It’s painful meeting Oreo; half the side of her face is missing due to cancer. Bones, flesh, and teeth cavity can be seen as if half her face has been scooped away. The missing area reaches to her soft brown eye. These eyes shine, aware of what’s happening around her. Karen, her owner, shares with me that the vet believes Oreo is not in pain. I’m pet-sitting. She wipes puss from the side of Oreo’s face daily, and tells me, you don’t have to.
Feeding Oreo, covering her at night, and going on walks, we fall in love within a couple days. She’s a spunky dog and interested in all that is going on in the world around her. Washing her face becomes a ritual of working together. She allows me to hold her head while cleansing it with warm water followed by towelletes. Every day she pulls away less.
In the mornings, after breakfast and a few treats, she runs and barks in the backyard. Sniffing to investigate the world, she puts her face against the gate to look into the neighbor’s yard. She is entirely unconcerned that half her face is gone. In these moments the vitality and grace of life flow through her with unbridled joy.
Tonight, walking along a row of yellow hibiscus, two women walking by stop upon seeing Oreo’s face. Clouds float across the sky etched with sunset colors – gold and coral peach; the bright blue sky begins to shift towards evening. They lean in, unperturbed about how her face looks, and pet her gently. Oreo’s tail wags and the women are smitten and curious about her.
“How is she?” One of the ladies has braces, the other was complaining about her boyfriend.
“She runs and plays when she first gets outside. You’d never guess she has cancer. The other dogs run with her and give her plenty of space. They watch over her too.”
“Wow, it’s as if her doginess is greater than the cancer!”
Their hands reach out and Oreo’s tail swings happily as I tell them that, for her, happiness is an inside job.
“I like that! I’m going to remember it. She’s not concerned about how she looks, or worried about braces or boyfriends.”“No, she’s enjoying this moment, whatever it brings to her.”
The girls trot onward.
Our lives and happiness aren’t somewhere else. They’re here, inside us, ready all the time if we listen.