The indignity of it all.

Disclaimer: This blog has some gross stuff. If you are squeamish about doggy doo doo, please stop reading now 🙂 !

If not, here is a story:

‘Bring a urine sample and a fecal sample when you bring Sage for his annual check up. And collect the first urine in the morning, that gives us the best information about his kidney functions.’ The vet tech informed me as she gave me an appointment for Sage’s annual vaccinations and well check.

‘Ummm, urine sample?’ I gulped nervously.

‘Yes, our records show that he hasn’t had a urine culture done for the last three years! It is time for one!’ She said sternly! I could hear ‘you negligent doggie mother’ going through her head.

‘Ok, Ah, I will try!’ I was still squirming, feeling judged.

‘Just take one of your throw away plastic containers and hold it under him as he raises his leg to pee! You will be fine!’ She tried to be reassuring.

Poop, I wasn’t worried about. Don’t I pick up his poop everyday to keep our environment clean? Don’t Sean and I get into a poop counting competition – who collected more poops from our backyard? Yes, the fecal sample is a piece of cake! What? You don’t like that analogy? Well, should I say fecal sample is a walk in the park, then 🙂 ?

The only time I collected urine from Sage was when he was less than a year old. The vet’s office had given me a tray and asked me to hold it under him when he peed. I came home with some trepidation about the whole thing about collecting pee and felt irritated that I had to be the designated one to do this job – the mother, of course.

I remember the day being extremely windy. I remember Sage being exasperated with me and then decided it was a game I wanted to play with him. He kept running away and play bowing, ‘Catch me if you can!’ He was still a puppy and hadn’t acquired the dignified disposition that he has now. I had led myself to believe I had trained Sage to do his business on command. On shivering, cold nights, I held on to his leash and said, ‘Hurry up!’ When he did his stuff, I gave him a treat. He is an extremely smart dog, he caught on quickly. The day of urine collection, ‘hurry up’ command failed. Long story short, I got the urine sample somehow. I remember the urine blowing in the wind and me blowing with it. Anyway, the deed was done. I ran it to the vet’s office, paid a bunch of money to get the urine tested. Sage was proclaimed disease/germs free and I felt the money and the effort was well worth it.

I do not know how I managed to dodge the urine check up for the last couple of years. I probably said I won’t pay for it, the accusing eyes of the vet be damned. This time however, the vet tech’s serious accusatory tone was my undoing. Also Sage is 4 years old, still young but getting up there. I acquiesced.

The appointment was at 9:30 in the morning. I did not sleep well the night before devising different strategies for collecting pee. When morning dawned, I was loath to get up because of the unpleasant task that lay ahead.

The Sagely one.
The Sagely one.

Here I must give you a brief description of Sage. A friend described him aptly – he is that kind of dog who gives you the feeling that he will don his bifocals and read the Sunday New York Times. He is dignified and Sagely. He never grabs a treat from your hands, but takes it between his teeth daintily. He stares down his food but doesn’t eat it unless he hears the magic word ‘ok’. He doesn’t break his ‘stay’ command (unless given by Ryan) till we say Ok. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. His wild side comes out while playing with his 8 year old human brother (who, he considers a fellow puppy), when people come to the house, he goes overboard showing his love and errrr….when he discovers fox poop. He rolls in it! Other than these indiscretions, Sage is very dignified. And so am I.

So a dignified dog and a dignified woman were on a mission – to wrestle some pee out of the dog and collect it in a container.

I put him on a leash and took him out at 7:30. Hurry up Sage! Sage knew something was up since I had a container in my hand and a leashed walk this early was highly unusual. The usual routine is a grumpy woman opening the back door for him, first thing in the morning. He wasn’t going to make it easy for me. Of course!!! He sniffed and sniffed and my hopes leaped. Maybe now, may be now! Now???? After 10 minutes, I gave up, came back in to yell at Ryan to get ready for school. Sage looked at me with his beautiful, chocolate drop eyes, ‘What is wrong with you, today???’

I didn’t wait for Ryan to get on the bus, like I usually do. I gave him a kiss, said goodbye and took Sage for a walk, armed with the container, a ziplock bag and a big plastic bag to hold it all. My focus was only on the dog, or rather on his back legs! When would they rise, when would I hold the container? It rose in a while! I jumped ahead and put the container under him! The leg dropped. I had collected a single drop! Literally, a single drop! On top of that I got a look from Sage which said, ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOINNNNNGGGGAAAA???’

You’ve got to be kidding me!!

I realized then as I straightened up and looked around me in frustration, that each driveway had children and their moms standing, waiting for the elementary school bus. I had started walking too early. And they were staring at me, at my container and my baffled dog.

