The $450 Pocket of Gas

Friday afternoon after putting Leta to bed for her nap I headed to the futon in the basement to see if I could catch a few minutes of sleep as well. Whenever I take a nap during the day Chuck always crawls out of the corner of the house he’s curled up in and lies down at my feet to sleep with me. This habit of his makes up for 1) all the times he does not come when called (ALL THE TIME), 2) giving strangers more love than he gives me, 3) farting on the couch, 4) licking the couch, 5) that one time we left a plate of cinnamon rolls on the coffee table and he broke a ceramic coaster BY LEAPING ON TOP OF THE COFFEE TABLE TO GET AT THE PLATE, and 6) constant, never-ending, life-long empty ball sac licking.

But Friday he never came to be with me. I called him several times and when he did come he just sat next to the futon and stared at me or walked around the room in circles. This behavior wasn’t necessarily troubling because dogs can be weird and Chuck has exhibited his fair share of weirdness. There was that one time in Los Angeles when Jon spilled a bag of coffee beans and thought he had cleaned up the mess, but HE INDEED HADN’T CLEANED UP THE MESS AT ALL WHATSOEVER. Chuck found and ate every last spilled coffee bean and that was The Worst Day of My Life, right behind that one time I had to poop after giving birth. Chuck was high on caffeine and for eight hours straight did nothing but run around the apartment, sliding into walls and running head first into furniture.

I hadn’t seen Chuck eat anything questionable on Friday so I assumed that he just wanted to go outside and lie in the hot sun, but when Leta woke up and I fed her lunch he didn’t come walloping into the kitchen to catch stray crackers. In fact, he wouldn’t even take a cracker from my hand. Something was terribly wrong and suddenly I was overcome with anxiety: my baby boy, he’s ill.

I have to admit that before I had Leta people warned me that my relationship with my dog would change once she got here, but I had no way of understanding what that warning meant. I would always counter, “No way, my dog is my little baby and I will always love him like I do now.” (YOU MAY NOW COMMENCE PUKING) I was right, and they were right. When Leta came along I still loved Chuck just as much as I always had, but the love I had for my daughter FAR FAR FAR exceeded anything I had ever felt for my dog. My relationship changed in the sense that if he ever did anything to endanger my child I would strangle him personally, although it would be a loving strangle.

We headed to the vet at 1:30 PM Friday afternoon. Leta and I waited in the lobby for over an hour while the vet x-rayed his chest. I had told her that he’s been puking a bit lately, and then there was that one time he ate a corn dog on a stick and we never saw the stick come out. Before you’re allowed to take a baby home from the hospital they should make you promise NEVER EVER EVER to try and wait in a lobby with a child whose attention span is less than that of a soy bean. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE, and I almost did, Leta almost killed me, with the lasers, from her eyes, but the vet rescued me just in time, just before Leta slit my throat and kicked my lifeless body.

The x-rays showed a pocket of trapped gas next to Chuck’s lungs and an almost grapefruit-sized obstruction in his GI tract. The vet looked seriously worried and mentioned that he might need emergency surgery, she just wasn’t sure yet. I sort of stopped hearing her after EMERGENCY SURGERY. Because they didn’t normally do surgery on the weekends she decided to give him an anti-inflammatory medication and inject water into his skin to see if the obstruction could be flushed out, and we were to bring him back in the morning for further x-rays. When I went to check him out the receptionist bit her lip and whispered, “Um, that’ll be $300.” And then she flinched like I was going to hit her.

I didn’t understand her reaction, I really didn’t. While Leta and I waited in the lobby I had heard the receptionist arguing with another person over their bill, but my honest feeling was, “$300? SO WHAT? IT’S MY DOG.” I actually said that to her, that he was my dog and it didn’t matter. Thank God she didn’t say, “Um, that’ll be your first born child,” because I was ready to hand Leta over.

Chuck had a quiet night and slept with me for several hours. His skin was jiggly with water and he was a bit disoriented. When he got up in the middle of the night I don’t think he knew where he was and he walked over the corner of the room and stood there with his nose pressed to the wall for several minutes. I didn’t sleep well, waking every hour and listening for the sound of his pacing or puking or whatever horrible thing could happen. MOTHERHOOD. TOTALLY. SUCKS.

After we dropped Chuck off at the vet Saturday morning Jon and I had the inevitable talk, the “what are we willing to spend on this dog” talk, a talk I hope you NEVER have to have in your lifetime. I was an emotional wreck and informed Jon that Chuck was my dog and that I would be willing to take out a loan to keep him alive. Being faced with the possibility of losing him I realized the lengths I would go to in order to keep him in our lives. We’d sell the cars! We’d sell the house! We could start a meth lab in the basement! ANYTHING!

What would you do for your dog? Your cat? Your pet iguana? I guess I didn’t know just how irrational I could be until faced with the threat of something happening to a member of my family. Maybe this is why people are so afraid of commitment because once you do make that leap you don’t know how many laws you’d break to keep that lover, that child, THAT FUCKING DOG in your life. Moments before I started planning to rob a Burger King the vet called and said, “Good news. He looks like a new dog on these x-rays.”

No emergency surgery and another $150 dollars later we met Chuck in the lobby of the vet’s office. He was back to his normal self, charming the pants off every employee in the building and jumping on the other animals in the lobby AS IF HE HADN’T JUST GIVEN ME A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN or anything. On the way home as Chuck licked the windows Jon made me promise that I wouldn’t give him pop tarts anymore, or cheddar goldfish, or Cheerios, or slices of lunch meat, or bites of my oatmeal. He even tried to get me to say that I would not let Chuck lick my pizza ever again BUT I DO HAVE MY LIMITS AND THAT LIMIT IS DENYING MY DOG A NIBBLE OF PEPPERONI, give me some credit.