Whether you know me in real life or we’re friends on Facebook or Instagram, then you have a glimpse into how much I love our goldendoodle, Remy. It’s difficult to articulate just what this dog means to me. As crazy as it sounds (and yes, I know he’s a dog and not a human), Remy is a part of me. He just is. Remy came into my life when I was 23 years old. I was living on my own in Park City, Utah chasing a dream of being a full-time freelance writer and part-time ski bum. While I was learning how to support and care for myself, I was simultaneously learning how to support and care for him. I can say, without hesitation, that pieces of me exist because of this dog. He helped cultivate my ability and love for nurturing, which I can’t wait to shower upon our son. He’s taught me how to forgive in the face of disappointment. He’s shown me it’s possible to find the good and the fun in almost any circumstance. From him, I’ve learned to accept others exactly as they are. And most importantly, he’s shown me how to love unconditionally. Over and over again.Remy’s been by my side through countless miles, a cross-country move to Vermont, and infinite life lessons. He was with me when I moved to Chicago in 2010. We even share the same birthday.Remy was there the evening I came home giddy from my very first date with Robert. He was there the first time Robert visited my apartment and we cooked dinner together. He was there the moment Robert asked me to marry him. And he’ll be there the day we bring our baby boy home. And so, it breaks my heart to think that just over two weeks ago we thought we might be saying goodbye to Remy forever.
On December 19, I brought Remy in for what I thought was a relatively routine vet appointment. He’d recently lost some weight and was drinking a lot of water. The vet, Dr. Dann, felt something in Remy’s spleen and ran an X-ray and ultrasound. The tests showed a sizable mass. Dr. Dann explained that the mass could be one of two things: There was a 50 percent chance it was a benign tumor and a 50 percent chance it was hemangiosarcoma–a serious form of cancer in which about 90 percent of dogs die within one to three months. I sat there stunned. It was the last thing I ever expected to hear about our seemingly healthy and energetic 7.5-year-old pup. My mind struggled to process his words. Next, Dr. Dann explained that they wouldn’t know which one it was until they removed Remy’s spleen, biopsied tissues from other organs, and sent the samples to a pathologist. Even if it was benign, his spleen had to come out because there was a risk that the mass could burst and cause internal bleeding that could kill him. Surgery was our only option.
The final blow was this: If, during surgery, there was evidence of metastasis throughout Remy’s abdomen, Dr. Dann would call me and recommend putting him down rather than having him go through recovery only to get sick and pass away within a matter of months. As impossible as that was to hear, I agreed that it was the most humane thing to do, should it come to that. I never want Remy to suffer a day in his life. Before Remy’s surgery, Robert and I wanted to have some photos of our family, just as we are now. We have so few photos of Robert, me, Remy, and Pippa* together that we couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to Remy without them. A friend put us in touch with a talented local photographer, Becca Heuer. I e-mailed her the day before Remy’s surgery. And, miraculously, despite being three days before Christmas, she was able to meet us that same afternoon. Although it was cold and rainy and one of the darkest days of the year (in more ways than one), she captured some of my all-time favorite photos. At the time, we knew it could be Remy’s last day with us. During the shoot that thought often crept into my mind, but I did my best to focus on the now and the love I have for him and our little family.I’m so happy to report that this fluffly white pup whose paw prints are stamped all over our hearts is still with us! His surgery went well, there were no visible signs of disease beyond his spleen, and, after seven nerve-wracking days of waiting, his biopsy results came back negative for cancer. Today, less than three weeks post-op, Remy is 100 percent back to his usual lovable, goofy self. We spent our Christmas caring for him as he recovered and loving on him as he healed. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how fortunate we are with Remy’s outcome. Despite needing major surgery and requiring us to cancel a trip back East over the holiday so we could be with him, it’s turned out as well as we could’ve hoped. And let’s not forget, his tumor was in an organ he doesn’t even need. What are the chances? I can’t help but think about the fact that every day families deal with uncertainty, heart-breaking news, and loss of all kinds. I’ll never know how we got so lucky, but I’m so deeply grateful. The experience isn’t lost on me.Whenever I look at these photos, watch Remy use a pillow like a human, hold Pippa as she falls asleep against my squirming belly, or feel Robert’s warm hand in mine, I’m reminded, more than ever, to never take any of it for granted. *Oh, sweet Pippa!! She’s perfect and we love her every bit as much as we love Remy!