Contributing Editor, Ron Carmean, had a scare last week with his child…or was it with his dog? Here’s Ron to tell you about it….
People without pets might not understand this. Pet owners know a dog is a not a child. But that can be forgotten.
I looked out the window because I was washing my hands. Jake was in front of me, separated by glass. He was chewing on the leaves of a plant. He never did that before. Why’s he doing that? Is that OK? I knock on the window. He looks at me. Barks loud, once. A couple more chews. He knows who’s boss. Then he stalks away. He’s made his point.
I call Donna. Could he get sick? What plant was he eating? I don’t know its name. I describe its location and size. A rhododendron. I think that’s poisonous. Call the vet.
For the next 90 minutes, I make increasingly hurried calls. The vet; the poison control center (Yes, I’ll pay the fee); the vet again: Bring him in asap. Call Donna again. Get him in the car. He loves rides. Drive fast; stay calm; talk to him. He seems OK. Behavior’s the same. I jump out of the car as Donna begins to stop. Jake and I go up the small flight of stairs. I open the door and go in. Jake realizes where he is and turns back. I pull him toward the next and almost last door. He won’t stay on the scale. The vet takes his leash. 65 pounds. Perfect. Jake pulls, another unsuccessful escape attempt. The vet speaks calmly, thoroughly. “Rhododendron, it’s very poisonous. His heart could stop. Systems could be affected. Blindness is possible. I’ll give him a shot and that will induce vomiting. Then we’ll watch him 24 hours.” I can’t hear the rest. IVs. Coat his stomach. Monitor his heart . Jesus. And then Jake’s gone. He and the vet go through the last door. And we’re alone.
A dog is not a child. I know that. I said that. I don’t feel that. We lost Angus 14 months ago. He couldn’t get air anymore. Trips to the emergency room. Just making it until that was all that lie ahead. Waiting for the last trip and being too late, just a little too late. He deserved better than that. So we said good-bye. Now, Jake has gone through that last door and we won’t see him again. No, don’t go there. We won’t see him for 24 hours. We can call later. The vet will call us if it gets real bad. If he’s OK until night; then through the night; then morning and the first half of tomorrow.
Drive home. Talking little. Try to eat something. Then the memories start. He loves his walks. They give him a chance to sniff. Everything. Everyone he meets. He loves to play ball. “I’ll throw you a high one.” That one’s for me. The ball disappears into the Fall leaves. He can’t see it. It’s gone. Then it’s back, dropping from the sky. He runs for it, grabbing it after the first bounce. Running back to me, dropping it at my feet. Another throw. More throws until he’s panting a little too fast I tell him. So we stop. Time for a drink and pacing until he calms down. Time for a nap.
At the end of a day, before he’s tired enough to sleep, he’s active again. Knowing there’s at least one more treat to be had and eaten in the day, he paces between us. He tries his most used weapon: he puts his head in our laps and stares at our face. Who can say no to that? We can. We have to watch his weight.
Then he’s angry. He shows us what he can do when he’s angry. He fights his bed. The one that came with him. The one he never sleeps on. Punch it, bite it, drag it across the room as we watch trying not to laugh. He stops and stares at us. Will we relent and give him something? No? He moves to his favorite toy: a large, orange, rubber pretzel. He’s grabs it, chews it as he runs to one of us and drops it in our lap. We know what to do. Played this before. We throw it across the room, to an area rug that will give him traction to stop after he races to catch it as soon as it hits the ground. Repeat. Do it again and again and again. Until he’s tired of that game, but not tired enough to sleep. Then, his ultimate weapon to show us he’s angry, really angry now. He turns vicious. He races from area rug to area rug, claws at each until he has overturned it. He looks up to see our reaction. Nothing? Move on to the next rug. Then another look at us. Then another rug, another look, until…he’s tired enough to lie down…and sleep…eventually. A nightly ritual. Not tonight.
Tonight it’s quiet. Very quiet. Too quiet, as they used to say in old cowboy movies. Time to sleep a sleepless night.
The next morning all we can see in the kitchen is his empty food bowl. It will stay empty, for a while. Time to begin being busy with mindless tasks. Keep our thoughts on anything but the one thing that matters. Noon arrives later than usual. We try to eat, but cannot. We stare at lunch. Minutes pass. That’s enough time. It must be OK to call the vet by now. We give our name, Jake’s name. “I’ll let you talk to the Doctor.” Is that bad news, good news, no news just formality? Then the news: “He had a good night. We emptied his stomach. He didn’t mind the IVs. He had three EKGs and all were normal. He’s fine. You got him here in time.” When can we bring him home? “Is two o’clock alright?” Of course. We’ll see you then. We’ll see Jake then.
Time moves faster. We arrive at the vet’s office only a few minutes early. We give our names again and take a seat. The last door opens; he sees us, runs to us, thinking: Get me out of here, not why did you leave me here. That’s a human thought. Jake’s a dog. He lives now. Right now. Not even time for kisses and rubs. Maybe later. “He’s a good dog,” the vet says. Yes he is.
They told us: No restrictions on what he can eat. Dinner comes early for everyone. We clean our plates; he cleans his bowl, no surprise there. He drinks two bowls of water. I guess being in the hospital made him thirstier. He stayed close to us in the evening. Many kisses, hugs, belly rubs. Finally, exhausted, he closed his eyes. We watched him sleep. So peaceful. He’s home. Looking at him, we think: he’s in his forever home. So are we. Seeing him resting and comfortable makes us think…. But it’s not exactly the same because a dog is not a child. Did we tell you that?