I stopped buying rawhide treats for my Miniature Pinscher–Dachshund mix, Pinch, a few years ago, not because he stopped liking them, but because I kept stepping on them. As dog owners know, gnawed bits of rawhide dry into hard, pointed household hazards, which hang around unnoticed on the floor until a bare foot finds them. I’ve stepped on enough of these to realize that I might as well be giving my dog an old rusty razor to gnaw on. The night I cut my foot open on a hardened spiral death-spear and saw blood was the last straw. Rawhide bones have been banned from my house ever since.
Stealth attacks from mangled dog bones are not the only ways I’ve hurt myself since owning a dog. Sure, most of the time it’s all puppy kisses and snuggles and strolls in the park, but sometimes having a dog means falling victim to the sort of domestic accidents that non-dog-owning people rarely have to worry about.
There is the humongous hematoma incident of 2007, when I took a nasty spill in my kitchen after slipping in a puddle of Pinch’s pee. He was a puppy and still being paper-trained, but he had missed the papers completely. The tiny puddle of pee blended in much too well with the pale yellow floor tiles, and I wiped out hard, banging the whole left side of my lower body.
I lay paralyzed on the floor in excruciating pain as big fat tears rolled off my face. Pinch and my husband both came running, and as Pinch tried to lick my tears away, my husband tried to stifle his laughter. I had a large ugly bruise on my left knee for more than two months, and didn’t dare wear shorts or a skirt all summer. Whenever asked, I blamed the bruise on a sidewalk slip and not an errant puddle of my puppy’s pee.
Falling became a new theme in my life as soon as I adopted Pinch. Just weeks after he came into my life, I fell down a set of stairs trying to save him. He had come with me upstairs so I could fold laundry and he wandered out of my sight. My cat came flying out of nowhere and bumped into Pinch, sending his chubby eight-week-old body hurtling down the long wooden staircase onto the tiled floor at the bottom.
I got to the top of the stairs just as he started tumbling and my stomach sank, thinking he could never survive such a fall. I lunged for the stairs in a panic and rolled on headfirst after him, ignoring the pain and praying he was still alive when I got to the bottom. Thankfully, he was just fine. Puppies have all that body fat and loose skin for a reason. They bounce.
Little Pinch had not only landed softly on his plump behind, he came running over to give me kisses as I lay in a crumpled heap, cursing the cat and wondering why I hadn’t installed carpet. And while Pinch seemed okay, it didn’t stop me from spending the rest of the afternoon Googling “How do I know if my puppy has a concussion?”
Besides the bumps and bruises, it’s the psychological pain that can hurt dog owners the most. Knowing your dog is in distress makes any loving pet parent sick with worry for their fur baby.
I almost lost Pinch to intestinal hernia just days after I got him, and when he survived the operation with a just a line of ugly stitches closing up his tiny belly, I vowed to take care of him the best I could for the rest of his life. And since that day I brought him home from the vet’s office wrapped in a tiny towel, he has had his fair share of scares. He’s fallen into icy water (I was halfway in after him before he popped back up and swam to the river bank unscathed), been kicked by a cold-hearted neighbor who didn’t appreciate him peeing on the shrubs outside his house, and was almost mauled to death in front of me by a much bigger dog. I’ve handed him to the vet, his blood covering my hands, wishing with everything in me that I could take his place and feeling like I failed him. When the words got caught in my throat and tangled on my tongue, my tear-stained face said what my voice couldn’t: Please save my baby.
For all the trials and tribulations of owning a dog, there have been countless wonderful moments that will stay with me long after Pinch is gone. Dogs become such an important part of our lives. They bring us so much — unconditional love, companionship, entertainment, and (unfortunately) the occasional bloody foot.
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