My dog is dying. Of cancer. Argus was not eating with his usual gusto so I took him to the vet to figure out what was wrong. On the way to figuring out that he had irritable bowel syndrome, the vet did an ultra sound, showing a 9cm (3.5 inches) mass in his spleen. The vet removed the spleen before it could burst, and the pathology report indicated it was malignant. Argus has anywhere from 3 weeks to 11 weeks to live (as of June 7, 2012).

My husband named Argus. He loves Greek mythology and so named him after Odysseus’ dog Argus who was the only one to recognize him upon his return after twenty years, and then Argus dies. (Homer, The Odyssey, Book XVII) Alternatively, Argus was also a monster in Greek mythology known for having many eyes. Under either explanation, Argus was aptly named. He has been a very faithful companion, and, indeed, I sometimes think, he is a monster with 1000 eyes.

Argus is a paradox: he is both aggressive and very affectionate. To look at him sleeping, one would never know the havoc he has caused or the number of people (not even counting the mail persons) he has gone after (or what he did to a neighbor’s guineas pigs but that is a story for another day! He is an English Springer Spaniel- a hunting dog- need I say more?). He also has done his best to protect me against large dogs; any dog his size or larger, he will go after, (but leave the smaller dogs alone, as mere trifling) in his quest to defend me.

Argus is famous. Everyone in the neighborhood knows him. We always said he should run for city council; he would probably win. He also made the Los Angeles Daily Journal. When that newspaper profiled me, it mentioned my walking buddy Argus. I have also mentioned him quite a lot in my mediations under the guise that he and I have done our 4 miles, my endorphinsare flowing and I am “good to go” to get the case settled. He also has his own page on my website.

It is tough watching him die. But someone said something startling to me the other day. There are two things one can always count on about dogs; unconditional love and they will always break your heart. But, this person continued, it is always better for the person to lose the dog than the dog to lose his master. At least, the human understands the loss; the dog does not. One simply cannot explain death and loss to a dog. The same way, I cannot explain to Argus why, in about a month or so, he will start to feel not so good and why it will only get worse. One day soon, he will look at me with those big brown eyes, asking “What is happening to me? Why am I feeling so rotten?” and pleading with me to do something to make him feel better. And I can’t help him. The cancer is in his blood and soon will be in his organs which will then begin to shut down. The vet tells me that for the next month or so, he will look and act like he is fine: then suddenly, he will become lethargic and perhaps just collapse…

By day, I am a mediator. What has this got to do with mediation? Quite a lot! Death brings you up short; makes you focus on the important things in life. It makes you realize that in the end, most things - including the most vociferous dispute- does not really matter a hill of beans! My husband succinctly pointed this out to me the other day. I was about to take issue with something he said, when he stopped me short by saying; “Let’s not argue over trivia; we have more important things to worry about. For example, Argus.” My husband is right.

So, over the next few weeks, I will mediate disputes about alleged “lemon “cars, bad real estate deals, breaches of contract and the like. All the while, I will be thinking about Argus at home, how’s he is doing as he slowly declines into death, and how life is simply too short for all of this civil litigation and all of these disputes. I will be grateful for having good health, family, friends, loving and being loved and for 10.5 years with my four legged companion who stuck with me through thick and thin. My walking buddy-if we have walked a mile, we have walked 5,000.

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by Phyllis G. Pollack

Phyllis G. Pollack is a full time neutral in Los Angeles where, as President of PGP Mediation, she focuses on business, real estate, contract and “lemon law” disputes. She may be reached at Phone: 213-630-8810 / phyllis@pgpmediation.com / Website: www.pgpmediation.com