When You Burst Into Tears at Chik-Fil-A …

I know I’ve been absent and in my stead I left you a bunch of enjoyable music that was totally not the same thing as blogging. It’s been a crazy few weeks here, but I promise I’m getting off my butt this week and really actually writing again.

Some of the crazy is just the normal stuff you see happen in any household with a toddler. Other parts were some random blips that just added to the craziness. One of the things I pride myself on is the fact that the three of us are pretty laid back, roll with it individuals, so when crazy comes up, we assess, and move some stuff around to accommodate it. Hi, nutty week. Come sit next to “toddler knows how to take diapers off now.”

But one of the things that has been going on came to a head today. I’m fairly certain I’m going to cry while I write this. I’m also fairly certain that I will laugh, which means that you should be so happy there’s no webcam footage, because ugly cry plus laughter equals snot.

Let me start by telling you about our dog, Bandit. Bandit and Mr. Not Martha were a package deal when we met. He had been T’s first roommate after purchasing the home we now live in. His approval or disapproval certainly wouldn’t have put the brakes on our romance, but let’s just say – Bandit’s opinion mattered.

And when I first met Bandit, he was spry. He demanded walks. He could leap up on our bed – much to my dismay after purchasing a new duvet and finding a Bandit-sized dirt stain on it the next day after work. 

He was, seemingly, invincible. He was the Dick Clark of dogs, until, just like Dick Clark, age caught up with him. He turned 13 last fall, and began really slowing down. What used to be long, rambling walks became shorter and shorter, till they were just to the end of the block and back. Then, a couple of weeks ago, he threw up. Then he quit eating altogether. He’s gone on mini-hunger strikes before, usually when it’s hot and he just doesn’t feel like eating. But this was different. We gave it a day or so, and then took him in to the vet.

He was very dehydrated. Teeth that had just been cleaned not that long ago were rotting. Blood tests revealed pancreatitis. He stayed several days while they pumped him full of fluids, started him on medication and fed him the most gentle dog food around. He came home a couple days later, seemingly spry – almost his old self. He wolfed down food, he went on a walk, he played with John.

Then Thursday morning he was disinterested in food. We gave it a while, and he eventually ate it. That night, he again waited, but eventually ate. This morning, he vomited, and refused to eat altogether. I called the vet, who asked us to drop him off for blood tests. “She has surgeries today, but she wants to test today and will work it in between her surgeries,” her receptionist told me.

So Tiny and I dropped him off, and went on to lunch and errand running. First stop, Chik-Fil-A. For some reason, if you have a small one, it’s really the easiest and least unnutritious (is that even a word) place to feed. A four-piece nugget meal with a milk and a squeeze pouch of applesauce is the perfect size for a toddler.

We got our food, and sat down. I got Tiny settled with his food (disposable stick on placemat, food torn into pieces, straw in the milk jug), and was about to tuck in myself when the phone rang.

It was the vet’s office.

“The bloodwork came back showing elevated kidney, pancreas and liver levels,” the receptionist said. “He does better after an IV, but he can’t stay on that forever.”

Then came the big sigh. I mauled a waffle fry with my left hand as I braced myself in the crowded restaurant. “So she says she thinks it is time to put him down,” she said, rushed, as if she just ripped a Band-aid off.

“OK. Thank you. Let me call my husband and get my son to finish lunch, and we’ll all be over there in about 30 minutes, ” I managed to say around the giant lump in my throat. I hung up the phone.

And then I burst into tears in the middle of a Chik-Fil-A, something normally the purvey of the drunk or unnapped. As I tried to do the quiet cry, the one where you just sit there and sniffle and dab while trying to attract the least amount of attention, my son watched. I could see it in his eyes, “What is going on with her?” he had to be thinking, as he shoved nugget pieces in his mouth. “Normally I am the one who cries at the table.” He took it all in, like a tiny anthropologist.

The other tables of people were studiously ignoring me, which is, really, what I hoped would happen. I’m not a crier. I believe you cry when someone hits your car, you get kneed in the nuts, you have a kid, or well, your dog dies. You get special dispensation if you’re pregnant or menstruating. And even then,  public crying is kept to a minimum. For one, I snot up the joint pretty good, and I do not look pretty crying. I’m not a dainty crier. I’m an ugly crier. My plan was to sniffle quietly until Tiny finished eating, clear the table, slink out to the car.

But then Rob happened. Rob, a bowtied worker bee, darted over. He cooed over Tiny, giving me the side eye. “Please just move on,” my brain was thinking. “Move o….”

“And how is Mom? She looks kinda sad!” Rob looked at me expectantly.

“Shit, shit, shit,” my inner voice said. “Oh, we just got bad news from the vet,” my outer voice said, thankfully.

“Oh no! Doggie? Kittie? Ham -”

“Dog,” I said, cutting off the Petsmart inventory. “He would be 14 this fall.”

