Kennedy: What my dog's 'cone of shame' taught me about heaven

Photo by Mark Kennedy / Boise eventually grew resigned to the short-term misery of his "cone of shame."
Photo by Mark Kennedy / Boise eventually grew resigned to the short-term misery of his "cone of shame."

When a pet has to wear the dreaded "cone of shame," I'm not sure who it bothers more, the pet or the pet owner.

Our dog Boise, a 15-pound spaniel-poodle mix, recently spent 10 days in a polyethylene collar.

It started when Boise had a growth removed from his right eyelid, a procedure that required stitches. While the stitches healed, he had to wear the collar, which made him look like a satellite dish with legs.

It hurt my heart.

Animal experts will tell you that dogs don't feel embarrassment, but I'm not buying it. Boise balked at taking neighborhood walks with his collar on. Why else but embarrassment?

Meanwhile, he bumped into doors. Trying to jump onto our bed, he crashed and back-flipped onto the floor. Even eating and drinking from his bowls was a chore, as the collar rubbed against the floor like a road grader.

Poor baby.

He seemed depressed. There was lots of whimpering and many heavy sighs. For a human, it would be like wearing one of those bulky neck braces while your hands are tied behind your back. Misery.

For a dog, it's even worse. Can't scratch behind your ear. Can't lick your paw. Can't bite at a flea. It's a miserable existence.

The 10 days seemed like 10 months. Boise milked the experience for attention. I encouraged everyone in the family to reach inside the cone and scratch his ears whenever they thought of it. He seemed genuinely grateful. Each time he moaned in appreciation.

For the pet, the cone must feel like punishment. Part humiliation, part torture.

It would be easier if the pet could understand the reason for the ordeal. But what is obvious to the owner - don't scratch a healing wound - is inexplicable to the dog.

It reminded me of the Bible passage that tells believers that God works in mysterious ways. Some of our earthly suffering might be the human equivalent of a cone collar - good for us in ways we can never hope to understand but makes perfect sense to a higher power.

After a few days in his collar, we noticed that Boise began to accept his fate. At first, when we put medicine in his eye, he tried to kick the cone off. Eventually, though, he became resigned to his condition and tolerated the medication without pushback.

photo Photo by Mark Kennedy / Boise eventually grew resigned to the short-term misery of his "cone of shame."

He realized that his life had changed - for the worse - and he had no reason to believe it would get better. So he relaxed.

Then, on day 10, I delivered the news that we were headed back to the vet.

"Ride?" I implored, raising my voice an octave.

Boise immediately hopped into my lap and tried to lick my face. In the process, the cone butted me in the forehead.

In the car he circled, yawned and trembled, behavior I've come to recognize as a blend of excitement and fear.

As we waited at the vet's office, he jumped from the floor to my lap and back down, over and over.

"Boise, chill," I whispered, hoping the receptionists wouldn't notice his bizarre dance.

Then, suddenly, the vet tech appeared.

"Can I carry Boise back?" she asked.

"Sure," I said, handing him over.

In five minutes, he was back. Stitches gone. Cone removed. He was wide-eyed with happiness.

"Good boy," I said, scratching behind his ears.

On the ride home, his whole body vibrated with excitement. When we got back to the house, he ran in circles and barked.

At age 8, this was the happiest I had seen my friend since he was a puppy.

He fought the good fight. He kept the faith.

And now?


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photo Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo

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