How My Dog’s Penis Forced Me to Get Married

“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”

~Matt Groening, Life in Hell

Photo credit: Bodhi Smith Photography

To be fair, the title of this post really should be “How My Dog’s Penis Forced Me to Elope.”  (But that probably wouldn’t be quite clickbaity enough.)  As a matter of precision, nobody forced me to get married.  My partner J and I decided some months ago, after nearly 5 years together, that it was time to do the thing.  J doesn’t really care about weddings…one of his many fine qualities; a quality that I am sorry to admit I don’t share.  I absolutely was pumped about the pageantry, the dancing, and especially the only opportunity I would ever get to parade down an aisle to the “Grand Finale” from Edward Scissorhands wearing a veil, a fancy Mucha-style headdress, and a mint green (never white; horrors!) filmy gown with a long train covered in crawling, iridescent, ombré beetles and butterflies.  Finally, I had an excuse.  And I would get to invite the people I love to all be in a room at once – bonus!  (Since moving to Pittsburgh 4 years ago, my opportunities to visit friends have been few and far between.)


We decided to get married on our 6th anniversary, 9/20/2020 (I am sentimental about keeping our anniversary the same, and also thought “20/2020″ would be cool and easy to remember), and to keep it under $5,000.  I joined a yearlong weight loss study at the University of Pittsburgh and drastically improved my diet and exercise habits, just knowing I would look killer in those wedding pics.  I completed a 9-month course of Accutane, suffering stubbornly through major side effects like a 7-month constant menstrual period that only ended once the course was finished, as well as severe muscle and joint pain (dramatically impacting my ability to stand, walk, or sleep – yet I still resolved to walk 5 miles per day despite the pain, and did it every day without fail.)  My skin, at least, looks pretty awesome.


We were leaning towards a Caribbean-themed Victorian lodge-turned-B&B on the North Side of Pittsburgh as our venue, a nod to J’s half-Cuban heritage and also to my love of old Victorian houses.  We would rent all of the rooms in the inn for 2 nights to put up our out-of-town guests, and help lessen the expense of traveling to our wedding for them.  The inn was even dog-friendly…visions of our two puppers in bow ties or floral wreaths swam in my head.  Our recessional could be to “Mighty Science Theater (MST3K End Theme)”!  Our first dance could be Dance Dance Revolution style to “Taking the Hobbits to Isengard”!  Instead of wedding favors, we could gift guests with copies of some of our favorite books or films!  We would wed under a book arch (true story; we bought it from a local couple and it currently frames our TV)!  It wouldn’t be the ritziest wedding ever, but it would be fun, and awesome, and people might retain some cool memories of it.


He’s very proud. You will never believe how heavy this was to lift. However heavy you’re thinking, quadruple it.

Then, a few weeks ago, J went to the doctor about persistent symptoms he couldn’t shake  The doctor diagnosed him with severe pneumonia and bad fluid buildup in his lungs.  He was sent to the ER for treatment.  Dreading a huge ER bill, J took only a couple days off work to recuperate.  And ten days ago, J came home from work to find the house, and our St. Bernard Jupe, covered in blood.


Initially, J couldn’t figure out where the blood was coming from.  Jupe showed no signs of pain or lethargy; he joyfully rolled in his blood as if it were grass.  It was matted in his fur and all over his face.  He galumphed and gamboled happily through the living room, spraying the walls, floor, and furniture red as J tried to tackle him.  J managed to drag him up the stairs to the bathroom and rinse off as much of the blood as possible.  Could Jupe have gotten into a fight with our Newfoundland, Silas?  But Silas was spotless.  J couldn’t find a wound anywhere.  Eventually, he was able to deduce that the blood was flowing out of the sheath of Jupe’s penis.  He called me at work and I left early, so we could take him to the vet.  Our frantic Googling didn’t tell us much…it could be three or four things of varying degrees of severity: it could be a bladder infection, it could be prostatitis, it could be cancer.  But it was probably one of those things.


As it turned out, it was none of those things.  After a couple hours of waiting, we were finally called in.  The vet put on a glove, (ahem) “stimulated” Jupe to come out of his sheath, and I watched her gasp and recoil as a fresh spray of blood showered all over her arm and my shoes.  To the vet tech:  “Stacey!  Bring in a camera!  I’ve never seen anything like this!  It’s crazy!”  And that’s when she told us:


Our beautiful, sweet, derpy dog…had chewed the tip of his own penis off.


