I <3 Petey.
How quickly Eric’s little Boston Terrier has become the canine love of my life. It took, what, one week? I knew I loved him madly, but I did not grasp the depth until last Thursday, at 6:45 a.m.
I was in the kitchen, and Petey was beside me. He had stopped bounding around the house like a bunny rabbit, ears pinned back, legs outstretched in a joy-prance, long enough to gobble his Fromm’s gourmet puppy food, milk, and chicken, warmed up to the perfect temperature for his eating pleasure. My kids Clark and Suz were shoveling muffins down like zombies. Our big dogs were wolfing their breakfasts about 30 feet away down a long hall and in another room.
And then I heard one angry growl/bark, followed by a squeal and frantic breathless crying.
My sweety Petey.
I ran toward the sounds, which had come from the big dog area, my mind whirling. Hadn’t Petey been at my feet? How could he have made it back there so fast with none of us seeing him?
When I got to the room, I saw that Petey had scrambled under the electric piano, and his cries ripped through my gut. Our beloved Cowboy was on his belly, crawling toward me in supplication.
“BAD DOG,” I yelled, and whacked him. I didn’t have to see it to know what had happened. Petey had come between 125-pound Cowboy and his food bowl. If there was one thing Cowboy loved, it was food. Our other big dog, Layla, normally waited to eat until Cowboy was done, because she didn’t want him to even think she was after his chow.
“Petey, Petey sweety, come here,” I cooed, and crawled after him as he ran from me, crying, under tables, chair, and piano. I was faster, and I soon scooped him up to soothe him. I held him to me, and his cries lessened.
“What did he do? What did Cowboy do to him?” Clark yelled, and he grabbed Cowboy and held him to the floor.
“He got upset when Petey tried to eat his food, but I already took care of it.”
“Don’t hurt Cowboy,” Suz yelled at Clark.
Clark couldn’t help it. Petey’s yelps were tearing all of our hearts. Cowboy took another few lumps, and Clark put the big dogs outside.
That’s when I saw it.
The room was dark – no lights on yet – and I had not seen any damage to Petey, so I assumed Cowboy had been all bark and no bite. But I was wrong.
Petey’s bloody eye had popped out of its socket and hung from his face.
I screamed. I sobbed and for our bedroom, my mind blank from everything except the searing pain of seeing Petey injured. I called for my husband. I don’t remember what I said as I ran. I think I said, “Cowboy’s hurt him. Cowboy hurt Petey badly. He’s hurt. He’s hurt bad.” Something like that. Over and over.
Eric was in the shower. He ran out in a towel, and the look I saw on his face matched the anguish I felt.
“I don’t know what to do, Eric,” I cried.
“I don’t either.” He pulled off his towel and wrapped it around our whimpering, shivering baby.
“I’ll find a vet,” I said, and I sat down and started googling for emergency vet services, wrote down a number incorrectly, wasted time retracing my steps, and finally reached one who talked me through what to do. There was a clinic five minutes away that opened in 20.
“Is he in shock?” I asked, as I pulled clothes onto my husband.
Eric held Petey tight against his chest.
“I don’t know. We just need to get him to a vet as fast as we can,” Eric said.
We sprinted through the house, with both teenagers and Clark’s girlfriend Allie, who had arrived during the pandemonium, on our heels.
I spoke through shaking lips, through my tears. “You can bike or walk to school. I’ll get you an excuse note later. We have to take Petey to the hospital.”
Three stricken faces nodded. Suz dissolved into sobs and put her head on the kitchen bar. There was no time to comfort her.
Eric sat in the passenger seat with Petey, and I drove, immediately taking a wrong turn out of the driveway.
Relax. Pull it together. Don’t make this worse for Petey.
As I had searched for emergency care, I had told Eric what happened. Now, I returned to the story, my mind mired three-feet deep in the quicksand of this memory.
“Damn Cowboy. Stupid stupid Cowboy,” I said, my mental instructions to calm myself already history.
“If he had wanted to hurt him, Petey would be dead. He didn’t mean to hurt him,” Eric said.
I pictured the giant yellow dog on his belly, whining, crawling toward me, before I had even found Petey. Cowboy. Our big yellow Lab, our pet, whom we loved.
“I know. I know. I know. I just hate him right now. I can’t help it. He hurt Petey. And I could have stopped it. How did I let Petey out of my sight? Why didn’t I feed Cowboy outside? I let this happen. Oh Petey, oh Petey.” I could hardly drive, but we were almost there.
The clinic wasn’t open yet, but I rang the bell, and a kind young man opened the front door. “Our puppy, his eye,” I got out, then Eric was beside me with Petey and showed him to the man.
“His eye and his face, it’s an emergency, it’s bad,” Eric said.
The young man nodded and ushered Eric straight back to the surgical suite, as he yelled for a vet. I tried to fill out the forms but my stress-overloaded mind couldn’t remember the date or our zip code. Less than ten minutes later, Eric was sitting beside me, and five people were clustered over Petey, taking care of him. Eric put his arms around me, and I pressed my wet face into his shoulder and let my sobs bounce us in a oddly calming rhythm.
We started a dialogue by text with the kids, who had decided to wait for us and solve the issues with their absence from high school later. Suz was terrified we would give Cowboy away.
