I’ve been staring at this blog post for two weeks. I have a hard time sharing experiences if I can’t pinpoint what I learned from them, and for the past 14 days, I’ve been thinking back over this dog-related adventure and wondering if it was actually worth writing about. Did I learn something from it, or do I want to write about it because it was kind of scary and I want to get it off my chest, confessional style? The farther I’ve gotten from it, the more I’ve second-guessed whether it’s worth sharing at all.
Thankfully, somebody else was able to put the pieces together for me. Now, though, I’ll start from the beginning.
I see posts a lot of posts about kids and pets go through my Facebook feed. Most of the time, they’re dumb, low-quality memes — is there a way to opt out of those? Jesus, it’s 2016 — but sometimes, I see blog posts about why having pets is just like having kids or how having pets is nothing like having kids, how dare you. Regardless of which position the post takes, there are people in the comments who are pissed as hell, and since I don’t have a horse in that race, it’s always just entertaining to read.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a huge fan of kids. To me, they seem like a lot of work and stress and not a lot of payoff, and I generally (generally, aka, there are exceptions) don’t find them enjoyable to talk to or be around. Yes, I know I was a kid once, too: There’s a reason I tried to destroy my family’s old home videos. Parents, bless their hearts, have to put up with a lot of crap I don’t want to put up with, and if they find it worth it, wonderful, but I don’t envy them. All of this to say, I’m really not hurt when a frothing parent hits the internet with 25 reasons why kids are 100 times more responsibility than pets.
Of course, there are some similarities nobody can deny. If you’re doing it right, pets are expensive. If you’re doing it right, you can’t just jet off on vacation or for a night out at the drop of a hat. Like kids, pets can be stubborn and destructive and frustrating. As with kids, sometimes accidents happen and there is blood.
Two weeks ago, Nelson was a bit of a dingus and put a nail through the front edge of his crate as he was walking into it. He didn’t make a peep; I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong if Matt, who was watching from another room, hadn’t said, “Nelson, you better not have just hurt yourself.” I went over to take a look and sure enough, the nail was at completely the wrong angle, the quick was exposed, and there was blood on the blanket. Since it was almost 10 at night and not a dire emergency, I cleaned it as well as I could, put a clean sock over it, and didn’t sleep very well that night.
We got him to the vet as early as we could the next morning, and he must have been remembering his last visit for his sudden, massive ear infection (poor guy can’t catch a break lately), because he was not pleased with the tech or vet even being in the room. They had to sedate him and cut the damaged nail all the way back, and, surprise! They also cut the rest of his nails back so far that most of them bled.
To be fair, Nelson’s nails were a little on the long side. When we first got him, he wasn’t thrilled with me even trying to put balm on his paw pads, and I was scared I would hurt him if I did it myself. Recently, we’ve been using a nail dremel, which works great, and with lots of treats and lots of patience, we’ve been getting them down to a better length without me worrying about cutting his quick. They still weren’t as short as they should’ve been, but I was a little shocked that my vet hacked them off indiscriminately, even if Nelson was sedated. I’m not exactly a sensitive person, but the whole experience made me feel a little sick the rest of the day, sort of like I was one bad moment away from bursting into tears.
“Sorry to hear that,” my dad texted me when I told him. “Kinda like having your kid get her teeth kicked in.”
Oh, right. That happened. When I was 13, my horse kicked me in the face. I deserved it; I was being a dumbass, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. I’d gotten my braces off about two weeks prior, and that day I ended up with 11 stitches in my lower lip and two in my upper gums holding in the canine that had been kicked out, miraculously, in one whole piece. It was not a fun lesson.
I swear I’m getting to a point, here.
Shortly after the nail incident, I was talking to my very wise and dog-savvy friend, Melissa, about vet care (but in a completely unrelated context). God knows she didn’t sign up for this job, but Melissa is the first one I go to with anything and everything dog. At the risk of jinxing her, I’ll say she’s seen just about everything a dog can throw at her, and her experience is the perfect counterbalance to my tendency to fly completely off the handle and call 911 for my dog.
“I think, as a client, we forget that we pay for the services for our dogs, so we have a right to be their advocate,” she told me. “If we don’t want our dog handled forcefully, we need to be able to discuss that with the vet.”
Although we weren’t talking about my situation (at least, not to my knowledge; maybe Melissa is wiser than I even realized), that’s when the “lesson” from this experience kicked in. Like most lessons, it wasn’t fun. I don’t really want to have a discussion with a vet. I can’t think of a less advantageous position to be in. There’s me, with my one year of dog ownership to my name, and there’s the vet, who went to school for 111 years and sees 86 dogs a day. However, as a dog owner or dog parent or whatever you want to call it, it’s my responsibility to have that discussion. It’s my job to put away my fear of being wrong or being an inconvenience to stand up for my dog, just like any parent. Despite all those years of school and all his experience, my vet is not omnipotent; he doesn’t know Nelson like I do, and I need to overcome my fear of being “that person” and respectfully be the advocate for my dog.
So, parents, as resistant as I am to thinking of myself as one of you, we have at least one thing in common: Our kids, four-legged or two-legged, depend on us. Caring for them is a scary and occasionally bloody learning process, and it’s good to have people around who can help us sort it out. That much, I think, we can agree on.