We’ve all seen “Up”, right? If you haven’t, rent it. It’s a gem. Dug, the dog, is forced to wear a fetching, plastic Elizabethan collar known as the cone of shame.
Okay, so Shelby was scratching, gnawing actually, at her backside last week but I was busy with this and that, and dogs are always chewing at something, right? Am I right? We got back from a day of soccer on Saturday and BAM! Shelby had an icky, two-inch bald wound on her back that was flaming. It’s Saturday afternoon. Who knew that dogs, like humans, only came down with yucky stuff on the doctor’s day off, too? Honestly, illness strikes this family on Sunday evenings at seven, when no one is even on call. I decided Shelby’s wound could wait because we were having company on Saturday night and I wasn’t about to sit around an animal emergency room and pay double what my vet would charge on Monday morning. It’s during these times when you realize your pets are, in fact, not as important to you as your children. I’ve wondered.
We bought the cone at a local pet store, came home, snapped it around Shelby’s neck, and then proceeded to get depressed right along with her. Well, I did anyway. For the first three hours with this new accessory, Shelby just stood in the middle of the living room. There was humiliation etched on her face, but also confusion. Was she being punished? Could she sit down? How was she supposed to beg for food or play with Jack or dammit, get to that hot spot on her back?! “Maybe if I just stand here a little longer, they’ll notice my predicament and take this thing off.” We didn’t. Eventually, Shelby figured out her legs still worked and managed, after bumping into a few walls, to climb the stairs and pass out in Miss T’s room, away from the life she once knew.
Throughout Sunday afternoon, she followed me everywhere. I’d feel something hitting my leg and look down to see she was using the cone as a battering ram. “I’ll bug the crap out of her and she’ll take this off,” is what she was thinking. Still, I knew what was best for my Shelby, just as I often know what’s best for my kids. Tough love. Bitter medicine.
Sunday evening, I was the last one headed up to sleep. (I always am, but that’s another story.) Shelby came up to my side of the bed and started whining, so I reached into the cone and scratched behind her ears. This quieted her and so I curled up, tucked my hands under the blanket, and closed my eyes. She knocked up against the bed right beside my head and stared at me. No whining or whimpering, just thoughts like laser beams, telepathically being sent from my five-year-old cattle dog mix to me, her owner/master/everything:
“Are you f***ing kidding me? I’ve been bumping into walls and furniture all day. I can’t chew on the wound much less lick my privates. Jack’s all up in my face, losing respect. He ate my bully stick because I couldn’t get it off the kitchen floor. Did you not see that?! My ears are folded over, I have no sense of my surroundings, and I look like an ass. I’m not an ass, in case you don’t know. I’m a dog and I have no idea what the hell is going on. What the hell is going on?! Get this f***ing thing off of me!”
I started to laugh because, one, I didn’t know Shelby swore and, two, she said all this with the straightest face. In the dark, nothing was moving. It was just her furry snout and beady eyes, surrounded by the cone, staring at me for what must have been minutes. No one else was awake, so my giggles were just weird. Shelby thought so, too. Eventually, she padded away, disgusted.
Monday morning, when I walked her into the vet’s office, I realized I owed Shelby an apology. She’d been uncomfortable and scratching and I’d looked the other way, lost in my own perceived wounds, ignoring hers. Admit it. When you see a dog with the cone around its neck, aren’t you silently judging the owner? Blaming them for negligence? The dog’s cone of shame is, in fact, ours.
Loaded up with cortisone, an antibiotic, and flea medication, Shelby’s going to be just fine, even if she has to wear the E-collar another day or two. She’s gotten used to it, though she still doesn’t understand that she can’t fit through the dog door. She keeps trying, though.