If you can’t stand to read about poop, don’t read this post.

I arrived home from Switzerland on Monday night. On Tuesday early afternoon I took Aussie and Harry out into the woods. It was their first unleashed run since I’d gone and my chance to feel the New England (still) frozen earth under my feet. We had various adventures and came home.

I didn’t notice anything amiss till I called them to eat and Harry didn’t show up. Instead he lay on the sofa, clearly in pain. When Harry doesn’t rush to the kitchen as the sound of food rolling into his food bowl things are serious. I wondered whether I would make it to the zendo in the evening and just then Aussie, standing nearby, tottered and fell on the ground. She got up quickly enough, but her legs shook.

I never made it to the zendo last night. Instead, I made it to the hospital with two very sick dogs and was told they both exhibited classic signs of severe marijuana poisoning.

“How is that possible?” I asked the vet. “I took them right into the deep woods. We didn’t pass neighbors, compost, or anything like that.”

“People leave things in the woods,” she said.

She let me take Harry home—he could at least careen his way to the car—but recommended I leave Aussie in the hospital. “Try to check on Harry every hour,” she instructed. “Wake him up, make sure he’s conscious.”

She needn’t have worried. Harry was up every 20-30 minutes all night last night, running around the house, crashing into lamps, tables, and chairs, back legs crumbling under him, body collapsing left and right while I chased him with a leash, trying to stop him from hurting himself. He seemed afraid of me, afraid of the house. He rushed into cluttered corners and brought down side tables and books, belly strangely distended.

“Don’t let him go up or down stairs,” the vet said.

But Harry rushed upstairs into the bedroom and jumped on my bed. I hoped he’d rest there so I followed and lay next to him, exhausted. He clambered further down and lay on top of my legs, keeping me captive under his 41 pounds of scrappy muscle.

I shut my eyes, enjoying a few moments’ quiet; I felt enclosed by affection. He’s farting, I thought to myself. I bent to look down from my pillow and saw the dark puddle a foot away from me. Harry had left a pool of diarrhea on top of the quilt under which I lay.

I lay there quietly, not moving a muscle so as not to disturb the dog. This is love, I thought to myself. A red brindle dog, confused, anxious, in pain, stretched tightly over my body in search of relief, and next to him a puddle of shit.

Sometimes we are loved but don’t feel loved. The kisses, the words, the murmurs of endearment are not there. Even the dog that always rested his body against mine now runs away because of illness. But illness is also love. It confuses things, makes a mess, has a bad smell, and it’s love.

Soon, I knew, I’ll squirm and get out from under Harry because his weight is too much for me, and he will jump off in alarm and continue banging into things and bringing them down. I will follow him with a leash, say soothing words. And when he finally rests again I’ll go back up, collect the blanket, the cover, the sheet, the pillowcases, and even my bathrobe and put them into the washing machine. Later I will find poop everywhere, including in the lining of the duvet cover (how did it all get inside, I’ll wonder, and how does a little dog like Harry produce so much of it).

I’ll call the hospital, check on Aussie, maybe bring Harry in in the morning for a further check-up. Mop the wooden floors upstairs and down because Harry dribbled piss all over.

A night of shit, is what it is. A night and day of shit, illness, and confusion. So you clean up, try to feed him by hand, catch yourself before shouting at him because he careens into the water bowl and splashes water on the floor you just mopped. Someone is iIl, and you take care. Doesn’t feel like the real thing, but it is the real thing. At the same time, nothing to write home about.