Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Dana and I had begun to suspect that when the folks at the Anti-Cruelty Society had told us Cassie was a one year-old, they had simply rounded up to the nearest whole number instead of telling us that maybe she was only six months old. That is, not a dog, but a puppy.
Taking care of a puppy is an skill set similar to that of taking care of a dog, only it requires a significant amount of additional patience and attention. Whereas with Oracle we had to teach her how to do things like climb stairs and play with her squeaky toy, with Cassie we have been struggling simply to teach her Right from Wrong.
She does not respond to firm vocal negatives, she doesn’t seem to understand the behavior that we reward with treats, she barely responds to her name, and in her desire to be playful she has recently managed to irritate Oracle so much that Oracle nipped viciously at Cassie’s nose to reprimand her, causing the poor thing to emit the most heartbreaking whimpers of pain and betrayal I’ve ever heard an animal express.
And there is the house-training. We have taken again to using the crate we purchased for Oracle’s arrival, although Oracle came to us with an entirely different mentality than Cassie did. When the foster family dropped off Oracle she’d had a week of serious housebreaking, and as she’d lived her entire life in a crate up until that point, she was very conscientious about not soiling the crate we provided for her (mind you, she hated being in that crate), and slowly she understood that the entire apartment was in a sense her crate, and not to be soiled either.
The new girl has no such sense of these things, and has had a number of accidents of both varieties throughout the apartment as well as within the crate (which she also hates being placed within, although we have caught her, in moments of total exhaustion, agreeably curling up inside and passing out).
Yesterday, as I watched her asleep behind the black metal grid of intersecting bars, I thought about how sad and stupid it is to imprison this sweet little animal, simply for the crime of having natural bodily functions, yet not having our human sense of hygiene and material trappings.
Note, of course, that these feelings of injustice are immediately dispelled by having to clean an errant bowel movement out of the rug under the dining table.
Dana and I had to rush Cassie to the local animal emergency center last night because she’d spent the afternoon and evening with a distressing cough, lack of appetite, lethargy, and several attacks of diarrhea. As it turns out, she has a pretty bad case of pneumonia, and will be on antibiotics for the near future until it finally clears up.
I don’t believe that anything Dana or I did caused the onset of the pneumonia; it seems like it was just a bad confluence of circumstances–surgery, stress, pre-adoption kennel living–that left her open to such an infection. There is a difference between feelings of guilt and feelings of responsibility but the line is often indiscernible during such times. The basic narrative is that the dog was healthy when we brought her home, and five days later she is rife with pneumonia. I was exhausted, sure, but I very nearly lost all sense of composure last night when we were asked if they should take extraordinary measures to save her life if, say, her heart stopped.
The other uncomfortable fact is that we couldn’t help but appreciate the relative peace and quiet that came with not having Cassie in the house for a night. For a moment we were back in our previous equilibrium, wondering why we’d wished to upset this dynamic by adding a complicated new creature to the mix. That doesn’t change the truth that we did just that, and we have committed ourselves to giving both of our pets as pleasant an existence as possible, even if it requires late-night medical attention and gallons of cleaning supplies for the house. Still, how paradoxically pleasant and unpleasant it was. I wish my mind wouldn’t go to such places; they are cold and rotting husks of cities that seemed like good ideas at first but were abandoned by the founders when it became clear that the only things around for miles were savagery and wilderness. Even passing through these places on the way to more civilized sections of brain matter leave one feeling wretched and miserable.
She was so solid and active that perhaps I forgot also how fragile she was. I hope not to make that mistake again.