We're blessed to have good, old friends (or old, good friends, which somehow doesn't sound as good). I've known most of mine since grade school, we still live in the SF Bay Area and get together regularly. During our late twenties, pretty much everybody (except Jack and me) started having kids and it was great. Babies! So cute, cuddly and sweet-smelling.
But soon it became apparent that our friends' brains had turned to mush. Fun dinner parties at the newest restaurants in town? Gone. Scintillating conversation? Over. Weekends at the beach with associated late-night mayhem? Done.
In the beginning when everyone was on their first one and we did manage to get together, things would come to a screeching halt if a toddler sneezed. "We're going to the emergency room--not enough time to call 911!" Our eyes rolled back in our heads--who were the aliens inhabiting these peoples' bodies? More kids rained down and for a few years we lost everyone in the flood.
Cut to a few years later, with those kids well on their way to college, and all of us older, wiser and obsessed with no-incision plastic surgery techniques. Jack and I pick up Waldo and within the first six weeks we rush him to the emergency room three times to have his stomach pumped, convinced he has eaten something poisonous (we went a fourth time but the vet refused, and said we might want to visit our own physician "if anxiety is a recurring issue for you.")
While frantically waiting for these procedures to be completed, we call our friends, all of whom have dogs, tell them what's happened and ask whether they think Waldo will survive. Looking back, it's a miracle none of them fell on the floor in hysterics; being good friends, they were supportive and kind, perhaps a little less so the third time.
Looking back in time, at least at some level I did understand how scary it must have been to think your child was seriously ill. But I didn't grasp the full-blown panic until we had Waldo, and were completely responsible for his well-being. Obviously kids aren't dogs (kids can often communicate with words and they eat a lot of different kinds of food) but for those of us who'll never have them, I think a dog can elicit many of the same defensive impulses. All of us--kids, adults, dogs--are essentially primal beings who share elements of a paleo-mammalian brain. We protect what we love.