This is not a story about covid. This is a story about when I decided to adopt a dog while recovering from covid. You get to decide which has been more stressful.
See, I have to kid about the past year, otherwise, this would read like yet another bummer post on Instagram. People who are healthy are probably burned out on reading about those who are sick. People who are still sick just want to get healthy. And also, if I’m being honest, wish those who have poo-poo’d the seriousness of the pandemic, muster up a touch of empathy.
So I write this with the deep gratitude of someone who has lived through her own personal zombie apocalypse. I hope it makes you laugh. I hope it inspires you to send some love to someone suffering. I hope you don’t call the ASPCA on me. Ok, here we go…
I adopted a dog who has as many medical issues as I do. This was not on purpose. Good lord, the last thing I would have wanted in the midst of recovering from covid is a dog needing more medical attention than me.
I thought a dog would mean unconditional love and cuddling and yes, an occasional poop in the living room. And also sometimes he would go to the bathroom in the house. But I think I actually got catfished by the dog formerly known as, “Inmate Number 799.”
In his online profile, “Walker”, renamed, “Bubsie”, said he was “perfect” and “petit” and an “absolute angel”. But when I walked through the doors of the animal rescue to see an almost 70 pound, 4-legged terrorist destroying a full-sized rubber tire, I realized his Instagram presence was as airbrushed as an advertisement for butt-lifting leggings.
This creature (or his foster, who probably made this post about him as she downed a bottle of wine) had taken some serious creative license. Yes, his face is adorable and his giant, almond eyes make him look like an alien separated from his departing spaceship. And yes, the top of his head is as sleek as a purebred racehorse, and his chins are as robust as a chubby midwesterner. And also, yes, he sits politely like a 1970’s Russian gymnast awaiting her score. But from the moment I got him home, I realized I’d adopted either a raging hypochondriac or a dog who was competing to see who could score more visits to the emergency room. For those of you counting, we’re each logged in at 2 apiece.
Then it occurred to me that Bubsie might simply be trying to emulate his fourth favorite person in the world (me.) Because by far, his favorite person is my Ukranian neighbor who, godblessher, keeps showing up at my door with a fistful of cooked hotdogs. She recently gave me one of her sweaters as a gift and I’ve caught Bubsie humping that cardigan at least half a dozen different times.
The second is a lady in my neighborhood who walks around dressed in all white. She also has long flowing white hair and carries an all-knowing smile as though she’s either just stolen your identity or she’s coming to take your spirit to a higher place.
The third favorite being in my dog’s life is anyone or anything else he meets. If you are a new person, child, dog, tree, a bag of donuts, or dead cricket in the corner, you are his favorite being in the entire universe.
Then there’s me. I ring it at a sterling, fourth place.
So maybe all of his medical conditions are him just trying to get closer to me. All those crusty skin tags are merely his way of making me feel better. Perhaps I should call them sympathy ailments. I mean, he is still a puppy so this might be is his way of imprinting:
Skin rash and losing hair = I got that too.
Eye infection = Ditto.
Sinus problems = You betcha
Autoimmune issue = Me too! Here, take my prescription for doxycycline. I’m done with it.
Prone to yeast infections= I hear that!
Can’t eat carbs because it causes inflammation = Both of us are lamenting life without cookies.
So after an embarrassing amount of money spent on what would have been my dream vacation to Tahiti, Bubsie now has to take ungodly expensive nutritional supplements and can only eat specially dehydrated meat and freshly steamed vegetables. No offense and please don’t hate me, but fuck thisgoddamneddog.
Every morning, I have dragged my still lethargic covid ass out of bed to make him a fried egg, fresh steamed broccoli, and rehydrate a bowl of gruel that smells like canned World War II rations. As a result, my apartment perpetually smells like farts and desperation.
In the darkest part of this illness, my body did not have the strength to even lift my head off the pillow, and things like showering felt like an Olympic sport reserved for those with the bicep endurance of Serena Williams. I had to salt my water, my potato chips, and my arm sweat to keep my blood pressure from perpetually tanking. And even though sometimes I didn’t have enough energy to complete my thoughts, let alone exert my body, my heart felt like it had been hooked up to an ambulance siren racing at breakneck speed. It’s like my body was shouting, “Hurry up and drop dead already!”
Suffice it to say, there were a lot of days my dog didn’t get the exercise he needed. But he loyally served as my pillow and rarely complained. And as long as I kept feeding him his gruel, he stayed close by my side. I’m guessing it had to have been a bummer for him too. I mean, he finally gets adopted after surviving months on the mean streets of Bakersfield, only to now be living life as a couch cushion. I don’t exactly think this was his idea of leveling up.
So it makes perfect sense his spirits have also been diminished throughout this whole experience. I noticed recently he’s resorted to day drinking. This would also explain what happened to all my emergency water.
At times when my ability to take care of myself was hanging by a thread, speaking words became painfully difficult to utter. I spent days in silence, with my mind racing to understand this waking prison I was barely existing in. My feet felt like loaded sandbags and merely stepping outside to let him pee took all the strength I could muster.