Eric and I looked deep into each other’s eyes, and he shook his head, “no.”
“No. He is family,” Eric typed.
Before long, the vet came with an update, then invited us back to be with our little buddy, who was under anesthesia.
“I consulted an ophthalmologist. This is the worst swelling I’ve ever seen. The eye was intact, but the optic nerve was damaged. It’s not uncommon for breeds with flat faces and protruding eyes to have an eye pop out. Sometimes they keep their sight, sometimes not. But Petey has only about a 1-2% chance of seeing out of this eye. He may not even keep it. But we’ll do everything we can to make both things possible, and even if we have to remove the eye later, it won’t affect his quality of life. We’ve managed to get the eye back in the socket, but just barely. Thank goodness you were able to come quickly, or we wouldn’t have been able to. We’ve sewed it shut. His stitches will stay in for 4 weeks, then come out one stitch a week. You have your work cut out for you.” She put her hand on Petey’s side for a moment, looking at him.
She explained the complicated regimen of creams, pills, and icing. We stroked Petey’s warm body. I cried some more, and a vet tech held a box of Kleenex out to me.
“Your main challenge is that in 24 hours he’ll want to resume normal puppyhoood, and you need to keep him still enough that he doesn’t pop the eye back out. Keep him away from the excitement of the big dogs as much as you can.”
The big dogs. Cowboy. We had already explained how it happened. I didn’t know how to reconcile Petey’s eye with my love for Cowboy, or my personal guilt, and, frankly, I wasn’t ready to do either one yet.
As if she heard my tortured thoughts, she went on. “Petey acted like a terrier puppy. Cowboy acted like a normal dog. This kind of thing happens. They’ll probably be best friends someday.” She gestured toward Petey. “Don’t be too hard on your big dog. There’s no lacerations to his face or eye. It could have just popped out from a blow, like from the big dog’s head, or from furniture or the wall. I’ve seen bug-eyed dogs like him run into walls and ruin their eyes more than once. They have no structural protection.”
Images flashed through my mind in a crazy high speed slide show. Cowboy crawling toward me on his belly. Petey’s swagger as he sidled up to Cowboy and sat on his leg the night before. Petey leaping up to lick Cowboy’s mouth. Petey’s dangling eye and bloody face.
They brought Petey out of his anesthesia-induced sleep, and he immediately sat bolt upright, looking loopy but ready for a fight. He earned an admiring round of laughs from his five medical helpers.
“What a tough little guy!” one of them exclaimed.
Yes, he was.
Four hours later, I brought Petey home. That was four days ago. It’s been stressful, emotional, and very busy since then, and, I confess, I cried for a good part of the first 24 hours. We’ve had a few high risk moments, too. Petey has gotten excited and leaped into the air in a sideways twist and body slammed himself, bad eye side hitting first, into the floor. He has fallen into our backyard pond, completely immersing in dirty water the eye I was supposed to keep dry. He managed to sneak a back-footed scratch of his eyelid when I wasn’t looking, drawing blood. He has beaten his own eye against the floor playing with Stinky Bunny. He has bumped into furniture on his blind side. Over and over again, I hear his yelp of pain.
But he has thrived. He has eaten like a champ, he tolerates his eye meds, and he gives kisses just as freely as before. He dashes around like his cranked-up jackrabbit self. He has discovered that he likes the T-bones I use to distract him from scratching even more than he likes Boston Market chicken. Being an injured dog has its privileges. He even got to sleep in our bed so I could monitor the ever present danger of more scratching.
And, the biggest thing? The thing that is causing my heart to swell like a water balloon in my chest?
Cowboy. Yes, it is Cowboy.
Cowboy was banished to the backyard for a full 24 hours post-incident. I couldn’t even look at him. It took Eric three full days to speak to Cowboy. Suz pleaded with us to forgive him, but just the thought of the big dog threw me right back into reliving the experience of Petey’s trauma.
When I let Cowboy in the house for the first time after Petey’s injury, I held our little Boston in my arms. Petey with his giant swollen eye. Petey who would likely never see again from his left eye, and who would never look the same.
Cowboy walked straight up to Petey and me, sniffed of Petey, and licked his face. He nudged Petey’s belly with his giant muzzle. Petey was in ecstasy. His body wriggled in my arms. He strained and stretched to lick Cowboy back. Then Cowboy put his bony dinosaur head into my hand and stared up into my eyes and wagged his tail slowly. He talked to me, he cried to me in his Chewbacca language. Can a dog feel remorse, and ask for forgiveness? This one sure seemed to.
I put Petey on the ground, and he pogo’ed up to kiss Cowboy. Cowboy hung around for some Petey love for a moment, then ambled off to lie down in his favorite spot.
Someday they will be best friends.
Petey will be fine.
If their hearts are big enough to love past this horrible, traumatic incident — this tragedy — then mine is, too.
We’ve got it bad.
I <3 Petey, the slightly-less-beautiful-than-before dog. I love him even more than I did when he had two big black eyes that shone with mischief. In fact, I love him twice as much with one eye as I did with two.
And I love the big yellow dog; I have since he was our silly puppy. I always will.
Have a good week, everyone. I’m off to continue my temporarily full time job as nursemaid to a 7-pound dog.
p.s. I’ll keep all you animal lovers posted on his progress, I promise.