Sophie’s Choice — the Perils of Loving One Pet More Than Others

Two dogs lying together

In a post recently, I copped to a bunch of bad, bad pet-owner behaviors I chronically engage in. Underlying a couple of these defects of character was a common guilt-inducing sentiment I’m sure you’ll all recognize: The reality that some pets are closer to our hearts than others.

Ouch, right? Admitting this is somewhat harsh and more than a little painful at times. After all, our pets love us unconditionally. Who are we to play favorites in the face of such stalwart constancy? Well, we’re human. That’s who.

Why I Play Favorites

OK, so perhaps I give animals too much credit. Because, of course, it’s true that many pets play favorites too when it comes to choosing which household human gets a certain kind of devotion.

If nothing else, the notion that our pets also play favorites should make me much less likely to harbor all that guilt. But it’s no use. I still feel ashamed of the fact that I miss my departed Sophie Sue more dearly than I currently adore my present dogs. I just can’t help it. I miss her that much.

Then there’s the fact that my Vincent has taken her place as my next favorite. He comes to work with me, rides in the car, gets to go places, etc. Of course, it also helps that he’s the only one I suspect was more or less socialized as a pup (I didn’t adopt him until he was well past his socialization window), but it also has to do with an innate connection thing.

Sure, Slumdog’s mental disabilities and Gaston’s role as Slumdog’s companion keep them allied and almost demoted to common dogdom, but isn’t there always something more at play than simple circumstances? It’s something inexplicably, unfathomably mysterious –– dare I say, spiritual? –– about the bonds we share with certain pets.

Sophie's Choice

I got to thinking about this guilt-trippy subject not just because I’ve been thinking about Sophie Sue’s cremains and my own pet-owner slip-ups (though both did stoke the fire somewhat). The real impetus arrived in the guise of a workplace tragedy.

A client came in with her two dogs, both vomiting blood. They’d gotten into ibuprofen the day before, but she thought the bottle was almost empty. Which is probably why the ER (not the one I regularly use) told her it was too late to make them throw it up by the time she called (four hours after the ingestion, at least) and that there was nothing more to be done but wait for evidence they’d consumed a toxic quantity.

I personally think this was bad advice. If it had been my call, I probably would have used activated charcoal to help speed things through the GI tract and high doses of intravenous fluids and lots of stomach-protecting drugs. Not that it would’ve guaranteed the survival of these dogs, but it would doubtless have been a help.

Instead, the owner was faced with two dying dogs and only one bank account. In the end, she’d been forced to choose to take one of the two dogs to surgery to repair what was almost certainly a bleeding ulcer that was threatening to perforate. The intensive care for two dogs was too much, so she elected to euthanize one of them.

Because this final decision was made at the specialty hospital, I wasn’t privy to the details of the decision-making process, but I can promise you one thing: It was not a pretty scenario. I hate to say it, but I’m glad I wasn’t present for the wrenching of guts that must have transpired.

(A positive note: The treated dog lived.)

A real-life Sophie’s Choice. How horrible. Can you imagine? Given my holiday-time self-pitying proclivities and my heavy-handedness with the self-directed cat-o-nine tails, I’d really prefer not to. Which is why I’m ending this depressing post right here. What’s more, I’m resolving to lay off the death and the guilt for at least a week. I hope.


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