The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Jessica Feder-Birnbaum – Creative Prose

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Jessica Feder-Birnbaum

Just A Dog

The dog is picky with food. His glands are swollen.
Blood work shows Canine Lymphoma.
Chemotherapy offers a shot at remission.
There is rarely a cure.
The kids say you favor the dog. Not your idea to get the dog.
Now you must save the dog.
You thought you were being frugal by adopting a rescue.
Fat chance. First there were the puppy warts.
Next was the hip dysplasia. And now the dog has cancer.
A cycle of chemo costs as much as sending the kids to sleep away camp.
The same as a month of round the clock nurse-aides for your mother-in-law.
But the dog responds to treatment.
You are cautiously optimistic and pray for a cure.
At the end of six months the dog is declared to be in remission.
He wears a royal blue bandana that says “kicking cancer’s tail.”
The dog is back to himself. The lymphoma, it seems is a thing of the past.
Then one day you notice the dog is picky with food. His glands are swollen.
Blood work shows the lymphoma is back.
The dog’s life flashes before your eyes: His first haircut.
Chasing the cat around the apartment.
Walking on Park Avenue with his butt in the air.
The vet oncologist tells of a Labrador who’s thirteen and on a third round of chemo.
There are still unpaid balances on your credit card.
The vet puts the dog on prednisone.
It’s less expensive, and less effective than chemo.
A side effect is polydipsia, which is increased thirst and urination.
The dog gets more walks. Wee-wee pads blanket the floor.
The dog receives acupuncture.
Holistic supplements called Survival and Immune Support are stirred into his food.
You’re up all night worrying about the dog.
You’re not ready to give up on the dog.
The dog is like your third child.
He doesn’t know he’s sick
He’s just a dog.


Jessica Feder-Birnbaum is a playwright, author, and interdisciplinary theatre artist. Her plays are produced regionally and in New York. Other writings have been published in print and on-line.

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