Lesson #5: All your new habits, like weeping and praying and talking about your feelings, will actually endear you to more people than they will drive away.
This waking-up thing, this being present to my emotions even when they are inconvenient to the task at hand, has had some interesting side effects. It lost me my then-boyfriend, for example, which was all for the best, and it gained me some new friends of the variety that aren't nearly as perfect as I had been at keeping emotions at bay -- which is better still.
When I sobbed all through my consultation with Dr. Peter Walsh of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital -- in my opinion the world's best veterinary surgeon -- I thought he would throw us out of his office and tell us to never come back. In fact it was the beginning of a very unique and wonderful friendship, full of trust and mutual respect, but conducted almost entirely in dog language, nearly empty of words.
I suddenly had something huge and awe-inspiring in common with a lot of other people -- someone we loved desperately was gravely ill -- and I understood that we could be a tremendous help to one another. Dante got himself a pen pal through YAPS (Youth and Pet Survivors Program), a little girl with osteosarcoma named Meaghan, and we all got invited to a place called the Silver Lining Ranch in Aspen, Colorado, where kids with cancer of all kinds go for a week of fun and emotional healing. It's run by Andrea Jaeger, who is less like a person and more like a force of nature, a human light source who is pure dedication, the generous ying to my father's selfish yang, and the best living example I've ever seen of the unlimited yield on kindness. When one of the kids she'd brought to the Silver Lining, a little girl named Christine who was suffering from three kinds of cancer simultaneously, was asked if God had a plan for her, she said, with a big smile on her face, "Sure, it's to make all the people who don't have cancer understand that they have to love each other every day." Go to lesson #6
Reprinted from Dog Is My Co-Pilot, from the editors of The Bark © 2003 Permission granted by Crown Publishers.