Monday, November 14, 2005

The Joys

The joys of parenting are sometimes briefly overshadowed by the troubles. I speak specifically of the stomach flu.

I have a major vomit phobia, so I have lived with the small dread of the inevitable visit of that particular disease to our household. Yea and verily on Saturday morning at 12:31 A.M. it splashed into our existence. Melted chocolate, anyone will tell you, makes a carpet stain that even the darkest red wine envies. Just off of Halloween, and having to make chocolate chip cookies for school, the tummy in question (MPC1) was choc full ... well, you get the drift.

Thus far (as I imagine we are not through the storm yet - the baby (MPC2) hasn't evidenced symptoms YET), I have had discovered that I have more of a tolerance for cleaning up accidental personal protein spills than I once thought. I still gape in horror during the actual event itself - especially that as caused by the stomach flu. Someone yarking from drinking too much has a relative elegance to it. They display a confused look, ralph it up, have some dry heaves, then we're done. The flu causes one to experience a long and miserable lead up to the event, and then the actual retching is much more tearing. The whole body convulses. Other things occur that just shouldn't be described, so I won't.

The resulting puddles, should the victim not make it to the designated receptacle as was the case this weekend, just didn't throw me as much as I thought they might.

And here's why, I think: Our damn dog.

Our dog has a wonderful personality. He's a sweet, little West Highland Terrier. His only personality fault is that he barks ALL THE TIME when he's outside; we've run through two entire shock collars and over 10 $20 batteries to power the same.* Other than that, he's a sweetheart. But, he pukes nearly every night, and if something further upsets his sensitive little digestive tract, he follows that up with voluminous turds which transition to sprayed diarrhea. (Some of his more extreme trails bring to mind an example of evolutionary changes as demonstrated in poop.) Being one of those who think that nearly everything happens for a reason, I feel God gave me this dog so I would become inured to cleaning up vast canvases of gloppy, malodorous bodily products.

I was on the couch at the end of the weekend, musing over the fact that the hurl cleanup hadn't really thrown me, when my daughter, the recently pukey one, says, "The dogs smells like diarrhea." My sinuses were clogged from cleaning product fumes, so I had no idea, but the dog chose that moment to wander away (perhaps sensing the upcoming event) and sure enough, his butt was caked with stool. I chased him down, pulled, scraped, and cut it off, all the while thinking of how much worse this was than mopping up hurl, and that's when I put it together.

My next hour was going through all the places he'd sat down, leaving little shit kisses on the carpet. MPC1 trailed me anxiously, pointing out the sites of destruction, and asking if we were going to get rid of the dog. What was intriguing about that last line of query is that usually her tone is "dad, you had better not get rid of the dog," but this time it was, "Even I now understand that this is a bit much, and I still hope you don't get rid of him."

Not to fear, the dog is safe for now. His upside still outweighs his downside.

But, dog, if you read my blog (and I wouldn't put it past the sneaky little shit, since we have to have a toddler gate on the basement stairs so he doesn't sneak down there in get into territory marking wars with the cat (where the catbox is), consider this fair warning. Keep that "pro" list on the heavy side, my furry little friend.

*TLD: When my wife and I finally decided we had no choice but to get a shock collar or give up the dog, we shopped around and tried to find the one that seemed the most humane. It starts out with a small warning shock, jumps up three levels if the barking continues, but then shuts off after the forth level, under the assumption that if the dog is still barking, it's serious and someone should come check out the problem. I don't think our dog has made it past the second level more that a couple times, and never to the fourth. Nonetheless, we felt we couldn't be comfortable having him wear it if first we didn't know what it felt like.

The instructions warned against applying the collar to exposed skin, because it was intended to be shielded by the fur of the animal, so we decided not to try it on our necks.

MPC1 was only about three at the time, and we didn't want to do this in front of her for several reasons, the two main ones were we didn't want to model the behavior and later catch her shocking herself, and we didn't want her to see us in pain and hear the inevitable profanity that would most likely result. So, we put her on the couch, cranked up a cartoon, told her to stay put, and retired to a bathroom to hold it to our bare thighs and set it off. I went first because I'm the man of the house and so wish to protect my family from harm (if it hurt too much, the wife was to be let off the hook), and because I'm the bigger weenie regarding pain, being the man of the house.

At first, it was high comedy, because there we were, holding this collar to my bare leg, both barking at it loudly. This drew MPC1 from the couch, "Mom? Dad? Why are you barking in the potty?" My wife replaced her on the couch saying we'll explain later, hoping that her attention span would wander far enough that we wouldn't have to. We finally discovered that rapping your fingers across it quickly fooled it into thinking it detected a bark, and it shocked the holy heck out of my leg. I tensed up, dropped the collar, and hissed an expletive through my grit teeth. Of course, nothing is funnier to a wife than that category of husbandly behavior. (That's why all dads on sitcoms are slapstick idiots.)

Verdict: It hurt less than putting your finger in the wall socket (something I had managed to do at three years old while trying to plug in my record player), but it hurt just a little more than the dry, Colorado static shock you get after taking off a fleece jacket and touching a light switch, which usually results in a bright, painful three-inch arc. The dog could handle it in my opinion.

Of course, after recovering from her guffaws, the wife disagreed, given my reaction. So I reminded her that that was why she's going next. After quasi-intense renegotiations which drew the MPC1 again (this time I took her back), I won on the fact that we could never leave the dog outside unless we had something to stop the barking, and this was probably it. So, she went through with it. Being a woman, she didn't do much more than say, "Ouch! ... Dammit!" and after another pause: "Yeah, he'll be fine."

For those of you who would try to connect the dots between the shock collar and the constant barfing, let me save you the trouble right now. He barfs because he refuses to eat his dogfood dinner at night because when we first adopted him, we would give him table scraps after our dinner. After a year or so of this, he developed the screaming monster-turds-transitioning-to-power-squirts I wrote of above, so we had to stop this indulgence. (One liquid turdfest took two days to clean up, and a week for the smell to dissipate, it was so huge.) But, thank you Dr. Pavlov, the conditioning was complete. He now will not eat his own food after our dinner because he waits for the scraps, thus his tummy fills with bile in anticipation, and rather than just eating, he arises around midnight, hurks it up all over the floor, then goes back to bed. It helps if we remember to give him a milkbone at night, but sometimes we get in the habit of forgetting.

However, we're getting new carpet since our old is so trashed. Perhaps we'll remember from now on. I know I will.

1 comment:

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Maybe this is easier to say in Texas than in Colorado, but ... this is why DOGS belong OUTSIDE. All the time.

Actually, this is why upchucking children often belong outside, too. I haven't had the courage to do this yet, but another mom I know actually put her entire upchucking family out on the lawn on blankets for the night. It was summer and the lows were around 80, so why not?