“Oh … I bet you all have made him so happy though, and he’s so loved. I can tell,” Rob said.

I probably would’ve cried again, but then Rob did something that kinda took me by surprise.

“Can I pray with you for a minute?”

Now, do not get me wrong. I am not mocking Rob. In fact, he was a perfectly lovely individual who took time from his work at a very busy restaurant to console me right after I got terrible news. I owe Rob a solid for patting me on the back and trying to comfort me.

And because of that, yes, I did let him pray with me. And as he said words I’m sure he meant to be comforting, my brain locked on to one thing he said, “And I know Bandit was loved, because I can see it in Beth’s eyes…” Only, all I locked into was, “I can see it in your eyes.” Then my brain followed up with “and I haaaaaaaaaaven’t got a clue… but let me start by saying, ‘I love yoooooouuuuuuuu.”

And as my inside voice started belting out Lionel Richie, I started laughing. Only since Rob was still praying, I had to just kind of hold a napkin up to my face and act like I was blowing my nose and sniffling to account for the shoulder shaking. I  managed to pull myself together for a non-chortley, “Amen,” then thanked Rob.

“Oh, no problem!” he beamed. “I hope it helped, and I hope you all feel happier soon.”

Oh Rob, you have no idea.  So we got in the car shortly after that, and met T at the vet. Michelle, the receptionist, took us back to a room where a tech waited to explain what would happen. They’d sedate him, she said, and then bring him in for us to say goodbye to while he fell asleep. They’d return when we were done, and take him to the back to finish the procedure. Calmer, we signed the necessary forms and started to keep Tiny from opening! All! The! Drawers!

Then Dr. Hanks came in. People, if you are ever vet shopping, and you live ANYWHERE in the Dallas/Plano/Frisco etc. area, you need to take your pets to Yvonne Hanks. She is the most caring vet I’ve ever met, and absolutely loves her charges.

“See this?” she said, showing us Bandit’s latest blood work, full of big angry red marks down the right of a chart. “This is bad, really bad. Every time we run an IV and flush his system, he improves for a few days. But then he crashes again.”

And then my calm went away again as I watched her struggle for the words, and begin crying, too. We cried together for a minute, then she told us she’d bring him in soon.

They laid out a soft blanket, and brought Bandit in. We helped Tiny up on the exam table to sit next to Bandit, while we all told him how much we loved him, and petted him. I got teary eyed once again watching my son’s tiny hand pat Bandit and smile at him.

“Bandit!” he said. “My Bandit!”

Soon, the drugs hit and he sat. Then he laid down. We kept murmuring to him, and patting him, until his eyes closed and he dropped off to sleep. After one last goodbye, we walked out the door, leaving him behind. On the drive home, I tried to figure out the words to explain what just happened to my 15-month-old son. The truth is, I don’t know how to. “Bandit was very, very sick,” I said, the lump in my throat growing again. “So we are letting Dr. Hanks take him someplace where he can be well again, because he needs extra special care.”

Then I wiped fresh tears away as I drove down Central Expressway. “Hello,” came on, as if Rob and Bandit conspired to cheer me up. I don’t know if it was a sign or serendipity, but I’ll take it anyway.

Bandit, buddy, tomorrow I’m turning the duvet over, so I can look at that stain we were never able to remove. I’m going to trip over your bed in the hallway one more time, and forget several times that I don’t have to block you from the living room at night anymore.

I hope you are up there, catching up with Sheldon and Gertie, and that the general consensus is that we were a fun family who loved you all fiercely. Thank you for being my husband’s friend. Thank you for being Tiny’s protector. And thank you for liking me that night I came over and watched George Carlin with your friend, and deciding to share him with me.

Shit. I’m crying again. Where’s Rob when you need him?



  1. The price we pay for loving our pets, and doing it all right. So sorry for your loss.

    By Edgar A. Guest (A Heap O’ Livin’, 1916)

    Ma says no, it’s too much care
    An’ it will scatter germs an’ hair,
    An’ it’s a nuisance through and through.
    An’ barks when you don’t want it to;
    An’ carries dirt from off the street,
    An’ tracks the carpets with its feet.
    But it’s a sign he’s growin’ up
    When he is longin’ for a pup.

    Most every night he comes to me
    An’ climbs a-straddle of my knee
    An’ starts to fondle me an’ pet,
    Then asks me if I’ve found one yet.
    An’ ma says: “Now don’t tell him yes;
    You know they make an awful mess,”
    An starts their faults to catalogue.
    But every boy should have a dog.

    An’ some night when he comes to me,
    Deep in my pocket there will be
    The pup he’s hungry to possess
    Or else I sadly miss my guess.
    For I remember all the joy
    A dog meant to a little boy
    Who loved it in the long ago,
    The joy that’s now his right to know.


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