The first time Dan and I got a puppy (over twelve years ago now), we had no kids. As I’ve written on this blog in a prior post, Sanibel was our first child, and we grieved for a long time after she passed away in November, 2018. This summer though, we realized that our youngest kids barely remember her, and while Sanibel can never be replaced, we also knew that we wanted our kids to grow up with a dog in the house.
We knew it would be a challenge to bring a puppy into the mix with four active children already. So we decided to make it absolutely as hard as possible by purchasing said puppy on the brink of winter during the pandemic right after travel restrictions tightened up again. That way, the kids’ grandparents would be unable to babysit them as we had been hoping so Dan and I could drive out and get the puppy ourselves. Instead, my daughter and I could make the 15-hour round trip harrowing drive through a Nor’easter into Pennsylvania and back. (After hydroplaning slightly on the highway, I heard a voice from the backseat: “Mom, what was that sound?” “Oh, just the tires going through some water. We’re going to drive in the middle of the road now.”)
Fortunately, Dan volunteered to run the remote schooling show in the upstairs of our house, so I could sit in the dining room and learn the music. Rehearsing with Opal snuggled in at my feet, I couldn’t help but compare the experience to practicing for the 2018 Christmas Concert. Sanibel hated music. Maybe she felt it was too unpredictable, maybe too loud, but when I think of the last weeks of her life, I remember the disdainful looks she gave me as I sang about God’s love for the world. My tiny newborn, Opal, by contrast, raised her head occasionally in surprise but went back to napping pretty easily. For me, the emotions involved in this process were overwhelming. To be recording a concert virtually during a pandemic while being reminded of a grievous loss in our family, I wanted to simultaneously cry for the memories and smile at the possibility to still carry on.
By the end of the week, I was feeling ready enough to sing for the camera. But first, I had to construct the set. After many iterations of furniture arrangements and lighting options, Dan helped me hang a white sheet over our bedroom closet door to create a neutral background, using the push pins that one of our sons brought home from school to strengthen his fine motor skills. After grabbing my children’s reading lamps for spotlights and slipping my phone into one son’s phone tripod from the Harry Potter invisibility cloak gift set he got for Christmas the year before, I felt ready. I took a practice selfie to assess my progress...and realized no one wanted to see that mugshot. So a shower and wardrobe choices and makeup followed, but eventually, it was time to press record.
After singing my heart out, I played back the recording, only to hear my children’s screams from the living room downstairs. Right. I had left Dan to juggle four children and a non-potty-trained puppy at the same time. It was a bit much to ask, but after a few more takes, we got there.
During those early weeks of December, everything seemed to be happening at once, but after that, life seemed to calm down a little, back to its regular chaotic state. We were heading into the last days of school before Christmas break when we got the call from the vet late in the evening on December 22nd.
“Your dog has giardia.”
And if you have no idea why our stomachs sank when we heard those words, all I can say is lucky you that you’ve never experienced parasite-induced diarrhea. The first time Sanibel had giardia, we were living in an 8th floor apartment in Chicago. Dan will never forget that night when he waited for the elevator eight times, hoping our dog could hold it long enough to make it outside.
Opal, fortunately, was asymptomatic, but the vet recommended treating her before it really took hold...and before she affected anyone else in the house.
“Giardia can be transmitted from dogs to humans,” she warned.
And then I remembered how one of my sons had vomited his breakfast the other day. I had assumed he got up too early (ahem, 4:30am) in his excitement about the first big snowfall. But then later that evening, another son couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time after running in from playing in the snow. The snow pants were spared, but I was glad for the sanitize cycle on my washing machine in order to take care of the rest of the clothing. Come to think of it, a third son had complained of stomach pain after not eating much dinner...
Suddenly, it hit me that my children might already have giardia, and I needed the answer to a very pressing question: Am I going to have to collect stool samples from my children? On top of all of the other stresses I was already feeling, I really didn’t think I could do that one. I really thought that might make me snap.
The nurse who returned my frantic message to the pediatrician’s office tried to reassure me that it was unlikely my children had giardia.
“People actually contract different strains than dogs,” she explained. “But,” she continued, “they could have COVID.”
Ah. Right. They could have that virus that is ravaging our planet.
But I have to tell you that as I was talking to her on December 23rd, anticipating Christmas preparations and how we were basically heading into a quarantine time anyway and had been quarantined pretty much due to remote schooling, all I could think was how relieved I was that they likely didn’t have giardia. I wouldn’t have to schlep all of my children to the doctor’s office or rush out to get medication from the pharmacy. AND I WOULDN’T HAVE TO COLLECT ANY STOOL SAMPLES!
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.