I was too determined to turn around. I wanted the job done. The dignified me wanted to dig a hole and hide in it but the ‘let’s get this done’ me wanted to get this DONE once and for all. I plodded on. Sage, finally lifted his leg at his favorite fire hydrant and let out a stream. Elated, I crouched down and held the container, ignoring the warm spray on my hands. And then he dropped his leg. And his leg hit the container held in my hand. And the container dropped from my hand! I looked in horror as the precious yellow liquid stained the white snow!

Now, I am not the one the one to curse. But once in a while, I reach my limit. This was my limit!

SHHHIIIT!!! I semi-yelled.

And then I heard a whisper, ‘What is she doing, Mommy?’

Another whisper, ‘I don’t know honey! Shhhhh….!’

I did not look. I knew it was one of the little kids waiting for the bus. I pulled down the brim of my baseball cap with my unpolluted hand and walked on without looking back.

Finally, Sage did do his business. I did get adequate sample. Sage could not figure out my erratic behavior and I did not explain.

We went to the appointment armed with our booty. Sage shivered and asked me repeatedly to take him home. He got 4 shots, lots of love, bunch of treats and a clean bill of health. All’s well that ends well. I will not do this urine test for him for the next three years. He’d better stay healthy!

Oh, the indignity of it all!!! But the clean bill of health makes the pee collecting effort, somewhat, worth it.


Gruff love

I don’t know about you but my two kids quarrel a lot. A whole lot. Sometimes, especially, on a cold winter day, when they have been cooped up in close proximity, they fight about the smirk on one’s face and one breathing too heavily.

“Stop breathing so noisily, it is disturbing me!”

No prizes for guessing if the heavy breathing stops or continues ten fold heavier.

Being an only child, this behavior concerns me. I try different methods to diffuse situations.

I use threats – “If I hear one more sound from either of you then….”

I have discovered, in these last fourteen years of being a mommy, open-ended threats are more ominous than definitive ones. The scary possibilities are endless.

I use cajoling – “Come on guys, you are making it very unpleasant for yourself and me!”

I use didactic approach – “Only the brave can offer the other cheek, don’t you know. Be the brave one. The strong, silent type!”

Sometimes these work, sometimes both the children are sent to their rooms because none of the above tactics worked. Sometimes, I remove myself from the situation and give myself a time out. I refuse to play the referee and when they come to complain, I say, “Both will be punished, if I hear one more word! SORT IT OUT!”

It is important to set the scene written above, to understand this story better, so I took the pains of writing down some facts of the bickering universe I live in.

Sahana was down with a fever for a week. And Ryan’s world collapsed around him. The first day of fever was spent trying to nudge her into action. When that didn’t get any response, the rest of the day was spent in quiet observation as Sahana lay on the couch with tired eyes. The second morning of her fever, he expressed his concern to me, while she was still in bed:

“Do you think Sahana will be OK, mom?” Simple words but loaded with unexpressed fear of loss.

When she woke up and came to the breakfast table, he was finishing up.

“How are you feeling Sahana?” he asked in a voice which seemed to convey ‘I am asking you, but I really don’t care that much’!

“I am ok. My head hurts!” She said.

After a pause, came a gruff offer, “Do you want me to make some breakfast for you?”

Sahana was in the kitchen getting her own food, she said, “That’s ok, bud. I can get mine.”

I mouthed “let him do it” to her and she said, “Ok, Ryan. It would be great if you make my breakfast. Can you make me a Nutella sandwich on toast please!”

He jumped up and made breakfast for his sister. And made the same, the third morning of her sickness as well. I believe he felt he was contributing to her healing.

I heard this next part from Sahana.

The day she felt better she said,”Do you know what your son said to me?”

Supposedly, the evening Sahana had a very high temperature and couldn’t get out of her bed to come to the dinner table, Ryan went to her bedside and offered her a nickel if she would get up from bed and come to the table.

“Sahana”, he said, “I will give you a nickel if you come eat with us at the table!” If any of you readers know Ryan at all, you will realize that offer of nickel was his ultimate show of love and concern for his sister. Ryan doesn’t part with his money easily.

Her fever was too high for her to respond. Once the medicine worked and she felt well enough to tell me the story, she did so with a smile on her face. A smile, because, parting with money to get her sister to resume normalcy is Ryan’s highest form of love.

The love flows underneath. Gruff love, but love nonetheless.

Sahana’s comment about her brother is this:

“Mama, I think Ryan is going to grow up to be that man – big, strong, scruffy looking, who sheds a copious amount of tears at the death of a kitten! He is actually a very nice boy! But I will deny it if you tell him I said this!”

Sahana is fine now and my bickering universe is back with a vengeance. As I write this blog, I hear two angry voices in the background saying:

“Yes you did!”

“No I did not!”





I do believe Anna Quindlan wrote what Sahana will one day say about her brother:

There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother… Oh, how I hated that little boy. And how I love him too.