Archive:  Year 4 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 "The Best of the Worst"

It has been a tumultuous time on the River.  Although at the present moment I cannot imagine an environment more peaceful, the task of simply recalling the events of the past few weeks makes my stomach turn.   

I guess I’ll start with the flood:

My blog entry from March 14th ends with an expression of optimism that, although high water had been predicted, I didn’t think it would rise above what I had seen in the past.  I felt smug, unfounded confidence that I knew the River and everyone was over-reacting. 

The marina had been preparing for high water by doing the usual stuff – moving or launching moored boats, hauling away the port-a-potties, that kind of thing.  Then, one afternoon, Kenny, the marina manager, approached me as I was outside shaking rugs.

“Hi, Dawn.” 

“Hi, Kenny.”

“How’s things?”

“Good.  How’s the flood prep coming?”

“Good.”  Kenny looked around the marina and across to the boats moored on land.  

The River was about as high as I had ever seen it, only a foot or two below my observed record.  The ramp from the dock to land, usually a steep incline, was almost level; and the seawall and launch were totally submerged.  

“How soon could you move your boat,” he asked me casually. 

I looked from him over to my boat.  She was as unready to be moved as boats get.  Still wrapped in thick white plastic, decks loaded with precarious storage, the engines winterized…  And even if I were ready to go, the marina was still covered with a thin layer of ice.  

As live-aboards, we are required to be unwrapped and prepared to move by April 15th, the usual flooding season.  Which is when it hit me:  the water was as high as I had ever seen it ONE MONTH earlier than I had ever seen it!  Oh god… 

I looked back to Kenny.

“Why,” I asked.

“J-dock isn’t going to make it,” he said.

I swallowed hard and tried to maintain a good captain’s demeanor. 

“Meaning…”  I prompted.

“Your ramp to shore will be under, parking lot, electricity – the whole nine.”

“Okay,” I said, “how long do we have.”

“Three days.  Tops.”

Within about half an hour we had a plan.  And not just me and Kenny – the entirety of J-dock – which includes about 6 year-round live-aboards.  We were all moving to K-dock, which is across the marina and closer inland.  Those who could unwrap and power their engines would drive over, the rest of us (including me) would be towed.  And we would do it all tomorrow…

The next day came and everything went perfectly smoothly.  Two of the guys set out breaking up the ice sheet that remained between us and our destination.  Capt’n D in his row boat, and Eric in his cruiser.  The self-powered boats were first to go over, while the remaining three of us waited for our ride.  It was a sunny and beautiful day and we all agreed that, impending doom aside, it was an enjoyable experience.

Within a few hours of all of us moving, we had run a hose over with our fresh water, and power, cable, and pump-out were all working.  By sunset we were grilling and toasting to each others’ strength and bravery…  We’d all be safe here and back to our own dock within a few weeks.  All was well.

But then, the next day, I noticed that Grace was acting strange.  Grace is my 6 year-old boxer, and an all-around perfect dog.  I have had her as wing-man, kayaking and running partner, body guard, buddy, head-rest, and plus-one… Many times, she’s been the only one.  In short, I love Grace.


I had noticed that she wasn’t keeping up with me on runs and then developed a constant hacking cough.  I made an appointment with the vet, and by the time we went in – two days later – things got worse.  She wasn’t sleeping, eating very little, and limping.

Our first visit ruled out all of our initial suspicious for what it might be:  Lyme disease, which dogs get from ticks this time of year, has similar symptoms – including lameness.  We also ruled out any sort of bacterial or fungal infection, perhaps a result of drinking out of the River.  He would run a blood test and we should call him in the morning.

Grace didn’t sleep that night.  She would pant endlessly and it seemed impossible for her to get comfortable.  I laid on the floor with her and cooed and snuggled and tried to get her calm enough to rest.  It was then that I noticed that fluid was gathering around her neck and under her chin – like a giant balloon that appeared, and then noticeably grew, within hours.  

At the first instant I took her back to the vet and after seeing this new development, he quickly did an x-ray.  And that is when we found it:  a tumor.  A mass next to her heart that was cutting off her circulation, causing the fluid to back up around her skull, and her legs to go numb.  

I took it as one would probably expect: mostly blind panic and sobs peppered with stupid questions.  What I needed to know was what kind of tumor it is, and what to do next.  My vet could offer the general sweep of the news but needed another specialist to give me the timeline and diagnosis I needed in order to sleep.  


After an ultrasound and aspirate we got the full dose of both good and bad news.  The good news is that as I write this, Grace is happy and comfortable – one would not know a thing is wrong with her.  The bad news is it is because she is on Prednisone, the prescribed treatment for malignant lymphoma in dogs.  They’ve thrown around a lot of timelines for us, all of which vary significantly.  What remains consistent, however, is the fact that at some point in the future she will no longer respond to the Prednisone and then chemotherapy is the next option.  After discussing it at length together in the kayak and over bacon, Grace has informed me that she does not want to do chemotherapy.  That being the case, job one from here on out, is long walks, slow rides, and as many good days as we can get.  So really, the very course of action we’ve been on since the day she arrived.  

This sucks, and truth be told, when I imagine my life without Grace in it, I want to punch God.  But it is the bargain we make when we experience a loving connection with an animal – and for better or for worse - I’m in.   

And if the River or the world around us were sensing any of my anticipation for an early and long-lasting Summer – they have truly delivered.  The days have been unusually warm and our temporary slip proved a perfect sanctuary during the high water.  It was so warm, in fact, Melby convinced me to unwrap the boat early.  We are looking at an open River, out of uncovered windows, in record time – three solid weeks prior to last year. 

I’ve been running or kayaking everyday and as of Friday, the River had exhaled enough that we were moved back to J-dock, into our usual slip.  If it weren’t for the receipts – I might be able to be convinced none of it happened. 

… and so…

Here we are.  The hammock is up, the sun is shining - and each day my amnesia for things like breaking ice and hauling water increases.  

Thank heavens.

And naturally, we get thrown turns of heartbreak and heart-swells in almost equal measure.  The biggest heart-swell right now is an 8 lb. baby boy named Jacob.  My oldest sister, Anne’s new baby as of yesterday.  He will continue to be the apple of all our eyes until my other sister, Lisa, delivers her baby sometime in the middle of May...  Wphew.  As usual, I will be the adult figure who teaches them to swear, shoot whiskey, and lie to their parents...  You’re welcome, ladies.  You’re welcome.

Next Post: May 26, 2010 "Goodnight, Gracie"

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