“Poop! Do Not Eat!”

June 17, 2007

Over the past few weeks, my longtime travel companion, guard dog, and best friend has been having some bowel problems. This is not a sexy topic to write about, me scrubbing poop off the carpet, sifting through the runny muck for any sign of blood, the trip to the vet where I started crying because I thought she had somehow, regardless of her vaccinations, been stricken with Parvo and was going to die. And while it’s not Parvo, she’s losing her bowels again, even pooping while I’m in the house. I can tell it bothers her; she starts whining, hides under the table, and watches me clean up out of the corner of her eye, her head slanted away. I don’t yell, chide, or reprimand. It’s not her fault. I wish it was. I wish she was just angry about something and decided to take it out on our carpet. That way, I wouldn’t have to consider that she might be sick or dying.   

We have been together for a long time, and while we were backpacking and carcamping the west, she was always plodding along beside me. She bailed me out when I got circled up by a bunch of coydogs in Tuba City; she snarled off a scary dude in the desert near Sinclair; and she’s my touchstone now that I’ve entered the world of adults and careers and 401K’s. And now this. I am scared for us. 

So I’m doing what any responsible friend does: I’m scheduling a vet appointment and have collected already the stool sample in a plastic bag. The sample needs to be refrigerated to protect its integrity. In other words, if it’s not refrigerated, the vet won’t get a good read on accurate counts of blood per parts per million, etc. Needless to say, there’s something strange about a bag of poop next to all that food. It’s unnerving for me to grab a plum by reaching beyond a plastic baggy of my dog’s poop, or reaching for the milk only to knock the poop down a shelf. 

I solved this problem, though, by putting the bag of poop in a box, giving it its own shelf (the bottom one), and writing on a 3×5 card taped to the box: “Poop! Do Not Eat!” This last flourish, I admit, baffles me. Why would I do this? My roommate is gone all summer for work, no one else uses the fridge, and I am not so scattered as to forget what precisely is in the Morning Glory Black Bean Burger box on the bottom shelf all by itself. Throughout the day, whenever I grab something from the fridge, my eyes are drawn to the chicken scrawl in magic marker and, almost like a mantra, I’m compelled to say it out loud: “Poop! Do Not Eat!” It’s sound advice. But do I really need it?

Whether I do or not is debatable. What’s not debatable is that someday she’s going to die. And it’s likely that it’ll be before me. And while I am filled with nothing but gratitude and love for her, there’s a part of me that already mourns, by extension, everything I’ll someday lose. It’s a difficult reality we’re confronted with. We love, we work, we strive. We grow close to some, lose touch with others. We continue with our lives regardless the shots we endure. We fight the good fight. Yet, for all our struggle, our passion, our joy, the end of anything is written in its genesis. Therein is the miracle, therein the grace. It is not miraculous to love. But to let love trump the fear, the inevitability of loss, and the sorrow bound to come, that’s the real deal. Everything else is shit. Which, as you know from the 3×5 card in the fridge, is not for you to eat.