Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scary - Sweet

It started with what felt like a normal walk.  She didn't indicate any urgency but when it was time to take a dump it was pure liquid.

There's a reason they call Labradors "Lardadores".  They'll eat anything and they can get really fat.

In case you don't know, I have issues with fat, so Daisy is not fat.  She will, however, eat anything.  This desperation on the part of Labs to get potential food in their mouths is so bad that our friend Boomer once almost pulled his owner over to get to a patch of light shining on a sidewalk darkened by scaffolding.  Add to that their innate bomb-sniffing skills and at night it can be impossible to keep God knows what from going down their throats.

So Tuesday morning she had diarrhea.  I decided to fast her and get some ID -- or WW40 as a lot us call the sick dog food -- that night.  She had another bout that afternoon but I fed her and she had no BM that night.  She did, however, arf at about 4 in the morning so I decided to fast her again except for a couple of cookie bits and her usual custom of licking my yogurt bowl.  That afternoon we had an urgent call to go out and then later in the afternoon she began throwing up at rough half-hour intervals. 

I'm not going to be anonymous about this because I'll post a link to this blog on Facebook where a lot of friends know Tom, who is a vet in Illinois.  I texted Tom that Daisy was pathetic and could he call me.  He answered that he was in a meeting until 8 and would call then.

At six, she threw up pink bile -- blood -- and I completely lost it.

Thankfully, our vet is open until 8 and had a 7.30 appointment available.  My friend Ann Marie agreed to walk Sandy and -- oh, it was one of those days -- because the building had lost cable service for the day -- I had to walk over to Hodi's house and tell his owner I couldn't walk the dog until later that night.  He told me not to worry, that he'd do it.  I was all tears and snot by then and walked home to call Gerry, Ann Marie's husband, who had volunteered to go with us to the vet.

Most of me suspected it was some kind of gigantic upset stomach and after we ruled out rat poisoning and until we had all the blood work back, that's what the vet confirmed.  I have some pink liquid to squirt down her throat to coat her stomach an hour before eating and mostly she's just kind of lethargic and funky.

Here's where the story I want to tell really begins.

Tom called at 8, just as I was talking to the vet.  I asked him if he wanted to talk to her and at first he demurred, then said, what the hell, put her on.  Platelets, enzymes, blah blah, rectal, liver, blah blah, Cornell, Ohio State, you're-kidding?  I'm their protege, blah blah blah.  Call ends abruptly.  The vet handed it back to me and said, "Who was I talking to?"

I squirmed on the bench a little, not wanting to brag but wanting to make my point.  "He's my best friend from childhood and, I think, a rah-ther famous feline endocrinologist.  His name is Tom Graves."

She took a beat or two.  "Doctor Graves?  He wrote all the books!"

The phone rings.  Tom again.  "You wrote all the books," I informed him.

"Only some of them," he laughed and proceeded to assure me that 98% of these gastro disturbances are self-curing but that I had done the right thing.  Daisy is nine now.  Not fifteen but not two.  I needed to have her seen.  We said goodbye and I stood up.

"Wow," the vet said.  "I just talked to Doctor Graves."

"I'll bring him by when he's in town," I told her.

She kind of gasped.  "That would be...such an honor."

As I was writing a check for FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS, I thought, I bet I could get you a signed, first edition copy of 600 Kinds of Cat Hairballs if you'd give me a discount. 

I was giddy with relief and with Tom's fame on the walk home.  "Did you hear?  Did you hear?" I kept saying to poor Gerry who had seen and heard all of it.  He was kind enough to let me natter and I laughed that it was pay-back for Tom's attendance of our grade school reunion last summer when a couple of people wouldn't stop talking about Francie Kuffel the millionaire writer.  (And he hadn't corrected them, to my knowledge, about the numbers but he sure let me know how tired he was of me when talking to people we hadn't seen in 40 years.)

When we got home, I texted Tom about what went on out of his hearing.  I thought it was terrific -- I was humbled by it, awed (and I HATE that word) by it.  He said the vet had emailed him a sweet note after we left the office and I was even more impressed and honored.