I’m guessing if you’re a giant cattle dog, that has to be a bit of a buzz kill. Five measly minutes outside has got to be its own sort of personal hell too. So one night when I walked into the living room to find him lying on the couch surrounded by an open bottle of pills, I couldn’t help but think, Well one of us was bound to do it.
At the stroke of midnight, there he was trying to Marilyn Monroe himself. What was I supposed to do? I had no idea what he’d taken, how much of it, and more importantly, why? I know he didn’t mean to swallow that bottle of pills but it’s hard not to take it personally, especially considering I found a note reading, “Woof. Also, it’s all your fault.”
He didn’t obviously leave a hand-written note. He’s illiterate. But he was telling me something. Perhaps he was just trying to get me to watch something other than hours upon hours of Star Trek. Maybe he was simply trying to get to the unwrapped Jolly Rancher stuck to the bottom of my purse. Whatever the reason, two things were certain: 1. I now had to rush him to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. 2. He knew how to use a zipper.
So even though my body felt like lead dropped to the bottom of a swimming pool and I was rocking a mild case of vertigo, I drove him to the vet where they quickly induced vomiting. Resting my body against the nearest wall to keep the ground from becoming the ceiling, I thought “Am I a bad pet owner? How was I to know he could unzip a bag without thumbs?”
Fifteen minutes later, the doctor stepped out onto the sidewalk holding a giant rubber container filled with the contents of my dog’s stomach.
“What do you think?” he asked me.
“I can’t say for sure, because I’m not a doctor, but I’m guessing this is a tub full of throwup.”
“Yeah, that’s what we think too.” Really? This is why they charged me $600? Here I was being forced to put my nose into his vomit. Shouldn’t I have shit in someone’s shoe to deserve this kind of treatment?
“We just want to be sure you recognize what’s in his stomach. Also, we don’t see any pills. But to be on the safe side, we should pump him full of more medication because he could die from…” and then his voice became like the adults in every Charlie Brown cartoon. All I could hear was squawking and muted vowel sounds. I then slowly handed over my bank card and politely asked him to remove the vomit trough from my face.
Four hours and two emergency room visits later, he was getting treated for a laundry list of concerns and was staying the night. I drove my weary body home and slept harder than I had in weeks.
The next morning I felt unusually refreshed. Maybe it was the barf infused aromatherapy, or just the burden of having to take care of another sickly creature in addition to myself that had been temporarily lifted, but it was the closest thing to a vacation I’d taken in over two years. So that morning I hunkered down and I cradled my pillow with the affection of a drunken college student embracing a warm pizza pie.
I slept through the day into the evening until the animal hospital called to say he still probably didn’t have any pills in his system, but they were keeping him another day just to be safe. They assured me he was getting walked four times a day, eating fresh chicken, receiving daily massages, and was overall, in good spirits. That’s when I had the thought, thatgoddamnedgod did it on purpose.
So while my dog remained at his five-star day spa, I retreated back to my medically induced staycation. The floor became lava and I had no reason to leave my tugboat, I mean bed, for the next 24 hours.
When I picked him up the next day, he had a spring in his step, a bow on his neck and he cried saying goodbye to the armed security guard holding the door.
Great, I just moved down to fifth place.
Since his return home, this adorable nugget with excessive chin fat has continued to be a source of love and aggravation for me. While the hospital resuscitated his will to live, he now takes extraordinary joy in imitating the running of the bulls whenever the mood suits him. Without intention or malice, he’s accidentally tripped me well over a dozen times using mostly illegal football tackles, given me one concussion, injured both my knees, forced me to eat a pavement sandwich twice, and consistently failed to protect me from spraying skunks, aggressive canines and/or humans, and meandering house spiders.
Thankfully, through all of this though, the one thing that has slowly gotten better, is me. After four-plus months of rehab and fistfuls upon fistfuls of both western and eastern medicine, I am starting to get better.
My endurance is stronger, I can walk farther, I can do that thing where you shower, make breakfast, drive places, and brush your teeth before bed. I don’t want to brag, but who has two thumbs, a driver’s license, and a Safeway card? Yep, Thumbs McGee even recently went shopping in a grocery store for the first time in eight months! I’m taking the tiny wins as giant victories and lemme tell you, picking out my own tampons ranks high among them.
While I am still in treatment for long covid symptoms and while some days I feel like I’ve been pushed into a barrel of tar that’s been thrown in a bathtub along with a plugged-in toaster, I’m focused on taking it one day at a time and appreciating the little things, like a long breath of fresh air without chest pain, or walking my giant, clueless dog down the block, while I follow closely behind with a dump truck-sized pooper scooper.
In the new times, it’s hard to say what is normal, and I think I lost my membership to normalcy the day I decided to like pineapple and mayonnaise sandwiches. So instead, I’ve decided to relish both the days when I feel like a baggie full of jelly and also the days I can twirl around my living room with my pre-covid joie de vivre. Each now has precious value in my world.