02/14/2012 07:10 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2012

My Dog, My God and Cancer

It was late in the afternoon one day last week and I was feeling weepy as I drove to the veterinary oncologist to pick up my dog after a day of tests. Fannie has had two surgeries in the past year to remove malignant melanoma from her tongue, but a new lump recently appeared.

Small dogs are supposed to live a long time, I thought to myself as I headed to the vet clinic. When I adopted her as a puppy, I expected her to live 20 years. But now she has cancer ... and she's only 10!

Tears flowed and my pity party was in full swing.

Then, about halfway to the clinic, my grieving lament was interrupted by a gentle voice: Listen to yourself! You sound like a little kid who got 10 fabulous gifts on Christmas morning ... and now you're crying because you didn't get 20?!

Huh, what? I was startled out of my wallowing. Who was this voice chiding me? Was it God? Was it some long-forgotten wisdom speaking to me from my own subconscious? I don't know who or what the voice was, but it snapped me right out of my self-pity.

Then I laughed ... at myself ... then at the rest of humanity. Isn't that the way we humans are? We're like little kids with greedy minds and hearts -- too often focusing on what we don't have, rather than appreciating everything we do have.

How could I have been so ungrateful? Fannie and I have enjoyed 10 love-filled years together: thousands of belly rubs, dozens of road trips, hundreds of sunset walks, countless laughs over doggie escapades, and many an afternoon nap spooning with her, my face buried in the soft, thick fur on the back of her neck. Ten years of wonderful experiences and beautiful memories ... such blessings!


(Photo credit: Frank Bruynbroek. Used with permission.)

Cancer doesn't make one whit of difference to Fannie. She lives each moment, each hour, each day -- happily doing what dogs do -- taking in all the scents, sights, sounds in the world around her. For a dog, every day is Christmas. But unlike her human companion, Fannie doesn't whine for more -- she just takes things as they come, happily, gratefully.

My dog is my teacher -- she reminds me to enjoy simple pleasures and to live fully today. Cancer is my teacher -- it reminds me that everything is impermanent and everyone dies. Cancer makes my life sweeter -- every belly rub is more luxurious, every sunset walk more delicious, and every snuggle more heavenly. Fannie and cancer and I live together in peace.

God is in charge ... and the world is unfolding as it should.

Fannie's Facebook Fan Page is for all who love dogs, cats, and all God's creatures:!/pages/Fannie/120450852428