Monday, March 05, 2007

Irrational attachment

One scorching summer day our old yellow lab Buster couldn’t get up. I suppose to conserve energy, he had stayed in one spot on the cool concrete too long. His old, rickety joints locked themselves into the “down” position. He was panting furiously. He was coughing a horrible cough. We tried pushing him and pulling him. We even tried coaxing him with his favorite, hot dogs, but to no avail.

Then panic started to set in. Instead of worrying that he couldn’t get up, all the kids surrounded him and began screaming, “Don’t die, Buster! We love you, Buster!”

Yes, we loved that dog. It had been a very long, very hot summer, and yet he was consummately patient, panting in the heat, but not complaining. He didn’t seem to mind the kids’ less-than-regular feeding schedule, or their proclivity for riding him, inspecting his eyes and ears while playing “doctor,” or dragging him around on a short leash in the back yard. No matter how much or how little attention he was given, he was always glad to see anyone who would give him a pat on the head. And even though he was as gentle as a lamb, his intimidating size and ferocious bark made me feel safe when my husband was gone.

But I also felt guilty. I’d recently banished him to the outdoors because I simply couldn’t handle sweeping up white dog hair and mopping up dog slobber even one more day (“I’m already cleaning up after enough people around here. I don’t need to clean up after a dog!”). He dug continually in my flowerbeds. He made extremely large doodies in the back yard, stepped on only when we were in a hurry to go somewhere, or by visitors who disliked dogs anyway. He shot out of the gate like a bullet the minute we weren’t looking. How many times had I gotten in the car, fuming inside, to go look for him, only to find him wandering, blocks away, infuriatingly unrepentant, as if he owned the neighborhood?

Now, here he was, dying a ghastly death of heatstroke, and it was all my fault.

But all that was suddenly forgotten: we were losing a family member. I tried to reassure the kids. After all, I’m a seasoned health care professional, right (at least in a past life)? Ignoring his gasps for air (his lungs the size of tractor tires), I heard myself say rash things like, “He‘s going to be just fine. No need for alarm.”

After several attempts to pick him up (all 85 pounds of his dead weight), I knew I couldn’t lift him into the back of Suburban to take him to the vet. Despite the dog hair that was now all over me, I found myself irrationally attached to this heaving, slobbering dog. He can't die, I thought. I made a frantic call to my husband to come home. He carried our dying dog to his car as the kids - and I - kissed him with choked tears of goodbye.

An hour later, my husband came back. I was prepared for the worst. Was he dead? Were we going to have to put him down? (And in my heart of hearts: How much is this all going to cost?).

But there was Buster, sitting as tall as a grown man in the passenger seat. I was expecting to have to help carry him in, but out he jumped - frolicking like a young pup. No, he wasn’t dying. He just needed a cortisone shot and a round of antibiotics.

That was almost three years ago. Now over 12 years old, Buster’s joints are still pretty stiff. His hearing is going, so he’s not such a great watchdog anymore. He still digs. He still sheds. He still slobbers. He still escapes occasionally, and although he can't run as fast or go quite as far, it's still infuriating.

But he’s got a cushy little spot in the garage, with his own doggy door large enough that he doesn’t have to stoop to get in. The kids do their best to try to feed him regularly. He still seems to enjoy even the pain that the little girls inflict on him in the name of “play.” He wags his tail and appreciates every pat on the head. His presence in the back yard still makes me feel safe.

He’s a part of the family, and, even though it's irrational, we still love him.

14 comments:

Julee - Homeschool Daze said...

I'm not a fan of dogs, but you captured me with your post. Great blog post & I hope Buster does well for years to come!

Lauren S. said...

We don't have a dog (for all the reasons you mentioned), but I do think at times like these that my kids sure would love one!

Michelle- This One's For The Girls said...

Wow Katherine-

I hate animals, and your post made me (sort of) want a dog. That photo is too sweet.

Deidre said...

I know my kids would love a dog....an outside dog. We need to get our yard fenced in so that we can get one. I'm too allergic to have one inside. And, yes, they do become part of the family.

Qtpies7 said...

Oh, dear, now I feel guilty for banishing our dog out in the freezing MN winter! But he's a trooper! He'd happily be a sled dog, but he wouldn't go where we wanted, so the ride would be wild! LOL I'm trying to talk the kids into giving it a try, but they are all scared, lol.
Our dog and knock over even my large husband, and Ratchet is still a puppy! To see our sweet, large pup, read "our Hero" post in my archives.

The Martin's said...

Hello I am delurking and making my first comment. We never were dog lovers until we moved out to the country years ago and got our great retriever. We loved her so much when she had her puppies inside our family room and then grieved when eventually died. My husband and I were amazed how much we loved our ole faithful dog. We were the kind who would laugh at the local dog lovers in our area, and then we became one.

Very Sweet to have a family dog.

Beck said...

Aw, but he's such a beautiful guy! No wonder you love him! More irrational is my passionate love for my cats, which could be kindly described as "houseplantlike."

Susanne said...

What a great post about a great friend and family member. They sure do worm their way into our hearts don't they?

Monkey Giggles said...

Swinging in for the party. Nice to meet ya.

My 3rd party give away has started. Come on over when ya get a chance.

PARTY ON!!!

Amydeanne said...

lol Oh I can relate! We've got two dogs! and it's amazing what they do, and the reactions we give them!

org junkie said...

Hello! We have a 12 year old yellow lab as well. She stays outdoors during the day and only comes in at night...to the basement! Yep the dog hair I can definitely live without...that and the oil from her fur...uggg.

Laura

Jen said...

I have a buster too. His name is Lucky and he is a 10 pound weinee dog..who will be 13 yrs old in June. I know the day will come that he will pass....and it will kill me. Pets are like family. Great post.

Overwhelmed! said...

Oh, what a sweet post! We love dogs and hope to get Snuggle Bug one in the near future.

Terri said...

Oh gosh...
we are huge dog, cat and parrot fans!!
They are like our very own kids!!

I sure hope they go to heaven...
I worry about that!