My wife Karla has been in treatment for breast cancer and a blood clot in her heart for over 2 years. Although the good days outnumber the bad days now, she is far from 100%.
On the bad days, she needs to feel me and our daughters close to her to help her get through. She’s been clear about that need since treatment started, and we’ve been happy to serve her in that way.
One occupant of our house already knew that about Karla: our dog Lily. I’ve written about our adventures with her before.
Like nearly all domesticated dogs, Lily instinctively knows when her people are hurting. When Karla is struggling, Lily curls up next to her and doesn’t leave her side.
Being the only dog in the house is tough on Lily, though. Between doctor appointments and work/school/life commitments, Team Janning is away for long stretches of time, leaving Lily all by herself.
Last summer, we decided that Lily needed a companion of her own, so we adopted a 6-week old Chihuahua/Yorkie puppy named Leo.
Leo does four things:
Sleep: I’ve owned sheep, horses, cows, goats, cats, and dogs. I’ve fathered two children. And in my entire life, I’ve never seen an organism that sleeps as much as Leo does. He’s not narcoleptic. He’s perfectly healthy. He just loves to sleep anytime, anywhere. He’s basically a sloth that barks.
Ruins your work: Leo has no concept of personal space. He doesn’t care if your lap is occupied by, say, a laptop on which you’re typing an article for a major trade publication. He’ll wiggle onto your lap and grab your hand with one of his front paws so you can scratch his chest. In doing so, his other front paw smashes the keyboard and randomly deletes files and emails, an impressive feat considering his lack of opposable thumbs.
Keeps Lily young: This is a frame grab from the hundreds of home videos we’ve captured of Leo and Lily playing. They’ll roughhouse like this 2-3 times a day. This is good for 8-year-old Lily, who is already showing signs of the arthritis to which her mini-schnauzer breed is susceptible.
Reminds me what life is all about: Between cancer, chemo, COVID, and Karla’s blood clot, the last few years have been rough on Team Janning. There have been many hard mornings after restless nights when I’ve wondered how we’re going to make it.
But then I see this:
Leo and Lily’s favorite place to sleep is next to each other in a sunbeam. Leo and Lily know that the world, dark and cold and confusing as it may be, can also be bright and beautiful if we know where to look, and that warmth and comfort is best experienced in the presence of those we love.
Leo and Lily know it’s ok to rest.
Leo and Lily know that sometimes the best thing you can do with your laptop is close it and walk away.
Leo and Lily know it’s ok to run and play and make noise … and the occasional mess.
Leo and Lily know it’s ok to savor every moment for the precious gifts they are.
Leo and Lily know that the happiest places in the world are next to your favorite people.
May I be as wise as Leo and Lily someday.
This was a short excerpt from my new keynote speech Cancer, COVID, and 2 Good Dogs: Lessons from the Worst Best Years of My Life. For more information, visit AndyJanningPhoto.com.