You may have heard by now that my husband moved out of our house and marriage of 25 1/2 years a few months back.
Before my husband moved on with his life, I requested he be kind enough to leave all three pets with me; he readily agreed — a little too quickly, if I’m remembering events accurately. From the speed of his acquiescence, I can only assume he knew I would ask for custody of the pets, and he had had plenty of time to think about the pros and cons of animals in his apartment.
I didn’t think too much about my request and his rapid response until the pets became a full-time job less than 24-hours after my soon-to-be-ex moved into his own apartment.
Full disclosure: early in our marriage, I didn’t want any pets — not because I don’t love dogs, cats, and anything else that has fur (remembering Mia Hammster as I write this) but I knew the second one of those buggers were allowed into the house, they’d become my sole responsibility despite an able-bodied husband and three kids.
And, I wasn’t wrong.
It’s a classic story, isn’t it? The kids beg for a dog or cat and promise (pinky swear!) they’ll take care of the flea-infested mutt ‘til death do they part but we all know how that tale ends. It ends with mom caring for the animals while everyone else moves on with their lives.
Some of those children who have moved on even have the audacity to acquire more pets without first coming back for the old ones!
The kids are off to college, the husband moves into his fur-free new home with all new furniture, and the mom is stuck at the house contending with all things animal related.
Of course now I’m attached. I love my two dogs and my cat. They give me so much more than I give them any day of the week even when they’re being annoying as hell (Brody, I’m looking at you!). The three are my furbabies and furever companions, and whatever other cringe-worthy fur-related words I can sneak in here. Nowadays, I take more pictures of my pets being cute, and post them on Facebook, than I do of my kids.
My husband was handy, however, whenever the cat or a dog got sick. He would take care of those messes because he knew I would only add to the pool with my own puke. I proved it to him once — and much to his credit, he’s a fast learner.
If I was the first to awaken and discover a load of vomit, I’d grab a couple paper towels and lay them on top of the yuck and walk away, waiting for my husband to wake up and handle it.
I never, ever looked too closely at the goo on the ground, just laid the paper towels down and quickly walked away to get the coffee started.
The day after my husband moved into his brand new apartment with all his brand new, pet-hair-free things, the animals decided this was a good time to start having seriously gross health issues. Prior to the man vacating the building, Billy (the cat) had not been to the vet for three years, Pearl (Labradoodle) had not been to the vet for anything other than her shots, and Brody (mini poodle) had only been to the vet for ER visits and for his shots. The ER visits were always handled by my husband.
I never had to contend with anything coming out, nor with putting anything into, a pet. He took care of it.
I woke up at my usual time on my first day as a nearly unmarried woman, and walked downstairs. I was met with two wagging tails, but the cat was looking sheepish if a cat is capable of caring what a human thinks.
What’s that brown stuff over there, I wondered, as my sleepless eyes tried to focus.
What would I do now that nobody (I didn’t count) was here to clean up the mess?
I did what any newly single woman with a mountain of new responsibilities would do: I walked into the kitchen, made coffee, and waited until I had some caffeine coursing through my veins to help me sort through some viable solutions to my cat upchuck problem.
With coffee in my gut, I felt empowered and invincible. During the caffeine infusion, I realized I was going to have to be a big girl now. If I wanted to prove to myself I was capable of handling whatever life threw at me alone, I was first going to have to start with the throw-up.
Still in my pajamas, I walked from the family room to the kitchen and grabbed the paper towels. I opened the cabinet under the sink and searched for my pink, rubber gloves.
I can do anything in my pink rubber gloves.
I’ve cleaned toilets, trash cans, and picked up dog poop with disposable gloves, so why not cat barf?
I approached the area with trepidation. Would I relieve my stomach of its contents (coffee, cream and sugar, thanks for asking) after viewing the offending muck?
I tore off a few paper towels and laid them on the cat’s recent generous contribution to the ever decreasing family.
Before I could think any further, I put on my pink rubber gloves and quickly scooped up the contents, and speed-walked to the garbage can. Then I practically ran to the cupboard in the laundry room full of cleaning products, found the carpet cleaner, and then sprayed the spot until it was white again and there wasn’t a trace left.
Phew. I did it.
And I did it without any queasiness which turned out to be a good thing because little did I know, there was more (and more!) where that came from each and every day for the weeks ahead.
The key to my success appeared to be speed and not thinking.
Finally, after another week of waking up to cat puke, I gave in and drove Billy to the vet. The vet promptly informed me of all the tests she wanted to perform on my 14-year-old cat. The list was impressive.
I gave them permission to do the basic tests and decide what to do from there. The results came back, and the vet’s initial suspicions were right: Billy’s diagnosis was kidney disease.
The vet then wanted to do more tests like an x-ray, an ultrasound, and some other things that seemed like overkill. If some of those test results came back positive, then surgery and thousands of dollars would be required.
