Our dog took sick last week, and it became an ordeal my wife and I will not soon forget.
Parker is a four-year-old beagle who lives to steal food. Most dogs are born food thieves, but beagles are the masters. There is even a video somewhere on YouTube where you can watch a beagle on hidden camera pushing a kitchen chair up to a counter. The dog in the video climbs atop the counter and noses open the cupboard. He knocks down a package that looks to be cookies, drops to the floor, and you can hear him off camera, scarfing them down.
Parker is almost as sharp witted as the dog in the video. He steals yogurt from the fridge (he can open it), food from the bowls of the cats, entire jars of peanut butter. He once snatched an entire pastrami sandwich from my hand after I'd dozed off. But his favorite food item to steal is butter. We use butter sparingly, for cooking or for popcorn. However, if a stick is left lying on the counter, you best believe it'll end up Gone with the Wind.
But Monday morning revealed that Parker had problems in the night. Signs of stomach and bowel trouble were everywhere in the living and dining rooms. He was listless, and refused both food and water. I took him to the vet the next day. She found evidence that he may have in jested raisins, which are poisonous to many breeds, beagles included. We had no idea how he'd gotten into the raisins, but it was a serious matter. The vet hydrated him and gave him an injection to keep him from vomiting and told me to call her the next day to report on his progress.
But the next day, Parker showed no progress. He was, in fact, in further decline, and continued to refuse all sustenance. We called the vet, and she recommended we take him pronto to an animal emergency clinic.
He had been sleeping on the living room couch, and I called for him to come. He struggled down onto the floor, and walked unsteadily to his food bowl--which I took to be a good sign--then suddenly began to lose his balance. He collapsed onto the floor and went into a seizure that seemed to both my wife and I that Parker was on his way to the Big Steakhouse in the Sky.
But I don't mean to make light of the situation. My wife, who adores Parker, is disabled, and the dog is her constant companion. He's also the best watchdog on the planet, with a bark that will blow your hair back. And I'm always glad when I am not at home, knowing that Parker would frighten off any intruder.
So my wife is weeping. "He's dying!" She's inconsolable. I've got the dog's head in my lap, as I don't want him to leave this world feeling unloved. His eyes stared ahead, sightless. He took labored, shuddering breaths and the side of his tongue lay against my khakis. It was misery. I peered down at Parker through a film of my own tears and sobbed that I'd do anything to have him back. We awaited his last breath.
But Parker kept breathing. After a few minutes, my wife's son--she had called him earlier--had arrived to assist us. He'd found an emergency clinic, where the dog could at least be put away without pain. My wife made her tearful goodbyes. We bundled the dog in a blanket, put him in the back seat, and drove to the clinic.
The vet however, was somewhat surprised that Parker's temperature and blood pressure were good. She recommended a blood test to ensure that his kidneys were indeed failing. We asked if there was any treatment for failing kidneys, and, of course she answered there was none. She managed to walk him to the lab where the tests could be made. She soon brought him back and we awaited the results.
I'm glad my wife had called her son. He offered the possibility that the dog would survive, a possibility I took no stock in. Not after what I'd just witnessed. I sat on the floor of the examination room with the dog, and petted him. He was now sitting up. Ann's son told me I ought to have a little faith. I told him that I usually take the dark view.
I'm sure by now you've guessed the outcome. Parker would live. The dog had pancreatitis, which is serious, but in his case, treatable. I breathed again, called my wife, who now sobbed happily at the news our dog was coming home. Parker was given injections, and hydrated once again. The vet gave us two bottles of medication, one for the condition, one for his pain. Me? I wanted some pain medication for myself when I saw the bill. Nevertheless I was giddy with joy at the dog's survival.
The dog is improving. We have him on a diet of bland foods--cottage cheese, boiled chicken, even sweet potatoes. Can you imagine feeding sweet potatoes to a dog?
However, I'll offer some advice to dog and cat owners wiser than myself. Never leave any food--raisins, chocolate, whatever--that is injurious to your pets anywhere near where they might get at it. You don't want to go through what just happened to my wife and me. We are very happy and grateful, but chastened.
If your dog is a food thief--and what dog isn't?--check out the list of foods at www.humanesociety.org that may be toxic to your dog. You'd be surprised at how many foods can pose a problem.
As for that marvelous performance of Parker's, I am prepared to nominate him for next year's Academy Award, in the category of "Best Death Scene by an Animal." We could make him a celebrity, like Lassie, or Rin-Tin-Tin.