When I was a little girl, I stole my brother’s X-Men comics and discovered that one of the few female superheroes had a pet dragon named Lockheed. I begged the universe for a dragon, but my fire-breathing friend never came. All I got were posters with artistic renditions of dragons.
You rarely saw any dragons in movies, or if you did, they were obviously fake. “Godzilla” and repeats of that ’70s film, “Pete’s Dragon,” were grim consolation prizes.
I finally got my dragon in my 20s. He has no wings, and while his breath is unmistakably nuclear, there are no blazes of fire. He is black and has sleek, shiny fur. He has a long, dragonlike snout and powerful claws. His tail isn’t scaly, but it’s as unforgiving as a whip when it comes in contact with people’s calves. He is the most courageous pocket-size dragon, defending me from whatever he perceives to be a threat, whether grass-chewing cows or barking Chihuahuas.
My dragon is a 14-year-old dog named Nero.
Nero has been the most constant presence in my life. He lies next to me whenever I’m ill and hurries to comfort me whenever my endometriosis renders me useless. He gives me so much every day, but now he has dementia.
The changes became noticeable a couple of months back. He used to sleep all night undisturbed, but now he wakes up every hour, shaking anxiously. Sadly, there is no cure for canine dementia, only ways to manage it.
The tears I’ve cried over the past few weeks are the tears of a girl who got her wish, only to realize it won’t last forever. People with a furry companion of their own will understand how particularly painful this type of realization can be.
My dragon is chronically ill now, just like me. In fact, my dragon has had chronic heart issues for some years now. But it turns out that my dog (sorry, dragon) is a pro at life with chronic disease.
Nero is a master at living in the present.
Even with his night terrors and dodgy heart, Nero doesn’t worry about tomorrow. He lives for the now: the smells, the flavors, the vibe of his surroundings, the right-this-minute. He prioritizes rest and relaxation, especially if he’s not feeling well. He doesn’t worry about what other dogs (sorry, dragons!) will think of him.
For endometriosis patients, we can become anxious when we look at our to-do list, the achievements of others, or the social gatherings we are expected to attend. We don’t want to disappoint or be seen as sick.
I’ve lost so much sleep over stress, and I can attest that it is a pointless and hurtful exercise. Life is better when, like Nero, I listen to my body, focusing on the present and the right kind of self-care. I’m healthiest when I’m not concerned with an unknown future or the opinions of others, which I cannot control.
I try not to think about how much time I have left with my little dragon. It’s likely that not too far from now, I will be without his comforting presence. As I write, tears begin to form, knowing that my heart is due to break in a million pieces the day I lose my hero, a true mythical creature.
A dog is never just a dog. When you’re chronically ill, a furry companion is a therapeutic presence, a constant source of warmth and life lessons.
Here’s to our dragons, our loyal dogs, our pouncing cats, and our chatty parakeets.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.