It was raisins. Fucking raisins. I don’t even like raisins. I don’t even like the trail mix that the raisins were in — cheap, slopped into a plastic container by some underpaid, underage grocery store clerk. I bought it because I was supposed to be traveling across country this week and I knew it was an easy blood sugar kick. Something to keep me from fainting in airports which is kind of my forte.
Just a week ago my therapist suggested with her air of mildly entertained disregard that I just ask for help at the airport. As though it’s not hard enough having a chronic illness that ruins my insides while making my outsides appear (relatively) unscathed, the last thing I want to do is have to explain that to some equally disinterested uniform in front of the terminal’s Jamba Juice.
That, and the small fact that I am still in a rather expansive and fulfilling state of denial about certain new and shiny aspects to my life as a chronically ill person — aspects that may be progressive unbeknownst to me and I’m happy to keep it that way for right now.
I’ve got a book to finish.
Back to the raisins.
Raisins and grapes can kill dogs. No one seems to know why, but in the vertical of “Shit You Shouldn’t Let Your Dog Eat”, raisins are worse than chocolate. Chocolate we can deal with. Chocolate has some kind of swift, clinical antidote. Raisins, however, are callous, unfeeling fuckers that have always too closely resembled shriveled up, fat-with-your-blood bugs to be appealing to me.
But you know what is appealing to me? Convenience. Trail mix is a foolproof, realistically palatable manner in which I can deliver some calories into my #rude body while I’m collapsed in a heap on the scratchy rug of departures.
I reached for some as I was on my way out the door to run some last minute, nerve-wracking errands, only to realize it was kind-of stale. So I tossed it into the bin and went on my way, which is something that I did purely out of my stress-induced indifference and distraction. I never throw anything into the indoor trash bin that my dog might possibly eat, should she decide to get into the trash like an actual dog, rather than acting like a near-human, which is how she is most of the time.
Whimsy, you might recall, is a rescue with emotional problems. But so am I, so we actually work really well together. In the two years that I’ve had her, we’ve made some great strides in our respective anxieties, and while neither of us will ever be normally functioning members of our respective species, there’s a sort of unspoken understanding between us that we’ll look out for one another.
Which is why I feel like absolute garbage that I let her down.
When I returned from my errands, she’d gotten into the bin. Something she’d not done in a long-ass time, because up until this last week I wasn’t radiating only the purest kind of anxiety. She’s a dog — I’m sure she could smell it on me, and she’d been behaving accordingly: she didn’t want me out of her sight, pap-pap-pap-ping along on my heels and sleeping with he snout curled into the crook of my arm.
She didn’t even make that much of a mess. She’d very methodically gone through the trash and nudged aside what wasn’t a food item, as if she’d just lifted out the napkins and a few plastic plates (from a few weeks ago when I just couldn’t muster up the energy to wash a dish) and gone straight for any and all foodstuffs.
Before I even turned around to see her giving me “I done goofed” eyes, mine were welling up with frightened tears. I started tearing through the kitchen and bathroom, looking for my bottle of hydrogen peroxide. An item kept expressly for this purpose. I didn’t locate it as quickly as I wanted to, and made a mental note to just keep it somewhere visible from now on.
Whimsy, being so pure and good, dutifully trotted outside with me and happily allowed me to pour a capful of peroxide down her throat. This was not a pleasant experience for her and she recoiled, and I could see her reevaluating her trust in me.
I messaged Meg Barclay (y’all know Meg, say hi to Meg!) because she is my dog-having friend, and I trusted that she’d know what to do in this Worse Case Scenario that was unfolding before my eyes.
She did — and we sat in the grass out front of my apartment, closed in by beautiful, glistening slabs of granite from the quarry, watching Whimsy barf all over the lawn.
Raisins. So we meet again you wrinkly little bastards.
So she’d eaten raisins, no doubt about that — the question was, how many had she already digested? And how many were enough to cause trouble?
Fortunately there is an emergency vet (for this was a weekend, for these things only ever happen to kids/frat boys/pets on nights-and-weekends) and Meg had the number in her phone. I sobbed through the whole story to the receptionist, and then the doctor on-call. They advised that I bring Whimsy in for what is essentially 48 hours of doggy dialysis.
If she did digest the raisins, she could develop renal failure. And there would be no warning — she’d act fine for a few days and then drop dead.
Thanks to Meg’s help, Whimsy will live to die another day. But the fine tendrils of my sanity have unspooled into a pile that my foot keeps getting caught in, preventing me from moving forward.
This was also the week I was supposed to start amphetamines.
Start, I said, not stop — I am not a recurring joke from the 1980 film Airplane! starring the late Leslie Nielsen.
Remember those little spoken-of, even less frequently acknowledged to thine own’s self developments in the ongoing soap opera that is my health —?
Well, my doctor suggested that the use of amphetamines — specifically Adderral — may actually provide a considerable amount of relief from my brain-and-body-problems-of-unspecified-origin. The research I’ve done agrees — at least insofar as it’s worth a try. At this point, anything is worth a try.
I can’t take my trip as planned, because Whim needs to be looked after until she’s out of the woods — so, early next week. I also feel like this would be a terrible time to become A Very Busy Person Who Can Use All Of Her Limbs At The Same Time, because what Whim really needs from me is naps, snacks, mild exposure to the autumnal weather and air of the healing seaside — and a marathon of iZombie.
Some have been less-than-compassionate about my willingness to upheave my entire week for my dog. This is largely because they are not dog-people, and I only feel sorry for them. This dog has given me back a joy in life that I thought I’d lost completely when I got sick. Because of her, I have to get outside every single day — and physical activity is probably one of the only things I can do to stave off the inevitability of some of my health issues. She keeps my toes warm at night and forces me out of bed every single day, even on the days when I hurt so much I wish for death.
And in those severe moments of reckoning over the last two years, she has been the reason I have not made an attempt on my life.
Identifying people who can’t possibly understand that, and subtly nudging them from my life, has all been thanks to Whimsy.
Which is no surprise — as dogs are pros at sniffing out assholes.
Abby Norman is a journalist and writer. She’s currently working on a memoir for Nation Books. Her work has been featured in The Rumpus, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen Magazine, The Independent, Quartz, Bustle and others. She lives in New England with her dog, Whimsy, and wishes Gilda Radner would haunt her apartment. She’s represented by Tisse Takagi in New York City.