Thursday, May 01, 2003
Feffer faces the knife
By Dave Jaffe
Caring for the family’s sick dog provides a clear reminder that what separates us, as civilized people, from the wild animals is, of course, Medicare.
“Dave, the vet says that even though Feffer’s in good health we shouldn’t delay his surgery to remove his bladder stones or it could lead to trouble down the road,” my wife explained.
“Well Hon, according to the Jaffe Family Budget Projection, which, as you know, is approved by Alan Greenspan and thus entirely out of my hands, we can’t afford Feffer’s surgery until fiscal year 2032.”
“Dave, by then Feffer will be 41 years old.”
“Which is still young for a dog.”
“That’s 41 people years, which is like 17,000 dog years.”
“Yes, but by then our mortgage will be paid, our sons will be out of college and, according to these fiscal projections, I’ll be dead.”
“Feffer goes under the knife next Tuesday, Dave.”
A common misconception among pet owners is that the way to emotionally prepare a dog for an impending surgical procedure is to say, “Get in the car.” In fact, scientific research has shown that dogs are remarkably perceptive and sensitive to a wide range of human moods so long as you have cheese in your hand. With this in mind, I sat Feffer on my lap and in firm but gentle tones assured him that everything was going to be all right.
“You’re going to cost me 800 bills, you damn dirty dog!”
“Dave, he doesn’t understand.”
“Oh, he understands all right. He understands that some of us have to work hard for a living so that others of us can just go to the bathroom wherever they want. And then those first ‘others’ have to clean up after those second ‘others’ with scoopers and toxic waste disposal bags. And did I mention the $800?”
Having successfully dispelled Feffer’s concerns about his health, it was then necessary to reassure other family members, including at least one who is, through no fault of his own, also a dog.
Oxford, our teenaged dog, is the same brand as Feffer, a schnoodle. But where Feffer exhibits the statesman-like grace of an elderly Winston Churchill, Oxford has the menacing energy of Sonny Corleone. Feffer has had a few meaningful discussions with him about food, water, the squeaky rubber thing, the other squeaky rubber thing, everything in the house that’s retrievable and homestead rights on that parcel of land known as my wife’s lap.
Feffer doesn’t exactly hate Oxford, but they have no immediate plans to co-star in any Disney features.
To be fair, Oxford is still in that delicate cycle of development that animal behaviorists refer to as “stupid puppy”—a formative stage during which a young dog’s experiential interactions range from gnawing to being screamed at for gnawing.
Still, I included Oxford in a family meeting to discuss Feffer’s post-operative recovery despite the pup’s limited intelligence, and after some debate also invited my sons.
DAVE: “Boys, Feffer will be fine after his surgery, but he’ll require a lot of tender loving care for a few days.”
RUSS: “Of course, Dad.”
BRIAN: “We’ll take care of him.”
OXFORD: (Interpreted) “Can I gnaw on Feffer, like this?”
MOM: “Ow! Stop that, Oxford!
DAD: “Feffer will need plenty of quiet time.”
OXFORD: “Can I eat him?”
MOM: “Ouch! No bites, Oxford! Nooooo!”
DAD: “Honey, we’re trying to talk here.”
OXFORD: “I’m sitting on Mommy’s lap! Look, Feffer. Look!”
MOM: “Good Oxford. Goooood!”
OXFORD: “Does that hurt?”
MOM: “Ow! You little thug. You want to sleep with the fishes?”
Anyone who has raised dogs knows them to be uncomplaining and admirable creatures that just happen to lick themselves, which is, of course, the canine equivalent of our “thumbs up.”
That Tuesday, Feffer’s courageous spirit sustained him through the pain and shock of not getting breakfast before we headed off to the vet. My wife and boys lavished attention on him while Oxford, bored with the display, sat on the couch giving them all the “thumbs up.” Then it was time for Feffer to go. “Get in the car,” I told him.
Feffer looked betrayed when the vet led him away, his eyes saying, “Wait a minute, you’re going to let him do the surgery? I thought you were going to do it. Look, obviously there’s been a mistake.”
The next day when I brought Feffer home he ambled into the house and immediately curled up on his rug. As a precaution Oxford was on a short leash and had been encased in a block of steel reinforced concrete. “How’d he do?” asked my wife.
“Well, the vet says he’s fine but recommended that he get plenty of rest. Get it? Telling a dog to get some rest? We both had a good laugh about that.”
“But how do you know he’s OK?”
“Well Hon, the first thing Feffer did when he came out from the anesthesia was to give me and the vet a big ‘thumbs up.’”
Dave Jaffe, Chicago Parent’s humor columnist, lives in Deerfield with his wife, two sons and two dogs.