Animals, The Inner Landscape

In the Middle of the Night

Six or seven strands of thought lie discarded like leftover dishcloth yarn on the coffee table, because Molly is sick. She had an impressive episode of diarrhea on the wall-to-wall carpet in the boys’ room this afternoon while I was on my way home from another state (geographically, mentally, emotionally). Snowman called my cell phone to report the situation. Still hundreds of miles away, I snapped back to Dog Mom mode.

Molly is going on 5, and every little thing that bothers her concerns me. Bernese Mountain Dogs have a life expectancy of 7.5 years, on average. We knew this going in, but it seems terrifying now if I let myself think about it.


(Puppy Molly, May 2002)

She came to us at 8 weeks old. Her pawprints are on my heart even as I worry about hers.  Every time she seems not quite up to snuff, I worry and wonder about the heart murmur diagnosed when she was  a pup. She makes my heart skip a beat.

Tonight she has been restless. She won’t drink water, passed by her dinner, likes being outside better than inside. I am on the couch, thinking those middle of the night thoughts we don’t like to have, considering whether to call the vet in the morning or just make her some plain boiled hamburg and rice. (But really, I will always call the vet about Molly, faster than I ever called the pediatrician for the children.)

I don’t like it when the dogs are sick, but I especially don’t like it when Pure Luck is away. As I’ve said before, Molly and Sam are the children of the second marriage. We parent them together, and our approach to what is good for them is a partnership. It’s not that I can’t figure out what to do without his input; I just don’t want to do it. We sat together worrying while Molly had her x-rays at Tufts in 2002, not knowing if there was anything the doctors could do for a puppy dog with bilateral hip *and* elbow dysplasia. We committed to two surgeries together, and we figured out how to pay for them together, and after the surgery we spoiled her together and picked out a little brother for her together.

In the middle of the night I think about my parents and how separate their decision-making categories were. My father took command of everything he viewed as meaningful and left all the menial to my mother–whether she wanted them or not. My mother dutifully performed or coordinated the mundane and the ordinary, and whether she found any of it interesting or inspiring or anything other than enervating I will never know with certainty.

I sought a relationship that would be more of a partnership, but I found marriage the first time around to be a battle for supremacy: who would make the meaningful decisions? whose preferences would matter most? who would do the dull things neither of us cared about much, but both of us knew needed doing? For us, each of these moments was a skirmish, an opportunity to win or lose, a chance to launch an improvised explosive device.

And so it has been on the inside, for me. I lean into the meaningful, but the menial insists, the mundane persists and the mechanical resists, each calling for my attention. I want to be like my father, too busy thinking great thoughts to do any but the showiest "tasks." His household skills consisted of mixing drinks, hanging pictures and laying a good-looking fire in the fireplace. And those, of course, were the tasks that felt meaningful to him, since they were hospitable and aesthetic. But I nag at myself and judge myself for caring so much about what I want to do that I am not available to the everyday needs.

I feel that way especially tonight, knowing that while I was away, having a lovely time, Molly was getting sick and making a mess that I didn’t really want to clean up myself, no matter how much I love her. I want to be like my father and simply trust that all the fuss and muss of daily life will be taken care of magically. But I don’t have that life! And I didn’t even want it. I’ve worked hard to build a partnership on the outside. Now if I can only make one on the inside…

24 thoughts on “In the Middle of the Night”

  1. As I sit on the couch with my two Schnauzers slapping at me to quit typing and rub on them, my heart goes out to you and Molly. As I spend most of my day off doing some of those mundane things, I appreciate your struggle.

  2. We included Mollyand your family in our prayers this morning.
    We consider our doggie-boy, Fenway, our first child. He too is getting older and we worry so much.
    I hope Molly is feeling better this morning.

  3. Molly rejected breakfast, and we went off to the vet at the earliest opportunity. We are both taking a sick day (except for a meeting I need to chair at noon). She has special food to eat for the next few days. Apparently there is a bug going around the dog park community, so we’ll keep away for a while.
    Thanks for your prayers!

  4. I identify with your deeper struggle.
    I would like to think of myself as a thinker of great thoughts, but that is hard for me to do when nobody, nobody, nobody in this house (but me) will bend over to pick up a dirty towel on the floor, or replace the garbage bag after the trash is carried out to the garage.

  5. Keeping Molly and the rest of you in our prayers.
    Our dog-who-blogs is 6, we’ve been through hip surgery, we’re in the middle of diagnosing a mysterious liver problem, and I find myself thinking the same types of thoughts you voiced here.

  6. I’m praying for Molly and for all of you today Songbird. I hope the situation with Molly improves quickly. Poor baby!
    I hear you on the Meaningful vs. Menial thing. As cheesehead so wisely pointed out – this can be a tough goal when you’re the only one Doing the everyday stuff. I get the added guilt of being the only person in our home who is ABLE to do all the day to day tasks. Some days I would love to know that someone else would clean the floors or the bathroom, but my beloved is not physically able to do those things. Then I feel guilty for wanting to bail on such simple things….and it goes round and round. *sigh* such is life.

  7. This sounds like the intestinal problem our Goof had in August. I hope Molly recovers as thoroughly as he did, and that today is a better day.

  8. (((Molly)))
    All I can say is, this dog mom is with you in spirit. Thank God it sounds like it’s probably just a bug. (or perhaps the dread “garbage gut”)
    Having adopted an elderly dog of indeterminate age, who by now is probably at or past the average life expectancy of her breed (12)and has already survived mammary cancer, among other things, I know that chill at the bone you feel when you know something is wrong. Hugs and prayers.

  9. Tonight she *asked* for supper, and although she didn’t eat much, I take that as a hopeful sign.
    Many thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers, my friends.

  10. Songbird, so many things you said in your posting resonate with me I started reading this yesterday, but saved it til today hoping I feel better – and I am getting there.
    I hear you on the relationship with Pure Luck as I feel like the marriage my present husband and I have is so similar to what you have AND are seeking. WE, too, have dogs as “children” in our marriage, and know how hard it is to have a sick one. I do hope Molly is feeling better. Thank you for opening your heart and thought to us who so many times think and feel and can read from someone who can articulate is so clearly. You are a blessing to many!

  11. Poor molly, poor songbird! We, also, are dog parents. My mantra is: “They make our lives better and funnier every day.”
    Except when they are sick.
    prayers for y’all.

  12. A big hug to Molly. I miss doggie hugs and slurps. Dogs are just too loving to be sick. Hope she’s better soon. And hugs to you too, Songbird, as you cope.

Leave a Reply