We had a health scare last week with the newest member of the household. It made me confront for the first time how we would break the news to our child and cope with the death of a loving family pet. When it comes to animals, though, I’m a very effective grief counselor. I go to pieces. I try to remember it’s the last act of love for a dying pet when they’re suffering and unable to die on their own terms.
OK. That’s the rambling set-up. The back-story.
For years, my wife and daughter have threatened to get a dog. It took us two tries, but we finally welcomed Oliver into our home, joining the four cats in residence. No conflict here – Oliver was smaller and outweighed by each of the four cats. He’s a Chihuahua mix, with stumpy little legs, a gray muzzle, and a heart as big as Donald Trump’s ego.
Oliver immediately became part of our family. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve always been and will remain devoted to cats. But little Oliver has won me over with his devotion, his openness, his games of tuggie, and not the least of which, the way my wife and daughter light up around him.
That’s why we were alarmed three weeks ago when discovered a lump on his belly.
When we discovered the lump on Oliver’s belly, we were concerned. We couldn’t determine if it had been there all along and we just didn’t notice it before. We agreed to keep an eye on Oliver and call the vet if there was any change.
It changed. The lump had doubled to golf-ball size. Being the pessimist I am, the worst-case scenario played in my mind. How would we stand strong for our daughter?
Of course, her mother and I didn’t share any grave misgivings with our daughter about Oliver.(Her mother being nowhere near the pessimist I am, will certainly scoff at my fears.)
On the way to the vet’s office, I’m trying to create in my mind a plan to handle bad news.
While in the vet’s examining room that day, we learned something very important about canine anatomy: They have belly buttons. And sometimes they get hernias in their belly buttons, just like humans do. Those hernias can move in and puff out a bit, but they are rarely a problem.
Oliver had a hernia in his belly button. Nothing dangerous, threatening or worthy of further medical attention.
I didn’t even know dogs had belly buttons, but I’ve seen enough kitten births that I should have realized that animal umbilical cords attach somewhere.
Relief. I don’t think our daughter understood just how relieved I was. I wasn’t ready to have that talk with her. When it does happen, she’ll take after her mother — and no doubt handle it better than me.
Then, this groaner popped into my head: You could say we were barking up the wrong tree.