Wednesday, March 23, 2011


You know it's a rough morning when your bare foot lands in a pile of slimy dog vomit before the sun has risen. Just saying.

I got up at 6:15, as per usual, although it was harder than usual because Shawn and I watched It's a Wonderful Life last night, and it was longer than we'd realized. We also realized that neither of us had ever seen it before, except for the brief segment when George Bailey meets up with his guardian angel on the snowy bridge. Verbiage aside, the net result was that I sank into my pillows at 12:05 last night, and when the alarm went off at 6:15, I was tired.

But I got up, the way I almost always do (unless I am sick or similarly indisposed), and I made Jonathan's oatmeal. And his coffee. And his lunch. And I washed the dishes that had been made late last night when people snacked again after I had already washed the supper dishes. I emptied the dishwasher. I started hard boiled eggs so they would be finished and warm for Shannon and David when they got up for their breakfast at about 7:25.

Now, I own black slippers, gray slippers, red slippers and even a pair of tan leather slippers. However, I have not been able to find any of them lately (seriously, I often wonder whether ADD is catching and I have caught it), the upshot being that my feet were bare. And cold.

So I decided to take my cold, bare feet back to bed where I could place them against the warm flesh of my snoozing husband and thaw them out. But as I approached the bed, on the very last step before I vaulted myself into the velvety warmth under the covers, my bare left foot slid into a pile of dog puke.

"Aauugghh!" I hollered, instinctively. Had I been able to think, I would have tried to muffle it, but it just came out. Shannon and David were getting up then anyway, but it jolted Shawn from slumber.

When we remodeled our bathrooms, we replaced a miniature tub and shower combination unit in our bathroom with a largish stone and tile shower. I realized about a week ago that I will no longer be able to sit on the edge of the tub and wash my feet before bed in the summer when I have been going barefoot. It was a sad realization. Today I was also sad, as I hopped on my right foot down the hall to the kids' bathroom, which has a tub. I muttered (loudly) under my breath, "So that's what Piper was doing last night when I thought he was dying."

Shawn called out, "You always think he's dying." He's right of course; I do. But stepping in the vomit reminded me that I had heard a most alarming sequence of sounds in the night, sounds like gasping, upchucking, wheezing, stumbling and falling. I had thought Piper was probably dying, but I was too tired, and too chicken, to check it out.

I washed my foot. Shawn was kind. He went to the basement and got the Bissell "Little Green Machine" so we could sort of shampoo the carpet. I had some stuff in an aerosol spray can that is for disinfecting pet accidents which I also sprayed on the spot. It is very fumey. The can boasts some ridiculous claims written by an advertising agency, things like, "Instant Erase... now with new odor stop technology." As I lay, lightheaded, in my bed after the ordeal was over, I thought it should probably say, "Kills germs and odors while causing cancer and blindness." But I digress.

I lay in my bed trying to (1) recover, and (2) warm up my feet. Shawn lay next to me and said what I had been thinking since the middle of the night, "I don't hear Piper breathing." That's what he said.

After the violent and awful sounds I'd heard in the night, there had been an uncanny silence. Frankly, when I stepped in the dog vomit, I was mildly relieved that it was good old fashioned dog vomit like I'd seen many times before. I'd been (subconsciously) afraid of running into blood, guts and little doggy corpses. I told Shawn, "No, I haven't heard him breathe since I thought I heard him die in the night."

Piper is getting old. He is crotchety and sometimes snappy, He gets afraid because he can't see much anymore. He is scared of going up and down stairs, and he needs a lot of help (or a lot of very firm encouragement) when he goes out to relieve himself, because he hates navigating on and off the deck. I try to be patient with the poor, tiny creature. "He is very old. He doesn't feel good. He is going to die soon," I tell the family. Piper backs me up by lying prone in the middle of the floor and wheezing alarmingly. At night, the whistle in his chest serenades me through the dark hours whenever I come conscious.

So Shawn and I lay in the soft warmth of our bed while I tried to absorb some of that warmth into my freezing limbs and appendages, and we listened to the sound of silence arising from under the bed.

"That's really eerie, " Shawn said. "Do you want me to check on him?" Now, if you understand how much Shawn dislikes this dog (based on unfortunate occurrences from the past), you will understand how very eerie it all was.

"No, " I said, "Don't check. I can't take it just yet. I need to rest a bit, and get warm and figure out how to deal with what comes next." Bad news keeps.

So we lay there as the silence continued, and I thought about how we would get the body out from under the bed, and would we take it to the vet in a plastic bag? Or in the little dog bed where he sleeps under there? I wondered about reporting it to the county licensing people, and I wished we could just bury him in the backyard with a cement marker. That is illegal in NY; you have to get your pet cremated (at considerable expense). I wondered if we could get around it since he died quietly at home, and just report him as "missing" to the county. That's how sinful I am, although I pretty much decided that we wouldn't try that, we would be legal and law abiding, and I would shower and call the nice ladies at the vet's office and they would tell me what to do next.

And then we heard a little canine cough, a snuffle, and a scratching at the interior of the dog bed. Piper emerged, rumpled and droopy, but alive. We got at least one more day out of him.

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