27: Christmas Poop for the Soul

27: Christmas Poop for the Soul

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Christmas Poop for the Soul

The belly rules the mind.

~Spanish Proverb

Our morning started off with the usual bustling around to get everything together before we ran out the door to school and work. My husband had left an hour earlier to beat rush hour. I took my last bites of breakfast and threw together two more lunches for my son and me. I called out little reminders to help him pack his bag for school and he wandered down from his room fully dressed, backpack in hand with tousled hair. The last thing we always did before leaving was let the dog out. We had quite a solid routine, even down to the gravelled area where Oliver was trained to go to the loo. On this particular morning I was feeling quite pleased with myself because, with only a few days left of school and work, we were leading up to our most well budgeted holiday season yet. I’d finished my shopping by October, we’d made a few handmade gifts, and I’d actually cut our holiday spending almost in half.

But, on this frigid Winnipeg morning, that was about to change. First, Oliver didn’t want to go out. For him this was very unusual. Normally he rang the dog bell we’d trained him to use if he needed to go out. He was even known to bark at us as we were leaving to make us realize we’d forgotten to let him out! I thought perhaps the cold hit him at the door, but being an eighty-pound Lab who loved the snow, that had never stopped him before. I nudged him out the side door and headed back to the kitchen to gather our things to put by the front door. I had a habit, from his puppyhood, of always glancing out the window to be sure he’d had time to go, but this time I could see that he was struggling.

I had no idea at that moment that we would need to unravel the mystery of what our dog had ingested the previous day. I stopped cold at the window because he was trying and trying, but wasn’t able to poop. And then suddenly his breakfast came right back out the way it went in. At least he was outside. We hollered him back in and confined him to the floor space in the back hall, giving him plenty of water. My son Gavin dragged down Oliver’s huge pillow from the bedroom to make him comfy. The plan? Drop my son at school, tell my office I’d be late and scoot Ollie off to the vet for a check-up.

Several hundred dollars later he’d been poked and prodded, given a chalky substance to swallow with X-rays and the surgery was booked for two days later to remove whatever was blocking his stomach. The parting words from the vet? Pray for poop.

When we got home that day, Oliver was his usual happy self, although ravenously hungry, so he scarfed down the tiny bowl of rice suggested by the vet. Our goal was to figure out what he’d eaten. We knew that he could not resist socks because socks went missing often and we’d even found Gavin’s little Baby Gap socks in Ollie’s poop. But over the years, we’d become vigilant with our socks. Our slogan was “always in the drawer, never on the floor.” So we searched around the house to figure out what else could be missing.

The entire house was decorated with holiday ornaments; the tree was trimmed; the garland was out. Every Christmas book and stuffed animal with a Santa hat was on display but everything seemed to be in order. We even had an adorable fabric storybook nativity scene all laid out on the hearth. Everything looked normal at first glance, but it was Gavin who noticed that something was missing. The fabric book was unfolded as the backdrop to the manger, and the little characters of Mary and Joseph were softly stuffed little egg-shaped fabric prints. The tiny cradle was nestled perfectly between them. But yes, something was definitely missing. My husband called Oliver over in a low voice saying, “What did you do?” Ollie’s ears went down and he looked away as he always did when he was in trouble. Oliver had eaten baby Jesus!

The vet confirmed that the X-ray did look like a wad of batting that was caught up inside and all we could do was wait. The next day we continued to give Oliver small portions of rice, hoping that the fabric and batting would break down a bit more so he could pass it. I came home every few hours to check on him. The night before the surgery we lay in bed thinking that what was initially going to be our least expensive Christmas ever was turning out to be a financial disaster. The surgery was going to bring us well over the thousand-dollar mark. We both closed our eyes with the same wish that night as we drifted off to sleep.

The next morning we awoke a bit earlier than usual. We both stirred, hearing Oliver’s bell and rolled towards each other hoping to nudge the other person into hopping out of bed first. At once we both realized that this was one bell we had both wanted to hear and we bolted downstairs together to get Oliver outside. What a sight we must have been in our housecoats and winter boots hooting and hollering with joy at 5 a.m. as our dog pooped out baby Jesus.

~Brandy Lynn Maslowski

Summerland, British Columbia

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