The younger of our two golden retrievers, Bobbi, had not been herself for quite some time. She just seemed a little bit listless – and she would spend long stretches of time lying either in our downstairs bathroom (right at the foot of the stool, head buried in the corner of the room) or in the laundry room, right by the door. For a dog who had normally been so social and friendly – to the point of practically wrestling strangers to the floor out of eager friendliness, or tackling them like Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears would tackle an enemy wide receiver, if in friendlier fashion – this was troubling behavior.
Then Kathy began to notice that Bobbi would do something weird with her head as she ate her dog food – a strange little bobbing motion that made Kathy suspect that Bobbi had some kind of problem swallowing. (It certainly shows who is the more parentally observant of the two of us. I suspect that Bobbi could have grown an extra head and it would have taken me three months to notice it.) So Kathy insisted that we take Bobbi to the vet, and lo and behold Kathy’s suspicions were right on the money. (in more ways than one.) Bobbi’s throat was badly inflamed, although the vet could not see anything lodged in the throat upon examination or in an x-ray. But something was amiss and we were given two kinds of medication to give her- pills that we give to her twice a day wrapped in liver sausage (blech! but she loves the stuff) and some other medication that Kathy squirts down her throat once a day with a big plastic syringe. (It has a bit of a honey taste to it, and Bobbi would drink a gallon of it if she could.) It means hundreds of dollars that I would have much preferred to spend on opera videos, but at least we have Bobbi back in all her rambunctious joy.
And by the way, the vet cleared up the mystery of why Bobbi had been spending so much time in the bathroom and laundry room, when normally she would have wanted to be nowhere except where we were. It had nothing to do with being depressed or anti-social – but rather because the cold surface of the porcelain of the toilet or the floor and door of our laundry room felt good on her inflamed throat. So here she was all this time trying to do something to make herself feel a little better, and Kathy and I were persistently herding her back out into the family room to sit with us – and presumably feel more miserable. When we learned that, we felt the same pang of remorse that Eleanor Roosevelt must have felt when she was told by a polio expert that the nightly massages she had given to her husband – vigorously rubbing his legs, which was excruciating for him – proved to have been the worst possible thing she could have done and probably made the damage to his legs even worse. I am not trying to equate our golden retriever with one of the most important leaders of the free world. . . nor an inflamed throat with infantile paralysis. . . but just trying to say that a parent (or spouse) longs to be helpful and make a difference for the better when a child or spouse – or beloved pet – is doing poorly. . . and it’s the most awful feeling to learn that what you did with the best of intentions might have caused still more hurt or harm.
But all that’s moot because Bobbi is back to her friendly, happy self – and if anything she’s happier than she’s ever been because twice a day she gets a generous helping of liver sausage with two pills buried in them. And we have a bit more peace of mind back. It may seem strange for us to feel this level of concern, but Bobbi and Ellie are family to Kathy and me. They may each have four legs, a tail, and fur – but I’m not ashamed to say that we love them. And short of eating the liver sausage myself (which I could never ever ever do) I would do just about anything I could to keep them healthy and happy and with us for as long as possible. So would Kathy. That’s what you do with family.
(P.S.- I just realized after the fact that I happened to post this blog entry on Bobbi’s third birthday.)