Saturday, February 11, 2012
Chicken Soup for the Dog
Who would have guessed that a tiny, shivering, English Springer Spaniel would affect my sleep for many years?
On a dark and stormy night one early Autumn, my parents escaped into the night, leaving me in charge of my sisters – with my grandparents who lived upstairs as back-up, of course. Mom and Dad NEVER went out, and with their excuse of needing to go to the bank (on a night like that?), my radar was up.
They did come back - with a tiny, shivering puppy in their arms! That little liver and white puppy was a thrill for my two sisters and me. But the excitement would be short-lived.
Barely a week had gone by when Princess fell ill with an extreme case of kennel cough. After three nights at the veterinarian’s office, medication and fluids pumped into her round the clock via intravenous, the vet finally gave her the all-clear to come home. While we bundled her up, the vet scratched his head; he was surprised she had survived.
As the skin-and-bones puppy came home once again, nursing her back to health was forefront. When we weren’t feeding her chicken soup (recommended by the vet at the time), we were wiping her runny nose. Always tired, day by day she grew stronger.
Many evenings were spent watching TV with my Mom after my sisters went to bed. I would sit in the big easy chair, and with a little help, Princess would clamber her way up to my lap. Although getting stronger and almost recovered, a tissue was still sometimes needed for her nose. Both growing into our teens, our lanky bodies found a way to curl-up comfortably on the big chair. Eventually, as her body grew, the chair and my lap did not. She wasn’t a puppy anymore, as so she thought, and much to our dismay, the floor at my feet became her ‘spot.’
Shortly after Princess recovered, I caught a nasty flu bug. Sick in bed, too tired and weak to even get up and watch TV, I barely ate and lost weight; Mom was on the verge of taking me to the hospital. One afternoon while drifting in and out of sleep, I was instantly aware of my bed moving. Princess had jumped, pulled and dragged her way up my bed. This was a first.
Her excitement at both a new place to play and seeing someone she hadn’t seen in a while had her jumping in the blankets and pouncing at my legs wiggling underneath. My laughter, a rare sound those days with me being so sick, had Mom running, wondering if I was beyond delirious. Seeing the dog on my bed, some colour in my face, and laughter bouncing off the walls, she left us.
Since Princess had figured out how to get on the bed, with no coaxing from me, she found her new sleeping spot. Through my teens, right up until I married and left home, she slept down between my feet. Sometimes she jumped up with me at bedtime, sometimes not. In the middle of the night, however, she would eventually make her way up, and every morning I would wake to find here there. The weight of her down at my feet became a source of comfort and security to me, and eventually it became such the norm that when she wasn’t there, I definitely noticed. Not even the addition of a cat to the house, and my bed, would change where Princess slept.
My two sisters and I dragged her everywhere. To the playground, up the slide, through the snow – you name it. She was the family dog - our pal - and we loved and cared for her equally.
When I left home after getting married, and unable to take her with me to our rented apartment, she took up night-time residence on the floor between my sisters’ and parent’s bedrooms. I missed her and her comforting weight on my bed, but I saw her when I could.
About a year into my marriage, my husband had to go out of town for business. Seeing an opportunity to spend time with my family, I stayed overnight in the family den on the pullout sofa-bed. When I went to bed that night, who found her way, however now getting older, onto the bed? Princess. And there we slept, as if time hadn’t passed.
As the way things go, I moved on with my life, and Princess moved on to her next life. Having a family and busy life gave way to new experiences, memories and traditions, but the heartache lingered for a long time; she was never far from my mind. Through the years I had (another) cat who slept down at my feet, and even a clingy toddler who took up residence in the same spot for a few months. Their presence not only resurfaced memories and love for the dog who made me laugh that day I was so sick, but also gave me the best, comforting sleep.
The cat is no longer with us, and the toddler is now too big to sleep in my bed. With no one at my feet, and despite the fact that my own upward creeping age is likely the culprit for notorious bad sleeps, I wonder…
Maybe it was those early years of feeding her chicken soup when she was so sick, that led her to offer comfort at the end of my bed; I will never know. But I do know that I still miss her, twenty years later, sleeping down at my feet. Maybe a bowl of soup before bed would help me sleep…….