Saturday, October 10, 2009

Trash Day?

I'm still getting caught back up on some old happenings. A few Sundays ago, I had set out on my normal morning routine. The dogs were fed and tired, the chickens were out, and I was spending some quality time with the horses up in the barn. I was speaking with my therapist, Ellie Mae, while picking poop out of her hooves, when I heard the familiar jangle and squeak of the fence gate. My lovely wife appeared moments later in a bit of a huff. She apparently was cleaning the kitchen and discarding old/expired foodstuffs when my dogs got into the trash. Whereas I did not recall getting any new animals without her consent, I assumed that she meant Petunia and HT. Frankly, it did not really surprise me even though trash consumption is not generally part of their normal M.O. My wife, however, was concerned that she had discarded some old baking chocolate and she could not find it in the trash. Obviously, dogs should not be eating any chocolate, but baking chocolate is generally the big problem.

Since it was a Sunday, I had my wife call the nearest emergency vet clinic. We basically just hang out at emergency vet clinics on the weekends. Since we moved, we switched to a new place which we like a lot. It has a vending machine, coffee, and a big flat screen t.v. which is nice if you are spending hours upon hours there. They told us to come on in, so we loaded up the dogs and set out on our all too familiar Sunday drive.

The funniest thing happens when the doors to a vet clinic open. Happy-go-lucky HT freezes up, drops to the ground with legs splayed for extra stability, and becomes a furry, blue, anchor; weird, uncomfortable, unsure of herself Petunia, becomes the life of the party. Petunia will run about finding anyone in scrubs and will greet them with a doggy "smile." Now, the teeth-bared sort of snarling, "smile" is generally a sign of submission in dogs. The head is down, the eyes look up, but Petunia keeps a very level tail wag with big, swooping strokes, and will sometimes almost wag her head. She bounds about and greets everyone this way, the folks at the reception desk, passing vets and vet techs, other patrons, it just doesn't matter. Harriet, meanwhile, is a rigid mass stuck in the doorway, keeping the automatic doors from closing.

Two very nice vet techs came out and took the dogs "to the back." Petunia happily pranced away with her caregiver. HT had to be carried. Her legs were still splayed out as if she was still on the floor, as the young woman heaved and strained under the unweildy bulk.

They eventually came back with red eyes and tired looks on their faces. The doctors had obviously induced vomitting as is the norm when a dog eats chocolate. We were informed that they were both very good patients and had actually performed a syncronized purging.

I like to keep track of behavior, so I was pleased to learn that HT was not reactive. Dogs with chocolate poisoning will present with some hyperactivity, increased heart rate, and panting. Neither dog was really symptomatic (indeed HT was more catatonic than hyperactive) but I asked if they checked heart rates. They had.

I have been tracking HT's heart rate since she arrived. Her resting heart rate falls around 88 bpm (beats per minute). Light exercise will increase her heart rate to about 120 bpm. If she is nervous, she will climb to about 145 bpm. When we lived in the city, this is generally when I became a vigilant and defensive dog walker. A growling dog or some other sudden and unwelcomed stimuli would result in a heart rate spike to over 200 bpm and HT would be a spinning and growling mess of nerves. She probably had never been exposed to this much stimuli and she could not handle the stress. She felt threatened and defensive. This contributed to our decision to move to the country and it has made a huge impact on HT's life. She is much happier and much more secure. With the move and consistent training, we have not seen those sorts of outbursts.

Thus, I was happy to learn that HT had been a good patient despite the fact that her heart rate had risen to over 200 bpm. I'm not sure if chocolate consumption contributed to the increased heart rate, but she was clearly stressed... just not defensive.

When it was all said and done, we received the following document entitled, "Discharge Instructions."

The document noted, "Harriet was seen for eating garbage with her sister." Phrased in this manner, it almost sounds kind of nice. Awwww, the sisters were enjoying some quality time together, bonding over a heaping helping of refuse. The document continued, "She did eat the chocolate, as well as a bee." Well, I've learned something new about my dog. Given the opportunity, she will eat bees. Thankfully, the dogs were able to "empty" their stomachs, so "no further treatment [was] needed."

My two little monsters were apparently quite a hit with staff. As we discussed their condition in the lobby, folks came by greeting the dogs by name. They picked up the moniker "double trouble." A vet tech came out and put red bandanas on them which had the clinics logo brightly emblazoned in white. A nice way to tell the world that they had gotten into trouble.

HT was noticeable more relaxed and even gave the vet tech a nice, wet, vomit-kiss. In a strange sort of way, it was a fun Sunday adventure.

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