Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rewind (Part 2): Two Pictures

I thought the worst of it was behind us, that all the yarn had come up–albeit it slightly bleached and in long, gloopy strands–but I thought Duncan was in the clear. Hours later, however, it was obvious he was not. He still enjoyed laying outside at the end of our walk, his eyes pointed toward the geese which had herded up across the street at the tennis courts, but he stopped eating and drinking, a sure sign that all was not well. Ever vigilant he was never out of my sight and when it was obvious he was an unhappy puppy, I did the first thing any responsible person would do: I went into denial. Whenever he began to look wilted and lethargic I simply popped on his leash and took him for a walk, which always revived him. On those walks that cold Friday night he was his old self, which seemed to say, "Nothing wrong here, Chief. Full steam ahead!" It was when we returned home and he collapsed onto the floor in an exhausted heap, uninterested in any of his toys, or even treats, that it became apparent he did not feel well, that we were not only not out of the woods but perhaps only just heading into them.

By ten o'clock I was in a panic. He hadn't eaten a thing, had begun retching up the water I practically forced him to drink. He hardly moved, just laid there, barely lifting his head even when I spoke his name. I called Ken, who was training in Thornton, and asked him to come home and take a look at Dunc. Ken is a certified vet tech–which was the reason we originally moved to Denver–and I assumed he'd know what we should do.

"He's not eating, at all," I told him. "And everything he drinks comes right back up. He won't play with his Baby or his Buddy and the only time he shows any sign of life is while we're walking. I'm worried." On his advice I scrambled some eggs, prepared some rice and had them ready to go right when Ken walked in the door.

And that's when the little poop pulled a fast one on me. The second the door opened Duncan sprang to life, jumped up on Ken, kissed him and licked his hands, ran and got his toys, turned in joyful circles. I stood there dumbfounded; the dog playing with Ken was not the dog I had been sitting with all night. His ears perked up, his tongue lolled out, his back end shook almost violently with the wagging of his tail. Ken arched his eyebrows and looked at me in that way of his that says, "Clearly you've been exaggerating again." I stuttered and explained that Duncan was faking it, that the minute Ken put the eggs and rice down my point would be made: Duncan would sniff it, maybe even take a polite lick, but he wouldn't eat. As Ken set the bowl down, Duncan practically leapt at the food, inhaling it in one, maybe two big bites. Almost immediately he turned to his water dish and downed everything, his tail wagging the entire time. I shook my head and stammered about how bad it had been, how this strange animal in front of me was the not the dog he'd been only moments before Ken had opened the door.

"Just keep your eye on him," Ken told me, gathering his things. "As long as he's eating and drinking he should be fine. The yarn probably just upset his belly." He scratched Duncan behind the ear, grabbed his stuff and left. He was home for all of ten minutes, and no sooner had he left the property than Duncan stood up, faced me and yacked all over the carpet. All that water, all those eggs, each and every grain of rice, spread out in a nice yellow puddle at my feet. I opened the door, led him outside and rubbed his back while he heaved for the next ten minutes, knee deep in the snow.

It continued for the rest of the night. Saturday morning dawned for me at roughly 3 AM. Following are the text messages I sent Ken:

2:59 AM: The eggs are back. He's puked 7 times all over the apartment.

4:59 AM:
And we're up puking again. He's a sad puppy!

5:06 AM:
Now he's drinking lots if only to have something in his belly to puke. He looks terrible.

5:09 AM:
Call me when you're up, 'kay?

7:34 AM:
We're up again, but he drank some more.

7:55 AM:
And we're puking again.

9:38 AM:
Outside puking. He's so tired. And you'd definitely notice he's sick if you were home now!

On and on it went. It seemed he'd eaten an infinite number of eggs and an unending supply of rice. They just kept emerging. By that afternoon I was scared so I called Ken and told him I had to do something, that he needed to see a doctor immediately. Our vet had just closed and the only place available was Alameda East, which was less than five minutes away. Ken consented and we were out the door.

I don't know what I expected, maybe that they'd give him something that would make him puke any remaining yarn, that he was dehydrated and they'd put him on fluids, that there would be a pill that would make him better. I certainly didn't expect what they told us: that the yarn was still in his stomach, possibly his intestines, that there was a blockage and that if it didn't pass soon we ran the risk of his intestinal walls tearing and resulting his body going septic, which would cause his death. I was floored, couldn't speak, didn't know what to say or do. They left me alone to think and talk with Ken, decide what we needed to do, what we could afford.

I think that was the most shocking thing, that his entire life hung on our already precarious finances. How could something like this happen and the deciding factor come down to money? He was only two years old! It wasn't his fault I'd been careless and left the yarn out. And now his fate would be decided by whether or not we could pay to save him. This was the dog who had saved me during my anxiety attacks, the one who'd comforted me when no one else had been able to and this was how it would end?

The x-rays came back inconclusive (yarn absorbs the dye they use so catching a clear image is almost impossible). They kept telling me we needed to do surgery immediately or he'd die. Immediately! Now! You don't have time to think about it! But they wouldn't do it without payment up front and we didn't have the $5000 they had quoted us. My mind swam. They did want to keep him overnight for observation and to get his fluids up, which meant I had to leave him.

I asked for a moment alone with him. We curled up on the floor in the office. He rested his sad, little head in my lap.

"These are my favorite parts of The Duncan," I told him. "The ears," I said, squeezing them softly, running my fingers though the long hair that grows there. "The cheeks," I said, pulling on his jowls which hang slightly lower than his mouth. "And the paws," I said, rubbing his feet, rolling my fingers between his pads and the blond hair between them. "These are my favorite parts of The Duncan and I won't do without them." He sighed and his eyebrows did that thing they do which tells me he understands. "Papa is going to leave you here but he'll be back. I promise. Your job is to get better."

As they took him away I took two picture:

one of my limp little dog

and one of me
because I never want to forget how afraid I was for him.

No comments: