My family always had a lot of pets. Not, like, a creepy amount of pets, but enough pets. There was one dog, and then there were two, and shortly thereafter my siblings and I were each allowed our own private living animal to teach us about responsibility. I got a hamster. My sister had a guinea pig. My brother had a small exotic tree frog indigenous to the South American rainforest, whose talents included changing sexes at will, devouring live crickets, and making loud chirping sounds in the middle of the night. The idea was that we’d each care for our own creature independently, and I suppose we did, insofar as children really can do anything independently. The duty still fell to my mother to take us to the pet store for fresh bedding and hay, or to point out when our rooms were developing that pungent odor that meant it was time to give their various enclosures a good scrub-down. Somehow—at what seems now like the very birth of the Internet—my mother found a place online that allowed her to have a cylindrical container of live crickets for the frog sent through the postal service and delivered straight to our mailbox. The pet store was only a 15 minute drive away and they always had loads of crickets, and at the time I remember feeling like the whole charade was sort of silly—a solution to a problem that didn’t exist in the first place. Where did these crickets even come from? How many people had to be involved with the packaging, handling, and delivery of these crickets? Is this really what Scott, our mailman, signed up for when he took on our route?
What I’ve realized in adulthood that I didn’t adequately understand as a child is that having crickets delivered through the mail cut out one small thing for my mother to worry about. That’s a big deal when you spend so much time dealing with the constant issues and minute problems of three small children and five pets. The key to keeping up was efficiency and practicality. I’m aware now that parents these days will often book a doctor’s appointment for their children at the slightest sign of a sniffle, but my mom’s strategy was typically to let time and over-the-counter medications take care of things, unless they began to look somewhat serious. The same was true for the pets. I have a feeling my mom will resent this characterization, so I’d like to point out that we were well cared for and, where pets were concerned, highly indulged. My hamster was, after all, treated to multiple rounds of life-saving antibiotic regimens and her life ultimately ended after several days of overnight care at the vet’s office. But the general philosophy was that serious reactions were reserved for times when chances of extreme misery or death seemed high. Otherwise, a little Tylenol and daytime TV could probably fix it.
It’s a logic that still makes sense to me. If Max had it his way, we’d be at the vet’s office at least a couple times a week, the dogs getting poked and prodded and tested for exotic medical conditions he read about online. He worries constantly and endlessly that they might drop dead at any moment. I think I’m a pretty reasonable, responsible pet owner, but next to him I’m basically a scene from Old Yeller.
That’s how it was a few weeks ago, when Mekko threw up as Max was getting ready for work. It wasn’t a lot of vomit. Max insisted that I take her directly to the vet, and I told him that she was probably fine (Pit Bulls have notoriously finicky stomachs) but that I’d keep an eye on things, and he told me that if she died it would be all my fault. Noted. Good chat.
As soon as he walked out the door, though, I heard it. That gurgling, weird sound that dogs only make when they’re puking.
The expression on a dog’s face after it’s vomited is the saddest thing in the world. Not only do they feel sick, but they feel really guilty about being sick, and they want nothing more than for you to know how guilty they feel.
We walked a few steps down the hallway back toward the kitchen so I could grab the paper towels and a slice of bread to help settle her stomach a little. Then it happened. She just…stopped. Then she kind of crouched. Our eyes were locked, and hers grew three times in size. She looked like she was about to sit down, but then she stopped halfway. This is the conversation we had, telepathically:
“Come to the kitchen, baby! You’re OK.”
“I can’t. I can’t move from this spot.”
“Mekko, why aren’t you moving?”
“Mekko, are you…shitting??”
“I think so. I think I am shitting.”
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Um. I officially don’t know what to do.”
“I don’t either. This is all happening so fast.”
“Oh dear lord, that is just disgusting. Oh Mekko. Oh Honey.”
“OH GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME I’M SO SORRY.”
“Holy fuck, this is foul.”
“WHY IS THIS HAPPENING. WHAT IS COMING OUT OF ME.”
“I’ve never seen this before. I never want to see this again. I literally don’t even know how to clean this up.”
And then it was over. We just stood there, staring at each other, both of us sort of frozen in shock and inaction. Saddest Thing in the World II: perfectly healthy, relatively normal dog momentarily looses complete control of bowels. Then she ran to the couch and hid in shame.
I decided to stay home and monitor her for a few hours, and that was the end of it. Whatever it was had evacuated itself from her system, and by noon she was acting completely normal, if still a bit humble and apologetic.
The severity of the foulness of that day continues to haunt me weeks later, but in a way, I think it brought Mekko and I closer together. That’s kind of how it is when you have a dog. They can take a massive, explosive crap on your floor while staring you directly in the eye, and you’ll still think they’re the most special, endearing thing on the planet.
We’ve had Mekko for 2 years today, which is crazy both because it seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye and because it’s so hard to remember what it was like without her. I realized last night that if I knew me two years ago—less than a year after meeting Max, still a student, and very unsure about so many things—I would have told me that I was crazy to adopt a super energetic 2 year old Pit Bull with a mysterious past from a shelter I knew nothing about after walking her around a city block for five minutes. I would have told me to get a grip, and that when the time was right, I’d find the right dog. Someday, but not today.
But that’s the thing…maybe there are better and worse times to adopt a dog (or do all sorts of things, really), but there’s never really a right time. There’s never really a time that’s just GREAT for the potty training and the added expenses and the unexpected vet visits and the bad behavior and the enormous puddles of shit on your floor first thing in the morning, and all of the many things that come along with being a pet owner. But you make it work.
Mekko is a great dog. I’m so glad we met her, and I’m so glad we brought her home. I can’t imagine my life without her, and I can’t believe she’s already FOUR! Happy birthday, Mekko! Here are some snapshots of the birthday girl from the past year:
Mekko is a Pit Bull Terrier, one of the world’s most misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized dog breeds. Pit Bulls are incredibly kind, patient, loyal, affectionate, intelligent, and resilient, and I’m so glad that we adopted one. It’s estimated that around 90% of Pit Bulls brought to shelters in the United States are euthanized, and that only 1 in 600 will ever find a forever home—so please, if you are considering getting a dog, please think seriously about adopting a Pit. Further, if you have a dog, please spay/neuter and encourage others to do the same.
We adopted Mekko from Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, an organization that works tirelessly to rescue animals in need, with a particular focus (though not exclusive) on Pit Bulls. Every year, I make a donation to help them continue the work that saved our dog. If you’d like to donate too, you can do so here. Every little bit helps!