February 14, 2012

Pillars of Strength - A Special Day for "K"

Today, Valentine's Day, the blogging community is sending our love to KB of Romping and Rolling in the Rockies. KB's dog, K, is facing the challenges of osteosarcoma. We hope that our posts will help bring KB strength and peace as she helps her K battle this insidious disease.

I'm never sure if bloggers find each other through fate, or if it's just the luck of web hopscotch. We spring through the links and sometimes land on a page that reads like the voice of a old friend. We make these lucky friendships in our own backyard and across the world, and while we can often only imagine our friends' actual voices (and their dogs' barks), their words are always comforting and familiar.

I "met" KB in November 2010. We both live in Colorado and we don't know each other in person, but we have a lot in common. We're both head-over-heels in love with remarkable dogs who happen to share initials: K and R. Each of us is awed, daily, by the extraordinary beauty of our state. We share a love of exploring mountain trails, snowy and sunny, with our dogs and through their eyes. And we formed a friendship over a toe.

KB's first visit to Raising Ruby chanced to be on Turn-In, the emotional day when Ruby left our home to enter advanced training. It was a scant post, typed through tears as I packed Ruby's things and kissed her goodbye. KB left a warm comment on my blog, helping to soothe the ache as my puppy leapt into the next phase of her journey to become a service dog. In the days following Ruby's departure, I visited KB's blog, Romping and Rolling in the Rockies, and recognized that unique voice of a new old friend. KB is a gifted writer and photographer and I was thrilled and intrigued by her gorgeous photos and clandestine glimpses of wildlife.

I was also concerned to read that her beautiful dog, K, was suffering from an inflammation of the toe that could not be easily diagnosed. Six years prior, my own "K" — Kiva — had a painful and undiagnosed inflammation of her toe. My husband and I had faced a hard decision — whether or not to amputate. We were so confused and so unsure. Amputation seemed extreme, but it was the only way to make a conclusive diagnosis. It was the same decision KB was facing.

Amputation before a diagnosis is a tough leap of faith. KB and I corresponded about the difficulty of the decision, the possible outcomes, the pros and cons, the lingering effects. In Kiva's case, we had decided on amputation and it had proven to be the best course of treatment, revealing a malignancy that had spread in our young dog. After long discussions with her veterinarians, KB also decided to go ahead with amputation. With a sense of relief, we all read the news of K's results — infection — and we watched K heal and romp again. Side-by-side spiritually, our Ks continued to hike the high country, each with a precious paw minus one small member of the team.

I often imagine those two rogue toes, great pals, hopping about in their astral meadow. One daring the other to scamper up the rockiest cliff; splashing together through glacial lakes in a race to the shore. Scoundrels! Chasing each other in the grass, trampling a maze through the wildflowers.

I've been away for a while, spending time with my now elderly K and a new little R, and I've just heard KB's news of K's osteosarcoma. KB shares her treatment plan and K's progress, and her readers and friends send big hugs we hope she can feel. But KB also gifts us with the inspiration of pure joy, photos of her strong, active K romping and rolling through the Rockies every day with glee and abandon!

K's smiling eyes shine through my screen and I recognize the extraordinary power of a dog's spirit and will — the same strength that I saw in my own Kiva as she enjoyed her life despite my worry. It's easier in theory than in practice for their humans, but our Ks have each taught us the same thing: to live each day with grace, exuberance, and the triumph of each moment.