canine "daughter."
A lumpectomy procedure was swiftly scheduled and performed, and biopsy material was extracted and sent to the lab for analysis. Then began the waiting. Only a few days elapsed, but they seemed (as all who have similarly suffered can attest) an eternity.
Test results brought with them glorious relief. The sample had been gone over with "a fine-tooth comb," and nothing untoward was discovered. No growths – malignant or otherwise. Whatever those suspicious round cells were (blood, perhaps), they weren't cancerous.
Great news for Janna. And great news for her human “parents.”
Janna was rescued ten years ago. Pregnant and suffering with heartworm, she wound up at a public facility during the fall of 1999. There the clock proceeded to tick, once her pups were delivered and weaned. In January of 2000, she achieved permanent rescue – when the Medina County SPCA took her in, and she was provided "as long as it takes" refuge by fosters Fran and Steve.
Seven months later, an energetic and engaging Janna came to live with Pam and me. She was then, and she remains to this day, "a very sweet girl" (as her adoption ad described her). She arrived thoroughly lovable and loving, even though it was obvious that she had been harmed by a previous "owner."
The way she nervously recoiled whenever a hand was extended (however gently) toward her head; the way she'd humbly fall to the ground and roll over onto her back in a submissive "don't hurt me" pose; the way she was frightened by canes, brooms, and all manner of sticks; the scars discovered on her body – all were tell-tale signs of abuse.
I am pleased to report that Janna has overcome most of the fears that were associated with her mistreatment (although it has taken her years to do so). These days, she enjoys extended belly rub sessions. And she positively loves having her head stroked. She even asks for "head buggles," which involve the rubbing together of human and canine faces. She's come a very long way.
But she was forced to endure a great deal of difficulty early in life. As a consequence, I doubt that she will ever be completely free of unpleasant memories. She still occasionally flinches, for example, if I move too quickly in her direction. (And the cane that I am obliged to use whenever my back goes into serious spasm doesn't thrill her, either.) As have so many other rescued critters, Janna has known pain, hardship, and abandonment. But, through it all, she retained her affection for a species that had not always been kind to her.
My wife and I have long been the beneficiaries of Janna's sweet disposition. We figure she was at least two years old when we adopted her. And she’s been with us nearly nine and one-half years now. That makes her at least 11 ½ . Perhaps, even, 12. We know that she won't be with us for too many more Christmases.
We're just grateful that she's here for this one. And that she's healthy and happy.
Copyright © 2009 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.