My Dog   2 comments

Recently, I have learned interesting things that I didn’t want to know. Last month I learned the signs of “actively dying” while watching my dad labor through his last hours, and now I’ve learned how rattlesnake poison works its way though my dog’s body. My beloved Tucker. Nosy, fun-loving, wiggley Tucker. One kind-voiced sound directed at her gave the speaker an immediate happy response.

Choices are often made for the right reasons like deciding that a couple of sluggish blue people should take their dogs to the country to run, because those dogs do love to run, unleashed, no fences, and it makes their people feel good to watch these wild free spirits roam. But I said that sunny fall day, “This is nice weather for snakes to be out” warming their own sluggish selves. Some choices are bad. This was my bad choice. We went out and after about 20 minutes of walking, I saw Tucker jump straight up. She was 15 feet ahead of me. I watched the spot on the bare dirt she had been on when she jumped and did not see anything move. Tucker did not yelp and seemed fine when we reached her. We walked a little further and she started slowing down and walking beside me. “Something’s wrong. She’s not acting right” I said. “Look, her muzzle is swelling.” We looked her over around, inside, and outside her mouth. Ran our fingers along her gums and inner mouth. She had a swollen muzzle one other time when she ate a wasp, and Brando, our other dog, had also experienced a huge muzzle, but he had not left his town-backyard when his had swollen and he was fine in a day or two. We hoped it was a bee or wasp sting. We got back to the car and that was the first we saw the slow drops of blood coming from one spot where her nose and mouth meet. Ed gave her some Benadryl for the swelling and I got her to the vet in less than 45 minutes. By that time the swelling was very bad on her face. I had no idea her face would become even worse, distorting her perfect little rust and brown nose until it went straight out on either side. The vet did not seem alarmed, and said we had gotten Tucker there in time. I asked if there was any chance she wouldn’t be all right. And, of course, there’s always a chance, but I did not sense a cause to worry from the vet. They would use a plasma solution instead of an antivenom, and she would also be given a steroid injection, antibiotics and pain medicine. They called me back in an hour to say that she was responding all right so far to the treatment. It would take hours for the plasma to be complete, but she would remain on an IV, and they would call me in the morning. When I phoned them in the morning, Tucker had been vomiting and had some blood in her urine. When I arrived at the vet’s, she looked bad. She did not react when I walked into her cage. I sat down next to her, talked to her and petted her. If I stopped she looked up at me with sad eyes until I started petting her again. After being there for an hour, I convinced myself that she was having a bad reaction to the bite, but she would be okay. I went home to get some lunch and the vet called and said they did a blood test,  and Tucker’s kidneys were not functioning well and once they start this, they do not usually get better. “We should have her put to sleep?” “Is that what you are saying?” I asked.  He’s a nice man, a dog lover, and he did not tell us that’s what to do, but did agree that it might be for the best.

“My dad just died a couple of weeks ago” I said aloud as my mind was trying to sort my choices out.

“Well, we can wait and see. She’s alive and who can say there is no hope when she’s still alive.”

“Yes, but I don’t want her to suffer. We will come over now.” I closed my phone, laid my arms on the counter, my head on my arms and sobbed. We both cried. Then sort of pulled ourselves together and drove the short distance to the vet’s.

We asked more questions. Ed said, “She’s not in pain. I think we should give it another day. She might pull out of this.”

I had gone to the vet’s thinking we were giving her the shot to end her life, and now we were changing our minds. Confusion, backtracking emotions. I did not want her to suffer, but maybe she would be better tomorrow. We told the vet to wait and take the blood test in the morning to see if there were changes. We stayed a little while, and then left. I told Tucker I would be back to stay with her soon.

We went home. I paced the floor. “Let’s get out of the house for a while. How about bread pudding and Irish coffee.”

We went to  a restaurant that makes great bread pudding with caramel sauce. First we had their daily special which was noodles over mashed potatoes. Comfort food is what we needed and we got it. After we ate, Ed went home and then planned to run errands and I went back to see Tucker. When I came in,  she lifted her head and wagged her tail when she saw me. What a difference from this morning. She’s better!!!! I was so excited to see her respond to me. I was going to help her die this morning, but now, hope!  I phoned Ed. He let the answering machine come on. “Pick Up, pick up” I said into the phone. He did. “She wagged her tail!” She’s better.”

