Cats, Dogs, and Chocolate Ice Cream

Cats, Dogs, and Chocolate Ice Cream

Someone recently told me that I was “like a cat,” in that I wanted to be alone during times of trouble. The person was not too far from the truth — when things are hard, sometimes getting back into bed seems like the only logical solution. And I guess if I were single and without kids or pets, it would be easy to do just that. Hungry mouths that want to be fed are sometimes the only thing that make us climb out of bed, get dressed, and start another day. Eyes that still stare at the world with wonder are what make us go to the grocery store again, schedule things on the calendar, and make plans for Christmas when it’s only August. Voices that ask you to look at their Minecraft house or Lego creation for the 50th time are what make us keep hope for the world — when it’s full of tragedy, violence, illness, and destruction.

Parents don’t have the option of losing all hope.

As much as we want to stay in bed and say, “Fuck it all.”

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In March, we got an 8 week old puppy. He’s a Portuguese Water Dog and we were totally out of our element. Every morning around 10:00 when it was time for him to go back in his crate for a nap, I retreated to my bed for an hour to get some work done on my laptop. There was normalcy in the warmth and softness of down comforters that held my family in our old house. The new house, the new town, the new puppy. It was suddenly a foreign life. Had I completely fucked it all up when we decided on the dog? There was no possibility of going anywhere anytime soon. The puppy. I had to get up way earlier and my husband had to stay up way later. The puppy. All of our nice things were hidden. The puppy. The random hangover from a late night with too much wine was suddenly very painful again. A 12 and 7 year old can manage for a morning. (But not) The puppy.

But hungry puppy eyes and little puppy yelps also have a way of getting you out of bed in the morning.

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The last year has been a hard one. Every comfort of having a place that felt like “home” was abandoned and it makes dealing with life’s crises that much harder. But we purposefully did this. Change. It’s like a prize that we hold out in front of ourselves. We need a change. It will fix this. And maybe it does. Maybe it makes us grow in a way that our subconscious mind predicts, but our conscious mind fights against when we are in the middle of it. Our subconscious mind is bold. Our conscious mind just wants to go back to her childhood bed and have her mom bring her a coddled egg on toast.

The subconscious mind knows that things will never be the same. The subconscious mind knows that there is pain ahead of us. No matter what.

The conscious mind looks for new duvet covers.

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The puppy started sleeping a lot more than normal last Tuesday. He was sluggish, but I attributed it to a big weekend with lots of company. Even though I knew a day without telling him “Down!” or “Off!” or “Sit” or getting frustrated and putting him in his crate was abnormal. His 6 month old crazy was gone. At one point, we joked that this is what it would be like when he grew up.

By Thursday, I wasn’t sure he would. Extreme pain, yelping and crying every time he moved, falling asleep standing up and falling over, fever, not eating. Eventually hiding in the corner and not wanting to even see me. There were at least four vet trips to figure it out. Then an emergency vet. For which he seemed to use every ounce of adrenaline to perk up and impress the cute doctor. They gave him fluids and sent us home.

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I’ve never kept watch over someone or something fighting a grave illness. This one? Steroid Responsive Meningitis. Rare, but more common in puppies who are medium or large breeds. I don’t ever again want to watch over someone fighting a grave illness.

But the odds are that I probably will.

It’s a horribly helpless feeling. Even when it’s your dog. Who you have only known for four months.

I knew I loved him. Months of taking care of him did that quickly. I knew the kids loved him as they hugged him as he slept and asked me in the morning if he were all better. I knew that my husband, who fought getting a dog, loved him as he forced pills down his throat and came back to bed in tears after trying to help him in the middle of the night.

My mind played this record over and over. “I can’t think about telling the kids that their puppy is gone. He was the one thing that they wanted if we decided to move. It can’t happen.”

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We bought Sulley a new bed after we left the vet the other day. On Sunday, the kids and my husband went to a picnic we were scheduled to go to for months. I agreed to stay with Sulley. I pulled up his new bed (one that he would have destroyed in a day a week earlier) up next to the couch and he slept the whole time they were gone. I played Candy Crush and tried to read mindless stuff on the Internet, but of course kept drifting over to PetMD (Yes, they have that too. Shit.).

He woke up a few minutes before the picnic was over. And he batted at a toy. He didn’t cry out in pain upon getting up. The Prednisone that the vet gave us and the ER vet advised against because it would mess up the testing was working. The Prednisone that my husband, a take charge kind of person in a time of crisis, took out of the pill bottle and gave to him that morning against the second vet’s wishes. If this puppy was dying, we weren’t going to let him suffer in this kind of pain in the hopes for clearer test results on Monday.

But it worked. And hopefully it will continue to, although we have no real guarantees.

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Today I’m going to bathe him and put on his monthly flea and tick medicine. After his pain meds, I am going to let him nap and try to take the kids to the beach for an hour or two. Homebound is not easy for anyone.

I’d like to be back in bed. I really would. But I hear the kids playing and the sun is out and I need to get some groceries. Life? It goes on, as they say. And sometimes, you need to buy a bunch of sunflowers, make some chocolate ice cream, and figure out the back to school schedule in a world of more uncertainty and pain than we can manage.

The subconscious mind tells us that all of this joy, all of this pain, all of this stress, all of this suffering is why we are here. The life story will someday be complete. And we will find good in every story. Yet there are arcs to our stories and it is natural to prefer the rise and the peaks over the falls and the valleys.

But in times of trouble, I’d settle for some boredom. No peaks, no valleys, just some status quo.

The boredom of normalcy. The beauty of life that includes getting frustrated with off the wall puppies, dealing with fighting siblings, and complaining about work or the cost of school supplies.

Sometimes the change we seek is not at all the change we end up getting.

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Last night, I fell asleep on the couch with the puppy who was finally able to climb back onto it after a week of near paralysis. The rest of the family was with me while my bed sat empty upstairs.

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Here’s an awesome recipe for chocolate ice cream. It will fix all of your problems for a few minutes. Make it. 



2 Responses to “Cats, Dogs, and Chocolate Ice Cream”

  1. All that puppy love (as in love for the puppy) breaking my heart just reading what you all have been through. I had seen the happy new photos earlier this year, but had no idea of this turn.

    “Sorry” really comes off as weak. But this kind of compassion, care is something not all humans manage to do much less other animals, so there are lessons and models happening for the kids.

    My first dog, the one whose story my career has gotten a lot of boost from, turned out to have epilepsy. If I gave her a small phenobarbital she was fine, but how I remember the times my stupid forgetfulness had my holding a dog with a seizure.

    Continued brave wishes for you and Cole, and of course Sulley.

  2. Sam Richards says:

    Lovely to hear that Sulley is progressing in his recovery. What a difficult journey to be on, but one that (re)teaches the power of love and connection to all beings…to life itself.

    Be well…

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