by Ashley Weeks Cart
Have I mentioned that this dog is my hero?
Yes? Maybe once or twice?
Well, while I’m on the subject… this dog is my freaking hero.
Talk about resilience. And spirit. And life. This girl’s got it. And we two-legged beasts are all left inspired and humbled. Once again schooled by our much wiser canine companion.
At my high school graduation, now 11 years ago, the woman charged with addressing our class spoke about the importance of resilience. It wasn’t a word that I had thought much about, nor did I fully process the significance and truth to her words. She claimed that resilience, above all else, would serve us best as we transitioned to life as adults. The more time that passes from the moment when she made such a claim, the more it resonates. The more it holds true. While I can’t tell you who she was or why she was the person addressing that troop of 18 year old graduates, I remember her message. And as my life grows increasingly complex and entangled with family and work and relationships and all of the ups and downs and paradoxes and contradictions that are the hallmark of a life well-lived, of a life well-experienced, the more I rely on resilience to buoy me through the tides.
I’ve witnessed first hand the power of resilience with Ursa. And this weekend, resilience was a running theme in the remarks offered by two esteemed alumni from Williams who each separately spoke about our increasingly complex, complicated, dangerous world. Eric Schmitt remarked that what the U.S. lacks is not security, but resilience. And that that is our greatest weakness and will be our greatest undoing the next time we face a national crisis like that of 9/11. Resilience, again, was the glue, the trait, the essential piece that would serve us all best. Because it’s not if there’s another terrorist attack, it’s when. It’s not if life has heartache and loss and sickness and tragedy, it’s when. All of these things are a part of living. And we cannot protect ourselves from the inevitable. But we shouldn’t let the inevitable debilitate us or stop us from enjoying all the joy and beauty that balances out the heartache and pain. We must rely on resilience to keep our heads turned forward so that we are not held back by the bumps in the rear view mirror. We can’t help but glance behind, but we must keep moving forward. And resilience makes that possible. Resilience keeps us living.
Who knew the remarks of a high school graduation could have such relevance nearly a decade later?
On Wednesday Ursa’s staples will be removed, which marks an important milestone. Although, admittedly, she’s already shown signs of near full recovery. She needs fewer and fewer doses of pain medication to make it through the day without discomfort. She races around like she’s always walked on three limbs.
This weekend, she had a dramatic collision with Addison, who happened to be mid-swing on her swing set, and yet was none the worse for wear. On Saturday night, she insisted on being let upstairs to sleep with the rest of her pack. She stood whining at the foot of the stairs, and when she began attempting the climb, James and I relinquished and had to secure the top step so that she would not attempt a descent without our assistance.
The big news is that the initial pathology reports show that she does not, in fact, have osteosarcoma, aka bone cancer, aka the most aggressive and devastating kind of cancer that this could have been. Our vet prepared us for osteosarcoma as that was the worst case scenario, the do not pass go, do not live past one year. But James’ Godfather reported on Friday that it is definitely NOT osteosarcoma and appears to be a joint cancer. We’re awaiting the details of an additional test to confirm this. And we’ll need to do further testing on Ursa to see how much the cancer has spread. The good news is that statistically the average survival rate with joint cancer is longer than with osteosarcomas. Apparently in some dogs it is still devastating and all-consuming, but in others, very slow moving and manageable.
I do not want to get my hopes up. But I can’t help but feel a pang of relief.
We’re just taking it a day at a time. Enjoying the moments when we see Ursa’s spirit and joy shine stronger than any illness. That’s all we can do. That’s all we should do.
Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Weeks Cart