“Ohhhhhh! I’m so glad. I thought it was the vet calling to tell me that she had died and you were on your way over to that.” I could hear the relief and the tears in his voice. “She’s going to make it” Ed said.

Oh my! If Ed hadn’t said wait, she would be gone. I sat for two hours on the cement floor with her and we exchanged some looks that were incredible. She looked at me for several times with such directness, such compassion or love or something in those brown dog eyes of hers. Connection. I left feeling very hopeful, and when I returned the next morning, she was even better. She stood and wagged her tail. The day before she never stood except once to turn around, and she moved closer to me if I moved away from her. Her regular vet was back, and I said, “She’s so much better. Her face is much less swollen and she’s up, and drinking lots of water. ”

“Yes,” the vet said, but we still need to check her blood.  Drinking lots of water is a symptom of kidney failure. I’m worried about her kidney function. She still has blood in her urine.”

“Would she be physically this much better if her kidneys were functioning less?”

“Yes, she could be. The swelling is down on her face and moving down her body. She’s feeling better, but the kidneys may still be deteriorating” the vet said.

My heart dropped to my feet. My body has been through too many mood swings in the past two days. Here we go again.

“If her kidneys are worse or not, we can take her home today, right? She will perk up at home and maybe eat something.”

So they took blood, and the tests showed that Tucker was making more red blood cells which is good, but her kidney numbers were slightly worse than yesterday.

“I’d like to give her another bag of fluids with the IV and then you can take her home.”

The IV finished by 4 pm, and Tucker was able to get in the car by herself. She seemed happy to be home. I took her outside and she peed in her backyard and wagged her tail a bit, then laid down. I could not convince her to eat anything, but she did drink a lot of water, which I know now is a sign of kidney failure.  We had to stick pills down her throat, which makes us feel mean but is necessary. Necessary if she’s going to live, but if she was on hospice, they would not administer the antibiotic just the pills for pain. Please little friend, help me do the right thing for you.

The next morning, she’s looking sad. I read that depression, bad breath, drinking lots of water are all signs of kidney failure. She seems to have all of these. I poured a little milk in the water and she drank it. I laid down beside her on the floor and petted her, and we were sad together, but then I coaxed her outside into the sunshine and brushed her coat, which she seemed to like or was just sweet enough to appease me. She drank some milk. I tried yet again the soft dog food with a little bacon grease on it. I had tried it the night before and she would not taste it or the liver I bought to help with her anemia, but today, YES!! She ate about 2-3 tablespoons of the meat. Tucker even walked out to the yard and chased a bird for about five steps before giving it up, and walked to the fence and perked her ears at the neighbors dogs. They usually run along the fence together in a daily game of growl, bark, race, then peek through the fence and do it all over again, careful to avoid the cactus by the fence. She laid down, and looked sad and droopy again. I’m leaving now to buy her an ice cream cone, because I promised one to her when she was in the dog hospital. I’ll get one for me and Brando, too. Brando will take care of any leftovers.

Back from The Creamery with two small vanilla cones and one rocky road. Brando was most pleased with his first whole all-to-himself cone. Tucker hesitated but agreed to a few licks and then a few more before turning away. I put hers in the freezer for later. Then waited a short while and got the soft dog food out and smeared it with bacon grease and fed it to her by hand. She ate more than this morning!!!!! Maybe 1/2 cup. Again my spirits soared! Later she stands with tail down, looking sad and hopeless. Worried, happy, sad, doubtful, concerned and on and on sort of my whole life the past couple of years, but there is hope as the vet said, “She’s still alive, so there’s hope.” I’m still alive. Don’t give up this ship, this big old paint peeling ship. It’s the deal. No pain without love. Seems like a strange concept. But it would be worse to have the pain of never having loved or been loved.

A poem about Tucker written several years ago:


she shimmers down her grassy runway

weaves a path of her own making

her silken coat of shine across muscle

passes over tiny insects that sprout into morning

rising like sprays of celebratory confetti

her body is bound to joy

I am grateful witness

her tail spikes its Iroquois-like feathers of freedom

I love her more than some people get loved

one more step on humanity’s ladder of unfairness

another sprung rung to crack a human spirit if allowed

but not now

she is art for the backyard Louvre

as just the right light strokes her rust and black shine

and never once does she pause over past regrets


Posted October 20, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

2 responses to “My Dog

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  1. love your ability to share with us


  2. Thanks Dave. Tucker’s hanging on. She’s eating some, but not moving around much.


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