The Forever Endeavor: Loving Our Pets In Sickness and In Health

It’s so easy to love any being - including our pets - when everything is going “right.”

But what happens when life’s path takes a daunting turn?

Our Boston terrier, Lilly, really sucks . . . I mean, like a real, live vacuum cleaner. Any object of alluring scent (read: just about anything) lying on the sidewalk or the city grass may shoot past Lilly’s gullet toward her tummy like an urgent package through a pneumatic tube.

“Leave it” has become one of our most uttered commands. Sometimes, the words come too late and we have no idea what she just gobbled up. Unfortunately, Lilly’s bowel is not a canister that we can simply empty out and twist back into place.

Two days after I tried to spring a suspicious object from Lilly’s throat, she became listless and developed diarrhea. I will spare you the details other than to say that we awoke to an explosion of dijon mustard in the loft of our condo.

We immediately consulted an on-line vet, got a recipe for rice water and gave her some Imodium. Her runs did not stop and, by that evening, her rump was as red as passionfruit and looked as though it was turned inside out. A trip to urgent care, a follow-up with her own vet, some antibiotics and a higher fiber diet began to turn the tide; Lilly’s poops were firmer, but they kept “leaking” out at the most inopportune times. More than once, Susan mashed a turd while shifting in bed.

Lilly never got a definitive diagnosis. Ulcerative colitis? Proctitis? Parasites? (Her stool samples came back negative.) There was talk of a congenital anomaly of the spine - specific to curly-tailed breeds like our Boston - that could result in sudden-onset bowel-incontinence and account for our morning collection of “jelly bellies” on the floor.

Would the incontinence last? Would it matter?

Through my work as a medical speech pathologist I’ve met many geriatric patients who are incontinent of bowel and blush with embarrassment following an aromatic “accident.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I’ve recently said, “You’ve got nothing on my dog!” To which they laugh and crap even more.

I turned 60 last Friday. One day, I may lose sphincter control and join the ranks of the Incontinental Congress. If that time comes, I pray that at least one caring soul will be around to smile after I unceremoniously drop my load.

For now, Lilly wears a diaper: fashionable black, to match her butt. She’s very compliant when we put it on before bed. The ends of the velcro flaps stand up like Mickey Mouse ears when they’re fastened.

Each morning, we check Lilly’s diaper for “love nuggets.” Sometimes we find a few; sometimes we don’t.

One thing’s for certain: there’s no “load” we won’t bear.