My wife Randy remembered she wrote a few years ago after watching me give a pill to our dog Miguel recently.
I’m waiting for the right dog to take his butter pill. Not bitter pill. Butter Pill. It’s medicine in butter, and we don’t want Dylan to take it. Only Miguel, because only Miguel has giardia. Ugh.
Dylan, our Chocolate Lab, will eat anything. Miguel, our formerly starving Mexican stray, will not. He’s picky at best, skipping meals, often for days at a time. Recently, with his giardia, he’s been eating, but he’s also been pooping rivers of diarrhea.
But this may be too much information.
The point is he’s a pain to pill. Just now, instead of eating his butter pill, he left it with Dylan standing there salivating, ready to pounce. Just abandoned it and went upstairs to see Robert. I had to move quickly to rescue it and fend Dylan off while I waited for Robert to come downstairs to pill Miguel for real.
Robert’s method is to anchor him firmly under his armpit, pry his mouth open with one hand, and shove the butter pill down his throat with the other. Then clamp his mouth shut, massage his throat, and croon, “Good boy, swallow that…good boy!” And release! Like roping a calf, it takes a cowboy to do it.
In this case that cowboy is Robert, Miguel’s hero, alpha dog, personal favorite. His worship of Robert is such that I dread the day when he needs pilling and Robert is unavailable. I envision a blood bath, or at least a Mexican standoff.
Or maybe, finally, grudgingly, he’ll eat the proffered “treat.” He sometimes deigns to eat treats I offer him, but never out of my hand. That honor is reserved for Cowboy Bob.
Miguel and I have a tense, wary, loving relationship. If I’m the only game in town – say, when Robert has been gone for three days and Miguel has spent those days in the chair at the window, pining, anxiously awaiting his man’s return, when there are still no signs that his beloved will be back soon, and I appear to be his only option – then and only then, will he take food from me, or push his forehead coyly into the crook of my leg to be petted, or prance a bit when I return home after a brief absence.
I’m on the second string, I know, but it still feels good. Like an honor – a coveted award bestowed upon me by the skinny, tailless immigrant who has taken up residence in my home and in my heart.
We are friends most of the time, Miguel and I. We’re happy to be together, we have each other’s backs. I walk him, treat him, brush him, and gently tell him “off” when he stands on the chair at the front window barking wildly at the passing parade of unsuspecting dogs, cars, and people. He keeps me safe from the postman and the pizza delivery guy, and he herds me.
He watches and cajoles and worries when I’m separated from the pack. His job, as he sees it, is to keep us all together. He does this by indicating where I should go with a slight prancing run in the desired direction, then a full stop, checking to see if I’m coming, before continuing on toward the goal, usually Robert.
If I don’t follow, he’ll return to where I am and give me a meaningful look. Do not underestimate the meaningful Miguel look. It is intense. A silent reprimand that penetrates me to the core. Dark orbs rimmed in black focus high beams onto my soul, impossible to ignore. “Follow me,” it commands, “Come on!” Should I still fail to move in his chosen direction, his look morphs into disdain. “You missed it — missed your chance,” it says.
Disgusted, he casts a last, brief, reproachful eye upon me, and stalks off without so much as a backward glance. Unmistakable full body communication from forty skinny pounds of haughty canine without even a tail to wag to soften the blow.
I smile, shake my head, and offer up a silent thank you that Robert isn’t a big traveller, preferring to be at home with his dogs. Chances are I won’t need to pill Miguel anytime soon, but the possibility still looms. Life is unpredictable.
A moment later, I decide to wander downstairs to join my pack after all. Might as well rack up the points with Miguel while I can.