Friday, September 25, 2009


One time when Bella was a puppy, we made the mistake of letting her "chew" on several corn cobs. She was on her sixth one when the thought finally permeated the cheap plywood of our skulls that hey...where are the previous five cobs...OH LORD IS SHE ACTUALLY EATING THEM???

Ten days and zero poops later, we were at the vet's with one seriously backed up puppy and several hundred dollars worth of x-rays confirming the presence of six mushy corn cobs, all neatly lined up in her intestines.

Overly anxious and slightly neurotic pet mother that I once was, I asked the most pressing and logical question that popped into my head: "Is she going to die?" When his laughter died down, the vet sighed and looked at me.

"Just you wait. She's the center of your universe now. But in a few years you'll have a baby, forget about the dog, and then come in crying and wanting us to fix it because she's developed all sorts of behavioral problems."

Well thanks, jackass. Love the bedside manner.

I angrily explained to him that there was no way I would ever allow that to happen. Explained that Bella was special to me. I couldn't tell him that maybe I wouldn't have a baby in a few years. That I was trying and it wasn't working. And that Bella was the stand in, the willing recipient of my excess maternal energy.

For two years, our little mother-baby/pet owner-pet relationship worked. It was ignorant bliss. She absorbed my sadness and helped me feel needed. She stayed by my side as I ran and ran and ran. I petted her, adored her, babied her, nurtured her. We went to puppy class, to the beach, to the relatives' for holidays.

And then I got pregnant.

At first I didn't think much would change. I was excited for Bella to be a big sister. I didn't have the energy to run and play, but we snuggled a lot and life went on.

And then my water broke.

In all the craziness that ensued, I remember one moment clearly. Kyle and I, rushing to get out the door and into the car for a frantic trip to the hospital. Blood, blood, blood. Everywhere. Scared Bella. Bella trying to run out the door with us. And Kyle yelling at Bella to stay. Yelling. Out of panic and fear and necessity. It was the first time either of us had really ever yelled at her.

What followed is mostly now a blur. Weeks in the NICU - functioning - barely. Bella staying at my parent's house. I could not stand up straight. Could hardly feed myself dinner. Did not have the emotional, physical, or mental capacity to wash a load of laundry. The idea of Bella coming home was terrifying to me.

I don't remember when she came home. I don't know if it was before or after the babies were released from the hospital. I only remember realizing that I could not be relied upon to feed her consistently, and delegating that job to Kyle. Eight months later, it's still his job.

Bella, my former muse, my joy and love, is rarely mentioned in my blog anymore. I've avoided writing about her because I'm embarrassed. Embarrassed of how often I walk by her and feel nothing but disgust for the burden that she is to me. Embarrassed because she deserves better and is stuck with me because I'm too stubborn to stop believing that things will change.

Embarrassed. Because when I pull into the driveway, she runs and greets me like I'm the most amazing person in the world. And with the belief that today is a new day. And the willingness to forgive and forget. And the wildly desperate hope that I will do something, anything, to help her feel loved once again.

Embarrassed, because she drops her head and sulks away when I tell her to "move it!" in my nastiest voice.

Embarrassed, because my dog surpasses me in loyalty, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

I'm searching for the day where I stop letting her down.


Daryl said...

April, I hope its today, this totally broke my heart

freckletree. said...

This is too much. I am actually working on a blog about how women start hating their once-upon-a child-dogs after they have children (and start resenting their perfect husbands . . .).

I remember telling my mother that the children would go outside before Layla . . . guess who lives on the screened-in porch and only comes in to clean up after messy meals? Not the babies.

And I have so much guilt and I resent her MORE because I feel guilty. I feel your pain. You can hardly handle you children, yourself . . . much less a dog. Even if the dog is more than "a dog".

Beautifully written, as usual . ..

Jenera said...

I feel terrible how I treat my dog sometimes as well. We got him just a couple weeks after I had my son and it seems like he gets pushed around a lot. I think sometimes when I'm frustrated/angry/whatever it's easier to take it out on him instead of a person because he will always come back for some lovin'. But it doesn't make it right, I know, I just hope that I can remember ALL THE TIME that he is a part of our family too.

::hugs:: to you.

Christa said...

April- Thank you for writing this. Of course, I am crying and now going to hug my little old poodle whose life has changed dramatically since our twins were born 2 years ago. Afterall, he was my first baby.

Anne said...

she still loves you april-and will forgive this brief varience from her favored position-and you forgive yourself as well-even this shall pass! my motto for the early years-still appro today- anne

Anonymous said...

Hi April,
I am a friend of Katie's and a "lurker" here on your blog. First, I want to say that you are an exceptional writer. You always keep me waiting for your next post and your words make me feel like I have lived the experience. Second, I want to say how much this post breaks my heart. Please give Bella a pat on the head, this is all she needs from you, nothing more. Keep in mind she won't be such a burden once your babies are older and they will learn so much about life from having her. I wish you and your family the best.

Jilliane said...

Thanks, I just went through a box of tissues. Despite that, I do see the beauty of what you are trying to say....dogs are better beings than us sometimes.

Captainwow said...

oh my this sums it up so well. so happy to read this, my cat my poor poor kitty gets the brunt of all my being spent on my child. And he's 4 now. I feel like this needy whiny cat is one more black hole of need, and then I feel guilty because he was my baby once, too.
thanks for writing this.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog much.. admire you for being an amazing mother to two babies..
just wanted to say.. pet your bella too. Maybe give her a squeeze or a treat. As my dog lies curled into the crook of my knees, I can't imagine forgetting the comfort they give. She will be your babies best friend in a couple years.