Saturday, February 20, 2016

Please Remain Calm

I lost my dog.

The zany, energetic one who, just last November, still jumped around like a pup when we offered her treats. Our little pound puppy—the one with the beautiful exotic eyes that look like they were tattooed with eyeliner—is missing. And in her place is a stranger—some other white, furry canine with brown freckles and a blank stare.

I thought thirteen was the age of puberty and rebellion. It turns out Sydney sped through her teenage angst the second year we owned her, which is the same year our nest emptied. I guess that’s how I missed her adolescence. I was too busy planning a wedding and kissing my kids goodbye.

So now she’s thirteen times seven which equals eighty-one in people years. I had no idea. Not until the night she suddenly attached herself to my husband’s legs, tail tucked between her own, and her perky ears pinned back. 

What the heck?

Overnight she disappeared inside herself and Rob and I started playing a new game—Twenty Questions. We took Sydney to the vet and he joined in.

“Did something traumatic happen to her recently?”

Oh, I don’t know. Something worse than the rocket grenades our neighbors explode at every possible opportunity?

“Do you think she got into something poisonous?”

Well, I really doubt it. She sleeps all day long which doesn’t leave her much time to eat.

“Has she escaped recently?”

What, weasel dog? She’s tried, but people keep bringing her back.

“I could do some blood work, but you’d have to mortgage your house to pay for it.”

That’s when the vet won the game and we quit playing. Poor Sydney. It was fun knowing you.

We knew she had pretty bad breath. That’s why we never kiss her on the mouth—well, that and dog germs. We didn’t know she had some rotten teeth that needed to be pulled and that our insurance company doesn’t consider her a “dependant.” Boy, are they wrong. She has absolutely no source of income. I’ve checked. I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of “dependant.” Which reminds me, somebody needs to call my congressman.

So we paid our good friend, the vet, to remove those bad teeth and clean what was left, hoping it’d make her perk up. It’s been two months with no halitosis, but she’s still about as perky as a cup of decaf coffee.

“Bring her back if she doesn’t seem herself soon,” he told us. So this week we did, because spending forty-five bucks in a vet’s office seemed like a lot more fun than going on a date to the movies. 

“She’s losing weight and still acts bi-polar,” we told him. “She either hides in our bedroom closet instead of curling up by our feet or she glues herself to our legs. We’ve started calling her the White Tumor,” I finished. “She’s forgotten all of her commands, and most of the time Rob has to practically pick her up and carry her into the house at night because she just.won’t.come.inside."

I paused to regain my composure. "She stares at us like she’s never seen us before.”

So the vet checked her eyesight—check. And her hearing—check. And her lymph nodes—checkcheckcheckcheckcheck . . . check. Everything checked out except for one thing—those thirteen years.

We are the proud owners of an old dog.

Our last one lived to be fifteen with a strong mind and weak hips. This one—a completely different combination of breeds—is thirteen with great bones and a weak mind. Who knew dogs could have dementia? Did you know there’s not much you can do for a healthy dog with no brain except feed her daily and help her stay calm?

Our doctor gave us a prescription for calm. The conversation at the pharmacy was classic.

“Sir, is this medication for you?”

“No, it’s for my dog,” Rob answered.

“Well, I’ll need a birth date for our records.”

Because our insurance company doesn’t care, but our pharmacist does.

“Well, she’s a dog, so there’s no birth certificate.”

“You’ll have to lie to the system and make one up,” he said. At least that’s how I remember it.

So we picked a random birth date and the pharmacist handed us a bottle of Prozac labeled “Sydney Canine McLeod.” I never knew her middle name before. That little tidbit of info cost us twenty-eight dollars.

We gave Prozac Pooch her first anti-anxiety pill in a piece of cheese and waited to see if she’d bounce back to normal. She didn’t bounce. Well, the vet said it could take a couple of weeks. So we read the information sheet about her meds, where we learned what it’s used for in humans.

“This medicine may help restore your interest in daily living.” Perfect—that’s the goal. Getting our dog to come out of the closet.

Next we read how to use it. “Do not use a spoon because you may not get the correct dose.” It’s a pill. Who writes these things? 

Finally, we studied warnings and side effects, which took up half the page. Pretty grim. But it was accompanied by cheerful music.

“Hey, honey,” Rob said, sitting at the kitchen counter while I started dinner. “It says here that Prozac could cause suicidal thoughts. If she tries to drown herself in her water dish, we’d better call the vet.”

The final word of caution on the product information page warned us not to flush any unused medication in the bottle down the drain. I don’t know why. The last time I watched a herd of ducks frolicking in a nearby pond, one of them was nearly frolicked to death by a bossy she-duck. I think wildlife like that could use a little help calming down.

So here we are, a retired couple in the prime of our lives, living out our destiny with a dog on anti-depressants.

It’s the American dream. Please pass the Prozac.

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