for the love of dogs
Late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, my husband and I came home from a wonderful dinner party with great friends to find, on the carpet by the door, piles and piles of dog barf. I mean piles and piles. I went into the bedroom and discovered three empty bottles, all with their tops chewed off: a half-full bottle of Tums, an almost-empty bottle of ibuprofen, and a nearly-full bottle of naproxen. She had, by my best count, ingested about 40 Tums, 20 ibuprofen, and 80 naproxen.
But she had thrown up. Copiously. (Did I mention the piles of barf?) And, other than the usual guilty-labrador-with-her-ears-pinned-back “I know I did something wrong” look that somehow also says “love me please forgive me and do it quick for I suffer for my sins,” she seemed fine. Despite being a labrador, she had never in her life done anything like this, so we had no experience with it. Plus, we panicked about money. We knew a 1am vet hospital on a Sunday morning would be really, really expensive. So we force fed her water, took her out to pee every 45 minutes, and made her special meals of brown rice and chicken. But we did not take her to the vet. I’ll never make that mistake again.
She threw up again the next morning, but ate again after that, and again we told ourselves again that she would be fine. But by Monday afternoon she was clearly ill, so we took her to a vet hospital.
Animal Poison Control costs $65 just to get advice over the phone. $1400 for the first 24-hours on an IV. $600 for a blood transfusion when we learned she was bleeding internally. An ultrasound. Another $900 to get her to the end of the day. Medication for her stomach and her kidneys. Very, very supportive family and friends and animal-friendly agencies providing everything they can. Two really bad reports, followed by good news and then another round of good news. Two more days in the hospital.
And here we are. The doctor tells us that she has a good chance of being okay. She will have to eat special kidney-friendly food because those organs took the biggest hit, and apparently they don’t heal well. But she has stopped bleeding and they think her stomach is healing. That we know of, she has not suffered any of the possible neurological damage. However after this many hours of panic followed by denial followed by panic followed by acceptance followed by panic followed by action (finally) followed by bad news followed by bad news followed by bad news followed by good news followed by good news, I am hardly ready to accept the status quo. But I am exhausted.
We both are, my husband and I. (The cats are oddly unconcerned.) But once again we are consumed with the question of what is it about pets. What is it about these animals that prompts us to give our whole hearts to them, our whole selves, our whole pocket books just to keep them alive, to give them a good life, to give them comfort? Is it the comfort we receive from them? The better life? The fact that sometimes we feel that it is they who keep us alive?
It’s all those things. And I can’t help but think it’s also the simple pleasure of exercising our capacity for love, for deep attachment, for devotion beyond all measure. Perhaps we play God with our pets, loving and caring for them as God cares for us. And perhaps they, like us, recognize the devotion and do their best to return it. I know that they do, as we do, dumb-ass stupid things, like eat whole bottles of pills that could kill them or, in our case, kill each other. I doubt that, after this many millennia of us screwing up, God has anything like the capacity for denial that I showed last weekend. But I think that God must feel the same love, the same hope, the same loss, the same despair as we feel when our pets screw up. Perhaps we allow ourselves to have this love – this devotion that always, every damn time, results in pain and death – because in feeling it, we know not only what it is to love but also what it is to be loved by God.
Anyway, I know I love that dog. That stupid, dumb-ass, ridiculously-large-number-of-tasteless-and-poisonous-pills eating dog. And I really hope she’s gonna be okay.