One of the unwanted parenting milestones…they’re going to come, whether we want them too or not. A daughters first heartbreak, the first time our son comes home after a fight, not getting that A on the science test though you and your kiddo stayed up all night studying, the “birds and the bees” talk just to list a few.
These milestones come in a variety of ways, each with their own level of difficulty. There’s a fun analogy…unwanted parenting mile stones are like a tricky flip off the high dive. But also accurate. There are twists, there are turns…and somehow, regardless of the level of difficulty, there remains the potential for flawless delivery, or a messy splash that is hard to recover from in the next round.
We faced not exactly our first of many of these milestones today. We’ve already had one run in with a broken collarbone which resulted in both mom and kiddo bawling uncontrollably in an emergency room on a Saturday afternoon.
Sunday night, our dog Mack who is…a special kind of dog, fell down the small set of steps leading to the front door when we were going outside for the evening.
When I say Mack is a special kind of dog, I mean the poor thing came with a list of problems when we adopted him from a local humane society. Nine months old and due to his owner injuring herself, he had already spent his time in six different kennels leaving him obese and highly anxious. We renamed him Mack due to the fact that he was a very large golden retriever and would easily run you down, much like a Mack truck. But he was sweet, and dopey, and the perfect companion for your yellow lab, Reiley, who had started to look a little lonely as she grew out of her puppy years. And when we had children, he was just as perfect a companion, if not more so, for our daughters. He allowed both of them to lay all over him, to pull him around the house by his collar, to fluff him and primp him to their little hearts content, doing no more than giving us a pitiful “why do they do this to me” look every once and a while.
In the nine years we’ve had him, he’s driven me up several walls. He is a dog that does not recognize the word “no”. He is a dog that will get into everything. And I do mean everything. He must have a cast iron stomach because half of the things he’s managed to ingest have not managed to harm him. Of these things, paint and vitamin D are included. Which, side note, vitamin D is extremely toxic to dogs so please, keep it out of their reach. We had returned from a weekend at my parents and I had not yet had the chance to take my vitamins out of my duffle bag which he managed to unzip and get to said vitamins. Or, we think he did. To this day, we don’t know which dog did it. We paid quite a bit for both dogs to ensure that they would be okay; cleaning out what was left of my retirement account to do so.
After his little tumble down the two steps, Mack threw up and then would not eat or drink anything for two days which is, for the dog that eats everything and drinks like he hasn’t in years, very unusual. My husband took him to the vet this morning and just as I was packing up to drive home from work for the evening, I received a call from the vet.
I can honestly say I appreciate a vet who, without knowing you, delivers bad news with empathy and honesty. With an exam and x-rays completed, he sounded rather confident in his diagnosis of a spleen related cancer that was very common in golden retrievers. Our options…were few, not at all promising and not within our financial scope. What he said they could do was an exploratory surgery where they would remove the spleen with the mass and send it off for testing to determine if the mass was cancerous or benign. More often than not, he explained, the results were not good and regardless of whether or not the seriousness was determined, the cancer was a very aggressive cancer and had, more than likely, already moved on to his other organs. I sat in my office chair, running late in getting my youngest from daycare, and cried. The vet was compassionate, saying his own dog had passed from the same thing. Out of everything he said, nothing sounded as if there were any available or working cure.
I went home, walked into the kitchen where my husband was and we held each other, knowing all we could do was wait and keep our old, cast-iron stomach dog as comfortable as possible. And we knew that along with this difficult situation would come another – telling our six year old, when the time came, that her puppy was sick and had died.
I’m not looking forward to this. Not one bit. I have no idea how to tell her without showing my own heartbreak in the process. There will be a burial and a headstone. When my dad’s golden passed, Sammy was very thoughtful and visited his marker often, decorating it with flowers and talking to Oz about how she missed him. But to break my little girls heart like this, especially when it’s almost a daily thing for her to tell me how good a boy Mack is and how fluffy and comfy he is and how much she loves him…I selfishly don’t want to do it, even though I know I have to.
I know she’ll rebound but I also know that regardless of her six years, she’s going to hurt from this and she’s going to be confused. And Lord knows I’m going to help her through this. I just wish I knew how.
It’s not like I never knew this day would come. All pet owners know they will face moments like this. It’s an accepted responsibility when you decide to incorporate a fur-baby into your family. And we do it over…and over…and over. This will not be the first animal I have said good bye to and certainly not the last. But it will be unlike any experience I’ve had with the two children in the mix.
This morning our youngest climbed out of bed, walked into the hallway and promptly laid on the ground beside Mack, wrapping her tiny arms around him. I think both my husband and myself looked away to keep from crying. I’m not a fan of these unwanted parenting milestones at all.
“Dog’s lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”
~Agnes Slight Turnbull