Yesterday I was supposed to take part in the blogging event 1000 Voices for Compassion. 1000 bloggers writing posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment, etc., all published on the same day (Feb 20th) to “flood the Blogosphere with GOOD!” I first heard about it from my friend Lisa, who has a blog called Flingo. I have a fondness for the number 1000 and as you might already know, compassion is one of my favorite subjects.
But things didn’t go quite as planned. I came home in the early afternoon because Eric was working late and I needed to take the dogs on their second walk. It was supposed to rain and then snow, so we went a bit earlier than usual. My plan was that after we walked, we’d all get in the car, go to the feed store to get dog food and treats, then to the grocery store, and hopefully we’d get back in time for me to finally take a shower (the whole day had been so busy, I hadn’t had time yet), and I’d feed the dogs dinner and write my blog post before Eric got home.
That’s not what happened. At the beginning of our walk, Ringo stubbed his injured toe, and I thought we were going to have to turn around and go straight home, that I might have to take him to the vet after all, but I checked his foot and it was fine, and he went on without any other issues. I however was close to the end of my rope. I’d been worried about him all week. My mind was absolutely fixated on it. It was the same old story — I had myself in knots trying so hard to do the right thing, to not make a mistake, to keep him safe, but was so anxious something would go wrong, was so aware that no matter how much I prepared or how hard I tried, something could always go wrong. I worried I should have taken Ringo to the vet sooner. I worried that we weren’t caring for the cut “right,” that maybe we shouldn’t be walking him so much. I worried it would get infected. I worried that maybe his foot or even the whole leg would have to get amputated. I worried he’d get so sick he’d die. This is how my brain works sometimes, kind and gentle reader. Losing Obi and Dexter to cancer has given me a weird case of PTSD when it comes to my dogs.
I was feeling frazzled. So when Ringo picked up the black knit toddler’s glove he’d wanted to get each time we walked past it, I didn’t tell him to drop it this time. He walks so nice when he’s carrying something that it’s tempting to just let him. Sometimes he finds a plastic water bottle or tennis ball or a single adult sized glove and I let him carry it for as long as he wants. It keeps him occupied (this boy gets bored on walks) and from eating other stuff off the ground he shouldn’t because something is already in his mouth. The kid’s glove was really too small, and I thought to myself “it’s probably a bad idea to let him have that, and for sure Eric wouldn’t want me to let him,” but in the moment I decided that something that would make him walk nicely for me for even just a single block was worth what I thought was a minor risk.
I was wrong. I let him carry it for a block, and as we rounded the next corner, I turned to tell him to drop it. At the same time, a dog in the yard we were passing started barking at us. This next part all seemed to happen in slow motion — I realized the challenge of the dog in the yard had made Ringo decide to swallow the glove. I threw the leashes down and grabbed Ringo, putting my fingers down his throat. I could feel the glove, but my fingers were too short and kept slipping. I couldn’t get a good grip and Ringo was biting down, fighting me. I had to pull my hand out and quickly try again. This time, the glove wasn’t there. He’d swallowed it and was looking at me like “what, Mom?”
He seemed totally fine, and there was nothing else to do but get home as fast as we could. My finger was bleeding and my hand was bruised and scratched up, my breath was shallow and fast, and I was crying a little. I called the vet as soon as we walked in the door and he said that even though Ringo would probably pass it, if I didn’t want to risk it, I could bring him in and they’d induce vomiting so he’d throw it up.
This wasn’t the first time Ringo ate something he shouldn’t have. I knew all too well the anxiety of waiting for something to pass through — rocks, sticks, a wooden peg from one of our dining room chairs, part of a leather glove. Wolverine, Hoover, Danny Glover, Ringo Blue is notorious for eating anything he can get in his mouth, no matter how gross or seemingly inedible. We once had an emergency vet recommend we walk him wearing a muzzle. We laughed at her suggestion, not because we thought it was a ridiculous idea but because we knew Ringo would just try to eat the muzzle. He doesn’t have a bed or blanket in the crate we leave him in when we go to work, and there’s no cover on it. The curtains that used to hang down near his nighttime crate are tied in a knot up high so he can’t reach them and are missing a chunk of the bottom corner to evidence why. I say “leave it” or “drop it” at least 50 times on every walk. Ringo can’t be left unsupervised in the backyard, and even supervised he can only stay out for 5-10 minutes because he’s gets into everything. The only time he gets to play with soft toys is for a few minutes while I’m watching him, taking it away as soon as he starts to try and shred or rip it — I don’t care if he ruins a toy, but any part he chews off, he wants to swallow. We pulled him out of daycare because they weren’t watching him closely enough when he was outside and one day he ate a bunch of rocks and sticks and got sick.
I took Ringo straight to the vet. I decided I’d rather get the glove out of him than risk what might happen if we left it in. When we walked in, the girls at the counter called out “Mitten Boy!” One of them took him in the back, and about five minutes later, our vet came up front with a rumpled black glove in a plastic bag.
We ran our errands and I got my shower, but I didn’t write a blog post. I worried that Eric would be disappointed or mad that I’d let Ringo carry the glove, but instead he was grateful I’d taken care of him, got him to the vet. He kept telling me what a good mom I was, that he was sorry I’d had to go through that, was so glad Ringo was okay. I didn’t even beat myself up for it, which is pretty unusual. Usually if something goes wrong, I’m quick to blame myself, smash myself to bits for it, but this time I didn’t. I could see things for how they were. It was a dumb mistake. It wasn’t intentional, and I dealt with the consequences. I’ll know better next time. And of course, I would never hurt Ringo on purpose.
I did freak out a little later, thinking about what might have happened if instead of swallowing the glove, it had gotten stuck where I couldn’t reach it, that Ringo could have choked on it before I could get him to the vet. That’s how life is — no matter how diligent we are, no matter how prepared or careful, we can’t control everything. Shit happens. Every moment of our life comes ripe with risk. We are never safe, even when we imagine we are.
The only thing we can do in the midst of this chaos, the only thing we can trust is compassion. We forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. We let others help us. We are kind to someone who is hurting, comfort them however we can. We try as best we can to ease suffering where we find it. We don’t give up.