Michelle Martin

Dog days

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Every so often, I get a plea for help on my Facebook feed.

Someone has had a rough day — a fight with their spouse, tantrums from the kids, work trouble — and there is one thing they ask for.

“Please send cute pet pictures.”

Lucky for them, I have a whole library of photos of our dog, Elly.

There’s Elly sitting in chairs: at the kitchen table, in front of the computer, peering out the window in the posture of a vulture, looking like Snoopy on his doghouse.

There’s Elly lying on her back, also like Snoopy, begging for belly rubs.

There’s Elly sprawled on the floor, doing her best imitation of a rug, and Elly curled into a ball on the Minecraft pillow that serves as a dog bed.

Elly the dog, a 4-year-old, 55-pound pit bull adopted from the Anti-Cruelty Society three years ago, is an integral part of the family. She doesn’t always like other dogs, but she’s never met a human she doesn’t like, a lap she doesn’t want to sit on or a blanket she doesn’t want to crawl under.

So when we got the news that the little spot on her chest, the one that looked like a mosquito bite at first, but then began to grow, was cancerous, there was worry and there were tears and prayers. No one wanted to confront the idea of losing her less than four years after our last dog, Elly’s predecessor, died.

But we did have to explain that we had a responsibility to Elly, and that taking care of her might mean understanding when treatment would simply cause too much suffering to justify, especially for a creature who can’t understand why she’s going through it.

We were fortunate; an initial surgery removed the initial growth and two more, but all of them were a slow-growing form of cancer and completely excised. She recovered well from the surgery, even using the cone around her head as a tool to push things out of her way.

Still, she was glad to get it taken off and return to normal life, three shaved patches notwithstanding.

There may be more surgery in her future, as pit bulls are especially likely to develop the type of tumor she had and she seems to be susceptible to them, but for now, she’s healthy and apparently cancer-free.

In October, we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a time when Catholics often spend more time remembering how much St. Francis loved animals than how he worked to rebuild the church.

Maybe that’s because it’s easy for us to relate to loving animals, especially the animals that become part of our families and love us back. But if we can extend that love of animals to love all of God’s creation, the way St. Francis did, we’ll be much further along the path to loving God as we should.



  • family life
  • pets