We adopted this wonderful “rescue dog” five years ago. I am convinced that Noël helped to save my life. I doubt I would have shown any symptoms of kidney cancer without this event. Four years ago, on Dec 20, 2011, I underwent surgery and had a radical nephrectomy. The surgeon also removed a 13cm tumor. Yikes!
From Napkin Notes – Chapter 2
I lost sight of her again. I was running, but she was faster. I had to stay on the path, but she was darting through the trees and the underbrush. I could not keep up. The path was too twisted and uneven. I was running up, down, left, and right on the dirt. The afternoon sun was beating down on me through the golden and red leaves. My wife and neighbors were well behind me, but we were all yelling her name. I was doing my best to run ahead, but I was already short of breath. I was scared. She hadn’t been on her own like this, with so much freedom. I had to keep her within eyesight.
We were camping, an activity I didn’t particularly enjoy. On a hike with our friends, our dog Noël had dashed off in pursuit of something and was nowhere to be seen. We had rescued her less than a year before. Noël had been in a local pet shelter for fifty-nine days. This nearby county shelter was not a “no kill” shelter, and after sixty days, the animals were euthanized. She was saved from that fate by FLAG (For the Love of Animals in Goochland), a local animal rescue group. Noël barely looked like a dog when we met her. She was just fur and bones. The fur she did have was patchy and sparse.
Noël had clearly been on her own for some time. She was skittish around most ¬people and appeared to be deathly afraid of me. Lissa and Emma were certain: Noël was the dog we had to save.
I didn’t want a new dog in our home. Lucy was my dog. I had chosen her and loved my German Shepherd–Rottweiler mix for thirteen years. Lucy had died just four months before Lissa and Emma ambushed me with rescue dog pictures. I was still grieving and didn’t want to have room in my heart for another pet.
I continued running even though my lungs felt like they might explode. Bailey, the neighbors’ golden retriever, was keeping up with Noël, and I could just see a yellow ball of fur up ahead. All I could hope was that Noël wasn’t that far in front of her.
Finally, I saw the dogs slow, some smell halting their joy run. I was able to catch up and put the leash back on Noël. I let out a huge sigh of relief, thankful that the rest of our weekend wouldn’t be spent wandering the wilderness, hoping to somehow bring Noël home.
Our neighbors, Mike and Sheryl Bourdeau, had invited us camping, one last getaway before the cold of autumn set in. At least it was camping in a cabin and not in tents. I could handle staying in a cabin much easier than sleeping on the ground. We were celebrating Sheryl’s birthday, and that night Mike had a fantastic dinner of steaks planned. We toasted the birthday girl with red wine and ate gourmet cupcakes. We played games and thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company. The evening came to a close too quickly. As I was preparing for bed, I needed to use the bathroom. As I stood peeing, I watched in shock. My urine was sangria red.
I couldn’t begin to think what was causing this. There was no pain. There was no other indication that something was wrong with me. I commenced freaking out