It always starts innocently. A week ago I was sitting next to Daddy on his recliner. I stood up to walk across his legs to sit with Mommy. He reached out with his left hand to scratch my neck. He touched something and said: “What the hell is that?”
This is never words a dog wants to hear especially when they are being touched. My dad had found a strange growth on my neck.
He picked me up and put me on Mommy’s lap. River, who had been lazing next to her, stood up. The three of them studied the growth. It was brown, legless, and flexible. It resembled a tick, but, being legless, that possibility was dismissed. My parents determined it was a skin tag.
I sighed in relief. That didn’t sound like a problem. The rest of the night passed peaceably.
But my parents fancy themselves to be intellectuals which means they have to read everything there is about a decision they have reached until they convince themselves they are wrong. In the past, this would require a time-consuming trip to the library. Thanks to the Internet an entire library of bad information is at our parent’s fingertips.
It took them a day to decide that skin tag may not be the answer. They studied the multi-syllable medical terms, all slick and sinister, for bumps on dogs: sebaceous cyst, wart, abscess, mast cells. Hematomas. They examined each category, mentally listing why my growth did or did not meet the requirements for each type of bump.
The lump was photographed and put on the Internet without my consent. People from around the country discussed it. My parents decided on a Saturday night that the vet needed to examine the grand mystery under my chin.
On Sunday morning my parents found a similar growth on River Song. What was this? An epidemic? Was our kitchen a mass cancer site?
The anxiety came in the form of massive, random waves. When the waves were offshore, my parents were convinced we had skin tags, but when the waves crashed on the beach every dark wormhole of negative assumption was realized, which meant more growth examining and worry.
On Monday the vet was called, but the technician did not understand the urgency of the tiny brown growths on two dogs or understood the mindset of my parents continually pounded by rogue waves of senseless anxiety. My appointment was for Tuesday, at 3:45, which, according to my stressed-out parents, was 35 hours past the turn of midnight.
It rained on Monday and we were trapped inside living with two growths that, with each touch, seemed to grow or recede. On Tuesday my parents worked outside, then came in, to wait.
I was the guinea pig. They would find out how serious a problem this tiny bump actually was, and if, as seemed inevitable, it was severe, River would be examined the next day.
I was seen right away. I was placed on the cold, sterile table. My father spread my fur to show the female technician the vicious growth jutting from my skin.
“Oh, it’s a tick,” she said. She grabbed it with two fingers, removed it, and told us there would be no charge for the service. My parents stood, in the exam room, looking at one another, unable to speak or move.
"A tick!" my dad finally said. "I thought so." My mom readily agreed. When they returned home, grateful, but also embarrassed by the two intellectual dog experts who failed to recognize a tick, they gave River a shot of tequila, and a stick to bite on, then quickly removed her tick as well.
Before that act, which ended this drama, there was a side trip. I was taken to the polling place, where they must have been voting for the President or something, and allowed to become a real citizen by voting for the first time in my life. I was the hit of the polling station.
So here I am now, both tickless and lumpless, an American, but not a true American, as I am not yet completely exhausted, stressed out, and overwhelmed.
But if I keep following my parent's footprints I will get there.