Lessons from Tiki
In early 2012 our family pet Tiki, a golden retriever, got a pretty grim cancer diagnosis.
In early 2012 our family pet Tiki, a golden retriever, got a pretty grim cancer diagnosis. Early conversations with the veterinarian included the phrases “might not last a week,” and “consider putting him down.”
The conversation quickly pivoted to short-term treatment options, and the option we chose was far more effective than we had hoped for. The fact that we had several more months with Tiki, not just weeks or days, was a blessing in very obvious ways. But it also provided benefits beyond the one-dimensional emotional cushion of having more time with the dog we loved.
For one thing, we were able to educate our children about Tiki’s condition and what the outcome eventually would be. I chose that word “educate” rather than “prepare” intentionally. We found no way to effectively prepare them for what was going to happen, but we did what we could to educate and inform them of what was going on. So when he did go, it was a shock but not a surprise, if that makes sense.
The other lesson for each of us was that our individual relationships with Tiki changed in the final months of his life. He was a year old when our first child was born, so all three of our kids only ever knew life with him. And worth noting, they only ever knew life with a (mostly) well-behaved adult dog. As he dealt with cancer, Tiki became more dependent than the kids had ever seen him be. He needed more from us, more often, than he had since he was a puppy.
There’s an obvious lesson here too, which is that each of the kids got an opportunity to provide some help to the dog who only ever tried to make them happy their entire lives.
But in Tiki’s last months not all the lessons were for the kids. I learned (re-learned, really) a lesson too. It is, simply, embrace the change. Make everything you can of it.
In this real-life example the changed relationship was between person and dog. But every relationship, personal or professional, will change. It won’t always be a kick-to-the-gut medical diagnosis that will prompt the change. Sometimes it will be gradual and sometimes sudden. Many situations will give every appearance of being a change for the worse, and some really will be. If you can’t stop it (and sometimes you can’t), rather than damning it, make the most you can of it. The change will not define you. How you deal with it might.
December is traditionally a time to look both backward and ahead. Sometimes it’s what you can’t see coming, and how you respond, that makes the biggest difference. ::