Then the texting turned real.  Daisy is nine.  Realistically, she has, at most, six years left.  Three is more typical.  She's active, snotty and vivacious but the tip of her tail is white now.  "I need to get a puppy," I told Tom.  He answered that when he lost his chihuahua, he cried so much his friend bought him two more to replace her.  And Tom has something like a million other dogs around the house.

I remember how puppies invigorated the older dogs in our house and how, when the older dog went to the Great Duck Pond in the Sky, we were in love with another dog and it didn't hurt as much.  Given my reaction to what I pretty much knew was an upset stomach, I don't want to think about what it will do to me when Daisy leaves.

She's grandfathered into our apartment building, however.  Not long after I got her (and it caused me a nervous breakdown: I wish I could stick up for myself the way I do for Daisy), the co-op board made some rules.  No dog over 40 pounds, no excessive barking, only one dog per unit.  I was furious and being a renter, I had no voice in this.  It's the dogs under 40 pounds who bark all the time, you soulless fuckwits, I wanted to tell them.  And my apartment is so small, I should be restricted to half a dog.

If I'm not out of here when I'm alone again, maybe a fox terrier, I suggested.

Tom and I have strong opinions on breeds.  We don't always agree.  He nixed the fox terrier and sent me photos of the dogs he thought I should have.

What I should have is a move to the West, where I can get another Lab puppy, as well as the terrier Kenneth wants, his cats and frogs, the chickens, Long Island ducks and angora bunnies we both want.  And the goats Tom insists we must have.  A black Lab named Dahlia.  "You can't name a dog before you get it," Tom texted back.  But when I knew I wanted a yellow Lab, I knew also that I would name her either Lucy or Daisy and I gave my grandniece the choice.  So Dahlia it is: murder victim or flower of rare coloring.

At least he agrees that he loves black Labs.

At 8 this morning, Hodi's owner called to offer to walk the dog himself.  "We're just on our way out," I said.  "She needs to pee like a racehorse after being hydrated last night.  We'll be there in five minutes."

"I really don't mind," he said.  He's been suffering from a painful arthritic hip pressing on a nerve and his stalwart Jack Russell mix, who I adore, walks too briskly for him. 

"No, it's Okay," I assured him.  "They love each other and Daisy's Okay."  I told him what the vets had said and apologized for being such a mess the night before.

"Don't apologize," he said.  "You know what I did after you left?  I sat down on the couch and cried for all the dogs I've lost."

Which made me start crying again because I will walk Hodi without pay to keep them together.

No black Lab or fox terrier or -- Jesus, Tom: how could you suggest a shih tzu to me, of all people? -- any other dog will be Daisy.  And a lot of my breakdown about Daisy is really, of course, about my father.

Still, it's best to be a little prepared.  It's best to know you can love again, which of course I can or I would have stopped walking dogs when Melly moved or Henry moved or -- well, Hero nearly made me quit the business.  When I don't see Gerry and Ann Marie's Grace for a week, I ache.  I get cravings for Tiger and Tallulah.  I want to squeeze the white fur off of Hodi.

So I'll be Okay.  Even if I don't like it.  And Dahlia -- your mum probably hasn't been born yet, but your grandmother is a tide-swimming, salmon-rolling, bed-hogging maniac of a puppy.  And you will be, too.  And I will love you all my days.


Unknown said...

I'm glad Daisy is doing better. Your friend Tom sounds like a real hero here.

I have two elderly cats -- one is 15 and one is 13 -- both with chronic health conditions. Both get twice-daily meds and I have a sick feeling in the middle of the night sometimes because I could lose either of them at any time.

I hope that Daisy will get to move with you out West, because I'm sure she'd love more room to roam and ponds to swim. And I'm sure you'd like having a little more freedom and space too. Maybe even in a town with some sidewalks and a downtown so you could still have the freedom to walk around -- I can't see you driving an SUV to Walmart.

Debra T. said...


I'm so happy your beautiful lab is on the mend and that you have years ahead of you with Daisy love included.

Yay for happy endings!

Anne M. said...

I hope you can move out West soon - for you and for Daisy. Great news that she has nothing serious, but any pet sickness is serious to its human. You did right by her. And your friend Tom is more than just the one who wrote all the books. He's a real friend. ((( Hugs)))