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The Longest Night

Tomorrow, Ace is scheduled to be spayed. When I made the appointment a month ago, I remember wishing we could do it sooner and be past the inconvenience. Over the last week, I’ve been surprised to notice the emergence of a persistently increasing knot of fear at the center of my chest. At first I expected it would go away, and, like any shrink worth half her weight, I employed positive self talk and reality testing: the procedure is performed thousands of times per year at our clinic, spaying is best for her health and quality of life, I’m contractually obligated to her breeder to spay her, on and on.

But it’s not working. I feel terribly fearful despite it being irrational. I wish I could tell her what was going to happen to her tomorrow, show her the aftercare instructions and explain to her that she will be in pain but that she will get through it and be better off. I am absolutely dreading the moment when I have to leave her alone with strangers for such a scary day, watching the confusion cross her face as I walk away from her.

I think I just realized over the past weeks that part of parenting, whether of a furry or smooth-skinned baby, is feeling the deep vulnerability of your little one, and by extension, that you as a parent are even more vulnerable because you would do anything to protect her. I felt that way at the airports, thinking about what would happen if the TSA for some reason tried to take her away from me, or if I were attacked while I were walking her in our neighborhood at night. My mind is used to planning an escape route automatically, but now the plan always includes how to protect her, motivated by how torturous it would be to have no ability to defend her from harm.

Maybe it is a mixed blessing that she cannot understand. Instead of having an intellectualized series of conversations about the minutia of the surgery, dancing around the reality of our fears and trying to avoid saying how we feel, we will lie about on the couch. Kisses will be given freely and without shame, and I will tell her over and over that she is the smartest, prettiest, and best dog that has ever lived. And she will receive my emotions without hesitation, and know that she is loved. And then we will go to bed and snuggle and deal with tomorrow when it comes.

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