or: How losing our dog to cancer led us to Africa
“I think I bought a safari,” Scott said, leaning across the white linen table and interrupting a conversation my friend Casey and I had been attempting over the din of live auctioneering.
I stared back, attempting to make the words he’d said somehow comprehendible. “You what?”
In retrospect, attending a fundraising auction for Dove Lewis (Portland’s local animal hospital) a day after putting down our beloved dog Nikita was not the best timing. Nikita had been our baby – a 115 pound baby – who’d slept in our bed, protectively watched over our young daughter, taught me to love hiking, barked at everyone in the neighborhood, and lived for the approval and affection of our grumpy 19 year-old cat.
Two winters ago, after the bulge on her leg became too big to ignore, our veterinarian confirmed our fears and we took her Dove Lewis’s amazing cancer center. We didn’t want to prolong her suffering with chemo, and amputation wasn’t a viable option. We chose monthly treatments that strengthened her bones and lessened her pain, allowing her to enjoy the summer. On the beautiful autumn day we’d chosen to let her go, we took her to our daughter’s preschool for a lick and hug goodbye and then let her smell the air and feel pine needles beneath her paws on our old hiking trail at the Hoyt Arboretum. Then we held her as she took her final breaths in our vet’s office.
In a case of epically bad timing, we’d committed to attend the Dove Lewis fundraiser the very next night. Wanting to support our friend Bill, who was receiving an award that night, we went forward with our plans. It was a fun night with many friends supporting a great cause (and even photo opps with llamas!>>). But with every rescued animal story on the big screen, with every pair of puppy eyes staring up from promotional materials and with every sip (okay, gulp) of wine, our emotions grew and our judgement decreased.
“I think I just bought a safari,” he repeated.
As my mind tried to process these words, a ballroom full of people clapped and looked our way. While I was distracted in conversation, Scott had been bidding on a live auction item he’d expected to go (to someone else) for more money. Like a scene from a bad sit-com, suddenly we were the owners of a 4 night/5 day safari in South Africa. Airfare not included.
My friend bolted from the table without a word, assuming we were about to have a huge fight. Scott and I looked at each other and burst into laughter.
And so the adventure began.