Should I or shouldn’t I get another dog? Our old dog, and first dog, Gillian, has been gone for two years now. It’s hard to replace a pet anytime, but it’s even harder when the pet being replaced is still sorely missed. Justin Williams has a story in this issue—a profile of a therapy dog up at Children’s named Leica—that reminds me of all the wonderful things a pet can do for us hard-to-love humans. The unconditional love, the stress relief, the drooling. It’s enough to make me jump on the SPCA site right now and search for our newest family member.
But then my mind goes reeling back to all the stress Gillian actually caused. Some of it was garden variety (varmint chasing, mailman menacing, carpet soiling, etc.), but a lot of it was agita-inducing. Somewhere I have a folder full of vet bills that confirm this. I remember Gillian fondly, but the repeated scenes of us waiting in a little windowless room while the vet stitched up another self-inflicted wound? Not so much.
She was pretty oblivious to the things she did to herself. One time, when we were living in Santa Fe, she took off after a jack rabbit; 10 minutes later, she came trotting back licking at something on her chest—a flap of skin and a three-inch gash, courtesy of the barbed wire fence she’d torn through. When our daughter was a toddler, Gillian was in heaven. To her, Nola was a life-giving force; anything she let slip from her peanut buttery fingers—or better yet, spat up on—was fair game. One day we noticed that Gillian hadn’t touched the food in her bowl. That was odd. Off to the vet we went, where she stayed overnight for observation. An X-ray turned up something large lodged in her innards. If she didn’t pass it naturally, they’d have to do surgery. Thankfully her iron constitution kicked in. How do I know? Because when I picked her up, the vet brought out the item of concern, which he’d been so good as to retrieve and seal in a freezer bag: a burp cloth, coiled and knotted in a way that made clear it had just spent a few days in our dog’s intestinal tract. “Do you want to take it home?” he asked. I did not.
So, yeah, I have to think this through. I get that the companionship of a good dog is a real comfort. Especially these days. But, oh, those vet bills.