A Rodale Press contribution
As every dog owner knows, the sad times come. Diagnostic results were in --my Doberman, The Senator, had cancer. Radiation therapy was determined to be his only hope for survival. The nearest veterinary school with such facilities could not admit him for six weeks. No choice remained but to drive from southwest Virginia to Cleveland. In February. Four times.
Radiation required hospitalization for nearly a month, and this giant mama's boy would pine away to a poodle without weekend visits. With a budget sharply diminished by upcoming medical care, I searched the city for motels that didn't exist, then concluded it would simply be necessary to sleep in my truck each sojourn. When friends helpfully suggested I was insane, I called area kennel clubs in a last-ditch effort to find a safe corner in which to curl up.
Imagine receiving the following phone call on a dark winter eve, an exasperating workday just concluded:
"Hello, you don't know me, I'm calling from Virginia. Your name was listed with your local kennel club, and, well, my beloved dog has cancer that only radiation treatment may cure. No facilities closer than Cleveland are able to provide it, but my dog-his name? Um, The Honorable Senator from Roanoke-he's, like, surgically attached to me and just wouldn't survive being left in a strange place for a month. I'm flat broke and was going to sleep in my vehicle while visiting him, but it seems kinda cold up there right now, not to mention the crime, so I'm desperately trying to find some corner, basement, wherever to throw a sleeping bag in exchange for doing chores-bathing, grooming, cleaning, picking up poop..."
You have already hung up. Yet the incredible people on the other end instantly welcomed a complete stranger into their home. They insisted the 90-pound Senator come as well. He would not, however, be sleeping on the floor, but on the bed in the beautiful, well-appointed guest room. His own extra blanket would be provided. He could take his meals there if he preferred. Hopefully, he would feel well enough to play with the assortment of chew toys provided in "his" room.
Upon our arrival, the resident Kerry Blue terriers, long accustomed to their established daily routines, were gated off in one section of the house to prevent problems and to allow Senator private outings in the fenced back yard.
I was to jiggle the switch on the coffee pot on the kitchen table in the morning. The cereal was in the upper right cabinet, bread and muffins the left, eggs, butter, jams, jellies, and milk in the fridge. Oh, and here was the house key, as the wife had to work all day and the husband would be away part of the time. If Senator and I wished to go anywhere, we could regain entry without delay. I was not to think of buying dinner as the wife had left a multicourse home-cooked meal and bottle of wine for me to share with her husband that evening.
No memory leaves me more incredulous at each recollection than the kindness, generosity, and grace of these extraordinary people. We are all Dog People, each and every one related. Beyond mere kindred spirits, we are, and always will be, "Related by Dog"!
As for Senator, the fibrosarcoma on the front leg has been in remission for nearly two years now. His leg is strong, and he suffers no symptoms. I'm writing this on his tenth birthday!
Q.: Who were these nice Kerry folks in Cleveland?
A.: Cynthia and Leigh White in Westlake, Ohio.