64: Who’s Number One?

64: Who’s Number One?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Who’s Number One?

Most owners are at length able to teach themselves to obey their dog.

~Robert Morley

Oreo, as you might have guessed, is a black and white dog whose markings resemble his sandwich cookie namesake. He is a Portuguese Water Dog who has graced our household for eight years now.

Oreo is primarily my wife Cheryl’s dog. She bought him, she walks him (most of the time) and she showers him with unconditional love. In short, Oreo has earned a special place in our house almost akin to a second child.

For the most part, Oreo’s favored status has not been a problem. After all, he’s a dog and everyone loves dogs, especially one as pleasant and even-tempered as he.

Despite the constant expressions of affection directed Oreo’s way, I always assumed that I still retained at least an equally favored status. After all, I’ve been around far longer than Oreo and I am the one who pays his food, vet and toy bills.

Well, it turns out that I may have been mistaken all these years. Recent events have led me to reconsider my current status in the Martin household. Despite my seniority and chief breadwinner status, it seems that I, rather than Oreo, may be the expendable one.

It all started last Christmas when my sister came to visit and brought along a secondhand leather chair that she thought might be helpful for my arthritic hips. We unloaded the chair from the back of her pickup truck and brought it inside to the living room.

We moved the old cloth armchair that had been sitting by the front window and put the leather chair in its place. Sure enough, it was a better fit for my aging hips. It was higher and firmer than the old chair, thereby facilitating a faster and easier entrance and exit for me.

I was just about to retire the old armchair when Cheryl spoke up and said maybe we’d better check to see if the replacement was a good fit for Oreo too. You see, the old chair has been one of Oreo’s favorite resting spots for many years. He particularly likes to lie on it after lunch when the afternoon sun pours in through the front window onto his head resting atop one of the chair’s wooden arms.

“I think he’ll have a hard time getting up on that leather one,” said Cheryl. “And he might find it hard not to fall off that slippery leather surface.”

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised. Rather than accommodate my aging body, Cheryl wanted to ensure that her precious Oreo was not inconvenienced.

Since I seldom used the current living room armchair, the matter of replacing it with the secondhand leather one was not of great importance to me. So I quickly relented and Oreo retained his living room throne.

But if there had been any previous doubt, I now knew where I stood in the family hierarchy. I had a pretty good idea that I was now at least one station below the dog.

Just how far I had fallen over the years became crystal clear a few months later. Like his master, Oreo has developed osteoarthritis, albeit only in one hip and not as advanced as mine.

If Oreo goes for an extended, off-leash romp at the local dog run, he is likely to hobble about for the rest of the day. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t even dream of running and bouncing about like him since that would leave me in pain for the rest of the week.

Both Oreo and I have had X-rays taken of our hips, his costing way more than mine. Both he and I take daily doses of glucosamine, which seems much more effective for him. And Oreo even has a special vet-prescribed pain medication for those occasional times when he overdoes it and stiffens up a bit. I, on the other hand, have a bottle of aspirin.

The other day, I finally realized who really was number one in our house. Cheryl had spoken to another dog owner who mentioned an experimental stem cell treatment that apparently had helped to relieve her dog’s arthritic hips.

Cheryl was thrilled to find out about this new medical option for Oreo and was not deterred by its $2,000 price tag. Cheryl, it seems, is prepared to do whatever it takes to improve our dog’s quality of life.

As for me, I suspect I’m on my own.

~David Martin

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