Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. We're used to dealing with the tall, dark, handsome ones with rock-hard abs, a killer grin or a fierce, brooding stare. And a little hint of stubble on the jaw doesn't hurt. I spend plenty of days with men like that -- and I love them all.
But many evenings and some holidays and vacations I spend with another hero. His name is Mac. He is, to misquote Julie Cohen, Not Even Our Dog (Julie has Not Even Our Cat in her life). We have Mac in ours.
Nancy's home fit the bill. Nancy is the perfect mother for Mac. He has always had a mind of his own -- and plans to go with it -- and she has simply learned to deal.
Mac believes in being well-fed. Nancy thinks he should be fit. Most of the time they manage both. But when Mac feels short-changed, he is, er, enterprising. When she came home from church one Sunday, she rang me to say, "He's eaten a whole tray of chocolate-covered macaroons!" I had trouble believing that. Not without leaving a crumb. Mac is not that fastidious. Besides, a whole tray of macaroons, particularly chocolate-covered ones, ought to make anyone sick, especially a 25 lb. dog.
I said, "When he stayed with us, and I gave him a rawhide, he didn't eat it. He took it upstairs and buried it in one of the beds." (savaging a sheet in the process). "Maybe he did that with the macaroons. Check the beds."
Well, only put one in a bed, underneath her daughter's pillow. H had, very diligently, distributed the rest of them all over her house. She found a macaroon behind the sofa, another behind the chair. There was one tucked under the piano, one down in the basement next to the washing machine. He was appalled to watch her find them -- and pretty quickly he tried damage control by running ahead of her to rescue them before she could pick them up.
I have found myself wishing ever since that she had security cameras in her house that would have captured his original treks here and there, hiding them all for future consumption! I think it would have made YouTube's top ten!
He has done plenty of other amazing and occasionally heroic (but mostly funny) things in his life. But his most amazing accomplishment is that he's still with us.
When she got him, the vet told her he had an enlarged heart. For several years it didn't seem to have any effect on him. But a year ago last August he got a terrible cough. For such a small dog, his cough sounded like a mastiff imitating a fog horn. Daunting -- and scary -- to say the least.
It was his heart, the vet said. He was well into congestive heart failure. He was only seven. It was a wrenching thought to consider she might lose him so young. He coughed on. And he went on long walks. He rummaged in the recycled paper looking for wrappers that might be tasty. He coughed. He carried sticks around. He sat on the back of the sofa and monitored traffic. He coughed. He walked even longer walks. He chased his favorite blue ball. And still he coughed.
He survived her trip to Jamestown (he stayed with us), and her trip to Costa Rica (he stayed with us) and visits to her grandkids (he went -- and happily came back to cough some more and go for walks). He began to suffer from edema. His normally fit body began to sag under the weight of the fluid he was retaining. But still he walked. And rummaged. And ate. The chasing of Blue Ball receded somewhat. That was difficult.
He soldiered on. A month ago, he had three pounds of fluid drained. He ran up the steps. He walked. He considered Blue Ball, but didn't get too much of a thrill out of chasing it. He dreamed of macaroons. And the edema continued to plague him.
Yesterday he went back to the vet. This time she drained 8 pounds of fluid -- that's 1/4 of his body weight! -- a gallon. And he ran up the steps when he came to visit last night. He continues to have great joy in life.
We know he's not going to have many more weeks, months, years left. We're astonished he has had as much as he has (so is the vet). But we are all grateful for his presence. He is a hero, dealing with the not very nice hand that he's been dealt, and doing so with aplomb and a joie de vivre that I personally hope that I can emulate.
I've celebrated dogs and cats in many blog pieces in various places over the years -- often in remembrance of a life well lived and deeply loved. In this case it seems fitting to celebrate Mac whose life is still a Work In Progress.
He just may have a hero named after him before long. That hero will have a lot to live up to.
Anne's latest, The Return of Antonides, Lukas's story, was out last month from Harlequin Presents and Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern.