My dog, Chloe, is sick. If you have a dog, then Chloe’s story will probably sound familiar to you. Michael and I got Chloe as a puppy almost nine years ago, right after we got married. We got her from a breeder – a very nice but slightly kooky, single woman who put us through a rigorous application process before determining that we were sufficiently competent to take care of one of her dogs. Chloe was, technically, my birthday present that year, so when we went to see the litter and pick out the dog we wanted, it was my choice. A Wheaton Terrier, she had a pink ribbon tied around her neck, and it was clear almost immediately that she had an att-i-tude, with triple snaps. She was feisty, she was fussy, and she did not suffer fools. She was definitely my kind of girl.
Chloe immediately became our baby. She was the focus of our lives, and we treated her as if she was a child. We were constantly snapping pictures of her, buying her toys, giving her treats, and taking her everywhere we went. My mother-in-law even took to calling Chloe her grand dog, and spoiled her rotten whenever she took care of her for us. I can vividly recall lying in bed one night shortly before Harper was born, Chloe curled up beside my huge belly, and remarking to Michael that I just did not think it was possible that I would love this child more than I loved Chloe. I really, truly, did not.
Well, we all know how that story ends. Of course I loved Harper more than I loved Chloe. My love for Harper wasn’t even in the same universe. Within weeks, Chloe went from being a child, to being a dog. When I got home from work every day, I no longer spent half an hour petting her and kissing her and telling her what a good girl she was. Instead, I gave her a quick pat on the head – Hi, Chlo, I would say – and then I’d run upstairs to Harper’s room. Chloe handled it pretty well. She was curious at first – jumping in the bassinet, sniffing Harper’s diaper – but when she realized that this thing wasn’t going away, she just pretty much ignored her. She seemed displaced, maybe a little depressed, but I didn’t have time to worry about it. By the time Davis came along, she had accepted her place at the bottom of the totem pole, and she took what attention she could get from us, which, admittedly, wasn’t much.
In the last few weeks, however, I’d started noticing that she was acting even lazier than usual, and when I gave her one of my quick pats on the head, I could feel her bones. The dog walker – we gave up on walking her long ago – was also leaving me notes saying that every day, Chloe seemed to have diarrhea. So I took her to the vet, who took blood, and a few days later it was suggested that she have an endoscope to see what was going on in her intestines. When the procedure was over, we were told that it doesn’t look good. She either has a very bad gastro-intestinal disease, or she has cancer. The disease we can treat, the cancer we probably can’t.
We won’t know which it is until the lab results come back.
When I hung up with the vet, I was a mess. As if my guilt about not spending enough time with my kids wasn’t enough, I was now plagued with it about Chloe. If I had spent more time with her, would I have noticed something was wrong sooner? Does she hate me for not paying more attention to her all these years? Was she devastated that we stopped taking her to her dog agility class because it conflicted with Harper’s soccer class? Oh, the guilt. I pictured her as a puppy, her little tail wagging so fast we thought she would lift off, and I cried. I thought about having to put her to sleep, and the tears just wouldn’t stop.
Everyone keeps asking me, what are you going to tell the kids? Do you think they’ll be okay? But for the first time in their lives, I don’t really care about the kids. To them, Chloe is a pet. She was here when they were born, and aside from eat the food they drop on the floor, Chloe’s not had much to do with them. She doesn’t sleep in their rooms, she doesn’t lounge on their beds, she doesn’t follow their every move with her eyes. I’m sure they’d be a little sad if she were gone, but I don’t believe it would be a great loss to them. But for me, and for Michael….she’s irreplaceable.
Even though I’ve taken her for granted, even though I haven’t paid enough attention to her, even though I don’t love her as much as I love my children; still, to me, Chloe will always be my first baby.