When pets get more love than partners - Dr. Marty Becker


When pets get more love than partners

Thursday, Apr 16th, 2020 | By Dr. Marty Becker

The global pandemic has turned our world upside down. The nation imposed travel restrictions, some states are on lockdown, our cities and towns are reeling, many neighborhoods seem like tumbleweeds should be blowing past boarded-up windows, and our workplaces and homes have dramatically changed almost overnight. Despite shifting sands, there are some bedrock-solid things that never change, and that’s what we anchor to when the winds of change are hurricane-strength.

For me and many others, our unshakable foundations are faith, family, close friends, and four-legged family members. I’ve been married almost 42 years to the absolute love of my life, my beloved Teresa, and we have weathered many storms before. Severe health scares, untimely deaths of family and friends, family feuds, partnership disputes, lawsuits, financial struggles, online harassment, several credible death threats, and more.

Unlike some families who grow apart with severe fear, anxiety, and stress, our struggles have been like a combination of glue and fertilizer: glue to hold us tightly together and fertilizer to make our love grow. We can honestly say that we’ve fallen in love with each other several times in our marriage, and many people seem to comment on and look up to our relationship. While I’m loyal as a Lab to Teresa and would never stray, there are times when I’d prefer to be with the other love of my life. No, not a mistress or long-distance lover. In fact, I’m being kissed by the love of my life, who’s sitting in my lap as I write this article, right now. It’s my 18-pound heartbeat, QT Pi.

QT Pi is a canine cocktail who is about two dogs long and half a dog tall. The canine equivalent of a low-rider, with short, muscular legs that barely keep his barrel chest off the ground. QT Pi came from California to Idaho via Wings of Rescue as part of a transfer of dogs from a high-risk shelter to the amazing Panhandle Animal Shelter in the nearby town of Sandpoint, Idaho.

Sadly, there was a distemper outbreak hat spread from the planes to several Northern Idaho shelters. QT Pi’s mom wasn’t affected, but all but two of the litter of six puppies died a horrible death (distemper is a bad way for a dog to die; the suffering is immense). Thanks to great medical care provided by Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and our ability to pay the $5000 fee, he fought his way back from almost certain death to be a picture of health.

From the first moment I picked QT Pi up after his hospitalization, he just gobbled up my heart. I think the average number of dogs people have in their lives runs from six to eight, and while I’ve had many more than that and loved every single one of them like family, I’ve never, ever, ever loved anything like I do QT. Notice I didn’t say a dog. I mean anything!

I told Teresa on our 40th anniversary that a) God was having one of his best days when he created her, and b) while my hairline was receding and my waistline was expanding, my heart was still in the same place when it came to her. Always the prettiest girl in the room in my eyes, and my best friend, there are still many times when I’d prefer QT Pi and truth be told, treat him better. Before I die of COVID-19, or old age, whichever comes first, here are some honest examples:

  • In bed, I wouldn’t hesitate to make Teresa move if she was encroaching on my space, snoring too loud, or somehow disrupting my sleep. On the other hand, I don’t care if QT has me trapped on the outside 6 inches of the mattress, is snoring right by my face, or slips into my heated depression when I go the bathroom at night, I would never, ever interrupt his beauty sleep, no matter if I’m dead tired and he’s slept 20 of the past 24 hours.
  • When I first get out of bed in the morning, I’m more excited to say hi to QT Pi than I am Teresa. I also have more positive energy saying hi to Pi and telling him how much Papa loves his son.
  • When eating at home or out, I always save some of the very best pieces for my little man. Luckily, Teresa is almost a vegetarian and I’m a carnivore, but even if we’re home eating homemade ice cream, I’d never give Teresa the last bite but almost always give it to QT Pi right off of the spoon.
  • Sometimes Teresa comes up to the loft in our log house where my office is, to bring me a drink and/or snack. Sometimes she’ll sit in my lap and hug me. However much I enjoy it (and I do), I’m always ready to get back to work. But when QT Pi gets up in my lap and kisses me….I have all the time in the world.
  • When Teresa tells me she’s hurting or feeling sick, I almost always think she’ll be all right. When QT Pi limps, cries out, has GI upset, or seems ill, this doctor is in an absolute panic, ready to rush him to the practice to be checked out.
  • Other than humans having opposable thumbs, thick hair only on their heads, and being bipedal whereas dogs walk on four legs, we basically have the same anatomy. That said, it would take serious illness or infirmity for me to wipe my wife’s butthole, but I have zero problem cleaning off QT’s.
  • If my wife ate something horrible or had putrid breath, I’d make an excuse not to kiss her. In fact, I’d probably avoid her. QT, on the other hand, can eat horse poop, devour a baby diaper, dig up a petrified ground squirrel he’d stashed or eat kitty Rocca out of the cat box, and I’ll still let him kiss me on the mouth. Sick? Agreed. Probably not the safest idea? Probably. But if that’s the way I die, I’d go with him sucking out my dying breath.
  • My wife has rheumatoid arthritis and honest to God, I give her a foot massage, with her feet in my lap, every single night that we’re home. But here’s the catch. I also stroke and massage QT Pi on my lap. Over the past few months Teresa says her feet’s time on my lap keeps getting shorter while QT Pi’s is longer. Something I hadn’t been aware of? Heh, heh, heh.
  • I give Teresa a teasing hard time about buying yet more shoes or denims. How many does she really need? In contrast, QT Pi gets three amazing toys each month with his premium Bark Box subscription. He has piles of toys everywhere on all three levels of our home. Do I ever think that QT has enough toys and consider cancelling his Bark Box subscription? Not just no, but hell no!
  •  Teresa’s 94-year-old mother, Valdie, and disabled 72-year-old brother, Rockey, are very messy when riding in the car. It doesn’t just have to be the ¼+ of their drive-thru food that ends up outside their mouths; it’s dozens of dirty facial tissues. Uck. On the other hand, QT Pi is the hairy-hand grenade and every ride in the car results in furry shrapnel all over the dash, seats, console, carpeting, and all of the occupants. Do I leave him at home, make him sit on a towel, or say anything negative to him? Um, no.

While I refuse to take a lie detector test to answer questions about love, loyalty, and affection, the truth that I speak is that there’s enough room in my heart for both. Just don’t tell QT.