Dogs get sick and we feel like failures

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Normally I try not to compare having a dog to having a child, but just this once I just can’t help it. Of course I would never say that “raising” a dog is as difficult as raising a child, but it’s definitely something that requires a whole lot of patience and hard work. It’s as close as I’ve come to feeling like a mother figure without actually birthing a baby. And, like all mothers at one point or another in their life, this week I feel like a failure.

Our 1-year-old Boston terrier, Ripley, has had problems since day one. Just days after bringing her home from the breeder when she was a ten-week-old puppy, we noticed she was having diarrhea. Her appetite was great and she ate like she was starving, but we took her to the vet when we realized the diarrhea wasn’t going away. Turns out she had giardia, a parasite, and we ended up spending a lot of money to get it to go away.


The next obstacle came when we were attempting to train her. She didn’t seem to recognize her name. In fact, she didn’t come when we whistled, squeezed a squeaky toy, shook treats or did anything else that made noise. In exploring the matter further with our vet, who was old friends with Ripley by then, we determined that she was deaf. We’ve managed to adjust to the situation, and some days I actually like having a deaf dog. We can come home from the grocery store or work without her waking up until we’re ready to let her out of the crate. She doesn’t wake up when I get up for the bathroom in the middle of the night unless I accidentally bump into the crate. I wouldn’t trade her for a hearing dog any day.

About a month ago, she started scratching a lot. I couldn’t see any fleas or ticks, so I started giving her fish oil supplements at the suggestion of a friend of ours who is a vet tech. At the time I figured it was probably just dry skin. It started to get worse despite the fish oil, so we took her to the vet, who thought she had a skin allergy and prescribed oral meds. After a week she was still itching, we took her back, another doctor thought she had mange and prescribed a gel treatment. Fast forward to this week, she was still itching and had developed a red rash on her trunk and underarm area.

Awesome took her to the vet where they prescribed even more medication. Now they think she has a food allergy. Talking to the vet over the phone, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure as a dog mama. My poor baby relies on me to take care of her and make sure she is comfortable and warm and fed, and now she is covered in an itchy rash and miserably scratching so much her fur is getting patchy. I can’t even describe how terrible I feel about it.

I imagine this is partially how parents feel when their child is sick and they can’t do anything but wait around until they get better. My mom had always described feeling like she would trade places with me in a second when I was sick as a kid, and now I am beginning to see how she feels. I can’t imagine how I would feel if it was my actual flesh and blood.

Of course, I know that it’s not really my fault, just like it’s not a parent’s fault when their kid comes home with chicken pox. It doesn’t make any sense but you still feel it all the same. Awesome doesn’t understand it either, but I can tell he also feels bad. We had to give Ripley FOUR pills tonight with her dinner (which was boiled chicken and rice) and he made a sad face when he was giving them to her. But hopefully now she is on the mend, because I can’t stand to see her in such misery for much longer.