The top gift on a pet owner's wish listNov 29, 2022 02:24PM ● By Marti Benson
For December, I wanted to write about gifts for your pets—the kinds of gifts you wrap in paper or stuff into a bag, or just slap a bow on top of. Jaunty coats and jazzy sweaters; plush toys that your dog will love and then discard for your old slippers. I wanted to make a list of affordable and amusing presents to pamper your pet with this holiday.
But yesterday, I had a hard time getting into the spirit. My dog Ernie has cancer. This is the dog who, with the help of his veterinary warriors, bared his teeth at cirrhosis, eluding the dismal odds for almost four years. When I call the clinic for his prescription refills, there is always a pause.
“So… Ernie is still with us, then!”
Since this recent cancer diagnosis, I magically mused that he might just lift his leg on the Grim Reaper’s feet once again. But yesterday morning we caught a glimpse of his mortality.
The grand mal seizure racked Ernie’s body just before sunrise. Scrambling to calm him and comfort his frantic brother, Chip, we realized, in utter disbelief, that this might be the end. In the aftermath, Ernie could not get up, nor use his left-sided limbs. We carried our weak fluffy clown to a sunny bed in the living room, and Chip curled up nearby. I called the vet. As she listed the likely (bleak) reasons for Ernie’s condition, I glanced at him lying motionless, but peaceful.
“Tomorrow,” I choked.
In the kitchen around noon, Ernie’s nose poked my leg.
“Did you forget about my breakfast?” he asked. I was euphoric.
His right eye was wonky, and his body swayed to the left. But as the day progressed, the Leaning Tower of Ernie became upright Ernie, which progressed to trotting Ernie. Barking Ernie joined Chip in the yard, and the brothers alerted us to strangers walking by. Hungry Ernie reminded me about supper and his bedtime treat. I reminded him, repeatedly, that I love him, and that he is such a good boy.
I know what this is, and that it’s temporary. I’ve gone through this with human loved ones. One hospice nurse called it The Gift—that extraordinary and elusive moment when a patient suddenly declares, “I’m not dead yet!” It might last a minute or an hour or an entire day. Some lucky people get a week or a month out of it.
When the sun came up this morning, Ernie was standing next to our bed, staring at my husband Kyle. And as I write this—in this moment—Ernie is dozing by my feet. We don’t know what’s next, or even when “next” is.
This gift doesn’t require tape or tissue. It is fleeting and fickle and frustrating, with no guarantees. And once it’s gone, it’s not refillable. But this precious and uncertain gift of time? Priceless.