For as long as I can remember, the notion that pet owners treat their lovable balls of fur like full-fledged family members was something I couldn’t wrap my head around.
Until I became one of them. A pet owner, that is.
Growing up, we weren’t pet people in my family. Well, scratch that. For a year or so, we had two parakeets. One died and one escaped. End of that experiment.
During my brother’s teen years, a large fish tank occupied the dresser in his room. Yeah, they were mildly interesting, with the different colors and all. And watching the algae-eating suckerfish hangout (literally) and clean the inside of the tank held a morsel of interest. When Ed went away to college, guess who got stuck cleaning the tank every week? Boooooooo!!!
While we did have those two minor excursions into the pet world, we never ventured into the big leagues of pet-dom. That being, cats and dogs.
I’m not quite sure why. If I had to hazard a guess, the reason rested somewhere between mom not wanting to walk the dog (or change the kitty litter box) when Ed and I whined and dad not wanting to step in dog crap while mowing the lawn. Fair enough. They paid the mortgage so they got to call the shots.
My wife, Lauren, adopted Layla when she was a mere eight weeks old and could fit in the small of her lap. That was a year before Lauren and I met.
Layla is a twenty pound, two foot long puggle. One half pug, one half beagle.
She’s affectionate like a pug (and eats like one too) but has the nose of a beagle. And she knows how to use it. I often tell Lauren that Layla can smell what the people four units down the hall are cooking.
As she approaches her fourth birthday, Layla does not want for much in life.
She’s spoiled with affection and treats, has more toys than the average elementary school child, and enjoys walks in the woods on her 25-foot long leash. Did I mention that she gets scooped up and carried to bed when she’s exhausted? Toss in the fact that she manages to take up more space in bed than me despite a considerable size difference, and it should be abundantly clear that young Layla has the world by the proverbial throat.
What Layla gives back to Lauren and me in terms of love, companionship, and laughs is immeasurable.
So, you can imagine our despair when a typical evening walk a couple of weeks ago resulted in a trip to the animal E.R. While out and about, she swallowed something off the ground. That is pretty standard for Layla as that beagle nose tends to lead her down the trouble’s path.
When she started to cough and hack in an attempt to make herself vomit, that’s when we had an inkling that all was not well with the pup.
She started pounding water from her bowl in an effort to clear some type of blockage. Breathing wasn’t difficult for her since she showed no signs of distress, but something was obviously not right.
As our concern grew, we called a local animal hospital.
Lauren talked to one of the vet techs and she advised us to bring Layla in for a check. Fortunately, the hospital was open 24-hours (since we were now past dinner time) and we live not even ten minutes away.
Layla still wasn’t displaying any signs of distress. In fact, she seemed more excited to be going for a car ride. But, she still was attempting to self-induce vomiting. Something had to be wrong.
We got there, checked her in, and grabbed a seat in the lobby while Layla was taken outback for some x-rays.
Soon enough, Lauren and I were summoned to one of the exam rooms to meet the doctor (and get Layla back). The doctor explained that the x-ray revealed a small piece of bone resting “comfortably” in Layla’s belly. Her stomach acids would dissolve the bone in time and Layla would suffer no ill effects from shoving her inquisitive snout where it didn’t belong.
Still, the doctor wanted us to monitor her for the rest of the night and if she did vomit or show any other signs that something was wrong, we were to rush her back. We had to keep her on a strict diet of bland food the next couple of days (chicken and white rice) but Layla isn’t one to complain no matter what we put in her chow bowl. She’s a trooper like that.
Walking out of the animal hospital we were as relieved to have Layla with us as she was to be trotting alongside Lauren with her tail wagging from side to side. We settled into the car and headed home after a nerve-wracking few hours.
Ever the concerned dog mother, Lauren stayed home the next day to keep a watchful eye on Layla. She had a little more pep than the night before but was still rather calm and sedated. A day of cuddling on the couch while her mama watched bad TV was just the remedy.
By the time I got home that night, the hyper, playful Layla who almost always greets us at the door with some item of clothing clutched in her jaws (we call that “the presentation”) had returned.
All was well in dog world again. And, with a few well-placed licks to my face, Layla reminded me who I had become in just three short years.
A pet owner.