the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Things to consider if you really are considering adopting a dog

Marlo finally graduated from Sick Camp last Saturday in the early afternoon, and when I asked her if she wanted to walk across the stage and accept her certificate she waved me off because she was too busy finishing her fifth piece of toast. She’d barely eaten anything during the previous four days, and with a mouth full of bread asked me, “Am I going to burst open?” That somehow triggered the memory of this scene from Alien:

Those last five seconds are what Marlo and I lived over and over again for five straight days. I include myself in that because I was physically attached to her the entire time. I carried her from my bed to the bathroom to the couch and then back to my bedroom. She slept with me all week, and only during the brief 20 to 30-minute naps she’d take during the day could I open my laptop and attempt to work. She was miserable, could not ever get comfortable and writhed and squirmed for hours. It was absolutely heartbreaking, especially since the only thing I could do for her was hold her, rub her legs and back, and periodically poke her in the butt.

On Sunday she was feeling well enough that my mother took both girls to her house. I desperately needed the break so that I could catch up on all that I’d had to set aside, and the first thing that I did was take both dogs for a long walk. I hadn’t been away from the house all week and longed to breathe some fresh air. It was snowing but I did not give one single damn. Stretching my legs like that was my five pieces of toast.

Unfortunately for the dogs, that walk occurred much earlier than our normal walks, and we returned a few hours before I normally give them their dinner. They are programmed to think that food follows a walk, so I gave them both a treat. That should have been good enough, but you must remember that dogs are assholes.

CASE IN POINT: When Marlo had the stomach flu a few weeks ago, we spent a lot of time on the couch surrounded by towels and puke buckets. One morning I was sitting next to her and dialed the school to report that she’d be absent again. While I was talking to the school secretary Chuck walked into the living room, stopped a few feet away from me and stared me in the face. He continued to stare for several seconds in total silence, and then suddenly and without warning he opened his mouth and shot a gallon of vomit across my gorgeous Persion rug. Like a fucking cannon.

I was still talking to the secretary when he looked back up at me, titled his head as if considering his options and then leaned down to start eating his own puke.

SECOND CASE IN POINT: Fast forward to last Wednesday morning, the worst morning of Sick Camp. I’d been up all night long with Marlo who was having severe fever dreams. The previous day someone had left the gate to the backyard open, and Chuck escaped for about half an hour. He made his way across the street to a neighbor’s house, a neighbor who has a giant chicken coop in her backyard. Her daughters were kind enough to walk him back home but not before he found some stash of something and ate huge amounts of that something. I’m going to take a wild guess that it was chicken feed because he sprayed an oceanic amount of diarrhea—I’m talking about buckets, truck-loads, swimming pools—across the living room. Like a fucking fire hose. And it was all riddled with substances that looked like corn and twigs and feathers. He could quite possibly have eaten an entire chicken.

That was not on the Sick Camp schedule, you guys. He crashed Sick Camp.


After I gave both dogs a treat on Sunday, I sat down at my computer in the basement to get some work done. And that was made almost entirely impossible because both Chuck and Coco would walk to the side of my desk, stare at me for a few minutes, walk back upstairs to their food bowls, and then walk back to stare at me some more. This continued for an entire hour. Now, I know you’re thinking, just feed your damn dogs already. But if you’ve been paying attention, CHUCK CRASHED SICK CAMP. And I was actively holding a very unhealthy grudge.

After I finished some work I headed to my bathroom to take a shower. Both dogs followed me to the staircase leading up to my bedroom but stopped at the base and stared at me while I continued upward like, that is not in the direction of our food bowls. I then said out loud, “NO IT’S NOT. IT IS IN THE DIRECTION OF MY SHOWER.”

My guess is that they continued to pace as I leisurely washed my hair because out of nowhere I heard some very loud thumping, as if someone was running up and down the stairs. I finished my shower more quickly than I wanted to, threw on a towel and opened my bedroom door to find Coco sitting on the landing. I asked her what in the hell she was doing and she answered with a whimper. Hm…

I cocked my head at her like she usually does to me, and then she ran to the bottom of the staircase and back up to whimper once more. Right then I heard mad scratching coming from the bathroom on the main floor, claws against wood. That door likes to swing shut, but it doesn’t shut all the way unless you pull or push it with a bit of force. As I started walking down the stairs Coco positioned herself so that she was leading me, and she walked me straight to the bathroom door. Chuck had pushed the door open (most likely while pacing), walked inside and the door closed behind him. By forcibly scratching at the door he’d basically locked himself in the bathroom, and Coco had come to get me so that I could rescue him.

I let Chuck out immediately, and then looked at Coco and shook my head, not because I was mad, no. I shook my head because had the situation been reversed, had it been Coco who had locked herself in the bathroom, Chuck would have left her there to die. In fact, he would have plotted to make it so that no one ever discovered her body.

