10 Things My Dog Taught Me That Made It Possible for Me to Get Married: Lesson 6

An excerpt from Dog Is My Co-Pilot, from the editors of The Bark

Lesson #6: Sitting in the grass together doing nothing isn't really doing nothing at all.

After Dante's first big reconstructive surgery, he developed the mother of all postsurgical infections, a wound so long and so deep, a bacteria so flesh-devouring, that you could see right down to the steel plate and screws with which doctor Peter Walsh tried to rebuild his leg. An infection so ghastly that the thousand-dollars-a-dose antibiotic didn't seem to be having any effect on it. A hole so large that it had to be flushed, disinfected, and rewrapped three times a day for a month.

During that time Dante lived in the veterinary hospital at Davis. Each day I would stop in to see him, let him out of his cage, and sit on the grass with him from about five o'clock until eight. Every day his cast was wrapped with a different color vet wrap, the odds and ends Dr. Walsh collected in a futile but kind attempt to keep my costs down. Every day one veterinary student or another came outside to tell me what a remarkable dog he was.

I've never been a person who sits still very well. I have never, for example, taken a nap in my adult life. You would be far more likely to find me doing three things at once -- driving a car, painting my toenails, and reading a manuscript for instance -- than you would be to find me doing nothing at all. If you break down my life, I am a person with approximately three and a half full-time jobs.

Before Dante's operation, if someone had told me I would spend twenty-one hours a week sitting on the grass, petting a dog, and watching the house wrens flutter from maple to maple outside the veterinary hospital, watching the clouds blow across the sky, I would have said you were crazy. But I loved those days on the grass with Dante. I loved hearing about the Mormon grandmother of this vet student, the cheating boyfriend of that one, while scratching an ear or rubbing a belly, or scratching the place where toenail meets toe. I loved the way Dante kept his dignity, even when he was sick or in pain, the way he made the transition so effortlessly, from a dog who wanted to run from one end of the state of Colorado to another, to a dog that was appreciative of a few hours on the hospital grass. I loved feeding him lamb from New Zealand, and Tahitian Noni juice for his immune system, and oatmeal cookies because they were his favorite, after the chemo had made him reluctant to eat. I loved the way Dante went back into the hospital willingly with Dr. Walsh at the end of three hours, so as not to make me cry, or hurt the doctor's feelings. Because of the infection, because of the cancer, because of the way one surgery led into the next, we lived with the idea that any day of lawn sitting and cloud watching might be the last. I loved the way Dante made me understand that in the name of love, I could sit still until the end of time.

Go to lesson #7

Reprinted from Dog Is My Co-Pilot, from the editors of The Bark © 2003 Permission granted by Crown Publishers.

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