For The Love Of Dogs

Unforgettable, are the sounds of someone heaving their guts out, stomach contents splattering on the bare floor, and the sounds from the observers nearby who own the floor. In this particular incident, the observers were my sister and her husband, and the “someone” was Dugan, my 130 lb, 8-month old Irish Wolfhound.

We had gone to a holiday Christmas party around noon, and we had left my two dogs at my sister’s house with her dog. I suggested taking my two dogs in my minivan so I could keep an eye on them, but my sister reassured me that the three dogs would be fine. She was wrong.

When we arrived home around 5:30, there was obvious destruction. Mostly it was destruction of dog toys and a pair of Jim’s shoes. Evidence was strewn all over the living room, dining room and kitchen. We could only wonder how much of the evidence had been eaten. All seemed well with Dugan until dinnertime when he wasn't interested in eating his food. He has always been interested in his food.

It was around nine P.M. when the first retching occurred, producing a huge pile of what looked like light brown oatmeal. It did sort of match the carpeting, so cleanup was easier than if it had been white carpeting. This was the first of three generous deposits over the next 20 minutes. Then Dugan began an occasional yelp as he was lying down. Now he had our attention and inspired a call to a vet. The vet instructed us to give Dugan four Pepsid (Antacid) tablets, wait 20 minutes, and then feed him. He ate some of his dinner this time, but the occasional yelping still occurred.

We all went to bed around midnight, with Dugan and my other dog Nina sleeping in my room. Dugan’s occasional yelp was very unsettling to me, but it seemed like his reaction to minor discomfort (he is a big baby). I finally took an Ambien around 1:30 A.M. to help me sleep. However, before it took effect, Dugan suddenly started yelping like he was being beaten. I jumped up and decided that whatever he ate must be causing him severe intestinal pain. Being a horse owner, I decided he needed to walk so that whatever was in there would pass. Unfortunately it had been snowing all evening and was still snowing heavily with temperatures in the 20s. I quickly put on my long johns, clothes, and boots and headed out the door with Dugan and Nina.

My sister’s home is in the woods, at the end of a dead-end country road, so we hiked into the state park and headed towards a big reservoir, a hike that I had done a number of times. It was snowing, but the ground was white and the trails were reasonably visible for a snowy night at 2 A.M. We reached the reservoir about the time that my Ambien started taking effect. The first symptom was my difficulty in walking a straight line. I was drifting left and then drifting right, and it took me a while to realize the reason. The dogs were having a good time, and we all managed to make it back home, thanks to a freezing wind in my faced that helped counteract the Ambien. But I did go to sleep very quickly, and there was no more yelping that I was aware of.

The next day an occasional yelp from Dugan prompted me to take him to the vet. I had taken Dugan to this same vet several days earlier for an ear infection. That visit cost me $95 dollars for an exam and some medication for a yeast infection. I didn't realize dogs could get yeast infections in their ears. I had questions, but I restrained myself. The vet was a young woman who probably had similar infections herself, but I doubt if her ears were involved.

Abdominal X-rays revealed nothing noteworthy, which just means whatever was in there doesn't reflect X-rays. He did yelp when being lifted onto and off of the X-ray table, and it was from lifting pressure on his abdomen. They gave him a shot of something expensive and sent us home with some pain pills, anti-infection pills and some special “bland” dog kibble that he has refused to eat for the two days since the visit. All this cost me an additional $224. Adding in the cost of the yeast infection, an earlier visit for a hygroma, and one for continuing diarrhea, and I've spent over $700 in the last month on vet bills. Of course, two months ago, when I was evaluating pet insurance companies and decided not to get insurance, Dugan was healthy as could be.

I suppose there are many pet owners who would not go through all of this for a dog, and more than a few who don't even let their dog in the house, let alone spend money on a vet visit. But they don't love their dogs like I love mine.