The Pneumonia Diet

On the night before he was murdered, a dinner guest asked Julius Caesar what was the best death. “Sudden and unexpected,” Caesar said. That lets out pneumonia. Doctors call pneumonia “the old man’s friend,” because it spares us from worse things, by killing us. But what if I want to live?

Worry not. This column shall not be an unrelieved concatenation of horrors. It’s actually about puppies.

I’m sort of an athletic guy. I run a lot, anyway. One day I ran 56 miles on a bet. But for the past six weeks all I’ve been able to do is stagger from the couch to the bidet and back. I dropped 10 pounds really quick. Being a guy, I thought that was a pretty good deal in exchange for a bad cold. My sainted sister, however, dragged me by the ear to a doctor, who told me I had pneumonia.

Three rounds of antibiotics and steroids later — all for a stuffed-up nose — I got a call from a nice lady at County Health who told me that I had whooping cough. Pertussis is a mandatory reporter, and she wanted to know if I had breathed on anyone lately.

Another crafty move by the “deep state,” no doubt: tracking my breathing to take away my guns.

Actually, I learned more from County Health than I did from my doctor. She called pertussis “the 100-day cough,” which, depending on how you look at it, is good news or bad news. It could mean another 50 days of misery, but on the other hand, maybe only 50.

My doctor, under the strict scrutiny of the DEA, allotted me one snifter of prescription cough syrup in the past six weeks, because the remedy contains codeine, a narcotic, and is therefore presumptively evil.

Now, my doctor knows as well as I do that codeine is the only drug that calms this cough — that allows me to sleep at night, and allow my body to recover on its own. No matter.

Codeine Bad; Whooping cough and pneumonia: Good? Never mind.

Six weeks on the couch, sick or not, is enough to depress anyone’s spirits. So last week I sought the only remedy left: a puppy.

Sure, the antibiotics and steroids helped: They killed the nefarious microbes. But what got me out of my sickbed is the puppy. Because who else is going to care for him?

Puppies think everything is cool. Slightly scary, perhaps, but cool. Yeah, he pisses and craps on the floor, so what? He’ll get over it, and so will I. Gets me out of bed, too.

Caring for a puppy is like caring for a baby. Last night, hearing him whine, I stumbled from sleep to take him to the back yard. There I saw brave Titus wander around and eventually pee. “Yay, puppy dog!” Then I saw him scooch down and rub his butt on the grass as we headed back. That taught me a lesson.

Titus does not want to crap in the house. Titus does not even know he is doing it. All he knows, 4 months after he popped out of his mama, is that something fell out of his butt. I can’t blame him for that, though I can correct him. When it gets aggravating, I try to remember it’s not his fault. He’s not a human. He’s a dog.

Just so, when Titus licks my face, I know he’s doing it to tell me he loves me, in the only way he knows how. Because that’s what his mother taught him.

In this way, I hope — though this probably won’t work — Titus might help me understand my fellow Americans, in a country that is becoming increasingly vicious, ugly, ignorant and mendacious. Millions of my countrymen and -women, I’d wager, don’t even know what they’re doing when that crap comes out of them. They’re just doing what their mother taught them.

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