Sick as a very good dog

One of the things I discovered after getting a dog is how good they are at being sick. They get on with it and it happens fairly often. My dog, Bette, is a bit of a scavenger. Living where I do, I spend a lot of time prising chicken bones out of her mouth. Anything hazardous seems to appeal. She also loves eating shit. Her own shit is the most common but any shit will do. Doesn’t have to be the same species, she’s rather partial to horse shit too. She is less enamoured by the food specifically designed for her specific dog-breed (Shih Tzu).

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Being sick did not come easy for me. I remember being terrified of being sick when I was younger. If I was unwell, I would fight being sick until I couldn’t fight it any longer. When the deed was done I would cry. It was an intense experience.

I’m not sure when I stopped being such a wuss but I suspect the reasons was alcohol. I didn’t actually drink much until I went to University and from that point I routinely poisoned myself, spending an entire day familiarising myself with Armitage Shanks.

Now I’m in my thirties, being sick is no biggie. It doesn’t make me anxious. I’ve finally caught up with pretty much every dog ever.

This week was a bad week for Bette. She had gastroenteritis. There was one moment where she was sat next to me on the sofa and looked horror-struck before puking all over the most expensive thing we own. It was heartbreaking on many levels.

Bette is much better but the smell of sick lingers on. The rug also took a hit. Dogs seem to prefer sicking up on soft furnishings. And shitting on grass.

Over the course of the week, I’ve spent close to £1000 on vet bills. We are insured but it is a huge outlay of cash. Of course, dogs can’t speak and so you can only really get to the bottom of most problems by x-rays and blood tests. She had a lot of x-rays this week as they worried there might be a blockage causing her to be sick (a chicken bone, for example).

I would feel like I had failed her if I didn’t do everything in my power to ensure she was okay but I couldn’t help but think of how difficult this must be for pet owners who cannot pay the bill upfront.

I found myself saying those horrible words: if you can’t afford a dog you shouldn’t have one. Luckily a friend was on hand to remind me why this was a bad opinion and it really is. It’s a stinker of an opinion.

To some extent, all dog owners are selfish. If we leave them alone, which is inevitable, we leave them with no humans and potentially no dogs just so they can be around when we want them.

However, they are not a luxury item. When I’m out with Bette she makes other people, especially children smile. She makes me smile all the time and I sincerely think she has improved my mental health. There are days when I wouldn’t get dressed, never mind leave the house. That’s not really possible with a dog and I thank her for it.

Caring for another being is therapeutic and that shouldn’t be off limits to those who can’t afford it. You meet a lot of people when you have a dog. Strangers talk to you, people make eye-contact and smile. That is a lifeline for a lot of people and I’ve met dog owners who live for their dogs, and potentially don’t have much else to live for.

So when they are sick, it feels shit but you shouldn’t worry because they are professionals.

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