|A dog in a pig costume? A pog? And they wonder why I run away?|
When our children no longer need us as often as they once did, do we transfer our feelings to our pets? I pose this question because while conversing with a group of parents at a recent eight-year-old’s birthday party, after the obligatory, “Who did your child get for a teacher?” and “Is your son playing soccer, football, and hockey?” the conversation immediately turned to our pets.
Actually, a visible sign of relief registered across the faces of every parent in the conversation circle. Talking about your children can be extremely stressful. Aside from the obvious fact that you wonder if you’re being a good enough parent compared to Johnny’s parents (Johnny has been on a plane six times already; your child has only been on a plane that either requires a carnival ticket or a quarter to board) most parents don’t want to get tagged as a bragger—it’s the schoolyard equivalent to the Scarlet “A.”
A parental bragger’s questions about your child are pre-scripted and loaded, especially the “what level is your child reading at?” question. Seemingly harmless, but in reality lethal to your family’s reputation. Okay, okay, lethal to your reputation. I firmly believe that the question is asked for one of two reasons: 1) it’s an opportunity for that parent to tell you that their second-grader is reading Homer; or, 2) it’s an opportunity for them to whisper around the schoolyard, “Ann was more interested in reading the proof percentage on the alcohol labels than reading Dick and Jane to her kids.”
So, needless to say, there was a collective sigh when Chris told us that she was very concerned about her son’s hamster, Oreo. Oreo was inexplicably losing his hair. We all resounded in a heartfelt “tsk, tsk, tsk,” because without hair, what good is a hamster? They’re only cute because they're fluffy. Take away the fluff, and they become hairless monsters. The vet prescribed meds for Oreo, but it was too costly to do further tests. I pondered if just a small dose of Rogaine would help.
Chris continued that while sitting in the vet’s waiting room, there was a woman holding a guinea pig wearing a visor around its neck. The owner reported that “Muffy” was diagnosed with breast cancer and had recently undergone a lumpectomy. The visor was to keep her from biting at the incision. Also, she was undergoing chemo. Silence fell upon the group, and I unexpectedly became verklempt. My throat ached from trying to restrain a sob. At that moment there was no greater tragedy than knowing that somewhere out there was a guinea pig with breast cancer wearing a lampshade visor.
I finally broke the silence. “We need to walk for Muffy! We need to get a sponsor, like Purina, to organize a breast cancer walk for animals with breast cancer!”
Morbid thoughts of Muffy led me to thoughts of my “Bad Dog,” being afflicted with breast cancer. I mean, I already check her body for lumps at least three times a week. I could be walking around with horns protruding from my exterior for all I check my body, but next to the possibility of my children or family getting cancer, the idea of my dog getting cancer puts me right over the edge.
Oreo’s family had just lost their dog, Tee Gee, after 17years, followed by a carnival fish, so Chris was eager to do all she could to restore Oreo to good health. My son took the death of his carnival fish, “Carny,” hard. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that after a “CSI” (Carny Suicide Investigation) it was discovered that his sister murdered the fish. She thought Carny would like a morning cup of coffee, and poured the dregs from my cup into the unfiltered bowl. I thought the water looked particularly cloudy, but decided to let my husband deal with it. A few hours later, Carny was floating like a pool toy.
Unfortunately, Oreo didn’t make it, but I’m hoping Muffy does. One thing I can always count on—no matter what I say or do, “Bad Dog” will always greet me with a wagging tail and a sloppy tongue. That’s more than I can say for my kids who are more likely to greet me with a wagging tongue and a sloppy tail.