And now for something completely different.
Had a massive scare this morning with Otis. We performed our two usual early morning walks, with me trying to be as vigilant as possible so the pup didn’t eat anything he wasn’t supposed to off the ground. This is a training issue we’re working on together. However, at 5 a.m., it’s still dark, and he snapped something up from a snowbank and before I could get to it, he swallowed it.
This is a rough neighborhood, and it would not be beyond the idiots who live around here to throw out rat poison or other toxic substances that cats and dogs might easily ingest. I caught Otis with a blue block of rat poison in his mouth a couple weeks ago. Luckily, it was partially encased in plastic housing, so he was carrying it. Still, I watched him anxiously for the next week in case he began exhibiting signs of poisoning. Thankfully, he was fine.
We got home, the dogs ate their breakfasts, and I gave both Yaz and Otis their morning pig ears to chew on while I took a shower. As I was laying out clothes for the day, I noticed Otis acting very strange. He was oddly lethargic and a bit wobbly. He was responsive to my calling his name, but sluggish about it, as if there was a time delay between his ears and his brain.
I felt his nose and it was dry and hot as a biscuit fresh out of the oven. I did not immediately go into panic mode, as I needed more information. So I carried him into the bedroom and lay with him for an hour to see what I could observe about his condition. Finally, I gave him a baby aspirin for the fever, because he was truly burning up. I thought several things, either poisoning or distemper, as we have not yet been able to afford to get him his puppy vaccines. (that will be corrected asap, I can assure you, especially after today’s scare)
After another hour, he threw up. It was only food, and contained no blood or strange colored substances. I checked his pupils, and they were dilating just fine, if a bit slowly.
At 7:30, I began calling local clinics to see if any of them could take an emergency, including a place called PetAid here in Denver, which is reputed to assist low income families with their pet health care. I described his symptoms to each one, and all of them declined to even allow us to be seen. That included PetAid, who stated that, even as a qualified low-income person, I would need at LEAST $200 to walk in their door, and besides, they had no openings available until Monday.
By this time, Otis had grown agitated. His fever had abated a bit, but now he exhibited signs of what I thought might be similar to mad cow disease. He couldn’t walk and fell over frequently. He seemed to be in fairly good spirits, but I was now sure he had distemper, as motor control loss is the first sign. But I hadn’t ruled out poisoning, because I wasn’t sure how every toxic substance would be handled by his brain.
But he appeared to be deteriorating. By this time, I was in full breakdown/panic mode. He’s such a sweet, loving, adorable pup, and we’ve been truly blessed to have him in our family. However, I was looking at the very real possibility that he was going to die because there was no one clinic that would take him.
I yelled, bargained, and pleaded, but my cries fell on deaf ears again and again. As I’ve been mostly unemployed since January, I don’t have extra money lying around ready to be used in emergencies. Then I remembered my angel in disguise and former dog-sitter, Pamela, who had once offered use of her emergency pet credit card in times of dire need. So I took my chances, ringing her up in the Pacific Northwest. By this time, though, I was crying so hard, I could barely understand myself. She agreed to foot the bill as a loan until I could pay her back. With that huge boulder off my shoulder, I called our regular vet, whose office was finally open.
They told me to bring him in immediately and they’d look into it. I carried Otis to the car, but he was still agitated, yet unable to walk or stand up on his own. He cried piteously the entire 6 miles to the vet. He lost control of his bladder and bowels. I was trying to keep myself in check so I could be strong for him, even though every cry from him cracked my heart anew. By the time we pulled into the parking lot, I was ready to tell them to euthanize him so he wouldn’t suffer any more.
All in all, it was an incredibly heartbreaking morning.
Outside of the car, he acted like he was coming around again. His tremors were less, and he barked at another dog coming into the vet’s office. I took that as a good sign, but was still extremely worried.
He walked on his own into the office, though his back legs continued to give him problems, and he’d suddenly sit down. He lost control of his bladder a second time while trying to get him to stand still on the scale to get his weight. It was like trying to get Michael J. Fox to hold still off his meds. Not making fun, simply making a comparison.
In the back, they got him installed in a kennel, telling me to check in later. I said I would wait, no matter how long it took. I walked out the door to find some food (as I hadn’t been able to get my own breakfast), then ran back inside to tell them where I was going. At that moment, the vet came out of the back and motioned me into the clinic portion of their office. Otis was there, on a leash. My vet, Dr. Michelle Smith — whom I absolutely SWEAR by for all my Denver friends; she’s at 29th Street Animal Hospital in Stapleton — said she didn’t think he’d been poisoned.
“Do you or anyone in your house use marijuana?” she asked. I assured her no one did, but pointed out that the rest of the neighborhood most certainly did, and that there were three major dipensaries within blocks of our house.
I related that he’d snapped something up off the ground that morning that I hadn’t been able to get from him.
She said, “Well, unfortunately, I’ve seen this a LOT recently, with the legalization of marijuana. He has cannabis toxicity.”
“Is it lethal to dogs?”
“No, not in my experience. It just takes time to let it work its way out of his system. We’re going to run a blood panel on him to be sure, but I can say with some degree of certainty that he’ll be fine and show no lasting side effects.”
I was so relieved, I nearly fainted dead away. I thanked them profusely, and even managed to joke about how I probably should’ve stopped at 7-11 on the way there to get him some Doritos.
He’s still at the clinic, but was coming around by the time I left. I will pick him up later.
We never truly know how much we love a person or an animal until we’re staring their potential demise square in the eyes.
I am so incredibly grateful for Otis, and the team at the clinic, for being there, and being willing to take him in when no one else would.