My Wild Child Strikes Again…The Inconvenience of Love

Last week’s trip to New York was everything I had hoped it would be. I had plenty of opportunity to visit with friends, as well as with my son and daughter-in-law-but mostly I spent a lot of cuddle time with my new grandson. He, of course, was the highlight of my weekend in Manhattan, with his beautiful brown eyes and ear-to-ear grins, and that special fragrance that seems part and parcel of infancy.

However, it was a visit that I very nearly didn’t make. The week before I left for New York, Cody became seriously ill, and the cause was neither his epilepsy nor his bladder stones–both of which are very dangerous, expensive and inconvenient problems. No, this time the problem was entirely of his own making, albeit still dangerous, expensive and inconvenient.

Ultimately, I was able to catch the train north, but able to leave only due to my faith in Brad’s nursing skills. After I arrived, I took my grandson in my arms and let love rock away any residue of the week’s tension. As gave him his bottle, I drifted a bit, old emotions lapping at the edges of my mind. How easy it was to remember bringing my boys home from the hospital right after they’d been born, singing them their first lullabies and swaying them to sleep.

All that was three decades ago. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to remember even now how early bliss sometimes sat knee-to-knee with terror (were you ever sure of what you were doing as a new parent?). Other times fury and frustration could shove love aside–if only for a moment (why won’t you sleep? why are you still crying? I’m so damned tired!) Emotions for your children arrive in boomerang pairs–in an instant you move from feeling one way to feeling the exact opposite.

I feel those same contrasting emotions for my husband, my grown “real” kids, and, yes, even for my dogs. It was just such an emotional boomerang that caught me sharp in the back when Cody first got sick right before my departure for New York. Despite my fear and anxiety, all I could think about was how much I wanted to kill my favorite black and white buddy.

“So what else is new?” my son asked drily when I called to say that his furry bro was headed into the O.R. and I might not make our weekend. “Cody’s been in trouble since day one.”

Cody turned six this year but is as adventurous and naughty as he was at eight weeks. His problem is simple: he likes to follow his taste buds. Among millennials, he would be known as a foodie with a strong leaning toward the eclectic.

His career in canine culinary crime began as a tiny pup. From poisonous wild mushrooms and lethal foxtails to pantyhose and batches of brownies. All killing combinations for both his body and my wallet. His best friend became the big brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide.

Last week, we had workmen in the house, redoing the marble in the master shower. Four nights before I was supposed to leave for New York, I discovered the bathroom door ajar after they’d gone home. On the floor was a snowdrift of torn-up yellow tiling sponge. Worry pulsed through me as I gathered up the pieces, but, when I put them together like a puzzle, it seemed as if at least most of the massive sponge was intact. I watched Cody carefully over the next twelve hours and when he ate well the next morning, and nothing seemed amiss, I put the incident to the back of my mind.

That evening, however, I once again found the bathroom door ajar and this time banana peel and semisolid cement were scattered over the floor. The cement was still pliable, but it wouldn’t be for long. Brad and I carefully avoided discussing who might have left the door open. We both preferred to think Cody had managed this, too, on his own.

Cody himself simply sat on the sofa, watching me brightly. A string of questions and emotions boomeranged through me: Why do I have to go through this again? Why must I wait and watch once more? How many lives can one Dalmatian have? Will he die this time?

After he vomited up his second meal, we immediately fell into our familiar drill…and off to the vet we drove. The following morning, when they opened him up through a six-inch incision, they found large pieces of guess what? Sponge!

Even though I was angry with Cody for putting us through all that angst and for the $3000 he’d drained from our wallet, I was relieved and happy when the surgeon gave me the news that my boy had not only survived the surgery but was hamming it up for the techs in the ICU. I even relaxed enough to make my trip to New York, and, as I sat there in the rocking chair with my grandson that first evening, I pictured him playing fetch with Cody in our Maryland backyard in years to come, or the two of them cuddled up together in front of our fireplace. Cody, troublemaker though he may be, will always be part of the family.

Although he’ll be wearing the Cone of Shame for a few more days, I suspect he’s probably just raring for another go at some other forbidden substance. Something he’ll undoubtedly scarf down in as inconvenient a manner, time and place as possible, setting off even more boomerang emotions in me. He is one of my children–just of the furry variety. You’d know him in an instant even if you’d never met him: Cody is the wild child, always dancing on the edge.


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