So I guess I have to correct what I said above: dogs are assholes only most of the time.

  • The Absent Minded Housewife

    2014/12/16 at 3:54 pm

    Well, I don’t need any dogs. I’d like a dog but we go too often and don’t have a reliable dogsitter.

    This means I have cats. I have three cats. Lord Jesus.

    One of my cats is an asshole. I was doing my laundry on Sunday. This old fart cat pooped in one of my sorting piles. I only learned of this when I was transferring this laundry from the washer to the dryer and I found the soggy poop nuggets.

    This cat is trying to put himself on my lap now. He can do this because I didn’t dry the poop nuggets on high heat. If he pulls that…shit…uh…again, I’m going to duct tape him to the litter box.

  • kmpinkel

    2014/12/16 at 4:00 pm

    My Aussie is the same stinking way. Would save your ass, but bark her head off the entire time just to make you reconsider whether or not you want to be saved.

  • Kristen

    2014/12/16 at 5:01 pm

    Elderly pets… you love them, but they just suck. Not all the time, but they’re horrible often enough that you can’t really deny it. I’ve got two elderly cats who are in pretty good shape, there’s nothing wrong with them, but they throw up all the freaking time. And if you try to stop them from throwing up on the furniture or a pile of laundry or something, they claw the hell out of you and try to run behind some furniture so they can throw up in a harder to reach place. Several times a week we hear that telltale noise that says “I’m about to vomit on something you own” and we have to not-run and grab them and keep them claws and mouth outward and try to get them somewhere they can safely throw up. It’s really not fun.

  • MrsArkban

    2014/12/16 at 7:31 pm

    We had this cat. . .once she managed to pee on a bookshelf, destroying all the books on it. But her greatest achievement was probably peeing in the freshly washed/folded basket of baby clothes when my firstborn was a week old and I had come home from the hospital with him and a severe upper respiratory infection.

  • KathyB

    2014/12/16 at 8:35 pm

    I’m just not a good enough human to live with a dog. Barely survived my grown daughter’s beagle. Loved her, but so relieved when she moved out with daughter. I remember how my own schedule revolved around the dog’s when I was inevitably in charge. No, the 75 foot runner didn’t really take the place of walks. I was working full time, going to school at night, and figuring out my suddenly single life. Sue me. I dare you. They are sweet, but so needy, and do not grow up like children. My inner child is pre-adolescent already. Wine is a good management tool for that one.

    I see my grand dog Pug once in a while. It is a lifestyle choice that I did not choose. Hard enough to live with two cats. They are 14 and still haven’t decided if they like each other from one day to the next.

    Aside from that. So glad that Marlo is recovering and you lived through it. Not snark, seriously. It is so hard when a child is sick. You do what you can do and feel like you are witnessing the trials of Hercules or something.

  • Meg

    2014/12/16 at 10:47 pm

    Some dogs are wonderful nurses. Mine, the sweetest Puggle in the world, brings me her toys when I’m sick. Sometimes she tries to put a chew toy in my mouth, which is adorable but not fun. I’m so glad Coco helped rescue Chuck. And take care of Marlo. Her sheep was sick!

  • PolicyChick

    2014/12/17 at 8:54 am

    Yeah, older pets…. My cats are getting up there – Mr. Smith is 14 and Noah is 16. Smith can’t be bothered with the box so I’ve resorted to puppy pads, and Noah will throw up after every meal for days on end sometimes. It is terribly hard to see either of them sick – they’re my babies!

    Completely off-topic but…I will be very glad when that Wonderwall banner ad at the top of your site has finished running. I find it so visually jarring and tacky! Not a diss to you Heather, I know you don’t have any control over the ‘creative’ of the ads you run!

  • talonsage

    2014/12/17 at 11:48 am

    Oh Heather…I love you, love your dogs and each and every one of your blogs.

    (I’m sorry; I could not help the rhyme.)

    You get me my Real Life dog fix when you post pics and write about the horrible and wonderful and befuddling things they do. We aren’t in a situation where I can have a dog right now; (My big, black, gangly, 120 lb Belgian Shepherd mix died in ’06 and I still miss him dreadfully) nor are we in a situation where I can volunteer to even be with dogs. (Gas. The prices are low, but we still have no income.)

    So thank you. Between you and Ree, I get my dog, horse and multiple alive kids fix. I turned 40 this year and my oldest, my best boy would have been seventeen, my Chibi (who is remarkably like your Leta, minus some of the innate patience; it had to be learned) is 14, my health is crap but I still long for another one.

    And thus I ramble. Thank you morning meds.

  • talonsage

    2014/12/17 at 11:50 am

    I’ll raise you cat who pissed on our BED (a temperpedic no less, I’ll have you know) for revenge because she was disciplined and also *gasp* flea treated.

    Now? No cats allowed. Ever. And we got six of ’em.

