Couch snuggles

–By Courtney Wennerstrom, AAPP Director of Content

As pet parents who consider our pets as family, we have to laugh at our own neuroses.  Not sure about you, but I tend to be a tad dramatic when it comes to protecting and nurturing our 2 adopted huskies, Sasha and Saint, and two adopted cats, Leche and Mojo.

Two days ago, Saint and Sasha got into a rare fight that left Saint unscathed but dealt Sasha a lacerated ear–an unfortunate event my husband and I have nicknamed the Saintpocalypse

We were all outside enjoying the fresh evening air when I heard a scuffle. Apparently, my curious, rambunctious snow dogs had discovered the holy grail of canine culinary delights in a trash bag a construction crew had inadvertently left behind in our yard, and they were not content to share the spoils. By the time I ran over to break them apart, the argument was already over. After a quick initial check, they both seemed fine and we all went on with our lives.

Around midnight,  I invited Saint and Sasha, along with their feline brothers, up on the bed for our nightly snuggle routine. When I went to rub Sasha’s ears like I normally do, she cried out sharply, and–in a scene that resembled something from Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000)–blood splattered all over her, me, my husband, Steve, and our mostly-white duvet cover. To my horror, I then realized that my baby’s adorable right ear–which is black with the cutest little white tufts of fur inside–was split down the middle. 

Y’all…let me confess to you the depths and layers of my overreaction to this injury…  

With the speed of a transformer toy, I morphed from the person others confide in for pet advice to a terror-stricken mom nearly beside herself with worry. From the bathroom, to which I had dragged Sasha to inspect her in better light, I blurted out, “Steve! Oh,  God! This is bad. This is really bad.”  He then made the misguided mistake of trying to reason with me: “babe, it’s okay. She’s not going to die from this little cut”–to which I retorted insolently, “well she might. What if she does? What if she gets a terrible infection or we have to amputate her ear. Yes, I know it’s unlikely.. but what..if!??!”…

Instead of continuing to speculate on unlikely worst-case scenarios, we consulted Dr. Google–and discovered that as long as the bleeding had stopped, we had a window of 24 hours to get her to the veterinarian for antibiotics and sutures. It was already nearly 1:00 am by this point and she seemed ok, so we followed directions–gently cleaning her ear with gauze–and agreed to take her in for care the minute our vet opened the next morning. 

Crisis averted, right?

Not quite. 

See…I knew very well and good that Sasha’s cut was not an emergency, but I was still acutely cognizant of the fact that she was hurting. Like a lunatic, I rummaged through every medicine cabinet and drawer in the house–probably three-times each–searching for canine-appropriate pain relievers or sedatives to take the edge off.  Surely, we must have some trazadone around here or something, anything to help her sleep. But there was literally nothing I could give her. The cabinets were bare, as the story goes.

Trying not to work myself into a frenzy over a trifle, I crawled into bed, but was absolutely distraught when I heard my baby girl restlessly attempting and failing–over and over and over–to get comfortable. Upset and uneasy, she started pacing around the bedroom and my heart shattered.

Feeling utterly helpless, I took her to the couch and held her for hours–lovingly reassuring her I was there for her; that we would fix her beautiful, perfect ear as soon as we could; that I’m sure her brother was sorry; and that her dad and I would not let her suffer. I rubbed her belly, her paws, and her good ear–cooing and praising her for being such a brave girl, and giving her hundreds of kisses. 

To her credit, Sasha encouraged–if not outright hypnotized me–into fussing over her obsessively. Like most huskies, including Saint, she is a total diva who also happens to be a damn genius–quickly discerning that she could milk this situation for all it was worth. But that made no difference to me whatsoever. I was not about to leave her side. Nor was she going to let me. If I stopped petting her for even a second, she would press her speckled paw into my leg and demand more love and attention. They say our pets’ personalities reflect our own, so the two of us drama queens went on in this manner until nearly 6:00 am. 

I was exhausted, so Steve took her to the vet instead. She announced the wonderful fact that Sasha’s laceration had already clotted so well that she would not need stitches at all, just antibiotics to stave off infection and trazodone to help her relax. In short, she was absolutely fine.

So, to review with the vet’s revelation in mind, I lost an entire night’s sleep and half of my flipping mind simply because my dog was moderately uncomfortable.

Which brings us to a poignant, inescapable truth about the human-animal bond: we cannot stand it when our babies suffer. In fact, most of us would rather be injured ourselves than to have our pets feel an ounce of pain.  Sasha’s yelp when I touched her laceration pierced me to the core of my being.  Nothing undoes me quicker than hearing any animal scream, and when it comes to our own animals, we would do anything to keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

Researchers have confirmed what pet parents have long understood: that dogs have completely stolen our hearts,  as David Grimm, writing for Science, attests.

And this is why all of us at the American Association of Pet Parents believes that if we put this love and affection at the center of social issues and challenges, we just might make the world a better place. 

Anyone who doubts the power of our relationships with animals need only look at the extent to which doting pet parents will go to comfort their beloved pets. And if you do not believe us, just ask Sasha–the diva-est husky alive–who conned her mom into a sleepless night over a minor cut.