Have you ever seen those quizzes that tell you what kind of dog you would be? Well, TJ would have been a Labrador Retriever. I know this without him ever even taking a quiz. I used to have a Lab, his name was Phantom. I had to put him down in 2004 after enjoying him for 14 wonderful years. Even TJ, who wasn't really a dog person when I met him, fell in love with Phantom. He was an extremely friendly and well behaved dog. As a pup, Phantom displayed the symptoms of bad hips and I immediately took him to my vet. I explained all the things I was seeing but I told the vet that he did not really show any pain. He explained to me that Labrador Retrievers are very apathetic and show very little pain as they just want to please. I really realized the truth in this as Phantom went through 2 surgeries to correct his hips and allow him to live a long and full life.
One day during TJ’s treatment he was having a bad day when I had to leave for work. I spoke with him a little after noon and he was on his way to have lunch with some friends. Hearing this thrilled me because I assumed he was feeling much better. He then told me that if he hadn't already committed he would not be going as he was very tired and his back was sore. I told him it might do him good to get out and visit with friends, he said he would just eat and head back home to nap. It turned out to be a fairly large group of people so he stayed and visited for a couple of hours. TJ would never have let those down that came out to see him. When I got home from work that afternoon he was sleeping. When he did wake up he was only up for a couple of hours complaining about his back the whole time and then back to bed he went. I think it is a sure bet he didn't let his friends know how uncomfortable he was. All those friends had gathered to spend time with him and he wasn’t going to let them down. I was amazed he was able to turn everything off for a bit, if only for 2 hours, and enjoy time with his friends.
As TJ battled his cancer the strength he showed to me and his friends was an inspiration. He took so many of the bad side effects in stride and carried on with his life the best he could. I know many of you out there are fighting the fight and I only hope you have the strength to set your pain aside for a bit and enjoy an afternoon with friends. I am sure many of those at that lunch remember that as the last “good” time they had with TJ. It was good for him and good for his friends to have that one last memory of a good time with a friend they will never forget.