I opted to go the cheapest and least labor intensive route: buy prescription cat food, feed it to him, and get Billy’s lab work re-checked in a month. There was no way I wanted to spend thousands of dollars on an elderly cat. At nearly 15 at the time of his diagnosis, websites suggest he’s 102 in people years!
A diagnosis of kidney disease means that Billy will need prescription food for the rest of his life. He will also need subcutaneous fluids. Yes, squeamish me will have to inject an IV into my cat, ideally 3–4 times per week. Or, if I can’t do it, then I can pay someone else to do it. Cha-ching, cha-ching.
For those of you keeping score at home, not only do I now have to take my cat to the vet every month for lab work, but I also have to stop by their office to pick up Billy’s food whenever he runs out since it’s a prescription. And I have to buy an IV bag, needles, and find a way to responsibly dispose of the needles.
A few days after Billy’s adventure, Pearl was sitting on the dark tile floor, and when she got up, there was something white left behind. I walked over to the white thread looking thing and with great horror, noticed it was moving!
Oh dear God.
After Pearl got up from her spot on the tile and walked slowly away, more white strings were falling out of her butt. It was as if a bunch of them decided the party was too crowded in the dog’s stomach and they needed to get some air.
My sweet Pearl had worms. There was no doubt cuz even though I’m not a vet, I do know that white strings don’t normally move!
She looked positively horrified. I didn’t know what kind she had at the time but Dr. Google informed me that I was probably looking at tapeworms.
What the hell else? Why hadn’t I noticed the worms earlier?
It was no wonder she had spent the last couple of months eating grass and vomiting on our walks except the vet diagnosed her as having cancer (the kind dogs don’t die from — they die with) and didn’t bother to get a stool sample in search of other reasons for the months-long vomiting.
Once again, I donned my pink rubber gloves, grabbed the paper towels and a bottle of Bona floor cleaner, and got to work removing the gyrating white worms from my tile floor.
I can do anything in my pink rubber gloves.
After witnessing a few worms on the tile and cleaning them up, I took Pearl for a walk around the block thinking it might reduce the number of occupants escaping from her anus. I was right: her poop was covered in white, writhing things. Great.
Because it was nighttime I couldn’t take her to the vet and had to wait until the morning to get an appointment. Needless to say, my daughter and I walked around in the house from then on in shoes.
The vet wanted a sample to send to the lab to verify a diagnosis but it was obvious. The sample I collected in the morning had a 4″ white segment in it. The vet tech was impressed — she told me in an excited tone that she used Pearl’s poo to educate the staff because it was the biggest one they had ever seen at their practice.
Lucky me. And lucky Pearl. My feet are in a medical journal somewhere for the severity of plantar warts I endured. A picture of my oldest daughter’s head is in a dermatology journal somewhere for an unusual occurrence of kerion, and now my dog’s poop is part of a teachable moment.
The treatment for tapeworm is very easy, thank gawd. One shot from the vet and my girl was good to go — it would only be a few days until her gut was worm free. I figured having the tapeworm gone, she’d stop her frequent vomiting, and that made me very happy for the both of us.
And I would be wrong…
But wait, there’s still more
The lab tested Pearl’s sample and found it also contained parasites.
For the love of everything good in the world, what the hell else?
The diagnosis of parasites requires a prescription for all the pets in the house to get medication since it was likely that they all gave it to each other. Three pets requiring a daily dose of meds. I asked if I should grab an Rx myself but the vet said that wasn’t necessary.
The vet cautioned me saying that if one round of treatment didn’t cure the parasites that I would have to do another round and include a daily, thorough cleaning of all flooring and bedding, a daily hot soapy water cleaning of their bowls, daily poop patrol in my yard, and whatever else they decided I would need to do.
It’s like a diagnosis of lice but on steroids.
I was already taking one or more pets to the vet once or twice a week, cleaning the house on my own, mopping up nonstop vomit and/or diarrhea, giving subcutaneous fluids, doing the yard work, as well as caring for my daughter, and all that includes like making dinner, grocery shopping, driving her to school and events — all the while trying to contend with the end of my marriage.
It all became too much.
At my breaking point, I sat on my couch in my living room and cried. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself. I tried to talk myself out of crying because other people have it so much worse than me, but still the tears came. I was lonely and overwhelmed.
I blubbered for a while and then the next thing that happened made me feel as if I was on an episode of Candid Camera. I actually looked around waiting for someone to pop out of a closet. Billy projectile vomited his special Rx brown tuna pate’ food on the rug. He stopped for two beats, and then he projectile vomited again on top of the other vomit.
And then he walked into the kitchen away from his mess, and cried to be fed.
I stopped crying, and thought, “That shit is $3 bucks a can.”
I got up from my spot on the couch, wiped my eyes on my sweatshirt, walked over to the kitchen sink, grabbed my pink rubber gloves, and got to work.
I can do anything, including dealing with a divorce, in my pink rubber gloves.