The Golden Years
My best friend, Cocoa, and I live in a senior-citizen apartment complex in a lovely small town. Cocoa is a ten-year-old poodle and I am a sixty-nine-year-old lady, so you can see we both qualify as senior citizens.
Years ago, I promised myself that when I retired I would get a chocolate poodle to share my golden years. From the very first, Cocoa has always been exceptionally well-behaved. I never have to tell him anything more than once. He was housebroken in three days and has never done anything naughty. He is extremely neat -- when taking toys from his box to play, he always puts them back when he is finished. I have been accused of being obsessively neat, and sometimes I wonder if he mimics me or if he was born that way, too.
He is a wonderful companion. When I throw a ball for him, he picks it up in his mouth and throws it back to me. We sometimes play a game I played as a child -- but never with a dog. He puts his paw on my hand, I cover it with my other hand, he puts his paw on top, and I slide my hand out from underneath the pile and lay it on top, and so on. He does many amusing things that make me laugh, and when that happens, he is so delighted he just keeps it up. I enjoy his company immensely.
But almost two years ago, Cocoa did something that defies comprehension. Was it a miracle or a coincidence? It is certainly a mystery.
One afternoon, Cocoa started acting strangely. I was sitting on the floor playing with him, when he started pawing and sniffing at the right side of my chest. He had never done anything like this ever before, and I told him, “No.” With Cocoa, one “no” is usually sufficient, but not that day. He stopped briefly, then suddenly ran toward me from the other side of the room, throwing his entire weight -- eighteen pounds -- at the right side of my chest. He crashed into me and I yelped in pain. It hurt more than I thought it should have.
Soon after this, I felt a lump. I went to my doctors, and after X-rays, tests and lab work were done, they told me I had cancer.
When cancer starts, for an unknown reason, a wall of calcium builds. Then the lump or cancer attaches itself to this wall. When Cocoa jumped on me, the force of the impact broke the lump away from the calcium wall. This made it possible for me to notice the lump. Before that, I couldn’t see it or feel it, so there was no way for me to know it was there.
I had a complete mastectomy and the cancer has not spread to any other part of my body. The doctors told me if the cancer had gone undetected even six more months, it would have been too late.
Was Cocoa aware of just what he was doing? I’ll never really know. What I do know is that I’m glad I made a promise to spend my golden years with this wonderful chocolate brown poodle -- for Cocoa not only shares his life with me, he has made sure that I will be around to share my life with him!