  • talonsage

    2014/12/17 at 12:02 pm

    My parents used puppy pads for both their old girls towards the ends of their lives; Cremona Garden (Momo) lived to 16 and Alia (Of The Fang), 20. She died last spring, the last of a long line that began with my half Himalayan cat Shere Khan: THE TIGER! (Actually he was a fluffy blond, beautiful and slightly brainless lover of a cat) and a barn cat named Patty who was “just passing through”.

    Puppy pads are awesome for elderly kitties. Also, have you tried meat gerber baby food for Noah? It’s my go-to for calories when one of mine is sick. My Kenichi recently had the mother of all abscesses (It’s too gross to give you more detail here) and when it got so big I was syringe feeding and watering him, it was the babyfood, diluted with kitten formula or catsip and warmed that got into his belly. That gross, jarred babyfood is the ULTIMATE treat around these parts.

    If you haven’t tried it already, give it a go? And good luck with your old men. Kenichi is our “old man” and he’s only eleven-ish.

  • Jan

    2014/12/17 at 2:48 pm

    I have a lab who can do that vomit a gallon thing, maybe all dogs can. Her trick is she doesn’t like to vomit in the same place so it’s a gallon here then a gallon over there, and then back there and then also tries to eat it back up while I’m chasing around trying to clean up. Last week I got the flu, a very sudden flu. I ran for the bathroom and she started running, she’s faster and got ahead of me thinking we were playing a game. Well I didn’t make it to the bathroom and since she was in front, she took the first strike. Yep, I puked a gallon on my dog. Fortunately she followed me into the bathroom and when I looked up, she was glaring at me from underneath the puke, indicating she didn’t like this new game we were playing. She liked it even less when I shoved her in the shower and hosed her off. I got more satisfaction out of that look that I probably should have….

  • Cynthia

    2014/12/17 at 5:15 pm

    I know you mentioned your income was low, so I hope this doesn’t come off as an asshole suggestion. If you have the time and some gas in the tank, check with your local animal shelter about checking a dog out for the day. It gets them out of a stressful environment. It gives people a chance to spend time with a dog especially those who can’t have a dog for whatever reason. Good luck, I hope the financial situation turns around sooner than later.

  • talonsage

    2014/12/17 at 7:16 pm

    No, it doesn’t come off that way, it’s just that the closest shelters are both too far away or I would have been doing this already. I can’t even visit my parents without having to ask them for gas money. By highway they’re just a little further away than both the closest shelters in the area. *sigh* Believe me, it’s something I’ve considered many, many times.


  • PolicyChick

    2014/12/18 at 8:11 am

    Thanks for the tips! Right now Noah is eating fairly well, but these are definitely things I will try – thank you!

  • talonsage

    2014/12/18 at 11:10 am

    I’m glad I could be of some service!! I hope your old men continue to live long, healthy (as any elderly cat can be) lives!! Baby food also works great for when you need to pill reluctant cats!!

  • Kim

    2014/12/18 at 11:43 am

    Unrelated comment, but related to your poor girlie with her now diagnosed ear infection. At four, my oldest had what appeared to be a stomach bug, although he spent more time moaning, with an on and off high fever, than he did throwing up. This went on for almost a week and I took him to the doctor and ER twice…every time they sent me away with a “he has a stomach bug, you overreacting mother…” statement and look. Finally, after day six or seven we ended up seeing another doctor, who rightly diagnosed him with a double ear infection. 24 hours on antibiotics and he was on the mend. (His ears had been checked, but no one caught an infection) Fast forward five years….Same child woke up throwing up. High fever hit, moaning, etc. This went on two days until he started saying that his ear was killing him. I remembered what had previously happened, exact same symptoms. Yup, terrible ear infection that took two rounds of antibiotics to clear it up. So…we now know that when he gets an ear infection, it’s not his ears that initially bother him so it’s harder to diagnose. And it takes days before his ears actually hurt, which means the infection has gone on for too long. When I read your story, made me wonder if Marlo’s ears or the infection is reacting the same way. Store it away for future use…if you see the same kind of symptoms again, check those ears…stat! Glad she’s feeling better! 🙂

  • KristenfromMA

    2014/12/18 at 1:24 pm

    My advice: don’t get a working breed to be a house pet. Without work to do, a working dog acts…crazy.

  • cattail722

    2014/12/18 at 2:09 pm

    By the way, cats are assholes too.

  • amanda

    2014/12/19 at 1:01 pm

    If you have ear-infection prone kiddos, go ahead and buy a cheap otoscope from amazon. Until we finally got my son’s adenoids out, it saved us from getting to the point where he got really, really sick before I figured out it was an ear infection. He didn’t really complain of ear pain until things were horribly advanced either. Plus, now that ear infections aren’t really a problem, I use it to look at his throat when I think that he (or his sister) might have strep.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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