Friday, December 9, 2016

Puppies and Practicalities (APIWATWOL #3)

#3 in the "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words or Less" series. (For a description of how this series works, see installment #1)

This photo was taken on December 27, 2015, the day after we picked up RuPaul from the breeder in Michigan, the same breeder from whom we adopted Gigham and Duke as litter mates a decade earlier. RuPaul is lying on the floor of our little basement apartment in my mother- and father-in-law's home in Williamston, right before we loaded up the SUV and drove back to Boulder, sneaking him into a hotel somewhere along I-80 in Nebraska.

A week before we got RuPaul, we almost didn't go through with it. All because of one brief telephone call at a truck stop in Iowa on our drive out to Michigan.

We pulled up to the gas pumps and I told Clare, 15 at the time, to go ahead to the restrooms without me, that I wanted to make a quick call. As soon as she walked toward the building I told Jeff to send her back into the mini-mart for some made-up errand if she came back and I was still on the phone, quickly explaining that my biopsy results were in and I didn't want to have that conversation in front of her. He instantly got that look, the one he gets when one of the women in his life--his mother, his sister, me--is in trouble in a way that he's powerless to fix.

Jeff began pumping the gas. I got back in the car and dialed the number.

A medical assistant took my call and explained that the doctor was out for the rest of the day, could I please call back tomorrow. In no uncertain terms, I told her that I had less than four minutes to get some answers while my kid was inside a gas station on our road trip, and that I already knew the gist of my results based on the tone of the voicemail message I'd received. If there was nothing to worry about the message most likely would've been a quick, "Just wanted to let you know your biopsy results were clear. Have a great holiday." Instead, the message had been an ominous, "Please call the doctor as soon as possible." Reluctantly, the woman on the other end of the phone shared my results with me.

Sure enough, it was cancer. Not stage-4 terminal cancer, but cancer nonetheless. Cancer that would require treatment in the coming months. Cancer that might prove to be more than originally detected once lymph nodes were biopsied during surgery. Cancer that would make adopting an 8-week-old puppy, at best--impractical, at worst--downright stupid.

When we checked into our hotel in Iowa City that night, Clare said she wanted to workout at the hotel gym and take a bubble bath in the jacuzzi tub. Perfect. I convinced Jeff that he and I should walk to the closest liquor store for a bottle of wine, but while strolling the downtown pedestrian area in search of said wine I noticed a small Irish bar.

"You know what?" I said to Jeff. "We've been together almost 20 years and we've never done a tequila shot together."

He looked at me like he didn't quite get what I was saying, probably still a bit stunned by the news we'd received three hours earlier and hadn't yet shared with Clare.

"I have cancer, for chrissake," I continued. "Will you let me play the Cancer Card and go do a shot with me?"

"Sure," he said, the slightest smile emerging as he held the door to the pub open for me.

We spent the next couple hours formulating a plan. The strategy for finding an oncologist. Timing for surgery. How to tell Clare in a way that was honest, but wouldn't overwhelm her. Whether or not to go through with adopting the puppy we were headed to Michigan to pick up during our visit with Jeff's side of the family.

Four tequila shots, three beers and a platter of sliders later, we had our plan. Getting a puppy right before embarking on cancer treatments wasn't convenient. But then again, neither was cancer.

RuPaul joined our pack one week later.

Sometimes, the best plans begin with tequila.

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