“They aren’t kids, you know.”
"They’re JUST ANIMALS.”
Mmhmm. Thank you, well-meaning friends and relatives.
Listen, I get it. Dogs ≠ children. They can’t take care of us when we’re old, they can’t tell us what they’re thinking, we’ll never watch them grow up and leave the nest and become doctors and lawyers and whatever else.
But, do you know how they are EXACTLY like children?
They’re mischievous, they love to play and they can make a toy out of ANYthing.
They do the craziest things that make us laugh until we pee our pants (sometimes literally).
They poop and puke in the most inconvenient places, at the most inconvenient times.
They put EVERYTHING in their mouths.
They love to snuggle.
They’re completely dependent on us for food, water, shelter, discipline, structure, care and love.
And they somehow know the exact moment we need a quiet, warm presence next to us, comforting us.
And although I didn’t strap him into a car seat, and he was wearing a leash instead of a uniform, and he was, well, going to get the boys chopped off instead of learning about sharing and cooperation, I couldn’t help but compare the experience to my friends who’ve been dropping off their little ones at school this week.
He was a trooper in the car, although he hasn’t had many car rides in his young life. He sat quietly, looking all around, as I told him what a good boy he was being and chattered on about how everything would be fine, and we’d pick him up tomorrow, and everything would be as good as new.
When we got to the vet’s office, he sprang from the car and skipped up the sidewalk and through the front door with his usual joyful lightness, greeting everyone enthusiastically in the lobby, nubbin tail (and entire backside) wiggling at top speed.
It wasn’t until the vet tech took the leash from me, and he turned back and looked at me, confused, that he realized something was up. Up to now, he’d been on an adventure with his mama, in a car with his mama, meeting strangers with his mama. His dark brown eyes looked concerned.
I told him he was a good boy, and it was OK, and then he disappeared into the examination room while I confirmed his pick-up time with the front desk.
And then I walked outside, a lump in my throat, and got in my car, feeling kind of oddly empty and more than a little guilty. (Seriously, how do parents of human babies DO this?? You have my eternal kudos.)
I called the vet just after noon, and was told he was in recovery, doing just fine, we can pick him up tomorrow as scheduled. After all, it’s an incredibly low-risk and routine surgery for a male dog.
But tonight, as it’s just T and Murray and me sitting here on the couch… Our family has a little hole in it. Until tomorrow, when it can be the four of us again.
(These are the moments when I feel the losses of our other beloved pets the most.)
But today was a good reminder that they are just as much a part of our family as they always were, and always will be. They won’t be squeezed out or shoved to the side as our family grows. They’ll be right in there with us, growing too.