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.