As a connoisseur of calories, my love for Thanksgiving is obligatory. In my role as father and Harbor Captain, I have yet to have a gravy boat leave port without first checking the manifest and at our house, we call seconds an appetizer.
This year at Thanksgiving, if I hadn't called off the plate-lickin' when I did, the dishes could've gone straight back in the cupboards. I had retired to the couch post-gorging and successfully unbuckled my pants before my button could begin orbiting, when up strolled our beagle, Chowder, who proceeded to do her best Karen Carpenter on the carpet. I'd say I sprung from the couch to clean it up, but my pace was more that of thawing lava.
Given the circumstances, I just assumed Chowder was making room for seconds. With her field of vision extending no further north than a kneecap, she has no way of knowing when there are no leftovers left over. Her recycled contribution of pureed Purina to the living room did little for the air quality, which was far from oxygen tank standards to begin with. Put politely, the boys' single entitled "That wasn't me" debuts on iTunes next week under intestinal acoustics. Current smog readings indicated anything short of Chernobyl would be an improvement, so I took Chowder outside for a walk.
Something was wrong. She did her business, but then she went all ninja like the Karate Kid does at the end of the movie. Clearly out of sorts, she was contorting in an assortment of unnatural ways. When she tried to go back to her business, the shelves were empty. When she started doing yoga moves, I got worried.
Dr. Google said she had a bladder infection, so the next day we took her to the vet. Dr. Google had not graduated at the top of his class. The news was not good, our girl Chowder had kidney stones. I figured we'd give her some pills or maybe go Silicon Valley and break 'em up with a laser. Admittedly, I was not as current on canine kidneys as I cared to be. Chowder passed three kidney stones while we were at the vet. She was not pleased, though she was getting damn good at yoga. X-rays revealed there were more on the way, some of the Stonehenge variety. If they were passed, the pain would be excruciating. Surgery was the only option. The vet gave me an estimate.The pain was excruciating.
Chowder gave me a look that said, "Hey! Write the freakin' check. I'm over here trying to squirt bowling balls through a bendy straw and you're pondering pennies? Just send one of the smog machines to junior college for crying out loud, I'm dying here!" She has a very expressive face.
I plan for a lot of things. I also believe in karma. I call Chowder a four-legged sausage, such is the svelteness that is her figure. You know those little rocks that you sometimes hit when eating sausage, the ones that instantly create the dichotomy of "Oh, God, what was that?" when you really, seriously, don't want to know? Karma told me those are Chowder's kidney stones.
I do not have a rainy-day fund or a change jar for Chowder's kidney stones. I checked into Obamacare, but Chowder made too much last year in table scraps to qualify. Damn table scraps. I contacted the Peanuts folks to see if maybe Snoopy had a charitable foundation for beagles in distress. Nothing. Damn Peanuts.
It was time for some belt-tightening, ironic in that at the time Chowder first conveyed her concerns about her plumbing predicament, my own belt had just retired to live out its days on a Butterball and gravy pension. The vet explained that Chowder would be anesthetized and opened up, her bladder accessed and flushed clean of the malicious masonry that plagued her so.
This was uncharted ground for us Healds. She was our first dog, a ridiculously friendly and harmless little sister to the boys and the spoiled, solitary daughter of the wife and I. If something were to go wrong, Christmas, the season that had six years prior brought us the original four paws, floppy ears and Tourette's tail, would never be the same.
The surgery was the Monday after Thanksgiving. I was to bring her in at 8a.m. and leave her. Dogs are way smarter than we think. I have reason to believe that Pavlov's dog was a plant, a double agent now legendary in four-legged lore for his work in tricking the humans.(Did you know the director's first choice for "Planet of the Apes" was a schnauzer?)
We got to the vet's office and Chowder, who normally snorts her sinuses silly from the Epcot of scents that is a vet's office, buried her nose in my ribs. Good things didn't happen at the vet's office and Chowder knew it. The assistant took her away, her paws in need of snow chains for the ice that was the linoleum floor. I left, but not before saying a prayer that I would see her again.
Thirty-six hours later, I returned. As I sat on the bench awaiting her arrival, she bounded through the double-doors and into my lap, the humidity suddenly skyrocketing as she treated me as if I were the last known popsicle in the universe.
Christmas came early at the Heald house this year. The sausage has no more rocks, and at our house, that's the best kind of sausage there is.
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Kevin is still not sure if Chowder is healed or going through a phase. He found her outside yesterday on a yoga mat with her paws behind her head. He can be reached at LIFEisHEALD@yahoo.com, unless you're writing him about a grammar mistake, then he asks that you contact him at Seriouslyfirstname.lastname@example.org.