Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, let me tell you a story.
Last night, Pants spent the night in the emergency room after getting into a serious scrap with a much larger dog. After we pulled them apart and had a chance to assess the damage, I saw a hole an inch across in my little dog’s right shoulder, and so I scooped him up and took him directly to the emergency vet. He seemed mostly fine, not in terrible pain, but the wound itself looked pretty gnarly.
Once we got there, they checked him out, determined he wasn’t urgent, and had us fill out paperwork and wait while they tended to more urgent patients. Somewhere around midnight, we finally got to talk to a vet, who told us that they’d have to drain the wound and stitch it up, which would probably take another 2-3 hours. I (reluctantly) left my little fur baby there and went to try and get some sleep (which, of course, didn’t really happen). At 4:30 a.m., I finally got the call that he was okay and would be ready to go home soon.
When they brought him out, he was wrapped in a hot pink towel with a clear cone around his head, looking stoned and drooling everywhere. His right shoulder was shaved bare, with stitches and a little rubber tube sticking out to drain the fluid from deep inside the wound. Despite that, he looked relieved to see me and tried his best to crawl into my arms so we could go home. I got him into the car, where he laid down and whimpered the whole way home.
When I got him home at 6 a.m., I took him directly to my bed, where I spread out the hot pink towel and gently laid him on it. He settled in, trying to get comfortable despite the cone, and laid there whimpering and fighting sleep. For hours, he whimpered and slept and whimpered and slept, and I tried to get a few hours of sleep before starting my work day. Since then, he’s pretty much slept all day. When he needed to go to the bathroom, he got up and weakly walked to the door, and I took him out and set him on the grass, where he did his business and came right back inside (minus the part where he decided that since he couldn’t even walk around in the sunshine with that stupid cone on his head, he was just going to pull it right the fuck off, and that’s what he did.) He will drink water, but I’m having trouble getting him to eat and take his medicine. I’m applying warm compresses to the wound a few times a day to help with swelling and keep it clean, I’m taking care of his needs before my own, and I’m finally understanding what being a parent must feel like. Because despite my exhaustion, I had to make sure he was comfortable and taken care of before I could even try to sleep. Every time he made a sound, I woke up to make sure he was okay. All day, I’ve checked on him obsessively to make sure that he’s not licking his wound, he’s at least drinking water, he’s not bleeding or oozing, and that, all things considered, he’s doing alright. And then I took care of what I needed.
But something about the pitiful look on his face, and the way he tried so hard to cuddle up against me while we were waiting in the emergency room on that awful stainless steel table, and the way he looks to me for everything he needs, and something about the fear of seeing the thing you love most in the world in a scary situation and feeling completely helpless, then hearing his whimper and knowing that means he’s hurt, and seeing the bloody hole in his side, and realizing that honestly, it doesn’t much matter what the estimate says because, what? Am I not going to do everything humanly possible to fix him? Something about these moments makes me realize that at some point in my life, my priorities shifted. The day I brought this little dog into my life, I made a promise to him that I would take care of him the best way that I can, and moments like this can feel like a challenge, and a success, but at the same time, an overwhelming failure.
I’ve never had a kid, and I don’t know if I ever will. For now, this is the only way I can relate, but even though it’s on a different level, I get it. And I know that, really, it could have been worse. I think we got off easy, and the emergency room was full of people and pets last night who weren’t quite as lucky. Seeing one girl whose cat had been hit by a car have a complete breakdown in the waiting room made me very thankful that this little dog is gonna be just fine.