Randi Kreiss

Puppy love touches the heart, and the purse


“Grandma ate rat poison.” That was the text my sister sent to her son. Anguished, he thought of his sick grandmother, who was living alone in Lynbrook. He ran for his car and called my sister on the way.

“Oh, no,” she hollered, not that Grandma.

You see, the story was bad enough, but not that bad. My sister was talking about Grandma the dog, who lives out West with my daughter and her family. My sister and my nephew had just been talking about the new pup, and my sister assumed her son would still be on the same page with her.

Grandma, a lab mix born to run, had ambled into a ski hut on the mountain, sniffed out a bowl of rat poison and gobbled it down. The blue froth around her lips told the awful tale. My daughter got her to the first aid station, poured hydrogen peroxide down her throat to induce vomiting, and drove to the E.R. in Reno, Nev., the closest emergency veterinarian. The dog survived. It cost $823.

Two months later, on the way home from a camping trip, my 10-year-old-grandson noticed that Grandma was bleeding. They pulled over. She hadn’t even whimpered, but her chest was ripped open, apparently by a barbed wire fence she had jumped. Another rush to the E.R. Dozens of stitches, and three follow-up visits. She survived. It cost $966.

We love our dogs wildly and too well. When my daughter rescued Grandma as a little pup from the local Humane Society, she felt good about taking in a “rescue,” and also about the family getting a beauty of a dog for nothing. But nothing is for nothing.

Those of us who share our lives with dogs and cats walk this earth buoyed by the richness of relationships different from our human connections. We get a lot but we pay a lot, mostly because our pets’ lives are telescoped, and loss is built into the experience.

These days we also pay a lot in actual money, because pet care has become so expensive. And the pet culture has changed. We now get all the extra vaccines and dental treatment and eye care and grooming and training that people didn’t think about a generation ago.

For us, it is worth it.

The stories abound. A friend of mine took her rescued Jack Russell puppy in to be neutered out East. The details are fuzzy about what happened next, but the poor little guy wound up needing to be neutered twice, forevermore known as the double ballectomy. No discount.

When we had our Sheba, a pup of unknown lineage we rescued in 1978 from the North Shore Animal League, she was pretty much a regular at the vet for garbage pail gastritis, which is just what you would imagine. After one of those visits, the doctor, who has since died, called to tell me he had determined from her X-ray that she had terminal leukemia. I thought of what she loved. I gave her cookies and lamb chops and whole teaspoons of peanut butter.

After two weeks of “last suppers” she seemed pretty frisky, so I called the vet. Turned out he had read the wrong X-ray. Sheba was fine. In fact, she lived to be 18. She was not only the love of our lives, but pound for pound and year for year, a bargain.

Fact of life with a dog: When you sail forth with a new pup, all sweet breath and boundless energy, be ready to encounter occasional countervailing winds.

Just last week, we came home one night, and I dropped my handbag on the floor while I dashed to the bathroom. In two seconds, Lilly Bee, our puppy, pushed into my bag, found my pillbox, opened it and was chewing on Advil, which is toxic for dogs. I pried open her mouth and pulled out pills. We raced her to the pet E.R. and didn’t get home until 2 a.m. We all got lucky. Follow-up blood work normal. It cost $290.

I include the costs as an observation of reality on the ground. The human-pet, pet-human bond is profound and life-enhancing and not quantifiable. Really, if you don’t know, it is such a joy. The occasional worries are just part of the deal.

But, especially at this holiday time of year, it’s important to know that bringing a puppy into the family is a forever responsibility. As puppy love grows, you set out on a different path from the one you walked before.

Yesterday my daughter called, clearly distressed. “Grandma was attacked by a porcupine,” she cried. “She has eight big quills in her face. I’m heading to the E.R.”

Grandma survived, again. After general anesthesia and removal of the quills, she was home resting by evening. I suggested to my sister that if she texted her kids news of the porcupine attack, she should make clear that it was the Grandma with four legs.

Copyright @ 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.

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