the new year starts off with a ... barf

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

This morning I got out of bed at 11:15 (because I’m allergic to going to bed before 2:00 a.m. or waking up before everyone is almost halfway through their workday), worked on a few freelance projects, then rewarded myself with a glass of champagne and a piece of string cheese while I watched a DVR’d episode of MTV’s MADE where a tomboy who wants to be made into a pageant queen just openly admitted that she likes to smell her own farts. While lying on the couch in my pink robe and four-day unwashed hair, I had an epiphany: My life is awesome.

But let me break something down for you, the first few days of 2011 were hellacious, at best.

New Year’s Eve was relatively uneventful, but it was enjoyable. The husband and I hung out and watched movies and the very last thing I said to Clayton in 2010 was, “I love you”. We later met up with a friend and played video games until well past 4:00 a.m. and finally collapsed into bed around 6:00 a.m. after watching a thousand episodes of Friends. So, 2011 started out rather pleasant.

But then things kinda fell apart.

The day after New Year’s Day started out well enough. The Colts pulled out a win against the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars happened to lose, solidifying our AFC South Championship and a spot in the playoffs. To celebrate, Clay and I went out to dinner with the last of our restaurant gift cards and I enjoyed no less than a dozen of O’Charlie’s delicious fresh-baked rolls.

I was actually LOVING 2011.

But then Clay and I came home from our football, friends, and food festivities and found that, surprise! Joey got into the garbage while we were away. We stupidly left a bag of trash out in the kitchen even though we reminded each other a million times to take it out to the dumpster before we left. Joey has a propensity to eat absolutely everything at his eye level and even if it’s rotten, destroyed, or not fit for human consumption, he’ll tough it out and eat it anyway. That is the nature of a beagle.

There wasn’t anything too obviously dangerous in the trash bag. Clay had filled it with shredded paper and empty cereal boxes. However, the only actual piece of food that was in there was the one thing that everyone knows dogs just cannot eat.

Chocolate.

Joey has eaten chocolate before. In fact, Joey ate my entire birthday cake three years ago, but he’s lived to the tale. Sure, I’ve found him beached on the kitchen linoleum, too full and ashamed to move, but in the end, he’s always fine. Once he ate a package of Oreos that he pulled off of the counter and an emergency hotline said he would have to eat his entire weight in chocolate for it to be damaging. “Don’t tempt him,” I said before hanging up.

So, you can understand that Clayton and I weren’t too concerned that he ate a few pieces of peppermint fudge.

He seemed to be okay once we realized what he had done. He acted normal and we honestly didn’t give it a second thought. But then he started pacing by the door and moaning. I tried taking him out, but he stood in the grass like he wasn’t quite sure what to do. After a few minutes I brought him back upstairs because it was freezing outside and I didn’t have time for his potty shenanigans.

I tried to offer him a biscuit as a consolation prize for not going to the bathroom, but Joey just laid on the floor with it between his paws and continued whining. It was a toss-up between being absolutely adorable and absolutely heart-breaking. He wanted that biscuit so bad, but he was clearly too full from his trip to the garbage buffet. I’ve never seen him not be able to eat, so I just assumed he ate more trash than we originally thought. I put the biscuit aside for later when he was feeling better.

This was around midnight, and since Clay and I had nothing better to do the next day (except you know, work), we decided to go to the gym. But while we were getting ready, Joey opened up the puke gates.

Now, I’ve seen him yak up some pretty nasty things in his six years on this earth, but I’ve never seen him throw up brown liquid. Clayton begrudgingly started cleaning up the mess, and while he was scrubbing the carpet, Joey threw up again.

And again.

And again.

By the time we finished cleaning the carpet, Joey puked a total of 5 times. He would throw up, go to his bowl, guzzle water, puke, and repeat. It smelled like peppermint, which actually made clean-up a bit more pleasant than one would think, but it was still gross. Joey eventually laid down on the couch to sleep it off, and once we were content that he was finished puking, we left to work out.

An hour later we came home and found Joey snoozing where we left him. Smiling I said to Clay, “I think he’s okay now!” But when I turned to close the front door, I realized I was mistaken. The tiled entry-way to our apartment was covered in peppermint vomit. Covered. And when I went over to look at Joey up close, I realized that he was shaking so badly he looked like he was convulsing.

Needless to say, I freaked out and got online to look for an emergency vet number. I called the 24-hour vet service in Indy and told them what was going on. I was half-expecting the woman to tell me the same old, “Beagles will be beagles! Just give it some time!” script I was told for both the Oreo and cake incidents, but this time it was different. She asked me specifically what kind of chocolate Joey had consumed and I took a stab at it, guessing it was semi-sweet baker’s chocolate (my sister, the baker of the delicious peppermint fudge bark concoction, later confirmed this). “Oh, yeah”, the phone operator said, “that is actually the most dangerous kind of chocolate a dog can eat. If he won’t stop throwing up and is shaking, we really recommend that you bring him to a vet immediately.”

But it was two o’clock in the morning. Who could possibly be open? I searched the phone book and found that our city has only ONE emergency vet and you have to be regular patient in order to use the 24-hour service. I called the number anyway believing they would be gracious enough to see my dog because time was of the essence and it was well, an emergency. The gentleman who answered the phone was very condescending to me. I explained the nature of the emergency and asked him if there was any way we could rush our dog over there and have him looked at. I told him I understood that they had a “patients-only” rule, but that this was a real emergency and I didn’t know if we had the luxury of wasting time by driving all the way up to Indy.

