Canine Cancer

Yesterday I walked Gibbie in the evening rather than in the morning as is our habit. At the slightest sign or mention of a walk, Gibbie jumps around like a crazed rabbit. Putting on my shoes and socks becomes for me a tricky affair, with him trying to help me tie my shoes faster. I put on his harness, his leash, pick up a poop bag, start my walk-tracking app, and we’re off.

At the beginning of the walk he pulls hard on the leash, so eager is he to get going. The image for me is indelible: his long black body with just a few white triangles, his forward movement constrained by a red harness and red leash, driving ahead with tank-like tenacity. He stops to sniff mailbox posts, shrubbery and other dog news sites.

When we pass someone walking in the other direction or working in their yard, Gibbie yearns and strains to greet them. I glance at them to gauge their interest in being pawed by our gregarious pooch. If they happen to be walking another dog or two, Gibbie’s interest is doubled. I ask if it is okay for our dogs to sniff each other.

Last night we saw a couple walking a small tan poodle. They said he couldn’t get close to us because he was having chemo and had a low white blood cell count. Me too, I wanted to reply. But I decided not to make it about me. I just offered condolences and we moved on. How do dogs get chemo? Do they sit in little beige recliners with knit caps on while tubes carry the drugs into their bloodstream? Even trying to imagine Gibbie getting chemo moistens my eyes.

I look at him. He is not worried about getting cancer.