My husband and dog have fallen ill. The husband has a sore throat/congested nose/cough while the dog has “digestive issues,” the upshot being that I am the one standing in the yard at 6 am in my husband’s big terrycloth bathrobe with my hair still up in a ponytail (well, half of my hair is). The dog was in such a rush to get out that I still have my retainer in. (Yes, I still wear one though I got braces off decades ago. That’s why my teeth are still straight.) Retainer, mussed-up hair, oversized bathrobe, and flip-flops equal “Please don’t let the neighbors see me.” A light pops on in the house across the street, and I panic a little, but no one emerges.
The dog finishes her business and trots back inside with me. Now she wants food. Food, which I am afraid to give her so don’t. She looks up at me with huge brown eyes that say, “When did you stop loving me?” My answer: about ten minutes ago when you got me up.
The truth is I feel sorry for her, hungry and sick all at the same time. I want to explain to her why I can’t give her food but instead pat her head and say, “I’m sorry.” I peel a banana hastily since I am starving too but feel guilty because she is watching me. I turn my back to her and eat it quickly. I look at the clock, which tells me the vet’s office won’t open for one more hour.
There was a time when I would have hated getting up with this dog during her times of illness. I would have done it, but with a bad attitude. She and I did not start off on the right foot, and we wobbled on shaky ground: I resented her for being un-housebroken, for barking, for having her rambunctious energy—all while I was trying to work from home.
“I want my life back!” I sobbed to my husband a week or two after we got her. And she? She was a pup. Who knows what she thought. But I imagined she didn’t like me all that much. She scampered to the door when my husband came home from work. He swooped her up in his arms. “We have a puppy!” he’d say. As if I didn’t know.
Eventually, I came around. I fell for her.
Which is why I am the one sitting with her in the kitchen talking to the vet now that the office is open. Which is why I am willing to have long discussions about the frequency and quality of my dog’s bowel movements. I’m told to give her the canine equivalent of Immodium, so I do. Then I feed her and watch her scarf it down.
In a few days, she will be back to normal, and we will take her to Lowe’s. I’ll be the one who insisted on bringing her along. People will come up to her in Lowe’s and pet her and say how good she is. I won’t talk about her digestive issues, or the fact that she barks like a maniac when the doorbell rings and when people walk by on the street. She can be perfect for them because she is that way for me. As they say, love makes us blind. At least, most days, it does me. Especially after 6 am.