He told me that they won’t bother the vet unless it’s one of his regular patients. Duh. I told him I knew that, but was there anything he could do? No, there was nothing they could do, but he would be more than happy to give him the numbers for the emergency vets in Indy. I told him I already had those numbers and called them, but we didn’t have time to drive up there and we needed help now. Sorry, there’s nothing he can do, but he will help me get into contact with the Indy vet.

Clearly this gentleman has a hearing problem so I thanked him for being absolutely no help at all and hung up on him. Then Clayton and I made record time putting Joey into the car and plugging the Indy address into our GPS. Thankfully no one is really out and about at 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday, so we made pretty good time.

I sat in the backseat of the car, clutching Joey and repeatedly placing my hands on his belly to make sure he was still breathing. Every little jerk or jolt of his body sent my adrenaline into overdrive and I was in tears. I honest-to-god didn’t know if he was going to be okay. I’ve never seen him throw-up that much and I’ve never seen him refuse food. I was in official freak-out mode.

When we got to the pet hospital, Joey puked a few times in the waiting room. We were ushered back into an examination room and while waiting for the vet, he puked two more times, totaling 11 barfs for the evening. I started to feel annoyed because the vet took almost an hour to see us and that’s not really good emergency service if you ask me. The fact that the examination room had a TV in it should have been our first hint that they were not the most fast-moving emergency vet on the planet.

The vet eventually came in and proceeded to scare the heck of us by saying that Joey needed to stay overnight and be pumped with fluids and observed to make sure he was okay. The vet said he was completely dehydrated and an overnight stay in the vet hospital was the only way to ensure he’d pull through. Piece of mind has its price and when vet handed us the $750 estimate of services, I almost passed out.

It’s a really sad and shameful experience to admit you can’t afford to save your pet. Clay and I asked for some time alone to talk things over and we ultimately decided we couldn’t let Joey stay. We didn’t have room in our budget for another bill. Also, since it took a total of an hour and a half to see anyone in the emergency room, Joey had some time to get his bearings. His puking became less frequent and in much smaller amounts. He was walking around the office, sniffing the floor and wagging his tail. His nose was wet and he was jumping on and off the benches where we were sitting. My heart rate had finally returned to normal and I could breathe easier because I know my dog, and my dog was starting to act more and more like his usual self. Spending that much money on a dog that was clearly alert and functioning seemed ridiculous. I felt like God was totally taking care of the situation for us.

When the vet came back in to steal our money, Clayton was bold enough to say, “I’m confident that our dog is going to be okay with a little time and a little TLC. He’s improved a lot just in the time that we’ve been here and we simply can’t afford to keep him here overnight.”

Then the vet, who I think needed to reach some kind of sales quota for the night, tried to persuade us that Joey was NOT definitely going to be okay and the only real way to ensure he would be was to keep him over night and charge us almost $1,000. I started crying (I’d been crying for most of the night and my mascara was no longer remotely close to be on my eyelashes, so I know I looked super hot) because the vet was scaring me and making me feel like a horrible parent for not shelling out the cash and pulling out all the stops for my dog’s health. The vet was very convincing in letting us know that unless he was observed overnight, there would be no way of telling if there was something obstructing his stomach or if he was properly re-hydrating. I know that veterinarians went to school for a very long time and know what they are talking about, but with all the improvements Joey made in the last two hours, I was hopeful he would pull through.

I ended up leaving the room because I didn’t want to hear about it anymore. While I was out pacing in the parking lot, Clayton made a sort of deal with the vet. When I came back in to check on his progress, I found out that vet offered to give Joey a series of shots that would insure he was getting the right electrolytes and hydration he lost through all of the vomiting … and all for a fraction of the cost. I excitedly agreed and another hour later, I had my beagle back.

He came prancing out of the back room with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step (Joey, not the vet). The vet technician said she gave him a shot that literally filled his body with all the juices he would need to recuperate. Then I noticed that Joey had a GIANT hump on his back and was looking more like a hunchback than the beagle I know and love. She explained that it was a hump full of liquid (gross) and as gravity set in, the liquid would start moving from his back and eventually end up in his paws.

Quasimodo or not, I couldn’t be happier. My Joey is okay. This whole experience further reiterated how much I love this dog and how much he enriches this family. Not knowing what was going on with him was terrifying and I’ll never forget how scared I was riding in the backseat of the car with him, praying to God that he was going make it and that this was all just going to be a bad dream. People have joked about my being a little too obsessed with my dog, but you can’t control what you love or how much you love it. While we were driving, I told Clayton, “You know, as stupid as it may sound to someone else, I know without a shadow of a doubt that no one could possibly love this dog more than I do”.

While we were waiting for Joey to get his shots, I saw another couple shuffling in and out of the office, talking to the vet and pacing the floors much like we were. I noticed that the woman’s face was swollen and puffy, just like mine was, and that judging by their conversation, they were setting up a payment plan to get emergency services performed on their dog. They ended up leaving the hospital before us and as they were walking out the door, she turned to look at me. “Good luck”, she said sadly and continued out to the parking lot, dogless.

Clayton and I finally got into bed at about 6:00 a.m. that Monday morning. I was exhausted from the whole ordeal, and my stomach felt sick (and still does) whenever I thought about what had just transpired. I occasionally got out of bed to check on Joey who was contentedly passed out on his blanket.

I was very tired and very, very grateful.

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