4 min read

The dogs have the stomach flu, and I'm convinced it's my fault.

Cassie and Dottie

This is a photo of Cassie (on the left) and Dottie (on the right) from about a year ago when they weren't throwing up and pooping everywhere.

For the last few days, Cassie and Dottie have been throwing up and pooping, almost nonstop. Friday night and into the wee hours of Saturday morning, I took Cassie out every hour, on the hour, all night. Exhausted, I finally fell to sleep and she popped on the floor in our hallway. The husband has done the bulk of the clean up because this kind of Dog flu can be Norovirus, something he's not sensitive to, but I am. Our backyard looks like a minefield of dog patties.

This is what happens around here when the winters are warm. The Canada Geese in City Park poop out a potent cocktail of dog heroin and toxic waste.

We make every effort to keep them from eating the goose poop. They respond with subterfuge worthy of an old school John Le Carre spy.

Now, they are both sick.

Really sick.

And somehow, I'm confident it's my fault.

I am their primary care taker. I spend all day, every day with them. I am responsible for their food.

Clearly, it's my fault. Because...

Canada Goose

The likely culprit -- the Canada Goose


I grew up hearing: "Everything was fine until Claudia showed up."

The belief stems from the fact that my schizophrenic mother slipped in to a major rotating-head freak out around the time of my birth. Of course, it had more to do with the apparent murder of her mother just a few months later, my father's bankruptcy, and her father's new, fresh off the Miss California pageant, wife.  Her psychosis in full bloom, she found monsters and liars around every corner. The conspiracy theory she still believes regarding her mother's death shows some of the depth of her psychosis at the time.

That's not what anyone the family believes.

The family mantra is that my mother was fine until I showed up.

I am responsible for everything that was wrong in my family because everything... was fine...

"Everything was fine until you showed up" has been said to me so often that it's basically the theme song for my life. It's said even today!

These words are one of the last things my father said to me before he died.

My sisters repeat this single statement unconscious vigor. When I've pointed it out to my eldest sister that she'd made this statement, she shrugged and said that "You can't avoid the truth." My youngest sister denied ever saying the phrase until she said it again. Then she just looked at me and said that she was a good Christian, thus never lied. If she said it, it must be the truth.

Everything was fine...

Even repeated in the safe confines of my head, these words cut me to the quick. My breath stops. My mouth drops open and tears well in my eyes.

Even today, my siblings believe that "everything was fine until Claudia showed up." So, I stopped showing up.

Back to the dogs...


We found Cassie and Dottie on the Denver Dumb Friend's League website. As I've written about before, they had a really difficult time before they came to live with us. They were about six months old and vastly underweight. Dottie was so thin that the people at the Dumb Friend's League weren't sure she would survive. Cassie was bigger but they were both shockingly thin.

It's a miracle that they survived.

Because of this history, they have major food issues. We've been able to overcome their serious prey drive. We've been able to overcome fighting for food. We've been able to overcome all of that.

Until now.

We're stopped giving them food because they are sick. Their hunger and this thing  in their guts brings their early months of starvation back.

Cassie and Dottie are anxious, upset, and sick.

And I can't shake the feeling that it's my fault.

Certainly, if you look on the Internet, you will see a host of articles about how this type of situation is the pet owners fault. I fed them the wrong food. I gave them some yogurt with human probiotics in it. I didn't give them enough probiotics. I didn't give them this expensive product or that other thing that is vital to health.

The Internet and my family story fit together like hand in a glove.

That's the problem with the Internet. There's so much out there that you can confirm almost any bizarre theory.


This morning, Cassie and Dottie were in good spirits and full of energy. They spent the morning helping the husband shovel snow and went to the store with him. When they returned, I fed them some rice and chicken broth. They didn't like it much, but they did eat it.

They are sleeping now.

Dogs and people get sick. That's just the very nature of life.

Regardless of what I believe inside, it doesn't actually have anything to do with me.

But now knowing they are sick, I'm going to do everything in my power to fix it.

That's the difference between reality and my family story. If there was anything I could have done to "fix" my mother, I would have done it. My childhood was spent trying everything I could think of.

She was still mentally ill.

Severe mental illness is not the stomach flu. There's no amount of rest or light food that can make it go away. Untreated, mental illness tends to get worse with time, not better.

Especially, if you and everyone around  you is certain that "everything was fine until Claudia came around."