Features | Vermont Sunday Magazine
by JD Green

Eye infections, surgeries, stitched wounds. Most dogs owners have been there alongside their four-legged friends. But even more traumatic than the injury or procedure itself can be the “Elizabethan collar” affixed to our pets’ heads to deter licking and scratching, and to promote healing. Most vets call it “ the E collar,” but I’ve often heard “radar dish,” “lampshade” and “funnel.” I call it “the cone of shame.” I’m sure you’ve heard this before, because it’s true — most dogs tend to actually look ashamed to wear it. And who wouldn’t? Can you imagine waking up in post-op with a giant plastic cone around your head?

I found Buddy’s old lampshade the other day, buried under some boxes in the mudroom. He despised them, but was forced to wear them often during all the hotspots, cysts, broken nails and countless other ailments.
The last time, he was limping slowly on his new knee that cost me a small fortune. Buddy would even take it as far as to protest eating and drinking altogether. I can still see that evil glare when mealtime was over and the cone of shame had to be returned to his head.

Admittedly, my worry and deep concern for his well-being was always conflicted by an inner temptation to burst out laughing. As if I didn’t already sympathize enough with what he had gone through, I was now struggling to contain my laughter while he attempted to navigate with that silly plastic lampshade on his head.

How sad that we humans would stoop so low. My emotions traveled from amusement to guilt in less than 60 seconds one time when Buddy met the doorway and gave up the fight by just sitting down to rest. It was almost as if he was waiting for the door to move itself. Coupled with the fact that he was still somewhat sedated, it really ought not to be a laughing matter.
Some dogs skirt along the brink of utter insanity while trying to itch their healing wounds. Others demonstrate carelessness and recklessness, knocking items off coffee tables. Worse even is that most are probably being scolded in some way for their constant bumping into doorways and chairs. So it’s no wonder, really, why dogs hang their heads low sporting this goofy cone of shame.

I blame the shame on Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth that is. Back in the fifteenth century, during the Golden Age or “Elizabethan times,” she started all this with her fancy ruff collars. Back then the rich and royal wore these collars so their necks wouldn’t stain their shirts and coats.

So here’s to dogs and cats everywhere, including those no longer at our sides. We are sorry for the added torment we have caused you during your most trying times. We never intended to humiliate you or damage your ego by asking you to look as ridiculous as Shakespeare.

We’re sorry for even going to the extent of making our own E collars from plastic wastebaskets, flowerpots, water buckets and even cardboard, all for the sake of saving a buck. What a disgrace we are to you, our beloved pet.

Please accept our most sincere apology for bringing you home with this truncated and absurd contraption wrapped around your head, asking you to consider doing the stairs. We meant no disrespect. We are sorry that you were seen by the dog next door as we removed you from the car and we’ll never forgive ourselves for giggling while you tried to scratch your face. We can only imagine what that must be like.

If we could repent by infesting our own ears with a thousand fleas and our hands tied behind our backs, we would. I can assure you that our intentions were only to see you heal properly, as instructed by the vet. Please forgive us. We meant no harm. We thought we were laughing with you, not at you. We’re sorry we scolded you for pushing all those magazines to the floor after you crashed into the dishwasher door. We’re sorry for calling you names like “cone head” and posting those humiliating pictures of you on Facebook. And we’re sorry for decorating your cone with garland and tinsel that year during Christmas.

Dearly beloved pets, understand that Elizabeth and her Monarchy are to blame. Not us. I’m sure she never imagined while sipping tea in her castle that today, at this very moment, thousands of dogs and cats would be struggling to eat and drink from their dishes.