I spent a lot of yesterday talking about my hypochondria, largely because I took my dog to the vet with a suspected case of worms, and the vet couldn’t find anything to confirm that. I decided that the dog had worms based on the fact that people without yards who clean up after their dogs in the moment just have an unfortunate amount of detail about what’s going on inside their dogs. I’d seen some things, and although I’m new as a dog owner and had never encountered anything like that before, I was pretty sure I knew what I saw. The first time I saw it, a couple of weeks ago, I consciously decided that I wasn’t going to get all crazy about it— that it was easy enough to misinterpret something like that, plus I didn’t want it to be going on, so denial was a pleasant alternative. But the dog is different in ways I found worrisome, and when, over the weekend, I saw something twice that I was pretty sure couldn’t leave me in denial, I decided that pretending the dog is fine because that would be really convenient for me wasn’t really a strategy I felt great about.
So I brought him in yesterday and told them “it’s fine, I’d love nothing better than to be wrong. If you think there’s something there, I’ll be glad we spotted it, and if not, I’ll be glad to know there’s not.” But I started to beat myself up. The story in my head went something like this:
“You know, you did this a couple of months ago with the cat— rushed him to emergency, put him through a lot, spent a fortune, and it turned out to be nothing. And here you go with the dog. What is wrong with you?!”
They tested a fecal sample I brought in Monday. I brought them two more yesterday (though I suspect they didn’t test them.) But, possibly to humor the hysterical lady who’s got pet-hypochondria, they gave him a “prophylactic” deworming. They checked him for a bunch of stuff, really didn’t find anything, declared that his lethargy was a pain symptom and gave me a different painkiller for him.
They warned me that if he did have parasites, I’d see them dead in his stool last night or this morning. When I checked last night, I didn’t see them, but I checked by streetlight, so who can be sure. I thought “way to go. You put him through a day at the vet and a bunch of tests and this deworming (which sounds like a real treat if it kills living organisms in your digestive tract on contact), because you’re feeling neurotic, and are consuming maybe just a little more caffeine than is good for you.” But I had also come to some peace about it, because it was good to rule some things out. To know that my vet took a good look at more than his deformities and is confident that he’s healthy. It wasn’t as expensive as my freak out in January, and this one might have actually done some good, establishing baseline blood results and things with my vet, in ways I wouldn’t be motivated to do without a precipitating event like this.
But this morning, I got confirmation. I wasn’t hysterical. The evidence was right there and undeniable. And it’s making me wonder (not for the first time) why I’m so fast to sell myself short. I’m not hysterical by nature— I’m careful and thoughtful, calm and especially good under pressure. My first step when I saw the first evidence was to check online for more information, compare his symptoms to common symptoms of dogs with this problem, and then explore alternatives. Could it be string from a toy? Could it be grass? When I saw it again, I didn’t pack him off to the emergency vet right away, I watched and waited. And when I saw it a third time, I put on my to do list a tickler to call the vet when I refilled his pain prescription, and ask them what their recommended course of action would be.
It’s funny, one of the things that I got told as I left my old job, after 14 years, after building systems 13 years ago that are still in use today, after publishing a dozen books none of which the organization was doing before I got there, after revolutionizing processes and relationships in education over the last four years, was that I was extremely trustworthy. I didn’t dispute it, but I did feel damned by faint praise. But here it is again. I am extremely trustworthy. And apparently, it’s something I need to be reminded of, more than I know.