When the veterinary surgeon told us that we would have to express our dog's bladder for up to a week as she slowly regained sensation in the her hind quarters, Michael Bolton and I thought to ourselves 'no thank you'. Had these not been tough economic times, we would have gladly boarded her at that fine animal hospital so their cracker-jack team of professionals could perform that particular task themselves. We liked to pass the buck on unpleasant duties, this we already knew about ourselves so there was no feeling bad about personal failings. But these were tough economic times. Times in which we had just spent upwards of seven thousand dollars we barely had to get our dachshund Lily to walk again. It seemed the expressing was something we were just going to have to endure.
Not long before, we had been lamenting that after almost three years together there were no more firsts in our relationship. No more first weekend getaway, first Christmas, first night in an apartment we lived in together. First bottle of ridiculously expensive champagne, first argument over the remote, first sweet post on each other's Facebook wall. But this--working together to wring the piss out of a paralyzed dachshund--this was a relationship first.
We planned our line of attack in the kitchen first, before heading out into the wilderness. Where was her bladder exactly, in the long sausage casing of her body? A veterinary assistant had shown us all this, but we had each assumed the other was paying more attention. I got down on one knee and did a sort of reacharound. I found a squishy place that felt like a waterballoon, and quickly reasoned that must be it. But what if it wasn't? What if that was her gall bladder instead of her regular bladder, and it was filled with toxins and burst when I gave it a nominal amount of pressure? What if it was a kidney? A liver? A mandible--which I was pretty sure was part of a jaw but suddenly wasn't so sure? I had Michael Bolton feel, because he had a master's degree and even though it was in film theory and criticism it was one more degree than I'd ever had the brains to complete.
Once we were pretty sure we had located the proper organ, we weighed the merits of other things. Pressure. A one-handed or two-handed (or four-handed?) method. Where we should place our feet to be most out of the way of the draining tributary sure to stream. These were all conversations I'd never imagined on our first date as we ate by the ocean and we talked about things with no consequence. It had been, and will always be remembered as, a simpler time.
We headed out into the early evening dusk and we gave her The Squeeze.
We gave her The Squeeze again. This time I got down on the ground with a flashlight and checked under the hood.
It had been a traumatic day, we reasoned. A homecoming after three nights in the sterile smelling hospital. Besides, I figured. I'm not so sure I could go with someone standing behind me with their arms wrapped tightly around my middle. The shyness issues, alone.
We tried again as the evening grew long and went about our task with trepidation, the darkness proving metaphorical.
"You're squeezing too hard!" I cried.
"How can you tell?" he asked. "Maybe we're not squeezing hard enough."
I was pointing the flashlight in Lily's face. "Her eyes are... bulging."
We went to bed discouraged. I had difficulty sleeping, but managed to dream. I remembered my trip to the puppy farm eight years earlier. In a wire pen out front were five dachshund puppies, each the color of deep hardwood mahogany, rolling over each other like boiling noodles in a pot. One pup, Henry, was spoken for. I had my pick of the rest of the litter. I thought to myself, my god... how do you choose?
You can't. You don't. Lily chose me. As the other pups were lifted out of the pen, they scampered across the vast dandelion covered lawn lapping up their taste of freedom. Lily sauntered cautiously over to me and, when she sensed I was okay, carefully gnawed at a shoelace.
In the cool of the early hours in the soft light of morning, it was Michael Bolton who first found success with The Squeeze. He found the sweet spot, and I was more grateful than I'd ever been. As if by magic, Lily's tail rose up in that unmistakable 45 degree angle and she peed.
I cried. Three days before I thought she would be dead.
There was only one six-word autobiography that sprang to mind that morning and it could have applied to either of them:
LOVED YOU THE MOMENT WE MET.