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Where’s the Joy in Life?

Where's the Joy in Life? Robin botie of Ithaca, New York, gets kissed by Suki the life-saving dog Botie inherited from her daughter who died of leukemia,Marika Warden.“Where’s your toy, Suki?” I ask every night as my dog and I make our bedtime tour of the house to collect Green Ball, her favorite toy. The dog I inherited from my daughter who died is my lifesaver now. When I think I’m drowning, Suki shows me the playground our world is. Our nightly routine is to find her toy and settle into bed, and then she rolls over so I can give her a belly-rub as I recount the best parts of the day. Before turning out the light, I tell her what we can look forward to when we wake.

The first ten days of August had been full. I performed my book reading, went to a hikers’ picnic and the theater, ate several dinners out, and spent a weekend away at Lake George. Suki and I hiked with friends almost every day. Each morning we saw a great blue heron take off from the pond. At night we watched the moon reflected in the pond as frogs sang. I tried to videotape the full moon and the frog-song but Suki whined wanting my attention and I laughed too hard to hold the camera.

Then came August 11th. There was little planned for that week other than medical tests. On the calendar was written: CT scan, mammogram, eat only clear liquids, call lab for test results. It rained, the driveway flooded. The credit card bill came due. I learned that since I had lyme disease I could no longer donate blood. The great blue heron disappeared along with the resident duck. Rodents noisily clawed their way through the house’s rafters. Robin Williams died. Lauren Bacall died. The days were spent waiting for doctors’ calls, not daring to make plans that would need to be cancelled. Another diagnosis, a rare disorder, my doctors couldn’t answer my questions, it wasn’t cancer but I couldn’t be grateful.

For seven nights I sank into bed scared.

“Where’s the joy, Suki?” I asked last night, sobbing to my sweet inherited dog as we settled into bed. Suki looked straight at me, picked up the Green Ball, and merrily squeaked it in my face.

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