Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

Saralee Perel

The Best Birthday Gift of My Life

Last week on my birthday, the phone rang. “The dog ate some Hershey’s Kisses,” my husband Bob, breathing rapidly, said from the car phone.

“Did you call the vet?”

“Yes. It’s not just the chocolate. It’s the foil. We have to get it out of her right away.”

Soon Bob came through the door with Gracie, an adorable Golden Retriever-ish dog who usually has a big goofy grin. But today, she wouldn’t even look up at me or give me any licky-face kisses.  Bob, clearly in agony, had a look on his face I hadn’t seen in 9 years.

As we rushed her out back Bob said, “I hate myself for letting this happen.” I’d have given anything to take his anguish away and have it myself instead.

With a turkey baster, we administered the remedy by mouth that should make her throw up. I’d better not say more about the remedy. I think this should only come from a vet.

Then we waited.

Bob and Gracie are, let’s just say – lovers in (most) every sense of the word. Each morning he hugs me for a second before I get out of bed. Then he lies on the bed with Gracie and they play sick “Who loves you more?” games that get really weird, if you ask me.

I stood by them in our woods. Gracie looked terribly nauseated. Swaying, she walked slowly with her head near the ground. Still nothing happened. We knew we had very little time. We were in frequent touch with the vet. If the remedy didn’t work, she told us, we’d have to get Gracie right in.

Bob began to cry. My heart broke, watching him kneel beside his close pal. “I called her a bad dog,” he whispered, soothingly rubbing her back as he tried not to cry. Gracie, agitated, started licking his face. Whenever Bob is upset or crying, she tries to make him feel better. “She could die and I called her a bad dog.” Those words, we knew, seem to destroy her.

“You had to reprimand her,” I said, touching his shoulder. Still we waited. Nothing. So as instructed, we gave her the remedy again.

Bob said, “I bought you a stuffed lion for your birthday with Hershey’s Kisses in its arms.” Gracie, miserably weak now, tried to push her face under his chin to make him feel better. Our first dog did the same thing in her final moments 9 years ago, trying to sooth him through his tears although she was dying. I knew Bob was thinking of that now. He rubbed Gracie behind her ears. “What if I never see her after today?” He could barely talk. “When I went into Subway, I put the chocolate under the seat.”

“Stop, sweetheart,” I said softly.

“Please,” he whispered, looking up at the heavens. “Make my dog vomit.”

I looked through the sliding glass door and saw my birthday table, covered with presents, with ribbons dangling from the lamp above. The scene was such a contrast to the angst in front of me.

And then, it was as if the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir, wearing white robes, slowly and regally rose above the tree-lined horizon, and began to sing softly then escalate to a magnificent roar, “Hal-le-lu-jah  . . .  HAL-LE-LU-JAH.”

The dog threw up, foil and all.

Bob and I cried with tremendous relief. Gracie, getting caught up in the moment, joined us in a 3 way wiggly hug.

I learned 2 things.

1.      No matter how much you trust your dog, you can’t take chances.

2.      Vomit is the best birthday present I ever had.