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March 2, 2013

A potentially quiet afternoon interrupted by a dog and a balloon

By Adrienne Martini
The Daily Star

---- — The kids spent most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day bickering.

They bickered about who got to stand in front of the wood stove. Then about who was hogging more space in front of the wood stove. Then about who got to play with the package of balloons the Diva had bought with her allowance the day before.

And on it went, until the sounds of the bickering became the equivalent of a buzzing mosquito about three centimeters from your ear. You can tune it out, mostly, but you still can’t quite relax.

Shortly after lunch, one of the Diva’s friends called to invite her over for the rest of the afternoon. Inside, my heart gave a little jig. I asked her to clean up the balloons, then packed her into the car and delivered her to the friend’s house.

When I walked back in, one of the Boy’s friends called to invite him over for the rest of the afternoon. Reader, I nearly fainted from the joy. I packed him into the car and delivered him to the friend’s house.

At last I can get something done! In the quiet! Oh, quiet. Why did I not appreciate you more before I had kids?

But before I could get to my computer, I needed to call my husband to let him know that he needed to pick up Kid No. 1 on his way home from work. And so I did, only to have to cut the conversation short with a “I’ll call you back. The dog is trying to eat a balloon.”

In the time it took me to hang up and take one step toward the dog, she swallowed it.

So I called my husband back, since the phone was still in my hand. 

“So how harmful do you think a balloon would be?”

“Is it inflated?”

“No. Just ingested.”

We hemmed and hawed a little. Caution, we decided, was the better part of valor. Or something like that.

I called the vet. The receptionist took my number, checked with a tech, then called back.

“You’ll need to make her throw up,” the receptionist said, “because we’d hate to have to go in after the balloon later.”

“Right,” I said. And with that, I saw my nice free afternoon drift away like so many, um, balloons.

The receptionist explained that hydrogen peroxide will induce vomiting in dogs (and in people, too, I suspect, but don’t want to test). She gave me a dosage, wished me luck, and told me to call back once the situation resolved.

Which sent me scouring our bathroom, wondering if we even had a bottle of the stuff, while swearing that a trip to the drug store would be exactly what would make the day absolutely perfect.

The dog sat in the doorway and watched, wagging her little stump of a tail whenever I muttered about strangling the child who didn’t pick up all of her stuff.

Fortunately, there was a dusty bottle hidden in the way back of a deep shelf. Crisis averted. Or, at least, averted until I realized that I zero idea how to get the liquid into the dog.

Remember: this is my first dog. Until now, I’ve had cats, who are notoriously difficult about taking any kind of medicine at all. It took two of us to pill our first cat and, then, we could only just manage it if we wrapped her in a pillowcase first.

Peroxide in hand, I looked at the dog. She looked at me. I grabbed a people dish, walked outside, into the 15 degree day, and poured the dosage into the dish. There’s no way it could be this easy, I thought.

The dog looked at me, trotted to the dish, and slurped up its contents like it was a peanut-butter-and-cheese-rind smoothie.

Then we waited. She seemed completely unaffected by her drink. I kicked her soccer ball around for her, mostly because my toes were going numb.

About 10 minutes in, she stopped chasing the ball, looked at me like a college kid who’s had one beer too many, and proceeded to decorate the backyard with the balloon (and everything else you’d imagine).

It was here that I realized I had no exit strategy. Dogs have an alarming tendency to return to that which they’ve just thrown up in order to re-eat it. Because they are dogs, that’s why.

And there I was, without a trash bag or shovel or bucket, running around the yard looking for an answer, because I would be dipped if I was going to force the dog to re-upchuck the same orange balloon.

Because, really.

I had just enough time to run inside, grab a plastic grocery bag, scoop up the offending pile, and whisk it away. When I came back from the trash can, the dog was all bright eyes and smiles. She kept nudging her soccer ball at me so that the crazy fun time could resume.

When the kids made it home, I called the Diva over to explain how I’d spent the afternoon. 

“And that’s why it’s so important for you to pick up your things,” I said, certain that this was a great teachable moment.

“Mom,” she said, aghast, as if every last word I’d said was a guilty stain upon her soul. “Just tell me that she didn’t throw up in my room.”

At least she didn’t blame her brother, right?

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of “Sweater Quest.” Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.