It’s OK. You can laugh. Everybody we tell reacts with the same mixture of horror and poorly-repressed hilarity. Before you ask, I’ll answer all of the same questions we answered for the vet:  We’ve had him two years, he has ZERO history of health problems, separation anxiety, self-mutilation, or even humping (they were trying to ascertain whether he was masturbating and accidentally injured himself, then just sort of made it worse and worse by compulsively licking/chewing the area that was in pain).  Still, nobody is sure exactly what prompted it.  We would end up seeing multiple vets and surgeons over the next couple days, and all seemed flummoxed.  Over and over, we kept hearing “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”  We were stumped, the professionals were stumped, and Jupe’s penis was stumped.


In the waiting room, J (the stoic, the unsentimental) sobbed.  He would probably say our dogs are like his children and he loves both them equally, but indefatigably cheerful, goofy Jupe is definitely his favorite.  Our local vet ended up referring us to a pet ER several miles away – she wouldn’t even begin to know how to treat this, she said.  She wasn’t sure if he could just be sutured, or if a surgeon would essentially have to do a sex-change operation on him, removing his entire penis and building him a vaginal-style opening for the remains of his urethra.


We would end up spending 26 hours in two separate pet hospitals.  For the first time since joining the Pitt weight loss study in May, I failed to walk my daily 5 miles.  We just sat and waited hours for updates.  The initial examining doctor at the pet ER was incredibly rude and kept asking questions, but then cutting me off as I was answering (or when I had exploratory questions, concerns about finances, etc.) and telling me to shut up and let him finish.  J was seeing red, but neither of us wanted to say anything to jeopardize getting Jupe treated.  Eventually, Jupe saw a surgeon (a lovely woman who was the exact opposite of the initial examining ER doctor, kind and compassionate and very straightforward in addressing all of our questions and fears).  We were presented with an estimate of several thousand dollars.  Jupe’s entire penis would not have to be amputated, but he would need a partial amputation of about an inch, and to have his urethra enlarged so that when it healed, it wouldn’t scar over, rendering him unable to urinate.  Payment was required up front – no payment plans.  If we couldn’t pay all at once, they wouldn’t operate, and he’d be left to his own devices, whether that meant bleeding out, infection, or worse.  We were pushed to take out a line of “Care Credit”, which must be paid back within 6 months or we’d be facing insane 23% interest rates.


Now facing both J’s ER bill and Jupe’s emergency surgery bill, we decided to cancel our wedding and use our venue money to save our dog.  J’s parents kindly lent us $585 to help with the portion of the payment we couldn’t cover ourselves.


Jupe’s operation seems to have gone well.  He has been wearing a cone of shame that cannot be removed for at least 2 weeks.  We were instructed to keep him crated and supervised at all times for at least a week.  J and I alternated days off to watch him, so that neither of us got too behind at work.  We had to tranquilize him every few hours to keep him calm, because every time he got “excited”, blood rushed to the area, and he would bleed.  He continued to bleed heavily for 4-5 days after the surgery.  That has thankfully stopped.  He is not allowed to use stairs yet, so J has been sleeping on the sofa next to his crate.  We are worried about whether this could ever possibly happen again, once his cone is removed.  Nobody seems to know.  We just have to wait and see.



Yesterday, on our 5-year anniversary, 9/20/2019, J and I married ourselves at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with a self-uniting license (one of the quirky little idiosyncrasies peculiar only to Pennsylvania).  Prior to the cancellation of our wedding, J’s cousin was going to officiate.  I regret that we won’t have the opportunity to hear whatever lovely things he was going to say, but hopefully he is a little relieved that he doesn’t have to write a speech.  I indulged in an antique 1920s browband headpiece, and a vintage teal flared coat with gold buttons down the back.  Otherwise, the bride wore her black work pants, beat-up black ballet flats with the odd hole in them, and her hair down.  As luck would have it, and in keeping with this post’s general theme of nonstop bleeding, it was the second day of my period (the WORST of all period days), so I was feeling pretty queasy/bloated and sapped of energy all morning, and I threw up a few times from a combination of nervousness and nausea.  Just general grodiness.  And J is still recovering from pneumonia, so lots of coughing and nose-blowing on his part.  Suffice to say, it wasn’t exactly the dashing romantic movie with swelling music and perfect lighting.  I took a few photos of myself in our makeshift library while J was getting ready.  They’re all pretty much the same photo, really.  Me trying to look pretty and distract myself enough to keep from vomiting some more:



