When Dr. Melanie Butera found out her cancer had returned, her doctor told her to go home and get her affairs in order.
"Is this all there is?" I said out loud to a Creator I thought would not answer me. "I'm just here, and then poof, I'm gone? Did I do anything that will last?"
When I had no more tears to cry, I reached down to stroke Dillie's head. I thought about the day she'd come to the clinic, how fragile her life had been. Then I thought about the thousands of letters of love we had received about Dillie. I had saved her. And now she affected more lives than I could if I worked as a vet for a hundred years.
I trashed the draft of my obituary and found a file I had entitled "Dillie." It was the first draft of a book I had begun to write about Dillie two years earlier. When she became a celebrity in 2010, people were writing about her and relating her story. I had thought at the time, "I know Dillie better than anyone. I should write a book about her." As I re-read the pages I had written before my cancer, I knew I had to finish this book. This was my proof that I had existed.
With the sun rising, and Dillie, Lady the dog, and Spazz the cat lounging around me, I began to put my affairs in order.
I started to write "Dillie the Deer."
I thought about how much our lives were enriched because of this beautiful animal. I recalled the anxious first days, not knowing if Dillie was going to live. Her first swim in the pool. The day she discovered spaghetti. The toothpaste wars. Finding her splashing in the bubble bath.
In that instant, I understood why people had become so enchanted by this little deer who should have never survived. Dillie was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so serene. She was the embodiment of joy. Her survival had been a miracle of love, and every molecule in her body displayed the glory of creation. This beautiful animal returned the love that saved her every day, delivering it to all the corners of the globe on her dainty cloven hooves.
Excerpted from "Dillie the Deer: A True Story of Love, Healing, and Family" by Melanie R. Butera, DVM. Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher.