96: He Can’t Jump

96: He Can’t Jump

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

He Can’t Jump

A dog desires more affection than his dinner. Well—almost!

~Charlotte Gray

“I am glad we did the biopsy, Lorraine,” Dr. Tom, my vet said gently. “The lump was full of cancer.”

I wasn’t sure how to react. I was numb. Marshall was my first yellow Lab service dog, and we had been partnered for less than a month. I was thirty and used to being on my own, still adjusting to sharing my apartment with this new creature and making him part of my life. In that short time, I had grown to love him. The devastation consumed me. I had no idea how to care for a sick animal. My cerebral palsy meant that I was the one who often needed medical procedures; I wasn’t used to nursing a loved one through an illness.

I immediately called the owner of the service dog school, with whom I had worked closely when I got matched with Marshall. When he heard the situation, he said matter-of-factly, “Well, if he dies, you can get another dog.” Then he hung up. My blood ran cold.

In the long days that followed, family and friends offered their advice. “You can’t be too attached at this point, you just met. Why don’t you just give him back and get another dog?” they said. But that wasn’t an option for me. My parents didn’t “get another one” when my disability was diagnosed. I had bonded with Marshall—we belonged together. I wasn’t going to reject him because he had cancer. I was committed to him no matter what.

His surgery was the day before Thanksgiving. The weather was clear and cold. Marshall was prepped and anesthetized. Although I knew that he was in excellent hands, my belly did somersaults as I waited helplessly. What if something went wrong? What if his pain was out of control? What if I couldn’t handle his recovery? I prayed to God fervently. Marshall had to be okay. Surgery was going to make him better, and then I was going to do everything in my power to help him get well.

Thanksgiving morning I brought him home with a big plastic cone on his head and a goofy, tired grin on his face. His abdomen had been shaved and he had a belly full of stitches. I was nervous about caring for him. Removing the tumor had been a difficult surgery for Marshall. Would his recovery be tricky as well?

The vet gave me a gentle warning: “Marshall won’t be able to jump, Lorraine. He won’t have much energy. And his incision site is pretty tender, so be careful.”

Marshall was moving pretty slowly, but otherwise he seemed okay. We were ready to spend a quiet holiday by ourselves. Once we were home, Marshall and I snuggled for most of the day as I kept a close eye on him. He was groggy, but he seemed satisfied with the loving attention I showered on him. Late in the afternoon, while he dozed, I put the finishing touches on a small ham for my Thanksgiving dinner. As I drizzled the pineapple glaze on top, the phone rang in my bedroom. It was my sister calling to ask about Marshall. We exchanged holiday greetings for several short minutes before I returned to the kitchen.

The ham was gone.

Marshall was sitting in the corner licking his lips and looking extremely pleased with himself.

As I look back, it seems pretty hilarious, but at that moment I was panic-stricken. My dog, who was not even supposed to be able to jump, had pulled an entire ham off the counter and eaten the whole thing in less than five minutes. What if he had ripped through his stitches? What if he had done some internal damage? How was I supposed to take care of him?

I explained the situation to Dr. Tom on the phone. He was also stunned that Marshall had physically accomplished this mischief. With step-by-step instructions, he told me that I needed to make Marshall vomit. I filled a turkey baster with hydrogen peroxide and determinedly squeezed it down his throat. A little confused about the change in my demeanor, he obediently accompanied me outside and we waited.

As Marshall walked close to my wheelchair, around the grounds of my apartment complex, I talked to him. “I love you buddy. I want you to be well. We will do whatever it takes. What were you thinking?” Never before had I urged anyone to throw up, but Marshall, it turned out, exposed me to many new experiences. “C’mon buddy. Let it all out. All that salty ham isn’t good for you right now.”

Nothing happened.

After about half an hour, I called the vet again, and then repeated the process. Back outside, we went around and around. I petted and prodded, I threatened and encouraged. But Marshall never threw up. Not even after two more doses of hydrogen peroxide. He did burp once, though. I could tell that he thought I had unrealistic expectations.

Several hours later I called the vet for the last time that evening. Although I was quite shaken, Dr. Tom assured me that Marshall would likely be okay.

Marshall, on the other hand, seemed to wonder what all the fuss was about. This sort of stunt, I would learn, was in his nature. Jumping up on the counter to eat an entire ham was an incredible opportunity. Marshall didn’t want to empty his belly, he wanted to fill it! As we drifted to sleep that night, his eyes glazed over and I could nearly hear him say, “Pass the sweet potatoes!”

Marshall and I shared nine Thanksgiving holidays thereafter. On each one, I gave Marshall a much smaller piece of ham, as a celebration of his unconquerable spirit and cast iron stomach.

He never had to jump for it again.

~Lorraine Cannistra

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