The Carnegie Museum is probably my favorite place in Pittsburgh, and it turns out that yesterday it was practically deserted so we had it almost entirely to ourselves…apparently everyone was out marching in the Global Climate Change Strike that we’d somehow missed the news about, amidst rushing to plan a quickie elopement (oops).  J and I took photos and selfies until we came to the T-Rexes.  After arguing over they were two T-Rexes in love (me) or two T-Rexes fighting over an animal carcass (him), we stood before the and said the magic “I take you as my husband/wife” words and signed the marriage license.  To be honest, I had feared that eloping might end up feeling a little anticlimactic, like a bank transaction, but when the moment came, although it happened quickly, I felt my heart surge and had to blink back a couple tears.  Then we continued taking photos in the museum.  We had a fun day, and if you can have fun with somebody even while you both feel like you’re dying, then that just might be your person.


We did the thing!!! Two T-Rexes in love. (And a sad man in the background, depressed that he is not also getting married at the museum today.)


I will not float regally down an aisle like a Mucha nature goddess in a beautiful gown in front of 40-60 people I love.  I will not have my updo and makeup professionally done to look amazing in glossy, professional photos.  I will not dance the night away, culminating in the Commitments’ cover of “Try a Little Tenderness”.  I will not speed away from my venue in a limo, receive complimentary newlywed upgrading to first class seating at the airport, and fly with J to Paris or Prague or Indonesia to honeymoon at a French flea market, an ossuary, or an orangutan sanctuary.  “You have lost 30 lbs.!” my FitBit chirped happily at me yesterday morning, and I thought about how that was nice, but how if I only had another year, maybe I’d have been 90 lbs. skinnier in my wedding photos instead.


In the end though, I am no less married, our beloved puppy was worth it, and, well…J is probably secretly thrilled we won’t have to move that heavy-ass book arch any time soon.  Perhaps next year, we will try to do a road trip across the U.S. and UK, meeting up with the people we wish could have been here with us, and celebrating in private.  If you’re one of those people reading this…I’m sorry.  I love you and wanted you there.  But who knows, maybe you also are secretly thrilled you won’t have to plan a trip to Pittsburgh.  It was something I maybe feared a little: most of my friends were married years ago, in their 20s, and are busy with babies and careers.  When you’re the last of your friends to get married, and you’re also far away from everyone you know, you realize that your wedding will likely never be as important to anyone else as theirs was to you, and that’s OK.  It’s not exactly what I’d imagined, but at least there’s something to be said for starting off our married lives together without being saddled with a chunk of party debt.


Our convenience store clerk asked us this morning how it felt being married.


It was just after this happened…happy 80th birthday, Batman.


I told her the truth, which is:  “About the same”.  We left the house yesterday morning unmarried, we came home yesterday afternoon exhausted and married.


(Approximation via earlier photo with less beard…he just looks too cute asleep.)


I immediately changed into comfy pajama pants and we cuddled while watching TV and eating burritos.  The dogs had to be walked and the trash had to be taken out and J wanted to make it to the gym before bed.  Maybe this weekend we’ll hit up Fiori’s Pizza (mmm, Fiori’s, my other favorite place in Pittsburgh).  On Monday we’ll go back to work.  We’ve lived together for 4 years of our 5 year relationship.  We’ve been registered as domestic partners and shared health insurance and other work benefits for those 4 years.  I’m very excited and happy, but despite everyone who says “You’ll see – it’s always different after you get married, you just can’t stop it from happening!”  there has not been any seismic shift…life and the routine go on.  J was already my best friend and the person I love the most.  We knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together; now it’s just been slightly more formalized in the eyes of the rest of the world.  You can’t always have a wedding, but we have a marriage.  The foundation we built was in the works a long time ago.  Hearing the word “wife” is just a fresh and exciting little extra zing…except when he goes “mah waaaif” like Borat, which I regret to report has already begun.


Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.  Sometimes they eat out your eyeballs.  Or sometimes, just maybe, you wrench yourself free of the wreckage, bludgeon them to death with a twisted steel blade, and promenade across the ice together, wearing their blood-spattered ice weasel corpses around your shoulders like a trophy, hand in hand, searching for your next unlikely vehicle to crash as long as it’s with one another…your hot air balloon, your water jet ski, your hang glider, your next adventure together.


~Brianna Karp Sokol


Speak Your Mind