Lesson #7: If you love somebody deeply enough, cleaning up their diarrhea doesn't make you want to puke.
I've seen them. The mothers in the shopping mall bathrooms whipping those diapers off and on like they've lost all of their olfactory abilities. And now I get it. How if it is their baby, the diaper smells like fresh apple pie.
Chemo and its aftermath taught me about carpet cleaners in a whole new way, but I never saw it as a hassle. Dante was embarrassed every time it happened, and so cleaning it up quickly, and with a smile, was paramount, so as not to add to his discomfort, his shame. And when his final reconstructive surgery failed and Dr. Walsh and I faced the difficult decision to amputate, I never, for even a half a second, saw his three-leggedness as strange, or frightening, or ugly.
Dante is as beautiful on three legs as he was on four, only different. You should see him lift himself delicately over a 4-foot fence and come down on that one extra-strengthened front leg. You should see him outrun Rose, our four-legged Wolfhound, if there is a teasing squirrel involved.
Sometimes in a park someone will say, "Oh, that's so sad," when they see him, and I want to say, "No, idiot, this is the happy part."
Once, in the park, a Chinese man approached me and looked at Dante with nothing but approval in his eyes. "In Beijing, in the zoo," he said, "there is a Siberian tiger that only has three legs." He shook his head, "No pity," he said, and made a fist with his hand: "No pity." He touched the top of Dante's head lightly with the fist he had made and walked away.