This week hasn’t been like other weeks. One morning, The Witch had just woken us up and Mom was still snuggling with The Witch (which she always does before snuggling with me… which she always does before getting up) when The Witch stopped what she was doing for a phone call. Mom never talks to anyone but me in the morning, but she put The Witch to her face and spoke. “What’s up?” she asked, but not in that normal way. Then she got out of bed and started getting dressed, which was all out of order from the way things are supposed to be. A few minutes later she was telling me that she loved me, and to be good, and that she’ll be back… which is definitely not the way things are supposed to be. The mornings are Mom’s and my time to run and explore, and she’s not supposed to leave me alone like that.
Mom left me alone for me to think about exactly five million zillion horrible things that could have happened to her to keep her from coming back to me. She did come home, but we didn’t go to work, or go on a walk, or any of the things we would have normally done. She just did some chores, and then left the house again. Without me. The next day was mostly the same. I was starting to get very concerned indeed that our lives were ruined, and we weren’t going to go to work or have adventures anymore.
But then, on the second night, she did something even stranger. Even though it was the middle of the night, she packed a bag and we got in the car. When we got out a short time later, we were at My Friend’s house; the one who had helped The Dreadmill get into The New Stuck House. I ran into the house excited to tell him all about Mom’s strange behavior, but at first I couldn’t find him. I looked in the garage where he likes to put things together and take them apart again, and I looked on the deck where he likes to look at the mountains. I finally found him on the couch, hiding under blankets with only his eyes, and nose, and petting hand showing. And he smelled funny too, like medicines and fear and another smell that I’d never smelled before but scared me.
Mom explained that My Friend had broken his heart, and that she had spent the last two days with him at the vet. I knew that meant she’d spent two days and kissing him, and patting his head, and banging on his chest, and telling him not to be scared because he was her best boy. Tonight I had my most important job ever: Mom and I had to make sure that his heart stayed together, and keep the fear away so that he could concentrate on feeling better. So even though Mom and I have our own Stuck House just a couple of miles away, we stayed at My Friend’s stuck house instead. That’s called “nursing.”
All you have to do when you’re nursing is sit with a sick person, and maybe eat the ham in their fridge if it’s too salty for their broken heart. Just because nursing is awesome doesn’t mean it’s not important, because the sick person might be scared (in a manly way) and so they might not be able to concentrate on getting better without your help. They need to see that no matter what happens, you’ll be sitting there to make sure that they’re feeling well enough to give pats. Being a nurse is a great job for humans too, because all they have to do is sit and watch TV and talk.
Mom and I did leave My Friend alone sometimes, and went for adventures together while he was napping. But we had to stay close to home so we went to the beach mountain where we used to sleep in the Covered Wagon on the nights when it was too long to drive home from work. It was not a good day to be at the ocean, because the mountain was holding February back so that the rest of the world could have a sunny summer Saturday, and February had swallowed all the distances.
Now that we were alone, I asked Mom a question that had been bugging me.
“Mom, what would have happened if you hadn’t been there to drive My Friend to the vet? We could have been sleeping, or on a far-away adventure, or we could have still been living in our Old Stuck House and too far away to help.”
“Well, he could have called an ambulance to take him to the hospital, or a different friend. But it’s not the drive to the hospital that was the important thing, the important thing was the part that you were there for.”
“Why? I didn’t do much. I just let him pat me while he watched TV.”
“What you did was much more important than that, Oscar. Did you know that the night before he called us, Your Friend was already feeling sick from a broken heart. But he was scared; he was scared of being sick, and he was also scared of the vet. So he stayed home and pretended he was okay.” I get real scared when I go to the vet too, but Mom always pats me and tells me that she loves me the whole time, and that lets me know that I’m safe. Even though I’m the bravest dog, I don’t think I would be brave enough to go to the vet alone either. “You sitting with him showed him that he didn’t need to be scared of going to the vet, and it also showed him that if he was scared of what the vet said –– because vets do say scary things sometimes –– that you would sit with him for that too.”
I thought about that for a long time. I always thought that being brave meant not being scared, like when I look off the edge of a cliff while Mom squawks and whimpers like a giant chicken behind me. But just like when Mom calls my name from the bathroom, and I go even though I know it means a bath, sometimes you need to be brave to be scared. Not everyone’s brave enough to run to Mom when they’re frightened. What they don’t know, and I didn’t know until this week is that I really like nursing, because people who want to lie still and give me pats are my favorite people.
Oscar the Nurse