Princess: A dog day afternoon |

Princess: A dog day afternoon

Alison Berkley Margo

The other day I snapped a photo of Gertie, our pug, sitting on Ryan’s lap — while he was driving.

“Another reason we probably shouldn’t have kids,” I wrote on the inevitable Facebook post.

“You Britney’d it,” my friend Denise commented, referring to the flak Britney Spears caught when she was photographed driving around Malibu with her son in her lap.

It wasn’t just about our being irresponsible and letting Gertie sit in Ryan’s lap while he was driving. I mean, when we first got her I bought one of those car-carrier things for dogs that makes me look like a crazy person, treating my dog like a baby. But the carrier strapped into the seat, and then the dog was clipped into the carrier, sort of like a seat belt. I was, in fact, being responsible and not crazy. But it didn’t take long before Gertie wormed her way out of that seat and into Ryan’s lap, just like it didn’t take long for her to find her way into our bed, even though I was always going on about how insane people are for co-sleeping with their kids.

It’s easy to judge people’s parenting styles when you don’t have children of your own. You can sit around all the livelong day and criticize people for letting their kids melt their brains with electronic devices or, on the opposite extreme, chuckle about how kids who are only allowed to play with wooden toys and eat organic food are going to be the ones who end up on drugs on account of how much they’ll need to rebel when the time comes.

But the truth is I really don’t think I could handle being a parent, and that became quite evident last week when Gertie had to go in for emergency surgery.

Let me preface the story by saying this dog will eat anything she can get into her flat little face. She’s constantly scavenging for crumbs, her snout pressed to the kitchen floor like a little aardvark (or something like that), snorting and carrying on. It seems like I have to pull something out of her yap at least five times a day, wagging my finger in her mouth until I find whatever she’s chomping on, typically a stick or a feather from a pillow or a broken piece of pasta she’s found on the floor. She loves dryer sheets and paper towels and, like most puppies, toilet paper.

So when she started puking last week, we thought for sure she’d eaten something that upset her stomach or maybe got stuck in there. The vet told us to stop feeding her for 12 hours to see if her stomach might settle, but it didn’t, so we brought her in for, like, $8 million worth of tests.

When I lamented to my brother about this, he didn’t give me any sympathy. He just said, “Between your car and your dog, you’re going to go broke. Why can’t you just buy a Subaru and adopt a mutt like most people?”

The vet gave her barium so he could X-ray her belly and see if there were any obstructions. When I went to pick her up at the end of the day, he showed me her X-rays, and I have to say, she has the cutest little skeleton I’ve ever seen, her little hip bones and her little spine — it almost brought me to tears just looking at them.

When Gertie puked the barium all over Ryan’s leg, we knew we were in trouble.

Gertie went in for surgery the next day. I was choked up when I dropped her off, a feeling of helplessness and despair washing over me, drowning me for just a minute, making it hard to breathe.

That suffocating feeling intensified when the vet called to tell me they didn’t find an obstruction. But they did see some “irregular”-looking tissue that had him “concerned,” so he sent it off for a biopsy to rule out lymphoma. He said it was rare for a dog that young to get lymphoma, but he’d seen it before.

Oh, great. First my book doesn’t sell in the 10 seconds I thought it would take to be picked up by a publisher/movie producer and make me millions of dollars in mere minutes, and now my 16-month-old dog is going to die.

When I picked her up, she was so drugged she could hardly move, her big brown eyes filled with confusion and despair, a look that I could only interpret to mean, “Why the hell did you do this to me?” She had what Ryan called a “Frankenbelly,” a big, mean-looking scar across the entirety of her shaved abdomen. The vet said we should watch her carefully for 72 hours for risk of infection and feed her in small increments to make sure she could hold her food down.

I literally stayed up half the night just staring at her, afraid she might drop dead right there on the spot. My lungs felt like crumpled brown paper bags, pinched so I was unable to get a full breath. She just sat there in the dark, staring, unable to sleep or lie down. So I sat there with her, wondering how the hell people can have kids if I’m feeling like this over my dog.

Gertie doesn’t have lymphoma, thank God. She has inflammable bowel disease combined with what’s called helicobacter infection, both of which are treatable and should not get in the way of her having a long and healthy life, or so we hope.

At this point I can only speculate on what a mother must go through with her child, to love something so much it physically hurts. And even though I can’t imagine why anyone would want to put themselves through that, I feel more than ever that I have to figure out a way — I just have to.

The Princess is very emotional today. Email your love to