Thursday, January 15, 2009


For some reason I was thinking this morning about a dog I had, and a cat I had.

I got Ziggy, a little black furball of a cat, when she was 6 weeks old. This was wayyyyyyyy before I had actual human children, and she was like my child (or so I felt at the time). I totally babied her, and felt my heart all wrapped up in her. She was always a little on the sickly side, and when she was 11 or 12 years old she became very ill. Turned out to be liver failure, and our veterinarian didn't know if she would live or die. She went into the "hospital" where she stayed for over a week from what I recall, on all sorts of medications and being fed through an IV in her skinny little foreleg. We spent well over $1,000 trying to get her well - $1,000 on this little mongrel of a cat! - and I would go to the vet's office every day on my lunch hour and after work to hold her and be with her. Finally there was nothing more they could do for her and we decided that if she was going to die, we wanted her to be at home where she was comfortable and not afraid. So we brought her home, and slowly but surely, she recovered and ended up living several more years, to the ripe old age of 17.

I got Goliath, my dog, when he was a puppy. He was a Pitbull/Rottweiller/Lab mix, and the sweetest dog. Dumb as a post, but just very sweet-tempered and loyal. We bought him for 50 bucks from a friend of a friend. He had this bent tail, like it was broken in the womb or something. When he was a few months old, I came home from work and found him lying in the backyard, half dead, unable to move. I remember being hysterical, and carrying him out to my car (he was a sizeable dog and I'm sure by that time already weighed 50 pounds) and rushing him to the vet's. Turned out he had Parvo and was in septic shock. He was in the hospital for several days, which cost us a ton of money, but he recovered. By the time he was a year old, he developed hip dysplasia and needed surgery. I remember just agonizing over that, calling different vets and talking to them about the surgery, how he would recover, etc. I remember our vet telling me, as I cried on the phone, that he would probably never be able to run and chase a ball, but he would get around. The night before his surgery, I slept with his favorite blanket so that it would have my scent on it to comfort him when he was in the hospital. He recovered, slowly, and it was true: he was never able to run and chase a ball, but he was content and he got around. He lived to be 15 1/2 - very old for a dog of his size. He just passed away about a year and a half ago.

At the time when I was going through all of these things with my "fur-babies," I know it felt like there was nothing worse that could happen. It was all devastating and so scary.

But then I had "real" children, and sadly, my pets gradually lost their "child" status and became just what they were: a dog and a cat. Once my human babies came along, my heart became all wrapped up in them.

Now I look back on the aftermath of Finn's birth. His unexpected surgery as a newborn. His hospitalization. His diagnosis of Down syndrome. For some reason, at this moment, when I think of his Down syndrome, I hear that veterinarian telling me on the phone as I cried that my dog would probably never be able to run and chase a ball, but he would get around. I'm not sure exactly what the correlation is, except that I will have to get used to the idea that Finn will reach developmental limits that "normal" children might not have. And that's hard. But I also remember that Goliath went on to be a pretty happy, healthy dog who lived a good, long life. Maybe it's silly to make the comparison, but there it is. Life experiences. I can't help but garner some hope from that experience.

And it's interesting, too, that I remember how frightened and crushed I felt when Ziggy got so sick, and when Goliath got so sick and then needed surgery. How it felt like there was nothing worse that could be happening. And how I felt those same feelings after Finn was born, on a much grander scale. It felt like the end of the world. But it wasn't. It isn't. Here we are, continuing on through life, laughing, loving, breathing, fighting, crying, sleeping, waking, running, feeling. It's all good. This is life. It's textured and not smooth. And that wasn't the worst thing that could happen.


Tricia said...

honestly all I can say is I LOVE THIS! I totally see the comparison and it is beautiful!

Shannon said...

This is an absolutely beautiful insight and I agree with you one hundred percent.

Jen said...

Such a beautiful post. This made me cry.

Carla said...

Well written, Lisa. I've been thinking about my pets (sister cats) recently, too. They used to be my babies and I would set aside time every day to play with them and give them treats. Now, they get fed, watered, and patted in a rather perfunctory way because my heart and hands are more wholly elsewhere. Hhhhhmmmm, maybe that is why they both try to sleep on top of me every night. Anyhow, your insight is magnificent.

Laurie said...

I see what you are saying...very nicely written, Lisa.