The greatest stories ever told teach us things about ourselves that we carry throughout our lives. Some resonate with certain audiences more than others, like “Sight Hound” by Pam Houston, a must-read for anyone who has ever experienced amputation and osteosarcoma with a beloved dog.
This semi-fictional account of an Irish Wolfhound’s three year journey through osteosarcoma was first brought to our attention by Tripawd Member Calpurnia, queen of the sled dogs.
Since we already knew what the heartbreaking conclusion would be, we took our time reading it, hoping to avoid the inevitable outcome. Thankfully, ninety nine pawcent of the book didn’t make us cry, and instead touched our hearts as Houston shared the life lessons she and her pack learned through Dante’s journey that included limb sparing, amputation, cancer remission and later, bone metastasis.
In Sight Hound, Dante’s cancer touches everyone around him. His story is narrated through his eyes as well as those of his human family and their Monkeydog, Rose. As we ride along on their journey, it becomes clear that the greatest legacy Dante will leave with everyone is the understanding that death is no match for the power of love.
In a letter to his young human friend who is also battling osteosarcoma, Dante writes:
“Today my mom took Rose for a little walk and left me sitting with Howard in the grass of a park I like. We’ve been spending a lot of time on the grass there, since I can only go for short walks these days, and when they came back over the hill from their walk . . . it was only a short one . . . I gathered all my strength and went racing over to her, ignoring the pain in my legs, running as fast as I could so she would see how happy I was to see her, because for me, and I hope for her, that moment of me running to her will last forever. I want her to see it forever, every time she is sad, every time she is scared, every time she feels alone, I want her to close her eyes and imagine me flying toward her acoss a big field of new spring grass.
I bet you have a million of those moments, with your mom or dad or sister or Scruffy, that are pure and perfect like that one, and what I want you to know — what I want my mom to know too — is that once you’ve had those times together, they become like a present you can open again and again. Humans call this memory, because they can’t open their eyes wide enough to see around time, but real love isn’t any less solid than picture frames and colored pencils, and a great deal more durable. Death can’t take it from you once you’ve held it in your hand.”
Dante’s battle with cancer isn’t the main focus of the book, but it acts as the catalyst to turn fear of the unknown into something that we can learn to accept and make peace with.
For anyone who’s dealing or has dealt with terminal cancer in their beloved animal companion, read this book! Sight Hound is a beautiful story with enough escapism to take us away from the daily reminders of living with canine cancer, yet still keep us grounded in order to prepare for the inevitable.
Sight Hound gets a “Three Paws Up!” from Tripawds.