Two Dogs, One Heart
Mayday came home a week ago. Her fever was gone and she was basically ready to return to her life. There had been no ready explanation for her illness and no real explanation for her recovery, other than the antibiotics she received and the “magic” chicken and rice concoction I took to her up at the animal hospital in Vermont.
I went to get her last Sunday. The hospital was closed but Andrea was there to let me in. The waiting room was quiet, no anxious dogs on leads or cats in carriers, making themselves heard. Mayday was in the back, curled in sleep. When she heard my voice, she lifted her head sharply and seemed to break out in a smile. I took her in my arms. She was so light compared with her usual weight.
Andrea gave me a packet of oral antibiotics that would last Mayday another week and told me to keep feeding her the special chicken mix, gradually mixing in her usual food until she was back to normal.
I put her on the leash and walked her to the car, past the paddock with Andrea’s donkeys. One of them stopped in his tracks and brayed, that funny breathless call that sounds like a bagpipe warming up.
When we reached the car, an Amtrak passenger train went thundering by on the tracks behind the house, blowing its horn mightily. There is only one such train that goes through Westminster so I knew they were headed for New York City. This seemed auspicious, Mayday returning home with these two clarions as signs of life. She settled into the back seat, which is her riding preference, and we headed for home.
I was apprehensive about her health, of course, but further I was worried about reintroducing her into the house, now that Harriet had had a whole week as an Only Dog. She had taken to it quite well and I was afraid that would only intensify their rivalry.
When we neared the house, Mayday sat up and yipped, happy to see the familiar sight of home. I decided for the first day, at least, I would keep her in a separate room with the door closed, just to get her back into her routine and let her feel safe. So I carried her inside to my bedroom and sat with her for a while.
She was just like anyone who’s spent time in hospital. Shaky on her feet, very very thin, and, if possible, even pale. She likes to lie on the bed facing out the window, looking toward the field where there is sometimes deer or turkeys to be viewed. And barked at. She lay down, facing the field, and gave a big sigh. Her happiness was palpable.
Harriet, meanwhile, was tied up outside, wondering what was going on. I brought her in and played ball with her, which kept her occupied. This was fine for a while but I had guests who came soon after. I got a little distracted and apparently left the door to my room open. Sometime later that evening, from the kitchen, I heard the sounds of two dogs playing. I held my breath and snuck toward the bedroom. When I got there, the two of them were lying on the bed together, regarding me curiously. An hour later, they were asleep side by side.
Just as I cannot explain Mayday’s illness and recovery, I cannot explain this either. I had felt extremely guilty about Mayday getting sick as I suspected that it was somehow tied to Harriet’s arrival into this household. Friends told me I was being silly but I never saw anything like the way Mayday reacted to Harriet. If a dog could hold its nose, she would have. And she was angry with me. When I walked into the room, she would get up and leave. Rather than sleep with me, which she has for all of her 13 years, she slept on the couch.
There was no doubt in my mind that Mayday was very angry with me about bringing this little pest into our house, into her comfortable life. And I felt all this had caused her to be sick.
Harriet was not mean or vicious. She was just a puppy who wanted to play. She always approached Mayday with tail wagging a mile a minute. But Mayday was pretty firm. No way, you little intruder! Get lost!
So I don’t know whether a week in the hospital made us all look a lot more attractive but Mayday is more open to the idea of Harriet as friend. When Harriet gets to be too much, Mayday lets her know. But they have found their way and spend most mornings tussling on the porch. I hope it lasts.
In one short week, Mayday has regained her lost weight and looks like herself again, pink cheeks and all. Harriet is happy to have her friend home. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the chicken and rice or maybe just that old thing about absence making the heart grow fonder. Whatever, it certainly has made my heart feel a lot better.