A Close Study

Photo shows Matilda curled up on the couch sleeping.One time Stockton and I visited friends in South Carolina. Their adorable newbornish baby fed about every two hours. Near some bottles on the granite countertop, I noticed a piece of paper and a pen.

“What’s that for?” I pointed to the items.

“Oh, baby brain. I’m so tired I can’t always remember the last time he ate. I write it down every time. It’s one less thing to remember…I can just refer to the sheet.”

When we left the house for dinner, the new babysitter would have a record of his usual schedule, too. Very efficient.

This week I haven’t been doing much writing. I became distracted by something at the Mayberry homestead.

There’s two kinds of fixations: ones that you want to have and ones that you by necessity create. When your dog barfs up her meal, you notice and if she continues to act weird, you fixate. Especially when this is Matilda. She’s our terrier who underwent a surgery two years ago to remove a blockage after she made a sneaky buffet out of elastic hair ties and long strands of my hair. Stockton and I don’t have kids, but our dogs are our fur babies. It’s hard not to go into panic mode when one of them feels unwell.

While stalking Tilly, I mean watching her closely, for the last 36 hours, there’s been lots of non-writing activity. Sitting on the linoleum floor watching her pace in circles. Taking Ulysses out for another walk because once he realized our alpha dog was not in the game, he acts like big man on campus. Shuttling Tilly to the vet. Wiping up doggy bodily fluids. Washing loads of towels after those cleanups. Sitting on the couch staring at the lethargic patient well after midnight in hopes she won’t randomly leap off the couch in urgency. Oh boy.

You know what, I lied. There has been some writing this week. In the first few illness hours, I remembered that baby feeding log. Clearly recalling Tilly habits as hours passed was hard. So, I opened my Notes app and swiped to a new page and started dictating times and activities in my new Tilly Log.

7:50 PM refuses chicken or rice.
8:09 PM eats ice chips.

I’ll spare you the rundown, it’s not the kind of thing anyone other than the vet or my husband is interested in. Do you really need to know if my dog can spray like a water gun in four directions? I don’t think so. The log grew. Anytime something happened, I dictated it down.

1:15 AM unproductive front yard visit.

I couldn’t do much for my sick dog, but my log gave me a sense of control. It allowed me to see patterns. In my morning delirium, my husband could read over it and understand the situation without wifey attempting a well-meant, but confusing update. It worked.

As I write this, Tilly naps next to me on the sofa, she’s on the rebound. At least that’s what my notes tell me.

What do you do when a loved one gets sick? Do you put on shoes to take your dog outside at 2 AM? Have you ever cooked your pet a better meal than you cooked for yourself? Tell me about it.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Was there ever a sweeter looking dog.? Thinking of you Susan. We have all been there one way or another and, yes, I’ve cooked a whole chicken for a sick cat and removed strawberry pips for an ailing child (not convinced how sick he was). Get well soon Matilda.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Bridget.

  2. Steph McCoy says:

    Oh, Susan, this is so heartbreaking. I hope your vet is able to get to the bottom of Tilly’s situation and that she fully recovers.

  3. floweringink says:

    I am so glad that Tilly is on the mend. I know how heartbreaking it can be to stay up with a sick baby (pug in our case) and feeling absolutely helpless. I have made notes and lists of behaviors over nights of uncertainty as well. You are a wonderful mom and I know Tilly is in the best possible hands.

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