Last Friday the power went off at my husband’s office so he came home to finish the work day. I decided to leave him to the quiet so Dolly, our Norfolk Terrier, and I left to do a few errands. About a mile from the house, I smelled something awful, looked at my puppy and drove home immediately. Upon opening the front door, I was overwhelmed by a cloud of diarrhea (my husband has terrible allergies and can never smell anything) found the mess, looked at Dolly and announced, “We are going to the vet.” Then, she threw up a smattering of green leaves. In the car she started to drool.
Five hundred and eighty-five dollars and 19 cents worth of exams, CBCs, Catalyst Chem and Lyte Clips, Radiographic studies, some fluid therapy and injections later, we drove home. The vet’s advice was if she threw up two more times, we would have to take her to the hospital. In the report, which was thorough, there was this sentence, “The stomach contains a moderate amount of fluid and gas. A small amount of amorphous mineral opaque material seen within the gastric pylorus.” And this conclusion, “Diffuse small intestinal dilation. A functional ileus secondary to gastroenteritis is the primary differential.”
Dolly was so sick I drove home one-handed through rush hour traffic with her lying on my lap. She wet the entire front of an old expensive dress though it’s one of those outfits which doesn’t show any stains, and I wear it all the time when it’s hot and I have a lot of errands to do.
Two hours later, Granville and I drove her to Virginia Referral & Critical Care (VRCC). I told myself not to think about the money.
I was so worried while we sat in the hospital lobby I focused on other things, but most moments in an animal hospital are not anything you want to think about: the bespectacled man in jeans who waited for a long time and later came out, carrying a Kleenex and crying; the woman standing in front of the front desk with her eyes swollen shut. On the upside, there was great fanfare because Cooper the rambunctious Chocolate Lab was going home and later, a pleased with herself King Charles Spaniel trotted by gingerly, very proud of her bright pink cast.
Dolly spent the night in the hospital. They did let us say goodnight and I figured all the medications would put her to sleep.
The x-rays we’d looked at had shown a blank film of gas everywhere and one doctor mentioned concern about gas outside the colon which a friend explained meant they were worried about perforations and infection. I appreciate the doctor at VRCC for not scaring us to death by dwelling on these fears.
I left the hospital, benumbed, and so worried about my little puppy I’d only had a month. Not surprisingly, I went home, poured myself a large glass of wine, and multi-tasking, I unloaded the dishwasher and while putting a dish on too high a shelf, a votive fell out, hit the top of the glass and send splinters and shards all over three rooms and me. The next morning Granville left on a trip and it took me two hours to clean up, hand-mopping the kitchen floor with wet paper towels, chasing down every speck in the den’s wall to wall carpet.
I brought Dolly home from the hospital Saturday night with bottles of Metronidazole (antibiotic/anti-diarrhea); Cerenia (anti-nausea); and Famotidine (Pepcid AC). The doctors recommended a diet of chicken and rice if I felt like cooking or Purina EN or Hills i/d for three to five days before transitioning back to her normal diet.
At VRCC Dolly had had another round of exams, infusions, radiographs. There was no blockage nor gas outside the colon; no sign of the top of the bully stick she’d swallowed the night before all this happened.
By Sunday morning, she seemed fine in all respects and acted like she had never been sick. What is troubling is how quick the gastroenterocolitis came on and how sick she was for two days. Dolly’s vet has increased her daily food so this may cut back on her trying to eat everything in our house and outside: pebbles, the bottom of the sofa; carpet, plants, puddles, wood chunks, worms. And I think we only have another three weeks of heavy teething to endure.
Since this incident, I have studied toxic and non-toxic plant lists and it turns out half my yard is poisonous. Azaleas, Hostas, Periwinkle, Hydrangeas, American Holly, Lenten Roses, Japanese Plum. . . all my favorites. In a panic I ripped out some of my husband’s Stella de Oro Lilies then read they weren’t dangerous. Thank heavens he was a good sport insofar as few plantings have thrived by our mailbox because SO MANY DOG OWNERS ARE SNEAKY AND LET THEIR DOGS WIZZ ALL OVER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING.
Eventually, I realized I couldn’t rip out my whole yard now that we’ve had this scare with Dolly, so I’ll put a small wire barrier in front of my Hostas, keep her away from the other plants, and pot harmless flowers like Impatiens and Snapdragons. She won’t chew forever.
The gardener in me is a little sad not to be planting Ivy Geraniums and Coleus or Morning Glories and Clematis on my new fence. I can’t get excited about species from the non-toxic list – the likes of Banana Squash and Common Garden Canna. Nevertheless, this list has the more poetic names, Shrubby Cinquefoil and Little Fantasy Peperomia, so I can change my attitude. At least I can sow sunflowers if I can stop the rabbits from eating the young stalks. Truth is the best flower I will be planting this spring is peace of mind.
The dog community is large and welcoming, new to me after having cats for 14 years, and during the past week, I have heard about what others have eaten. A staff member at my vet told me her dog got up on the kitchen counter a few years ago and ate an entire chicken, carcass and all, and survived; a friend said her setter got on her bed one night, stretched out, made a weird choke, and coughed up an entire rat. The stories trail on: a bag of glitter (followed by a week of rainbow fecal matter), socks, a Wonder Bread bag, dirty underwear, gloves, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, toothbrushes, coffee beans, shoes, furniture legs, acorns, twigs, cicadas, acorn squash stolen from the garden, a moose Beanie Baby. The only dog I remember not having survived was a friend of my late mother’s whose Jack Russell ate an entire chocolate mousse.
Dolly is asleep on my sofa now after a visit to the vet to check her teeth and have a Leptospirosis shot because she will be in the Adirondacks this summer and I can count on her swimming in ponds and trotting through the woods on her private missions. (On a lead. There are too many coy dogs and birds of prey, not to mention a shadowy cougar from time to time so she can’t be turned loose.) Thank heavens she seems to be back to her old terrier self.
I would like to thank the doctors and staff at both Pouncey Tract Veterinary Hospital and Veterinary Referral & Critical Care for the excellent care they all gave our puppy.
My final bill for the whole trauma was $1,448.61. In one of life’s many ironies, I had just paid off most of my Visa, but at 61-years-old, I have a new mantra which gets me by whenever something negative happens. Whether it’s the great grandmother who plowed into the back of my husband at 50 miles per hour while he was at a stop sign and totaled our old Mercedes (Granville wasn’t injured – a miracle) or going on a lovely cruise and coming down with pneumonia upon return or Dolly’s high bill, I always tell myself It’s Not Important. And you know what? It’s not.